CHRIST THE KING
For those who are interested in churchy sort of things, today is the last Sunday of the liturgical Church year. That’s because next week is the first Sunday Advent and Advent is beginning of the Church year. It is the time when we prepare for Christmas.
Now, if you’re new to this congregation, you may not totally understand what the whole Church year thing is all about. To put it in a nutshell, the Church year mirrors the life of Jesus. It begins with Advent where we prepare the coming of Jesus are Bethlehem. Advent moves into Christmas. Then there is a part of the year that focuses on Jesus earthly walk which, of course, takes us to Holy Week and the events of Good Friday and Easter. That is followed by the celebration the ascension where Jesus ascended to heaven. That is followed by Pentecost which is when Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the church and it began the work of sharing the Gospel with all humanity. That’s a very brief overview for you on the rationale of the church year.
So it is only logical that on the very last day of the Church years when we celebrate the very last part of Jesus’ ministry. Can you guess what that is? It’s the second coming when Jesus returns in glory to complete the kingdom that he began 2,000 years ago. So then, the last Sunday of the Church year is all about the final kingdom where Jesus will reign in love and power for all time. He claims his throne as king over all creation and so we call this Sunday, the celebration of Christ the King.
And if we’re going to be looking at the last events of Jesus ministry, we might just as well go to the very last book of the Bible which is Revelation.
As many of you know, Revelation my favourite book in the Bible. In fact, and I’ve told you this before, if I was ever in a position that I had to choose only one book of Bible to keep with me, I’d pick Revelation every time. That’s because, when properly understood, the entire teaching of the Bible can be found in this, the last book in the New Testament. It is an apocalypse which is an unveiling, a revealing of the Good News of Christ that, through symbols and amazing imagery, tells us how to live and act out the faith that we profess.
The book of Revelation is actually a letter to seven of the churches in Asia Minor. John, who writes that letter is in exile on the island of Patmos just across the Aegean Sea. If you were to follow the route that the postman took when delivering the seven letter, you’d get off the mail boat at Ephesus and take a roughly circular, clockwise route through Asia Minor or what is not called Turkey.
So, let’s get started. In Revelation 1:4b-5a (NIV) John begins this letter with a very traditional type of greeting: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
It sounds like a traditional greeting but it’s not because usually in the Bible the writer introduces himself as the author of the letter. But John doesn’t do that. Listen again to what he writes: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” Does that describe John? Is John the one who was and is and is to come? No, that’s not John? In fact, that’s not any human being. That description is of an eternal being, someone who is past, present and future all at the same time. Who is that? That is God. So, John is making quite a claim here. He is claiming to be writing on behalf of God. This is God’s revelation to his people. John is simply the scribe. He’s just writing it all down. Don’t forget that. That’s important.
And then he goes on to describe who else is authoring this letter. It is also from the seven spirits before God’s throne. Who are they? This is where you have to understand Hebrew numerology. Numbers in Hebrew are not just used for doing math. They are also used for descriptive purposes beyond mere numerical value. Seven is one of those numbers that has a meaning. In Hebrew, seven is the number of completeness. So when John writes that this letter is from the seven spirit who are before the throne of God, he is saying that this is from all of the spirits before the throne of God, however many that may be. Those spirits represent all of the teachings of God that have been given to the Church. It’s all here, says John. All of the teachings of the entire Bible, everything that God has ever revealed, can be found right here for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
And then John says one more thing in this greeting. He says, finally, that it is also, “… from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” That’s powerful because John is saying that he is speaking for Jesus. The words that he writes are not his. They are the words that Jesus told him to write. This is not John’s letter to the seven churches. It is from Jesus himself. That’s why, if you have a red-letter Bible – you know, one of those Bibles where Jesus’ words are highlighted in red – there are a lot of red letters in Revelation. Even in the very last chapter of Revelation which is the last book in the Bible, we find the words of Jesus written in red. Understand that. These are Jesus’ words. Make no mistake about that.
Let’s look at John’s description of Jesus because it is vital. He is a faithful witness. Yes he is. What he says is true. He is the firstborn of the dead. We see that in his resurrection on Easter when he broke the chains of sin and shattered the gates of hell so that death could not hold God’s people. And finally, he says that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. That tells us that there may be kings on earth who rule kingdoms and expand empires and reign over their people. But there is someone who rules over even them and that is Jesus. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and while all other kingdoms will rise and fall, his kingdom is eternal. Jesus is the king above all others. That’s who we’re talking about on this Sunday when we celebrate Christ the King because Jesus is the everlasting King now and forever.
FREED FROM SIN
John has just told us that Jesus is the King of king and Lord of lords, whose kingdom will reign forever over all the other kingdoms of the world. And now he gives us this beautiful expression of praise in Revelation 1:5b-6 (NIV); “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”
John reminds us of who we are to Jesus. He loves us and freed us from our sin by his blood. That, of course, is referring to how Jesus willing gave his life for us as a sinless sacrifice on the cross. All of us were born into a sinful world. All of us blow it. All of us sin. All of fall short of God’s glory. But Jesus did not sin. He is the only person who ever lived a truly sinless life. He is the only person who was perfect and because he was perfect, he alone was worthy to pay the price of our sins. And so, of his own free choice he gave his life so that we could be saved from our sins. That’s what we call the atoning sacrifice. Jesus took our sins upon himself so that we can be forgiven.
Jesus freed us from our sins and because he did that for us, he enabled us to serve God. That’s what it means when it says that he made us into a kingdom and into priests. All that we are, all that we do, all that we ever plan to do from now on is meant to give glory to God.
EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM
Then we get to the really good part where John tells us about the second coming of Christ when he returns in glory to complete the kingdom that he began when he first walked the earth. Revelation 1:7 (NIV) says this:
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
It’s hard for us to imagine what it will be like when Jesus returns. It’s hard enough for us to get our minds around the fact that Jesus ascended to heaven where he now sits at the right side of the Father. But to think that he’s coming back again, as joyful as that is, can be a bit of a mind blower.
But that is what the Bible tells us. What it really tells us is that Jesus will return exactly the same way that he left – that is, through the clouds. Acts 2:6-11 tells us the story, of how Jesus gathered his disciples one more time and told them to await the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower them for ministry. And then in Acts 2:9 (NIV) it says this: “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Jesus ascended through the clouds and when he comes back again, he will descend through the clouds again. Just as he went up so too he will come down.
But it won’t be quite the same. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV) gives us a lot more details. Listen to what it says about the second coming: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
When Jesus ascended to heaven, it was a rather quiet affair. There weren’t many people to watch, just some of the disciples, his close friends and family. But when he comes back, it’s going to be a different story. There will be a loud command, the archangel will cry out and the trumpets will blast. There will be a cacophany of sound. You simply won’t be able to miss it. It will be the biggest thing ever – the very biggest!
And even if you were deaf and couldn’t hear a thing, the next phrase will still get your attention. It says that the dead will be raised. The graves will open and those who were dead will rise again to new life. This is the long awaited resurrection of the dead at the end of time. The Bible tells us that when Jesus returns we will be like him. And just as he rose from the dead in his resurrection, so we too will be resurrected.
That raises a lot of question sin people’s minds. What’s that going to be like? I don’t know what that looks like or how that will happen. I don’t know how God raises people from the dead when, for example, their physical bodies have long since deteriorated. You know, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I don’t know how God recovers people who were lost at sea or blown up in wars. I do know that some churches teach that people should not be cremated because they think that somehow God can’t resurrect cremated bodies. Like the molecules are all messed up so God can’t work with them anymore. But personally, I don’t think that’s an issue for God. I think God can deal with that just fine.
But who will be resurrected? The Bible teaches that all people will be resurrected, first the believers and then the unbelievers, and after they are resurrected, then the final judgment will happen when God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. The righteous will go eternal life in what Revelation calls the New Jerusalem.
But what about the unrighteous? What happens to them? We’ve had lots of good conversations about that in our Bible studies. There are two main schools of thought on this. One of them is that the unrighteous will go to eternal punishment where they will suffer excruciating agony forever in the lake of fire. The other view is that the unrighteous will simply cease to exist. This is called annihilation or the second death that is referred to in Revelation 20 and 21. With this idea, the unrighteous will not suffer forever in the lake of fire. They will be destroyed by it. So, while there may be suffering, that suffering will be short lived and merciful. You can decide which one of those ideas you think is right. But whatever you think, make sure you can back it up with the Bible. What do I think? You’ll have to come to Bible study and we can discuss it there.
All we do know for certain is that when the dead in Christ rise, we will meet Jesus in the air and then we will return with him to the new heaven and the new earth which will be transformed through the power of God.
You see, that’s an important point that a lot of Christians miss. Our eternal destiny is not to go to heaven. When I say that, it surprises a lot of people so let me explain. We don’t go to heaven. Revelation is quite clear. We don’t go to heaven. Heaven comes to us. It comes to us in the New Jerusalem that will descend to earth. That is where we will spend eternity. In is on a new earth where Jesus reigns supremely and justice flows completely. It is a place where there is no sadness, sickness, sorrow or death, where every hurt is healed and every sin forgiven always. That is the promise of the Bible and that is the hope that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ the King.
Verse 7 finishes by saying that every eye will see him even those who pierced him. There will be no denying it when Jesus returns. Every eye will see him. Even those who didn’t believe in him, even those who put him to death, even they will have their eyes open and will clearly see that they were wrong about Jesus. They were wrong about his sacrifice on the cross. They were wrong to say that Jesus never rose from the grave. And they were wrong to believe that he would not come again. They will know they are wrong because every eye will see him and it will be crystal clear to everyone that Jesus is King of all creation.
THE ALPHA & OMEGA
And now comes the last verse in today’s passage from Revelation. Revelation 1:8 (NIV) says this: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’”
I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God. But who is the Lord God? This is where it gets interesting. It doesn’t just say God. It says the Lord God and that’s a bit of a code too. If John was just referring to God, he’s say God but he says Lord God for a purpose. It is because this refers to Jesus. These are Jesus’ words and in these words, Jesus clearly reveals his divinity. He clearly says that he is not only the Son of God, he is both fully human and fully God. God dwells within Jesus in a unique way.
He says that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All of history is wrapped up in him. He is both the author of prophecy and the fulfillment of prophecy. All things come together in him because he is the King of creation and all eyes will see him.
Does the next phrase sound a bit familiar? It should because we read almost the exact same words at the beginning of this passage. Do you remember that? In the introduction to this letter in Revelation 1:4b (NIV) John wrote, “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” We said back there that this refers to God but now, to back up his claim, Jesus is using the same phrase to refer to himself. God is the one who was and is and is to come. Jesus is the one who was and is and is to come. Therefore Jesus is God. And because Jesus is God, he will rule. His kingdom will know no end and he will reign forever in justice and righteousness.
He is our King. He is our Lord. He
is Jesus and the day is coming when every eye will see him. We need to be ready
for that day.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Hope, we offer our thanks for your great love for all people. You do not show favouritism but treat us all as equals, as your children, heirs to your promises in Jesus Christ.
Father God, we are thankful that in those times when circumstances appear out of control and there is no other person who can be trusted, you are an unchanging anchor for our souls. We know that we can trust in you and depend upon the absolute truth of your word and promises. We are grateful that we can now have the assurance to confidently face any challenge, putting our trust steadfastly in you.
We thank you, O God, for the marriage yesterday of Laura Miller and Fernando Garcia. Grant them insight, wisdom and patience as they travel the journey of life together and with their children.
We thank you for another successful turkey supper on Thursday, for all those who volunteered their time and talents toward this event where we don’t just raise money but also raise awareness and build community. Thank you for good food, good music and the ministry that took place.
Our prayers are lifted up for the people of the Syria, France and Belgium where needless violence has happened and innocent people have suffered. We would ask for the renewed hope of peace and security. There are many people who strive for peace but their voices often are drowned out by the din of violence. It is only by your Spirit that war will end and suffering will cease. We would ask for your intervention in all places of strife.
We pray for those who are sick at home or in hospital, remembering especially Sharon, Lyle and Diane. May your Healing Spirit be upon them in a special way.
We also lift up those who mourn, especially Nora Srigley and Roger Deimer over the death of their brother John this week. Bless them and the rest of the family with a full measure of your peace
We will not fear the challenges that arise in life, for you are our refuge and hiding place, the strength of our lives. In all situations we will trust in you for you are greater than any fear or worry.
Finally, we thank you for Jesus Christ who gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins. Help us to remember that we can still come to him with all of our troubles, bringing healing and hope. We lift our prayers to you in his Holy Name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
November 25, 2018 / Christ the King
2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18); Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Great is the One who calls us to worship!
ALL: God is worthy of praise and honour!
ONE: Lift up your voices to the One who raises us to new life!
ALL: We give the glory to God!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Gracious and Holy God, you are the answer to our prayers. You are the reason for our worship. You are the source of our life. We come to you with reverence and praise for to you belongs all honour and glory. You are a God who answers prayers and we thank you for the prayers you have answered in our lives. We put our trust in you with unwavering faith, waiting patiently, knowing without question that your word and promises will never fail. You are the Rock upon which we stand, solid, immovable, always faithful and trustworthy. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Peace and Mercy, there are things that would try to rob the joy from our lives. Through you, we are able to overcome them all. When temptations claw at our feet, you give us the strength to stand firm. When we harm others, you give us the courage to seek reconciliation. As we remain in you, living according to your principles and commandments, we are freed from the guilt that holds us down. We are freed from worrying about the future. By your grace we are set free from the power of sin and enabled to live as your righteous and humble children. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Sin is a burning heat that scorches our spirits and causes us grief. But let us never let sin rule our lives for Jesus Christ offers the fresh water of the Spirit which quenches our thirsty souls and nourishes our spirits. When we confess our sins, we are refreshed and renewed by the power of God’s amazing love.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our gifts we bring, our lives we offer, our thanks we give for your amazing generousity. These gifts are yours, O God. Take them and use them for your purpose. Amen.
worship is completed and it is time to go back into our places in our
community. As we leave, may our praises to God be on our lips. May our faith in
Jesus be in our hearts. May the love of the Spirit be in the work of our hands
and feet to bring healing to all creatures of God’s great creation.