Revelation 5, 19, 21, 22
“Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne”
We sing this song often at River City, and that line maybe gets glossed over in our minds, but today we’re, Lord willing, going to see the powerful truth and hope in those words.
Almost nine months ago, we started this series called The Story of God, and today we are on our last stop. We’ll close out the series next week, and start into the next one that will run through the summer. Just to tease you a bit with where we’re headed, I’m calling the next series, “DID GOD REALLY SAY THAT?” And the purpose of that series is to look at 8 lies of the enemy that sound like truth. “God just wants you to be happy.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “Let go and let God.” “Your life is what you make it.” These are all ploys of the enemy to get you to question what God really said, and we’ll be looking at those throughout June and July.
But we must finish this series first: Nine months ago, we looked at the very beginning of the Story of God, and talked about how the first chapter of any book, or the first scene of any movie, or the pilot episode in a TV series is very important to understanding the rest of the story. The beginning of CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins with four children, recently orphaned, on their way to a relative’s home. That sets up their adventure in this new house which leads to them discovering the world of Narnia, etc. In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the opening scene of a birthday celebration for Bilbo Baggins in the sleepy and unadventurous Shire sets up the story of destroying the ring.
And I’m sure you’ve noticed that the second, third, fifth time you watch a movie, that you start to pick up on the little details that you didn’t notice before. You start to see little leading lines in what people say, or do, that maybe you didn’t catch the first time through. Why is that? Because you already know the ending! You know what’s coming. You are actually reading or watching the story backwards, now. You’re watching the first scene with the final scene in mind.
It’s exactly the same with scripture. Back in September, we looked at the opening scenes of the Story of God, from Genesis 1-3, and got the foundation for the characters of the story, the plot, the hope – and now today, we’re going to look at the final scene. And hopefully, as you read through scripture in the coming days, weeks, years, just like watching a movie for the second time, even in those opening scenes, you’re able to see clues that point to the conclusion of the story. All the details are pointing to this moment! Some people have called the book of Revelation “Grand Central Station,” like a train yard, where all the trains of thought from the previous books all come together. As strange as some of the language in Revelation is, the characters, symbols, events, etc, are nearly all seen somewhere else in the Bible before you get to Revelation. So the goal this morning is to jump on three of those trains, and watch them find their destination in the book of Revelation. Now, I’m not going to say here’s train one, two and three, because they all tie together, but turn with me to the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, and as you do, let me pray for our time together.
But as we dive into this, pray with me and for me, that God would open our eyes, soften our hearts, and give us wisdom today.
So remember with me back to Genesis chapter 2 for a moment. God creates this beautiful garden in Eden, where it’s paradise. Heaven meets earth right here. It’s the place where God’s presence lives, full of priceless gems, abundant water and fruit… it’s incredible… and God puts his managers, humans, in that garden to work it and care for it. And in the middle of this garden are two trees among the many, many trees, and they are the Tree of Life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. And those two trees represent two kinds of wisdom for being the managers of this garden.
They are going to need wisdom in cultivating crops, tilling the ground, caring for the animals God has made, and God, quite logically, since he is the maker of heaven and earth and everything in them, commands them to ask for HIS wisdom for living, not their own. You may eat from any tree in the garden, but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. That’s the only command. On the day you eat from it, you will die. Guaranteed. So the set up for the rest of the story is this: Will humans follow God’s wisdom and design for living and thriving, or will they rebel against it and choose their own? Will their own wisdom be useful or harmful?
And we don’t have to read far to get the answer. Shortly thereafter, Adam and Eve eat the fruit God told them not to, and death and hell and sin is unleashed in God’s good world, bringing with it sorrow and pain and suffering, and not only to them, but to other parts of creation.
- Separation from each other – distrust, shame, defensiveness, self-protection
- Separation from creation – animals don’t trust them, ground is cursed, God takes the life of an animal to cover their shame
- Separation from God’s presence – Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden, and an angel with a flaming sword guarded the way to the Tree of Life
And the tension of the story, now, is how do we get back to Eden? How do we right all that is wrong with the world? How do we repair the relationship with each other? How do we restore the brokenness of creation? How do we get past that angel to get another chance at choosing the right way to live? Well, there’s no getting past that angel, so are we just stuck outside the garden forever? What we as humans need, then, is someone to re-open the way back to the Tree of Life! Someone to undo the curse and restore what was lost.
One of the first things God does, after leading them to confess that they did in fact disobey God, was he took the life of an animal, a substitute, and used the skin to cover their naked bodies. Their own attempts at covering shame, grabbing fig leaves, were not sufficient, so in his grace and love for them, provided a way for their sin to be atoned for
With that as our backdrop, turn with me to Revelation 5:6-13 CSB
 Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.  He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne.  When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.
There are a couple things to notice here.
First of all, maybe you’re one of those Christians, who says, okay, fine. I know about the cross, the empty tomb, but what else you got? Jesus died for my sin. Okay. Got it. NEXT?! And what Revelation is telling us is, THERE IS NO NEXT! We don’t move on from the cross of Christ! Even in heaven, they are still singing about the cross. Because, the Lamb of God, on the cross for the sin of humanity, verse 9, “Has purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation! You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign... where? ON THE EARTH! Three things to see here:
Secondly, Jesus’ blood purchased priests, in a kingdom, ruling the earth – sound familiar? It should. That’s what Adam was tasked with in the garden! Being a priest in the garden temple (which is being God’s ambassador to the people, and the people’s ambassador to God), ruling the earth, and advancing the kingdom. Jesus’ blood, the slaughtered Lamb, restores the original calling to humans! To be God’s representative and have authority on earth!
Third, God’s promise to Abraham comes true in Jesus, that all the nations of earth will be blessed through his offspring! How are they blessed?
Look at verse  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands.  They said with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!  I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!
Back in Genesis 15, God told Abraham to go outside and count the stars – if you can – and said, “that’s how big your family tree is going to be.” Well, it would be impossible to count the stars, you might say, well, look at verse 11: “Countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands.” So this nation that started with two 100 year-old people having a baby has now come to its end, no longer outside the garden, but back in the presence of God, and what are they praising God for – what are they singing about? How did they get there? The Lamb who was slaughtered!
Can you imagine the sound of that praise? I mean, you’ve probably been to or near Kinnick Stadium when the Hawkeyes score a touchdown, or been in Carver Hawkeye during a basketball game or wrestling meet when something happens and the sound is deafening for a moment. Well, the comparison breaks down because you can count the fans at Carver or Kinnick – here in the presence of God, it’s countless amounts of people, who’ve been rescued from death by the blood of Jesus, and they are roaring at the top of their lungs!
Revelation 19:5 gives another description of what that might sound like:
 A voice came from the throne, saying, Praise our God, all his servants, and the ones who fear him, both small and great!  Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying, Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns!
It sounds like thunder, or like a massive waterfall! Oh, I can’t wait to hear that! Oh praise the One who paid my debt! Jesus Paid it all!
 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.  She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he said to me, "Write: Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" He also said to me, "These words of God are true."
Here’s the gospel of Jesus – Ever since the garden of Eden, like our first parents Adam and Eve, we have been trying to cover our shame with fig leaves. As soon as they realized what they had done, and that they were physically, spiritually, and morally naked, they dove into the bushes to cover themselves with fig leaves.
We’ve done the same thing.
- We’ve wrapped ourselves in religious perfection, always trying to do more, do more, do more to cover up our feelings of inadequacy, feeling like we’ve blown our chance to know God.
- We’ve wrapped ourselves in work and accomplishment and financial success, because it covers our feelings of being insignificant in the world – we want to leave a mark, make an impact.
- We’ve wrapped ourselves in hobbies and distractions so we don’t have to face up to our weaknesses.
And yet, through the obedience of his life, and taking our sin to the cross, Christ has given us new clothes to wear, and Isaiah 61:10 tells us what these clothes are:  I rejoice greatly in the LORD, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
So the fine linens in verse 8 are the glothers of salvation, and a robe of righteousness: His righteousness, and just like when someone gives you a gift of a new shirt or something, we have to receive it, get dressed in it. This is the marriage of the Lamb! You don’t wear fig leaves to a wedding, especially your own! You get dressed in the best clothes you have! This bride is absolutely spotless. No guilt. No shame. No secret lovers. No fig leaves. She’s ready to meet her groom, dressed in the righteousness he bought for her. This is the day she’s waited for, kept herself for, the day she’s prayed for, hoped for, dreamed about! She waits for her groom to arrive.
 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war with justice.  His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself.  He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.  The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen.  A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty.  And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Jesus himself, Faithful and True, the way, the truth, the life, is not coming as a baby in a manger next time he comes. He’s coming as King of kings, Lord of lords, with an army to trample the nations in judgment, and claim his bride! He’s got fire in his eyes, that burn with righteous anger at those who took other lovers, those who refuse to bend the knee to the King of kings, those who would rather wear fig leaves than the righteousness he paid for with his life. And he is passionately in love with his bride, ready to bring her to the place he’s been preparing for her.
 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God's dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.  Then the one seated on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new." He also said, "Write, because these words are faithful and true."  Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.
The bride of Christ is anyone who has been dressed in his righteousness.
The place he has prepared for her is the very presence of God! Jesus opened the way back to the Garden of Eden! That is great news!
But not everyone will follow him there.  But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars-their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
Look at that list: cowards, faithless, murderers, liars – They aren’t wearing wedding clothes. They are taking life into their own hands, eating over and over from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, adding to their shame, their guilt, refusing to drink from the water of life. And instead of being born again to a new life, welcomed back to the garden of God’s presence, instead of a spring of living water, they find themselves dying again a second death in a lake of fire and sulfur.
 Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."  He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,  arrayed with God's glory. Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
The Church, the bride of Christ, indescribably spotless and completely redeemed… dressed in the righteousness of Christ! If you are in Christ today, that’s you! You’ll be there, perfectly whole, perfectly pure, and it will be as if you’ve never sinned and only obeyed.
So the groom, Jesus, is bringing his bride home…back to the garden, back to the presence of God, back to perfect peace and fellowship with God, and with each other.
Revelation 22:1-21 CSB
 Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the city's main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations,  and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.  Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place."
So maybe you’re on the call, and you’re thinking, that sound marvelous… how do I make sure I get there? How can I know for certain that when Jesus comes, he’s coming for me, and I’m not one of those who is thrown out?
The answer is both incredibly simple and very difficult: CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES. Get dressed for the wedding!
That’s it. So simple. Put on different clothes. Take off the fig leaves of your own making, and put on a new relationship with God – one that trusts the finished work of Jesus, one that confesses sin and is washed and purified, not by your own efforts to be a good person, but washed and purified by the blood of Jesus – a crucified savior in your place, raised to life again so we don’t have to fear death, we don’t have to fear not being good enough, we don’t have to fear working all our lives to get to heaven and hearing the words: Well, you were close. If you’d have done this better, I could let you in.
It’s so simple, yet it’s so difficult. Because to change clothes means you must die. That like Christ died for sin, we must die to sin. That every day, we have to die to ourselves. We have to let Someone else have control of our lives. We have to hand over the steering wheel, and as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, we must be born again.
But the good news is right here: because Jesus lived perfectly, as your substitute, died to face the penalty of your rebellion against God, was buried and rose to life as the first person to be “born again” even though he never sinned, when his life is applied to you through faith, God will say to you, “This is my son/daughter, with whom I am well pleased!” And when our Groom, Jesus Christ, returns for us, his bride, we will be perfected and whole, and we will join the celebration, singing the song of the slaughtered Lamb – “Oh praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life from the dead!”
If you’re with us this morning, and you haven’t placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation; if you’re still taping the fig leaves of self-righteousness, success, financial gain, athletic accomplishments, having a perfect family, to yourself to cover your shame, I invite you this morning to call out to God in prayer – we have the promise in his word that everyone who calls on his name will be saved. Take off those fig leaves of self-produced righteousness, and let Jesus give you something better to wear.
Today, I want to close our time together with you listening to the words of scripture. Beth is going to read Revelation 22:12-21 to close the series and close our gathering today.