We continue with the thrilling imagery of Revelation 21. The picture brings us back to the beginning, conjuring scenes from The Garden of Eden. Revelation is often viewed as an end, but is actually a new beginning. Everything is redeemed and renewed. God’s justice is fulfilled and his grace is overflowing. The great hope of our lives is that – no matter what occurs – we have the opportunity to overcome, to join God in the final manifestation of redemption, and begin anew one last time.
This is Genesis 1:1. This is a total new beginning. Do you get the impact of that? Genesis 1:1 is happening again. And by his word and whatever other mechanisms, he’s going to make it again. I make all things new. And He said to me—this guy on the throne—“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Write this down
Now, this is a major oversight in my life, and I’m going to try to make it not an oversight anymore.
If you’ve got God sitting on his throne, and the only time he speaks from his throne is here, and he says, “Write this down because this is really important,” shouldn’t this be on all our cross stitches and bumper stickers and t-shirts? But it’s not! And I propose it’s because we don’t have a paradigm to understand what he’s saying here.
But I’m also going to propose that you do. And we’re going to see what he’s saying here, and it’s going to sum up all of Revelation, the book that says if you read, understand, and do, you get a special blessing.
I was talking to a friend recently about what his background was in Revelation. He said, “Well, you know, when I was growing up, I was just told, ‘Stay away from Revelation; it will mess you up.’” And that’s been pretty prevalent. The book that says you get a special blessing, “No, stay away from that! You don’t want any of that special blessing stuff!”
Skipping the blessing is easier
In a sense, since “special blessing” and “fiery trial” tend to go together, it’s understandable.
I have a friend that at one point in his life said, “Man, I just don’t want to live a faithful Christian life because faithful Christians get the Job experience, and I don’t want that.”
You know, he was observing something I think is true. If you don’t embrace the fiery trials, you tend to have an easier life, in a sense. In a sense, from the world’s standpoint.
If you don’t embrace the giants and the walled cities, and you have to grow your own food now, if you don’t embrace that, you get the desert where your shoes don’t wear out and your food just shows up every day. And there’s something attractive about that. It’s an easier way.
But you don’t get the inheritance. You get the bowl of stew and you lose the inheritance. And that’s what the Bible is trying to tell us: You’re missing out on one of the main things that life is about if you take this easy path.
All liars go to hell
“Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Okay, so let’s get it. And He said to me—So here we go. “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Next verse. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me—
That’s it. That’s what the voice from the throne says. Write this down. Get this.
Now after you read that, it’s easy to see, first reaction, why this wouldn’t be on our bumper stickers other than—I’ve heard the kids, they will say, “Liars go to hell.” So we get that from this verse. That’s the closest thing to a bumper sticker, which is always applied to who? Me, of course, right? No, no. It’s always you, you’re the liar that’s going to hell.
So this is “write this down.” Obviously this doesn’t apply to me. This book is to believers, and it says to the believers, if you read, understand, and do, you’ll get a special blessing. But when the guy on the throne speaks directly and says, “Write this down for this is faithful and true,” clearly he’s talking about somebody else. Well, I think that’s what we’ve done with it.
Well, I don’t believe he is. I think he’s talking to John and us. So let’s unpack it.
God is in control
First, It is done. I am the Alpha and and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Who started all this? The creator! Who’s going to end it all? The creator. Do we have to fear the world ending by some invasion of aliens or something that’s going to come, like all the movies are about?
Have you noticed how many movies are about the world ending or somebody trying to take over the world? Why do we like that so much? Because that’s the actual drama we’re in. Somebody is trying to take over the world! And somebody is going to invade it. And we’re going to be involved. If we’re living as faithful witnesses, we’re on the right team for that big invasion that’s going to happen.
And he says, “It is done.” This will be finished when God is ready for it to be finished. It’s on his Outlook calendar.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Can something be the beginning and the end in this world? Is that possible to be the beginning and the end at the same time? I can’t think of anything that’s like that.
I know we can start stuff. I know we can shut something down. But he’s the beginning and the end. He’s the definition of all existence is what he’s saying. And that means he’s outside all of this. That’s how he can create it and then recreate it because he’s outside all this.
“I made this, and I made it for a reason. And that part’s done, and I’m going to do something else.”
What’s he going to do?
First, I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Now this is the best news ever. What do you have to do to get the water of life? Be thirsty! Could anything be easier than that? Yes, one thing: looking. As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.
What did they have to do to get cured from the snakebite poison? Have enough faith to look! Is anything easier than that?
Yes! “Mom, I’m thirsty! Can I have a drink of water?”
Raise your hand if you’re a parent and your child has asked you for a drink of water, and you told them, “No! You don’t deserve a drink of water! You’ve got to get your behavior up. You can live a full three days without hydration. And if you don’t straighten up your life—you clean your room, you do your chores, and then you can get a drink of water!”
Now there may be other things that you say that about, but not water. I mean, there may be instances where they’re going to go to surgery, and they can’t have water, and what do you say then? “Ha ha! This is a chance where I get to watch you suffer without—”
No! You say, “I’m really sorry. I can’t give you water here. It would make you sick. But as soon as you wake up, we’ll get—” Right?
We don’t mess around with water! If your child wants water you give it to them!
This is the gift. See, this is the gift! Who’s going to be in heaven with Jesus as one of his children? Everybody who admitted they were thirsty! Why won’t people admit they’re thirsty? For the same reason they don’t want to be cured of the snakebite poison. They like it! “I don’t want to be cured of this snakebite poison. I like my snakebite poison.” “I don’t want to be cured of thirst. I like being parched.”
All you have to do to be part of this bride and to be conformed to the image of Christ is say, “I’m thirsty. I want some!”
If you’ve got friends that doubt whether they’re really a Christian or not because of the way they behave, you can take them here. Have you told Jesus you’re thirsty and would like a drink of living water? Well, then believe that he gave it to you. This is the gift! It can’t be messed up. Birth is an irrevocable gift, and it’s as easy as asking for a drink of water.
Isn’t that cool? This is true and faithful! Write it down! All you have to do to be here with me is be thirsty and ask for a drink.
But that’s not all. See birth is important in life, isn’t it? Anybody here who didn’t get born? It’s an important prerequisite, right? We celebrate it once a year whether we need to or not. But life is mainly about all the decisions and actions we take in between birth and death. It’s the dash in the middle of the two dates that we mainly focus on.
The difference between child and son
And so it is here. If you’ve been thirsty, you’re going to get freely. But among that group, there’s a segregation. There are overcomers and non-overcomers. To him who overcomes, nikao, victor, winner, accomplisher, those who prevailed, they shall inherit all things. They’re the ones who get the land.
See, was the land given to the ones who died in the wilderness? Yes. Why didn’t they possess it? Because they declined to possess it. Every believer is given an inheritance to sit on the throne with Jesus. But if we don’t overcome, we don’t possess it.
He will inherit all things. All things? The city? The world? Yes. All things.
And I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Now this is an important distinction. Every believer is a child, but only some believers are sons.
Let me just remind you of some things we’ve covered before. Let’s go to Hebrews 1 where this is really clearly laid out: the difference between child and son.
All you have to do to be a child is say, “I’m thirsty, can I have a drink?” But to be a son, you have to overcome. You have to be a faithful witness and not fear death. Just read these first five verses, and I think it will be fairly apparently. This was written to Jews, believing Jews, Hebrews.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir—the one who inherits—of all things—sound familiar? Appointed heir of all things. Did you catch that? Appointed heir of all things. —through whom also He made the worlds;
Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had—Jesus—by Himself purged our sins—by dying on the cross, rising from the dead—sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high—because he had completed his task on earth and had overcome.
Having become so much better than the angels—so he became a man which is lower than the angels then was elevated above the angels because of obedience—as He has by inheritance—this possession that he possessed—obtained a more excellent name than they. Than the angels.
For to which of the angels did He ever say—God say—
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You?”
Jesus was never born in eternity. He has always been in eternity. Jesus is God. So how could Jesus be begotten as a son?
Well, this is an ancient eastern treaty that is called a suzerainty-vassal treaty. And the suzerain, the king, the potentate, if he has a faithful servant in his realm that he wants to honor as a particularly faithful servant. He has a ceremony. He says, “You, on behalf of your tremendous service to me have earned this privilege, and today I’m adopting you as a son. And you shall be my son, and I, to you, a father. And this confers on you these privileges in addition to responsibilities, for your are reigning in my kingdom with me.”
And we know from Philippians 4, same idea. Jesus learned obedience, even to death on a cross. And because of this was elevated to this high realm, as a man. He was already king of the universe as God, but became a man and was elevated as a man and became the son of the earth because of his faithfulness. Because he nikao. He overcame.
This is the same idea that he’s telling us. If you will overcome as Jesus overcame, if you will endure the fiery trials, embrace them, do the job I’ve given you to do, be faithful until death, I will give you all things.
So you have the gift. Look, all you have to do is believe to get here. Just believe enough to ask for a drink. Everybody’s in that asks for a drink.
But once you’re in, I want you to focus on something. I want you to focus on being an overcomer because if you do, I’m going to have you inherit all things just like my son Jesus did.
Mindboggling! We can’t really get our minds around it. But that’s what this faithful-witness and don’t-fear-death leads to.
There’s nothing easy about it. It’s simple, but not easy. Which is why he’s writing us this book. And why if we get this, and we embrace this difficulty and say, “I have the privilege of going through this difficulty because I get to do this,” now we get a special blessing. Can’t you see it right off the bat? Everything makes sense to us in our life because it’s all an opportunity.
Sins burned away
This next part, though, gets hard.
I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
But again, if we think of this as Jesus’ face in saying for us as believers—not unbelievers. They get a different experience.—For us as believers, this is having all that burned away, we shall be saved though as through fire then it really starts to make sense.
The early church understood this
In the early church, they understood this very well.
This doctrine got perverted by the middle age church, and they turned it into a massive fund-raising mechanism. You can go to Europe today and see the massive churches that were built off of this concept because they said, “You know, everybody wants to be an overcomer. And what we can do is sell that privilege, and say, ‘If you’ll pay us money, we’ll intervene for you, and you can avoid all of this pain.’” And they raised gazillions of dollars off of that. And it got so messed up that it just got lost.
In the early church, you know one of the problems they had? People trying to get arrested and thrown into the arena and eaten by lions. And they had to go to them and say, “No, no, no, no, no. Embrace that if it happens to you, but don’t try to get it to happen!” See, we’re supposed to be faithful martyreos unto death daily, not try to get killed. If you get killed it’s okay.
And that attitude of— bring it on! If you kill me, all the better!—it brought down Rome. That’s likely one of the reasons the emperor left Rome and went to the eastern Rome because how do you control a population that’s happy to die?
What is this list here that we want to avoid? Let’s just look at the first two. You know, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, liars…You know that list.
This is also the same basic list as deeds of the flesh. If you go look at Galatians 5, it says for the fruits of the flesh are—the same basic list.
And the point in Galatians 5 is if you want to know if you’re walking in the Spirit or not, look at this list. If you’re doing this, you’re not. But if you have love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, then you are. It’s a self-examination opportunity.
But these first two are really important, and we’ll end with this. Cowardly and unbelieving. We’ve gone over this before but not in this specific context.
Mark 4:40 has this same word. Jesus said, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so cowardly? They translated it fearful in that particular verse. Same word. How is it that you have no faith?” And the disciple’s reaction to this was and they feared exceedingly.
This is the disciples that are cowardly, so this is natural. If you are cowardly, just sort of join the club. We’re all this way.
How do you overcome being cowardly? You grow your faith, and you learn it one step at a time. And you get to the point where you can say, “Bring it on!” You don’t get to the point where you ask for trials. That’s insane. You don’t ever ask for trials. They come when they’re supposed to come.
But what you do is you say no matter what the circumstances are, this is what God has the best for me.
So, number one, have the kind of faith that doesn’t fear death. It fits with the theme: Be a faithful witness and don’t fear death.
And, number two, unbelieving. We’re not talking about somebody here, necessarily, who didn’t have enough faith to look or didn’t have enough faith to ask for a drink of water. Certainly that list fits for that category of people too.
But this is John 20:27. Same word. Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Thomas. Thomas gave his life for Jesus. He was a faithful witness and didn’t fear death after he learned this lesson. We’re being refined. We’re being taught. We’re being sent through fiery trials so we have the opportunity to learn, to be courageous believers and walk in faith.
There’s nothing easy about it. It’s just an opportunity.
Summary of the word from the throne
So when the guy sitting on the throne says, “Write this down,” this is the big deal. Let’s pay attention. And let me summarize it.
The gift is something that you can’t mess up. If you have enough faith to thirst and ask for a drink of water, you’re in. Don’t ever worry about belonging. It’s yours.
Now that you belong, learn how to walk in courageous faith apart from the world’s system. And if you do, you’re going to get the same reward I gave my own son as a victor in life. Don’t lose out on that.
Well that’s a pretty good summary, isn’t it? Here’s your belonging. It’s free. It’s irrevocable. Don’t ever worry about it. Don’t ever take any second thought that I’m your father, and you’re my child. It’s done! You’re mine.
Now that you’re mine, get it in gear and learn how to walk in faith and be a faithful witness and don’t fear death because what I have in store for you if you’ll do that is mind boggling. Same thing I gave my own son, and I want you to get that down! Because if you read this, that I told John to write down, and you understand it, and you do it, you’re going to be blessed beyond what you can imagine.
And just think of it practically. If we can embrace the idea that no matter what happens in this life, it’s an opportunity for us to walk in faith, then what can disappoint us in a way that we can’t overcome? This is an opportunity for peace and joy now in our daily life. We can say of everything, this is just another opportunity for me.
If you adopt that perspective, and if you trust this God, and if you make the choices that he gives us to choose, not only do you have this amazing thing in the future, you have a life of peace and joy now. We don’t have to wait to experience this.
That’s pretty cool, don’t you think? I’m not sure exactly how you get this onto a t-shirt, but we need to try because this is the main thing the one who sits on the throne wants us to get out of this book.