Future Hope, Traditional

Future Hope, Traditional

October 20, 2019 • Rob Fuquay

Episode 10: Hope

Revelation 21:1-6

Open with Recap Video “Previously on Bingeworthy”

We come to the last day in our series. Along with Matt’s recap, let’s rehearse all we have talked about. We started with creation and pointed out that there are 2 creation stories. They describe a God of order and relationship. Then we looked at the patriarchs. What were their names? The God of…Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And Jacob had how many sons? 12. And Jacob was renamed…Israel. Right, before Israel was a nation, Israel was a person. Then they were enslaved in Egypt how many years? 400. When they were released they wandered in the wilderness for how long? 40 years. That was where they received the Law and instructions on worship. Then came the conquest under what leader? Joshua. And that started the 200 year period of the…Judges. Then came the united monarchy. Why were the first three kings? Saul, David, Solomon. Then the divided kingdom. What was the name of the northern tribes? Israel. And southern tribes? Judah. Then they were exiled in what country? Babylon. Then came the restoration. Who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem? Nehemiah.

Then the New Testament. Gospel means? Good news. Then the history of the church. Now all of this reveals a certain cycle. The biblical cycle goes like this: Creation—Fall—Restoration. God creates and recreates. Then there is some kind of fall. Sin continues to break down God’s intention for creation. But God comes to the rescue and redeems and restores, which leads back to creation and the cycle continues. How have you experienced that cycle in your life. God gives, creates, but sin breaks up, then God restores.


This morning we come to the end of biblical history which goes through the end of the first century. So let’s consider what was happening in the world at that time. Paul’s travels took place between 48AD and roughly 64AD during which he covered more than 10,000 miles. The Bible doesn’t say when or where Paul died but tradition says he was executed in Rome. Which makes sense because that would have been the time Emperor Nero created a sense of public panic to make himself look like the protector or the nation. He set fire to Rome and blamed it on Christians in 64AD. He also murdered his own mother and wife and ruled by a reign of terror. Just think of Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. Nero would light Roma at night by burning Christians on tar soaked crosses.

In 66AD Jews in Judea revolted against Rome, a rebellion that was eventually put down by the Romans at Masada and the temple again is leveled. Then in 81 Domitian becomes emperor and he leads a campaign of terror event more violent than Nero. He cut down anyone who was a threat to his power. Like Nero he tortured Christians because they didn’t acknowledge him as a god. In fact, this is a reason many historians felt there had to be some truth in the resurrection of Jesus, because it doesn’t make sense that believers would have died for a hoax.

It was during this time that the disciple of Jesus named John was arrested and sent to a remote Greek isle called Patmos. While there he had a vision and wrote it down. That vision became the last book of the Bible known as the Revelation of John. Before looking at this letter let’s consider now what was happening theologically in the church. Several words help us:

   Parousia: This is the word means the second coming of Jesus, the belief that Jesus would return to complete his ministry. This is often called the Day of the Lord. First generation Christians thought this would happen in their lifetime. There was an urgency in the New Testament to live ready for Christ’s return, which is why several of Paul’s letters like First Thessalonians ask about people who died before Christ’s return.

   Eschatology: ology means the “study of” and eschaton means ‘end times,” so eschatology means the study of the end times. What will happen at the end of time? What will happen with creation? Jesus’ talked about this, only he said you can’t know the day or time when this will happen. His point was to live each day ready for his return. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl points out that the Latin word finis means both end and goal. That’s what eschatology is about and what the biblical writers emphasized. The end of history is to talk about God’s goal for creation taking place.

   Apocalypse: This describes a style of literature in the Bible that often deals with issues of eschatology and the Parousia. It comes from two words. Apo a prefix meaning un, and calypse, like calypso, means “to cover.” So apocalypse means to uncover, but the paradox of apocalyptic literature is that it also purposely hides its message in symbolism. The symbolism is like writing in code. Not just anyone would understand who you are talking about. This is what makes Revelation so mysterious, the amount of symbolism it uses. For instance:

Bablyon: Rome

Beast with 10 horns: Generals of Alexander the Great

The Lamb: Jesus

Numbers 1: God

4: four corners of world

6: human number, incomplete, evil

7: perfection

The purpose of Revelation is to show that in the times in which believers lived, times full of pain and suffering and reasons to give up hope, that one day God will win. In the future a bright day awaits. Our faith is not in vain. So the point of Revelation is to show that Hope is actively living toward a future that turns out well.

So with that, let’s hear our reading today that describes the ultimate image of hope in the book…


1. Notice several things about this passage. First note the “No mores:” that are mentioned. There will be No More Sea. Remember how the Bible began? “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” We talked about one belief of creation is that God created out of chaos, material that had no order to it. This is what water represented? The forces of chaos where evil and darkness reigned. Heaven will be a place without these things.

   Then there will be No More tears. Sorrow and grief will be gone. There will be No More Death. You won’t have to say good bye any more. And No more pain. No more threats to life.

2. Next notice it says, “God’s home is with people” Remember the design of the tabernacle in the wilderness? It was right in the middle of the camp. It symbolized that God dwells in the midst of God’s people. Heaven will be a place without a temple. God will be the temple, because he will be experienced fully.

3. Then, perhaps one of the most important theological affirmations of the Bible, John repeats what the God said through the prophets of the Old Testament: “I make all things new!” Notice it doesn’t say, “I make new things!” God doesn’t start over. God doesn’t say, “I’m done with this creation and these people. Heaven means I throw the rest away. I know many Christians who believe the world just goes to garbage eventually because heaven is a separate place, so what we do with this creation doesn’t matter. No, God says I will make it new, so when we help to keep creation new we participate in God’s goals for this world.

4. Then finally, note one last image, the “Tree of Life” (22:2) This comes from the opening of chapter 22, the last in the Bible, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life… When was the last time we heard about the Tree of Life? In the Garden of Eden in Genesis. That’s where the problem all started. Adam and Eve ate of the tree which God told them not to do. And here it is again! In other words we end up where we started in the Bible, back in a garden, back in a place where life is the way God meant for it to be. All of the mistakes, all of the regrets, all the things we did wrong, our mistakes, our failures, through Jesus Christ, are erased. We can stand before God without shame, and we are restored with each other. Yes there will be judgment. Revelation has lots of judgment in it, but that’s because we have to want to be in this place. We still have to choose it, and in choosing it, we can live now in hope that one day, God will win.

And this recognizes a simple truth: What we believe about the future determines how we live now. If we believe that this world will just get worse, and God’s ways will not prevail, that will shape our choices and attitude in this life. But if we believe that God will prevail over all the forces that defeat us and discourage us now, then we live with hope. But just what does that mean? What does it look like to live with hope?


Let’s conclude considering a things the Bible says to us about living with hope.

1. Hope is often Apocalyptic. That means hope has to be uncovered. We have to seek hope. We have to look for it in order to find it. If all we do is listen to the news, focus on the tragic, we will live defeated. But when we look for the ways God is at work, we will find reasons to hope.

Let me ask you, have you complained about anything this week? What has it been? Let me share with you some of mine, just in the last few days. I have complained about the traffic lights in Indianapolis and why they can’t be on timers so you don’t have to wait as much at intersections. I have complained about hospitals and why they can’t get in their computers quicker the information about which rooms patients are in so I don’t have to walk all over the place searching (which is actually a worthy complaint in my opinion!) I have complained about the NFL Network being taken away from AT&T Uverse.

Now what happens if I stay there? I won’t limit my complaining to the city of Indianapolis, hospitals or AT&T, I will find new things and people to complain about, because criticism has to grow to survive. And the best way to cut off oxygen to complaining is look for ways to be of hope. If we have gotten nothing else out of this whole Bible series, I would hope(!) that come away with an understanding that this is why God put us here—to be people who give hope. God brings hope to the world through people. Abraham, the children of Jacob, the people of Israel, Jesus, his followers, you and me. But we have to look for it. We have to uncover ways to be of hope and how God might use us. Hope is something you look for.

2. Hope Makes Me an Agent of Blessing

When we believe that this life is just preliminary, and there is more after this life, we don’t have to hold onto to everything so tight. We live more discriminately. We distinguish between those things that last beyond this world and those that don’t. We find that many of the things in this life aren’t worth as much fuss. We see them differently. We see the blessings we have now as an opportunity to give hope. We start to find that the true meaning of our blessings is not squeezing them as hard as we can to see what they will do for us but using them to give hope to others. That’s when blessings come alive. Blessings used for our own benefit have a temporary power to bring enjoyment. But blessings that give hope last much longer.

There is a curious phrase in 2 Peter. Read it with me in your outline: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:12 (NIV) The Day of the God is speaking about the Parousia, the second coming of Jesus, the day when God’s goal for creation is met. But notice, that Peter says we can speed its coming. When we see the gifts we have as opportunities to give hope we speed the coming of the Day of the Lord.

The night before he was assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King went to Memphis to address the garbage workers strike. He said, “It’s all right to talk about long robes over yonder, in all of its symbolism, but ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis.”

In his book, Journey to the Center of the Faith, James Harnish talks about the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It faces the famous beaches and tourist hotels Rio is famous for, but Harnish points out that behind the statue, out of sight of the glitzy beaches is one of the poorest slums in the world. Roughly 250,000 people packed in tiny hillside rooms called favelas. But in the middle of this slum the Methodist Church of Brazil has a place called the Hope Factory. They provide food, medical care, education, and other ministries to the people in the slum.

One day a person looked at the statue of Jesus facing away from the slums and this felt to him like Jesus had turned his back on them. Anyone here ever felt that way when you were in a difficult place? But another worker said this man, “Jesus hasn’t turned his back on us. He’s leading us out!” (p.129)

Hope is found when God’s people are willing to meet others in their suffering and help Jesus lead them out. That’s where we find that life is worth living. It’s found not in what we get but what we give up. And in giving ourselves up, we make the best discovery of all…

3. Hope Gives Me Power to Keep Living Fully

Next week marks the anniversary of the Reformation led by Martin Luther. He was asked one time, “if you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow, what would you do?” The student was probably wondering if his learned mentor would begin an all-night prayer vigil begging for forgiveness, and repenting of every sin he could think of.” Maybe somewhat like the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming, look busy.” But instead Luther made this famous reply, “If I knew Jesus was returning tomorrow, I’d plant an apple tree today!” You see that’s what Luther had planned to do that day. He had an apple tree to plant. Something that would provide beauty and food. What he was saying was that today is all we have. Today is what we are given. If we have hope that the future belongs to God and one day God’s plan for creation will win out, we should keep living as fully as possible.

I know it’s not easy to do some times. These are challenging times. They are challenging for the church. This past week the Pew Research Center came out with its report showing another significant decrease in people who affiliate with the church. It says young people especially don’t want to have anything to do with the church. Going by this data it says the future of the church is not real hopeful. But don’t believe it. People haven’t given up on church. They just haven’t experienced enough of the church Jesus had in mind…

Closing story about waitress this week….