They Will Be My Children

Recently, my family took care of three foster kids for an afternoon so the foster parents could attend an event out of town. The kids spent most of the time playing with Legos at our dining room table. My compassionate 15-year-old stated, while we were alone in the kitchen, “We should adopt them!” I thought about how these kids don’t have a permanent home yet. Even though they have a wonderful family who loves them and cares for their needs, they don’t have a father and mother who have committed to unconditionally calling them their children. So, yes, I considered it for a moment. And then, I walked to the table to help one of the boys find some missing pieces for the Lego X-Wing.

As I read Revelation 21, describing the coming of the “New Jerusalem,” I take note of its glorious revealing as a loud voice proclaims with excitement, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people.” I imagine how magnificent it will all be. It will be more beautiful than the most incredible sunset and more majestic than the most brilliant mountain range. However, what jumps out at me are the words, “I will be their God and they will be my children” (v.7b). A couple verses before, God joyfully shouts, “I am making everything new!” Joyful, not because he gets to show off his latest building project, but because the redemption plan that was finished at the cross is now bringing his children to himself.

Revelation 21:6-8
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

We also need to keep in mind that, in the previous chapter, John witnesses a horrifying scene as Satan deceives nations and surrounds God’s army. In response, God sends fire from heaven, destroying Satan’s army, and throwing him into the lake of fire to “be tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10b). There will be great unrest during that time as evil is destroyed and death is defeated by our just and holy God. At the same time, God’s heart will be breaking as some of his creation is sent to eternal damnation (20:14). He loves them and his ultimate desire is to call them his children.

John shares in his Gospel how to become a child of God. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Starting in Genesis, right after the Fall, God promises the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15). We see the thread of God’s promise of salvation pulled through the Bible, all the way to the end of Revelation, where God tells John, “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children” (21:7b).
Did you hear that? The Creator of this universe, our perfect, holy God promises you, me, and all who trust in Jesus, “I will be their God and they will be my children.”

As you receive Jesus, you are his child.
I am his child.

John 1 also describes what it means to be a child of God: “Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (1:13). Through the dark moments of this sinful world, the violence of the Last Battle, and the heartbreaking and joyous final judgment, we can know that we have a holy, righteous, and just God who doesn’t simply love us, but calls us his children. Whether we already have a loving earthly family or we are waiting for one (like the three foster kids who spent the afternoon in our home), we can all look forward to an eternal home with our God, who declares with absolute love and authority that we are his children, “not of natural descent… but born of God!”

So while we are here, in this broken world, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20). His heart is breaking as he anticipates sending any of his creation to eternal damnation. Does my heart break for my neighbor? As a Disciple-Making Church, we are called to share the love that God has for our neighbors through word and deed, as a reflection of the God who loves them and desires to hold them in his arms as his children.

Tim Mathiesen serves as Director of Communications & Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.

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