Revelation 1:4-8, 12-17
Click HERE for an audio podcast of this message.
Many people are fed up with earthly rulers. They always seem to make grand promises but almost always fail to deliver. They promise to end the pandemic, but it gets worse. They talk about controlling the climate. Good luck with that. They promise to bring people together but end up driving people even further apart. You would think that after thousands of years of failure by earthly leaders people would finally get what the Psalmist says, Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever.
As long as the earth exists we do need earthly rulers, but even the best rulers make us long for something better. That something, that someone better is Jesus. As he reminded Pilate, his kingdom is not of this world. He is ruling already now. But we can’t wait until he comes to rule the new heaven and the new earth when we will finally experience perfection. Listen to the way John describes our king Jesus!
Our King Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Whether they know it our not, whether they acknowledge him or not, Jesus is in charge. Everything has been placed under his feet. Right now, no matter how chaotic it seems, Jesus is ruling everything that happens in a way that benefits us, his church, believers of every tribe, nation, people, and language.
It’s hard for us to see this because we are among the trees. There are too many things that obstruct our vision. But it helps to look back at the history the Bible gives us and see how God is always ruling all things for the good of his people.
Think of God’s promise to Abraham. When he promised that his descendants would have the land of Canaan, he also said that the fulfillment of that promise wouldn’t come for 400 years. In the meantime, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He became second in command to Pharaoh where God placed him so that many lives would be saved from a famine, including the lives of his brothers who sold him. Joseph brought his whole family, 70 people, to live with him in Egypt where they grew and prospered. Then a Pharaoh arose who didn’t have any respect for Joseph and what he had done for Egypt. He enslaved the Israelites. Then God sent Moses to deliver his people and bring them to the land of Canaan as he had promised. After 430 years God’s people left Egypt having grown into the great nation that God had promised, 600,000 men not counting women and children.
Think of what God showed Daniel in his vision of the four beasts. Those beasts pictured earthly kingdoms- Babylon, the Medo-Persian empire, Greece and Rome. It showed all these great kingdoms of the earth coming to an end, but it also pictured another kingdom, an eternal kingdom. As Revelation says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
Think of how our King Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem. It was because of a decree of Caesar that people had to go to their ancestral city to register for a tax.
Think of how God used so many little things that people never would have noticed at the time to accomplish his purpose and fulfill his promises. He even makes those who vehemently oppose him and try their hardest to thwart his purpose fall into place and actually end up accomplishing his purpose. Take the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day as the prime example.
What a King we have in Jesus!
Unlike every earthly ruler who makes promises they don’t keep; Jesus is called the Faithful Witness. Not one thing that he has promised has ever failed to happen. He assured Pilate that the reason he came into the world was to testify to the truth. Everything he told the disciples would happen did happen. He was betrayed just as he said he would be. He was handed over to the Romans just as he said he would be. He was beaten and crucified just as he said he would be. Then, most important of all, he rose from the dead on the third day just as he said he would. With a history like that why would we ever doubt anything he promises? He promises that he is with us always. By the way, that promise is pictured by the fact that John sees him walking among the 7 lampstands which represent churches. He is holding the messengers, the pastors of those churches in his protecting hands. He promises that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the resurrection and the life who raised Lazarus from the dead as an indication of what he has promised to do when he comes again in glory and raises all the dead. There is no reason for us to doubt these or any of his promises. He is the faithful witness. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to him.
Jesus our king is the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, and who was, and who is coming, the Almighty! He has eyes like blazing flames. He has feet like polished bronze. He has a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. His face shines like the sun at full brightness. What an awesome king!
The sight of our King Jesus was so awesome that when John saw him, he fell at his feet like a dead man. Daniel had the same reaction, and so would we. We would feel those blazing eyes looking right through us and exposing every sin, even sins we didn’t realize we had committed. We would realize that he should cut us to pieces with his sword. We would be overwhelmed with fear and shame. But what did Jesus do for John when he fainted in fear and shame before him? He placed his right hand on him and said, “Do not be afraid.”
Why didn’t John need to be afraid? Why don’t we need to be afraid of the one who sees right through us and has the power to destroy us with just a word? Because he is the one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood. He is the one who was dead but is now alive forever and ever. He holds the keys of death and hell.
We don’t have to fear our perfect, omnipotent, omniscient king. Yes, he knows all the sins that make us feel shame in his presence, but he doesn’t hold them against us. He came to earth the first time to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. He accomplished his mission of salvation by being the faithful witness, living an absolutely perfect life in our place. He fulfilled God’s demand that his law be kept perfectly. He accomplished his mission of salvation by sacrificing himself, shedding his blood on the cross. His blood, the blood of the innocent, blameless Lamb of God, paid the price that God demanded to set us free from the punishment we deserve for our sins. The condemnation we deserve was given to him.
What a King we have! No other king, no other earthly ruler, would give up everything to rescue his people from destruction. But even if they wanted to, all the gold and silver in the world, the power of the greatest armies in the world, couldn’t do what he did with his own blood shed for us on the cross.
Having redeemed us by his blood he called us to be a part of his kingdom through the gospel. He chose us to be among those who live in his kingdom of peace that lasts for ever and ever. In fact, he made us priests to God. He has given us the special honor and privilege to be able to come into his presence and to serve him. There is no greater honor than to be among those who can offer prayers for ourselves and others, who can declare to others what a king we have, a king who sacrificed not only to free us from our sins and guilt, but who sacrificed himself to pay for the sins of the whole world. He holds the keys to death and hell. He is the one who will open the graves of all the dead and bring them out alive. He is the one who will open the gates of heaven to all believers and lock the gates of hell on all who rejected his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
People long for a ruler, a leader, who keeps his promises, who is able to protect and defend them from all evil, who can unite every tribe, nation, language and people. If you are looking for such a leader, look no further than Jesus. He is the faithful witness who always keeps his promises. He is the almighty one who is, who was and who is to come, the one who never slumber or sleeps. He is always present with us and there isn’t anything he can’t do. All who trust in him are part of his kingdom, his body, united by one baptism and one common faith. Yes, his rule often seems hidden to us, but he is coming with clouds. One day every eye will see him, even those who denied his existence. When he does come again in glory to establish his eternal kingdom in the new heaven and the new earth, he will bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
What a king we have in Jesus! To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen!