Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | November 22, 2009

Sermon on Revelation 1:4b-8

You Have Nothing to Fear from King Jesus

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

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.  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.  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Listen, and tell me if this is your picture of Judgment Day and the return of Christ the King:  There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” These words from Revelation 6 are simply an expansion upon the words we heard today from Revelation 1:  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

If those words don’t make up part of your picture of Judgment Day, they should.  They must.  It is common among Lutherans to remind ourselves that Luther’s terror and fear of God, His hatred of God, was based in seeing Jesus only as an angry king and judge who demands the righteousness that we cannot give, rather than our Savior-King who took on human flesh so as to be righteous for us and bestow upon us His righteousness by offering His life on the cross.  An unfortunate pendulum swing occurs, however, when we correct that view of Jesus by eliminating His role as king and judge, and seeing Him only as buddy, grandpa, or the benevolent, “Everyone’s in,” God of universalism.  We’re tempted to see Jesus only as Savior, and not as King, not as Judge, not as He who will do what the LORD prophesied through Nahum: The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.  Jesus Himself, He of all authority in heaven and on earth, reminds us that He comes in glory to judge, as He tells us the first thing He’ll do when He returns is judge, separating the sheep and goats and telling the sheep to enter heaven and the goats to go to hell.  The day of our King’s return is a day for mourning, for looking for hiding spots, because the forborne wrath of God – the Lamb’s wrath! – will be poured out as the records are opened, and as not only those who begged the mountains to fall on them said, but also the psalmist, O LORD, if you kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

As hard as it is to admit to myself, this is the truth Jesus testifies to.  His truth is not just Gospel, it’s Law also.  Be perfect, He said, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Or, at the same time He also said:  I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. To that woman in adultery, and to all of us, He also said, Go and sin NO MORE. I have not been perfect.  My righteousness hardly surpasses that of my unbelieving neighbors.  And I certainly haven’t gone and sinned no more.  I have not met the requirements.  And the King who is, who was, and is to come, judges based on this standard of absolute, complete, total, without fail, without exception, perfection.  And when He comes, the world will look upon Him and know.  “He whom we killed has come back!  He has come back as King of kings!”  Every knee will bow.  Every tongue will confess.  Every eye will see.  Including yours.  Whether you want to or not.  Whether you’re ready or not.  All we can say is what David said, Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you; what that humble tax collector said, and we chanted earlier, God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

So, it’s a good thing you’re ready, huh?  It’s the words of John’s doxology, his expression of praise to our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that make you ready for He who is, who was, and who is to come. 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

Who is this Him?  It is, of course, Jesus:  Jesus, the faithful witness, telling the truth at all times; Jesus the firstborn from the dead, guaranteeing the resurrection of so many more; Jesus the ruler of the kings of the earth, who is a king like no other, a king not of this world, a king whose kingdom will not be destroyed, as Daniel prophesied.  And what more do we hear about this Jesus?  He loves us.  It is an ongoing, continuous love, a love that has been demonstrated from before the world began until now and on into the future, a love shown in that incredible act accomplished, a love that has freed us from our sins by his blood.

It is the shed-blood of Christ that makes you ready for the coming of the King, and in fact means you have nothing to fear from King Jesus.  For, as one mass choir sang later in Revelation, With your blood you purchased men for God. Why is this blood so special?  It is because, as Peter says, it was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb without blemish and defect.  It was the blood of God, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins.  That’s the price Christ paid for your freedom.  That’s what He bought you with.  Your King, your Judge, was indeed the One who fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy:  On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. The fountain was opened, God-with-us was slain, and those who are washed in that blood lose every guilty stain…every guilty stain.  Which means, in Christ, you have met the Judge’s standard of perfect righteousness, for as Paul said to the Galatians, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. And to the Romans: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

And so mourning is done for those who have faith in Christ.  His sin-untying blood drips off the pages of Scripture and by the Spirit’s mysterious work washes us clean.  All who have been baptized have been washed in His blood.  All who partake of His body and blood feast and continue to feast upon this purifying drink.  Our confession can be both brutally honest and gloriously hopeful: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. And so we say not, “Hide me,” but, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”  For when He comes we have the fulfillment of all His promises:  we will rise, we will see Him with our own eyes, we will be gathered up with Him into the clouds, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, with bodies transformed to be like His glorious body!  You have nothing to fear from King Jesus!  Amen.

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