“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.”” Revelation 21:1-4 ESV. Our great eschatological (end times) hope. The great Christian hope. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not that we are going, but that He is coming, coming down out of heaven from God. God will, finally, come and dwell with us, walk with us, and forever be with His people. And we with Him. And there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more pain. A wondrous and beautiful end to the story, not so much an end but a final beginning, with all things made new, right and beautiful. More beautiful than our minds can even imagine…
This is the end we wait for, the end we hope for, the end, in fact, that we actually believe all things are headed for. For all the pain, violence, anger, hatred, ugliness of the world in which we live, we live with the hope of an ultimate beauty in our hearts. The hope that for all the ugliness with which we live, the beauty for which we strive will ultimately be our dwelling place. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, ‘tis beauty that will save the world.
Oh, we do catch glimpses now. We do can find beauty in the ugliness around us. We find the beauty in God’s good creation. Maybe that’s why our Millennials are all about the experiences of life, all about the destination, the next destination they can snap or tweet their presence to the world from. The next beautiful place they can take their selfie and prove to the world that such beauty exists, and I was there.
This is ultimately what we hope for. But how? How do we get there from here. By what means will the world come to such a beautiful ends? How will this peace on earth, with God reigning, finally, as our one true king, with every knee bowed and every mouth declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord come about?
We know that it will be God’s presence and power that ultimately brings this about, but does that mean we have no part?? Are we mere spectators to what God is doing? The answer is, no we are not. There is a human instrumentality involved. This is why God waits for the fullness of time determined by our abilities and capacities to receive what he would give. We are called to be part of his efforts. We have a participation in the making of all things right and new. God works with humankind, and we with him, to extend his Kingdom into all our affairs, and the works around us.
Look at Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 ESV. This is part of Christ’s message to the church in Laodicea, which wraps up his direct message to the seven churches in Revelation. Christ stands and knocks on the door, that is for sure. But it is not the door of the individual human heart, as we are so often told and so quickly assume. Rather, Christ is knocking on the door of the church. It will help us greatly to understand the gospel, the church, and indeed our own lives today if we can understand from this that Christ is outside the church as know and identify it.
Yes, we know that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” Matthew 18:20 ESV. And yes, Christ is with us always. But he is also on the outside, calling in to us. Remember Him, he’s out there, in that big bad world, chasing down that lost sheep. He left the ninety nine to chase me down, he still leaves the ninety nine to chase that one. He still eats with the sinners. The prodigals. The lepers. The outcast. Those who don’t go to church, ain’t going to church, and don’t wanna hear about no d**n church…
Yes, Christ is with us always, but he calls us further up and further in to a. deeper fellowship than we’ve ever known. He’s out there, in the world, where we don’t have the courage to follow him fully. Our little church, no matter how big your church may be, will always be too small, too cramped for Him. Inside is just not big enough, only outside is great enough for the creator of the universe. He’s out there, building his kingdom. One sinner at a time.
Meanwhile, the church cries out. We struggle with hating the sin but loving the sinner. Jesus doesn’t worry about all that. He just loves. The loves the sinners and the saints. All the same. We still struggle to accept and understand this. We hold onto our stones, ready to throw them at any time.
Yet he knocks on our door. He invites us to invite Him in. We are, after all, the ones most prepared to fully receive Him, and fully cooperate and participate in what he is doing. We are the ones waiting and praying for his return. We are the ones most longing for all things to be made new.
He stands at the door, knocking. Will we ever let Him in?? Or, would we crucify him all over again?