I love weddings. I love weddings for many reasons. The food is delicious and there is lots of it. Two families are forever joined together as they witness a new family being formed. Weddings are beautiful. From the flowers, to the tuxes, to bridesmaid dresses, there is intentional beauty at weddings like nowhere else. As our culture has become more and more casual, we have lost the sense of occasion. But there is still a sense of occasion and excitement at wedding. There is usually lots of dancing. I love to dance. It may be strange for a Baptist preacher, who are often known for strictness and seriousness, to exclaim that they love to dance, but I love to dance. Weddings are best places to dance. My wife and I have left the dance floor on more than one occasion with a standing ovation. One of my greatest memories is when my brother Joe got married a few years ago was to watch my son dance. He danced literally for 3 straight hours. He stole the show.
I love weddings when the Bride walks down the aisle. There is nothing more beautiful at a wedding than the bride. As the bride walks down the aisle, tears flow, and smiles are formed. It is magical to see the beauty of bride meet her beloved at the altar. The years of waiting and planning and expecting have ended and the celebration is about to begin. Weddings are all about celebration. Our wedding was so fun and full of joy that I still hear from friends and family who came about how much fun they had and how they loved being there. Weddings are awesome.
I think weddings are one of the best places to see humanity at its finest. Our world lately is known for showing the worst of humanity. We see bombing and school shootings almost weekly in our nation. We see sexual abuse and the harsh treatment of women. We see mocking and scoffing of people who disagree with one another’s political viewpoints. The worst of humanity is highlighted day in and day out, but not so at weddings. Weddings are glorious and happy. They are a time of great celebration and dancing. It is the best of humanity. And I believe it is the best of humanity, because it gives us a picture of what is to come. Every wedding is a preview of that great wedding when we, the church, the bride of Christ, will be finally united with our Beloved.
A few years ago, I was interviewed by the Rock Hill Herald before I preached my first Easter services. I was 32 years old and in my first year at the church. When they asked me how I felt about preaching my first Easter service, I tried to downplay it. I believe that every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. Christians don’t just celebrate the resurrection on Easter but every week. And although I firmly believe that, there is still something exciting about Easter. There is a sense of occasion. Like weddings, Easter is known for its beauty. From white lilies, to beautiful dresses, from pink ties, and seer sucker jackets, Easter is all about celebration. Easter brings out the best of our faith because it reminds us of our greatest joy.
Today I want to help you with that joy. I want you to remind why we celebrate Easter and hope in some way to help you capture the beauty of Easter every Sunday of year.
The Great Multitude Sing in the Resurrection
Revelation 19 is the culmination of the end of history. Christians have been neglected and persecuted for their faith. And Revelation 19, marks an end to their suffering which leads to a shout of joy. Revelation 19,
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 Once more they cried out,
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
Hallelujah comes from to Hebrew words that means Praise Yahweh or Praise the Lord. Hallelujah is only found here in the New Testament. It is fitting end to the end of Babylon. It is time to give full and ultimate praise to the Lord.
God is praised for his power, his glory and his salvation. All these three terms are prevalent in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for sinner’s death. Luke 23 repeatedly exclaims that Jesus is innocent. First, Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again. There is no guilt found in Christ. And yet, he was crucified. After his death he was placed in a tomb and with him, the hopes of many of his followers. Even though he told them that it was meant for the Son of Man to suffer and die and on the third day rise, many started to return home. Jesus met two disciples on the road away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It was there he told them about how all the Law and Prophets point towards him. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the culmination of the Old Testament promises. The glory and the power of God was shown in God’s victory over the grave. And in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, he promises bring salvation. When Jesus would speak of his resurrection, he would speak also of his return after his resurrection, John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” As the disciples watch Jesus ascend to heaven, the angel appeared and said to them, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” It is wise for us to connect the resurrection with the return of Christ. God has promised salvation and that salvation only begun at the resurrection, but one day it will be completed with this return.
Salvation belongs to our God!! Praise the Lord!! Hallelujah!! Salvation from persecution. Salvation from oppression. Salvation from hell. Friend, if you do not know Jesus Christ, you do not know salvation. Now, you may ask, why do I need salvation? It is a fair question, but if you think deeply enough, the answer is quite simple. Last night my family watched Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, the Austere Academy Part 1, where the Baudelaire children are placed in a boarding school for orphans, Prufrock Academy. The motto of the school is a Latin phrase, “Memento Mori,” meaning “Remember you must die.” It seems morbid for children’s series, but there could be nothing more true. Friend, remember you must die. And when you die, what will happen? It is one of the most important questions anyone will ask. What will happen when you die?
Christians know we will die and we know we deserve to die. The wages of sin is death. We know we have earned death because of our sin. How we have wronged a holy God and deserve his just punishment? The heavenly multitude is shouting Halleujah, for God’s judgments are true and just. God always judges rightly. Easter is so glorious to Christians because it gives us hope. Jesus was raised from the dead showing that God accepted his sacrifice for sin. God cannot overlook sin, but he must punish it. We know this to be true. Have someone every committed a crime against you?
I have been robbed 7 times in my life. I have had cars stolen and my home ransacked. When I have had the opportunity to face my accusers in court, what have I wanted? Justice. They should face consequences for their actions. The beauty of the gospel story is that God pays for my crimes.
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Friend, God’s judgments are always true and just. If justice is true, then all crimes must be paid. The beauty of the gospel is that in Christ your sins are paid in full. When you repent of your sins and trust in Christ, you are forgiven.
At the end of history, God will judge all that stand against him and vindicate his servants. The Great prostitute in Revelation 19 is Babylon or the secular city of man. Easter is about the resurrection of Christ. Victory from sin and death. Conquering the Devil and his works. And the secular world has made it about chocolate bunnies and eggs filled with candy. The world wants you to trivialize Easter, so you will not understand its implication.
Friend, there is only one place in the New Testament that exclaims, “Hallelujah!” It is here because God brings his final victory. The resurrection is the guarantee that his saints both great and small will praise his name. From the richest to poorest, the famous to the unknown, all those in Christ will rejoice. Are you in that number? Memento Mori, Remember, you must die. And when you do, what will happen? Will you join the great multitude and shout, “Hallelujah” for God’s justice or will you hear the saints shout as the judgment comes upon you?
The Great Marriage Supper in the Resurrection
Revelation 19 is a wonderful picture of what God has purchased for us in the resurrection and what God now wants us to do. Hear of God’s glorious invitation, Revelation 19:6-10,
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The Marriage of the Lamb has come. The Lamb is the Lord Jesus, the Bridegroom, who laid down his life for this bride. And the Bride has made herself ready.
The church is the bride of Christ. One of the forgotten elements of our identity as the bride is preparing for the marriage supper. For anyone who plans a wedding, you know it takes a lot of work. One of the most important elements of a wedding is for a bride to say, “Yes! To the Dress!” Bride must be prepared for the wedding. Beloved, we must be prepared to say, “Yes! To the Dress!” Notice what the dress is for the church, “For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Ephesians 2:8-10 is great summation of the Christian gospel.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We are saved by grace through faith. God gets all the glory, but we cannot leave out verse 10. We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. To put on righteous deeds to make ourselves ready for the great marriage supper of the Lamb.
Are you ready for the wedding? What do you need to do? First, if there is sin in your life, repent. Turn from your sin to our great Savior. Second, hold fast to Christ. Do not compromise your faith. Continue with him. He who conquerors will be at the glorious marriage supper of the lamb. He wants us to do what He has done for us. We have been invited to the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. God is preparing a feast and who did he invite? Luke 14 tells us that God invited the spiritually poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He invited the spiritually crippled; to rise and walk. He invited the blind; to believe and see. God came to us; the spiritually crippled and invited us to his table through his Son. The Bible says that because of our sin we are deformed from God’s original design. We do not walk upright or see clearly, but rather our hearts our corrupt and even our best offerings are filthy rags in his presence. Sin affects our whole being, therefore it is impossible for us to be right with God. Therefore, God sent Jesus with an invitation. He is the only one who should be invited to the meal because he is the only one without sin. And yet, Jesus gave himself up as our ransom to bring us to God. He died for us, so we could have a place at His table. And after he died, God raised him from the dead giving everyone hope for the resurrection to come.
Sin has crippled you, but Jesus says I can make you straight. Sin has blinded you, but Jesus says I can make you see. Jesus is willing to heal you, but you must believe in Him. He offers the only real invitation to the Table and that is by faith in his life, death and resurrection. The invitation has been made, will you accept? We accept his invitation by turning from our sin to God. We renounce our pride and self-centeredness and chose to follow Christ in humility. Jesus invites you to the table, have you accepted his invitation?
Throughout Revelation, God commands John to write things down, and he does so again here in Revelation 19:9. He does so to draw our attention to its importance. John is commanded to write down the fourth of the seven beatitudes or blessings in Revelation, “9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Our family loves to open wedding invitations. Ellen and Elizabeth especially get excited to open them together. There is something special about a wedding. When we open the invitation, there is an immediate longing to be there. We want to be at the wedding because we love the people getting married and want to celebrate the union. Friend, the resurrection of Christ has given you a wedding invitation. You have been invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. God invites you to come. It is a glorious invitation.
Beloved, we have accepted the invitation. We are getting ready. And we should invite others. Jim Peterson tells the story of friend Mario. Mario was a prideful, Marxist intellectual and loved to read Western philosophers. He was spiritually crippled. After 4 years of reading the Bible together Mario became a Christian. A few years after conversion, Jim and Mario were talking, and Mario asked, “Do you know what it really was that made me decide to become a Christian?” Peterson was sure it would be one of their bible studies or possible a sermon at church, but Mario’s answer surprised him. Mario said, “Remember the first time I stopped by your house? We were on our way someplace together, and I had a bowl of soup with you and your family. As I sat there observing you, your wife and your children, and how you related to each other, I asked myself, ‘When will I have a relationship like this with my fiancée?’ When I realized that the answer was ‘never,’ I concluded I had to become a Christian for the sake of my own survival. Peterson reflected on the grace of Christ that Mario saw bind that family together:
Our family was unaware of its influence on Mario, God had done this work through our family without knowing it…We tend to see the weaknesses and incongruities in our lives, and our reaction is to recoil at the thought of letting outsiders close enough to see us as we really are. Even if our assessment is accurate, it is my observation that any Christian who is sincerely seeking to walk with God, in spite of all his flaws is reflecting something of Christ.
Beloved, let us reflect a glimpse of the glory of Christ by inviting sinners to our tables so they will accept the invitation to God’s table.
God invited us to his table when we had nothing to offer. We can never pay back what the Lord has given us. We brought nothing to the table, but sin, unrighteousness, shame and regret. We brought nothing to the table but have been given everything. Jesus gives us his righteousness, his perfect life, his glory, and his presence. As Isaac Watts so eloquently writes,
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
We can never pay God back for what he has done for us, but since God has invited us, we have the great privilege to go and invite others. It is one way we clothe ourselves with righteous deeds. If you have accepted the invitation of Jesus Christ, the only proper response is to invite others. Will you invite the outsiders to your table, so they can catch a glimpse of the glory of Christ who is inviting them to eat with him at his table at the great marriage supper of the Lamb? Jesus has invited you, will you invite others?
Beloved, this Easter let us remember our wedding day. It is coming. Let us get ready. Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended to the Father, and is coming again. Blessed are those who invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Hallelujah! Christ the Lord is Risen Today!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave?
Alleluia! Praise the Lord
Soar we now where Christ has led,
Following our exalted Head,
Made like him, like him we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies,
Alleluia! Praise the Lord.
 Chester, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table. Crossway. Wheaton, Il. p.94-95 2011.