It Is Finished

“And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:6-7‬ ‭NLT

These two verses encompass several encouraging messages from God Himself. 

First of all, God said, “It is finished!”, but what was He referring to? We will remember the final words of Jesus from the Cross, as recorded in John 19:30, “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” At that time, Jesus was declaring that His redemptive work on the Cross had been completed. Through His sacrificial death at Calvary, we can now bring our sins to the foot of the cross, leaving them there in repentance, with the assurance that we are cleansed from our sins and can adopt His righteousness. The divine exchange. But this time, in our Revelation verse, it is God Himself who said “It is finished!”. Perhaps we can refer back to Ephesians 1:9-10, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” In Revelation 21:6, God was declaring that His plan to establish His Kingdom, under the rule of Christ, was complete. The “right time” had finally arrived. All the prerequisites complete. All the divine boxes ticked. The “plan”, the “it”, is finished.

Secondly, God reminded John that He was “the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End”. He was saying that He was eternal. He was there at the beginning and will still be there at the end. But because He is the eternal God, He has no beginning and end. This is a difficult concept for us to get our time-bound minds around. God has always been with us, and always will be. We enter the realms of eternity and infinity when we try and think through the implications of the One who is “the Beginning and the End”. 

We pilgrims have much to look forward to. Not only will we join God in Heaven, we will find ourselves also becoming a part of God’s eternal plan. John in his vision was shown a glimpse of these far-in-the-future events, and doubtless he struggled to articulate what was happening. But with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the occasional angel who popped into his vision, he was able to say all that God wanted him to say.

Of course, we as pilgrims mustn’t focus too deeply about what is going to happen, to the exclusion of all else, because we need to be concerned about what is happening in the here and now. Our faith must take us to people and situations where the love and grace of God can make a difference. Situations where the Gospel can be shared, and our family, friends and neighbours shown the way to eternal life. But we must also occasionally glance upwards to check in with our future Heavenly home and our Heavenly Dad. It is there we will find the Source of our faith. The eternal God, the Beginning and the End.

Dear Father God. There are no words available to totally describe who You are. But in our limited humanity, we worship You today, our Eternal God and Father. Amen.

Consuming Fire

“She glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow. She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne. I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.’ Therefore, these plagues will overtake her in a single day— death and mourning and famine. She will be completely consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.”
Revelation‬ ‭18:7-8‬ ‭NLT

It looks as though the vision portrays an immediate, plague-induced collapse of the world system called Babylon. Judgement and fire follow. The world system and religion glorified itself. Pride and boasting prevailed. The throne of individual lives became the focus. Self satisfaction was the norm. But our mighty God was having none of this behaviour, and His fire, following the plagues, instantly burns it all up. The fire followed God’s righteous judgements. 

The world system is dominated by “Me! Me! Me!”. People stay awake at night thinking of ways to improve their lot in life, even if it means trampling on someone else in the process. We boast about what we have achieved. We take pride in our conquests. Selfishness rules the lives of those in the world. But 1 Corinthians 3:13 reads, “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” Obviously, the world system has, ultimately, no value at all. The world system called Babylon disappeared in a puff of smoke. Gone forever without trace.

There is a cost in following God’s ways. And one thing for sure, glorifying self will not be a part of it. Jesus taught about the cost of following Him. In Matthew 10:38-39, he said, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” There is no room in a pilgrim’s life for selfish living. It’s Jesus’ way, His way alone. So we pilgrims ask ourselves the question – who is on the throne of our lives? In response, we live out our lives, always at the foot of the Cross. Always conscious of what He has done for us. When we come to God in repentance, accepting His death for our sins, we die to our selfish nature, and instead put God fairly and squarely on the throne of our lives.

We do not need to fear the fires of Judgement Day. We are not Babylon followers. Instead, we follow God’s ways, storing treasure in Heaven, safe from the fires of judgement.

Dear Father God. Please forgive us for our selfish ways. It’s Your way, or no way. For ever and ever. Amen.

The Living Dead

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.”
Revelation‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The church in Sardis had an angel as did the others listed in Revelation 2 and 3. And Jesus had a message for him. Sardis was another city in what is now Turkey, and was extensively excavated during the early part of the 20th Century. Several church buildings were found there, but of the original church and its congregation there is no information. Jesus had a message for this congregation that would have been hard to receive. He started His message by establishing His credentials. He “has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars”. Regarding the sevenfold Spirit of God, this may have been a reference to Isaiah 11:2, which reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“. Isaiah’s prophecy pointed to the coming Messiah and here He is delivering His message to the people of Sardis. Jesus held the seven stars in His right hand and it is thought these are His messengers to the seven churches; perhaps they represent their pastors or leaders.

But John continues to relay Jesus’ message. And it makes for grim reading. Jesus knows what they are about. He’s had His eye on what they have been doing. And He points out that although to an outsider their church seems full of life, in fact it is just going through the motions. They are really spiritually dead. Well almost. It seems that there are a few dying embers still in the grate, but unless they are quick, they too will die away and become the ashes of another dead church. 

So there are some question here. And they are very relevant to us today. First of all, are we guilty of going through the motions of our liturgies, singing the great songs and hymns, sharing Holy Communion, reading the Bible and praying lustily, but our hearts are not in any of it at all? We are thinking of other things, caught up in the worldliness of life around us. About what films or TV we are watching, or games we’re playing. Yes, to an outsider, they might be impressed with the size of the congregation or the volume of the singing wafting across the graveyards, but deep down there may be more life in the tombs than there is in the sanctuary. Perhaps that is what Jesus was meaning. But we have to personalise it as well. Putting our own names in the frames. Are we more spiritually dead than alive? Perhaps we need to ask God for what He thinks. And be prepared for a shock. 

The solution to a dead or dying church, or individual, starts at Calvary. Where the Son of God gave His life so that we could find life. At the place where we ask for forgiveness and turn from our sins. And where we find a loving God delighted that we have turned away from a life of feeding pigs and eating pig swill, to one embraced by our loving Heavenly Father, who has been looking out for us to come home, a place where we can enjoy His presence and the richest of food forever. 

Another question is about where our actions do not measure up to God’s requirements. What are we doing that God doesn’t approve of? Have we allowed worldly activities to use up our time in the church? Perhaps by holding jumble sales when we should be having prayer meetings? Or by focusing on the flowers instead of their Creator. It’s all about priorities. Many activities we get involved in are not bad in themselves but, as with the Sardinian church, they don’t measure up to God’s requirements. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves the questions, “Is what I am involved in furthering the Kingdom of God or just using up my time”? Or, “Is there any Kingdom fruit from what I am involved in”? We can fill our lives with worldly busy-ness rather than God’s business.

Jesus ends verse 3 with a sobering thought. We could be sailing along oblivious to the coming Kingdom, busy with our daily lives, and end up totally unprepared for the sudden arrival of Jesus when He returns. We never know when our house would be burgled until after the event. So it is with the coming of Jesus – but knowing after the event will be too late.

So back to Calvary, where we can gaze upon the One who gave His life for us. His sacrifice is all-sufficient. At the Cross we can fall on our knees in repentance, tearfully reaching out to the only One who can connect us to a life with God. It’s no good turning to Allah or Buddha, or any other world religion. They can’t help us. The only solution to our lives of sin is forgiveness from Jesus, the Son of God. He said in John 14:6,  “… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me“. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

Dear Lord. We confess before You today our sins. We confess that we have allowed our hearts to grow cold. Please forgive us and help us to return to the place You have prepared for us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Jesus Calling our Name?

“They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave.
But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.”
Psalms‬ ‭49:6-9, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Psalmist was obviously having a bad day. He looked around his community, perhaps his nation, and observed that there were a lot of rich people, who arrogantly lived a life of luxury. But he pointed out that there was one thing that their money could not buy and that was eternal life. He said, correctly, that they couldn’t take their wealth with them to the grave and beyond. They could not, as one of today’s verses points out, pay God a ransom to keep them alive forever.

In the world today there is a growing business in cryopreservation, where rich people or their families pay large sums to enable their bodies, or the bodies of their loved ones, to be preserved in liquid nitrogen in the hope that advances in medical science would one day enable them to be resurrected from their frozen state and brought back to life in a Lazarus-like resuscitation. An added twist sees some just having their brains frozen, perhaps in the hope of adding their intelligence to a robotic entity. But all with a faith that one day they will suddenly find themselves lying on a slab, waking up in a new age. It begs the question, would I really want to wake up in this sin-ridden, war-striven, disease-ravaged world? Will mankind ever get its act together to save this world and assure a future for Planet Earth? And all by effectively cocking a snoop at God by saying we can achieve what is needed without His help?

But I can’t help thinking how stupid the cryopreservationists are. God Himself has given everyone the opportunity to live forever through His Son Jesus. And it won’t cost them a penny. Rich or poor, we can embrace a hope for the future purely by accepting that God is who He says He is, the Creator of everything. That He loved mankind so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us at Calvary, offering the breathtaking exchange of our sins for His righteousness. And the Psalmist records his personal assurance that God has redeemed him from death, from the power of the grave, such was His faith in his relationship with his Father God.

And the Psalm ends with the following, “So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day.” Psalms‬ ‭49:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather put my faith in the Creator of Everything, than in the hope that one day someone will wake me up from a frozen state. After all, why would they want to anyway?

The story of Jesus and His friend Lazarus is interesting. Lazarus dies and is buried and has languished, wrapped in his grave clothes, for four days before Jesus came to see his tomb. And we have the amazing spectacle set out in John 11, of Jesus commanding that the stone sealing the mouth of the tomb is rolled away. We then read in verses 43 and 44, “Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”” These few words can never adequately describe the drama that unfolded before the observers. Gob-smacked would be too tame a phrase to describe it. Here was a man physically dead and starting to rot in the heat of that climate, and yet the power of God working through His Son Jesus was able to resurrect him from his dead state. Lazarus died and the next thing he knew was Jesus calling his name. Now I don’t believe for a minute that God has special favourites. He treats His children equally. As some have said, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. So I sometimes wonder, after we die, will the next thing we hear be Jesus calling our name, waking us up to a glorious future with Him forever?