Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 22 – Eternal Work
As we begin this morning I want you to ask yourself what are some of the most boring things you’ve had to endure? And don’t say church! Being a student and sitting through class watching the minutes slowly tick by-especially on a Friday afternoon-can be really boring. And what class are students most bored in? Don’t say it! As a former math teacher I totally disagree-math class is exciting! But math often seems to make its way onto the list of the most boring things. What about waiting in line at the post office? Anybody been bored doing that-wondering if it will ever be your turn? Or the waiting room at the doctor’s office-they should just call it the boring room! Or once they call you in-then you have to wait in the next room! Of course there’s being stuck in traffic-which is really boring. Or a delayed flight and being stuck at the airport can be boring! And we’ve all sat through super boring meetings or long presentations at work. What about the boredom of being on hold? There’s always the dilemma of whether you should put the call on speaker phone and keep doing stuff or patiently wait it out and endure the boredom until they answer so you don’t miss it. Or what about finishing off a boring movie-do you stick with it or shut it off? How about the boredom of waiting for the oven to warm up, or the pot to boil, or dinner to be ready or waiting for your phone to recharge! Many things in life are boring-but what’s the number one most boring thing? We all know it-watching paint dry! That’s like the most boring thing from which everything else is measured. It’s better than watching paint dry! I’d rather being watching paint dry than do that! And apparently plenty of people have attempted this. There’s a 10 hr video on Youtube of watching paint dry that has over 800,000 views! Anybody watched it? Or there’s a college guy who posted a video of himself watching paint dry for 10 hours that has over 300,000 views-and he says he saw things-I’m sure he did! So I thought we would settle in and watch that video this morning! Just kidding!
But the reason I bring this up is because I think there’s something deep down we think has the potential for being that boring-as boring as watching paint dry-and that’s eternity. Now obviously the length of eternity makes 10 hours of watching paint dry seem like nothing-and compared to eternity it is. But what’s the image a lot of people have of eternity? What’s the standard way society has pictured heaven over the years and described it? As an endless cloud-sitting, robe-wearing, harp-strumming, hymn-singing, never-ending church service-and you think-I don’t know if I’m ready for that! We float around forever! No one captured this better than Gary Larson-The Far Side. Isn’t that what we sort of fear? How long is this going to last? Is this all I do-sit here on a cloud and sing? We’ve all wondered that! Look at the description in Rev 7:9-10. Awesome verse-but we can quickly start to worry thinking-I don’t like robes or hymns-I’d rather be wearing a t-shirt doing something else than waving palm branches forever! Wish I was reading a magazine! Or we can feel a little guilty when we hear other believers say-I can’t wait for that day to stand and sing for all eternity. And we think-I don’t want to sing forever. Isn’t there more? It’s funny-we somehow have the wrong impression that life right now is fun and exciting with lots of things to do on planet earth-but when it’s over we go to heaven which is the land of eternal boredom because it’s all very calm and peaceful and wispy with one change of clothes and one type of music-robes and hymns! We spoke on Easter of how eternity is the land of no-mores-no more death, no more tears or crying or pain-which is incredible-but if we’re honest we may might add to that list no-more fun. I’ve think we’ve all wondered about that. But that isn’t the case at all. Robes represent how our lives have been forever cleansed and perfected in God’s presence in which the stains of sin have been removed. And the singing represents a heart that’s amazed and overwhelmed by God when we’re in His presence. We won’t be able to help ourselves but pour out our worship to Him. And yet I don’t want anyone to think that’s all we’ll do-or that heavenly worship is limited to harps and hymns and long robes. As if that’s what worship is. Heaven is not an endless church service or lots of cloud sitting or floating. Pt1:Eternity with the Lord won’t be eternal boredom. It’s completely opposite. Eternity will be full of activity! I like how Randy Alcorn describes this-Heaven, 189. That’s not what Heaven is!
So I want us to glance at one last passage-Rev 22:1-3a. What we see in God’s Kingdom is the complete reversal of what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. First of all, Adam and Eve lost out on eating from the tree of life when the they got kicked out of the garden because they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They ate from the wrong tree-the one God said not to-and because of that they were then forbidden to eat from this tree-the tree of life. But now in Revelation, in the new heavens and new earth-it’s the restoration of all things-so the tree of life has returned and people have access to it. And the reason it’s there isn’t that we’ll be healthy and eat our fruits and vegetables in heaven-our Vitamin C-but notice what it says-the healing of the nations. I don’t know about you but the healing of the nations has never sounded more needed or relevant than now! The healing of our nation is so needed where all our selfishness and strife are forever silenced, where the anger and vengeance are forever removed and replaced by the harmony and compassion of Christ. And how is that possible? Because let’s be honest-the healing of the nations sounds like a pipe dream, an impossibility in the world we live in right now. But it is possible because of the second aspect that’s reversed-no longer will there be any curse. And that refers to the curse of sin that came from Adam and Eve’s disobedience which has permeated our planet ever since bringing death and disease and sorrow. It’s interesting that we’ve never known a curse-free earth. It’s always been broken the whole time we’ve been here-and despite that we see how great this world can be. But in eternity that curse is lifted, it’s gone. The new heavens and the new earth are the way God intended the world to be-full of life and healing, not sin and decay. And do you remember the specifics of the curse that God said to Adam-Gen 3:17b-19. That doesn’t sound too great! Because of sin work entered the world! Because of our disobedience we have to wake up early, get a job, pull the weeds and put in long hours until we go home and collapse in bed exhausted. In a sense, your job is the result of sin-that’s why you have to make your morning commute! But let me further define this. The curse wasn’t when work first entered the world, the curse was when toilsome work entered the world-and that’s a huge difference! Because of his sin Adam had to experience blood, sweat and tears as he labored all day just to get food. That instead of the ground naturally producing a crop, Adam had to bend over and tug on all the thorns and thistles; he had to wipe his brow under the hot sun, he became weary and worn out just to eat. I’m sure every time Adam was exhausted from his toilsome work he thought-why did we eat that fruit! But work had already been around. God had already introduced work prior to sin-Gen 2:15. Adam had a job to do-he was a gardener. It was work-but it wasn’t toilsome, painful work. It was work as God meant it to be-invigorating, satisfying, fulfilling work. God said-Adam, there’s an amazing garden I’ve made, an amazing world out there-and I want you to take all your creativity and energy and ingenuity and turn into something incredible for me. Work was the blessing and purpose of Adam’s life-his joy and livelihood. But after he sinned it became the curse and pain of his life-and we’re still experiencing it today. Every time you get up and groan going to work, every time work is too hard and too frustrating with too many obstacles and you want to quit your job-you’re experiencing the curse. But that won’t always be the case. What happened in the Garden of Eve is reversed in God’s Kingdom.
Look back at Rev 22:3. That one sentence right there points to our entire purpose in eternity! It points us to the very reason why we exist-a glimpse of what’s to come! And it tells us beyond any question that heaven won’t be boring-because we will forever serve our King-the thing we were meant to do. We will forever work on the Lord’s behalf, in the new world that He’s created, doing the work He’s called us to do. And it won’t be toilsome or frustrating work-but thoroughly satisfying! We won’t be sitting around on a cloud forever strumming a harp, we won’t be singing hymns all day. We will be inventing, creating, growing, manufacturing, designing, implementing, composing, and constructing for Christ. All the words that sound good on a resume where we try to make our job sound better than it actually is, we’ll be doing in eternity! We won’t be filling out dull reports or endless paperwork in heaven-unless that’s your thing! It’s not long board meetings or 12 hour shifts of hard, monotonous labor. Instead all the boredom and drudgery of work is replaced by the joy and delight of using your abilities and passions to serve God. That sentence captures an infinite amount of things you’ll do for the Lord one day. That sentence describes things you can hardly imagine but will be thrilled doing in eternity! I can’t wait! This is talking about things that God has wired you for and what He’s specifically called you to do, your role in helping build His eternal Kingdom. Who knows what that is-but it won’t be dull, it will be completely active and dynamic. That’s Pt2:Eternal work for the Lord won’t be frustrating or toilsome. Our resurrected bodies won’t grow tired or sleepy. They won’t wear out or hit a wall or get stuck. No more writer’s block or being uninspired with no more good ideas. We’ll be living in the land of ideas, surrounded by inspiration all the time. We won’t work all day and feel like we have nothing to show for it-which is always so frustrating-when you work hard and get nowhere. Instead we’ll be energetic and efficient in eternity, ready to keep going with the task at hand, learning more, developing more, creating more-as we’re in the presence of the Creator Himself! Our King will be the fountainhead of ideas-and we’ll be eager to serve Him and carry them out. Can you imagine the things we’ll be doing-the books, symphonies and artwork and technology? And we’ll have all eternity to do it! You’ll have forever to keep perfecting the things God calls you to do. All that you’ve tried to do now or wanted to do or dreamed of doing-you’ll be able to do then-with no obstacles-or deadlines! I think that’s what eternity is-the land of no deadlines-Yeah, I’ll get that to you next week-or next century! What’s the response-No rush-we’ve got all eternity! But it’s work without the hindrances of pain, toil, sweet and tears. It’s all the blessings of work without any of the difficulties. I love the illustration Randy Alcorn gives between the difference of eternal work versus earthly work. He says they’re both like paddling a canoe. You’re doing something, you’re working as you paddle-but eternal work is like paddling downstream with the current, cruising along the river. And we’ve all had those days at work where we’re super productive, creative juices flowing, getting all sorts of projects done in record time. That’s a glimpse of eternal work-paddling downstream with the current. But normally, our earthly work is like paddling upstream against the current. It’s hard, it’s tough, it’s not easy. We’d rather give up then keep on going, to throw in the towel instead of working hard. And yet that’s where we’re at right now. Eternal work in on the horizon and it will be incredible-but earthly work is here-and God calls us to paddle upstream with the strength He’s given us today.
You see the whole point is that in order to serve God then, He calls us to serve Him now. This is not just a reality for eternity, it’s something we’re called to faithfully do here on earth. One day the curse will be lifted and our work will be liberated and perfectly fulfilling-but even now, under the curse, God calls us to work. He calls us to serve Him-and it’s often about serving others-1 Pet 4:7-10. Just as God will use you to serve Him in His kingdom for all eternity, so He wants to use you today with the spiritual gifts He’s given you. And I love how Peter emphasizes that word each-every believer has received spiritual gifts. So the question isn’t whether you’ve received a gift, the question is if you’ll be a good steward with those gifts. So what does that look like in your life? How is God calling you to serve Him? How has He gifted you? And don’t overthink it or wait for some grandiose purpose-O Lord, what is your will for me? How have you gifted me? As if it’s some cryptic puzzle He wants you to figure out. It’s anything but critic because Peter gives two examples that are completely ordinary that we can all do everyday-1 Pet 4:11-12. It’s speaking and serving. What can I say to encourage someone and point them to Christ? How can I reach out and help somebody who’s hurting? Because by doing that, through speaking and serving God is glorified. More often than not the ways God calls us to serve Him tend to be the mundane and not the grandiose. He wants us to be faithful in the little things before He ever calls us to the big things. What are some small ways you can bless someone that would mean so much to them? What are some simple you things you could say that would be a big encouragement? It’s faithfulness in the little things that God is after.
And that’s exactly the point that Jesus makes in His last parable. Take a look at Matt 25:14-15. And in this parable the man on the journey in Jesus. After the resurrection He ascended into Heaven where He’s preparing a place for us. So as we talk about the value and importance of work Jesus Himself is hard at work in construction. He’s not asking us to do something He isn’t already doing. But He’s promised to one day return and take us to the place He’s preparing where we’ll dwell with Him forever and serve Him eternally. But in the meantime, He’s done exactly what Peter just said-which is bless each of us with spiritual gifts. And in this parable they’re described as talents. You might think about what you’re talented at and how you can use that to serve God-maybe you’re a talented singer or talented at basketball or talented in the kitchen. In this parable a talent was a monetary amount equal to about 20 years worth of wages. So the first guy gets 5 talents, the 2nd guy 2 and the third guy 1. And what’s interesting isn’t the difference in amounts-one guy got more than the others how unfair-it’s the investment of the amounts-that’s what the Master’s after-Matt 25:16-18. And despite his 1 talent being safe-this wasn’t a wise strategy. Because what eventually happens? The thing we often forget-v. 19. That day’s coming for each of us. And the Lord’s concern isn’t how much you’ve been given, but what you did with the amount you were given-v. 20-21. And there’s the principle-faithful over little, now he’s given much. And it’s the same thing with the next guy-v. 22-23. Faithful over little, now given much.
And we see this truth woven throughout life. As we’re faithful in the small responsibilities our parents or boss or supervisor gives us, then we have opportunity to be faithful in the bigger responsibilities they give us. Maybe you’re promoted at work, or you’re chosen to lead a bigger group or head up a bigger division in the office or oversee a larger customer or manage a bigger budget-all because you were faithful in the small things. Much more is the result when you do a good job with the little. But in the case of this parable where does the much more occur? Enter into the joy of your master. Jesus is talking about eternity. He’s talking about the kingdom of heaven He’s preparing. And that’s what I find so exciting about this parable. Yes-the principle is true for life now. Be faithful in serving a few people, or teaching a small group, or leading a little ministry and chances are the Lord will call you to something bigger. But ultimately this is referring to eternity, it’s referring to what we’ll be doing in the Lord’s presence which is that perfect place of joy-and it’s evaluated by your faithfulness to Him now. So Pt3:Earthly work offered to the Lord won’t be for nothing. God will not overlook what you do now. It’s not forgotten or ignored. Instead He’s intensely interested in how you’re investing in His kingdom now because it’s of vital importance in preparing you for eternity. Our faithfulness now is a gauge for our faithfulness then. Our earthly work now is the training ground for our eternal work then. Now don’t misunderstand-the work we do for God doesn’t earn our salvation in any way-that’s a free gift we receive by faith. But as we live out that salvation and follow Him we’re called to be like these guys-investing the little we’ve been given in order to receive much. Earth is the little, eternity is the much! And isn’t it funny how we often reverse that? We think that this is the much. That the here and now is all-important and all-consuming. We put all our eggs into the basket of this life thinking we’ve got to have it all now. We put all our efforts into making this life as perfect-perfect house, car, family-and all the while the Lord is calling us to invest in the infinite joy of what’s to come. He’s saying that what we really want is the much that’s up ahead-so take your little now and use it to serve others. Use it to bless others. Use it to encourage and minister to others-because for all who are good and faithful servants here-there’s a reality coming up where serving is magnified a thousandfold-Rev 22:3-4a. When Jesus tells this parable in Matthew, He’s thinking about this reality communicated in Revelation. I feel like Jesus is telling His listeners-You guys have no idea what’s in store for the kingdom of heaven. You have no idea the incredible things you’ll be up to, the eternal work you’ll be doing. How you’re serving right now is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, it’s the internship-because the real job, the real work is on the horizon. So invest yourself for the kingdom now! I love how Jesus’ principle is opposite from the world’s principle. What does the world say? Work hard, do your job and then relax, retire, sit back and put your feet up. Jesus is saying work hard, do your job-and guess what-the reward is more work! But it’s not toilsome or frustrating work as we’ve said, it’s amazing and satisfying-the very thing you were meant to do. His servants will serve Him!
So back to our question-is heaven boring? Is it one long, never-ending church service where everyone has the same looking robe singing the same hymns-and we wish we brought a magazine? Not at all! Heaven is entering into the joy of our Master. It’s that place of endless activity and fascination; that place of infinite creativity and wonder. What’s boring is missing it! What’s boring is playing it safe right now-somehow thinking that all the fun to be had is here. Because what happens to the guy who doesn’t invest himself and serve now-what does he miss? Matt 25:25. Nothing lost-but nothing gained. He thinks-Don’t take risks, don’t step out in faith, don’t do anything that might take courage-I’ll do what’s easy and comfortable-which in this case is nothing. Here, Lord, I buried the talent you gave me-I didn’t do a thing with my life to serve you. And how tempted are we to try the same approach? How tempted are we to play it safe, take the easy road and not let our faith cost us something. But by doing that-it cost this guy everything in the end-Matt 25:26-30. What a scary reality! He loses it all-not only his talent but misses the opportunity for eternal joy as he ends up with eternal misery! Pt4:Ignoring the Lord’s work for us costs us everything. Burying his talent and not serving the Lord revealed the deeper problem in his life which was not knowing the Lord in the first place. We’ve spoken about the joy of eternity, the satisfaction of eternal work, but it all begins with a relationship with the Eternal One-and that’s Jesus-and accepting His work on our behalf. Heaven, 106. It was a terrible price-but one He eagerly paid! Have you by faith accepted His work on your behalf?
Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 22 – Eternal Work