Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | October 19, 2014 | Based on the writings of Dr. Ken Priddy
Rev. 7:9-10 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Rev. 21:1-7 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, 4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Rev. 21: 23-27 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. 25 And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; 26 and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John between AD 66 and 95 during his exile on the Isle of Patmos. It was addressed to the seven churches in Asia Minor to encourage faithfulness to Christ in the midst of suffering by affirming that God rules history and will surely bring it to a glorious consummation of judgment and blessing in Christ.
God has a vision of a great multitude of redeemed people, whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life since before the foundation of the world, with whom He will dwell permanently and eternally in the new heavens and the new earth.
God’s vision for the church is clear. The role of church leaders is not to create or invent a new vision for their churches, but to discern God’s vision for the Church at large, and then to discern how that vision is to be applied in our own churches, within our own communities, at the present time.
To see God’s vision is first to see God, and the place to begin is the understanding that God is a sovereign God with an eternal kingdom vision. To see his eternal kingdom vision, we need to pull the lens back to an extremely wide angle, in order to see all of time from beginning to end. God is eternal and He has placed a timeline in the midst of eternity as part of His plan. In Genesis 1 we see in the beginning of time God creates the heavens and the earth. When we move to the end of time in Revelation 21 we see the new heavens and the new earth. In it, we find God and his people. In the beginning, God creates the heavens and the earth. And in the end, He creates a new heaven and a new earth, and He takes up permanent residence with mankind.
The question that faces every Christian church is, “What happens in between the beginning and the end?” The answer is that the timeline from Genesis to Revelation passes through the creation, the fall, and the Covenant of Grace that God made with man. And this covenant moves from generation to generation as God’s plan and purpose are played out in the history of redemption. In creation, God created man and woman in his own image. And he commanded them to be fruitful and multiply in order to extend the image of God to the ends of the earth, that there would become a great multitude of people reflecting his image for God’s glory. But the fall interrupted that process. Yet the fall was not a surprise to God. We’re told over and over in Scripture that the Lamb’s book of life contains the names of those which were written there by God from before the foundation of the earth. This took place because of what we call the covenant of grace. God anticipated the fall and made provision for it.
In creation, God bound himself to man in covenantal relationship. After man’s fall into sin, God graciously bound himself to man again by committing himself to redeem a people to himself from lost humanity. By the covenant of grace God re-established a oneness between himself and his people which had been interrupted by sin. The central unifying theme of the covenant is expressed over and over in the Old Testament in the phrase, “…I will dwell among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” As time moves through the OT, the covenant continues to move with the people of God according to his plan and purpose until the coming of Jesus Christ as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us as we see in John 1 vv. 1-5, 14. With the entrance of God the Son in time and space, the pivot point in history is established, ushering in the beginning of the end, the first of the Last Day. Jesus lives, teaches, ministers, is crucified, resurrected and ascends into heaven. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out. God the Son, having established the new covenant (1 Cor. 11:23-26) is followed by God the Spirit whose mission is to apply, through the Church, in time and space, the benefits of redemption purchased by Christ to every person whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The role of the Church since Pentecost is to work in cooperation with, and empowered by, the Holy Spirit, preaching the gospel and forming the culture in such a way that glorifies God, causing the kingdom of God to grow both numerically and geographically. Ultimately, God’s covenant with mankind will reach its fulfillment at the close of time when all who belong to Christ will participate in that “great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
God is a sovereign God with an eternal kingdom vision that stretches from beginning and beyond the end of time as we know it. Our role, as church leaders and church members, is to discover God’s big picture and to find out our place as His plan of redemptive history passes through our time and space. The question we will be asking ourselves throughout the vitalization process is, “How does God want to express himself through church in this this community at this time?”
As we do so, there are four things to remember.
- It’s God’s vision, not our own that we are seeking. It’s NOT God’s vision for our church BUT our church for God’s vision.
- This vision is to be applied though our individual churches. We can learn from other churches and find inspiration in them, but we need not mimic them. God has a particular vision for us here and now.
- We must focus on what will serve and reach those who live in our individual communities. What is effective elsewhere might not be effective in our context. We must focus on those who live right around us.
- We must minister in the present, not the past. What was effective in the past may not be effective in the present. We must discern the time in which we live.
One last thought to ponder. Since everyone whose name is already written in the Lamb’s book of life is going to be reached by someone, Why not us? Why not here? Why not now?