Revelation Sermon Dec 2006
Brothers and Sisters, Our call to worship come from Rev 7: 13-17:
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
B&S Our help is in the name of the Lord, amen!
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, the maker of heaven and earth, Amen
Confession: Lord’s days 1,2
Prayer (Ditta Baalbergen)
Reading Rev 1: 1-8
Brothers and sisters, is it true for you too that at this time of the year – the second last week of the year – and most people are moving onward purposefully to Christmas day, when we will stop to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.
As we do so, of course, we will also stop to remember events and people here on earth in our own lives. Christmas is like that…it almost forces us to think about things.
And the things we think about can be categorized…in a sense it is all about beginnings…but it is also in some way a time of remembering things that have gone by…endings.
It is very much about first things…and last things, we may say
In a very special way, Christmas forces us to think forwards …..and also backwards.
At Christmas we look forward to wonderful things to come, because we know that in our Lord it is made possible that we will share in a future with Him.
We are reminded at this time that our Saviour was born a man some 2000 plus years ago, and that He made it possible for us to join in His birth, and baptism, and life, and death, and resurrection (that is what it means to be a Christian).
What joy and happiness and hope!
But often Christmas is also a time of sadness…
We remember last Christmas; the past year, with all of its joys and tears; we remember loved ones, some no longer with us.
We long for family and friends who cannot be with us because they live in another country, or do not want to be with us because they are angry with us.
And we become sad, almost disheartened.
Put the two together – and turn them around in order - and we may say that Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, reminds us of things that was…and things that we believe still will be – and look! lo and behold! we have discovered a truth –
The birth of Christ is about turning things around…from hopelessness to hope and life everlasting, where there will be no more tears and hardship and death and disease. First things…and last things…
The book of Revelation, in a very special way, brings us this message in a very special way.
Revelation, written about 90 years after the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, comes to us through John, whom God allows to catch a glimpse of what is yet to be.
Our first instinct might be to say – now that’s a Christmas present.
And then we realise, we too have received that gift, the possibility for us to see what lies ahead of us in God’s kingdom. It’s all in Revelation!
See how the book starts out…
Look at the beginning…“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.”
The title of this book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. Not of John!
We might replace the word revelation with the words “to unveil”, “to take off a covering”, “to reveal”
That is what God is doing with this book. He is not hiding things with seemingly obscure symbolism.
Revelation is not a mystery for a relaxed church to work out the puzzles. He wants His people to what will surely be, and when they do, that they will be filled with hope.
The very genre of Revelation underwrites this. Revelation is written in a style of writing known as “apocalyptic writings”. These writings were basically “tracts for the bad times”, as they were called then.
Revelation is all of this and more.
Like the apocalyptic writings, these tracts were designed specifically to give an encouraging word to those who were suffering.
Symbolism, often, is a feature of this kind of writing.
And all of this is present in Revelation,
but there is more…Revelation is God inspired.
In revelation, the author also makes extensive use of symbolic language – poetic language, if you will.
One scholar says this about the symbolism in Hebrews: Symbols are used by the author “because he is writing about subject matter which is very difficult to explain in our limited human language.”
After all, John writes what God Himself lets him see!
And what he sees is awesome! Revelation is a truly specatacular visual book!
John sees that suffering was something that could not be escaped - because of the battle between good and evil.
But! Take hope. Be encouraged. Because God will triumph!
And there in lies the most glorious message.. this is God himself revealing what “must take place”. And we may see that He is in control beyond time and measure, from before time and substance.
And in doing so, we are reminded of what is….and what was. We are reminded that before Jesus’ coming, death reigned, but now we live in Christ, and we may look forward to everlasting life in the court of our King.
And in what lies our hope, our encouragement?
In this…Our Lord God - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is the everlasting Lord, the almighty God. And nothing can separte us from the love of God!
We see this in summary in the first reference is to God the Father: The one who was and is and is to come.
This is a reference to His proper name, YHWH.
When He introduced Himself to Moses using this name, He started out by saying, "I am who I am."
A better translation renders it … "I will be who I will be." The Name is God’s claim to self existence. The one who is.
We see it in the second reference to God the Spirit: The seven spirits before the throne.
This reference corresponds with the seven lamps before God’s throne that represent the seven churches to whom John is writing.
In the Bible, oil is often a symbol for the Holy Spirit and fire is too.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended like fire on the Apostles.
So the lamps are the churches, but the oil that fills them and the fire that powers them are the Holy Spirit.
And note…there are seven Churches, but the Spirit who fills and fires all 7 of them is one and the same Spirit.
The third reference is to God the Son, Jesus Christ and John describes Him 5 ways:
• Faithful witness
• Firstborn from the dead
• Ruler of the kings of the Earth
• Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
• Him who has made us to be a kingdom and priests
If we look at these closely we discover they are also references to different things that Jesus did or is doing:
• He told us faithfully who the Father is and what He has done
• He rose from the dead, on his own power, demonstrating His power to eventually raise us too
• He is the rightful King of the house of David
• He died on the cross to pay for our forgiveness
• He has transformed us into people who will rule over angels and who may come personally before God’s throne
And John ends this song of praise by saying:
Give Him glory and dominion for ever and ever
John makes no bones about the Trinity. Jesus is God and he describes Him that way. Jesus is God, and John gives Jesus praise that is due to God alone. And that praise is not misplaced.
The whole book of Revelation is about that identity.
John takes this whole book to describe Jesus and His relationship to the Father, to the Church and to the world.
It is a powerful and colorful manifesto:
Jesus is LORD! What better encouragement could we have? – There is no other encouragement needed!
• Jesus is LORD in the sense that He is God
• Jesus is Lord in the sense that He is the head of the Church
• Jesus is Lord in the sense that He is ruler of the world
• Jesus is LORD!
But… to say Jesus is Lord, means to say He is our rightful and absolute owner and master.
To say that Jesus is our Lord, is to say that He owns us and He can command us to do whatever He wants, even to the point of laying down our lives or the lives of our family for His own purposes, which He need not reveal to us at all.
• Job experienced this with the Father
• And John is affirming it in Christ
In that sense, Jesus’ Lordship has very little to do with what we accept or believe and everything to do with who He is and what He does.
He is Lord whether we like it or not. Willing or not, every knee will bow.
Verse 7 is a call to pay attention to the Hebrew Prophets, with other words, back to beginning times.
The coming of the Son of Man with the clouds is a reference to Daniel 7 and that prophet’s vision of the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world and to receive the kingdom from God.
The second half of the verse is a reference to Zechariah:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zechariah 12:10)
This is one of the clearest passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that the one who comes to rule the Universe in the last days is the same one who was rejected the first time He came.
Not only was He rejected, but when those who rejected Him see Him clearly, they will mourn, both for their decision and for the judgement they are about to receive.
In the midst of all this theologizing we should not lose site of what is being said:
• Jesus is coming again
• When He comes, the whole world will know what has happened
• When He appears, dismay will fill the hearts of all who have not submitted themselves to Him
Jesus the Messiah is not a person subject to change, but the Alpha and the Omega ... the First and the Last.
• He is, He was and He is to come
• He is the beginning and the end
• At the beginning of the Bible we see that God created the heavens and the earth/At the end of the Bible He says, I come quickly
• The book starts and ends with Him
• Time begins and ends with Him
• Creation starts and finishes with Him
And He is at the beginning and the end, but He is everywhere in between as well.
All of time is about Jesus Christ. Everything is about Jesus Christ.
Look back at John’s description. ..
• the Faithful witness
• He is the Firstborn from the dead
• He is the Ruler of the kings of the Earth
• Jesus is Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
• Jesus is Him who has made us to be a kingdom and priests
In other words:
• He has seen everything
• He is over life and death
• He has power over all the rulers of earth
• He has power over sin
• He has everything in His hand to give
There is nothing in the physical world, the living world, the spiritual world, or the political world of power that does not belong to Him. It is all about Him.
Brothers and sisters, the day is approaching when Jesus will return!
When he does, we will be reminded that everything, us included, belong to Him.
Let there be no doubt…The day is coming when He will come in the clouds and every eye will see Him, just as he lay in the manger that first Christmas and mere mankind were allowed to see Him as a gentle baby – even though He was God!
The Lord is King of all and He is the first and the last, in creation and in time.
Is He first and last in your life, too?
Please turn with me now to Revelation 4 as we read Revelation the same way it would have been read in the first churches. We will sing in between, before we stand for the benediction and we part ways.
Please turn with me to Rev 4….
The Throne in Heaven
4 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spiritsa of God. 6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
SING: BoW 164 verse 4 only (Holy, Holy, Holy)
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
SING: BoW 527 (You are Worthy…)
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Musical Reflection: “Worthy is the Lamb” (From The Messiah – George Frederic Handel)
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
SING: ReJoySingII: 341 (Glory to the Lamb)
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped….
Let’s please stand for the benediction…
The Lord Bless you and keep you…
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you
And give you peace.
No. BoW 525
(Background musical reflection as we depart: Handel’s “Amen”)
a Or the sevenfold Spirit