Poetic Imagination Week 2: What's This Stuff?

Sermon Transcript


Our world: It seems as though it has drastically changed in the past 30 years. How does the church respond? In times of calamity and turmoil, the prophets arose. Where is that prophetic voice today, and what would it look like? The answer may surprise you.

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Well, good morning to everybody. We are in a series called “Poetic Imagination.” I always try, at the beginning of every service, to make sure that if you’re new or you missed last week that you know what’s going on.

We started this off last week, and we’re continuing it and we’ll take it all the way up to Easter. We’re dealing with something that is sort of a little strange subject to deal with in church, but one I think we need to. We’re looking at who were these people called “the prophets,” and what was this writing that they did; this prophetic literature? And I know you take a gamble whenever you talk about this stuff, but I think that it’s important because I’m committed. As the pastor of this church, I truly believe that there shouldn’t be any verses or books in Scripture that we should be afraid to talk about and teach. I think that there are 66 books, and I want to make sure that we go through all of them. And it was sort of the big idea for this whole series that when we settle for less than, we get less than.

And I think that if you were to go home this afternoon and you were to pick up your Bible and you were to start going through it and you went through Ezekiel, and you sort of put a paper clip on all the pages of Ezekiel, then you took Isaiah and put a paper clip on that, took Daniel and put a paper clip on that, all the minor prophets, the book of Revelation and you put a paper clip, and you look at that, you’d go, “You know what? There’s quite a bit of information here that if I didn’t pay attention to those books, I’d be missing a lot of things that are in this book.

So we want to sort of tackle them. And I know it’s a hard subject because many of us that grew up in church, or many of us that didn’t even grow up in church, we met that one person and they were that person that always wanted to tell you about the end times and Revelation, and they were weird but you couldn’t tell them that they were weird — you know what I’m talking about? You know? And it’s like, “Oh, goodness.” And they want to tell you how everything goes out.

And I don’t know if you all grew up around where you lived during the 80’s, but during the 80’s there had been a book that was written in the 70’s by Hal Lindsey called “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” He had sort of written this book, you know, and everybody sort of got excited. And then, in 1988, because they took 1948 from Israel’s statehood and added 40 years to it to 1988. A guy wrote a book called “The 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Going to Return in 1988.”

And He didn’t, and then he wrote the subsequent book called “89 Reasons Why He Will Return in 1989.” And after he had blown it really bad, there wasn’t “1990 Reasons Why He is Going to Return.” His name was Edgar Whisenant. He was not a wise nut, by the way.  But anyway, that being said, you’ve heard of this. I remember growing up when Reagan was elected, there were people in the church that went, “Ronald. Six letters. Wilson. Six letters. Reagan. Six letters.”

I’m like, “Seriously?”

Then Gorbachev with the little thing on his head. They’re like, “Oh, that’s the guy.” And then the barcode came out. Remember? “That’s it! The barcode’s it.” And then there was the Procter and Gamble sign on the toothpaste, you know? “That’s the mark of the beast.”

All that stuff. It’s like, we’ve been around that stuff and it’s so weird. It’s like people are like, “Dude.” So a lot of us are just like, “You know what? I don’t want to deal with that stuff at all, because who knows what’s going on and how this works out.”

So I get it. I get why so many people are just shut down to all of this stuff. But I’d like to submit to you that reading these books that way is just not what they were intended to be read by. And listen, if you’re a big prophecy nut and you like all that stuff and I may be saying some things today that sort of mess you up a little bit. Listen, I’m not up here to say that I’m the one that understands everything. I have a humility. I mean, I teach theology. I get paid to do it. I teach eschatology, the study of last things. But the fact of the matter is I’m here simply as a pastor to do my best to equip everybody so that we can read all of Scripture together and we can go home with our families and at least understand what we’re reading.

I’d like to submit that rather than reading these books as like a secret code that if you’ve got the secret code and you know the statues and you know the horns and the symbols and the stars and all of this stuff, that you can figure out who’s who and what’s going on. I’d like to submit that those books were never written to be read that way, that they were written as a book of hope. That they were written to give people that were in calamities and in difficult times a message of hope. That no matter how bad it was, that God was a God that was ultimately going to make everything right and they could trust in Him.

Much like — I don’t know if you all like sports at all, but I am a huge UK Basketball fan, and all Christians should be as far as I’m concerned. But, oftentimes, because I have to preach four times on the weekend, I don’t get to watch all of the games, depending on when they’re going on. So, you know, I can DVR them, but here’s the reality: I get in the car and I want to know, because I love UK Basketball — and all Christians do. So what I do is I get on my phone and I look and see if we won.

Well, it’s great when we win, because when I go back home and I’m watching the DVR and we start off in the first quarter and we’re terrible and we’re missing everything and we’re down by 15, I know that we won. So I watch that game differently than had I not known. And what I would like to suggest to you is these books that are written are written so that you know what’s going to happen at the end, so that no matter what’s going on in the process, you have hope in the midst of all of those things.

So, that being said, what I want to do today is I want to try to give you some guidelines on how to read prophetic literature. And before I do that, I want to give you sort of a little example here that I think everybody will understand. You might not know exactly what I’m doing at the beginning, but you will in a minute.

If you go to school and you go to seminary or you do post-graduate work, at some point you’re going to probably have to take Greek and Hebrew. That’s just the way it goes. Old Testament was Hebrew. New Testament was Greek. And Bruce Metzger, he’s deceased, but he was a Princeton professor. Doctor Metzger. And he was a Greek maverick. I mean, so many things we do in Greek are because of Metzger. And this was a book that you’d get like first year Greek. It was “Lexical Aids for Students.”

So you open it up and what it does is he has taken all of the words in the New Testament and he’s said, “Okay. These words appear 200-500 times. You need to memorize these, because you’re going to see them a lot.” And then there’s words that appear 23 times and 18 times and 10 times. So, knowing those words are good, but knowing the ones that are really there a lot is really important. Then he gets into root words and all of that stuff.

Why do I say this? Because you’re like, “This is all Greek to me.” You know? Why do I say it? Because this book — and you naturally will intuit this when I show you. You will read this book differently, if you were going to read this book, than Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. You understand what I’m saying? See, these are different literary genres. You’re going to read them differently because they’re not the same. If you try to read this book the way you’re reading this book, it is not — if I say, “This is a science book. You need to read it.” You’re going to go, “Hold on. That’s not the case.”

Because they’re different literary styles. What I’d like to submit to you all is this: When we go to Scripture we cannot read Genesis all the way to Revelation the same way, because the Bible is filled with different types of literature. And if we don’t understand the literature that we’re reading, we probably are going to misinterpret what we’re reading. Wisdom literature is read differently than narrative. Narrative is read differently than Gospel. Gospel is read differently than the epistolary literature. And the prophetic works are read differently than the other ones.

And if we don’t know sort of how to read these things, we probably will misinterpret what’s going on. Let me give you an example: The book of Lamentations. Many of you may not even know what it is. You may not have read it. But it is Jeremiah’s Lament. It’s a five-chapter book where he laments over the fact that the Babylonians have come in and destroyed the temple and taken the people of Israel into captivity. He doesn’t understand why God has allowed this to happen.

And you read the book and you just see him pouring out his thing. He’s trying to trust in God. He’s trying to say that God’s mercies are new every morning and all of these great things, but there’s a lot. He’s just lamenting over the fact that this has happened, this is terrible, this is no good. I don’t quite understand.

But, if you understand how he’s done his book, this book becomes very powerful. Chapter 1 has 22 verses. Why? Because there’s 22 verses in the Hebrew alphabet. Alef. Beit. All the way down. We get the word “alphabet” from Alef and Beit of the Hebrew alphabet. There’s 22. He takes each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and he writes a verse. He does the same thing in Hebrews 2. Twenty-two verses. He does the same thing in Hebrews 4. Twenty-two verses. He does the same thing in Hebrews 5. Twenty-two verses. But, in Hebrews 3, he does 3. There’s 66 verses. Three A’s, three B’s. All the way down.

Why does he do that? Why does he write that way? Because what he’s saying is even though I don’t understand why God has allowed this to happen, there must be some sense of order in which God is doing the things He’s doing. See? Now that book takes on a whole different meaning when you understand how it’s written.

So what I’d like to suggest to you is that the prophetic works can be understood. It’s not all this deciphering codes and charts. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those conferences where they pull all those charts out. I remember, as a kid, I’d go to those things because I really wanted to know what was going on. They’d pull out the charts, you know? And I’d be like, “Dude. Who could’ve ever found that in Scripture?”

I mean, it’s like all these charts, you know? The guy gets up. I remember one time I heard the guy get up and he’s like, “Michael Jackson just went on tour with his brothers. It’s the Victory Tour. They’ve got this big thing in the back, and it’s a scorpion, and it’s found in the book of Revelation.”

And I’m like, “I’m out.” We don’t need to read it that way. These are books that we can understand and that we can sort of — we don’t have to decipher, we can just read. So here’s what I want you to do. I’m going to be a little bit more Professor Chip today than I am Pastor Chip. I’m going to teach a little bit more than I normally teach, but I really would like for you to get out something, write these down. I think this will help everyone in understanding how to read prophetic literatures, but we need to have some guidelines on how to read.

First thing is this: Everything that’s written by the prophets, in whatever book we’re reading — whether it’s Isaiah, whether it’s Daniel, whether it’s Revelation. Whatever these books are, what they’re ultimately saying and what they’re ultimately dealing with is the problem that when people are going through difficulties — for instance, when the Babylonians have taken the children of Israel into captivity, that’s when Jeremiah, that’s when Ezekiel, that’s when Isaiah start writing and explaining what God is going to do.

You know the passage in Jeremiah that we all read? “I’ve got plans for you,” and all of that? Contextually, those plans are for the people that are in captivity. He’s got plans for them to come out after 70 years, and he’s writing to them. He’s giving them hope. And what the prophets want everybody to understand is that no matter how bad things are, no matter how messed up life may be, God ultimately is going to make things okay. And that’s a great message for all of us because all of us have stuff in our life. I mean, I know I do. Stuff in life where you go, “God, You’ve got to help me out here, dude.”

And hearing the prophets speak saying, “God’s ultimately going to work everything out alright,” is real hopeful. But here’s the way it works, and I want everybody to listen here. This is so important. This is understanding how the Bible speaks, because it speaks to people a long time ago. It wasn’t written to you and me. Written for you and me, but not to you and me.

Here’s what happened. In the original creation, heaven and earth were together. They were created together. Man walked with God; God walked with man. Everything was together. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us that. Well, Genesis 3 happened. We call that “sin.” Sin separated heaven from earth. They’re not completely separated, but they’re not the way they were intended. That’s why, at the end of Scripture, Revelation 21 and 22, what do we see? Heaven coming down to earth — again, poetic language; high language — bringing everything back together.

I often say if it weren’t for sin, we’d have Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 22. We’d have a pamphlet. We wouldn’t have a Bible. But, because of sin, we have this eruption. And so, how’s God going to make these things work? Because this is separated, there’s injustice. Because there’s separation, there’s sin, there’d death, there’s darkness, there’s war. There’s all of those things. How is God going to bring those things back together?

The prophets speak to that. They say that God’s going to bring justice. He’s going to. You may not see it, you may not know it, you may not think about it, but God is going to bring justice. And He’s going to do that because He’s a righteous God. He’s going to bring righteousness to bear on the earth. He’s a holy God, so He’s going to do that. And even the judgments that you read — you know, you read them and it’s like, “The darkness, the day of the Lord, gloom and doom,” and all of that. We’re like, “Oh, man. I don’t want to read that.”

Those judgments are there to let you know that God is not silent, He is working things out to make everything right. And even the judgments that He does in the prophetic oracles are always to restore and to bring about something good. The prophets always end the oracles with, “After God has done this, then the wine’s going to flow and the animals will get together and people will beat their weapons of war into weapons of peace,” because all of this is ultimately grand language that’s telling us, “Hey, there’s hope.”

Even though you don’t see it, even though you may be in captivity, even though it may cost you your life, there’s hope. God’s going to restore everything. The problem that you’ve got is when you’re talking about earth and heaven being sort of estranged, but still somewhat together, but not completely together, but going to one day be together even though that they’re not. How do you talk about that? What language do you use to talk about that?

Well, the prophets have that language. It’s cosmic language. They use things like clouds, and they use things like the moon turning to blood, and stars not shining or the stars falling, and winds and trumpets and all of this stuff. They’re using this cosmic language to show you that what’s going on up here has affects here, and what’s going on here has affects here. Even though they’re not completely together, they’re still there, but they’re coming together. They’re going to come together.

And so, a lot of this language is really high, poetic language that’s tapping into our imaginations to get us to understand God’s ultimately going to bring all of these things together. You see this stuff in Isaiah 13. I mean, I could go through all the Old Testament. The prophets use this language. It’s not new language that’s only found in the New Testament. It’s all throughout the Old Testament. It’s like in Isaiah 13, Isaiah says to the children of Israel, “Hey, listen. Even though you’re in captivity and the Babylonians have captured you, there’s going to be another group of people that come in and conquer the Babylonians, and they’re going to set you free.”

And that’s when Ezra and Nehemiah start rebuilding the temple after the 70 years of captivity. That group of people is called the “Assyrians,” and Cyrus is their king. Well, Isaiah tells you what that day is going to be like when the Babylonians are conquered by the Assyrians. He says things like this: “The stars of heaven and the constellations will not flash forth their light. The sun will be dark and it won’t rise.”

Well, the sun still rose and the stars still shined. He’s using language to show you and me that heaven and earth are still together. There’s still a combination that what’s going on here is going on here, because God ultimately is trying to bring those things back together. And they use language that’s really high and lofty to make that point, because what they’re ultimately moving towards is this. And this is so important to get.

They believe that we live in an age right now and there is an age that will come in history. No Jewish person, no Old Testament prophet believed that there was going to be an end of the world. We do, because we have concocted some crazy things in reading the Bible. They didn’t see that at all. Solomon said, “The earth abides forever.” Psalm 24:1 says that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Paul, in his grand treatise to the Romans, says in Romans 8 that the creation itself is not looking to get destroyed, it’s looking to get redeemed. It’s longing to be redeemed.

God’s going to purify the world. He’s going to make it like it was, and heaven and earth will join together again. So when they talked about the age to come or the latter days or the last days, they weren’t talking about the way we talk about things. Like, “You think we’re in the last days? Are we in the last days?”

The writer to the Hebrews says, in Hebrews 1:1, that we’re in the last days. That’s 2,000 years ago. See, they’re not using the categories that we use. Like when they talk about the end in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13, they’re specifically talking about the end of the temple. When is the temple going to be destroyed? What’s that going to look like? What are those signs? And Jesus tells them what that is. And we’re reading this as the end and all this stuff. We’re not reading it right because that’s not the way they wrote.

They were looking for a day where the age to come was going to come into the now. Jeremiah talked about it in chapter 31. He says, “In the latter days, God’s going to put His Spirit in people and the Law is not going to be this external thing anymore, they’re going to do it from within.”

Well, the writer to the Hebrews says that’s gone on. That day has happened. The prophet Joel said, “In the latter days, God’s going to do this stuff and there’s going to be all these signs in heaven and smoke and all that.”

And Peter stands up on the Day of Pentecost and says, “This, what you’re seeing, is exactly what Joel said.”

And we always go, “Well, okay. That first part’s that, but the second part, all the signs and all this stuff, that hasn’t...”

No, no. He says this is what Joel said. Boom. Because, once again, he’s using the language of Joel. Joel’s talking about the locust plague that came upon everybody and all of this stuff. And it’s all this imagery saying, “Hey, the judgments and all this stuff, God’s moving everything to right.”

But, one day, right smack dab in history, God’s going to pull the age to come into the now, and it’s going to be a different experience. And that happened when Jesus rose from the dead and the Spirit of God comes within us. That’s why the New Testament writers say that we have received a deposit, we’ve received a deposit which is like a layaway plan that we have some of the “out-there” in the now, living within us right now, and that’s why we’re called to be different. That’s why we’re called to look uniquely different from the world, because we have God’s Spirit living within us.

And so, this is sort of some of the literary clues that we need to read the prophetic literature but let me get more specific here. I don’t know if you know this or not, but Jesus says He’s going to come on the clouds four times in the New Testament. Matthew 24, Matthew 26, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Now, when I say that, you probably have an imagery of what you think that means. Well, let me help you out here in reading some of the things in the New Testament. Do you know that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament when He makes that statement? Most Christians don’t. Because, let’s be honest, most Christians don’t know their Old Testament very well. We just don’t sort of know it.

All the early Christians knew their Old Testament really well. We don’t know the Old Testament very well, so we pay a price. Jesus is quoting the Old Testament when He says He’s coming on the clouds, so it might be important to understand what the Old Testament has to say about coming on the clouds until we just assume that we know what that means in the New Testament. That passage is quoted from Daniel. Daniel says this:

“I saw in the night visions,”

This is important here. This is a vision. This is not a Polaroid camera shot of something concrete. This is a vision. He says, “And, behold, with the clouds of heaven...” — cosmic language — “...there came one like the Son of Man.”

Not quite sure. It’s a vision, so I can’t really tell you if it’s like the Son of Man. I think it was. Not quite sure. But, like the Son of Man.

“And he came to the Ancient of days.”

That’s Yahweh. So, whoever the Son of Man is on the cloud, He is coming to the Ancient of Days and is presented before Him. Why? Why is He coming to the Ancient of days? Why is He being presented before the Ancient of days? Because this is a coronation ceremony. This is a vindication motif, because look at what the Ancient of days says to the Son of Man that rides on this cloud in a vision and goes before Him.

He says, “And to him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve him.”

In other words, whoever the Son of Man is that’s riding on a cloud, going to the Ancient of days, is being coronated, is being crowned, is being vindicated for whatever He’s done. He’s being vindicated for whatever He’s done.

“And there was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that will not be destroyed.”

So when Jesus quotes coming on the clouds — and I think the visual here is important. You probably may have intuited it by reading it but let me show you the visual here. The Son of Man on a cloud, like the Son of Man, is coming to, is being presented to the Ancient of days, and He’s being coronated. He is not coming from heaven to earth on the cloud. He’s going up. That’s huge. Because if you don’t understand what He’s quoting, you might likely read Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 in a way that it was never written. Because this is where He’s quoting from. And the visual isn’t there to here, the visual is there to there. He’s going to. He’s being presented. And whatever He’s done, He’s being crowned for what He’s done, and all authority and all dominion and everything is being given to Him. Which makes total sense, because if you read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and Mark 13, you’ll read that the disciples are looking at the temple in Jerusalem and they’re like, “Whoa. This is really pretty. This is awesome.”

Jesus says, “You see the stones? Not one of them is going to be left not thrown down.”

And what do they say? “Lord, tell us when this is going to be and when the end will be.”

Not the end of the world. The end of the temple. That’s what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about anything else. People go, “Oh, that’s the second coming.”

Okay. Well, if it’s the second coming, when the armies have surrounded Jerusalem, why does Jesus say, “Run to the wilderness?” Why does He say, “Flee to the mountains?” Why does He say, “Don’t go back in the city?” Why does He say, “Pray that you’re not a lady with a small child during those days?”

Because what He’s saying is, “I’m telling you, this generation will see it.” And they did. He said, “This generation is going to see the destruction of the temple, and these are the things that are going to happen that lead up to it, and this is what it’s going to look like when it happens. And when it happens, you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds. You will realize that the work that I did on the cross, there’s now no temple for forgiveness of sins anymore. There’s no other way to be forgiven other than through me. You will see the vindication in front of you. In this generation, you’ll see it.”

And see, Jesus knew that and so did the Sanhedrin. So did the high priest, because the other passage that’s not in Matthew 24, Luke 21 or Mark 13, which is all talking about the same thing. The only other passage where He quotes it is when He is in front of the high priest. He’s gone to Caiphas’ house. And the high priest is looking at him. You’ve got to understand, the Jewish people were looking for a military leader to overthrow Rome, lead them in military victory, and Israel would then conquer everybody and then they could go into the world and tell everybody about Yahweh. That’s what they were expecting.

That’s why, when James and John said to Jesus, “Hey, when You come in Your glory, can we be on Your right hand and Your left hand? Dude, when You finally get this thing right and You understand that You’re supposed to overthrow Rome, because right now You don’t. You’re touching people that You shouldn’t touch, You’re doing crazy things. But we believe You’re going to get it one day. And when You get it, will You make sure that we’re on Your right hand and Your left?”

Jesus is like, “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about. My glory’s going to be the cross, and who’s on my left hand and my right hand is prepared for by the Father.”

See, they’ve got a different understanding of what’s going on. And Jesus is before the high priest, and here’s the conversation. The high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the Living God. Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God. Are You really the Christ? Is this really who You are? You don’t look like it. You don’t match up anything that we’re looking for at all. Are You the Christ?”

Jesus says, “You’ve said so. But I tell you, from now on, you’re going to see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

High priest knew what He was quoting. High priest knew exactly where that’s coming from. He knew exactly what He was saying, that Jesus is saying to him, “I’m going to be the one that Daniel talked about that’s going to be given all dominion, all glory and all power, and you’re going to see it in your midst.”

What do you think the high priest does? Does Matthew tell us that he went out and got binoculars and started looking in the sky to see a cloud come from heaven to earth? No. What he did is he tore his robes and said, “This man has uttered blasphemy. This man is not the Danielic Son of Man. This man is not the one that’s going to be receiving all the glory and dominion and all the nations will serve him. It’s blasphemy. That this man would say he is the one coming in the clouds of Daniel? Blasphemy. What further witness do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.”

And see, that changes everything because when we see that the cloud visions are Jesus going to the Ancient of days, what that does is it helps us reconstruct some of these passages that we read, and we can read them differently. That’s why when Jesus says, “Hey, there’s going to be somebody grinding at the mill, one taken and one left,” we go, “Where’d they go? Where’d they go?”

Well, Jesus says, because the disciples say, “Where’d they go?” He says, “Well, where the bodies are, the vultures will be.” What He’s saying is when the Roman soldiers come into Jerusalem, they’re going to be grabbing people in judgment and killing people in judgment. Some of them will be taken, and when they’re taken they’re going to be killed. And where their bodies are, that’s where the vultures will be. This is a judgment on Jerusalem, and Jesus is saying, “You’re going to see. This generation right in front of me, this generation will see that what I said is true, and there’s going to be no other sacrifices for sin.”

And that’s what the writer to the Hebrews says. Jesus is the only sacrifice. He is the one. He told them beforehand that all of these things were going to happen so that they would know when they saw it that Jesus really was who He said He was.

Now, all that being said, what can we sort of take home here? And these are some take-homes. Write these down. Jot these down. I think these will help you out. First of all, the prophetic message is misread. We misread these things when it becomes about anything other than God putting all things back to right through Jesus. In other words, there’s a plan God has, and Jesus is the one that is being used to bring everything back to right.

That’s why when we read the book of Revelation most people think that’s the blueprint for the future and it’s telling us everything that’s going on in the future and mapping all of these things out. It doesn’t say the revelation of the future for the 21st Century church. What it says is this: It’s the revelation of Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not trying to be impressive here, but there’s three Greek words that start off the book of Revelation. Apokalupsis, Jesu, Cristo. The unveiling of Jesus. And the ending, which is an omicron and upsilon, is a genitive, which means it should be read, “This is Jesus’ revelation.”

It’s not a revelation of the future. It’s a revelation of Jesus. That’s what it’s about. It’s about how God is using Jesus to put everything back together. So important because the second take-home is this: This message that we’re reading is a hopeful vision of a glorious future where God puts things back to right. But listen to this: Reversing chronology. The book of Revelation isn’t going forward, the book of Revelation is going backwards. And I’m going to show you how that works here in just a second, because it’s taking us back to where God used to have it this way, and then it became this way and God’s putting it back to this way.

Let me show you how all that works. Revelation 1. Jesus looks out and He sees the seven churches from the Isle of Patmos, and in each one of those churches, there’s a lamp stand. Well, that reminds us of the original temple that was built for Solomon that had the seven lamp stands that were there in the temple. But Jesus told us in the Gospels He was a greater than Solomon. So, as He looks out, the temple’s no longer what’s important. It’s all these churches going out to Asia Minor, but it’s very important that it’s seven because it’s reminding us here that as seven churches, like the temple’s seven lamp stands, recall the temple of Solomon.

Well then, we have a couple of letters, in Revelation 2 and 3, to the churches. But in Revelation 4 and 5, the Lion of Judah, the root of David, is enthroned. We see a lamb standing there that’s slaughtered. And you’re not expecting that. You’re expecting a king with swords and shields and powerful and muscles. But, instead, it’s Jesus there, dripping in blood, because He’s been slaughtered. And everybody’s going, “Who can open these seals?”

Well, it’s the Lion of Judah, it’s the Root of David that can do that. He’s enthroned. He’s the true Davidic King. Because, see, Matthew, you read Gospel, right? Gospel is telling you theology. Remember if you read the original genealogy of Matthew, normally we just run through that and act like there’s no big deal there. No. Matthew is telling you something important. From Abraham, which was Babylon, to David is 14 generations. From David back to Babylon is 14 generations. And from Babylon to the Christ is 14 generations. What is Matthew telling us? That David was not a king that could deliver the children of Israel. They ended up back at the very same spot when they started with Abraham. It took Jesus to be the one to deliver the people of God. He is the true Davidic King.

So we’ve gone backwards. We were in Kings, now we’re in Samuel. Well, in Revelation 9 and 11, there’s seven trumpets that sound, and a great city, which is home to a whore, falls. Well, anybody who’s ever been in Sunday school knows about seven trumpets and a big city that’s got walls and the walls fall and there was a whore on the inside named Rahab. Everybody knows that. That’s Joshua. Okay. We’ve just gone from Kings to Samuel to Joshua. We’re going backwards. We’re not going forwards. We’re going backwards.

In Revelation 15, having escaped the beast of the sea, the people of God sing the song of Moses standing on a crystal sea. Well, you remember when they came out of Egypt, they stood on the other side and the women sang and they said, “The horse and the rider God’s drowned in the water.”

They sang the song. Well, that happens in Exodus 15 while singing the same song. Why? Because we’re going backwards. In Revelation 20, there’s a judgment on all the earth where God covers the earth in fire to purify it. He said He’d never destroy it again by water, so now it’s fire. And that fire recalls the narrative of the flood. Well, that’s Genesis 7. Well, then we get to Revelation 21 and 22 and we have a garden and we have the Tree of Life. That’s Genesis 2. And then we have a new heaven and a new earth. Genesis 1.

See, John wrote to seven churches — not you and me — that were dying. They were being killed. He writes a message to them that he says, “I want it to be read aloud.” He’s not anticipating everybody going back and trying to figure out crowns and horns and who’s this and who’s that.”

They don’t have time for that when you’re getting your head chopped off. What they’re hearing is an oracle, because they know their Old Testament. They’re going, “God is bringing everything back to the way it should be, so I can endure my calamity because I know that my God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and He’s ultimately going to accomplish all that He said. No matter what’s going on in my life, I have faith and I have hope in my God.”

And see, that changes everything. Rather than fear and confusion and who’s getting a chip in their hand and all this stuff, it’s written to remind you and me that our God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and no matter what may be going on here on the earth, no matter what beast comes up out of the sea, no matter how bad it may be, if we could be whisked into the heavenlies, we see that the beast merely has the power that God has given him. We see that those who have been slain are reigning with God in white robes worshiping around the throne, not worried about what’s gone on because they know now that God has a plan. This gives you and me hope. It doesn’t give us fear. It gives us hope. And that’s what this literature is all about.

And the last thing is this: The prophetic message massively impacts our life now. Listen to me. This is so huge. If you don’t hear anything else that I say, please hear this: Heaven, out there, has come into the now. And what we’re supposed to be, as Christians, is looking like what out there is, because we know that out there is coming. Nothing is going to keep that from happening.

So, in heaven, guess what? There isn’t any unforgiveness, which means that as the body of Christ, that Jesus told us to pray, “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We shouldn’t be a place where unforgiveness is found within our place. We ought to be doing whatever it takes to work through things, whatever feet we have to wash, whatever cheek we have to turn. We ought to be people that look like what we know is coming. In heaven, there’s not all kinds of racism and divide and socio-economic divisions and all of that stuff, which means in the Church we shouldn’t be that way. Everybody should feel welcome when they walk in here. Everybody that walks through that door should know that we have something for them, because we serve a God that has a plan for them and a purpose for them, and He doesn’t look at the color of skin and what care you drive. He looks at you as someone that He died on the cross for with an everlasting love, with a message of grace.

That’s who we should be. We should be a community that looks so different. Because we know that’s where we’re going, we ought to be living in the now what that is. No enemies in heaven. That’s why we can love our enemies. No smacking each other in heaven. That’s why we can turn the other cheek. And see, the early Christian Church, they got this message because Peter says, “They’re going to come and ask you for the hope that is within you.”

These are people that are on the line for their faith, but they have hope. Why? Because they’ve watched the DVR and they know that UK — I mean they know that God is awesome. Because they know that God is an incredible God. And I just want to share that with you. Listen, whether you’ve been here first time, or you’ve been here for all the years that we’re here, I want you to know that God is a wonderful God that has such a plan for you and me. And He wants to use you and me to do great things. He wants us to look like His community and to live out all of those things. And, in doing so, folks, we can change Lakewood Ranch, we can change Sarasota, we can change Bradenton because the same power of God that lived in the first century church lives within you and me, and the same people that could’ve turned the world upside down, God can do the same thing through you and me if we’re willing to embrace the fact that that future’s coming, we know it’s coming, and we want to live like that right now.

And if we do that as a church, people are going to beat the doors down because they’re looking for hope. The one thing the world doesn’t have right now. It’s got fear, it’s got confusion, it’s got calamity, it’s got division. The Church can’t look like that. We’ve got to be a place that looks like heaven so that people can find out that there’s hope. And then when they come and ask you, “What’s your hope?” you can say, “Let me tell you about the one that died on a cross for me and rose again on the third day. Let me tell you the one that took me from the pit of misery and put a smile on my face. Let me tell you the one that took me from where I was and made me something different. Let me tell you about my Jesus, because He can change your life.”

When we live the Word, our voice has teeth. We’ve got to learn to embrace living what we are in the now, and the prophets help us to understand that by giving us a message of hope.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to do what I do and to be able to speak to Your people. Lord, this is Your Church and these are Your people. I am merely just the mailman delivering mail. But Lord, I pray that every person in here today would realize that this is not about a church or a song or a preacher or a message. We do what we do because we believe Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead on the third day and can make a difference in people’s lives.

And Lord, I pray if there’s anybody in here today that doesn’t know You — maybe they’ve been burned by religion, maybe they’ve been burned by church, maybe they’ve been burned by a lot of things — I pray, Lord, that they would realize that they’re not here by accident. They’re here today because of a divine appointment. You wanted to speak to them.

Lord, help us to all understand that. None of us are here today by chance. We’re here, Lord, because You want to do something in our lives that is legacy building, that brings people into the Kingdom of God. You want to use us to do that. So Lord, I just pray that as we think about these things and chew on these things over the next week, I pray, Lord, that we would truly well up inside and realize the great things that You want to do in our lives for Your glory.

So Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, continue to help us be that church that truly reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we thank You and we praise You for it. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless you. See you soon.

John Flowerree