Friday, 27 June 2014

The Gospel and Revelation

I am sure that you have all heard about twitter.  Twitter is a social media site where you post your opinions in one hundred and forty characters or less.  A number of years ago a controversial Christian leader decided that he would post his understanding of the gospel in a tweet.  He wrote: "The gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus has brought the unending, limitless, stunning love of God to even us".  I don't see anything wrong with that except for the fact that it uses big words and lacks content.

A better tweet came from a friend of mine who wrote: "The gospel is the news that God, in great love and at great cost, has provided the effective means of rescue for a world that is doomed" (David Blevins).  I like another tweet of the gospel which points out that "our sin is so serious that nothing but the death of God's own Son could deal with it; which is what God has done for us" (adapted from Randy Newman).

How would you tweet the gospel?  You might look to the book of Revelation for help.  For Revelation is a gospel book.  We are going to look at the gospel in Revelation and then try to write a tweet about what we have learned.

'Tell me the old, old story'

'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.'  Humankind has a special place in this creation, we are uniquely made in the image of God.  God put the first two humans in the Garden of Eden and lived in relationship with them.  So we can speak of God's people, in God's place enjoying God's blessing.  But this human pair rebelled against God.  Now sin separates us from God, we no longer live Eden, our world is under God's curse and we are subject to death.

However God set about restoring what humankind lost.  He made a promise to a man he would call Abraham.  This promise spoke of a new people, who would live in a new place and experience God's blessing.  Indeed he promised that through Abraham's seed all the nations of the world would be blessed.  The whole of the Old Testament is the outworking of this promise.  We see a chosen people, trying to live in a promised land and enjoy relationship with God.

Like Adam and Eve that Old Testament people continued to sin.  Like Adam and Eve they were kicked out of he promised land.  Yet God was not finished with his promises.  At just the right time he sends Jesus who gathers a new people and brings them into a new creation.  We see the fulfilment of this in the book of Revelation.  Here we read of a new heaven and new earth and see God's people, in God's place, enjoying God's blessing.

We hear echoes of Genesis in the book of Revelation.  The heavens and the earth become a new heaven and a new earth.  The tree of life is there (22:2).  We see that God has undone the curse that followed the fall, there is no longer a curse (22:3).  While death followed the initial rebellion in Revelation we read 'blessed or those ho die in The Lord (14:13).  God had promised he would bless the whole world through Abraham's seed; in Revelation we see a multitude gathered from every tribe and tongue (7:9).

The first part of our tweet: 'God restores what humanity lost.'

'Nothing but the blood of Jesus'

I once read a blog post where the blogger was giving out about all those hymns that are obsessed with the blood of Jesus.  But the blood of Jesus is essential to the gospel.  

The first announcement of the gospel comes immediately after the fall.  In cursing the serpent, which Revelation tells us is the devil, God says 'And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel' (Genesis 3:15).  A descendent of the woman will be bitten by the devil and yet will finish the devil off.  Just like the whole of the Old Testament is a working out of the promises to Abraham it is also a great search for this serpent-crusher.

In Revelation we read of the strike and the crushing.  On the cross, wicked people, inspired by the devil, crucify God's beloved Son.  Yet that apparent victory signals defeat for the devil.  For Jesus is the one 'who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ...' (1:5).  It is only a matter of him before the devil is thrown into the lake of burning and tormented day and night for ever and ever (20:10).

So we continue our tweet: 'God restores what humanity lost. His Son dies freeing us from guilt.'

'Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place'

We should all know that becoming a Christian is all about what God has done for us not what we do for God.  We are told that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works, so no person can boast.  We see this portrayed in Revelation.  There we read about being freed from our sins by Jesus' blood (1:5b) and of those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).  But while we are not saved by good works we are saved for good works.  God's Holy Spirit dwelling within us brings inevitable change.  Our changed lives serve as proof that we have been rescued from sin.  

'And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books' (20:12).  On one hand we will stand on the day of judgement simply because of the mercy of God.  He has put our names in the book of life and washed away all our guilt by the blood of Jesus.  On the other hand we will be saved because our lives demonstrate the transforming power of the Christ's indwelling presence.

'Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city' (22:14).  We are people who been sinful and yet we have been forgiven.  'Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood' (22:15).  It is not just notorious sinners who are left outside.  Jesus equated lust with adultery and hatred with murder.  The apostle Paul called greed idolatry.  It is is not that Christians never fail, the blood of Jesus goes on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7).  But if we don't take God's call to be a holy people seriously and if we refuse to let him tell us how we should live our lives then we are demonstrating that we have never been born again.

So we continue our tweet: 'God restores what humanity lost. His Son dies freeing us from guilt.  Transforming our lives in the hope of eternal joy.'


I would want to finish our explanation of the gospel in Revelation with an invitation.  Revelation invites us to repent.  The gospel calls us to repentance.  It tells us to turn around and place our trust in Jesus.  This book contains two of the most open and gracious invitations in the whole of the Bible.

So our tweet of the gospel according to Revelation is: 'God restores what humanity lost. His Son dies freeing us from guilt.  Transforming our lives in the hope of eternal joy. So repent and live.'

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