Sermon St P & St M 31 October 2021 Year B All Saints 4th b4 Advent ‘Future’
Isaiah 25v6-9 Psalm 24 Revelation 21v1-6a John 11v32-44
Let us pray:
As we come together on this ‘All Saints Day’, we join with all our brothers and sisters across the world, the Church Militant, and with all who now make up the saintly body of believers who have gone before us, and are now in the presence of our Lord, the Church Triumphant. In the words of our psalmist (Ps24), we can all declare, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it, the world and all who dwell therein’.
As is my wont in many of my sermons, I pose yet another question to you, what do you believe could happen in the future? I am not really asking you to speculate, and perhaps you will say, it has always been as it is and will go on like that, or as king Solomon said, and as is recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes (1v9-10), ‘The thing that hath been, is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun’.
But is that what the scriptures actually say? Or do they perhaps have a deeper revelation and insight for us, being the word of God do they contain a revelation into what actually does lie ahead? Or has God left us completely in the dark?
I don’t think so. Our God is the one who declares ‘the end from the beginning’. The prophet Isaiah (Is46v10), tells us that God said, “I say, My purpose will stand, and all My good pleasure I will accomplish. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come”. And Saint John also thought that God revealed his coming purposes for us and recorded them in his Revelation.
John was given his revelation from Jesus when held as a prisoner on the Greek Island of Patmos, probably sometime near the end of the first century. Jesus gave to John, and as a result to all of us also, a small insight into the things that are to come. Some take what John wrote as purely ‘poetic’ and even ‘fanciful’, but why would God do that? Many of us take what John wrote, and what we have just read, as being a description of the new heaven and the new earth that God will at some time bring in, for what we know at present will pass away as God makes ‘all things new’. I wonder if you really believe that is indeed what is going to happen?
As always we need to put John’s revelation into the wider context of all the other relevant Old and New Testament scriptures, and so to paint a more complete picture of God’s revelation to us who believe. And all that is written needs to be set within the context of our Lord’s own words to some of his disciples when he was talking to them on the Mount of Olives of the times of the end (Mtt24v36) saying, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”. So we must take care not to be led astray.
This morning I am attempting to put together a picture of what I, and many others, believe will one day take place, and maybe sooner than we think. You will probably not have heard a sermon quite like this before.
Taken together the scriptures all point to a great change that will come upon the world as we know it today. Perhaps some of you would join with me in saying that when we see this world so full of poverty, injustice, inequality violence and oppression, that time can’t come too soon, we do need change and transformation. So in a few words, what may there be in store for all of humanity?
Well, it seems that a time of great distress will come upon all the nations, a time commonly called ‘the tribulation’; a time that will last for a period of seven years, and certainly not a time to look forward to. But we Christians have a promise that Saint Paul makes in 1Thessalonians (1v10) saying, ‘Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come’, should that take place in our generation. But that is yet another story, but it is good to know that Jesus is always looking to bless us his people.
After that time of tribulation that John graphically describes, the world shall see the return, the second advent, the second coming of our Lord Jesus. A time that we regularly affirm when we declare, ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’. But do we believe Jesus will return when we declare that later?
The prophet Zechariah says that the feet of the returning Messiah, Jesus, shall stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech14v4), and the two angels also attested to it as Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives into heaven saying (Acts 1v11) “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
When that time does come, and our Lord returns, it will usher in a time that Saint John describes as a one thousand year period when Jesus will reign on earth from Jerusalem, and all nations will be subject to his royal rule, a time commonly known as ‘the millennium’. That time is described by the prophet Isaiah (Is52v7) as when, ‘Your God reigns’, and by Zechariah as a time when the nations shall go up each year to Jerusalem during the feast of tabernacles (Zech14v16).
It is a time that is hinted at in psalm 147 where we read, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts. He heals the broken hearted and binds up all their wounds. The Lord lifts up the poor. He has established peace.”
When that period of time is concluded we read of a final judgement for all peoples, those then living, and also for all humanity who have lived before, and those in the company of saints who returned with our Lord at its start (Rev20v12).
Then comes the time that we have read of this morning, an eternity when all shall be made new. It will be like the time God planned for all humanity from the beginning of creation, a glorious life for us that had to be suspended as a result of our disobedience to God’s commandments. A time of restoration for us who believe and have our names inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life, a salvation finally made complete, and made possible through the obedience of our Lord Jesus to die on the cross of Calvary, to restore our true relationship to a Holy God.
That eternity of time is then a time of new beginnings, a time of such tremendous transformation when God the Father himself comes and makes his home with us. God changes his abode to the new Jerusalem, recreating a time like in the garden when with Adam and Eve God was described as walking with them in the cool of the evening (Gen3v8).
Saint John closes his great revelation with words from which we can all take encouragement, ‘these words are trustworthy and true’ (Rev22v6).
I hope that like me you will also take hope from these promises disclosed by Saint John, but what of the meantime? We are to remember that we are the Lord’s ambassadors and his representatives to this our present and fallen generation. We are Jesus body, his hands and his feet, here to carry his gospel of good news, a gospel of reconciliation for those who feel far from the living God. A gospel to give hope that there is a coming kingdom when all shall be made just and new. Let us pray that our families, friends and neighbours will want to join with us and rejoice in God’s immeasurable grace.
Let us pray:
God of all holiness, your glory is to be proclaimed to every generation, and as we await that time of your return, help us to rejoice in the saving faith we share with all your saints, and inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; we ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our risen and ascended Lord. Amen