2nd Sunday of End Time
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus dear fellow redeemed by the blood of Christ, Stephen Covey is the author of a famous book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I don’t agree with his theology at all because he is not a Christian, he is a Mormon, but his book gives some very helpful and practical advice to people looking to improve their performance. Well, Covey’s 2nd habit of effectiveness is “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, before you begin a task, know your goal, know where it is you want to end up. When you know where it is you want to go it will shape your decisions in order to get there. If you don’t take the time to think about your end goal, you’ll undoubtedly make many poor decisions that distract you. He even applies this to life and gives a powerful little exercise where he pictures you attending your own funeral and asking what you want people to be saying about you. It’s unlikely that you want them to be saying: He was so successful, so rich, so powerful, but that you were a good person, loving, good father, good husband, etc. That’s what’s important. Begin with the end in mind. But guess what…God is way ahead of Stephen Covey . God thought of this way before Stephen Covey.
God wants us to “begin” with the end in mind. God wants us to live our lives with the end in mind. So, He tells us what His goal is for each of us and what our goal in life should be as well: Heaven. Eternal life. That’s the goal. But what is heaven like? How do you picture something that you’ve never seen? How do you think about something that is so far beyond our understanding that we can’t imagine how awesome and incredible it is? In 2 Corinthians we’re told about an experience the apostle Paul had – he got to see a vision of heaven. And he says that he saw things that “man is not permitted to tell.” That probably doesn’t mean that God had forbidden him from speaking about it, but that there just simply weren’t words to describe it!
When the Bible describes heaven it often describes heaven not so much as to what heaven is, but what it isn’t. No more tears, no more mourning, no more hunger, crying or pain. Here in our text we’re told that there will be no more curse- no more sin, it’s effects, or death. Think about that. What would it be like to live without any sin? We can’t even imagine life with perfect relationships with all the people around us. We’ve never experienced that. We can’t imagine life without any disappointments, struggles, difficulties, frustrations. We can’t picture it, we can’t imagine it. But hopefully it whets our appetites! There’s all kinds of different things that we anticipate and look forward to in life. Children look forward to Christmas or their birthday, some looked forward many years to seeing the Cubs win the world series, some look forward to retirement or vacation or hunting season.
You’re going to heaven! Can you imagine? You’re going to see God face-to-face! You’re going to get to eat from the tree of life! You’re going to see the most beautiful scenery ever! Think of the most satisfying and joyful day you’ve had here on earth and multiply that sense of satisfaction over and over again. That’s heaven! If we can get excited about purchasing a new car, taking a vacation, or retiring, etc, We have something absolutely incredible, absolutely amazing, absolutely spectacular that we will experience forever!
But how we get distracted from the end goal! How we cling to this world, we get caught up with the things that are here, we lose sight of the glories ahead of us! We throw ourselves headlong into sin and temptation that endanger our faith and jeopardize our eternity! We feed our bodies but we fail to feed our immortal souls. We get depressed and frustrated with life forgetting that our real citizenship is in heaven.
But what if, just what if, God had shown us heaven first, then we were born into this world and could remember what heaven is like? Do think that might change our priorities? Would that change our ideas of what is really important? Would that change our approach to life? Or our approach to death?
But what God has done is given us pictures of heaven so that we can begin with the end in mind. Here in our text we have that imagery. First, we have a river of the water of life pouring out from the throne. It’s a river – a constant supply of water. Water is an essential to our lives. Without water we die very quickly. Water refreshes, reinvigorates, it gives us life. It’s a river that gives us constantly that which is needed for life- this is life, abundant life!
What else is in heaven? The tree of life- from which we will eat. Remember that in the garden of Eden the tree of life was there, yet God had to block access to it after the fall into sin so that humans would not eat from it and live forever in their sinful condition. But in heaven we will eat from the tree of life! Gone is every problem and difficulty, no more arthritis, no more eyeglasses, no more hospitals, no more medications, no more bad knees, no more surgeries. All will be healed.
We’re also told that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No more conflicts, no more wars, no more fighting, there won’t be any more nations for everyone will be the people of God as one family, all will be perfectly united. No more elections, no more campaigning, no more corrupt governments, no more sinful human leaders! Can you imagine a perfect society where everyone loves and serves God and loves and serves each other? It’s going to be awesome! And we will rule forever and ever!
And why can we be confident of this? Because of the Lamb. Notice that the “Lamb” is referenced twice here. Why will we be in heaven one day? Because the love of God is seen most clearly in the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Son of God, who laid His life down, sacrificed Himself on the altar of the cross to rescue and free us from all sin to win eternal life for me and for you! Because of the Lamb heaven is your home, you will see God face-to-face, you will be healed, you will be in paradise. That’s the goal, that’s where you’re headed!
So, yes, begin with the end in mind. That’s not just a piece of advice for earthly effectiveness, it’s shapes your life. Heaven is your home. Think about that this week when new leaders are elected in our country. Heaven is your home. Think about that when Satan’s temptations come alluring and distracting. Heaven is your home. Think about that when problems, difficulties, and struggles of life come. Heaven is your home. Think about that when believing loved ones get sick and face death. Heaven is your home. Think about that when death approaches fast. Heaven is your home. So begin this week with the end in mind: heaven is your home. Amen.