Return to Sermons | Home

Jerusalem the Golden
Revelation 21:1-5


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday of Easter—April 28, 2013

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The old saying tells us that only two things in life are certain, death and taxes.  We just had our annual reminder about the certainty of taxes.  But, actually, the newspaper reports that last year some of America’s wealthiest citizens--millionaires and billionaires--paid no federal income tax at all, not one penny.  It seems if you are rich enough and have smart enough accountants and lawyers you can avoid one of life’s so-called certainties.

But, no one can avoid life’s other certainty--the certainty of death.  Death is sometimes called the great equalizer, because no matter how much wealth or influence you have in this life, unless the last day comes during your life time, you will most certainly suffer physical death.

The book of Hebrews says, “It is appointed for men once to die, and after that to face the judgment.” Because of our sins, we all deserve to pass from this life to the place of eternal torment, to suffer forever the judgment of damnation, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.”  In the first half of a familiar verse from Romans, Paul starkly expresses the certainty of death, and the reason we deserve death and damnation: “For the wages of sin is death.”

All over the news people are speculating about the motivation for the recent bombers in Boston.  They were followers of a false religion, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Their false religion does not know the true way of life, but only the bad news of death and damnation.  And in their false religion there is only one way you can supposedly be certain of instead attaining eternal life in heaven.  You have to earn it for yourself, by dying in a so-called “holy war.”  That was their twisted motivation, based on their false religion. 

But, thanks be to God, our Christian faith does not stop with the bad news of our sin.  For, Paul goes on in Romans to proclaim the Good News of our salvation: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through? Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Just as it is certain that in this world you will suffer physical death, it is also absolutely certain that you will enjoy eternal life in the heavenly world to come.  Your salvation is certain because on the cross God’s own Son laid down his life for you, dying in your place in the true holy war. 

Paul says Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil.” The true holy war is not against America, but the against the spiritual forces of sin, death, and the devil.  Your salvation is certain because on the cross God’s own Son laid down his life for you, dying in your place in this true holy war. 

Paul says in Romans, “He was put to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Your salvation is certain because Jesus rose from the dead.  “Because I live,” Jesus promises, “you also shall live.”

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” Paul also says in Romans, “for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”  Your salvation is certain because the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, made you born again as God’s own child in Holy Baptism, and in Holy Communion strengthens you in the true unto life everlasting.

“I know my sheep,” Jesus says, “and they follow me.  ?I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”  Not even death itself can snatch you out of your Savior’s hand. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading. “Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. . .  I am going there to prepare a place for you. . .  I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” When death does come for you, it is really your Savior, lovingly taking you to be with him, transporting you out of this world to another place, a better place.

“Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest, beneath your contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed, I know not, oh, I know not, what joys await us there, what radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.”

Throughout the Bible, and especially in the book of Revelation, the city of Jerusalem is symbolic, symbolic of heaven, where you and all who trust in Jesus will dwell with God forever in perfect peace.   It is ironic that “Jerusalem” means “city of peace.”  For, the earthly city of Jerusalem is far from peaceful.  It’s the most disputed and fought over city in the world, with constant threats of bombings and other terrorism like our nation recently experienced in Boston.

But, today’s reading from Revelation tells us that in the real city of peace, “there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Imagine a city where all live together in perfect peace.  Imagine a city where there is no crime, no violence, no bombings or explosions.  But, more than that, imagine a city where there is no hunger or thirst, no disease or sickness, no crying or pain.  Imagine a city where even death itself has passed away.

The book of Hebrews says, “We are looking forward to the city that is to come. . . the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.”  You see, the name Jerusalem is not only ironic, it is also prophetic, pointing us heavenward to the real “city of peace.”

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . .  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. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

“O sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect, O sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect, Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest.”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts