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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:Behold, He is Coming!
Text:Revelation 1:7-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2004-09
Added:2006-01-04
 

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 (September 2004): 9-10. Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Christians, what is your hope? For what do you await and for what do you long? Maybe you feel as if you have no hope or maybe your three “deadly enemies,” the world, the flesh, and the devil (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&AQ 127) have caused in you hopelessness with their schemes and strategies.

But we are not a hopeless people! We have not been left as orphans as Jesus sent his Spirit to us, who has inspired and preserved Jesus’ words for us in the Holy Scriptures. Lift up your heads this day in hope and in the full assurance of comfort even during your suffering. This is not only the Word to you this day, but also the theme of the book of Revelation, which was written to real people in the midst of real suffering and weakness. Revelation is the New Covenant equivalent of the prophecy of Isaiah, who spoke words of hope and comfort to languishing, exiled Israel some 700 years before the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Imagine being the people of God, but feeling as if God has left you. Imagine living outside your promised homeland, in a land that is not your home. Imagine a daily struggle with an enemy seemingly stronger than you will ever be. This is not too hard for us to imagine I pray. In that frame of mind, hear these words:

1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended[…]3A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God”[…]5And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together[…]9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

What Isaiah saw as the “coming” of the LORD to save his people and destroy their enemies, we as Christians know takes place in two separate and distinct comings. Having already seen his first coming, the “blessed hope” of the church militant is to see our Lord Jesus Christ come again (Titus 2:13); to comfort us; to end our warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil; to see his glory; to see him face to face; to receive his reward; and to be gathered to him as our shepherd. This is our hope, this is our desire to which John points us in Revelation 1:7-8.

Behold, he is coming!

A Glorious Coming

John begins this section of Revelation 1 by saying, “Behold, he is coming” – and notice what he says next – “with the clouds.” Lift up your eyes and hearts, O people, for he is coming to save. And you will know it because it won’t be a “secret rapture” but a glorious appearing. This coming of the Lord that John speaks of here he describes in Old Testament terminology. When John calls us to behold this coming “with the clouds” he is not simply saying, “Direct your attention to the sky, where the clouds are” in some spatial way. Instead, John uses this image of clouds in an Old Testament way. In the Old Testament God would manifest himself and his glory in visible ways, which we call “theophanies.” And one of the things that normally accompanied a theophany were clouds. For example, think of the shekinah-glory of the LORD which was seen in the visible appearance of cloud at Mount Sinai and the tabernacle when the LORD “descended” in a visible way (Ex. 19:1-9, 40:34-38). This cloud of glory was the same glory that appeared when Jesus was transfigured and later taken up to the right hand of God (Matt. 17:1-8; Acts 1:9-11). In biblical terms, to say that God would come “with glory” was to say that he would come in and with the clouds (cf. Ps. 18:6-12, 97:2; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:13; Zeph. 1:15; Matt. 24:30; Mark 9:7, 14:62; Rev. 14:14).

What John is describing is what you confess so often along with the church for the past 1600 years in the Nicene Creed: “[…]and he shall come again, with glory[…].”

This glorious coming is both Law and Gospel. Because Jesus Christ’s coming will be one of unbridled glory and splendor, only those who are his own will be safe, covered by the blood of the Lamb in order that the Lion will pass over when he comes. His enemies, though, those outside of Christ and his church, are described in these terms:

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling on the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17)

Behold, he is coming!

A Universal Coming

In this light we notice that the coming of the Lord will be a universal coming, that is, there will no one unaffected, no one unaware of this climactic redemptive event: “Behold, he is coming[…]and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.”

John, again, uses Old Testament imagery to describe what he saw on the isle of Patmos. Whereas earlier in his writings he used this text from Zechariah’s prophecy to speak of the crucifixion (John 19:34, 37), its ultimate expression is found in the returning of the Lord. Notice in Zechariah 12:10 the text says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him[…]. We see here that Zechariah speaks of the Old Covenant people, Israel. But we see the amazing Spirit-led interpretation of John as he adds two interpretive phrases this prophecy: “every eye” and “of the earth.” It is no longer just a prophecy about ethnic Israel, but one about the Jews and Gentiles!

What John is expressing here is not the wailing cry of the unrepentant as they prepare to be judged, but the cries of repentance, the cries of humility and contrition that Jesus’ people will have. They are cries for “grace and pleas for mercy.” Those who “pierced” the Lord are not those who killed Jesus, but those whose sins fixed him to cross! Again, John is expressing the repentance of God’s people, not the wailing cries of those upon whom judgment is coming. What this means for us is that we shall ever be reminded of the first Adam’s fall, when we look upon the second Adam who raised us up; we shall ever be reminded of our guilt and sin that led to the Lord’s life of trial and passion upon the cross; and therefore we shall always know what kind of a Savior we have. Beloved, even in eternity we shall never get beyond the Gospel! We shall never say, “We know that, so let’s move on,” as it is so often peddled from pulpits in our day. We shall always be a Christ-centered people. And if then, how much more so now?

John’s interpretive phrases also lead us to another wonderful conclusion about this text and the Gospel it proclaims. Notice that when John later in Revelation speaks of the end of all things and the eternal state he speaks of the final city as being filled with “the nations,” “the kings of the earth” (cf. 21:24-22:3). These are the same terms used here in Revelation 1 in speaking of the Second Coming. What John is saying to us is that those from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9 cf. 7:9), the new Israel, will humbly welcome their Savior and King. And this is exactly what was promised to Abraham when the LORD said, “[…]in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3 cf. 28:14). Christ’s work is a cosmic work, it is a universal work in that he saves a people from amongst all the people of the earth. And thus on that day “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23).

In response to this scene John, on behalf of the church, bursts out in response: “Even so. Amen.” Are we looking for the coming of the Lord or are our hearts so encumbered by the cares of the world? Are we daily lifting up our hearts to the Lord in expectation of our glorification or are we content to struggle with sin? Of course, ultimately, it does not matter whether we are eager for Jesus’ coming or not. That is John’s point! To say, “Amen,” is to say “[…]so shall it truly and surely be. For my prayer is much more certainly heard of God than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of Him” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 129). May we as his people, though, “feel” the need for his coming and be even more eager to say, “Amen!”

Behold, he is coming!

A Royal Coming

Finally, John shows us that this final coming of Jesus Christ is a royal coming because of who he is as a mighty king: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

The Lord Jesus calls himself the “Alpha” and “Omega,” which is an amazing self-designation as being fully divine. It is also an amazing literary way of speaking, for he uses what is called a merism. A merism is the use of two words that are polar opposites to highlight everything in between, such as night and day, young and old. Jesus here is saying that he is the “beginning and the end” (21:6, 22:13) and everything in between. Oh Christian, Jesus your Savior is the sum and substance of all there is, creation, human history, redemption, and our lives which he has purchased! He further describes himself in this way, calling himself the One “who is [present] and who was [past] and who is to come [future].” What is the base meaning of all of this? That Jesus Christ is “the Almighty;” he is the sovereign governor and ruler of history.

And how shall we respond? How can we do anything less than lay down our lives as living sacrifices now! How can we do anything less than re-orienting our lives and re-prioritizing our affections to reflect this soon coming Lord? Are you ready? Are you awake? Are you waiting? Are you still without hope? Then cry out with John:

Behold, he is coming! Maranatha. Come quickly, O Lord! 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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