What makes for a happy ending?
Let me suggest four factors: The good guys win. The bad guys get their just deserts. There’s a wedding. And you finish on a song.
There’s something immensely uplifting about a story that wraps up with this kind of victory. But the bible claims that history is headed towards just such a conclusion.
In Revelation 19 we see all these elements:
The Good Guys Win
In verse 6 we learn what it is that heaven and earth will sing:
“Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
This verse might be familiar to you from Handel’s Messiah – it’s the most repeated line of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. (Hallelujah is just another way of spelling Alleluia). It celebrates the day when God will be the only power reigning in the world. No more evil, death, curse, sickness or sin. The Lord God Almighty will rule in unopposed glory.
Perhaps when you thought of “the good guys” you thought of someone else. But the bible insists that the future belongs to the Almighty Father, ruling through His Christ by the power of His Spirit. They are the “good guys”. In fact, they are the only “good guys”. Everyone else is either with them or against them. But the future belongs to God.
The Bad Guys Get Their Just Deserts
A key part of the future celebrations will be the justice of God’s final judgement. We will sing with gusto:
“true and righteous are his judgments.” (verse 2)
And His judgements will burn against the devil and his servants:
“these [are] cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (verse 20)
Brimstone was an old word for sulphur. We have thought previously about “fire and brimstone”. We’ve noted how many people seem to fear “fire and brimstone” preaching more than “fire and brimstone” itself. Yet the bible insists there is an eternal judgement for the devil and for all who follow him. The bible does not conceal this, it celebrates it.
In the fairytales and the films we cheer when the wicked get their comeuppance. In the same way, Scripture says that when Jesus returns His people will cheer as Satan and his followers are judged.
But notice this: In an ultimate sense, the human race isn’t either the good guys or the bad guys. The ultimate division is between God and the devil.
Yet there are those who end up on God’s side, and there are those who end up on the devil’s side. Therefore the vital issue is this, How do we ensure we’re with the good guys?
That’s what the next element answers…
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8)
Have you ever wondered why all happy endings include a wedding? Why are our stories about the guy and the girl finally getting together? The Bible says that all of history is headed towards a wedding. Our future hope is a cosmic marriage feast where we will celebrate the union of Jesus and His people.
In the verses above, Jesus is described as “the Lamb” because He is the great Sacrifice who died for our sins. And His people are called “his wife” because they are united to Him as in a marriage. This is the key to whether we end up with God or not: Are we united to Jesus?
When my wife and I got married we said these vows to each other:
“All that I am I give to you
And all that I have I share with you.”
This provoked sniggers in the congregation since everyone knew we were broke. Essentially we were pledging to merge our debts!
With Jesus and us, it’s very different. We are in debt. Colossally so. Our sins are more than we can ever pay off. But Jesus is rich – royally rich. And here’s what happens when we unite to Him: He takes our debts and we get His riches.
This is why Jesus died as our Lamb. He died to absorb all our debts – all our sins – and to pay them off in full. Now He can turn to us and say,
“All that I am I give to you
And all that I have I share with you.”
All His royal status and connections, all His royal inheritance, all His riches become ours in an instant. That’s why Revelation 19 speaks of Christ’s people being “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.” None of us deserve to wear white, we are naturally unclean through our sin. But on the ultimate wedding day and in the presence of God, Christ’s people will wear dazzling white. Those who say “I will” to Jesus instantly receive His riches, i.e. His righteousness. Jesus takes our filth and gives us His purity. For free and forever.
This is the good news. The Handsome Prince marries the girl in the gutter and instantly she goes from rags to riches.
This is how we can have our own happy ending. It’s how we cross over from the “bad guys” to the “good guys”. We cannot buy our way into this Family. No amount of good deeds will earn such a future. But anyone who says “I will” to Jesus marries into the ultimate Royal Family. They cross over from rags to riches, from the bad guys to the good guys and from a tragic ending to an eternal inheritance.
Which leaves only one response…
Four times in this chapter the people cry out in a loud voice, “Alleluia.” It’s a Hebrew word that means “Praise the LORD.” And this is what we are built for – celebration, singing and praise.
When an artist has delivered a spine-tingling performance, when your team lifts the trophy, when the concert of a lifetime concludes on a rousing crescendo, we rise to our feet and pour forth praise. It’s ecstatic. And it’s where creation is headed. Under God, this world is straining ahead on tip-toes towards the Hallelujah Chorus.
When Jesus returns, His people will shout for joy because on that day the good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance and we celebrate the ultimate wedding. We won’t just sing. We won’t be able to stop ourselves singing.
Spend a moment anticipating this glorious future:
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
However your year has ended, and whatever the next year holds, be assured: the people of Jesus are headed for an almighty and eternal Alleluia.
So then, have a very Happy New Year!