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Author:Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
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Congregation:Oceanside United Reformed Church
 Oceanside/Carlsbad, CA
 www.oceansideurc.org
 
Title:The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Text:Revelation 1:1-3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2004-03-01
Added:2006-01-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Originally published in The Presbyterian Banner (March 2004): 3-5. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Does God still speak? If you’ve had any contact with the Pentecostal movement you know that this question is at the heart of the belief of a great many people in our day. But it is fascinating to see that it is at the heart of much of the cultural spirituality of our day as well. One example of this was some time ago my wife received a phone call from a telemarketer who was trying to sell some magazines. This saleswoman started listing some of the magazines to my wife, which included “Whispers From Heaven.” She went on to explain to my wife that these were messages that God is speaking to His children now and not that old stuff as found in the Bible.

For a moment let us say for the sake of argument that God does still speak in an audible way. What would you ask Him? Would you ask Him in which stocks to invest? Would you ask Him whom you are to marry? Would you ask Him the proverbial, “what’s God’s will for my life?”

Now think more specifically about the book of Revelation. If you could ask God one question about this book, what would you ask Him? What is the “mark of the beast?” What is your new name on the white stone? Who are the two witnesses? Who are the 144,000?

So does God still speak? Yes! He speaks in and through His written and preached word. We don’t need “Whispers From Heaven.” We don’t need the “Toronto Blessing.” And we certainly do not need to “wait on the Lord” to speak before we act. Why do I say this? Because God has given us 66 books which we will never fully grasp in this life. Among those books is the grand finale, Revelation; the capstone of Scripture.

The Contents of Revelation

In Revelation we hear the living voice of our Triune God, which is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There are several ways to interpret this phrase. For instance, the New Living Translation says “the revelation from Jesus Christ.” This is possible, as He is the author or source of the book. But the general consensus is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” which speaks of the content of the book: Jesus Christ. All of Scripture, including Revelation, is about Jesus Christ.

As Christians we need to know three things: guilt, grace, and gratitude (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 2). The book of Revelation teaches us about all three, but especially God’s grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ. What is God’s will for my life? To know my Savior - what He has done for me, is doing for me, and will do for me. This is what we learn in Revelation as the Father places Jesus Christ on center stage as the “leading man,” so to speak, in one final dramatic portrayal of redemptive history. And as the stage is set, the lights are adjusted, all creation is seated, God lifts the curtain of heaven to unveil His magnum opus, His greatest work: “the revelation of [about] Jesus Christ.”

It is interesting that John uses the word “revelation” to speak about what God is doing in the book of Revelation. Interesting because this word is primarily used in the New Testament for the Second Coming, the “revelation of Jesus Christ” from heaven (1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thes 1:7; 1 Pt 1:7, 13). In Revelation we are given a revelation of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This is so practical for us. As Christians we are described in the New Testament as suffering pilgrims, longing for Christ’s return to deliver us from evil, to save us from this wicked and perverse generation, to destroy the works of the devil in our lives. We cry out “maranatha,” come quickly, O Lord Jesus; “how long O LORD? Will you forget me forever” (Ps 13:1); “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Our lives seem to be ruled more by “this present evil age” (Gal 1:6) than by the One upon the throne and the Lamb. But this is why we need Revelation! It shows us the reality that Christ is reigning despite the façade of Satan’s rule. We see the persecution of the saints by death, by casting us off into the corner of society, and it seems as if nothing is “working together for good for those that love God” (Rom 8:28). But the reality is that God is working “all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).

So Revelation is about Jesus Christ; but how is this message revealed to John? God revealed it to John in symbols, or signs. The ESV says “to show” in verse 1, which is literally translated “signified.” This is the same Greek word that John uses in his Gospel to describe Christ’s miracles as “signs.” Signs are visible or literary symbols that graphically communicate meaning. What this does not mean is that God revealed to John symbols of what would happen in the future (nuclear war, guns, planes, etc.). It means that God is revealing to first century Christians great spiritual truths that they could understand – and that we can as well by way of application.

But notice also that these “signs” are a part of a larger method of communication: “prophecy” (v. 3). Prophecy in the Biblical sense can be both prediction and proclamation, foretelling and forth-telling. And it is this latter understanding that is primary in Scripture. John is the prophet who is forth-telling, that is, proclaiming, preaching, this message. Now it is true that John is telling us about the Second Coming of our Lord, the Great Judgment, and the New Heavens and New Earth, but he is not so much as predicting them, but proclaiming them as fact, as the comfort of the believer, as the warning to the unbeliever.

The Purpose of Revelation

So we see what Revelation is about, but why do we need to have Christ proclaimed to us in symbolic language? Because the things proclaimed in this book “must soon take place” (v. 1), for “the time is near” (v. 3)

The great Day is coming, and it is coming shortly. John is commissioned by God Himself to assure believers that the Day is coming and to warn unbelievers of the same. Christ says in 3:11, 22:7, and 22:12, “behold, I am coming quickly!” This urgent eschatological expectation is thrust upon us in our text. Revelation is an urgent message to the Church from the very mouth of God. This is why it is in our Bible.

It is urgent because these things “must” take place quickly. Notice that word - must. If we lived in a random, chance universe, where the process of evolution was true, than the Word of God could not say this. The word “must” tells us that the future is certain, it is ordained by God. And many self-proclaimed evangelical Christians today say that our universe is random because God didn’t plan everything, let alone does He know the future. But John says to us that the certain future that God has planned and revealed in this book “must” absolutely take place. But it’s been 2000 years! This is hardly taking place soon! Do not despair beloved when the ungodly reply in such fashion. For the Lord is not slow concerning His promise, but with Him a day is as a 1000 years, and a 1000 years is as a day (2 Pt 3:8). Take comfort, first of all, because all that is happening in the world is not chance, but is the result of the Fatherly providence of God. As the Heidelberg Catechism says

What do you understand by the providence of God?

The almighty everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures; and so governs them, that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yes, all things, come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand. (Q&A 27)

Take comfort, secondly, because it is not just the external world that is upheld by God, but it is your every breathe, your every moment, your every step, that is also governed, ruled, and planned by your faithful Father. John says to us, “be patient, for this life is but a breath, it’s here today, gone tomorrow.” But be warned if you do not belong to Christ, for if the things in this book must come to pass, than there is nothing but a certain expectation of judgment for all eternity awaiting you. And God shows you His patience by delaying that Day. And He reveals to you the only way of escaping His holy wrath: Jesus Christ!

The Blessing of Revelation

“Blessed,” he says is the one who reads and those who hear. Before understanding what it means to be blessed notice two things. First, John says blessed is “the one,” or, “he,” who reads the words of this prophecy. The English like the Greek is singular. St. John envisions this reading taking place in the corporate worship of these seven Churches to whom he writes. Blessed is the pastor for reading this urgent revelation of Christ in public worship. Second, he says blessed are “those who hear,” plural. This is you, the congregation assembled at the foot of the heavenly mountain to hear the very words of God to your hearts and souls. God promises to give us His blessing for reading and hearing these words; but notice where this blessing comes: public worship. We are told here that it is in corporate, public worship that the blessing of the Lord is found. This is why Paul says in Romans 10:17, “so then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And the word of Christ is not your private reading of the word in Revelation, but it is the public reading and preaching of the Gospel.

Here in 1:3 we find the first of seven “benedictions,” or “blessed’s” (14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 14). To be blessed by God is to have Him look upon us in grace and not in judgment, to have mercy and not His justice, to have His peace and not His wrath. And because of this we are joyful in our hearts because we know that we are His children and He is our God.

But just listening to this word of God is not enough. Hearing must result in action, faith must produce good works, the root must have fruits. John goes on to say blessed are “those who keep what is written in it.” We must have covenant loyalty. God has given us His word, His Son, His grace, His assurance, and we must respond in heartfelt gratitude. This is why James says to us

but be doers of the, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (Jas 1:22-25).

So is God still speaking to us His people? Praise God, yes! Listen for His voice in the public reading and preaching of the Word, for in so doing, you will hear about your beloved Savior in these dark times and receive the benediction of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Rev. Daniel R. Hyde

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