Passage: Revelation 1:1–1:8
Did your view the book of Revelation change after this sermon? If so, how?
How does understanding Christ’s imminent return change the way that you live our life right now? What should you prioritize in light of this?
What attributes of God stood out to you during this message? Why?
How does the book of Revelation provide you with hope and security as our world is becoming increasingly anti-Christian?
If you're new, welcome to Citadel Square, you picked a great Sunday to join us. We are going to begin a brand new series this fall that will take us all the way until Christmas, and we're going to be in the Book of Revelation. If you’ve got a Bible, using your phone, your iPad, whatever it is you use, go ahead and find the very last book of your Bible–the book of Revelation.
Let me say a couple of things to kind of preface this series. This book has a tendency to cause conflict. To cause conflict over interpretation, to cause confusion... frankly because you may get to this book and read it and go, “I have no idea what is happening in this book at all.” It has a way of causing conceit because a lot of people are super confident about what they think about the end times, and they've got it all figured out.
Every week I sit down with some of our interns and some of the younger guys on staff who are younger than me, and I say, “tell me what this text is about. Tell me what you see in it. Tell me what you think is important to talk about.” And Addison, our Middle School and High School director, said, “people who typically quote Revelation to you are people that you kind of roll your eyes at.” And I said that is insightful. That is wise if you think about the last person you saw with, you know, “the end is near” on a sandwich board. Or someone who had the confidence to quote something to you from Revelation. You got a little nervous.
I won't do that to you here this morning. What we're going to do throughout the next nine weeks is we're going to look at the seven churches of Revelation. Revelation is a book about the end. Quite simply, the Old and New Testament both reference the end, but there's no other book in your Bible quite like Revelation that has a way of unveiling all of what is going to happen in the end.
If you have an “in the beginning” in your Bible, you'd better have “forever and ever, amen.”
Because that's what the scriptures tell us. They are all about who God is. And what he is doing, what he has done, in the person of and work of Jesus Christ, and what he will do in the future. So, we live in a time with lots of, really for lack of a better term, maybe drama, conflict, concern, anxiety. It's an election year; everybody’s nervous because it's an election year. All of the things that people are thinking about and tweeting about and posting about and writing about causes kind of every four years everybody to get a little bit white-knuckled. Have you felt that in the culture and in the society? And what that does for a church is how it has a temptation for all of us as we live in a world that has a variety of opinions and a variety of perspectives. It causes us, I think, to get a little nervous and that we can have a temptation to not focus on the things above. Colossians 3 says, “set your mind on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father.”
So this book, I hope, is going to be a re-centering for you. All of what is in this book looks to the final consummation of the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, and it's a conflict that is where this book is headed.
But before you get into that in Revelation chapter 4 and beyond, we wanted to spend some time together as a church looking at the letters to the churches. Before you get into the spiritual warfare, the religious system, the world political system, and the political powers of the day, John writes these letters to the churches. And it shows you some things about the church that I think are very important for us to hear and to know.
People have opinions on the church that are all over the place. People tweet about the church, write about the church, have concerns about the church and how the church ought to change, and ought to be different, and people have opinions when they come into this church and to a lot of churches about the kind of church we ought to be. They think more reflects the things that they want in the church, but the Book of Revelation has a way of taking you as a Christian and taking us as a church in putting us face-to-face with the most important thing and that is what Jesus thinks of this church and what Jesus thinks of every Church. Jesus knows what is healthy for a church. Jesus knows what makes a church sick. Jesus knows when a church is struggling. Jesus knows when a church has an opportunity. Jesus knows when a church is strong. Jesus knows when a church is weak.
And as we get into the next two weeks specifically and we look at who Jesus is, he stands in the midst of the seven lampstands that are representing the churches. What you see as he writes, as John writes to the church, is Jesus holding the church accountable.
John says, what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? God will judge those outside. Judge those who are inside. And the Book of Revelation and specifically these seven letters have a way of calling the church to account.
That's my greatest concern for us as a church is that we would be a church. As the seasons come and the seasons go. That would be pleasing to Jesus Christ.
That's the great ambition of a church, that we would be the kind of church that submit to his rule, his authority, and all that he wants for us to do. That we would be a church that is pleasing to him.
That's my hope for every single church in this city, that they would be churches that honor and love and serve the purposes of Jesus Christ. So as we begin this series, can I encourage you and ask you, maybe implore you, to pray for the health and the obedience of Citadel Square? That we would have courage when the spirit of God and the word of God begin to convict us of sin, or the spirit of God and the word of God begins to reveal some things maybe about yourself personally or about myself personally about the culture of our church. Maybe that needs to change so that we would have the courage to repent where we need to repent, reorder what we need to reorder, and walk in such a way that we honor Jesus Christ.
That's the great hope as we get on the other side of this church. John writes to seven prototypical churches that will have struggles at different seasons and at different times, but before he does that, he begins really with all of chapter one, and I'm just going to look at the first eight verses here this morning.
If you're a note-taker, I'm going to give you two major ideas in the first eight verses. You're going to see the Promise, and you're going to see the Praise as John begins to lay out this book in front of you. The promise is going to be about the first three verses and you're going to see the praise of John, who is the witness. All right. So let's pray. Let's ask God for his grace. Let's ask him to make us obedient. Make us those that would hear what the Spirit of God has to say to the churches. Okay.
Father in Heaven. Thanks for your Word. Thanks that we can come here and gather together, and we can seek the face of God through song, through the public reading of your word. I pray, Father, that we would be a church that honors you that loves you that serves you and knows the approval of the Son of God Father, for all that we're going to look at over these next nine weeks. I pray that you would make us humble and submissive hearers of your word, that you would shape us, and would change us. That you would challenge us where we need to be challenged. That you would give us courage where we need to be encouraged. That you would give us contrition where we need to repent and turn from ways perhaps that are not honoring to you.
Father, our greatest hope is that we would see Jesus Christ, that we would in this city see his name lifted up, his word proclaimed, and that we would provide hope to this city and hope and our relationships and families with those who could come to a right knowledge of the God of Heaven and Earth. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. And for his sake, shape us and change us by Your Word in your spirit. Amen.
All right, Revelation chapter 1. Y'all there? Say Amen if you’re there. All right, Revelation 1:1.
Alright, now stop right there. I’ve got to talk about that. I had one of our staff guys make a joke this week and go “Steve, you don't even need to worry about the whole slide, you just get to one word and you start talking. It doesn't even matter if you click the slides forward or backward.” and he's right.
The Revelation, singular. It's one Revelation. The final book in your Bible is right here written by the Apostle John. John is in prison. He's exiled on an island called Patmos and he's given this Revelation. Revelation is the word, it's the root word that we get the word apocalypse from. An apocalyptic literature, or the apocalypse, you think about apocalyptic movies that really captured just the end of all things but that's not exactly what the word means here in context. The word throughout the New Testament speaks of a mystery of something that is revealed. The word is made up of two words that are put together “apo,” which means back, and “clypto,” which means covers. So it's the pulling back of the covers.
It's the Revelation that Paul talked about in Galatians 1. That he didn't receive the Gospel from a manner through man, but through a revelation. Paul didn't discern it. He didn't discover it. It was given to him. It was shown to him and throughout the New Testament, there are mysteries that are not seen. In the church in Ephesians is said to be a mystery that needs to be revealed. Nobody had the idea of Jew and Gentile getting together under the name and purposes of Jesus Christ in a body different from the ethnic division that had happened in the past. It was a mystery that had to be revealed. It had to be demonstrated, had to be shown, God had to say, “this is what I'm doing in Jesus Christ.”
So this book begins not as something that has to be discerned or discovered but it's something that needs to be revealed. You and I are dependent creatures. We don't discover things about the end just by dreaming them up. The end resides in the mind and the heart and the will and the purposes of God.
And it is given, look at what it says, the revelation of who?
Jesus Christ, will be mentioned three times in these eight verses. As such, he is both the source of the Revelation and he is the object of the Revelation. If you want one purpose, one main idea that you want to get out of the Book of Revelation, it's not whether or not the demons that look like locusts or helicopters. See, four of you have heard that before. And that's why you laughed.
The point of the book of the Revelation is Jesus Christ.
"The revelation of Jesus Christ"
You know, there's much about Jesus in his first coming that is glorious and wonderful and humble and beautiful and tender and wise and kind, but there is much about Jesus Christ up to this point in your Bible. If you close your Bible at the book of Jude, you don't have the whole story. You have unfulfilled promises that Jesus has made.
You have things that Jesus has said about who he is that you have not seen come to pass yet.
So when John begins saying, “this is the revelation of Jesus Christ,” you are about to see a side of Jesus Christ that heretofore you have not seen before. It is contained in this book. That's why your New Testament hints at the end times. It shows you images or shadows of what is to come. Revelation demonstrates and lays forward all of who Jesus is.
Where he was humble and his first coming he is glorious in the Book of Revelation. He is powerful in the Book of Revelation. There is no opposition to him whatsoever in the Book of Revelation.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Now, watch how the transmission of this message comes. These three verses that set up the Book of Revelation are kind of how you read this book and why you should read this book. It doesn't begin like a lot of other New Testament Epistles do. A lot of Paul's writings begin with “Paul the author to the recipients,” but that's not how John begins this. John begins just for a minute just in three verses to tell you this is what this book is. It's kind of like a big warning label across the book.
This is how you’re to understand and to see and to read this book. And this is why you’re to read this book. He's going to give you a promise here in a second. But before he jumps in and talks about “this is who I am and this is who the letters are to and this is why it's important to read and get into the praise of all of who God is” He goes,
“Let me tell you about this book. It's the revelation of Jesus Christ. Which God gave him”
Who’s him? Jesus. God gave to Jesus this Revelation to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. You know, if you biblically think about the kind of biblical culture that's happening when you get to the Book of Revelation, there are two very important things that are happening culturally that two different writers speak about. Second Peter and Jude both speak about individuals in the culture and in even the Jewish time and in the essentially the culture of their day, of people who are called scoffers. And if you read Jude and you read II Peter, they both talked about scoffers who blow off the fact that God will judge. They blow off the fact that history has a terminus and is coming to a point that is under God's authority and under God's will and according to God's purposes. Peter says that there are scoffers who say, “where is the promise of his coming? For all things that happen are since the fathers were buried. Nothing has changed in life.”
Do you ever feel that in your life? That your life is kind of this succession of moments of the eternal present?
Maybe not if you're not older than, you know, 21, but if you are older than 21 you remember when you were 15, and you remember when you were 25 and you remember when you were 35 and on and on and on, right?
But the things that capture my mind and my attention so often are the “right now.” Ever feel that? I didn't worry about what happened in Peru in the 70s this week at all. I didn't think about it. I didn't think about what happened in 2015 this week. Maybe you thought of 9/11 this week, maybe that brought a flicker of time to your mind, but we have a tendency to be consumed and anxious and worried and focused and intense about the “right now” in the thing right now. In the thing that's so important right now. The thing about it next. And it's so important that I do this thing because I've got to the next thing, the thing I’ve got to get is this thing right here right now.
And John says, here comes this revelation.
"To show to his servants the things that must soon take place."
There's an imminence about it. It's the next event on the prophetic clock. Between your Old Testament and New Testament are 400 years of silence.
Jesus’ parables at the end of the book of Matthew all have to do with the imminence of his return. About how you will act, how you will steward, how you will plan, how you will look, how you will think when Jesus has not come back yet.
And John begins saying “these things must soon take place.” They are imminent. Look at the remainder verse 1. He made it known by sending his Angel to his servant John. God, Jesus, Angel, John, with me? A succession of reliable witnesses.
“sending his angel to his servant John who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ even to all that he saw."
Now you wouldn't see this in the English, but in that word you see, “he made it known,” he made it known as is a word that's used only six times in your Bible. Four of them are used about Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of how he would die. The other two are used about Paul in a court of law about evidence brought against him to indicate that the evidence of who is true or false. These next two verses are filled with this law/courtroom kind of picture. So he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony. All lawyer kind of terms.
Now, what makes a good witness? A good witness is not creative. A good witness doesn't make sure the story sounds good. A good witness doesn't dream up his own version of events. A good witness declares exactly what he saw. That's who John says he is.
God the Father, Jesus Christ, Angel, John the witness. John, what's your job? Write down all that. You see, then speak all that. You hear, John you've got to be accurate. As such, John functions as a sort of New Testament prophet in saying “Thus says the Lord. This is what I saw. This is what I heard. He who bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, those are kind of two comparable words that are used throughout the Book of Revelation about the veracity of the truth of the word of God specifically connected to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That's why the person and work of Jesus Christ is so central to the Book of Revelation and who he is. They're aligned. The word of God is not disconnected, the word of God is connected in the beginning John says in his other gospel was what? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
The revelation of who God is is captured in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the word of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ even to all that. John saw, “here's your promise.” This is why I put this heading here, verse 3:
"blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."
See the immediacy? The first three verses must soon take place “for the time is near.” Blessed is the one who reads. This letter is probably a circular letter, a circular letter that goes to multiple churches at the time and John writes this in such a way that he expects the church not just to read it privately but to announce it corporately. That this is meant to be the church's letter. Blessed is the one who reads it aloud. What's your response and my response to hearing the read word of God aloud? Blessed is the one who hears and who keeps.
All through John's Council to the churches, we read “Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It's the refrain in every single Church.
Pay attention, let him who has ears to hear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Blessed is the one who hears and, what? When's the last time you took a verse from The Book of Revelation? You said I'm going to meditate on this, or, this has changed my life.
Doesn't Revelation have a way of being a little bit distant from where we are right now? That I can read the New Testament letters of Paul and feel like, “gosh I need to really repent in this area and get my sanctification in order and begin to change my life and some certain ways. I need to repent and use my life and my gifts are my talents and my words differently and God forgive me for the way I'm acting.” John gives a blessing and a promise to people who would read and heed this book, people who would begin now to change how they're living, now.
In light of what will happen, what happens a lot of times in the church as we look back to who Jesus was and what he did and change our lives accordingly to the truth about Jesus, who he was back here. John says blessed is the one who reads it, hears it, and keeps it. Isn't it interesting that an eye on the future allows you to live in the present more wisely? Is that important to know? So let me ask you as we begin this study. Are you living, am I living, with the end in mind?
Because that's what the purpose of the Book of Revelation is. It begins to align your values with your thoughts, your plans, your ambitions, your desires, all according to the end.
Have you read the end of the book?
Do you know where we're headed?
John says, blessed is the one who reads it who hears it who heeds it who keeps it for the time is near twice already in three verses. He said it must soon take place and the time is near.
Now, let's be honest with this week. Have you lived with the end in mind? Gosh, I was studying this text and I was going, “Gosh. I need to live with the end in mind. I better hurry up and start living with the end in mind. I gotta talk about it on Sunday.”
Must soon take place. The time is near.
So there's your promise. Read it, listen to it, heed it, obey it, live in light of time that is coming to an end. Now, let's look at the praise. You with me so far? You got the promise. There's your promise in the Book of Revelation read it, listen to it. Heed it, pay attention. Obey it, order your life differently. Now, let's open the book or open the scroll, as it were, look at verse four
"John to the seven churches that are in Asia."
I'll show you this in a couple weeks when we get to these... it's interesting that these are seven churches that John uses because they weren't all the churches in the region. Colossae is a church is in this region, but the seven churches are prototypical churches. But again, they're not exhaustive. There's probably a sense of plurality and wholeness as the way we understand these churches, but they're all in modern-day Turkey. If you were to deliver this letter from John to one of the churches you would typically make kind of a circular route throughout Turkey.
Now watch how he begins his greeting. This greeting is all about God. He begins in such a way, I think it's just a beautiful way. He begins because he saturates his greeting in the trinitarian nature of God and who he is. So you read this book and you open up the first three verses and you say blessed is the one who reads it blessed is the one who hears blessed is the one who keeps it and obeys it and John takes one step into verse 4 and then he what he tries to do is capture your mind and heart with the person of God.
He tries to take your mind's eye and put it on the trinitarian nature and beauty and glory of God and who he is. Look what he says,
"Grace to you"
Grace comes from the nature of God. It's God's unmerited favor kindness and goodness toward people who do not deserve it. As such it has nothing to do with mankind. It has everything to do with God.
So John begins saying, “grace to you.” What did you do to earn it? Nothing. I did nothing to earn and I just received the grace and the kindness and the goodness of God poured out upon people who are sinners.
"Grace to you and peace."
Peace indicates your relationship. Grace is the character of God. Peace is the relationship we have with God because of his grace.
Isn't that a great way to open up a Bible on the Apocalypse?
Grace and peace
Now if you've read this book, you know what is to come. But John makes sure he begins with grace and peace to these churches. Grace and peace from him. If you want a fun little exercise, go back to these Verses 4 through 8 and circle how many times “he” or “him” was mentioned.
Look what it says,
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come”
I love that God refers to himself that way. I'm going to tell you why toward the end this verse four through verse 8 are bracketed by this truth that God is the one who was who is and who is to come. It's as if all of the truth in between these two things is captured in the eternity of God and God who was and God who is and who God who is to come.
"Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come and from the seven spirits who are before his throne."
Now, what in the world is that? Options could be, the spirit of each of the seven churches that will be mentioned. It could be seven independent angels that are representative angels that are around the throne. I lean toward this being the Holy Spirit for a couple of different reasons.
One, it’s sandwiched between God the Father and God the Son. Typically, angels aren't mentioned between God the Father and God the Son. Later on in this book, the Holy Spirit is captured in multiple different ways. The seven spirits who are here, he's represented later as seven torches, and later on again, even seven eyes. So there's probably a sense here that this is the sevenfold Spirit or the total fullness. Seven in the biblical literature is a sense of fullness and completeness.
So probably, don't hold me to it, but probably the Holy Spirit.
"From God the Father who is and was and who is to come and from the seven spirits who are before his throne and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness."
Witnesses the word that we get the word martyr from. And throughout Jesus’ time on earth, specifically in the book of John, There's probably three different times where Jesus refers to himself as the witness–as the one who gives witness, the one who speaks about the truth. I come as a witness to the truth. Jesus told Pilate that. Consistently in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus says “I speak what the Father has given me to speak. I speak according to what God wants me to say. I always do what is pleasing to the Father. I always do the things that the Father wants me to do.”
So grace and peace from the one who was and who is and who is to come, from the seven spirits, and from the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead. Now, if you met this in your reading as you've read the scriptures you would be reminded of a spot in the book of Colossians. It says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Now, we get the word martyr as I just said from that word witness. What happens to a martyr? A martyr has a testimony that they pay for with their life, right? So a martyr dies, typically, as the way that we use the word. Well, John brings together two, very important ideas here, that Jesus is the faithful witness. He's the one whose word can be trusted. Is that good news? His word when he speaks it is authoritative and to be understood and to be embraced as truth. What happened to Jesus? Well, Jesus died. Jesus was crucified for the truth that he spoke from God the Father. And here in the Book of Revelation, though.
He's the firstborn of the what?
"the firstborn of the dead"
In Colossians 1, he's the firstborn of all creation. Here, he's the firstborn of the new creation, all as a result of his faithful witnessing to the truth. The firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the Kings on Earth. What does that tell you about Jesus’ authority? Jesus told the disciples, “All authority in heaven on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that I command you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age,” right? There's your Great Commission.
If you read the book of Philippians, Philippians chapter 2 talks about the emptying of Jesus Christ. Though he's in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Right? You've probably read that before. You can read it by the time Paul gets to verse 9 it says that “therefore Jesus was given the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is God or he, Jesus, is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Even in the passage about Jesus’ humiliation is the book of Revelation.
They're paired together because Jesus was the faithful witness, died, and is now the firstborn of the new creation. He now has all authority in heaven on earth being given to him. He is the ruler of the Kings on Earth. There is no area over this entire planet in this entire universe where Jesus does not have full and complete and ultimate authority and accountability.
Are you watching how John is making sure you know where this greeting is coming from?
You could write books on the phrases that John writes here:
"and the ruler of the Kings on Earth."
Now what John does next I think is wonderful because so far you've been blessed if you read it if you hear it, if you listen to it, if you obey it, and then John says here's this letter of grace and peace from the triune nature of God. And now what John does next I think is so encouraging to us as a church. It's so encouraging to you. It's so encouraging to me. Because now what John is going to do is begin to praise this triune God and he's going to praise God because of what he's done. Look what he says
"to him who loves us."
Don't read by... just don't read by that.
John begins with an understanding of what Christ has accomplished for him. And John embraces the personal reality. John throughout his letters when he writes, especially in his gospel, he refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loves.
John is blown away that the ruler of the Kings on Earth that the one who was and who is and who is to come and the seven spirits before his throne… He is blown away that Jesus loves me.
Can you imagine, just imagine for a minute, you come in here from all sorts of places thinking about all sorts of things and you sit down with a book of Revelation and we begin this story.
What if you began to know down to the foundation of who you are that you were loved by the God of the universe the creator of heaven and earth who knows you intimately. Every struggle. Every gift. Every story. Every period of difficulty. Every height, every valley. And you heard to the center of who you are that Jesus loves you.
That's all, but John says the greatest hope for a church who hears grace and peace from the triune God is embracing the truth confidently that Jesus loves me. This is the root of all of what John is about to say–that Jesus loves me. All of John's glorious doxology in speaking about Jesus and who he is begins with what he writes in first John “this is love not that we have loved God, but that God loved us.”
"And to him who loves us."
And now watch out, John is going to root his understanding of Jesus in the future, with Jesus in the past. Imagine being John who walked with Jesus, who saw Jesus crucified, who saw him transfigured, and then John gets the picture of all of who Jesus is today right now
"to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood."
What's John looking back too? He says “Jesus loves me because Jesus died for me, because Jesus has freed me from my sins. And not only that, Jesus didn't just save you to kind of sit you on a shelf and go just wait to die. You know that. You get in this next phrase, you get a new status and you get a new service.
"Freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom."
Those are people who order their lives according to God's rule. God's Authority. God's protection. God's provision. That they are under the rule and the authority of God. He has made us a kingdom. It's people who are a part of the kingdom of God, not just a location and an area, it's people who begin now to order their lives according to what they know of God.
Not only that he's made us priests to his God and Father, that we now become servants.
We now begin to order our lives in such a way that we are obedient to what God says in any situation, in every season, in all of what God wants for us in our marriages and our parenting and our workplace and all of those things. We become priests of God. This is kind of an echo of what Peter writes that “you are a kingdom of priests a royal priesthood.” He says that we have this royal sense of new status and a royal commission as servants of God and priests of God.
"To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
See all of what John has just done? John took his personal apprehension of what Jesus has done for him and it has created worship in his heart. Your worship is always, always, always, always tied to your understanding of God.
Always, if you are ignorant of God, you are ignorant in worship. Your worship will be weak and anemic and painful and self-centered and bitter and angry and resentful unless you are aware of who God is and what he has done. That's one of the great purposes of reading your Bible. That's one of the purposes of you reading this book, obeying it, hearing it, and living ordinary life according to what it says.
Because it's only John who understands that Jesus loves me and to him be glory and dominion and what did he say? To him be glory and dominion forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Amen.
Why can he say that? Because he knows Jesus loves him.
He understands. He apprehends the truth of God and who Jesus is for himself, personally.
Unless you have theology. You will never have worship.
You with me? Never.
So you got a status, you got a service, now watch: that's all in the past. Watch how the phrases turn here from the past to the present to the future. Look at verse 7
"Behold, He is coming"
literally that “ing” is there purposefully in the English.
It's as if it says Jesus is currently on his way.
The very next thing to happen in the prophetic time clock is not what Jesus did back there. But Jesus is on his way. He's getting ready to come. He is coming. What will happen at his coming? That's when you move into the future.
"Behold, he is coming with the clouds"
Clouds are often connected in the Old Testament to the attendance of God, the retinue of God, the posse of God. They accompany God. He's coming with the clouds. The angels talk to the disciples and said, “men of Israel. Why are you staring up into the heaven? This Jesus who you saw go up into heaven will return the same way.
Stop looking. He's coming.
"He's coming with the clouds and every eye will see him."
How did Jesus come the first time? In a little bitty place out of the way that people looked at as a bad side of town. As a place that was not impressive. One of the disciples said, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Is this the place really that Jesus is going to be born? Are you serious?
He grew up, Isaiah said, “there was no beauty or majesty that would attract us to him.”
He wasn't good looking. Didn't have five percent body fat. He came in an out-of-the-way place.
In a humble manger, not popular, not in a palace. He was crucified as one of many criminals in his day.
But there's coming a time when all will see him. The first time he came in humility. This time, he'll come in exaltation. The first time, in an unknown place, out-of-the-way backwater town. This time in the sky where every eye will see him.
You will not be confused at the second coming of Jesus.
"Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him."
Now. I think this is intentional here. You may have a cross-reference there that talks about Zechariah 12, which you may or may not have read. Zechariah 12 talks about the redemption of the people of Israel. That God pours out his Spirit upon the people of Israel and they turn and mourn for the one whom they have pierced. They will look to the Jew that they crucified.
That may be the case here. I'm inclined to say probably not just because of the way that everybody will respond to Jesus upon his return. It seems to be a negative, that word mourn is the word “cut.” It says everybody will be “cut to the heart” that they will be revealed and see who Jesus is and they will not respond positively.
So it could be put together, Jew and Gentile will look to the one whom they have rejected through the course of their lives. And then when Jesus has come and he reveals himself every one will mourn everyone will be filled with regret that they did not receive him the first time.
And John ends saying this
"even so amen."
There are two words there that he says. It's a strong affirmation in the Greek and the strong affirmation in the Hebrew. “Even so” says let it be, and “Amen” is similar in the Hebrew.
So it's as if John says amen and amen, let Jesus do all that he is going to do.
Now the close of this text is verse 8 and this is how I want to kind of close our time together. The close of this text is one of two places in all of the Book of Revelation where God the Father speaks. He speaks here, and he speaks in Revelation chapter 21, and they're virtually identical phrases that he uses in Revelation 21. And here’s what it says Revelation 1:8.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega"
You may have heard that term before. That may be a phrase that you've heard before. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. And when God the Father says this, he doesn't just say like I’m A and I'm Z, he's saying “I'm the beginning. I'm the end and I'm every letter in between. I'm every beginning and I'm every ending. Every beginning has as its source and ultimate point of reference–me. Every single ending has its source and ultimate point–me.”
Now, for an eternal being to say that, what is he saying?
He's saying that from the beginning, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. The beginning is about God.
And “I'm the Omega” which is what he will say in Revelation 21. He'll say “I am the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end behold. I am making all things one”.
Now, the beginning of creation rests in my purpose, in my design. The beginning and the end of creation rest in my purpose and my design in my plans. Everything in between has to do with me.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come."
God's relationship with a finite creation. Our creation has defined beginning and a defined end. All that are in the mind purposes will and power of God, a God who is, who was, and who is to come. You with me?
But even more than that, are you watching why this text is so important for your praise of God and who he is? You see why John is doing this beginning and end. The point of the almighty is he has all sovereignty everywhere all the time.
There was never a point in eternity past where God was not sovereign. There is never a point in eternity future when God is not sovereign. There is never a point in the Alpha and the beginning of all things where God is not sovereign. There is never a point in the end of all things where God is not sovereign. And he is called The Almighty. This is John's favorite term to refer to God in the book of Revelation.
He is ultimately eternally, immutably, sovereign.
Now, why does John begin like that?
Why does John say grace and peace from him who was and who is and who is to come and end with I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty?
You know why? He starts this book, I think, I think he starts this book just to remind you and to remind me that the Bible is not a book about you.
Isn't that discouraging? Don't you really want it to be about you? Don't I really, I mean, don't I really want this verse to be about me?
“I the Lord have spoken and I will do it.” The book is not about me. The book is about God.
We don't come to this book to have God... Well, let me make sure I say this right so you don't get like, super discouraged.
We come to this book to hear from God.
We come to this book to see God.
We preach the word of God to hear and to know God. The book of the Bible that you hold in your hands is a story of God.
So the last book in your Bible is this place where the one who says “I'm the beginning and the end, who is, who was, who is to come, the Almighty.” He says that “I hold all the keys. I have all the cards. I have all the power. I have all the authority. I know the entire story from the beginning to the end and I will accomplish every single one of my purposes exactly the way I want them to in the exact amount of time that I want them to and it will all be for my name’s sake and for my glory.” That's what God just said.
I am turning 43 this year.
And I now I stand an interesting place in this Pulpit because we have people who come to this church... I found out we had one of our residents was born in ‘97. And then we have people going on… Don, what year were you born? 1935.
I stand an interesting spot in this Pulpit because I have people who are 20 years ahead of me in 20 years behind me and I have found that in my life, the longer I live, I am beginning to see, you know, we have a bunch of kids, and every time I talk to people who have kids out of the house they go “hang on to these days. They go so quick.”
And I go they’re so long though. They take so long. And just in these past couple years. I've started to see the thing in my own personal life of my own personal way where I'm beginning to see the end of seasons. I'm beginning to recognize that I used to, I would sing to my son before bed when he was in his crib and I would sing, you know, “what songs you want to sing?” He wants maybe Behold our God and Holy Holy. I said, “okay Behold our God and holy holy” and I'd sing it every single night. I know those songs inside out and backwards, and all of that, and I recognized one time that now, he just turned 6, I don't have those days anymore.
But that was a time, and that time is over, and there was a season where we changed diapers and now we don't change diapers. Well, we have one that's in diapers still, but there's coming a time where I won't change anymore diapers. And this is like, this is just me and this is my life and I'm beginning to recognize the older I get I have fewer and fewer starts. I have fewer and fewer alphas and more and more omegas. You with me?
And for God to say “I'm the beginning and I'm the end” allows me to begin to live my life in such a way that my life is not about my life.
That my life and your life is, now listen, when I was born in 1977. Jon, 20 years before you.
God had a plan.
And he was working his plan, and it's not like 1977 happened and God said, “Gosh, better get to work!” As if the end of the ages rests on me and what I'm doing. And what I have found, the longer I'm in ministry, the longer I'm a husband, the longer I'm a dad, is that the greatest hope that I have is not to accomplish some set of personal ambitions and dreams and desires, but the thing that captures my heart as I get older and older is just being obedient is just doing what God wants me to do. To contribute to what God is doing as long as I am here.
It’s said of David that “he fulfilled the purposes of the Lord in his generation and he fell asleep.” I want that. Wouldn't that be great to have that on your tombstone? I did everything God wanted me to do with the time that I had I was obedient to what God wanted me to do. To him be the glory and the dominion forever. Amen.
That's what a Christian is. That's what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. That's what it means to be a priest to our God and Father. It's to take your life and begin to unhinge your perspective from all these ambitions and dreams and desires and plans and things that are all about you and begin to live your life in such a way that you order your life according to the Alpha and the Omega. The one who is and who was and who is to come. You with me? That's why this book is so important.
Because you live in light of Eternity. You and I are here like that. And one day this life, this journey, will be over. And the question for you, And the question for me, is “are you living your now in light of the end?”
Look, if you walked in here today, and you've never heard this before, that one day God will put an end to all sin all suffering all satanic and demonic rebellion, and he will condemn those who have not put their faith and trust in the one and only way truth and life the Son of God as the one who loves you and is paid the price for your sins and that you can be safe from the wrath to come.
Then I want you to know that today.
That eternity is coming. Death is coming. There is a time when you will reach your Omega, your end.
And the hope for you, and the hope for me, is that we have received the truth of God and his word that Jesus loves us. Jesus died for us and Jesus will bring us safe to the end. That's why John starts with this about God, right?
Father in heaven, we pray as men and women who are here in light of eternity for just a breath. That we would live our lives, that we would be men and women who know that the greatest joy of our life is to be obedient to the desires of God. That we would be men and women who honor you with our lives and in our hearts and our hopes and our dreams and that you would look at us as men and women of God with pleasure as we seek to be priests to our God and Father that we would order our lives that we as a church would be the kind of church that orders our lives and our hopes and our ambitions according to what you have and you want for us. We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus who loves us and who has freed us from our sins. Amen.
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September 20, 2020...Of Jesus Christ