The Second Coming and Your Soul
Revelation 22:1-7, 20-21
Dr. Jim Denison
This week a friend sent me some words to live by:
If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: “Take two aspirin” and “Keep away from children.”
“When I die, I want to die like my grandfather, who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.”
This was not encouraging: Oscar Wilde says, “Bigamy is having one wife or husband too many. Monogamy is the same.”
I am not helped. I have problems which need God’s word and will and hope. So do you. So does this nation we celebrate today. It was reported this week that $2 billion in fraud has been committed in the aftermath of Katrina. Meanwhile, six people have died in flooding along the East Coast. It’s been determined that drug and alcohol addictions afflict 20 million Americans and cost our country $524 billion last year. The Surgeon General released a report this week which documents 49,000 premature deaths last year from second-hand cigarette smoke. We sing “America the Beautiful,” not “America the Perfect.” If we love America, we should want to help Americans.
How do we do that? What could happen today which would make a difference in our community and country in the months to come? What could we decide this morning which could cause America to be different and better when we celebrate our nation’s birthday next year?
The first Christians had something we don’t. They didn’t have our buildings and programs and finances. But they had something we can recapture today. Something we must recapture today, if we are to help America find God’s help and hope. And if we are to find them for ourselves as well.
Know how you will spend eternity
Our text begins with a glorious vision of eternity with God in his heaven. Here we find the “water of life” flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the center of the street of heaven. Right down Main Street in glory. No matter how thirsty we are today for his word and will and hope, we will be able to drink from them forever.
On each side of this river will stand the “tree of life,” bearing fruit each month, its leaves for the healing of the nations. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were barred from the tree of life lest they eat of it and live forever in their fallen, sinful condition (Genesis 3:22-24). But in heaven, “no longer will there be any curse” (v. 3).
As we eat from the tree and drink from the river, we will see the face of God and his name will be on our foreheads (v. 4).
God had warned Moses, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus. 33:20).
But in heaven we will be so close to God that we will be able to see his face. His “name” will be on our foreheads, claiming us as his children and people forever. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, if Jesus is your Savior you will have God’s name and be in God’s family for all of eternity.
We will be so close to God that he will be our light (v. 5a). We will reign with him in glory for ever and ever (v. 5b). And all of this is “trustworthy and true.” You have the word of the Creator of the universe on it.
Know that eternity begins today
So, when will all of this happen for us? You may not thirst and hunger physically, but you do emotionally and spiritually. So do we all. Mother Teresa said that loneliness is the epidemic of our time. You’re burdened and worried this morning as you try to love your wife or husband and raise your kids and make your way in this fallen and confusing world. Or you’re plagued with guilt you cannot release or fear you cannot conquer. Or you may feel far from your Father today for some other reason. It’s good news that one day this fallen world will be gone forever. It’s good news that one day we’ll reign over all that is. But when?
The next verse tells us: “The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place” (v. 6). Then Jesus agrees: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (v. 7).
Earlier in the book he had promised, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11). The Revelation ends, “Yes, I am coming soon” (22:20).
Paul told the Corinthians that “the time is short…For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31). He told the Romans, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). The writer of Hebrews warned, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). James said, “Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8). Peter warned, “The end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7).
The word translated “soon” in Revelation 22:7 is taku; it means “immediately, without hesitation, as soon as possible.”
We find it in Acts 17:15, where Paul gave instructions to Silas and Timothy “to join him as soon as possible.” James used taku to say “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Jesus said to “settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court” (Matthew 5:25). On Easter Sunday the angel told the women, “go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead'” (Matthew 28:7). There’s a sense of emergency and urgency in the word.