Sunday, April 01, 2007

Understanding the Revelation

Back when I was in a band a long long time ago, we had a problem with song endings. All our music was original, as we thought it too ordinary to do covers of other peoples music, so every song in our three hour shows were written by Ralph, and then arranged by all of us together. We’d put the pieces together - add parts, take out parts, change the instruments that played the parts and figured out who best could sing the lead and who best could do the harmonies. Thankfully the other guys had the better sense to keep me away from the microphones!

Many of our songs had unusual endings. One more so than others. It was one we didn’t know how to end. It was called “The Last Battle” after C.S. Lewis’s last episode in the Chronicles of Narnia series. The book and the song were about the characters final days on this earth and the last battle that raged between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

How do you end the song? was the question - it was a harsh driving rock song with hard lead guitar all through it, divergent bass and rhythm lines and not too easy to play. It was also going to be a “last song” of the night. (we weren’t a dance band if this is any clue) The ending had to be coherent to the story, yet bring the message into the reality of our every day.

One day while at practice, I suggested we tack on a little short scripture song that Ralph had adapted called “I Saw the City“. It was a really nice little melody and it was coherent to the story… it just wasn’t the same style as the rest of the song going from hard rock to almost country pop. At first there was reluctance by the other guys - it didn’t seem to fit, then with time and trying a few different things… we got it to work. It came from John’s Revelation chapter 21

I saw the city in a vision
Coming down from God in heaven to us
Holy City New Jerusalem
And God will dwell with us forever

I heard a loud shout from the throne say
That the home of God was now among men
And He will live with them forever
And He will join with them forever

And they will be His people
And God will be among them
And He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

I saw the City in a vision… (repeat to fade out)

For many years now, I have always thought that line about the tears had to do with things like who I will see once there - the family who has gone on before that I’ve missed or the friends who are in Christ whose lives were cut short for whatever reason or even the people I love that I won’t see there due to their own choices. These things would certainly cause tears of joy for some - but also tears of great personal pain. Still it says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Certainly this is part of the understanding of this passage. The longer I am a Christian, the more aware I am of how much more there is to this little part of the Revelation. The longer I am a Christian, the more I recognize not only that I fall far short of every estimation of what it means to be a Christian - but that I see so many aspects of who I am personally that miss the mark.

In years past, I could go through life thinking that “everybody else doesn’t even think about these minor things - why should I bother?” The older I get, the more I understand the gravity of who I am and what I am not and what most might consider minor, I now consider major. It’s humbling. In fact, if you think about it, by then I believe we will know the true gravity of who we are and what price Christ paid for our sin. We can talk about it all day - we can claim we understand - but until then we won’t know it and I suspect the weight of the glory that God has given us won’t become real to us until we are there. And then - then - our eyes and heart will burst.

To have a Savior who understands us, loves us and has called us regardless of who we think we are, who has stood in our place for punishment and then will meet us and wipe away those tears for the final time and accept us. I am just really overwhelmed.

Not only overwhelmed by His mercy - but overwhelmed by the people who don’t have any desire to experience the joy of all that weight lifted from us.

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new " And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.