Today is the week of children. In church calendar, there is no such thing as a children's week, but we normally celebrate the first week of May as the children's week, and the second week of May as the parents' week. So, I thought it would be meaningful to talk about children, parents, and families today in this sermon..
However, today's bible passage does not seem related to the topic I want to talk about. It would have been better to read Matthew 18:3, “And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.
If you take a look at today's passage, Revelation 21:9, it says “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”.
This seems, on the surface, to be talking about a new bride and groom, but after some contemplation, it can be sensed that the “little children” from Matthew are similar to the bride in Revelation.
So, in today's sermon, we are going to think about who the “wife of the Lamb”, who overcomes a misfortune and disaster, is and who the little children are.
As I mentioned before, in order to understand the words of the Revelation, it is important to understand the overall context and symbolism first. Numbers, specifically the number 7, should also be noted: 7 churches, 7 angels, 7 trumpets… In fact, the entire Book of Revelation itself is structured in 7 parts, each of which includes 7 elements.
Part 1 begins in Chapter 1 and goes to Chapter 3, verse 22, and speaks of “the church on Earth.” It includes letters to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Part two, on “God carrying out His work,” runs from Chapter 4 to Chapter 8 verse 1. The history is expressed through seven seals, broken one by one, going through the seven steps of the white horse, the red horse, the black horse, the pale horse, the prayers of the martyrs, the apocalypse, and the silence of the heavens.
Part three, then, shows the tribulations of the church throughout this tumultuous history. From Chapter 8 verse 2 to Chapter 11 verse 18, seven angels blow their trumpets to signal the seven disasters: hail and fire, the sinking of mountains into the ocean, the falling of stars into rivers and springs, the loss of light in the skies, the eagle’s warning of three more disasters…
Then Part 4 (Chapter 11 verse 19 – Chapter 15 verse 4) states that despite such calamities, the Church was saved. Specifically, it speaks of the 7 targets of Salvation. In order, they are: the women and the dragons, the beasts of the sea, the beasts of the land, the lambs and the 144000 martyrs, the flying angels, the benefactors on clouds, and the praise of the saved.
Part 5, from Chapter 15 verse 5 to Chapter 16 verse 21, shows a world that does not accept God’s proclamation of salvation. This part then turns to a discussion of the seven plagues.
Part 6, which goes from Chapter 17 to Chapter 20 verse 3, shows the final judgment of the world. The seven words and the fall of Babylon occurs in this part.
The final seventh part (Chapter 20 verse 4 – Chapter 22) then depicts the saints and church who, despite all this disaster, ultimately earns Salvation and victories.
The Book of Revelation is thus structured into seven parts—and today’s reading is from the final section, about the life of ultimate salvation and victory. But we must consider one important thing: who earns a life of Salvation? If we look back at verse 9, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”” In other words, the 7 angels bring the final 7 plagues in 7 bowls, and one showed them to John—and revealed them to be the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
It is important to understand what kind of person is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
The person who lives with God in the “dwelling of God” is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
The word “dwelling” in the passage also appears in John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling upon us.
In other words, people who live with God in His dwelling are those who live with the Word. They are those who will always rely on God and have strong faith in Him despite any hardships.
This is relevant to Matthew 18:3: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
It becomes clearer as you read the next chapter of Matthew. Matthew 19:21-22 says: Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth
Here, Jesus is comparing the young man who was relying on his great wealth and a little child who was relying everything on God.
While I was reflecting on the words “the wife of the Lamb,” the expression ‘picture bride’ came to mind. I’m not sure how many of us are aware of this term but the story behind it goes like this.
In 1902, 121 Koreans immigrated to Hawaii to work the sugar plantations. This marked the start of immigration, and by 1905, about 7200 people had arrived. When labour costs began soaring, the owners of these plantations realized that labour costs could be significantly cut down by hiring Asian workers. Thus, the lives of these immigrants began, on a comparable level to the slaves. The issue was, most of the people who had come were men and almost none came with their family.
After about 10 years of living in this new world, these single men started to become a social issue. To address some of the problems that these men were creating, the U.S. immigrant office and the plantation owners began a practice called the ‘picture bride.’ Matchmakers would pair a bride and groom using only photographs and family recommendations and women would leave their homes relying on this single picture of their soon-to-be husbands.
However, when the women came across, they were in for some big surprises. The pictures that these men had sent would be ones that were taken 10 years ago, when they first came to Hawaii, or a picture of their better looking friend, or a picture of them posing in front of someone else’s house or a car. The unfortunate thing was that even though these women were lied to, they had no choice but to marry these men as going home wasn’t an option.
Approximately 1000 picture brides came to Hawaii between the years 1910 and 1924. However, in year 1924, the government banned this practice in order to control the Asian population.
After these men settled down into marriages, a lot of the social unrest settled down and the economy saw much growth. These newly formed families worked diligently and moved to the West Coast to places like San Francisco, LA etc. They worked, they parented, they fundraised to help Korea, supported freedom fighters in the States and eventually became the building blocks of the Korean population in the U.S.
As you can see, the term ‘Picture bride’ connote a dark past that Chinese, Japanese and Koreans all had to experience.
When reading the words, I realized that people who solely rely on Jesus Christ, referred to as “the wife of the Lamb” in Revelations, resemble these Picture wives in more than one light. They both only have one outlet to depend their entire lives on and both represent someone with strong faith and belief.
Secondly, ‘the bride, the wife of the Lamb’ is explained in verse 6 and 7 , “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’” What was written as the bride is now written as the son…
Anyways it says, ‘To him who is thirst I will give [the] drink without cost’ and those who ‘inherit all this… will be my son.’ Thus, those who drink from the water of life are the children of God, God’s heir, and God’s wife.
Then what is the water of life? John 4: 14 records: “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is what Jesus said to a Samaritan woman, and in response the Samaritan woman replied as such in verse 15, “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’” But right after those verses, the subject changed to where we should worship in John 4: 24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
In other words, we can drink the water that will become ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ when we offer the worship in spirit and in truth. Therefore, those who worship in sprit and in truth will drink the spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Now we should relate this to the scripture from today: who will be the people who drink from the water of life without a cost to become the children of God? It is those who give the offering of worship to God in spirit and in truth. And it is these people who worship in spirit and in truth will have overcome the hardships to become ‘the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ Moreover, ‘the bride, the wife of the Lamb’ are the people who have guarded their faith by offering the worship in spirit and in truth.
Finally, Verse 10 states that “He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me to Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” John sees the image of Holy New Jerusalem from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, John continues to receive information about the size and beauty of the castle of Jerusalem in great detail.
The importance is not on the jewel-encrusted decoration of the castle, but on the view of the temple of God. Verse 22 states that John “did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” The temple should be seen from the castle of Jerusalem, but it could not be seen from the new castle of Jerusalem.
Why is this? This is because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb make up the temple.
So what was in the castle? We could predict that God and his Lamb Jesus are in the castle. However, when we think in regards to the context of the words of God, people were in the temple: a bride, who completely relied on God, a little child, who also relied on God just like a newborn baby relies on his mother, and people who whole-heartedly worship God in spirit and in truth. These are the images John saw from the new castle of Jerusalem.
Why were these people in the castle of Jerusalem? 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 state that “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” He says that the believers are temples.
In other words, although the temple cannot be seen as a physically solid structure from the holy castle of New Jerusalem, images of people who live as God’s temples, people who welcome the Spirit into their hearts, and the people who will forever be accompanied by God are seen.
I will conclude the sermon with this; Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter, Children's Day Today we once again talk abut someone who has met the Risen Lord, someone who lives by the power of the Resurrection.
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