Yesterday’s message …
- Brought the “Brave” series to a close by looking at some of final words in the final book of the biblical library;
- Starting out with a seriously-not-serious look at all the Super Bowl Victory Parades they’ve had in New England;
- Hinged on John’s reference to the Lamb’s Book Of Life in Revelation 21:27;
- Landed at this bottom line: You’ll only enjoy Jesus’ victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
Well, there is one thing the city of Charlotte is still waiting for. What’s that? A Super Bowl Victory Parade! (Gosh, we’d take an NBA one, too, but that’s really remote.) I mean, we see them (AV) in places like New England & Denver & New England & Seattle & New England & New Orleans & New England but wouldn’t it be great to have that big party celebrating that great victory at the corner of Trade & Tryon? There’s something so satisfying, so sweet, about a victory well won, an opponent vanquished, and a celebration that follows.
Or at work, when your sales team wins the quota contest and next January you’re on a Caribbean beach soaking up the sun while the guys you beat are slogging it out up here in the cold. Or those guys on Jeopardy who just keep winning and winning and winning. Yeah, you’ve Victory Dances, Victory Poses, Victory Chants, & now let’s all run a Victory Lap!
Sometimes you’ve even snatched defeat from the jaws of victory! Young engineer, interviewing for job, acing the interview, and so the interviewer asks, “What are you looking for in terms of compensation?” “$200k a year, depending on benefits package.” “Well, for benefits, how about five weeks vacation, 14 paid additional holidays, full medical & dental, matching retirement fund, and a new car every two years, starting with a BMW?” “You’re kidding!” the young man says. And the interviewer replied, “Yeah, but you started it.” Oh! Defeat snapped from victory’s jaws! And what a sweet victory it would have been! Yep, victory is sweet.
But that sense of thorough, comprehensive, complete victory is what we run into at the end of the biblical library, in the final words of the last book, Revelation. Rev. 20-22 is where John, who both receives and then reveals this VR tour of the unseen world, at long last gives a glimpse into the unLIVED world – the part that hasn’t happened yet. This is really AFTER THE END, life after life after death, after all the enemies of God have been dealt with, demolished, and judged. Check 21:22-23:
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Oh wow. If you are Jewish, which many of John’s readers are, and there is NO TEMPLE, that is such a startling thing. For the average Jew, no temple meant no God. And John is saying that there is now no temple (and I guess no church either! No preachers! THAT’S heaven!) because every obstacle, every distraction to seeing Jesus and worshiping God intently and intimately has been eliminated. No temple because HE, God, is in such vivid color and such close proximity there is no need.
And note that it’s the same with the celestial bodies, the sun and the moon. Get this. What Rev is saying is that for the first time we’ll be seeing UNCREATED LIGHT. The light of God himself. Think of it! Every light you’ve ever seen is created. Sun? Created. Moon? Created. Flourescent light? Created. LED light? Created. Strobe Light? Created. Leg Lamp? Created. All of it. But here at the end, as at the beginning, we’ll see light that always was. The victory over the forces of darkness was thorough and complete.
So … keep going. Look at 21:24-26:
24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Again, what a revelation for 1st Century Jews. “Oh, it’s not for us? When Paul said ‘first for the Jew & then for the Gentile’ he MEANT it?’ We’ll skip 21:27 FOR NOW and look at 22:1-2:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
You know what? The end is remarkably like the beginning. The last plan looks like the first plan: there is a river, gardens, leaves, serenity, peace. Huh. Almost like God knows what he is doing.
Now move to 22:3-5:
3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Wait, didn’t we just read something like that? Yes! Yes we did! Revelation goes in loops and whorls, like a fingerprint, circling back around and saying the same things more than once for emphasis. But the unmistakable implication of all this serenity and peace and light is that this is Jesus’ Victory Parade. His Victory Lap. The Victory Formation. The dust has settled, the end has come, the enemies have been utterly vanquished and banished. The victory is so comprehensive that there is no sign of the enemies anywhere. This is what winning looks like! Sweet victory indeed. And look who join him in reigning? His people. His victory is so sweet and so complete and you could accurately say it is FOR US. Whatever bravery we have is because of the guarantee of this victory.
But wait wait wait wait wait. Hold on hold on hold on. Do you remember the verse we passed by? Check it now at 21:27:
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Tucked in between the loops and the whorls, there it is. Jesus’ victory parade is guaranteed. Our presence there is not. Only those whose name are written in the Book of Life. Only those who, in a moment of surrender followed by a million other moments of surrender, accept that we’re bought and he rules. We’re powerless and he is helper. Because here’s what is true: most of us resist being owned by another, we resent not being our own God, we’re unsettled by the thought of giving up our self-absorption for a God-focus. Most of us will naturally choose a thoroughly self-centered life.
And the reality is that the victory in Armageddon (the Last Battle!) is preceded by an ongoing battle for the soul of every individual ever. Including you. Including me. God has to wage war, sort of against Satan but mostly against US. And only when we, again, in that moment of surrender followed by a million moments just like it, raise our hands and say, “You win, Lord. You’ve beaten me and pursued me and now I give in. I’m yours.” That’s when our names go in that Book Of Life. It all means this, all from a verse we first skipped but thankfully landed on: You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you. Yep! You’ll only be IN the scene in Rev. 22 if you’ve joined the winning team long before that.
It’s like the baptism service they had one time in a developing country where Xnty is not a major religion. And a visiting pastor from the US noticed that a teenage girl was there, preparing for her own baptism. And the pastor noticed that she brought her suitcase with her. That was odd. So the pastor sidled over to the host pastor and said, “Hey, I notice that the young woman brought her suitcase to the baptism. What’s that about?” “Oh,” answered the host pastor, “her father told her that if she got baptized into Jesus she could never come home again. So here she is, packed and ready to go.” Whoa. I guess that’s a battle Jesus won. That’s what it’s like. You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
Or it’s even like that boxing match OF THE CENTURY (of course, the last century!) between Roberto Duran & Sugar Ray Leonard. All kinds of hype, all kinds of build up, like UFC X 10. And midway through the fight, Duran was done. And in boxing’s most famous quote, he said simply, “No mas. No mas.” And that’s what it’s like. When you realize Jesus’ love for you is relentless, and that he wants to halt your self-destruction and replace it with a love explosion, and you finally stop resisting and say, “No mas. You got me, Lord, am I am giving in since you have given all.”
You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
Or maybe, most particularly, it’s like this text message that I sent on January 7 of this year: READ Philip text from blog post. Yep. I’ve lived through the resistance and then enjoyed the beauty of surrender. That’s why I’m planning on being in the picture John paints of what happens when all the dust settles in Rev. 21 & 22. You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
You know why I’m giving this message now? Other than the fact that it’s the last Sunday of the series and these are the last sections of the book? Do you know why I don’t just wait til you’re on your death bed to tell you this? Well, I’m not always there at the death bed and, more importantly, I don’t want you to wait til you die to start eternal life! Nope. Eternal life is not an out there in the great beyond kind of thing; it’s right here, in the new horizon. It’s got meaning and meat and impact. You let Jesus vanquish you, you join the throngs of people who say “No Mas!” to battling against Jesus and instead battle for him and WHOOO! you’ll know eternal life. It starts now. I’ve been living it for 40 years. I’ve got friends in this church who been living it for 10. And listen to this note from a teenager for whom it started four years ago: READ Rachel Giles. I don’t want you to miss out on that kind of goodness in this life! Because if you miss it HERE, you sure won’t be part of the Victory Parade THERE.
You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
I’m also stunned at how vivid these words in Revelation are in regards to the folly of a self-centered life. I mean, could it be more clear that eternity is about God? All the descriptors here are about God – the light, the Lamb, the temple, all of it. Nothing about us playing golf in heaven or living in mansions in heaven or even seeing our family and friends in heaven. And I just find that so liberating! Because – and a lot of you know this – I can be really all about me. Deep down, I want to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral (which is a prob if you do a lot of weddings and funerals). And yet this picture of heaven AFTER THE END OF ALL THINGS frees me of that. This incredible intensity of a realm with him at the center, where he gets all the focus and all the attention. Which is really as it should be. And if you’re worried that that will get boring … don’t. Just don’t. Get over yourself. There is no ADD in heaven, I promise. You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
So: where is it with you? Maybe you’ve heard the old, possibly true, tale about Gen MacArthur and a foreign general surrendering to him. And the defeated foe offered his hand to MacArthur. But he still had his ceremonial sword. And MacArthur said, “Hand over your sword, first, sir. There’s no surrender if you still have your sword.” So what’s the “sword” you’re still holding on to? Is it your wallet? Your temper? Your flirts? Even your freedom to decide that nature is your sanctuary and you can worship God just fine on the golf course, thank you very much?
Or is it even deeper? The fundamental misconception that you’re gonna get to heaven because of what YOU’VE done rather than what Jesus did? That it’s about good people going and you’re better than most? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, is it that you think you’ve gone too far and done too much? Too many drugs, too many one night stands, too much everything all the time? Don’t buy that lie. You’ve got a target on your back. Jesus wants to harass you or love you or lovingly harass you back into the kingdom. Starting today. You’ll only enjoy his victory FOR you when you allow his victory OVER you.
There’s that line in warfare that TO THE VICTOR GOES THE __. What? Spoils! Right! Guess what. Jesus is the victor. He wants you as his spoils. Don’t make him wait.