The images in today's post are tough to see.* [See Note] Viewing them is tough because they are too true to our world right now. They are bitter reminders of the religious hatred, political instability, and the personal viciousness that lie in the hearts of fallen humanity. We live in the world with "the hurt" and it is a force we cannot manage.
Our world is in bondage to decay, and it cries out for liberation (Romans 8:18-25). In the worst of times, the problems of our world's brokenness overwhelm us. They not only overwhelm us individually, but they can overwhelm us as nations and as a world-wide community. Our impotence in dealing with this current hurt is a reminder that we can be overwhelmed at every human level with "the hurt" at almost any time!
We don't need theology to tell us something's broken with our world. We see the results of this brokenness all around us. The picture of tiny Aidan, an innocent child, caught up in the rip tides of politics, economics, religion, hatred, ethnicity, and race, reminds us powerfully of the brokenness of our world. His lifeless body pushes us to see "the hurt" in human terms
We know that "the hurt" is real. I know it personally. I was not allowed the immunity of childhood to protect me from "the hurt." Daddy Gordon, my grandfather on my mother's side, died without warning when I was 5. We had been fishing in the Gulf of Mexico the day before. The next night he was gone. I had to face "the hurt" with no tools through the emotional mist of a kid's confusion.
Gary, a friend with whom I had tried to share Jesus in ninth grade, was killed riding on a motorcycle going to buy drugs. The guy driving the motorcycle was supposed to be a Christian. I had to face "the hurt" again when I was 15, still in the angst of being a teenager.
My father, Daddy Al, died when I was 25 after a lengthy illness. Once again, now in the earliest stages of marriage and fatherhood, I had to face "the hurt." Only this time, I was more fully aware of the finality and all that is lost to "the hurt" even when that loss is framed by faith.
The first three decades of my life were marked by life-shattering losses to "the hurt." However, compared to what many in our world face, I lived a blessed life!
The brokenness of our world — dealing with the overwhelming nature of "the hurt" — is our inescapable reality as mere mortals. We must have an answer for life's biggest inescapable, "the hurt," or all of our other answers pale in significance. When the surging waves of our mortality overwhelm us, we have to have an answer for "the hurt" or the surging seas will swallow us in death and the winds of hell will rip apart all that we hold dear.
But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
I love that phrase from the apostle Paul (Romans 7:25). Only now it is my exclamation of anticipated joy as I look at our passage today from Jesus' Revelation to John (Revelation 22:1). Notice what is said at the end of the first verse: ...and there was no longer any sea!
How is that good news?
Why is this reason to rejoice? I love the sea. There is some primal connection with me to waters of our creation. Why is this good?
In the book of Revelation and much of the Bible, the sea is the source of the monsters of hell (Revelation 13:1). In the Old Testament, the sea was symbolic of the monsters of chaos we cannot control: our primal fear of weather, oceans, fire, winds, and all the disasters of our fallen world (Isaiah 27:1-5). The time is coming when all the chaos and monsters from hell and all that sea symbolize are gone!
But what does that mean for you and me?
Jesus' promise to us through John means that "the hurt" will be ended! John describes it in these ways. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 22:1). We will have connection with the best of God's original creative intention, but we will now be able to enjoy it in perfection, forever. The apostle Paul illustrated this contrast by telling us that in this life we see the seed of God's life for us, but then we will enjoy it in full bloom (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
Jesus' promise to us through John means that God's people will become the Son's bride—the Church in all its imperfections, now perfected and beautified in the presence of her Savior (Revelation 22:2). All that is good and joyous and eternal about heaven's hope will become present with God's people as they participate in the greatest wedding celebration of all time.
Jesus' promise to us through John means that there will be no longer any separation between us and the Father (Revelation 21:3). The Father will be present with us face to face. We will be like and will be able to see him as he is (1 John 3:1-3).
Jesus' promise to us through John means God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. One of God's first acts is to acknowledge our pain and then remove it forever (Revelation 21:4):
- Death is gone — so no mourning
- Pain is gone — so no more crying and hurting.
- Evil is gone. So what we can't control, the impact of evil people and a broken world — Gone.
This is what being "saved at sea" ultimately means! All of our other messages about being "Saved at Sea" are anticipatory to this one, great, and final deliverance when there is no longer any sea!
Now, all victories at sea are temporary. They are real, but they are only temporary. On this promised day, we won't just be saved at sea, but Jesus will permanently save us from the sea and all it symbolizes. The sea will be no more. Nothing that separates us from God and his goodness will be allowed to exist in his presence. We will be perfected, a beautiful bride for the King of Glory. And the world as we know it, both spiritual and physical, will be ours to enjoy. Only from this moment on, it will be re-created unspoiled, untainted, uncorrupted, and undefiled for us to share in the presence of God forever.
The only adequate words left for us are those at the close of John's Revelation of Jesus Christ:
Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy."
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
"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. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Yes, come Lord Jesus and bring an end to "the hurt"!
* Special Note:
The images in today's post come from the agony and suffering of Syrian refugees trying to escape civil war, culture tumult, and the assault of ISIS. The final image is part of a collection of images in 1920 x 1080 format that can be seen here: I Make All Things New! and can be downloaded for personal use, for teaching, and also for worship and preaching.