CYPRESSWOOD CHURCH OF CHRIST Return to 2010 Bulletins
January 10, 2010
25424 Aldine-Westfield, Spring, TX. 77373
REQUESTS AND THANKSGIVINGS:
God’s will for our congregation Peace
Various friends, relatives and co-workers Our nation, leaders and military
GOD’S TEAM WINS!
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let those who hear say, ‘Come!’ Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
Revelation is often considered a difficult book because of all the pictures painted in it. It is often interpreted as something that is future, whether of the end of the world or of the church age. Because of the language used and the interpretations heard, we often read it as a book of the future, if we read it at all. I doubt that we will ever agree on every aspect of the book but there are some things to consider in reading and understanding the book.
First, it is written in apocalyptic language, which is a Jewish concept that includes vivid and violent pictures. Often it relates destruction and judgment in terms of the sun going out and the earth being burned up (1). This is common in the prophets in particular. Jesus uses it concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and Peter gives a brief idea to it in 2 Peter 3. Concepts of war, defeat and victory are found in it. In John’s case, he draws from the Old Testament. Revelation is full of references, allusions and echoes of various Old Testament characters and events. Why would John use the Old Testament in such a way? For the Christians of the first century, the Old Testament was their Bible. They had been studying these scriptures since the message of the good news left Jerusalem. John himself taught with the Old Testament as his background (2).
Secondly, Revelation was written in time. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? The book was written somewhere around the 80s A.D. to seven churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It was written to Christians undergoing the early stages of persecution. It was written to tell them “what soon must take place” (1:1) because “the time was near” (1:3). When John finished, he said that the time is near (22:10) and that Jesus was coming soon (22:7, 12, 20). Many interpret this by saying that since the Lord hasn’t come yet, it must be a future event. In part, that is true, but often a day of judgment is spoken of as the Lord is coming and not as the end of the world as often interpreted.
The book is a book of repentance and faithfulness. It is a challenge to the seven churches to repent and to stand firm in the face of persecution that came in particular from the Roman Empire. Throughout the book, we catch glimpses of heaven and God ruling. By the time we get to chapter nineteen, the Lord Jesus comes riding on a white horse in victory. The damsel in distress, the bride or church, is rescued and the wedding feast begins. Evil, both in the form of Rome and the devil, is defeated. We then receive the new heavens and the new earth in the new city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to earth (chapters 21-22). Randy Harris puts it this way: “God’s team wins. Chose your team. Don’t be stupid.”
I think that we need to keep the historical and cultural contexts in view when reading the book, that is, it was written to seven churches in Asia Minor in the first century A.D. But however you read it, there is at the end of the book an invitation. It is the text used at the beginning of this article. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” Have you noticed this before? The Spirit is offering an invitation along with the bride, who is the church. How can the church offer an invitation if it is not filled with the Holy Spirit? Over the years, a deism has developed among Christians that the Holy Spirit came and gave us the word of God, the scriptures, and then left and went back to God, leaving us with only the word. That is not the case! The Spirit works together with the church and together invites people to come to the new heavens and the new earth. This is described by some as living in the now but not yet. The Hebrew writer captures it when he says:
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church
of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of
all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant,
and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:
Who then is being invited? First, I think that John has in mind the seven churches of Asia Minor. Two of the seven were small but faithful to God. The other five needed to repent and turn back to God. He is telling them to be or become faithful again so that they will participate in the now and not yet of the heavenly realms. This is a good reminder for us as well. We are being invited again by the Spirit and the bride - those who have gone before us - to come to the wedding feast of the Lamb and the bride.
Secondly, “And let those who hear say, ‘Come!’” Tell the good news and invite people to come. And those who hear the good news and are on their way are invited to tell others to come as well. Remember the parable in Luke 14 where the king has prepared a banquet and invited the guests to come. Excuses were made so that those invited could not come. So the king invited the outcasts to come and the travelers as well. Just imagine a conversation. “Stranger, you are invited to the banquet of the king. Tell your friends.” “Hey Joe, we’ve been invited to a banquet held by the king. Come, let’s go!” That is the power of the good news.
Who else is invited? “Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life.” If you have been reading the Gospel of John, remember this?
“’Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture
has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit,
whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (7:37-39).
Come and have your thirst quench. Come and have your burdens carried. Come one and come all! Is it any wonder as John concludes that he shouts out, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). The invitation is offered. Will you come?
George B. Mearns
(1) See Isaiah 10, 13, 34 as well as Ezekiel and Daniel.
(2) The Gospel of John often uses Moses and the Torah in understanding Jesus.