Revelation 11:15-19 – It Will Not Always Be This Way

The World
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” –Abraham Kuyper

At the sound of the seventh trumpet, loud voices were heard in heaven. They said,

“Now the kingdom
of this world
belongs to our Lord
and to his Chosen One!
And he will rule
forever and ever!”

Then the twenty-four elders, who were seated on thrones in God’s presence, knelt down and worshiped him.  They said,

“Lord God All-Powerful,
you are and you were,
and we thank you.
You used your great power
and started ruling.
When the nations got angry,
you became angry too!
Now the time has come
for the dead
to be judged.
It is time for you to reward
your servants the prophets
and all of your people
who honor your name,
no matter who they are.
It is time to destroy everyone
who has destroyed
the earth.”

The door to God’s temple in heaven was then opened, and the sacred chest could be seen inside the temple. I saw lightning and heard roars of thunder. The earth trembled and huge hailstones fell to the ground. (CEV)

The book of the Revelation was a vision given to the Apostle John late in his life.  At the turn of the first century, Christ’s Church was facing a great deal of difficulty and hardship.  Christians were in the minority; looked at with suspect; misunderstood; often persecuted because of false information.  In short, all the kinds of things that Jewish people currently face and have faced for millennia were true of the early believers in Jesus.

Therefore, the purpose of the vision to John was not to give slick preachers a reason to craft elaborate prophecy charts about what’s going to happen in the future.  Instead, God was concerned for the welfare of his people.  The vision was meant to bring  encouragement that this present hard situation will not always be this way.  The danger and adversity will not last forever.  There is a day coming when God’s judgment and benevolent rule will reign in its fullness.  In other words, our prayers will be answered that have been offered for centuries: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

God did not want his beloved children to succumb to discouragement and lose heart.  So, the vision from John assured them that all will be made right.  Jesus is Lord, and his good rule will have the day.  Yes, we currently live in a world profoundly touched by sin and death.  And because of that we feel pain and must endure the hardships of things like COVID-19 and economic woes. It is possible to observe it all and experience its effects and fall into despair, and, so, give-in to unhealthy ways of coping with the circumstances around us.

We graciously have been given a glimpse into how all of history will shake-out in the end.  That peek into what’s coming ahead is meant to bring us needed encouragement, steadfast hope, and patient endurance.  There is coming a day when our own personal and local expressions of grief and lament will give way to praise and gratitude to God.  And that incredible praise will explode with all believers, past and present, along with all creation, proclaiming together: “Lord God All-Powerful, you are and you were, and we thank you.  Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One!  And he will rule forever and ever!”  Amen, and amen.

Click Hope in God to gain some encouragement from singer and songwriter Ken Medema.

Luke 1:1-4

            The season of Advent is almost upon us.  Advent is simply another word for “coming.”  During this liturgical season on the Christian Calendar, we rehearse the incarnation of Jesus, his coming to this earth as a baby.  Through this focus we anticipate Christ’s coming again in his Second Advent, at the end of the age.  As the secular world encroaches more and more into the sacred through a mere cultural assent to Christmas with its anticipation of gifts, food, and time off, the spiritual grounding of Advent is quite necessary for the Christian.
 
            It is appropriate, then, that today’s lectionary brings us to the beginning verses of Luke’s Gospel.  We are told that Luke set about the task of an historian, providing a first-hand account of Jesus Christ as well as researching primary sources to give a reliable and faithful narrative of the major redemptive events of Christ’s life and ministry.  The purpose of it all is to ground the believer in truth, and to orient the unbeliever into the vital components of God’s rescue mission of humanity.
 
            Let’s make it our goal to journey with Jesus in this next month by carefully and devotionally reading the daily lectionary so that we might be the recipients of God’s incredible story to us.  It would be helpful if you kept a journal of daily observations and thoughtful applications.  Yes, this takes the time of thought and reflection, but, then again, we are seeking to reverse the trend of the secular invading the sacred.  Who knows?  A fresh movement of the Spirit might stir up amongst us.
 

 

            Gracious God, thank you for neither abandoning nor obliterating humanity because of our terrible estrangement from you.  In this Advent season, lead us to Christ and save us from ourselves so that we might know the life that is truly life.  Amen.

The Reign of Christ the King

 
 
In my undergraduate college days, one of the required classes for my major was Philosophy of History taught by a crusty old professor who looked like he was one-hundred ten years old.  Professor Thompson knew that I was a Christian because I always sat in the front of his class taking notes with a Bible on my desk.  One day he came into the classroom and began his lecture by looking directly at me with those beady black eyes of his and said, as only Professor Thompson could say it, “Ehrhardt!  Can God change history?”
 
            My answer was this:  the question is only relevant if God were never in control and sovereign over history to begin with; there is no need to change history if God is actively and continually working out his purposes in and through history.  So, a more appropriate question would be:  Since God is Lord over all history, will we submit to him? 
 
            In difficult times, it is only human to wonder if God is really sovereign over all the earth.  When terrorists kill others; when natural disasters claim countless lives; when Christianity is seen as a threat to many; with such realities we might ask ourselves – Can God change history?
 
            Even though Christ’s reign is invisible and seems limited and temporary, it will ultimately be visible and is pervasive and permanent (Revelation 1:4-8).  Faithful believers in the first centuries of the church would witness to their faith and tell others about the redemptive events of Jesus and that, since Jesus is alive, others can experience new life.  They were effective enough to alter the social order of things, which brought persecution and, in some cases, death.  These men and women were killed proclaiming their devotion to Jesus, witnessing to others.  So, the term “witness” or “martyr” began to refer to those who were killed for their proclamation of the gospel.  In doing this, they saw themselves as only emulating and following in the way of their sovereign Lord Jesus, who was himself a faithful martyr.  Just as Jesus died proclaiming the kingdom of God and people’s need to submit to it, so the earliest believers needed to see their solidarity with their Lord so that they would not falter and give in to being silent.
 
Jesus is Lord of both good days and bad days.  Our faith cannot be dependent upon our circumstances because it is the blood of Jesus that has freed us to live for God no matter what the situation we have before us.  We overcome only on the ground of the blood of Christ – not because everything goes our way.  We overcome our consciences, bad tempers, defeats, lusts, fears, and pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus frees us! The goal of the church is not having a wonderful existence without any adversity; the goal is to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified, dead, risen and ascended. 
 
As believers in Jesus we have continual access and unconditional acceptance of God through his blood.  We can intercede for others directly by going straight to God.  Just as Jesus has unlimited access to the Father, so, the Christian has the ability and the privilege of coming to God at all times.  Christians are a kingdom of priests where every believer intercedes for other believers, and even for the world which persecutes them.
 
While we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus, we do not idly wait.  We intercede for the world.  We proclaim the gospel to all the earth.  We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Nothing in this world can ever deprive us of grace and peace.  No circumstance or adverse situation, no terrorist or natural disaster, no ornery people, no other person can take away Jesus from us.  So, with this security, assurance, and blessing we are free to rescue others from the coming judgment.
 

 

The reign of Jesus Christ elicits some probing questions:  Will we be faithful to Jesus by being faithful witnesses?  Will we live into the new life offered to us?  Will we submit to King Jesus?  Jesus is worthy of our praise.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  His kingdom will never end.  Since this is true, we are meant to serve God.  In life and in death, we belong to God.  We are not our own; we were bought at a price.  Therefore we are to serve God in the ways he wants us to serve.  “Can God change history?” is not really the question we should be asking.  Since God has changed history forever in the sending of the Son, what will we do with him?  

John 5:19-40

            Christ the King Sunday is a time in which the church observes and recognizes the exaltation and glorification of God the Son as authority over every dominion.  Following the emphasis of that Sunday, these verses in John’s Gospel provide the words from Jesus as to the basis for such power.  Jesus is God.  God the Father works through God the Son.  The works that Jesus did bear testimony to the cosmic reality that Jesus is Lord of all.  Jesus lets us in on his relationship to the Father, and to his actual position and power.
 
            In the face of such biblical evidence as to the greatness and majesty of the Lord Jesus, the only valid and appropriate response is sheer submission to Christ’s authority.  Just as Jesus listened to the Father and obeyed the Father’s will, so we need to listen to Jesus and carry out his will.  Just as Jesus enjoyed his relationship with the Father, so we are to bask in our wonderful relationship with Jesus.  Since Jesus submitted to death on a cross and rose from the dead through God’s power, we now have access to that power by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
 
            We need not bend to any other master other than King Jesus, the rightful ruler of the universe.  Let us put away all others “gods” in which we depend upon for solace and help.  Jesus is a leader who guides us with grace into God’s will for us.
            King Jesus, I submit my life to you alone.  You are the object and desire of my heart.  Use me to work your divine will on this earth, to your own glory and honor.  Amen.