Sermon Podcast Audio
I love a good ending! In fact, I’ve been known to be so impatient, I skip way ahead and read the last few pages long before I am done with the book!
Matthew discovered this on our honeymoon while I was reading “The Hunger Games.” I want to know the ending is good before I really get invested in the story!
The good news about this Big Story of God is that we know the end—AND IT’S THE BEST ENDING!!
We have been in a 7 week series on the Big Story of God from Genesis to Revelation. We’ve been talking about creation, the fall, the covenant, the law, Jesus, the church, and now this—the end of the story: the new creation.
We started with Genesis and creation—the Once Upon a Time.
We end with Revelation and the new creation—the Happily Ever After (truly!)
I’m going to wrap this Big Story of God series up today, and remind us of the end of the story.
The Big Story of God ends with a picture of heaven.
Similar to the beginning of the story and creation, the end is complex, but our focus shouldn’t be merely HOW things happen, but WHAT happens and WHO the end is about.
I can remember dreaming of heaven as a kid and thinking it must be one really long church service. I couldn’t imagine that being enjoyable.
I asked Matthew if he had any ideas of heaven as a kid. He said he always imagined it was the happiest place and that meant it would be one massive baseball game and he’d get all kinds of homeruns and of course he’d be playing for the Cubs and they’d be winning it all. (This is how the Cubs fans hold onto hope!)
We get a glimpse of what heaven will be like in Revelation 21, a vision of what is coming.
Jesus gives John a vision of heaven, a dream about the real Heaven. We read that
Jesus is on the throne as king, his
throne is encircled by jewels and the colors jasper and sapphire and emerald. There is clapping, cheering, singing, and so much worship
from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. They are ALL WORSHIPPING:
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come…”
Revelation 21: 1-6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice form the throne saying “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 22: 1-5
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of the sun, for the lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The Picture of Perfection
What do we see?
The end of the story is a picture of heaven, and it’s not one long church service or a winning Cubs baseball game. It’s perfection. What does perfection look like?
1. There is no more barrier between God and man:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. —Revelation 21:3
They will see His face.—Revelation 22:4
I love that the heart of God and the heart of the gospel has always been for God to be with us, for him to come to us, to be near. Remember the first moment of this in the garden? God walked with Adam and Eve until the day they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and we sinned and hid. But still, he comes walking, looking for them, asking “Where are you?” He LONGS to be with his people.
We saw it again as Jesus came to earth in human form:
The word became flesh and dwelt among us. —John 1:1
Jesus came to walk among us, to minister face to face. We put him to death and he was no longer with us, though he left his spirit among us and within us.
BUT NOW. . . God is so committed to being with His people that the end of the Big Story of God shows a perfect reunion with God and man together, face to face. He will LIVE WITH US and we will be His people and He will be our God. There will be no more abstract, intangible experience with God, no more fear of him leaving or us separating ourselves from him, no more distance, no more longing for God to be near and wondering if he hears us. He knows us. HE IS WITH US, face to face.
2. There is a restoration and renewal of all things: earth and humanity.
Remember how we ruined God’s perfection in Eden? He’s renewing the Garden! Here we are, back in the garden, but this time there’s no curse. We can enjoy the fruit of the tree of life again. We have full access to it. In fact, the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. There is
no pain—physical or emotional,
no tears or sorrow,
no more sickness, disease, death, no cancer—oh how cancer has wreaked havoc on so many lives! There is only life, and life abundant.
no violence or oppression, no humans killing and oppressing other humans, no human trafficking, no Syrian refugees—homeless, wandering, desperate for peace and a safe place to settle,
no scarcity, no hunger or poverty, but full provision and crop of fruit. There is
no struggle or weariness in work.
Just imagine that.
It’s almost impossible to imagine and to fathom because it’s so foreign to us. It’s so opposite of how most of life is experienced today. Just turn on the news!
There are SO MANY things in need of restoration and renewal: mass shootings by young people, students killing students, churches being burned, trafficking rings, and the biggest refugee crisis of our time
in my context on campus. I think of students dealing with deep and debilitating depression, or I hear story after story of sexual assault. Heaven seems like an impossible reality, so distant, so far off.
But we were never created for those things—pain and suffering and injustice. The fall—the curse that we learned about in the first blog of the Big Story of God series—which was our own doing, created this mess. God, our creator, through Jesus our redeemer is committed to getting us out. He gives us this massive HOPE, the incredible promise that this is not all there is, but that the best is still to come.
I want you to just go there for a minute with Jesus and tell Him what you long to see restored/made new. Maybe it’s your physical health—a new body, free from pain and disease or chronic illness. Maybe it’s relationships made new—strife and conflict and struggle in family relationships reconciled and love rekindled. Maybe you have a child or grandchild or sibling who wrestles with addiction and you desperately want to see them walk in freedom and joy. I know some of you have a passion for kids in foster care, kids in emotional, physical, relational crisis. Do you long to see their wounded hearts healed and families restored?
THIS, my friends, is THE END OF THE STORY. It is the best ending, the happily ever after, but it’s not a fairytale. It’s real life and a real promise to us. And you don’t have to live like you’re still in the middle of the book and don’t know the end. You can follow my lead and read ahead and know that even in the conflict, the mess of the middle of the story, the end is coming and the end is HOPE.
Though we see pain and violence and hardship in front of us day after day, this is not all there is and this is not the end. THE BEST IS STILL TO COME and the ending is epic. It’s glorious. And it’s very real.
Although we know that this is a picture of the end of the story, it has not yet fully happened. We are still waiting for Jesus to return and we are still longing to be face to face with Him. We are still longing to see all things made new and restored as He has promised. We are praying for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We are praying for heaven to invade earth.
Our call is not simply to wait in the meantime. It’s to pray and work for heaven to come to earth. Our job is to reveal the Kingdom of God—TO REVEAL HEAVEN—before it’s fully here.
So, when Kellie opens a home for trafficked women to be safe, comforted, and healed in a way they never have been before, she is revealing the Kingdom of God/revealing heaven before it’s fully here. Or when you all gather 538 jars of peanut butter in a few weeks to give to hungry stomachs in our city, you reveal the reality of heaven where no one goes hungry and there’s constant provision. And when you all decide to invest your time and money and hearts to involve yourself (FOR YEARS!) in the lives of the people of Crow Creek South Dakota, one of the poorest communities in the U.S, one that so many others have given up on, you reveal the Kingdom of Heaven before it’s fully here—reminding people that in heaven NO ONE is forgotten or overlooked or given up on, but loved and honored.
We pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” We pray for and we work for heaven to invade earth, for the end of the story to be revealed.
What human heart does not long for that: for things to be made new, wrongs to be righted, for all things to be restored? People know something isn’t right. Everyone has a story of pain and hardship and struggle—everyone—and we see it daily around us. We need to give people the picture of heaven invading earth, the hope of restoration and redemption. We need to tell them the end of the story with our words and with the way we live.
The most wonderful thing about this story—about this epic, grand, Big Story of God—is that it’s YOUR STORY, too, and yours to experience, to live out, and to tell.