Revelation 003 – The Main Thing

Revelation 003 – The Main Thing
Revelation 1:4d-8 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 10, 2018 • Revelation


Andy Woods

The Main Thing

6-10-18                 Revelation 1:4d-8               Lesson 3

Good morning everybody.  Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 4 and those that are viewing online I want to show you these aren’t props I brought in as sermon illustrations; these are for our upcoming VBS, Vacation Bible School at the end of the month.   The title of our message is The Main Thing, and there’s a saying that goes something like this: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  Amen!  As a matter of fact I heard a sermon once on how to keep the main thing the main thing and that’s the main thing and the sermon never told me what the main thing was.  [Laughter]  So what exactly is the main thing?  As we’re going to discover today the main thing is Jesus.  He is the focus, He is the spotlight of redemptive history.

One of the things we talked about is the background of the book; we sort of asked and answered some basic questions about the book in order to orient us to the Book of Revelation.   We saw that John wrote this book at the end of the first century as he was marooned on the island of Patmos.  This is the final revelation or information that God gave to His church.  And we have been working through what is called a prologue of the book.  The prologue of the book is really there in chapter 1 and verses 1-8.

And one of the reasons I’m not flying through this prologue at breakneck speed is because I think the things spoken of in the prologue, which is just a fancy of saying an introduction, really put into the ground seeds or kernels of truth that become watered and are developed into fuller maturity, fuller revelation, as we move through the book.  So when we miss the prologue we sort of misunderstand what this book is about.  There’s sort of an outline of the prologue.  [1] Title (1a) [2] Chain of Communication (1b-2)  [3] Blessing (3) [4] Author (4a)  [5] Audience (4b)  [6] Greeting (4c)  [7] Source (4d-5a)  [8] Subject (5b-8)]

We’ve gone through verse 1 through most of verse 4.  We saw last time a greeting of grace and peace there in verse 4.  And notice the end of verse 4 into verse 5, it’s very clear who the source of this greeting is.  In other words, why do we have the information that we have?  Why do we have grace and peace?  Why do we have this revelation?

Take a look at verse 4, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace,” that’s where we left off last time, but the rest of the verse says, “from” in other words, here’s the source, in other words, if you’re not tapped into the source you can’t experience the blessing.  So who is the source?  “…from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,” and then you go into verse 5 and it says, “and from Jesus Christ.”

If you’re a careful reader of the Bible what you’ll discover is that all three members of the Trinity are mentioned here.  We believe in the eternally existent triune God, one God but He has expressed Himself in three different personages; God the Father is unique to His Fatherhood, God the Son is unique to His Sonship and then we also have God the Holy Spirit.  One God but He’s expressed Himself in three personages.

And you say well, pastor, can you explain that to us?  And the reality is I’ve been trying to understand this for a long time… I don’t understand it!  I accept it as a biblical revelation; I accept is as biblical truth.  And what you discover here in the source of this greeting is all three members of the Trinity are mentioned.  First of all you have the first member of the Trinity mentioned, God the Father.  You see that in verse 4, “from Him.”  Now notice it doesn’t say the Son, or Jesus. The Son, or Jesus, is going to start getting explained in verse 5.  “From him who is and who was and who is to come.”  The first source of these blessings is God the Father.  And you’ll notice that God the Father is described as the one who is, was, and is to come.  What does that mean?  He is outside of time.  He is what you call the self-existent one.

In fact, you remember Moses got called into service by God and Moses asks a question; he was told to go and proclaim divine truth to Pharaoh, the largest world empire of that time, and he asks God who shall I say sent me. [Exodus 3:13, “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?’]  And God’s answer is very clear, Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’]and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  “I AM” ego eimi in Greek.  The uncaused cause, the One that has always been here is here now and will always be here, the self-existent one.  That is the ultimate source of this book of this book and the source of our blessings.

But you’ll notice in verse 4 how he shifts from the first member of the trinity, the triune Godhood, to the third member.  He begins to describe here the Holy Spirit and notice what it says in verse 4, “And from the seven spirits who are before His throne.”  [Revelation 1:4]  Now who are these seven spirits?  Many people interpret them as angels, angels ministering before the throne room of God.  Why do they interpret it that way?  Because in the Book of Hebrews, chapter 1 and verse 14 angels are called spirits.  Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”  Isn’t that great to know by the way?  That we have on our side as children of God ministering angels, ministering spirits whose assignment is us.  And I say praise the Lord because I need all the help I can get.

But so many people will look at the word “spirits” and say well, these are seven spirits, seven angels in the presence of God.  And that’s a possible interpretation.  I’m more of the persuasion that he is talking about the third member of the Trinity just like he is talking in these verses about the other two members of the Trinity, because the fullness of the Holy Spirit is often described through number seven, looking at the Holy Spirit’s various ministries.

Isaiah 11:2 says this: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and under­standing, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”  Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit is described through seven genitive expressions here?  Number 1, “of the LORD.”  Number 2, “of wisdom.”  Number 3, of “understanding.”  Number 4,  of “counsel.”  Number 5, of “strength.”  Number 6, of “knowledge.”  Number 7, of “fear of the LORD.”  The fullness of the Spirit.  In other words, when the Holy Spirit disclosed this book to humanity He was operating in His fullness, He held nothing back from us.  And seven, as we have talked about, is the number of completion or perfection, not only in the whole Bible but specifically the Book of Revelation.

So this message has come from God the Father.  It has also come from God the Son.  And then you move down into verse 5 and you see lighted here not Trinity Member 1 nor 3 but Trinity Member number 2.  It says there in verse 5, “and from Jesus Christ.”  [Verse 5a, “[Verse 5, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood and from Jesus Christ….]  He ends with, as he discusses the various members of the Trinity he ends with Jesus Christ.  Why does he end with Jesus Christ?  Because Jesus Christ is the point of the book.

Did we not see earlier in our study the title of the book, “The revelation of….” Who?  “Jesus Christ.”  The point of the book is to disclose, not the antichrist although information is given about him, but Jesus Christ.  And how tempting it is in a book of interesting information to loose Jesus Christ in a maze of detail.  That’s what happened with the Pharisees when you think about it, in the first century in the life of Christ.  They got so caught up in the maze of regulations and details they couldn’t recognize who was standing right in front of them, Jesus Christ! And I’ve seen this happen to many students of the Book of Revelation, they get pulled into very fascinating details and forget what the book is about: it’s about Jesus, the second member of the Triune Godhead.  It’s about His final phase of victory which is just on the horizon.

We have already seen Revelation 19:10 where it says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  [Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”’]  Who is prophecy about?  What is prophecy about?   The prophecy is about Jesus Christ.  The title of the book is about Jesus Christ.  The function of the book is about Jesus Christ.  The role of the book is about Jesus Christ.  That’s why I’ve entitled this message “The Main Thing” is to keep the main thing.

And you say well can you give me some more information about Jesus Christ. And I’m so glad you asked that because that is who begins to be amplified and explained in the second half of verse 5 all the way through the end of the prologue and that’s where we’re going to be spending our time this morning, talking about Jesus Christ.

We can take the information here and organize it into four parts.  Number one, who He is.  And you see the verses that identify this part of Jesus.  Number 2, His past work, because if we don’t understand His past work we don’t understand the basis for our confidence in a future victory that is disclosed in the Book of Revelation.  Number 3, verse 7, His future work, what is He going to do?  And if time permits number 4, His sovereignty; He is not some sort of created being that’s barely holding things together.  He is the uncaused cause, He is just as self-existent as is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  He has always been and will always be.

So let’s talk about who He is.  Who is Jesus Christ?  In fact, if you get into a conversation this week and somebody asks you who is Jesus what would you say exactly. Well, we discover that there are several things to say about Jesus Christ, all given there in verse 5.  Let’s read together verse 5, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.”

Who is Jesus Christ?  Number one, He is “the faithful witness.”  One of the things that we fail in so much as human beings is we’re just not faithful.  We’re not consistent; part of our sin nature is that way.  People are unfaithful in their places of employment many times, they’re unfaithful in their marriages many times, and we have a tendency as fallen human beings to fail and we just lack consistency in what God has called us to do.  But not so this man, Jesus Christ.

If you look there at verse 5 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness.”  You can’t find a more faithful individual than Jesus Christ.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins He is” what? “faithful and righteous to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse  us from all unrighteousness.”  He doesn’t say well, you know, I don’t really feel like doing it this time around.  His character is completely consistent and you’ll notice that He is “the faithfulness,” what did He witness to exactly? Well, in His first coming or in His first advent His job, one of them, was to disclose the Father to the world.

In John 17:25-26 Jesus is praying to the Father and He says in verse 26,  “I have made known Your name to them,” what I came to do I executed it with precision and perfection and completion and fullness.  [John 17:25-26, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; [26] and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”’]

Who was Jesus Christ?  Number one, he is the faithful witness.  Number two, He is the firstborn of the dead,  you’ll see that there in verse 5.  [Revelation 1:5, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— ”]  The “firstborn of the dead,” what does that mean, “firstborn of the dead” exactly?  He is the very first person to be resurrected into a resurrected immortal body.  There were other people in the Bible brought back to life. We studied one such individual in the Gospel of John, John chapter 11, and there we learn of Lazarus being brought back from the dead.  But you see, that was more of a matter of a resuscitation than a resurrection because as Lazarus was brought back from the dead he was brought back in his same body and he died again.

In Matthew 27:52-53 we read about people in Jerusalem that upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ came out of their graves but  you see, they went back into those graves because they were not placed in resurrected or glorified bodies at that point in time.  [Matthew 27:52-53, “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; [53] and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”]  Yet this man, Jesus Christ, is different, He came out of the grave and was placed into a resurrected and glorified body, “Firstborn from the dead.”  [Colossians 1:18 “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”]

This is why the Apostle Paul, when he describes resurrection, he describes Christ’s resurrection as the firstfruits.  1 Corinthians 15:20 and verse 23.  [1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”  [23]  “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.”]  And that imagery is so significant because the firstfruits was the initial harvest that came in and as the initial harvest came in that guaranteed the rest of the harvest.  And that’s what the bodily resurrection of Jesus does. It gives us hope for a future that this body that I am in, which is groaning… anybody in that experience today?  Groaning in our fallen body, from dust you are to dust  you shall return.  [Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”]

And yet the hope of Christianity is that could be reversed one day and will be reversed one day; just as firstfruits guarantees the rest of the harvest Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection so the resurrection gives us hope for the future and beyond that it really proves who Jesus was.  All the other tombs of all the great religious leaders of the world, their tomb is still occupied.  Jesus’ tomb is empty!  Nobody, even from a legal perspective, has ever come up with a plausible explanation to explain the missing tomb and that validates everything Jesus ever said.

You see, if Jesus gave a bunch of teaching and did a bunch of signs and miracles but He didn’t perform the ultimate miracle of resurrecting from the dead then everything that He said really doesn’t have a lot of weight.  But because He is the firstborn from the dead it validates who He was.  He claimed He was God and proved it through His bodily resurrection from the dead and in so doing gives us hope for the future.  That’s who Jesus is.  He’s the faithful witness, He’s the firstborn of the dead.

Number three, He is the ruler of the kings of the earth.  If you look carefully at verse 5 you’ll see it. “…and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”  [Revelation 1:5]  You say wait a minute pastor, hold the phone, have you looked at the headlines lately?  Have you looked at our situation that’s about to break out with North Korea, allegedly, and it seems like every time you pick up the newspaper the war clouds are always on the horizon.

And the Bible is very clear that at the present time Satan is the ruler of this world, not that God can’t intervene into humanity and be sovereign.  He retains that right as God.  But by and large when you study the Bible what you’ll discover is Satan is the prince of this world.  He’s the god of this age.  I have all of the verses on the screen to back that up.  He’s the “prince and power of the air.”  [Ephesians 2:2, “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”]

He’s the god of this age, I have all of the verses on the screen to back that up.  [ Corinthians 4:4, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”]  If that weren’t true then why do we put on the full armor of God?  Because we’re living on enemy territory, that’s why.  He roams about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  [1 Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”]  The whole world lies within his power.  And if all of that is true how in the world could this prologue in the Book of Revelation describe Jesus as the ruler of the kings of the earth?

And the answer to that is it’s describing His role as it will be carried out when the kingdom is established.  It’s his future ministry following the second advent.  Psalm 89:27, of Jesus, says “I shall make Him my firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.”  Matthew 2:6, of Jesus says He “will shepherd my people Israel.”  Why is that?  Because He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:16.  [Revelation 17:14, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”  Revelation 19:16, “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”]

It’s just a matter of time before He asserts Himself, evicts Satan and assumes His rightful place.  These things, the way they’re described are a done deal.  The Book of Revelation is describing the process through which Christ will ultimately begin to function as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Currently now He is functioning as high priest at the right hand of the Father, fulfilling vital functions, fulfilling very real functions but not yet reigning as ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,’” in the same way that He will reign during the millennial kingdom.  He’s always sovereign; He’s always in control.  He can always intervene in human history when He wants to.   But let me just say this, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”  When He actually takes His seat on David’s throne and asserts Himself over a repentant Israel and over the world as the reigning King, that is what is being described here.

And so what do we do with all of these nations that are plotting against God?  What do you do with them?  Psalm 2:1 says, “Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing?” [2]  The kings of the earth take their stand and rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His anointed, saying [3] ‘Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their” crowns, or their “cords from us!’”  This is a description of the nation today as they’re sort of jockeying for position, as they’re devising systems of government that exclude God.  They are actually doing a vain thing, Psalm 2 says.  Why?  Because they’re plotting against the one who is the ruler of the kings of this earth.  He just hasn’t entered history and exerted his authority the way He will do so during the millennial kingdom.

And so as these nations plot and scheme against God what is the reaction of God?  What is the reaction of Jesus Christ to this plotting.  Psalm 2:4 says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs and scoffs.”    I mean, to God this is just foolishness to watch these nations jockey for position and scheme and to act as if Jesus Christ doesn’t exist.  It is foolishness because Jesus has the title King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is the One who is the ruler of the kings of the earth and how foolish it is for these nations to think that somehow they’re in control.  The reality is they’re in control of nothing, they wouldn’t even exist for their very next breath had not God in His sovereignty allowed it.  And the only issue is which side of the ledger are we on here.  Are we aligned with Jesus Christ and His coming kingdom and enthronement or have we foolishly cast our lot with the kingdoms of this earth.

Who is Jesus Christ?  He’s the faithful witness.  He’s the firstborn of the dead.  He is the ruler of the kings of the earth.  Look at number four, aren’t you glad about this one, He is the one who loves us.  If you look there at verse 5 it says, “To Him who loves  us.”  [Revelation 1:5]  Now love here is a present tense participle. And so I think verse 5 is better translated as Jesus is the One who continually loves us.  So you are loved by God despite the sin you committed last week, and despite the sin that you’re going to commit this week.  Not that we’re promoting sin here but the reality of the situation is sin or disobedience or rebellion in the life of the child of God brings terrible consequences but it never fluctuates God’s love for you, which is an ongoing present tense reality.

1 John 4:8 says, “God is” what? “love.”  It doesn’t even say God is loving, it says “God is love.”  God’s love defines who He is in terms of His character.  What could God possibly do other than to love us when His very nature is love.  I’m reminded of the story of the rich young ruler.  Remember the rich young ruler that had it all together in terms of the world?  He was presented with the claims of Christ and he went away disappointed because he had so much going for him in this world and he rejects Christ.  But yet Mark 10:21, as that rejection is imminent, says “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him,” so here is a man about ready to reject Christ, reject the call of discipleship, wrapped up in the things of this world and yet as that rejection is taking place Jesus is loving Him.

Didn’t Jesus love Judas until the end?  Didn’t Jesus call Judas friend until the end?  And under-standing this attribute of God is so significant because the things that are going to happen in this book are horrific in terms of judgment.  And what is going to be highlighted in this book is not so much the love of God although that’s very prominent, but the holiness of God.  And I believe that this is mentioned here at the beginning of the book so that we would not lose sight of the love of God for the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” [John 3:16]

And isn’t that another interesting feature of love.  What is love?  People  use that word all the time.  Couples throw the word around back and forth to each other.  What in the world are we talking about when we talk about love?  Love is always demonstrated by its actions.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God” what? “demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  It’s more than God just saying He loves us; that probably would be enough, but He demonstrated His love for us by dying in our place.  You see, because love is always demonstrated by its actions.  Wisdom is always demonstrated by what it does, what its actions are.

And so many young people fall into relationships because somebody told them that they loved them.  And what you discover in those relationships many times is the person uses that word to get something out of a person.  You see, lust can’t wait to get; love (by contrast) can’t wait to give.

Who is Jesus Christ?  He’s the faithful witness, He’s the firstborn of the dead, He’s the ruler of the kings of the earth, He is the one who loves us by demonstrating something on our behalf, which takes us to the second part of our outline, His past work.

You see how love naturally flows into His past work?   His past work on our behalf, His sacrificial death on our behalf, was what He did to demonstrate His love towards us.  Who is Jesus Christ?  We’ve talked about that.  Moving into the second part of verse 5 and into verse 6 His past work.  His past work secured the basis for the future victory.  If there wasn’t the past work of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago then there would be no hope for victory but the reality of the situation is the war is already over; it just hasn’t been fought yet.  Why is that? Because of something Jesus did in the past and according to these verses He did two things for us.  The end of verse 5 is the first thing He did, verse 6 is the second thing that He did.

People ask what has God ever done for me?  We get an answer here don’t we?  Let’s talk about His past work. Revelation 1: 5, “And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us” now here comes the action, “and released us from our sins by His blood.”   He’s actually done something for us, He has “released us from our sins by His blood.”  The technical word for this, although it’s not used here is redemption.  What does redemption mean?  It means to release someone from bondage through the procurement of a ransom.

When you think about that word redemption your mind should automatically go to the Book of Exodus because in the Book of Exodus God released His people from four hundred years of Egyptian bondage.  And He did it primarily through plague ten, which broke Pharaoh’s will, letting the chosen people go, and  you remember that in Passover the nation had to take the blood of a Passover lamb and apply it to their doorpost to be exempted from plague ten.  That’s why it’s called “Pass over.”  When God saw the blood on the doorpost His judgment passed over those various Jewish homes.  And that’s what really broke Pharaoh’s stubborn will, when he saw the death of all of the firstborn throughout Egypt and he let the chosen people go.

But notice that this was not procured coincidentally.  It was not procured accidentally.  But it only took place because of the blood of a Passover lamb.  You say well what did the lamb do wrong?  Nothing!  The lamb was sacrificed.  And all of that is just sort of typology, if  you will, for what we have in Jesus Christ.  Prior to me coming to Christ I’m a slave to my sin, I have no choice in the matter, I’m in bondage to it.  In fact, I’m on my way to hell.  And yet Jesus saw my pathetic and hopeless condition and He released me from that bondage through the blood of an innocent sacrifice.  Who was the innocent sacrifice?  It’s Jesus Christ Himself.  People say what did God ever do for me?  There’s your answer!  He’s released us from our sins through a very rich theological term known as redemption.

I like church signs that people put on marquees.  I saw a church sign recently saying, “His blood is for you,” kind of a pun after “this Bud is for you” I guess, “His blood is for you.”  And we have gone through a lot of these verses when we studied the doctrine of salvation and one of the things we talked about when we were studying the doctrine of salvation is the atoning death of Jesus Christ and what you discover in the Bible is atonement is always mentioned in harmony with the blood of Christ.  No blood—no atonement, no redemption.  And we just continue on and on in our state of bondage.

I wish we had time to look up all of these verses but in all of these verses, whether it’s Acts, Paul’s letters, the general letters, even the Book of Revelation, there’s an emphasis on the blood of Christ.  In fact, you’ll notice what I’ve got underlined there, the very first time in the Book of Revelation that the blood of Christ is highlighted.  And so what exactly is salvation?  Salvation is a wonderful thing and we trumpet the idea that salvation is free.  And I think so much time we spend trumpeting its freeness that we forget that it wasn’t free to Jesus.  It wasn’t free to Christ, the second member of the trinity.   He had to pay a price so that our redemption could be procured, so that it could be gained.

And quite frankly this is what the whole Lord’s Table is about, we celebrated it last week.  Here at Sugar Land Bible Church we celebrate it the first Sunday of the month. What are we celebrating?  We’re reflecting on the fact that Jesus did something in history to gain for us freedom.  He shed His blood on our behalf.   Your pastor didn’t do that for you, your elders didn’t do that for you, the President of the United States didn’t do that for you, your employer didn’t do that for you.  Certainly all those individuals that I mentioned may have added great benefit to your life through sacrifices but they didn’t do this.  Only in Christ did this happen.  Salvation is free to us—very expensive to Him!  And had that not happened the ultimate victory which is yet future could not be a done deal or a foregone reality.

What else did Jesus do for  us.  Look at verse 6, the second thing. “He made us” watch this, “to be a kingdom of priests,” WOW! “to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  How could John do anything other than glorify Jesus Christ for what He has already done.  Not only who He is but what He has done.  He has released us from our sins by His blood and He has transformed us into a kingdom of priests.  Did  you know you’re a priest?  We don’t act like priests very much, do we?  That’s because we live, many times beneath our identity.  What is a priest exactly?  I mean, a priest, that was one of the holiest people in the whole Old Testament.  The Book of Hebrews says a priest never became a priest because he put his hand up and said I want to be a priest.  He was chosen to be a priest.  And what we discover in the Old Testament is the priest came from which tribe?  Levi!.  And they had to come from which line?  Aaron’s line?   Aaron’s line.  If you don’t have those two things going for you  you’re not a priest.

And yet here we are in the twenty-first century as the age of the church is unfolding and we discover from this verse that we’re all free because of what Jesus has done.  What is a priest?  Someone who has access to God is a priest.  That’s who you are, you have total and complete access to God; you don’t even have to go through a veil or enter the Holy of Holies once a year as priests did in Old Testament times.  Not only do we have access to God but we, as priests, represent God to a lost world.  The saying is very true, you may be the only Bible someone ever reads.   And  yet God has designed it that way because you’re a priest in God.  You represent God to a lost and fallen world.  How are you representing God by the way?  In your vocation, in your employment, in your relationships.  How are you representing God?  We ought to represent Him very well shouldn’t we, given our calling as priests.

And beyond that I have complete and total access to God.  I have privileges that those in Old Testament times couldn’t even dream of.  And what a tragedy it is, at least in my own personal life, that sometimes I’m just too busy to pray, too busy putting out fires that go before God and enjoy Him, have fellowship with Him, petition Him.  And how so frequently we live beneath the privileges that we have been given as priests.

You say well pastor, it says here that we’re “a kingdom of priests,” does that mean we’re in the kingdom now, and we’re reigning as kings now?  Well, remember what we said earlier, who’s running the world system?  The devil is.  And this is why it’s so important when you build your theology you don’t just look at one verse, you look at everything God has disclosed on the subject, preferably in the same book.  And when you go to Revelation 5:10 you’ll see our title reaffirmed, that we’re a kingdom of priests and then it tells us when we’re going to reign.  It says, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they” what’s the next word? “will reign” basileia, future tense, the reigning time hasn’t started yet because Satan is running the world system.  In fact, as I speak today many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being martyred all over the world.  Obviously the Christian is not reigning as a kingdom of priests, yet that’s our identity, that’s who we are.  But when you put Scripture together with Scripture  you learn that we “will reign.”  Where are we going to reign?  Up in the clouds somewhere, strumming harps, wearing white garments, singing the Hallelujah chorus a million times, bored out of our minds?

What does your Bible say?  “they will reign upon the earth?  What earth?  This earth!  But what has to happen first?  The current ruler of this world has to be evicted and as that ruler is evicted… we learn about that in the ongoing progress of the Book of Revelation, we discover that we will come with Jesus Christ, return with Him and rule alongside His delegated authority.  You say well what’s God doing now then, if we’re not reigning?  Here’s what God’s doing—He’s training!  Training time for reigning time!  Every problem, every trial, every temptation, everything that comes into your life is designed to prepare your character in such a way that you will have the proper character to exercise that authority once the kingdom comes to the earth.  Don’t think that you’re suffering is somehow being wasted; it’s all preparatory for the future that we have in God.

And when is that kingdom going to come?  The Book of Revelation explains it.  In the midst of the book it says this, Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”  Satan will be evicted just like Saul was.  Christ will ascend to the throne just like David did and as Christ ascends to the throne your destiny in God is to be right there alongside with Him reigning under His delegated authority in the glorious millennial kingdom over a cleansed and renewed earth with Satan in the abyss.  And the only thing that’s happening in your life right now is preparation—training time for reigning time, as our character is being shaped in a particular way for the future that God has for us.

What has God ever done for me?  Well, number one, He’s released us from our sins by His blood.   Number two, He’s made us into a kingdom of priests.  Who is Jesus Christ?  We talked about that.  What has Jesus done in the past?  We’ve talked about that.  Number three, what’s He going to do in the future?  And I’m glad you asked that question because that’s the focus of the book. The whole Book of Revelation is disclosing, we don’t need a lot more information about what he’s done in the past, helpful reminders are good but we have the Gospels there to articulate that to us.

But what about the future?  What is He going to do in the future?  If His pas sacrifice guarantees a glorious future what is the glorious future exactly?  So in verse 7 we get a description of His future work.  Look, if you will at verse 7.   “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

He’s going to do three things:  Number 1, He’s coming in the clouds.  Look at verse 7 again.  “Behold, He is coming with the clouds.”  You say well, that’s the rapture, right?  Do we understand the difference between the rapture and the second coming?  Every is not going to see Jesus at the rapture.  Every eye will see Him, though, at the second coming.  In the rapture He comes in the air.  In the second coming at the end of the seven year tribulation period He comes to the earth.  In the rapture, prior to the tribulation period, He comes for His saints.  At the second coming He comes with His saints.  The rapture is a blessing.  The second advent, by contrast, is a blessing but it’s also a time of terrible judgment on who?  On those Psalm 2 nations that plotted against God and jockeyed for position and acted like He didn’t exist.

The rapture affects Christians; the second coming will affect believers and unbelievers.

The rapture is invisible in the sense that the only people that participate in it are the church age believer.  But the second coming (that we’re reading about here) is visible to the whole world.

The rapture is announced by an archangel.  The second coming involves myriads of angels.

The rapture is a resurrection, the time in history where you receive your resurrected body as a church age believer.  The second coming there doesn’t seem to be an immediate resurrection, at least the same way as described in the rapture.

The rapture is a rescue operation for the church.  The second coming is the rescue operation for Israel that will go into the tribulation period unbelieving but become believing towards the end and in need of rescue from the beast and Satan who is trying to eradicate the Jewish nation and the Jewish people.

He’s coming in the clouds at this second advent, which is what is being described here; “every eye will see Him.”  This is not the rapture, this is at the end of the tribulation period.  In fact, if you want a parallel passage, Matthew 24:29-30 describes the same event.  It  says, “But immediately after the tribulation” what is that?  At the end of the seven years of tribulation, then “the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.”  Are you looking forward to that?  Are you looking forward to His entrance, His re-entrance into human history, not to suffer and die as He did two thousand years ago but to assert His kingdom of authority over the whole planet, and suddenly the righteous, the just, who always got the short end of the stick and an unfair deal and an unfair treatment in this world, suddenly the righteous are vindicated and we actually see coming to the earth actual justice, not shams of justice, mockeries of justice, loopholes, all of the types of things that we see today.  All that ends with Jesus “coming in the clouds.”

What is he going to do?  He’s going to come in the clouds.  What else is He going to do?  He’s going to reveal Himself to the Gentiles.  That would be the non-Jews.  Notice what it says there,

[Revelation 1:7]  “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS,” look at what it says, “and every eye will see Him.”  This probably is going to be one of the most, if not the most spectacular events that will come to this planet.  Not the rapture, I’m looking forward to that, believe me, I don’t have a single problem in my life that the rapture wouldn’t fix.  Amen!  But this is talking about something even greater than the rapture—the assertion of the kingdom and the authority of Jesus Christ.  No hidden manner here because every will see Him.

And isn’t it interesting that when we become familiar with just a basic few facts about Bible prophecy how easy it is to recognize a counterfeit?  The Watchtower organization, Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not believe that Jesus will return in bodily form but they believe He has already returned in 1914 in invisible form and is ruling as King on the earth through the Watchtower society.  How convenient is that?  The Watchtower and tract society, otherwise known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, not if they come to your house but when they come to your house, if you get them into a discussion about the second coming, it’s a discussion you’ll have to lead them into because they won’t come out and tell you they believe this, they’ll try to convince you that the second coming is something hidden, invisible in the past.  And I’m sorry, that’s not what my Bible says.

My Bible says, your Bible says He’s coming in the clouds, and “every eye will see Him.”  He’s not hiding out in some apartment in New York City.  This is a spectacular glorious event that will conclude the 70th week of Daniel.  He’s coming in the clouds, He’s going to reveal Himself to the Gentiles because “every eye will see Him,” but He’s also, during this time period going to reveal Himself to the Jews, the Hebrew people, the covenanted nation.

Look at the end of verse 7, “even those who” what? “pierced Him, and all the” what? “tribes,” doesn’t that sound kind of Jewish?  “…all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him,  So it shall be.  Amen.”  If  you’re interested in cross references  you can cross reference Zechariah 12:10, it talks about the same thing.  “I will pour out on the house of David” doesn’t that sound Jewish, “and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have” what? “ pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

We’re not talking here about a box of Kleenex to handle the sniffles.  We’re talking about outright emotional repentance before God for the nation of Israel because we had it wrong all these years.  All these years we rejected Christ and they will being to mourn, it says “weep” and then it says “weep bitterly” and they’re crying as if they’d just lost their own firstborn child.

It is to me very moving to realize that after all of these centuries of unbelief and rejection that God has not forgotten the nation of Israel.  There’s coming a day in which they will be brought back into the faith, at least what Zechariah calls the remnant, they are the instrument that God is going to use during this time as a firstfruits group comes to Christ first after the church is gone.  Does God, is God through with the Jew?  Not at all!  There’s a glorious future in store for the nation of Israel and it’s interesting how they are pictured here in Zechariah’s prophecies, Revelation 1:7 as openly bitterly grieving and weeping.  [Revelation 1:7, “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, as follows:”]

I don’t know if you’ve tried recently to talk to a Jewish person, and there are Jewish people that are saved and I praise God for that but that’s not the norm.   You talk to a Jewish person today and there is such a callousness, it’s almost like a philosophical game, such a redefinition of terms, such a semantical game.  Why is that?   It’s a hardness of the heart is what it is.  And yet God is going to get hold of that group, He’s going to get hold of that nation, they’re going to weep and mourn bitterly as one weeps and mourns for an only son and they’re going to say we’ve got it wrong.

And isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit has revealed this conversion of Israel in the form of typology?  Take the story of Joseph as an example.  Joseph, Genesis 37, age 17, is rejected by his brothers.  He’s actually left for dead, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, ultimately down into Egypt, lied about, his brothers lying to Jacob, acting as if this horrific thing that they did to Joseph somehow didn’t happen, trying to sort of pull the covers over his eyes so that he couldn’t see clearly.  Complete treachery, deceit, disgust, evil, wickedness, and  yet the story of Joseph doesn’t end in Genesis 37, for Joseph goes all the way through to the book of Genesis chapter 15 where Joseph himself says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for” what? “good.”  Genesis 50:20.

And isn’t it interesting that the second time around the nation embraced Joseph, the brothers did.  They recognized who he was through a providence of events; he was elevated to second in command in all of Egypt; they knew who he was, they recognized who he was, they submitted to his authority.  They came from the land of Canaan to find help in Egypt in the midst of famine and so they got it wrong the first time but they got it right the second time.

And let me tell you, when they got it right the second time they wept over it.  Genesis 45:14 says, “Then he fell on his brother, Benjamin’s neck, and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.”   Benjamin is crying, the brothers are crying, Joseph is crying, and isn’t it interesting how that is just typology for what is yet future, how that reveals in seed form the future for the nation of Israel, how the nation of Israel just in cold hearted spirituality rejected Christ at His first coming.  I realize that there are Jews that got saved in that time period, I’m not here to debate that.  But that’s not the bulk of the nation; the bulk of the nation went off into unbelief; they’re in unbelief right now as I speak.  But the second time they get it right.  And there is weeping and there is crying and there is mourning.

How can some story like this not grip your heart?  Who is Jesus Christ?  Who He is, His past work, His future work… one other quick thing and we’re done, His sovereignty.  Two things are described about His sovereignty in verse 8.  Look at verse 8.  “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, [who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty”]  Now you all know that Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet.  It’s like saying from A to Z, I’m the beginning and I’m the end.  What does that mean?  He is the point of history, He is the one that history revolves around.  After all He’s the Creator, John 1:3, Colossians 1:6, Hebrews 1:2.

He’s also the redeemer, Revelation 5:6, 9.  He’s also the sustainer.  Have you ever asked yourself that, what to smell the coffee?  Because He’s the sustainer, He is the Creator, He is the Redeemer, keeps this solar system working?  I mean, why is it that these planets revolve around the sun, a heliocentric solar system, and they never collide with each other.  Why is it that every morning I wake up and my respiratory system is working, my cardio vascular system is working, why do I even have the ears to hear the alarm clock, the olfactory capacities to smell the coffee.   Because He’s the sustainer, He is the Creator, He is the Redeemer, He is the Sustainer, He is the future ruler, we’ve already talked about that one.  History is what?  His-story!  He’s the point and how insane is it that we think we can throw God out of the schools, out of the history books, and think we understand anything.  You can’t understand history, you can’t understand life, without Jesus.  He’s the Alpha and He is the Omega.

You say well, wait a minute, pastor I’m looking at this very carefully and it doesn’t say Jesus here, it says, “the LORD God.”  Well, jot down Revelation 22:13, end of the Book which says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, [the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’]”  Jot down verse 16 of chapter 22, end of the book, where the speaker is identified as I, Jesus.  [Revelation 22:16, “‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”’]

Jesus Himself claims to be the Alpha and the Omega and show that one to your Jehovah’s Witness friends that show up on your doorstep, because they don’t believe that.  They think Jesus is some kind of created being; He’s really not God, they don’t even think He claimed to be God.  And show them Revelation 1:8 where the Alpha and the Omega is identified with the Lord God and show them that the exact same title, Revelation 22:13 and verse 16 is applied to Jesus Christ.  And then pray for their eyes to be opened because they’re not going to have an answer for that.  And typically what happens is you’ve got two people coming to your house.  You say well why two?   The guy that’s talking is being trained, the other guy that’s sort of in the background or gal, is a mentor.  Aim your question to the guy that doesn’t know as much as the other one; aim your question at the guy who’s doing the talking.  Ask him this.  Now if  you don’t get an immediate conversion that’s all right, you just pray for their eyes to be opened.  You pray that whatever seed just got put into their hearts the Holy Spirit will water.

Folks, we  used to say we’ve got to get out and evangelize the world.  The kingdom of the cults is coming right to your doorstep.  You’ve got one of the greatest opportunities of evantelism that’s probably ever existed in world history where those that need evangelism are showing up at your door wanting to start a spiritual conversation.   Your average Christian doesn’t know what to do because the pulpits of Christianity never tell people what to do.  I’m telling you what to do.  You say well, I don’t know as much as you.  Well, that’s all right, you don’t have to.  And I’m not sure at the end of the day how much I know really either.  I know a few things but these are things that will work; these are things that you can use, these are things that allow you to be an evangelist that God has called you to be.  Ask Him about the Alpha and the Omega.  You say well what if they ask me a question I can’t answer?  You say this: I don’t know the answer but I’ll get back to you.  I know where to look, I’ve got my pastor’s phone number, he’s got lots of books in his library.  I mean, this is a joy to do this work.

So He is the Alpha and the Omega and one other thing; His is, as we saw earlier, not just God the Father but God the Son, the self-existent One, He is the One that is, He is the One that was, He is the One that who is to come.  He is outside of time, the uncaused cause in His sovereignty.

Who is Jesus Christ?  What is His past work?  What is His future work?  Is He sovereign?  And that concludes the prologue and next week we move into the actual content of the book.

You may be here today outside of a relationship with Christ, hearing a bunch of sort of Bible rhetoric but not really knowing the God of the Book and you can fix that right now simply by trusting a single condition, trusting in what Jesus has done.  You hear the content of the Scripture expressed in terms of the gospel, you realize that Jesus came into this world to bridge a gap that we could never bridge.  He never asks us to bridge the gap ourselves, He simply says to believe or to trust in what I have done and you can do that right now as I’m speaking.  In the quietness of  your own mind and hearts and thoughts.  It’s a matter of privacy as the Holy Spirit places an individual under conviction where they respond by way of faith to the provision of Jesus Christ.  And that and that alone saves the soul.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.

Father, we are excited about this truth, excited about this book, excited about our future and what  you have in store for us.  I ask that You’ll be with us as we continue to study; help us to walk these things out this week by way of faith.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said, Amen.