EMBRACING A SEASON OF BLESSINGS-GOD’S ETERNITY
John 11:25-26, Revelation 21:1-6
November 25, 2018
We have been seeking to make this month of November a season of embracing blessings, a season of thanksgiving. We’ve been taking some time to ponder the unique and enduring goodness God brings to us. Blessings of God’s presence, grace and provision. The blessing of God’s never-ending quest for you and me.
This morning we give consideration to the greatest blessing of all – the gift of God’s eternity revealed to us thru his Son Jesus Christ!
JESUS MAKES ETERNITY REAL TIME!
In Jesus, eternity is at hand.
Jesus is with Martha and Mary at the occasion of their brother Lazarus’ dying. And in the midst of their voice-quivering, tearstained grief, he utters these timeless words:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Notice the present tense here: I am the resurrection and the life. Not I will be….I am!
Friends, the blessing of eternal life begins the moment we believe, not the moment we die. When we say ‘yes’ to God’s freely-given grace in Christ, receiving forgiveness of our sins, eternity grabs hold of the here and now!
And the proof of this comes on the third day, when God raises his Son from the dead, forever ensuring his living presence with us. The resurrection of Christ is the day death died! Death no longer has the power to defeat us….
I came across an interesting epitaph on an old tombstone in a cemetery: “To be continued….”
Our true life, our eternal life that begins here in the present tense continues beyond the grave in great glory. Jesus says, “Because I live, you shall live also!” Because of Christ, life is always the final word! Never death.
I’ve often wondered what our world would be like if we truly believed those words… We wouldn’t frantically hoard things. We wouldn’t be afraid to risk ourselves to be in mission to others. We could truly relax and make the most of each day, because we wouldn’t live in fear…because we have the assurance that the love of God in Christ will never let us go.
Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption utters this immortal line, “As I see it, you can get busy living or get busy dying.” Jesus Christ is the pioneer to true life. With our lives centered upon him, we can truly get busy living each day to its fullest!
With our lives centered upon him, we become what the Apostle Paul calls us – saints…our God-given resiliency leaves a lasting legacy for others.
Little Amanda and her grandmother were touring an historic cathedral in New York City. Amanda was mesmerized by the lovely, sunlit, Tiffany stained-glass windows. “Mamaw,” she asked, “who are those people whose pictures are in the windows?” “Why, they are the saints of the Church, Amanda.”
She stood there for a few more moments in quiet captivation, and then with a look of satisfaction she proclaimed, “I get it, Mamaw! A saint is someone the light shines through!”
In receiving the blessing of God’s eternity, we are all saints. We aren’t perfect, but we are people of faith and fortitude. And our lives on this earth outlive us, leaving a witness for future generations, after we have gone knocking on heaven’s door.
What is heaven like? Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams said it resembled a cosmic cornfield in Iowa. There’s got to be more than that. And there certainly is!
The prophet John was exiled on the barren island of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a time of great persecution for the Church, with Christians being tortured and executed by the hundreds for refusing to renounce their faith before the diabolical Roman emperors.
As they struggled to stand steadfast in the face of immense suffering and death, John related to them this all-compelling vision of heaven the Lord had given to him.
1Then 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.
2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5And 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.”
6Then 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.
Yes, according to John, heaven is an eternal dominion where ultimately hurt ends and hope wins!
ETERNITY REVEALS THAT IN HEAVEN, HURT ENDS!
Two 95-year-old sisters, both weighted down with arthritis, died at the same time in an auto accident and went to Heaven. There they were overwhelmed by the magnificence and glory of heaven. They ooh-ed and ah-ed at the wonders they saw. They couldn’t get over what a matchless place it was. Then one said to the other, “You know, Irma, we could have been here five years earlier if you hadn’t insisted on our eating oat bran.”
And I’m sure that is exactly the same sentiment of our loved ones who have gone on before us to heaven. They are surrounded by indescribable beauty and joy unspeakable.
John compared the splendor of heaven to “a bride adorned for her husband.” What a stunning sight that is to see a bride coming down the church aisle for the wedding ceremony, dressed in her absolute finest, looking lovelier than at any other time in her life!
The words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians echo John’s description: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Resurrection…life… this is our destiny!
As condemned pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer prepared to face the impending rope of the gallows in a Nazi German concentration camp, he proclaimed, “My death will be the greatest feast on the way to freedom!”
When Thomas Edison lay dying, he could hardly speak, according to his widow. His doctor, who was also a friend of the family, observed that Edison was trying to say something. He bent down very close and heard the inventor whisper, “It’s very beautiful over there.”
And the unimaginable splendor that engulfs our loved ones is permeated with healing. Hear John’s comforting words again:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new”
Yes, in heaven, God mends all brokenness. As a pastor, I have had a front-row seat to the suffering of many dear saints over the years–from the youngest of the young to the oldest of the old. I have witnessed their courageous battles against diseases that ravaged their bodies and minds, but did not destroy their spirit.
What a blessed comfort to know that at the end of their earthly journey, Christ met them and ushered hem into the glorious presence of God, and all of that brokenness, that hurt, that pain was mended….the strife was over, the battle won….they were made whole again by the Master’s hand!
It is a trite but true saying: “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
And these dear folk now live with a vibrancy we cannot begin to fathom. The valley of the shadow of death has no place in the topography of heaven. Because Christ lives, they live also, for all of eternity, as we shall also!
Yes, in heaven, hurt ends! And…
ETERNITY REVEALS THAT IN HEAVEN, HOPE WINS!
Have you noticed how much people fear the future these days? I had a conversation with an older gentleman a while back who needed a quarter to finish paying for his coffee at the 7-11. He said he once feared he would die too soon. Now he fears he’ll die too late…. that he will outlive his assets and spend his final years in poverty. That’s sad.
I am reminded of something author Kurt Vonnegut once told a university graduating class about his lifelong philosophy. “Regardless of how bad things are today,” he believes, “they will be worse tomorrow.” There are many who would resonate with Vonnegut’s view.
From wars to natural disasters to mass shootings, there’s a lot of negative stuff going on–and those were just the headlines in yesterday’s newspaper. And if this was all there is, then we would live in nothing but a state of paralyzed anxiety. But our God paints a much different portrait of the future.
That same heaven that our loved ones now dwell in will one day break loose and encompass all things, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, all re-created by the hand of an all-powerful, all-loving God! In the end, hope wins!
Carve it in granite, etch it in stone. Hope wins. Because God wins. Nothing in this world is surer. When your children ask about the future, teach them to sing those words that have inspired millions, “This is my Father’s world, Oh, let me n’er forget that though the wrong is oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” Hope wins!
Listen to John’s vision once again:
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…
Can you imagine a realm of uninhibited, unbroken fellowship with God? This is what we have to look forward to. Indeed, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds the future! That is hope to hold on to, and that is hope that wins! Yes, resurrection…life….this is our destiny!
Our lives begin and end in him who is the Alpha and the Omega…the source and destination of all there is! He has promised to never forsake us in this life or in the life to come! We will drink freely from the spring of the water of eternal life!
We who in our hearts have said “yes” to God’s grace are going to be with the Lord, either at the end of our life’s journey upon this earth, or at the occasion of his return, whichever should come first.
Friends, hear this clearly–no matter what you are going through at this moment in time…no matter how high the mountain, how deep the valley, how fast the stream–THAT IS NOT THE FINAL WORD! The God who gave you your life has that life in the palm of his hand, and he will never, ever let you go! God is the author of hope, and that hope will prevail for all of eternity!
Of all God’s blessings we embrace during this season, from God’s presence, grace and provision…from God’s quest for you and me…this is indeed the greatest of all – the blessing of eternal life lived in dynamic, loving relationship with our Lord, now and forevermore!
Praise be to God! Amen!