The End is the Beginning

Well this is number 100. The last passage reading of the E100 Challenge. Starting on January 1st and ending here today. What a trip this has been for me. I would encourage everyone who is working through the E100 Challenge to keep going. It is worth it! I know everyone is going at a different pace, but the pace is not what is important it is the time your spending reading these personal letters from God. Letters and notes about life and it's meaning. Words that spell out God's plan and purpose.

For those who are continuing to work through the 100 verses I have listed all of the 100 posts for the E100 on the right side of the blog site. Each one is numbered to match the 100 passages of the challenge.

Listen to Revelation Chapter 21 & 22
or read "New Jerusalem"
Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away ... I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" ...

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

... No longer will there be any curse.

The greatest story every told ends where it began in the Garden -a perfect beautiful place. A place where God and humans live together in peace. A place without death, pain, and tears. A place where there is no murder, rape, and greed. No hate, no jealousy, no ugliness. A place without the curse. A place where sin doesn't exist. A brand spanking new place that will not age or decay but stay new and beautiful forever. A "new heaven and a new earth" with a new city -Jerusalem.

In the last two chapters of the bible John does his best to describe the indescribable. Limited by human language and that which he has seen in this world he describes what Jesus shows him in this vision - the very coming of the kingdom of God to this earth. A earth renewed by God.

Reading through the bible gives you a great perspective of the whole story. It put things into context and gives proper meaning to everything. It gives one a better understanding of God's purpose for his entire creation. God's purpose put simply by Bruce Carter in his message The Dream Comes True "is to bring heaven to this earth once again so that he can dwell among his people. That's the dream. That is what God has wanted all along." God desired to live with his people in the beautiful world he created in perfect peace. Jesus will one day in the future say "It is done". God's purpose will be accomplished in the end. The beginning is the end.

Here Comes the Groom

Listen to Revelation Chapter 19 & 20
or read "Hallelujah!"
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!"

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's people.)

Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
In chapters 19 and 20 we read about 4 events that will happen at the end of history. In a sermon delivered at Valley View Community Church back in 2005, titled Here Comes the Groom, Bruce Carter points out the importance of these four events and the incredible meaning of the Wedding.

These are future events we all need to understand if we're going to make the most out of our lives here on earth. This is the end of the story. The four events are the wedding supper of the Lamb, the second coming of Jesus Christ, the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, and the Great White Throne Judgment.

You see in order to understand what God is doing in human history and in our own lives right now, we need to understand the end of the story as well as the beginning of the story. And the Bible helps us do both. The book of Genesis tells us what happened at the beginning of the story and the book of Revelation tells us what's going to happen at the end of the story and that helps to put into perspective everything that's going on in our lives right now.

...When the Bible talks about this great wedding supper of the Lamb, the Lamb is Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He's the bridegroom who is coming back for his bride. And the bride is the church. It's us! This royal wedding is between Jesus and his followers. ...

And why is the return of Christ pictured as a wedding? It's pictured as a wedding for the same reason that most weddings happen, because two people love each other. The groom loves the bride and the bride loves the groom. Jesus loves his church and gave his life for her and because of that we love Jesus. We love him because he first loved us. And a wedding is the perfect picture of love and intimacy between Christ and his church."

To be honest I find reading the Book of Revelation difficult. Fascinating but difficult. The imagery for me is intense and violent and hard to intellectually absorb and then process into something I can relate to. I have trouble relating to most of the events in this book and as a result I probably have little real understanding of what will happen. I do believe it is the Word of God and represents the end times, but I have trouble relating personally to most of the book. I will continue to try to understand the Book of Revelation.

As I said 'most' of these events are difficult for me, but there is one that wholly engages me. I can completely relate to and understand the Great Wedding. I suppose this should not surprise me. The love of Christ is the key to the end of the story. God's love for us can be summed up in Christ on the cross. His sacrifice. This love, His love, begins our relationship with God. It sustains our relationship. It unites us as followers of Jesus and creates a bride--the Church. The end of history as we know it is marked by a great Wedding between us, His Church, and Jesus the King.

All-Encompassing Worship

Listen to Revelation Chapter 4 & 5 & 6 & 7
or read "The Throne of Heaven"
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

... After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
In his book Heaven Randy C. Alcorn points out that Heaven will be a place of "all-encompassing worship".

Most people know that we'll worship God in Heaven. But they don't grasp how thrilling that will be. Multitudes of God's people -of every nation, tribe, people, and language -will gather to sing praise to God for his greatness, wisdom, power, grace, and mighty work of redemption.

... Will we always be engaged in worship? Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes.

... Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won't be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship. We'll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping him.

Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike, or taking a walk. I'm worshiping him now as I write. Yet too often I'm distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking.

... Have you ever spent a day or several hours when you sensed the presence of God as you hiked, worked, gardened, drove, read, or did the dishes? Those are foretastes of Heaven -not because we are doing nothing but worshiping, but because we are worshiping God as we do everything else."

Bob Dylan may have said it best in one of his songs on his album from 1979, Slow Train Coming. His song called Gotta Serve Somebody reminds us that we all are going to serve somebody or something. Human beings were designed and created to worship. It is in our DNA. On earth today every person worships someone or something. It may be money. It may be knowledge. It may be ourselves or another person. It may be the Lord. The issue is not if we worship - but what we worship.

As my relationship grows with God I can relate to this all-encompassing worship. Worship is penetrating more and more of my life. The more I get these glimpses of Heaven in my worship while driving the car, or spending time with my family, or with others on Sunday, the more I desire to be in Heaven before the throne of God.

New Name

Listen to Revelation Chapter 2 & 3
or read "Messages to the Churches"
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who are victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)

Names are important in the Bible. They often had specific meaning and implications in life. In the Old testament we read about God changing a person's name to mark a spiritual change in that person or their relationship with God. God changed Abram's name to Abraham. Abraham means "father of nations" or "Father of a multitude."

This new name that will be given to us by Jesus is not just an identifying tag as our names are today, living here on earth. The new name given by Jesus will mean something significant. It will say something about who we are and how we lived our life. The new name will completely describe us as a person. It will be a unique and special name that no other creature has, and only the bearer of the new name will know what it even is. It won't be an identification tag for others to know us by. It will be an intimate personal name give to us by Jesus and known only in the confines of that personal relationship.

In ancient cultures, the white stone was a symbol of acceptance, honor and official approval. The white stone was given to those who were found innocent in a court of law. The guilty received a black stone. It was also given to victorious athletes in the ancient Olympics, as recognition of honored guests, and admission to significant events and sacred places.

The white stone with this new personal name written on it will expresses what God thinks of us. This white stone and our new name will symbolizes what God has done for us and in us. It will be a means of personal worship and praise between Christ and us. This new name will point to the individuality of exactly who we are to our Creator. This name will be a perfect picture of our soul.

Don't Be Afraid

Listen to Revelation Chapter 1
or read "A Voice and a Vision"
On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. ...

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Bruce Carter in a message given in October of 2004 and titled The Power of Worship, Revelation 1 shared the following introducing the book of Revelation and this passage.

The first word of the book of Revelation in the Greek language is the word "apocalypse." The word apocalypse literally means "a revealing" or "an unveiling." This is the apocalypse of Jesus Christ. In the book of Revelation God lifts the curtain and let's us peek into the future to see the things that must soon take place.

... The apostle John did not have an easy life. Even though he outlived all the other disciples, he took his share of shots for Jesus. History tells us that at one point the Romans arrested him for his faith and threw him into a cauldron of boiling oil. But God miraculously spared his life and he survived unscathed. And when the Romans saw that they were totally freaked out. They didn't know what to do with him so they exiled him to the island of Patmos, which was like the Alcatraz of the Roman Empire, a barren rock in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

And that's where John is when God gives him the apocalypse. He's worshiping God, in the Spirit, on the Lord's Day, when he hears a loud voice that tells him to write down what he sees and send it to the seven churches.

... Trapped on this lonely, desert island, while deep in worship on the Lord's Day, John has a vision of Jesus. Again, it's all about Jesus! Its a strange vision of one "like a son of man," with hair that's white like wool, eyes that blaze like fire, a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, feet and a face that shine like the sun, and hands that hold seven stars. And John collapses in a pile at his feet.

Then comes one of the most tender moments in Scripture. ... "John, John, don't be afraid. It's me. It's your friend, Jesus. The one you love. The one who went to the cross for you and died and rose again. The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the ruler of the universe. It's me, John. Please don't be afraid."

Exiled on the island of Patmos, John has an encounter with Jesus that blows him over, literally. He sees Jesus as a supernatural figure shining as bright as the sun. This incredible sight of Jesus knocks John to the ground at his feet. The sight fills him with wonder and fear.

In one way for me it is difficult to picture Jesus this way with eyes of fire and a sword coming from his mouth. It is a fearful picture. It is a supernatural picture. I am more comforted by the picture created by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament. A man living here on earth. A man who loves everyone and gave up his own life for everyone ... for me. A picture created by his actions. Seeing the Son of God the way he is without the limits of humanity, without the confines of earth, probably can not be completely and accurately described using human language. The sight is beyond any words. Perhaps it is beyond words but not actions. John in a pile on the ground filled with fear feels the hand of Jesus and hears those comforting words "Don't be afraid." It is Jesus!

My Hope

Listen to 1 Peter Chapter 1 & 2
or read "A Living Hope"
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

... Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

... For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs of worship.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Brought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

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