“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019

“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!” (Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20)

This is now the third in a three-part sermon series on the readings from Revelation 21 and 22. We began two weeks ago when St. John was given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. And a voice from the throne announced: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne declared, “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” Then last week John described more of what he saw, what the holy city looked like: beautiful and glorious, full of life and light. “Behold, the New Jerusalem!”

Now today, we come to the last chapter in the Bible, Revelation 22. Again we are given a glimpse of life in the new Jerusalem. This vision creates an eagerness in us for when these things will take place! When will we be able to be there, O Lord? When will you come again to bring this all about? How long, O Lord, how long? Today our Lord assures us and says, “Behold, I Am Coming Soon!”

“Behold, I am coming soon!” Christ is surely coming, dear friends. He is coming soon. How soon? We don’t know. It is not for us to know the times or seasons set by the Lord. “No man knoweth the day or the hour.” But we do know that he is coming. And he could be coming at any time. “Like a thief in the night,” the Bible says, meaning, there will be no advance notice. “Tuesday, June 18, at 3:57 p.m., the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the sky, and every eye shall see him.” Nope, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Now it could be Tuesday, June 18, at 3:57 p.m., but we just don’t know. He could come again on Monday, June 17. Or this afternoon at 3:57. Or a hundred years from now. We just don’t know. But we do know that he is coming. Like the angels said at his ascension, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

So we don’t know the “when,” but we do know the “that.” And when Jesus comes, what will he do? Well, we just confessed it in the Creed: “And he will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” Are you ready for that? How will you stand on Judgment Day? You know, Jesus says in our text, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” Judgment Day will be payback time! How will you fare? Brothers and sisters, if we were judged just on our own performance of God’s law, how well we kept God’s commandments, I tell you, we would not fare well! We would be in a heap of trouble. The law convicts us and condemns us as sinners. I have not loved God with my whole heart. I have not loved my neighbor as myself. And I suspect you would be in the same boat. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And the wages of sin is death. Eternal death and damnation. We would be shut out of the holy city, not allowed to enter, consigned to the flames of hell. A grim prospect indeed!

But thank God, we are not without hope! We do have hope, a most vibrant one! Wholeness and cleansing, forgiveness and righteousness, life and salvation are ours in Christ! Our text declares this good news: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Brothers and sisters, that’s us! You and I have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In Holy Baptism, you were washed clean, you were cleansed, your sins were forgiven, by the holy precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Now our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, meaning, we have a place reserved for us there in the holy city.

And it’s all a free gift. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. You couldn’t. That’s grace for you. Grace! For you! “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Jesus gives us this living water that will quench our thirst forever.

The living water, the water of life. This is what will be flowing through the holy city, like an eternal spring, ever new, ever refreshing, abundantly flowing as a river of life. Our text says: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.” The river of life flows out from God to us. God is the fountain and source of all goodness, and so the river of life comes from him to us. That’s always how it goes with these blessings, from God, to us.

The river of the water of life, flowing out from God, bring life and fruitfulness everywhere it goes. You know, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of this same thing, centuries before John was permitted to see it. In Ezekiel 47 the prophet had a vision of water flowing out from the center of the temple, making a river, and the water bringing life everywhere it goes. There were trees on either side of the river, and the water causes them to bear fruit twelve months of the year. That is what Ezekiel saw. And now this is what John sees also: “on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

The tree of life. We will have access to the tree of life in the new Jerusalem. We sinners were driven out of Eden, out of the garden, away from the tree of life. No more access to that tree. No more living forever. Death had entered the picture. Sin and death have been at work in this world ever since, doing their worst. And we experience the damage and the sadness that this brings to our lives.

But thank God, there’s been another tree to undo the damage. And that is the tree of the cross, the tree on which our Lord Jesus Christ bore the brunt of our sins. He suffered the punishment that we deserve. He took the burden of our guilt upon his own sinless shoulders, lifting that unbearable load from us. The tree of the cross becomes the new tree of life! The resurrection of Christ proves that this is so. Now when we die, our Lord says to us, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And when Christ comes again, on that day everything will be complete, our bodies raised, whole and glorious, and this old earth restored, new and full of life.

Friends, this will be a return to the Garden of Eden! This will be paradise restored, only better! And we will be there! We will share in this blessedness and this beauty, this life and vibrancy! We will see our Lord’s face! All because of what he has done for us. This is our great hope. This is what we have to look forward to. This is what we have to hold on to, even when–especially when–our life in this dreary world is full of gloom and sorrow. So hold on, hang on, have hope and rejoice in what Christ has prepared for you!

“Behold, I am coming soon,” Jesus says to us today. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Jesus Christ is the author and the perfecter of our faith. He is the source and the goal of our salvation, and he will bring it to completion. Have confidence in him. He will bring it to pass. These words are trustworthy and true. “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Published in: on June 1, 2019 at 7:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very good sermon! Thank you

  2. The 3 pt series came up on my search, and I have enjoyed them very much, they have envigorated my hopes and taught me something new as well. Thank you St. Matthews. God bless.

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