Revelation 21:1–6 (NRSV)
The New Heaven and the New Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
They will be his peoples,
And God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
Mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
For the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
There is nothing I like more than talking about the journey I traveled with Christ. Every day I sit with scripture it is as if something new has been spoken directly to me. Even verses that I have read hundreds of times before seem to be new. I sit in prayer considering a passage, considering the people of ancient days that first heard or experienced the events or words that I have read, and I just get lost in the moment. Meditating on scripture, letting the words saturate our being and become part of who we are is part of discipleship. It is the reality of the seal that John speaks about the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Often we get caught up in the imagery of the mark of the beast and the seals of believers, the rapture and the tribulations, and the symbolism of the message and we can forget that the words that Jesus spoke and the vision that He gave to John to write down for the churches to hear, were written not to scare the hell out of people but to provide encouragement and hope. The concept of the marks on the bodies of humankind in this book are to represent a contrast between the different types of people the people that have clothed themselves in Christ and people that have clothed themselves in the ways of the world. People that are saturated with the living Spirit and those that are saturated with spirit of the adversary.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” This is the verse that really got me going this week. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” It is an exciting verse for many reasons, the first is the idea that everything that is bad about this life will be replaced with something even better. The second is one that plays off of the first, but is a bit deeper, it is what is working beneath the surface, the mechanism that gets us to the reality.
“Then I saw…” When we read these words our mind immediately attaches itself to the sensory concept of sight, but in the philosophy of the ancient people of the Empire have various meanings for sight. One is what we see with our eyes, but it goes deeper. Sight was attached to knowledge, to know something was to see it. This is one of the reasons that the sculptures of the ancient Greeks were so detailed and life like, they would study and gain different perspectives and then interpret them into the stone. It is also the irony of Homer the great witness of Greek mythology, he provided them with much of their faith yet he was blind. So when John says “then I saw,” he means he visually gazed upon something, and also perceived or began to understand the world around him from a different perspective. I want us to hold onto this for a moment. He saw things in a different light and a different angle. This perspective caused him to look at everything around him differently, with new eyes.
“A new heaven and new earth.” The word new could also be understood as previously unknown, something discovered. It might have been there all along but we did not have the understanding to acknowledge it. But John saw this previously unknown, new heaven and earth.
Heaven is a loaded concept as well. In ancient writings heaven can be one of many places. The Fowl of the heavens speaks of the birds that fly, they dwell in heaven the area above the earth or the sky. Then there is the heaven that encases the earth the sphere that surrounds us and arches above our heads, the shell from which the stars hang. The third heaven, the one referred to by Paul in in writings, is the dwelling place of God, beyond the sky and the sphere surrounding the earth, the place that arches over the stars. With this in mind John says that he saw a new heaven, a new or previously unknown atmosphere. A different air so to speak. One of my favorite songs is Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective. There is a phrase in this song, “change the atmosphere” I like this phrase because it has the same feeling of this verse. Change the atmosphere or change the air we breathe, or breathe new life into us. Let us perceive the world around us from a different perspective. I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
John witnessed this vision and sent his testimony of it out to the churches at the dawn of the great persecutions that occurred during the first three hundred years of the church. People were looking at the world around them and seeing hate, fear, and revenge. Men, women, and children were being taken to the arena to be devoured for the entertainment of the masses, all because they professed Christ as Lord. They longed for peace, they yearned for a time and place where they could live their lives and raise their children unmolested by those devoted to hate. So when John wrote this letter to them and said that he then saw a new heaven and a new earth they would have heard the words saying that the there is a time very soon where things would change. There would be a different spirit, heaven, and there would be a different people, earth. A world that would be devoted to the ways of Christ instead of devoted to the ways of the advisory. He is telling them that from the perspective that God had shown him in his prophetic vision, the kingdom of God would prevail over the kingdoms of men. He is encouraging them not to lose heart, not to falter in their faith but to stand firm through it all because we will be victorious.
John wrote this Revelation to the churches of Asia. Churches that were primarily gentile, churches that were established areas of the Roman Empire and not just on the fringes of roman civilization. He wrote this to them because these people were going through a cultural and spiritual war. The kingdom of men feel threatened by a different concept. The kingdom of men live lifestyles devoted to selfishness and personal gain. The Roman Empire stretched across Europe to the British Isles, along the northern coast of Africa, across Turkey and into the Middle East. It stretched far and wide, not to bring hope to the people but to bring profit to the Emperor. War brought in loot, and conquered people provided tax revenue. Control over vast tracts of land gave control over scare resources which allowed for controlling interest in trade. When the people in the churches of Asia began to turn to Christ they began to live by a different lifestyle. The ideas and culture of the Empire began to lose traction and the control over the people they once had begun to wane. When people of authority begin to lose control, if their perspective is bent on selfishness, they begin to lash out to force conformity. But the followers of Christ would not change. They lived by a different culture identity and had a different source of security.
John wrote to these people to let them know that the struggles they face will not be in vain. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. There will be a change that will radically transform the entire world. But this change only comes when we become a people that live totally saturated in Christ. When our life and lifestyle reflects that of Jesus. When we move into the area of belief that goes beyond mere acknowledgment and trust, but entrusting our very existence and well-being into the hands of God. When we become a new person among a new people, when we become a nation dedicated to worship, prayer and service.
What keeps us from living this way in our world? This vision from John was not only for the distant future but was something that would be tangible to the very people that first heard the words. This is where the sea comes into play. Even though humanity had been traversing the seas for centuries the sea was still seen as a dreadful place. Water was seen as a place of death, those that are swallow beneath the wave did not return. This is part of the reason the Book of Jonah is so appealing. In many ancient cultures storms were caused do to humanity angering the gods, this concept even entered into the Jewish mindset. So when Jonah ran from God, the result was a raging sea, and the remedy was to have the one that angered God sacrificed for the good of the many. Jonah was swallowed by the great fish and was spit out onto dry land, he returned from the dead. Proving to the people of Nineveh that there is hope and forgiveness, in God. Other prophets spoke of God taking our sins and casting them out into the sea, where they would be lost and remembered no more. The sea represents a separation, a place that we cannot go, and obstacle. Fear is a sea, it will swallow us up, but John says there is no sea in the new heaven and new earth. There is nothing that separate mankind from God, and nothing to fear.
If there is no sea that separates us from God and no sea to fear, God will dwell with us and us with him. What keeps us from living in the new heaven and earth? Fear. We fear, we do not believe that God can do what he says he will do. We do not trust that God can take care of us. But why do we fear? We are seeing through the eyes of kingdom of mankind. Just like Jonah we do not want to let go of our prejudices. Just like Gideon we need signs to prove God is faithful before we can step out in faith. Why do we fear? Because we need a new perspective. This is the fifth Sunday of the season of Easter. Jesus who was once dead has risen and has now walked among his disciples for twenty-nine days. I mention this because for twenty-nine days Christ has proven that the greatest fear of mankind cannot stop the will of God. Imagine that for a moment, for almost an entire month Jesus walked with his disciples in those ancient days. For nearly a month Jesus spoke and ate with them all the while encouraging them to entrust their lives to the Father.
John tells those faithful churches in Asia that Jesus is true to his word, and there is hope beyond our struggles. I then saw a new heaven and a new earth. There is change in the air and a multitude of people will emerge from what once was dead dry bones. John is telling them not to fear because God is with them and we are with God, in the kingdom now and forevermore. Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear! Give us strength to endure and heart that hope. Create and mold us into the new earth that will wipe away the tears and participate in making all things new. Lord change our atmosphere and let us be saturated with You.
Revelation 7:9–17 (NRSV)
The Multitude from Every Nation
9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Of all the words of scripture, the most chilling and confusing are found in the last pages. The pages that were revealed to the last of the apostles, the one who was blessed to see the fulfillment of all things. Because of the great confusion surrounding these words there has probably not been a book more studied and researched than that of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. And since it has been researched to such degree it has also been the most twisted and most misinterpreted.
I am not a scholar of this book. I read it as nearly everyone else. I read it and listen to the word with the same cloud of unknowing as a multitude. I want to know, I want to understand, but it seems that just as I gain a bit of knowledge something else seems to cloud it once again. It is meant to be cloudy, it is meant to be vague and chilling. It was written in such a way to bring confusion and disorder. Why would a book inspired by God bring these things? Because it is a book of prophecy.
Prophecy is also a misunderstood concept. Often we believe that words of prophecy deal primarily with the things that will be, but we fail to realize that most often prophecy deals with the things that are. Like wisps of smoke truth drifts in and out, and if we are aware we might gain some understanding of a situation and what should be. But prophecy is given for those who have ears to hear to hear.
There is something about this book that draws us in, even through the confusion. There is something that grabs the very essence of our souls. It places a desire in our hearts, and also leaves us seeking for more. It is as if this book tempts us to explore. There is a reason for this, because this book shows us that there are things going on around us that are just outside our ability to sense. And for the one that witnessed the unfolding words could not fully express.
But this book was written to give us hope. It was written to the seven churches of Asia. It was written to give these people the strength to continue to walk the pathways that they had begun to tread. It was written and given to people of the Empire, gentiles that were living as exile in their own nation, as encouragement to continue on in faith just as their Jewish brothers and sisters had for centuries before.
Over the past few weeks I have listened to the words being read several times. I listened because in the third verse of the opening chapter it says: “Blessed is the one that reads aloud the words of the prophesy, and blessed are those that hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.” So I listened, because I need to hear. I listened once and again I listen. I heard about the churches, I heard about the spirits, I heard about the seals and the fantastical proceedings accompanied with them. But there is something that was repeated over and over. Praises to the one sitting on the throne.
In the passage that I have just read, John, the last of the apostles, the one that would close out the era of church history known as the apostolic age, saw a vision of a great multitude of people. A multitude that was too large for anyone to count, a multitude consisting of every language, every tribe, and every nation. A vast group of people with every possible division known to man united before the throne and before the lamb. I want us to just consider that image for a moment. A multitude of people so vast that no one could count it. A multitude with every possible label used to describe and divide humanity: Race, nationality, gender, melanin configuration, every language, every political ideology, every philosophical leaning. Mixed together with every theological concept and sacramental persuasion. Every possible issue or concept that we as humans would use to divide people groups is standing there in this vast multitude before the throne and before the lamb. Pale and dark skinned, Chinese and Arab, teachers and students, environmentalists and industrialists all standing before the throne.
Does that image do anything for you? The diversity to people standing before the throne shakes me. It causes me to realize that maybe what I understand as truth might not be the whole picture, that maybe I might only be like a blind man describing to the world an elephant by only touching its trunk. All these cultures, languages, races, and practices united not divided before the throne.
They are all standing there, a vast sea of people clothed in white. Again I want to stop and let that work its way through our minds. Books of prophecy are filled with word images, carefully constructed phrases that build pictures in our minds. These pictures and images are used to express concepts that are beyond our vocabulary and should not always be seen as literal. So we have a vast sea of people clothed in white standing before the throne. Imagine white. Some of you might be seeing a flower, some a blank sheet of paper or a canvas ready to be painted. Maybe you are seeing a house, a white house, which if you are seeing “The white house” I would like you to know that that is actually a light shade of gray not white. But for most of us we are seeing something simple and pure. Something that is filled with potential. We see hope, innocence, and cleanliness. This huge crowd of people standing before the throne is each robed in white.
In each of their hands is a palm branch. A palm branch is a symbol of victory, of hope, of prosperity. The branch of the palm was waved before the victorious conquerors of ancient days to celebrate the triumph of their heroes. The palm was waved before our Lord to proclaim Him king the Sunday prior to his passion. This vast multitude clothed in innocence and hope is waving a celebratory branch of victory. This celebration is right in the middle of a book filled with doom, pain, terror and bloodshed.
I mentioned as I listened to the words of this book over the past weeks that there was a theme that was repeated throughout. The theme of praise. The interesting thing about this is that the portions of this book that are devoted to praise are far clearer than the ones that are devoted to the other themes. If you were to listen to the book from the first verse to the last, you would hear praise, disappointment, judgement, calling for repentance, rejection, sorrow and then praise. Even in this prophetic work there is a cycle that goes back to this central theme. “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! Amen! Blessing and Glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen!” These are the words that this great crowd is singing to the throne in praise.
And as John views this crowd and as he hears these praises one of the elders among the crowd comes to him and asks him to bear witness to who these people are. If we were to listen to the words and chapters prior to this passage we would have heard that there were twenty-four elders before the throne that were surrounded by this multitude of people. And if we were to listen to the words we would hear that the elders are of the Tribes of Israel and of the Apostles. The Elder here is speaking to John, who is also one of the elders participating in this celebration of the lamb. But John says, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” In essence what John is saying at this time of praise is that part of the joy, part of the praise and celebration is to allow each of us to bear witness to the hope that we have. John is saying to this elder, who is a friend of his, you tell me the story. And the elder says, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…”
They are the ones that have come through the ordeal. Friends, this is the gospel, the truth and good news of the Revelation. We must remember that this book was written to a people nearly two thousand years ago, that were about to face the greatest challenge they had ever known. They were about to participate in the clash of the empires of mankind and the Kingdom of God. It is difficult for us to truly grasp the concept because our world has changed so much over the centuries. But we do understand empires of mankind. We are currently in clash between the powers of man as we draw closer to another election. Campaigns are being waged and battles are being fought to gain support among the masses of people. In the midst of this battle, across the ocean and on the far side of our planet wars are being fought between ideologies. We mention the name ISIS and we all shutter, we mention Syria and we all cringe. These are the empires of man battling for power and influence over others.
Then we have the witness of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” When he says this he means that the Kingdom of God is not the same as the kingdoms of Man. The struggle is over something different. Kingdoms of mankind seek to gain control, where God came to serve. He came to heal, clothe, feed, and refresh. He came to save not to dominate. Jesus came to give us new life, a new lifestyle that is focused on Worship, Prayer and service to others. A lifestyle built of relationships between God and humanity, and among all peoples.
The people surrounding the throne are those that have gone through the great ordeal. The people that faced the conflict and the conversion from the empire of man to the kingdom of God. They are the ones that stood before the kings and judges of men and said I do not and will not conform to your ways but will stand firm on the life and lifestyle of Jesus. They are the ones that walked through the valley of the shadow of death and feared no evil because they knew that no matter what happened God was there and would advance his Kingdom on Earth as it was in heaven.
Who are these people gathered before the throne? They are people from every nation, every language, every culture, and any other type of classification. They are people that have said I will follow pathways of Jesus, I will live for others instead of myself. I will serve instead of demand, I will love instead of hate, I will hope instead of despair. They are the ones that face every trial and will say through it all “my hope is in the Lord.”
The elder goes on to tell John, that they will hunger no more, they will thirst no more, they will be sheltered from the sun, and will be guided to the springs of living water, and every tear will be wiped away. This book was written, to give us hope through the ordeals that we face. It was given to them and to us to prove that no matter what the empires of this world throw at us if we stay centered on Christ and continue to truly walk in his ways, we will be victorious.
As we enter into this time of open worship consider your lives, consider the things you find as being most important, the things that are demanding your time, and energy. Consider them, and your own personal ordeals. These are the things that we wrap around us they are our robes, is your robe washed in the blood of the lamb? Have you allow Christ to take our sweat stained dingy robe and wash it pure? Or are we still hanging on to it ourselves and fighting a battle that Christ has already won? Go through the ordeal with Christ let him give you hope and purity of spirit so you can stand there in that multitude clothed in white, waving the palms of victory with all the saints.
Revelation 1:4–8 (NRSV)
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Today is the second Sunday of the Easter season. Yes, Easter is not just a day but a season of the year, because Jesus did not just raise from the grave and jet up into the clouds like some ancient superman. He hung out for a while, he walked with his disciples, he ate some meals with them, and he continued to teach them. This is actually more important than a simple empty tomb because it is during this time so long ago that those that disputed the resurrection of Christ had to not only combat the fact that the tomb was empty, they had to answer the questions of why a guy that was supposed to be dead was sitting in the room teaching the people.
How often do you actually consider this? We know that Jesus appeared to the apostles. We know that Thomas the doubter, who gets the infamous honor on the second Sunday of Easter, join with the others on the second Sunday after the resurrection and declared to all around that not only was Jesus his Lord but his God. We know that during this season we know as Easter Jesus walked the streets of Israel, visiting his brothers, visiting his friends, and appearing to over five hundred people in one gathering. And he did this all while the religious leaders were running around trying to silence the crowds.
The resurrection is a vitally important part of our faith, not because of the empty tomb, but because Jesus lives. He defied death, he defied the religious establishment by living. They said it is better for one man to die than to have their hold on the culture hindered, Jesus rose from the grave and said challenge accepted. The resurrection is not a nice storybook ending to the gospel accounts, it is God standing up to the powers and wisdom of mankind and saying, “you cannot keep me in a box, and you cannot stop my will on Earth as it is in heaven!”
Jesus walked with his disciples for over a month after his death, for over a month he continued his ministry while everyone he met stared in wonder. He was dead, they all saw him hanging on the cross, yet He was there before them breaking bread and sipping wine just as He was before. An empty tomb would be easy to explain, there are countless theories out there for that. There is no power in the empty tomb, but there is great power in the resurrected Christ that walks with us, talks with us, and lives life with us. Do you believe in the resurrection?
It did not take long for the story of the resurrected Christ to grip the lives of those throughout the Roman world. When people began to travel out of Jerusalem and began to speak to others that they knew a guy that the Romans hung on a cross, that they saw him buried in a tomb where he laid sealed inside under guard for the weekend, and came out alive again on the third day people began to wonder. But when they continue to share that this very same man came over to have dinner the next week, those around them began to listen. What did he have to say? This guy visited death and came back from the other side. It is the ultimate mystery and they know the answer. Yes the empty tomb raises questions, but the real power is the resurrection, the life beyond.
Which brings us to today’s passage. There are many debates surrounding the origin and purpose of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that was given to John. Many would say that it was written at the close of the first century where others would say that it was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I do not want to get into this debate, I will simply say that it was a given to John to provide encouragement to the people that faced unprecedented persecution for their faith. That is why it is included in the books of scripture, if it was only filled with images of a future beyond anyone’s imagination it would have been lost in the dusts of time, but it provided real encouragement to the people of that day. There is something interesting in the book too, it was written not to the people of Israel, but to the people of the seven churches of Asia. For the first time God directly addresses people outside of the nation of Israel, you can say that the letters of the apostles were written to the Gentiles, but those were letters written by men under the inspiration of the spirit. The Revelation was spoken by Jesus to John for the people of Asia, more specifically ancient Turkey.
This is important because Israel as always the frontier of the Roman Empire, it was this boarder land between the civilization of Rome and that of the remaining Empire of Persia. Persia was not the superpower it once was after the conquest of Alexander but beyond the boarder of Israel was still a threat to Rome. We know this because Magi from the East came to visit Jesus’ when he was a child, and this visit struck fear into the heart of the king who governed the land under the authority of Cesar. It struck fear into Herod’s heart because it threatened his authority as king, but it could also have been seen as an invasion.
So Israel was a borderland, a frontier of the Roman Empire, the far fringe of their authority, and because it was on the fringe the authority was not always seen. The people of Israel would have just as much contact with people outside the Empire as with those within. Just as when my ancestors settled the frontier of Kansas, they encountered native inhabitants of the plains as regularly as people of European heritage. This all changed shortly after Christ’s advent. The magi visited from the east which caused those in power to quake in fear, there was talk of a new king and a new kingdom, and so they killed this person that held claim to that title. Now there was something new, the king who was dead and buried was walking and talking. And this kingdom had spread into the empire, into the provinces of Asia. We see it as persecution but the reality is that it was a war between the kingdoms of man and the kingdom of God. God sent a revelation to these citizens of his kingdom to encourage them to stand firm, because this was something new to them. Israel has known this battle for centuries but the new citizens, the ones that have been grafted in we not accustomed to this sort of battle.
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come…” This is phrase is one of the most powerful phrases in all of scripture. A form of this phrase can be seen throughout all of scripture because it is an expression of the very name of God that was spoken to Moses. “I AM” When God spoke those words to Moses there was no tense to the words. It can literal be translated as I am, I was, and I will be. What is being said to these people who are the seven churches in Asia, is the grace and peace that has been with Israel the people of God from the very beginning of time is with you and will be with you now and for ages to come.
“And from the seven spirits who are before the throne…” This is an oddity in scripture. We are aware of the existence of angelic beings because we have instances where they visit with the heroes of the faithful in ancient records. One visits Joshua prior to the battle of Jericho and gives him the encouragement to stand firm and go with God. We see messengers speak Mary and others. But this one statement says that there are seven spirits before the throne of God, as they send this letter of encouragement to the seven churches. What we can gain from this statement is that we are not alone. Not only do we have the grace and peace of God that has been, is, and will be, but there are spiritual beings standing before God that are there on our behalf. An angel like that of Michael who is the commander of God’s heavenly army over Israel, is there for these seven churches. There is a Spiritual battalion set aside to fight for us.
“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.” God has given us the grace and peace that has always been with his people, he has set aside spiritual warriors on our behalf, and Jesus Christ the resurrected one is with us. Notice if you will how Jesus is described, first he is said to be the faithful witness. Jesus the witness, this means that wrapped up within Jesus is all that we need to know. He is the witness of God to mankind. If we look to Jesus, if we seek to follow his ways, and bide by his teachings and example we will know all that there is to know about righteousness or right living.
The word witness can also be translate the martyr. Jesus, the faithful martyr. Look at the way that Jesus lived his life and the sacrifices that he made. He lived a life that was contrary to every aspect of the Empire life, he made it his custom to worship with the community in the meeting places, he withdrew often to isolated places to pray, and he would serve others. Worship was something that was common throughout Roman society, Paul went so far as telling the Greeks of Athens that it was clear that they were a religious people. Shrines and temples were a common thing and worship in pagan cultures was often a central theme in life. So worship with others was not uncommon. But it was uncommon to go to isolated places to pray. Religion is something that we do together, it is something that connects the community in some fashion, but this personal relationship with the divine is something unique. To withdraw from the community to interact with God one on one. In Jesus we are not only united to a community but we are intimate with God. This leads Jesus to serve the community around him, not for his own personal benefit but to encourage others.
Jesus lived and continues to live for relationship. He lived in a community, he was intimate with his father, and he served others. This is why John was directed to say faithful Martyr or witness to describe Jesus. This is the holy lifestyle that all who claim Christ should live. It is amazing to see life lived out in this way. We see it all around us, even in this Meeting. The most recent example is how we have come together to help a friend in need with her vehicle. A need was seen and it was brought before the meeting. We discussed it and said we will help, in that discussion it was mentioned that we should take up an offering and we did. Members on the Meeting then took it upon themselves to take time out of their lives to make sure the car was towed, they then personally got involved in the repairs. And we will be able to present to our friend a safe vehicle for her to use. It amazes me and humbles me to see. Imagine if we lived this way all the time. Yes it is a great deal of work but what a blessing it is to use our abilities to honor someone else. I thank all who was involved in this work and I pray that we will be able to do more. That we like Christ will be faithful witnesses of grace and peace, the very grace and peace that is, that was, and will ever be.
These churches in Asia receive this message from the Jesus, they need this message because they are facing struggles and God wants them to know that it is and will be worth the sacrifice. The kingdom of God has move the boarders from the land we know as Israel, and it has now taken root in Turkey and continues to move. It moves and expands not by force but by sacrifice. It changes lives not only because it offers a lovely ethic to live by but because it offers life. We know it offers life because Jesus was, is, and will be because he rose from the dead and lived with us not only before his death but after.
He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. No earthly power can stand before him because though they may offer death Jesus is life. The churches of Asia, face the powers of the world and they begin to shutter, but Jesus does not want them to live in fear. God, the one that is, was, and is to come offers you Grace and peace. As do the spirits that stand before the throne, the commanders of God’s heavenly armies are being directed to uphold you and support your work for the kingdom. And Jesus himself, the faithful witness and first born of the dead, the one that has shown us life, and has taken on death is with us as we face the rulers of this world. And if we stay faithful to him we will see his glory.
The question remains, do we believe in the resurrection? Do we believe that the one that did all this so long ago is still active and living for us today? Do we believe that God’s grace and peace is available to all people, that his angels are still active in ways that we cannot see or fathom? Do we believe that Christ still lives and lives in us that call upon his name? If we believe there is power there. The power that can overcome any and every obstacle, the power that will go with us so that we can participate in the resurrection of life to those bound to death. It is there for us just as it was for the seven churches of Asia, if we too become faithful witnesses in Christ. If we take on his life and lifestyle of Worship, prayer, and service. If we turn from the lifestyle of Adam and return to God. The kingdom of God is around us, so as we enter into this time of open worship and communion with God, let us say together your kingdom come, and your will be done here as it is in Heaven!