The sermon podcast of Trinity Evangel Church
June 13, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 15:10 in the audio file.
Series: Centers and Circumferences #62
Have you ever wondered what in the world God wants you to do? Have you questioned what He made you to do, or what He wants with you? These are great things to think about, ground-floor, gut-level existence things. And it turns out the answers are in the Bible, on the very first page and onto the very last.
In the first chapter of Scripture God spoke the universe into being and, according to the details in chapter two, into that cosmos He formed man from the dust of the earth and planted man in a garden for him to work. Through that garden flowed a river, and in that garden was a tree called the “tree of life.” Genesis 1-2 are the only two chapters in God’s Word without sin tainting the story. In chapter three Adam fell, he and Eve and the serpent were judged and the ground was cursed. Adam and Eve lost “paradise,” the Greek word for Eden, and were prohibited from eating the fruit of the tree of life.
In the last chapter of Scripture God gives John a final angelic tour that finishes what began in chapter 21. Sin has been dealt with, either through the death and resurrection of the Lamb or in the lake of fire. Now sin is gone, and Paradise is back and better than Eden. The City-Bride, the New Jerusalem, has “tree(s) of life” lining the main street. The curse is lifted. Eden isn’t just regained, Eden has been reformed. She is new and improved. And in this Garden-City men will reign forever. Let us not grow weary of conquering, for in due season we will rule if we do not give up (compare Galatians 6:9).
Again, this is the last vision of Revelation, the last vision in the prophetic Word, the furthest vision of what eternal life will be like. It is inspired and inspiring, and, interestingly enough, in key ways it is more like the life we already seek to live than it’s not.
There are three parts to the vision.
Inexhaustible Provision (verses 1-2)
The first chapter of God’s Word is about His good and gracious gifts (He kept creating good things and then presented them to His image-bearers), and the final chapter of God’s Word shows that His lavish and gracious provision is still inexhaustible.
> 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; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–2)
The two main features are a river and a tree, both concerning life. The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and flows down the main street in the city. It is bright, or better, clear as crystal, so pure and unpolluted. It isn’t bottled at the source, but it runs bountifully. That it comes from the throne means that its source is the Almighty Himself. Imagine an unending stream with no filth that only refreshes (quite a contrast to our figuratively unending social media streams).
There was a river flowing out of Eden to water the garden that divided four other rivers (Genesis 2:20), but this river is different. A similar picture in Ezekiel 47:12, with trees “on the banks, on both sides of the river,” always bearing fruit for food and with healing power in their leaves.
> And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12)
The river does have an analogy in the Holy Spirit,
Lawful to Heal
June 6 2021
Or, A Kuyperian Hot Take on Western Medicine
Series: Centers and Circumferences #17
This is a very important message and, if the Lord does not return soon, containing much possible application for when I’m dead. I pray that many who hear it would sense a calling to the many ministry opportunities that the medical field allows, and that all who hear it would be thankful for God’s good gifts to us in Western medicine.
What’s to come in this message is some testimony, some principles, and some prescriptions.
This is personal.
I’ve torn ligaments in my knee, and another time had an avulsion fracture of the tibial tuberosity (the bump some people get below their kneecap) where the tendon ripped off and the bone broke, which is an extreme case of Osgood–Schlatter disease. I’ve had my tonsils out twice, sort of, once to cut out the tonsils and then again to get the blood clot that was so big in my throat that it was blocking my breathing. I’ve fractured vertebrae, had bone chipped from my hip to fuse two vertebrae (L2-3) together that are held in place with four large screws and two rods that connect the sets of screws. Because I have metal in my back, I had to have a Myelogram CT scan, which included a shot of contrast die into my spinal cord, but the needle hole didn’t clot, leaking spinal fluid and making it so that my brain was resting on my skull, that required a blood patch about seven excruciating days later, and in between I was taking 8, 800mg tablets of ibuprofen a day, or, the equivalent of 32 Advil. I’ve had the top third of my stomach wrapped around my lower esophageal sphincter because of crazy acid reflux (Nissen fundoplication). I’ve had neck surgery to drill a hole (between C6-7) for a crushed nerve that caused permanent damage to one of the nerves running down into my right hand. I’ve broken my ring finger twice (ask Jonathan). I’ve had another back surgery to take out a piece of disk that was broken and pushing into my spine. I had a golf ball-ish sized cyst cut out of my chest in the doctor’s office, that turned out to be a rare kind of cancer, which required an actual surgery to remove larger margins of tissue, which resulted in fluid accumulation in my left pec, which required my doctor’s use of a large needle to suck the fluid out approximately half a dozen times. I lost half of my blood from an internal bleed, spending parts of five days in the hospital, and taking at least six months to recover from the anemia, for a bleed they never determined the cause of, and two pill cams died trying to take pictures of my digestive track. I’ve been in the emergency room with Costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage near the breastbone that mimics a heart attack), twice with kidney stones, multiple times for spinal pain, and as recently as last Christmas day with chest pain. I have Spondylolisthesis (displacement rather than alignment of vertebra) at L4-5, and Gastroparesis (where things get stuck in my stomach too long). Ironically my only known allergy is to penicillin. And I am probably even a COVID survivor.
I can’t remember the last day I wasn’t in some sort of pain, and I have it way better than Mo.
And both of us would be dead were it not for Western medicine.
It wasn’t too long into our marriage when I realized that maybe I should have been a pharmacist, or at least studied that first. There are so many health, body, medical problems that we’ve had to deal with, let alone conversations with family and church family and friends with hurts, diagnosed and undiagnosed, that I wish I had knew a lot more about it. I’d have to be a pharmacist, though, not a doctor or nurse, because I get sick looking (and smelling) blood.
Many of you also have many bodily ailments, and so the subject of
June 6 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 19:45 in the audio file.
Or, All Glory All the Time
Series: Just Conquer #61
This coming Thursday is the anniversary of Mo and I’s move to Marysville twenty years ago. Marysville hasn’t always been as great of a city as it is these days, and Lord willing will be still to come. But one of the things it’s always had going for it in my mind, other than the number of auto parts stores, is how often it rains.
We moved from the Los Angeles area, having lived all our married life up to that point in Santa Clarita. Not only is it hot in the summertime, it only rains 34.1 days annually, one of the least rainy places in CA. Near the end of our time there, I would wake up and lament that it was sunny again. Twenty years in this Western WA cloudy-skies climate has caused an increase in my gratitude to God for sun, but when the sun comes up at 4am and goes down at 10pm, I don’t mind finding some dark.
Our future as God’s people is brighter than any southern California imagination.
The sun shall be no more your light
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the LORD will be your
and your God will be your glory.
This comes near the end of Isaiah’s prophecies, and John’s vision near the end of Revelation picks up the same thread. God will be the everlasting light, our everlasting light. There will be no night. It will be all glory all the time.
John began to describe what he saw about the New Jerusalem coming down in verse 9 of chapter 21. He saw the walls, the gates, the measurements, the materials, all with radiant glory. Now John moves to some of the internal features of the city, and four significant things are not found.
No Temple (verse 22)
An angel invited John to see in verse 9 and took him to a high mountain in verse 10. He sees here in verse 22, and again at the start of chapter 22. He starts with an astounding absence.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
The word temple typically refers to a sacred location where God/a god met with worshippers. After the (temporary tent) tabernacle, the Jews had two separate temples (the first built by Solomon and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the second temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the exile and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70). Ezekiel saw an eschatological temple (Ezekiel 40-48), and the Jews “consistently affirmed the hope of a final, material temple structure on a scale greater than any before” (Beale). Either that temple is rebuilt around and during the Millennial kingdom (and not carried over into the new heaven and new earth), or, as others claim, the City-Bride in Revelation 21 is the temple.
But why would Ezekiel’s vision center on the temple and then John go out of his way to say that he saw no temple?
Note that the people are the city, and God dwells with them (verse 3). Then God Himself is the temple, and men enjoy His presence. He is the Lord God the Almighty (ὁ παντοκράτωρ) and the Lamb. Again the divine nature of the Lamb is put in the spotlight.
There is no temple made of materials or of men, which argues against a spiritual application of Ephesians 2:20-22. That really is a fantastic passage, which figuratively describes the church as the dwelling place of God. But in Revelation, the redeemed are a City, the wall around the city has apostle foundations, but that does not make us the eternal temple, and in fact, John says explicitly that God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple.
No Sunlight or Moonlight (verse 23)
When it comes to the light of the world, God and His Son are it.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives
May 30, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 16:55 in the audio file.
Or, The City of the Lamb
Series: Just Conquer #60
When God decided to create something other, when He made the world and all that is in it, His purpose was to show His glory. The end for which God created the world is to show off His greatness, which, considered from our angle would be difficult, because there is no greatness like His greatness. He is infinite, and so every one of His attributes is connected to that infinitude. Even His communicable attributes are unique to Him because they are perfect. No one communicates like Him. No one is as righteous as Him. No one is as joyful as Him. No one loves like Him.
He has done, is doing, and will do whatever shows His glory. It is revealing itself, and connects with His nature, that He is glorified by our understanding of God’s glory and, as Jonathan Edwards points out, by our delight in God’s glory, and also by sharing His glory with His people. God doesn’t preserve His glory in a gallery behind glass over which we “oooh” and “aahh,” God portions out His glory in us. The OT concept of glory (kavod) was weightiness, and God is refining His people to be gold. The NT concept of glory (doxa) was brightness, and God is polishing His people to be radiant like diamonds.
Beautiful brides are often said to be radiant, and we see in Revelation 21 the Bride of the Lamb. Cities are sometimes said to be radiant, and we see in Revelation 21 the City of the Lamb. The City-Bride is adorned for her Husband (21:2), the City-Bride is made glorious by her Husband (see also Ephesians 5:25-27). The City-Bride, and this is John’s eye-witness testimony, comes down from heaven “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel” (21:11). The City-Bride is a place and the people, and she is glorious with and for God’s glory.
God allocates radiance all over and among His people. The descriptions and dimensions on display all work toward the glory of the Lamb, who is repeatedly referred to in this section (seven times from 21:9–22:5) as He dwells with a radiant people.
For whatever is challenging about this part of John’s vision, and there are a lot of pieces to the vision, the coming of the City is not gradual through millennia. This is not church history, it is not a vision of the spread of the gospel to the world. In its context, judgment is finished, all the unrepentant are in the lake of fire, and even Death is dead. The radiance shines in the new heaven and new earth, a new dispensation. In a broader context, the Bible refers to the final parts of our salvation, our resurrected bodies and our perfect blamelessness, and here we are. This glorified state is not the process of our sanctification, it is the end of it.
One beseeching before we look with John at the angel’s tour of the city. There are some exalted, not-of-this-world sort of descriptions to be heard. What you must not do is punt your belief over the symbolism side because someone might laugh at you for believing what the sentences say. This also means that you must not be one who laughs at those who don’t think everything is merely a symbol because it seems silly to you. If you want to make a case for maximum symbolism as the proper interpretation, do so, but for better reasons than what you think “can’t” be.
That is a dangerous standard, especially in light of passages such as Isaiah 55:9. It’s like saying God couldn’t have created the entire universe in six 24-hour days. God can’t be three Persons yet one God. There couldn’t have been a global flood. Jesus can’t be fully God and fully man. God wouldn’t have taken on flesh and then died; that’s foolish, it’s a scandal. Brothers, there is no gospel and there is no glory apart from trut
Then and Now
May 23, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 18:55 in the audio file.
Series: Just Conquer #59
What is your greatest longing? What comes to your mind when you imagine the best future you can? For most of us I’m assuming that the Bible animates most of that picture, as it should. We have a “scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”). The future will also only be better for a certain sort of person.
The future includes a great reckoning. All those who have done wrong—by perfect God’s standards and according to His omniscient records—will be judged by their works. All those who’ve done wrong and have not been redeemed by the Lamb will stand before the great white throne and be sentenced to the second death, to eternity in the lake of fire. This is the final state for every conscious being in the universe who will not love and be loyal to Jesus Christ.
All those who do trust and serve Jesus anticipate (and hasten 2 Peter 3:12) that day of judgment because then Jesus’ name will be exalted above all, and also our testimony for Jesus’ name and whatever suffering we endured will be finished and rewarded. The righteous look forward to the reign of righteousness that Jesus will establish. But our desire that every wrong will be acknowledged and punished is not the ultimate point. There is more longing than for justice, even more than longing for the end of our troubles. Our longing is to be home with God.
Revelation 21 begins to describe what that will be like. From Revelation 21:1 through 22:5 John gives perhaps the most detailed vision of “heaven,” of eternal life, found anywhere in Scripture. Our experiences now make it difficult to conceive of the positives (Peter has a similar list of what our inheritance is not in 1 Peter 1:4). But while all things will be new, they will not be entirely disconnected from now.
Before we get to seeing these glories, I admit I was surprised to learn that the general agreement among Bible readers about the final judgment does not carry over into chapter 21. I thought we were mostly back on the same page, with judgment and followed by the new heaven and new earth still in the future. It turns out that some believe that chapter 21 takes us back to the first century and that the new is actually coming now. Here is just one example (from someone I have otherwise learned a lot):
“I take the first heavens and earth as the Judaic aeon and the new heavens and earth as the Christian aeon, and these two aeons overlapped—the latter beginning at Pentecost, and the former ending with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70…. Church history is the time it takes for this bride to walk down the aisle.” (Douglas Wilson, When the Man Comes Around)
“The process of world evangelization is the process by which God is making all things new, which is the declaration He makes in this passage.” (ibid.)
This is not how I believe the new is connected to the now; the new is not now but still then.
The language in these verses, even as the images connect with other prophetic visions from the OT and earlier in the NT, reveals a climactic and cataclysmic remaking, not a gradual and generational remodel. This is even quicker than the original six-day creation, and certainly not thousands of years of gospelistic-evolutionary development on earth.
There are two key points in these two paragraphs, the Then (verses 1-4) and the Now (verses 5-8).
The Then (verses 1-4)
In the previous paragraph John saw “earth and sky” flee away from God’s presence as men were called to the judgment seat. Now John describes the replacement. And I saw heaven-a new kind, and earth-a new one. For the first heaven and
May 16, 2021
Series: Centers and Circumferences #16
Great teaching from the book of John.