Revelation https://nigelcunningham.com.au/ en Harvest Time is coming! https://nigelcunningham.com.au/sermons/revelation/harvest-time-coming <span>Harvest Time is coming!</span> <div> <div>Series</div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/373" hreflang="en">Revelation</a></div> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Nigel</span></span> <span>Fri, 17/01/2020 - 10:00</span> <div> <div>Focus</div> <div>Revelation 14:14-20</div> </div> <div class="text-long"><h2>1. Harvest time is coming.</h2> <p><span>Harvest time is coming. In mid winter, when many trees look dead, when buds are nowhere to be seen and the only fruit around is last year’s crop, it might be hard to believe. Especially if you’re little, it might seem like a lifetime until you’ll need be able to pull a piece of fruit right off the tree and bite into it, just like that!</span></p> <p><span>It’s easier now, when the branches are heavy and you can almost taste those juicy apples – when you’re only waiting for them to ripen up. But still now, the harvest time isn’t here yet – it is coming.</span></p> <h4>a. It might seem like Christ will never return, but our passage assures us this is not the case.</h4> <p><span>It has been quite a while since I preached my first sermon on Revelation to you. I was still serving the Cobden congregation at that time, so it’s more than ten years ago now. Isn’t that a long time? Some of us we’re alive yet back then! Some were alive and have gone to be with the Lord. You might be wondering whether we’ll ever get to the end of Revelation!</span></p> <p><span>To me though, it seems long in another way. We’re finishing chapter 14 this morning, so we’re a fair way through – two thirds or so. We’ve considered the initial vision, then the letters to the churches. We’ve heard of John’s initial glimpse into heaven and then seen the seven seals opened one at a time, the seven trumpets, blown one at a time, the dragon and the woman, the beast rising out of the sea, the worship of the saints and the proclamation of the fall of Babylon. We’ve heard that all of these pictures are describing in different ways the same basic events and issues, and giving us the same basic assurances. But still the little kid in me wants to say “Are we there yet?” The grown up in me wants to skip some pages and get to the fun part.</span></p> <p><span>But perhaps that’s the point.</span></p> <p><span>We’re not there yet. The fun part is still coming. But the author of this book – Christ Himself – thought we needed our passage for this morning. The author of this book – Christ Himself – thought we needed to hear about the seven plagues that are in the next chapter, and the seven bowls in chapter 16 and the great prostitute in chapter 17, and the proclamation of the great angel in chapter 18. So perhaps I shouldn’t skip to the end quite yet!</span></p> <p><span>Perhaps I should heed to reminder here to be patient, because harvest time is coming.</span></p> <p><span>It <em>is</em>.</span></p> <p><span>How long has it been since we were born? Does that seem like a long time?</span></p> <p><span>Well it’s almost certainly less time than the 100 years since federation.</span></p> <p><span>It’s less time than the 200 plus years since Australia was colonised.</span></p> <p><span>Less time than the 500 years since the start of the Reformation.</span></p> <p><span>Less time than the more than 1500 years since the council of Nicea.</span></p> <p><span>And less time than the roughly 2000 years since our Saviour walked the earth.</span></p> <p><span>That’s right. For roughly 2000 years, the church has been waiting for Jesus to return.</span></p> <h4>b. Previous instances of waiting for the appropriate time: Jacob → Exodus (430 years), coming of Jesus (‘in the fullness of time God sent His son’), Jesus’ death and resurrection (‘My hour has not yet come’)</h4> <p>But we shouldn’t be surprised by that. Think about the promises God made in the past.</p> <p>In Genesis 15, God told Abraham “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” Four hundred years isn’t 2000, I’ll grant you. But four hundred years must have felt like forever too! How many times do you think God’s people in Egypt asked themselves “Are we there yet?”</p> <p>Then there’s the forty years in the wilderness before they got to Israel. Are we there yet?</p> <p>Or the seventy years in exile. How long, O Lord?</p> <p>Or the few hundred years of silence before Jesus came. Has He forgotten us?</p> <p>But each time – in Numbers 14:33, Jeremiah 29, Isaiah 7 – God either gave a specific length of time or a specific sign that would signal the end of the waiting.</p> <p>And each time, He kept His promise perfectly. Galatians says “In the fullness of time God sent His son.”</p> <p>Even within Jesus’ life, we see the same pattern. How many times in John’s gospel do we read that Jesus hour had not yet come? (five). How many times does Jesus complain “How long am I to put up with you?” (Once, in Matthew, Mark and Luke). But we also read “At just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”</p> <p>If in the past, God has always kept His promises perfectly; if in the past, He has always known the best time and acted at the best time, why would we believe that He won’t do so now? What good reason do we have to doubt His word, even though it has been so much longer?</p> <p>The harvest <em>is coming.</em></p> <h4>c. Jesus told parables about a harvest and promised that He will return.</h4> <p><span>We should not forget either that Jesus Himself spoke in same way while with His disciples.</span></p> <p><span>There’s the parable John read for us before. There are the calls in Matthew 9 and Luke 10 for His people to seek that He might send out labourers into His harvest. There a little passage in John 4 I’ll leave you to find and consider if you’re willing, and there are all the times that Jesus didn’t use the word ‘harvest’, but still spoke about his second coming.</span></p> <p><span>Jesus promised that harvest time <em>is</em> coming.</span></p> <h3>2. Harvest time is coming, when the Lord will reap His people from across the earth.</h3> <p><span>Harvest time is coming, and in this passage in Revelation, the first visible indication that it is happening is that Jesus comes back.</span></p> <h4>a. When Jesus returns, He will come on the clouds with glory.</h4> <p><span>We know verse 14 is talking about Jesus because John doesn’t call Him an angel and because the verse does say “one like a son of man”, which Jesus used as a self description. We also know it’s Jesus because of the parallels with Daniel 7:14 – not just the coming on the clouds but the crown that no angel would wear on His head and the way that too matches Daniel, together everything else that links to Daniel through its promise that to the One who came on the clouds was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; that his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.</span></p> <h4>b. When Jesus returns, He will claim His own people, effortlessly.</h4> <p>Notice how effortlessly Jesus claims His own when He returns: “He who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.”</p> <p>When harvest time is here and Jesus returns to claim His own, There will be no arguing with Him. There will be no debating. There will be no fight. He will claim His own.</p> <p>1 Thessalonians 4:16 says: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.</p> <p>1 Corinthians 15:51 tells us: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”</p> <p>(Oh, won’t somebody put Handel’s Messiah on nice and loud?!)</p> <h4>c. When Jesus returns, we will receive eternal life in all its fullness.</h4> <p><span>And when that glorious moment comes, we will get to where Revelation is going. Out of our mouths will come the words “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Our eyes will see the new heavens and the new earth. God will dwell with us! He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. He will complete the task of making all things new. The Bride, the wife of the Lamb will  have the glory of God and everything will be glorious.</span></p> <p><span>But I’m getting ahead of myself – these things are all future at this point in Revelation. They are our hope, our comfort, our peace, but still our future. The harvest must come first.</span></p> <h3>3. Harvest time is coming, when the rest of the earth will also reap.</h3> <h4>a. When Jesus returns, no one will be left behind.</h4> <p><span>And in our passage, the harvest is not finished yet! Verses 17 through 20 are still to come.</span></p> <p><span>Noone will be left behind. There will be no thousand years before something else happens. A second sickle will be swung and a second harvest collected. There are, as has famously been said, only two ways for us to live, and two outcomes to match.</span></p> <h4>b. When Jesus returns, those who have rejected Him will also be effortlessly gathered.</h4> <p>I vividly remember trying to cut up a fallen tree once with a blunt chainsaw. For whatever reason, the person who had previously used this chainsaw hadn’t gotten around to sharpening it afterwards, and now I had to deal with the results of that. A nice sharp, well maintained chainsaw will cut generally cut through a branch quickly and effortlessly – like a hot knife through butter. But a blunt chainsaw means hard work for the operator. No fun at all. Ideally you’ll just swap it for another saw and get on with the job.</p> <p>Here in our passage, both sickles are described as nice and sharp – well prepared for the task at hand. So, just as Jesus had no problems gathering His people, this angel will also have no problems with his task. He has been given all the authority and power He needs to perform His task and He will do it effortlessly.</p> <h4>c. When Jesus returns, those who have rejected Him will wish they hadn’t.</h4> <p>Notice that we’re given some detail on this side of the story that we weren’t given before.</p> <p>These people are pictured as clusters of grapes from the vine which is the earth. More than that, though, they are clusters destined for the great winepress of the wrath of God. And they are a significant quantity of people, because they yield a significant amount of blood – not wine – a quantity pictured as high enough to reach a horse’s bridle and long enough to reach from the top of Israel to the bottom.</p> <p>The clear implication of this harvest is that God is not a God to be played around with. Those who persist in rejecting God – whether by outright rejection of the gospel or by simply not caring enough to investigate its claims – will reap what they sow. Their failure to love and serve God above all else in all of life will have resulted in them storing up for themselves perfectly justifiable anger on God’s part, and there will be no avoiding the consequences.</p> <p>Of course they would be the consequences for you and me also, if it were not for the grace of God in Christ. I am no better than anyone else on this planet. You do not deserve God’s kindness. It is all of grace.</p> <p>But the point to this passage is not to call us to repentance – though we should repent of our sin.</p> <p>The point to this passage is not to make us thankful for our salvation – though we should be.</p> <p>The point to this passage is not to make us mourn for the lost – though we should mourn for them.</p> <p>The point to this passage is to remind us that no matter what we may see happening around us today, God is in control. The things that seem to be big and important and threatening now – whether personal issues or family crises or international problems like covid – as unbelievable as it might seem now, the things that fill our thoughts now, keep us awake at night, and raise our blood pressure - all of these things will one day fade to nothing. They will be forgotten. Or at the very least, they will no longer worry us.</p> <p>The harvest is coming.</p> <p>Even when it doesn’t seem to be the case, Christ is on the throne. God has put all things under His feet and He is reigning.</p> <p>The harvest is coming and you and I can be confident, secure in the hope and the grace granted to us by our glorious Saviour. To Him and Him alone be the glory, now and forever more.</p> <p>Let’s pray.</p></div> Thu, 16 Jan 2020 23:00:00 +0000 Nigel 19 at https://nigelcunningham.com.au Two ways to live https://nigelcunningham.com.au/sermons/revelation/two-ways-live <span>Two ways to live</span> <div> <div>Series</div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/373" hreflang="en">Revelation</a></div> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Nigel</span></span> <span>Sun, 14/07/2019 - 10:00</span> <div> <div>Focus</div> <div>Revelation 14:6-13</div> </div> <div class="text-long"><p><span><span><span>When we last looked at Revelation, we saw the worship of God's church in the first verses of chapter 14, and saw <span>how b</span><span>eautiful </span>our worship is in the sight of God. It was a lovely picture; very encouraging.</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span>Someone might ask, though: what is needed for my worship to be part of that? What makes Nigel's imperfect singing, someone else's half hearted worship, another person's feeble attempts at living for Jesus acceptable in His sight?</span></span></p> <p><span><span>In this following passage, we're reminded again exactly what we need to know to answer that question, as we listen to the words of five beings. Most of them contribute different aspects to the message, and what they say can be thought of as like you're standing at an intersection, deciding whether to take an uphill path or a downward one and listening to advice. The first two speakers tell us about the two directions we can take - the two allegiances we can have, and the last two speakers tell us about the outcome of each direction. As they do so, they leave us in no doubt about which way <em>they</em> want us to go, and what makes us part of that beautiful choir we saw in the previous verses.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>John says the first messenger is directly overhead, calling him and us, if you will, to consider that uphill path and where it leads. Verses 6 and 7:</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” </span></span></p> <p><span><span>Notice the different aspects to these verses:</span></span></p> <p><span><span>The messenger has good news (for that's what gospel means) that has no best before date and is something for <u>everyone</u> who dwells on earth. We live in a world full of expiry dates and segmented markets. Pain killers claim to be targeted at joint pain or muscle pain, even though they work in exactly the same way. And those same pills, together with bottled water and far too many other things have an expiry date. The gospel that this messenger of God proclaims to us has no such limitations. While there are people dwelling on this earth, it will be a message they can hear and need to hear. It doesn't matter whether a DNA test would say we're direct descendants of Abraham, or came wholly from other descendants of Noah. This good news is good news for you and for me.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>And the good news is a call to fear God - to recognise that He, more than any other being in existence is worthy of respect and adoration, because it is He who designed the creation before anything existed, who merely spoke in order to make everything, who still upholds everything in existence by His power, and rules with wisdom and might, working all things for the glory of His name and the good of His people, ensuring that nothing in all creation can separate His people from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is He who will judge us all and determine our eternal fates. Fear Him. It is good news because it is a call to know the reason for which you and I were made, a call to rise above mediocrity and self centredness and purposelessness to true and lasting comfort, joy and peace.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>But don't put it off. Notice that the passage says "the hour of His judgement <u>has come</u>". As Reverend Zuidema has been preaching through Romans, he has proclaimed to us the fact that God is already judging the people of earth. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven", Romans 1:18 and following proclaim.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>There is nothing more important, nothing more lasting, nothing more worthwhile than knowing and loving and honouring our creator and our judge. Putting anything else in first place in our lives is both robbing God of the place He deserves and robbing ourselves of comfort and joy and security, perhaps even of salvation.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>What is the alternative to fearing God and giving Him glory? If we don't belong to God, we belong to the beast. If we don't listen to the message the first angel proclaims and take the uphill road, we take the downhill road and head in the direction of the beast and its image.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>This takes us back to chapters 12 and 13, where we saw the dragon (representing the devil) attacking the church but failing, failing again and failing a third time before bringing a new character - the beast - into play. Chapter 13 told us that this beast was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation and all who dwell on earth will worship it, (do those words sound like something we read in our passage?) - everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Chapter 13 finished with a second beast appearing, and among other things causing all - both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead with the name of the beast or a number representing its name.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Chapters 12 and 13 show us an enemy of God who has great power, but who is also severely limited - especially when it comes to Christians. Verse 8 of our passage calls the enemy of God "Babylon" for the first time in Revelation, and using words that we'll hear expanded upon later on. It also tells us a new way in which this beast ruled over those who don't belong to Christ - making all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>The picture that Revelation is giving us has not changed since those earlier chapters. The downward road might be an easier path initially, and it might have more people going along it, but it is the loser's path. "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great".</span></span></p> <p><span><span>And it's not just a loser's path for the beast.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>If you and I reject God, if we worship and serve the creation rather than the creator, the message of the third messenger is a message for us:</span></span></p> <p><span><span>If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Back in chapter 3, verse 12, the Lord promised to write on those who conquer the name of the <u><span>Father</span></u> and the name of the <u>city of God</u>, and <u>Jesus' new name</u>, as signs of their allegiance and belonging. In the same way here, the mark of the beast is a mark of ownership, of being under his rule. This is why having that mark can be an indication of your fate.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>And what a fate!</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Back in verse 8, we read that Babylon made the nations drink "the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality". That same "wine of the passion" phrase is repeated in verse 10, though it's translated a little differently. The importance of this repetition is that it highlights the intensity of what is being talked about here, and even more so when we read that God's wrath is poured full strength - undiluted! - into the cup of his anger. Here our minds should <u>certainly</u> go back to what Jesus has done for those who are saved - to Him praying in the garden "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me", and to the fact that even God the Son had an angel appear from heaven, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43) as he prepared to drink from that cup. Is it any wonder that Hebrews tells us "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" (10:31). Those who suffer this fate are not to be envied, just on the basis of this first consequence of worshipping the beast and its image and receiving its mark of ownership.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>But this first consequence isn't the whole picture.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>The passage continues, warning that such people will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. The phrase "fire and sulfur" is probably better known to us as "fire and brimstone", and alludes to the judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, mentioned in Luke 17 using the same words. It will be mentioned again in chapter 20, as the final destination of the devil, the beast and the false prophet. We might find it easy to argue that <u>they</u> should end up in a lake of fire, but we might also ask - <em>or be asked</em> - "Is it fair for those who reject God to end up there, and even if that's fair, do the holy angels and Jesus Himself have to gloat over them then?"</span></span></p> <p><span><span>It's important to note that nothing in the passage talks about gloating. Yes, the angels and our Lord are certainly <u>approving</u> of the punishment that's given. They're saying it's just and right, but that doesn't mean they rejoice in the punishment being given.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>We also need to remember that every human being is without excuse before God. As we've seen in Romans, we all have written on our hearts the Law of God. None of us are ignorant, just as none of us are innocent. We simply choose not to take seriously the warnings God gives us, and reimagine the consequences of rejecting God as if they're nothing to worry about. AC/DC, at various points in "Highway to hell" sing - as if hell is something to rejoice in (and I'm picking phrases out) "Living easy, living free ... asking nothing, leave me be... don't need reason, <span>don't need rhyme.</span> Ain't nothing I would rather do. Going down, party time. My friends are gonna be there too. Hey mama, look at me. I'm on my way to the promised land... <span>I'm on the highway to hell".</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span>But it won't be party time. "The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night..." It will be weeping and gnashing of teeth - an eternity of "I wish I'd done differently", "I wish I'd listened" and "I deserve this, even though I don't like admitting it".</span></span></p> <p><span><span>This is reflected in the application that follows. It's not "Christian, look at those nasty people and rejoice in their suffering". No. What was implicit in verses 4 and 5 last time is clearly spelled out in verses 12 and 13: You and I who call ourselves Christians, who read these books and hear these words are given again a call to think about these things and make sure we act appropriately:</span></span></p> <p><span><span>"Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus".</span></span></p> <p><span><span>At the start of this sermon, we asked the question "What is needed for my worship<span> </span><span>to </span><span>be part of that</span><span> beautiful, heavenly choir?" The answer is right here. </span>Like so many times in Revelation already, implicitly and explicitly (1:3, 1:7, 1:18, chapters 2 &amp; 3, 5:1-5 etc), Christians are called to read, to hear, to obey, to keep our first love, to repent, <span>to </span>conquer, to open the door to Christ and more. The description of what happens to those who reject Christ is given to warn us, lest you or I decide that being a Christian is too hard, or not enough fun, or in some other way not worth the effort. If we want to be part of the beautiful choir, all we need to do is endure, keeping the commands of God and faith in Christ.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>None of this denies for a moment the fact that Jesus said "Apart from me, you can do nothing" or the many other verses that emphasise the sovereignty of God. What is said here simply emphasises the other side of the coin - the fact that part of the way in which God sovereignly works His plans and purposes is through the effort we put in to persevering in relying on Christ and living like we rely on Christ. Don't give up, and know that <u>not giving up is possible</u> because of God's grace toward you.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Two mores voice are to be heard. But this time it's not one of God's servants <span>who is named</span>. It's God the Holy Spirit Himself. How few are the times in the Scriptures where the Spirit speaks like this - so easily we can think of Him as an impersonal "it". But here is one of them. The Spirit replies to an unnamed voice who tells John to write "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.", affirming that statement: "Blessed indeed, that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!"</span></span></p> <p><span><span>And with those words, we are reminded and assured by our God that our struggles on this earth will not continue forever. Day by day, we are all getting closer to the point where either the Lord will return or we will go to be with Him. We are all getting closer to the day when (Rev 21:3ff) the dwelling place of God is with man; when He will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and God Himself will be with us as our God. [We are all getting closer to the time when] He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>A day when we will sing like we've never sung before.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>All we need to do to get there, by God's grace, is <u>persevere</u> - keep the commands of God and our faith in Jesus.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Come Lord Jesus! Blessed be Your Name!</span></span></p></div> Sun, 14 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000 Nigel 20 at https://nigelcunningham.com.au