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Here Comes the Groom

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Sunday, May 15, 2005 - 11:00am
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We're entering the wedding season at Valley View with a number of couples getting ready to tie the knot.  And that's always an exciting time.  But it takes a lot of work and preparation to get ready for a wedding and usually most of the work is done by the bride.  Have you ever noticed that?  I have over the years.  The bride is often frantic and the groom just kind of shows up, which explains why there are dozens of bride's magazines out there like Modern Bride, Today's Bride, Elegant Bride, Southern Bride, Bliss for Bride's, Martha Stewart's Weddings and on and on the list goes.

But did you ever notice that there's not one wedding magazine written for grooms.  No Bliss for Groom's or Modern Groom's or Elegant Grooms, just brides.  What's up with that?  I don't know.  Maybe there's this undiscovered market niche out there that somebody from Valley View could cash in on!

But my guess is that it's because the bride does all the work.  According to Modern Bride magazine, the average bride spends 150 hours planning her wedding.  And the average groom spends 150 hours shaking his head going, "Yeah, that sounds good.  That's fine with me."

Brides take time to get themselves ready for a wedding.  They take lots of time and I think it's fascinating that the Bible calls the church, the bride of Christ.  We are the bride of Christ and it's taken two thousand years for the church to get ready for the royal wedding that will take place one day when the groom, Jesus Christ, shows up.

This morning we continue are series called Apocalypse: The Revelation of Jesus Christ with a teaching I've called "Here Comes the Groom."  If you have a Bible turn to Revelation 19.

As I mentioned last time, when we witnessed the implosion of Babylon the Great in Revelation 18, we've now turned a corner in the apocalypse.  The seven-year period known as the Tribulation is coming to an end and the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of his earthly kingdom are about to begin.

Reading through the book of Revelation is kind of like stretching a rubber band.  You stretch it and stretch it and stretch it until finally it snaps.  And that's the feeling you get as you read through the book.  With each chapter the tension builds more and more and you wonder how much more can this old world take before it snaps. Revelation is one of the most dramatic books ever written, by the most dramatic author, and before we look at Revelation 19, let's just take a quick moment to review.

Remember, after the individual letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1 to 3, the book contains some incredible worship experiences in Revelation 4 and 5.  And then the tension starts to build.  In Revelation 6, the seven seals are opened and the four horses of the apocalypse are unleashed on the earth.  In Revelation 7, the 144,000 Jewish Witnesses are sealed and sent out by God to take the gospel to the whole world.  Then in Revelation 8, the seven trumpets start to sound and more tragedy comes upon the earth.  But in Revelation 11, two more witnesses are sent by God to offer people hope and grace.  Then you have these great stories about the rise of the Beast and the False Prophet and the number 666.  Then the bowls of God's wrath are poured out in Revelation 16 and the armies of the world gather for battle at a place called Armageddon.  Then this anti-God system called Babylon the Great gets imploded and the tension keeps building right up to Revelation 19.

But in Revelation 19, we see that God has a whole different ending in mind than we could ever have imagined.  And there's a single word in Revelation 19 that's repeated again and again and again.  It's a word that releases the tension, that says all praise and glory and honor belongs to God Almighty.  The word is "Hallelujah!"

Revelation 19 starts with the hallelujah chorus.  And it comes as such a huge relief.  First a great crowd sings hallelujah, then the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sing hallelujah, and then a voice from the throne sings hallelujah and finally here comes the groom and the wedding supper of the Lamb takes place.

Look at Revelation 19:1-8, After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." 3And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." 4The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!" 5Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!" 6Then 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.7Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

In Revelation 19 and 20, we're going to read about four great events.  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.

So let's look at these four great events, two this week and two next week, starting with the wedding supper of the Lamb.  Ephesians 5 helps us understand what God is talking about here.  In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read, Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

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.  If you're a believer in Jesus Christ you'll be at the wedding, not just as a guest, you'll be the bride.  As believers, we're all part of those that God is getting ready for this great event.

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.

The bride is prepared.  The bride is honored.  Verse 8 says, Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.  And what does the fine linen stand for?  Well, we don't have to guess.  The fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.

Most of the weddings that I attend usually find me standing right next to the groom at the end of the aisle when the music changes and everyone stands and turns around to look at the bride standing in the door in her beautiful wedding gown.  It's like the whole world stops for a minute for that one person.  And for that moment she is the most important person in the world and everyone is there to honor her.

There's going to be a moment when all creation will stop, all of heaven and earth, and everyone will stand, all the angels and the Son of God himself to honor what God has done in and through his church, to honor the righteous acts of the saints.  We can't do the righteous acts on our own.  We're not talking about self-glorification here.  These acts have been done because of what Jesus has done for us.

The righteous acts are the dress that the bride wears.  Every time you do something to obey God, however big or small, the bride gets a little more beautiful, another piece of lace or a jewel is added to the dress.  Every time.  And at the end of time, all of those choices that we make every day, every week, every month, every year, combine together to weave this beautiful dress the bride wears that will bring glory to God for all eternity.

Never think that the choices you make to love and serve Jesus go unnoticed.  It might look like that in this world, but not in eternity.  The moment the doors of heaven swing open and the bride is unveiled, the whole world will see what God has done through his people.  Remember that.  Every time you make the choice to obey God, the bride of Christ gets a little more beautiful.

Are you going to be at the wedding?  Look at verse 9, 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."  10At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Sometimes we get invited to weddings we really don't want to attend.  But this is a wedding that you don't want to miss!  And you'll be there if you've put your faith in Jesus Christ.

The end of verse ten is interesting.  It says,The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  What does that mean?  That means that at the heart of all biblical prophecy is Jesus.  All prophecy is meant to glorify and exalt Jesus.  Which brings us right to the next great event in Revelation 19, the second coming of Jesus Christ.  This is not only the high point of the book of Revelation, but the high point of all human history!

The second coming of Jesus Christ is not the same as the rapture of the church.  At the rapture Jesus does not come back to earth, instead 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us that believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  The word rapture means "caught up."  The rapture is the next event on God's prophetic calendar.  It could happen anytime and I believe it will happen before the Tribulation.  The second coming, on the other hand, is the event that brings Jesus Christ back to this earth at the conclusion of the Tribulation period.  The whole world will see Jesus at his second coming not just a few shepherds that saw him at his first coming.

Look at verses 11-16, I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Look at the images that John uses to describe the return of Jesus.  They're strong, military images of triumph and victory.  In John's day, a white horse was a very familiar picture.  Whenever a Roman general scored a significant triumph in battle he'd ride through the streets of Rome on a white horse, starting at the Roman forum and going up to the Temple of Jupiter.  The route was always the same and so was the procession.  First would come the general mounted on his white horse followed next by his troops.  Then would come wagonloads filled the spoils of war and finally the captives of the opposing army, the POW's who would be executed or sold into slavery.  But the white horse was the symbol of victory.  So here we see Jesus riding into victory on a white horse.

The prophet Zechariah adds some more details speaking of this event in Zechariah 14:3-4, Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.

The landing pad for Christ's second coming is no secret.  He will touch down on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem, causing the mountain to split in two.  He will return to the same place from which he ascended.

Verse 11 says, His name is Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns.  Why many crowns?  Because crowns are a universal symbol of leadership and authority and Jesus has authority over everything.  So he doesn't just wear one crown, he wears all the crowns.  He is Lord of all.

Verse 12 says, He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  Even in heaven, even at the end of time, there will be more to Jesus than we can understand.  That's how great he is.

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God, verse 13 says.  That's a picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  And throughout eternity we'll be reminded that it took the blood of Christ to make us clean and fit for heaven.  He is the Word of God.  John uses that same expression for Jesus in chapter one of his gospel.  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Jesus is the Word.  He communicates who God is to us.

He will rule them with an iron scepter.  Verse 15 is a quote from Psalm 2:9.  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty is a reference to Isaiah 63.  There is no doubt that this King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the Messiah of Israel spoken of throughout all of Scripture and his return as king has finally come.

But before he mounts his throne he has some business to take care of first.  Armageddon is waiting.  Look at verses 17-21, And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great." 19Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army.20But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.21The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

After this graphic description of the second coming of Christ, there's another great battle that takes place, the battle of Armageddon.  So we move from a wedding to a war, from a bride to a battlefield.  But it's not much of a battle for Jesus.  Even though the beast is there and the false prophet is there and all the great kings and generals of the earth are there, it's over in a heartbeat.  With a word that comes like a sword out of the mouth of Jesus, the battle is won and the birds are invited to gorge themselves.  Believers are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb while the birds are invited to the great supper of God, devouring the flesh of God's enemies.

And now the table is set for the coming of the kingdom of God to this earth and the thousand-year reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Are you going to be at the wedding supper of the Lamb?  I hope so.  That's a wedding you definitely don't want to miss.  And you'll be there if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior.  You'll be the bride that everyone can't wait to see.  Let's make Jesus a beautiful bride by every little act of obedience along the way. 

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