Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 7, 2020
“Look Where You’re Going!”
My spirit, at times this week, has been heavy.
We continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and all its collateral damage. Here, in Macon County, North Carolina, we have seen a spike in cases over the last fortnight, and it has many folks here even more cautious—and, in some cases, more isolated—than formerly. We cannot meet in many places like we could in bygone days, and we must continue to take precautions unthinkable six months ago. Many remain unemployed, or under-employed, and we do not know when we will return to our former, relatively full level of unemployment. This weighs heavily on many of us, but, alas, there is more.
We see the re-opening of old racial divides in our time—perhaps exacerbated most acutely, though not solely, by the death of George Floyd two weeks ago tomorrow. There is pain too great for verbal expression just now—in the hearts of Mr. Floyd’s loved ones (and other loved ones similarly situated), in the African-American community, and in many a sensitive soul throughout our land. We see demonstrations, and counter-demonstrations, that struggle to stay within the bounds of peaceful—despite the prodigious efforts of many of goodwill. We also see intense pressure on those in law enforcement—of every race—as they aim to serve the public well. All of this is weight on my soul, and perhaps yours too—but, alas, there is more.
I note generally, even amid these perilous times, the declension from Christian faith at ever-increasing rate. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, perhaps the most evangelical of all the major Christian denominations, reported net membership losses and baptism decreases in their latest annual report. One would think, in view of our nation’s and world’s woes today, that many would turn to the Lord for refuge, for salvation, and for all the benefits that flow therefrom. Doubtless some have, but many continue to jettison the Lord, His Word, His ways, and His people in favor of doing what is right in their own eyes.
Add to all of this the other stuff in my life and in yours—to include the stuff in your life over which I have sympathy and the stuff in my life over which you have sympathy—and the weights in our souls approach pure lead. Late last week, happily, my spirit lightened considerably, though not fully, as the Holy Spirit led me to consider our presence circumstance in light of our glorious future: a future that God prepares for those who are His in Christ and a future that empowers our endurance and service in the present. Hence, in such times as these we endure today, I, ministering in Christ’s Name, urge you to look where you’re going. Let’s hear more about in today’s text from the Bible, the Word of God.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle John, near the end of his lengthy life, received from the Holy Spirit a long Lord’s Day vision (Revelation 1:10) of the things which must soon take place (Revelation 1:1). He received this vision about A. D. 95, near the end of the Roman emperor Domitian’s reign—a reign which saw the first systemic, Empire-wide persecution of Christians. He received this vision while exiled for his faith in Jesus on Patmos—60 miles into the Aegean Sea from Ephesus. This vision, given initially to a persecuted Church, both exhorted her to conform to God’s will for her and to encourage her that all ends inexpressibly well. Those opposed to God receive judgment, while those safely in Christ’s fold receive bliss. We’re not there yet, but this is our new-birthright in Christ. Let’s look more at where we going as we arrive at the exposition of today’s text.
As Revelation 21 opens, we finally arrive at the end of all things. The Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has vanquished the unholy trinity (dragon, beast, false prophet), and the entire demonic order—led by the dragon, that ancient serpent, Satan—is banished forever to the lake of fire. In place of eschatological, or final, conflict, all for the children of God in Christ is victory, peace, and bliss forevermore. A new Heaven and a new earth, with no sea, come to be—for the former things are no more. The holy city, new Jerusalem, descends from Heaven to earth as a bride prepared for her husband. In that city, God dwells fully with us, and we who are in Christ dwell fully with Him. As if a new Heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem are not enough, there remains more to declare.
God will wipe every tear from our eyes. We’ve had many over the course of life, and perhaps we’ve had not a few in these months, weeks, and days, but no matter the number, God will wipe them all away. Just as this was promised to those passing through great tribulation, whom no one could count (Revelation 7:14), so it is promised now to all dwellers in the new Heaven and the new earth. Moreover, God promises, in serial fashion, no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. In fact, I translated the verse Surely no more…, for the Greek is emphatic. All of this was of great comfort to the general church ca. A. D. 95—a church enduring systemic persecution under Roman rule. It is also of inestimable comfort to us right now.
Because of this wondrous end of all things for those who are in Christ, we endure more cheerfully (or, at least, with somewhat less sorrow) the difficulties providentially placed upon us by our good God. Never forget that Jesus has won, wins, and evermore shall win—and these both for the glory of the triune God and for our highest good in Him. Also, never forget to look where you’re going. You and I, insofar as we enjoy union with Christ through faith in Him, go to a place where evil finally is vanquished and where none of this world’s ills plague us. We who go into Heaven—and, at the right time, into the new Heaven and the new earth—go into the direct presence of the triune God. There we will behold His glory, bask in His love, and worship Him forever. These are wondrous things to have, especially in view of the woes incumbent upon our current national and world situation.
Finally, let where we are going inform our thinking and doing today. Know for a surety that God had His perfect way from eternity past, has it today, and will have it to eternity future. Pray, meaning it, that His Kingdom would come—increasingly in this world and surely in the new Heaven and the new earth. Seek to be led by the Holy Spirit into righteous thinking and doing in the midst of this life’s challenges and opportunities. Again, in times like these, don’t forget to look where you’re going.