A few years ago, Elder Rick Hove gave a sermon called “The God Who Shows Up.” In that sermon, he did what we have done this Advent, going through the whole of the Bible looking at God’s desire to be with his people. He culminated in the book of Revelation, as I am doing here. What he said those years ago has stuck with me and provided a wonderful picture of how deeply God wants to be with us.
Here’s where we are in the story when we get to Revelation 21: the victory of God is complete. Satan has been cast down. Everything that God wanted to accomplish, and promised, in defeating Satan and sin, has been done. It is finished! Hallelujah!
And then, look! “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
So, God is victorious. And He is glorious. He is vindicated. Everyone is gathered, watching this ultimate event of redemption. Hallelujah, again!
Back to the text for a moment: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “ …
Let’s pause here: If you were the scriptwriter, what would you imagine would be the appropriate line right now? What would God say? “Look at me! I have won! I am victorious!” or maybe, “Admire my power and my majesty, for I am the glorious ruler of the whole universe!”
But what does God say in that moment of ultimate triumph? “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away… Behold, I am making all things new.”
In that culminating moment of history, God declares what he has been telling us all along, throughout the Bible: He wants to be with us. In the moment of his ultimate triumph over sin and Satan, He promises to be with us, so near, in fact, that He himself will tenderly wipe the tears from our eyes and will again walk with us in the garden in the cool of the day. He points our attention to the newness of everything – no stain or blemish, nothing that is not lovely and fruitful. All our suffering, our questioning, our sorrow and our loneliness are gone – God himself will dwell with us – forever and ever and ever.
This is the God who created us, who was incarnate as a baby, who suffered, died, was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God – for our salvation. Immanuel. God with us. Hallelujah!