November 22, 2009
?The Reign of Christ
As we arrive at the end of another year in the church calendar, what does it all come down to? The reign of Christ! It is both comforting and compelling to consider that it all commenced with His arrival and it all concludes with His reign. It’s all about Christ.
The Book of Revelation serves as an exclamation point in the Bible, and it’s a good place to draw the strings together on our journey through Scripture this year. The theme of the entire first chapter is the reign of Christ, as a description of His rule is detailed. Our text quickly affirms that as Jesus came to earth in the first advent as a vulnerable baby, He is coming again as the reigning King.
Few things-if any-conjure up more curiosity than speculation about the future. What does the future look like? What will it be like? How will it affect me? People try to figure it out in every possible way-from opening up hands to a palm reader, to making a wish upon a falling star, to begging for an answer in a desperate prayer as they stand at a fork in the road. But what would we do if we knew the future? The message title is a compelling question to consider as we worship on this final Sunday of the church year.
This is the kind of question about the future that goes beyond quaint curiosity to something that is important to God as well as us. If we knew the future, how would it affect the way we live today?
The good news is we can know some things about the future. The Bible reveals some insights about tomorrow for the purpose of guiding our lives today. The Book of Revelation is a vision that God gave John while the apostle was in exile on the island of Patmos. There is a wide variety of interpretation regarding John’s vision that composes this concluding book of Scripture, but it most certainly involves things both present and future. No matter how one interprets it, there is no doubt that God desires this vision to affect our daily lives.
While there is much about the future that is known only to the mind of God, there are some things He reveals that are intended to affect the way we live in the present. Let’s consider the overlapping and interweaving present-future issues in this passage. Let’s approach it from the standpoint of the question: If we could know about tomorrow, what would we do about it today?
I. Trust the Consistency and Completeness of God (vv. 4-5,8)
Like bookends, the passage begins and ends with the assuring message that God is the same in the past, present and future: “from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Whether we see Him acting in the lives of Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament, or Peter and Paul in New Testament, or the redeemed and rejected in the final judgment, God is consistent and complete. He needs and lacks nothing, but He loves everyone and desires that “whosoever will” come to saving faith in Christ.
John also refers to Jesus as “the faithful witness,” assuring us that we can trust him through changing times.
John affirms the unchanging character and conduct of God in the concluding verse, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God.”
II. Enjoy the Unity and Diversity of Every Church (vv. 4,6)
While there is a unity of redemptive purpose in every church, there is also a unique mission in each one. John mentions “the seven spirits before His throne.” This doesn’t mean seven different or separate spirits; but it translates literally “the seven-fold spirit,” meaning the same Holy Spirit has a unique ministry in each church. Yet all true churches have much in common, being part of “a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.”
III. Live Assured by the Unchanging and Life-Changing Gospel Message (vv. 4-6)
God always has and always will offer hope to a broken world. “Grace and peace” are the first words of John to the churches. But these are not just words from the apostle; they are words from the triune God.
The message focuses on Jesus, who is the subject of verses 5-6: “him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” is the remedy for man’s sinful condition.
He can do anything. Notice how Jesus is described throughout the passage: “the firstborn from the dead … the ruler of the kings … to him be glory and power for ever and ever … the Almighty.”
IV. Know for Certain the Return and Reign of Jesus (v. 7)
It is sure to happen, but its timing is unknown. We are to live in anticipation that it could be any day.
These are things we can know about the future that give us hope and help as we live in the present as God desires. They are intended to build up our faith, encourage our faithfulness and prepare us to stand before the Lord one day to give an account and receive our reward.
This reminds me of growing up, when my father would assign me chores to be done by the end of the day. One day before Dad left for work, he told me to mow the yard and clean up my room. I had all day to do it, just so it was done when he came home. I was well aware-from experience-that he would check it that evening and either congratulate me with a smile on his face or require an explanation with a stern tone in his voice.
Dad was a traveling salesman, so his hours were unpredictable. I knew he would be home before supper, but I didn’t know if his car would pull in the yard as early as 4:00 or as late as 6:00. This particular day was filled with a surplus of playful activities at a friend’s backyard pool. I mowed the grass as soon as he left, but I put off cleaning up my room. I intended to do it after I got my fill of swimming.
But of course, boys don’t get their fill of swimming quickly. The time went by so fast that it was evening before I knew it! When I finally walked in the house, there he was! He could have been all smiles, but instead I had to face his frown because I had not done what he required of me. The worst part was knowing that I had let him down and didn’t have a good excuse.
God has told us a few things about tomorrow so we will spend today wisely and be prepared when tomorrow arrives. He has consistently reminded people throughout Scripture that yesterday, today and tomorrow are connected. What we do today has been greatly shaped by yesterday and will significantly impact tomorrow.