To have every pain... Erased.
To have every droplet of water that ever seared our saddened faces, every memory of slow, cold, empty nights where we prayed ourselves to sleep in hopes to not wake up the next day. Have we truly allowed the thought to penetrate our inner selves: every last tear wiped from our cheeks.
Have we ever really let that image sink down deep into the hidden membrane just beyond those glossy orbs that we see everything from?
Jesus is going to hold our faces in His hands and personally wipe away every hint of humanity's pain. Every trouble. Every hardship. Every hurt.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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.” -Revelation 21:3-4 ESV
I know I haven't. Though I am trying.
But this image, it's different for all of us. Some of us see Jesus through different lenses, and it blurs the vision of the church.
And I'm not going to delve into theological whims, or throw out some Greek words to prove that my sight is more clear than anyone else.
Because most of my thoughts here are just that, thoughts. And as I am sitting in this coffee shop writing these words and copying Scripture into this post, my blurred vision clears up for one second.
One second enough to read but one word. One single word that changes this passage entirely for me. One word that crumbles any exterior walls I've built up around my Christology. One word that hints at something entirely different. One word that shows up and makes me feel dumb for not recognizing it the very first time I ever read this passage. One word that crazily sends goosebumps across my arms, a shiver up my spine, and yet also sends a warmth and a joy down throughout my soul.
But for me... This is a humble reminder that no matter how much I know, I am always learning and re-learning.
"Throne" does that for me here.
If it's the only thing I can help myself understand I want it to be this image. I want it burned into my mind, seared in with the same sharpness I feel when the world seems too large and I want to fall on my knees and cry. I can't let go of this image:
Jesus is on His throne.
And from the throne, John hears these words and records them for us.
This is not a picture of a humble peasant preacher dressed in a tunic and speaking softly to beggars, widows, and the sickly.
This is a conquering King, sitting on his throne speaking "with a loud voice", dressed in majesty, having "the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald," (Rev. 4:3) with the angels worshiping Him constantly, lightning, rumbles, and loud thunder emanating from behind Him, the white robed, gold crown wearing elders sitting on twenty-four thrones all around Him, as a sea of crystal like glass sits in front of Him, covered only by the train of the King's robe that fills this arena. There are seven torches; flames breathing in the surrounding environment, more alive, more free, and more powerful than that of an uncontrolled forest fire. The seraphim are flying above him crying out,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The room trembles and is filled with smoke and fresh incense.
Our engulfed eyes can't take all of this at once so we try to look away and see four living creatures, with appearances I cannot even begin to give adequate description to, never ceasing to loudly proclaim,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
The elders are, almost in unison, rising, kneeling, giving thanks, casting their crowns before Him, only to pick them back up and praise God even more.
All this going on in this infinite dwelling, with all the noise... and we will stand there, broken before Him as Jesus the King for whom all this is for... Rises. Walks. Talks. Takes us in His arms and gently... wipes every tear stained eye. Which will open our eyes to everything that He is. All of a sudden the comforting Jesus that the Gospel writers described, becomes one with this fierce figure.
The Lord of everything becomes our friend, our brother, our intercessor, our healer, our High Priest, our mediator, our fulfillment.
I sit in this coffee shop, looking around at all the normal-ness that is here, how can I even fathom the depths of what was just described when it's compared to (the feeble attempt at) art hanging on the wall?
I overhear a person talking about the news... Depressing. Dismal. Broken.
How does a person handle the image of the Throne Room when we're surrounded by so much that stands in direct opposition to the Glory of God?
I look at my now empty cup that once held a black, bitter liquid, filled with caffeine and artificial caramel flavoring, a drink that people line up across city blocks every morning to wait for, trading this ordinary-ness for a wrinkled, old piece of greenish paper with a 5 and the face of Abraham Lincoln on. This greenish parchment that they just pulled out of a sown piece of leather, that holds other bills just like it, that was just placed back into their back pocket or bag around their arm.
What gives that worth?
I look around at the beige paint on the wall, the old wooden coffee table marked up with water rings from other people's iced coffees that had been placed there well before mine.
Is this it? Is this... all that it is?
Routine. Artificial. Used.
I crave the thunder, the lightning, the emeralds, the casting of crowns.
I want that here.
And I'm reminded that with every choice we make we can either invite Heaven or Hell to this planet.
And that changes things for me...
Because as I look a little more into the image of the Throne Room I think that there is no way Jesus would walk away from all of that to come... here. The pitfall of glory, this perfect paradise reaping with the stench of death.
Decay. Disappointment. Despair.
Knowing this well, God chose.
With every decision He made, Jesus chose to bring Heaven to Earth.
And the power shown in that Throne Room, is the power that incarnated Christ, which is the power that kept the Messiah on the tree, which is the power that raised Jesus...
And somehow or another that power has been transferred to this ugly dancing corpse that houses me.
Whatever the substance or being that "me" is. My Spirit, my soul, my heart, my...?
Oh, how one simple bite of a fruit can deteriorate such wonder and mystery.
That power raises "me" and breathes a new, fresh, breath of life into my cold lungs.
And I come to feel what I've always known, "The God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty is eager to be friends with us." -A.W. Tozer, "Knowledge of the Holy"
The baby we just celebrated the birth of, in Bethlehem so long ago... is proof.
In the midst of nothing making sense and the infection of that Eden mouthful, one second of sweet, fruitful, bliss, and then an eternity of blackness and despair... Jesus is still on His throne. And he cares.
Isaiah saw the Throne Room and trembled, and cried,
“Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
I read that and squirm a little, if Isaiah felt unworthy, how much more unworthy will I feel when I stand in that room one day...
The opposite is true.
Jesus will give us worth and it will be more than we could ever comprehend.
We've been washed. We've been bought. We've been redeemed.
I guess what this all boils down to is a simple statement: We don't have to wait.
We don't have to wait for "one day". Go today. Go now. Escape this world for a few minutes in prayer. And go.
That room is open and available for us to go to at any time we want.
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." -Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)
We need to let Jesus set things right in the here and now. He will wipe away our tears.
Approaching the Throne, in THAT room, with confidence?
That changes things.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.