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Ascension Sermon May 26 2022

Revelation 19:11-16

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  Paul says that Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father where all things have been placed under his feet so that he can rule all things for the benefit of the church, his bride.

  Christians living near the end of the first century had reason to wonder how this word of God could be true. Christians were experiencing persecution. All of the Apostles of Jesus had been executed except John, and he was living in exile on the prison island of Patmos. How could it be that Jesus was ruling all things for the church? It sure didn’t seem like it.

  Today we can identify with those Christians living near the end of the first century. We see godlessness and evil all around us. We see things that even unbelievers used to consider shameful now celebrated and promoted. We see persecution of Christians on the rise all around the world. We too might wonder how it can be that Jesus is really in charge and ruling all things for the church?

  God gave John the vision we call Revelation for the purpose of answering such questions. In the vision John sees a lot of terrifying things, famine and plague and death. He sees a dragon, and beasts aligned with the dragon, attacking the church, and seeming to have the upper hand. Because we live in a sinful world bad things will continue to happen, and the church will continue to be attacked. The dragon of course is Satan, and the beasts are the ones in power in the church and government who are in league with Satan and use their positions to attack the church and shake their fists at God through rules and laws and false teaching.

  John hears the martyrs, those who have been executed because of their faith in Jesus, calling out to God, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” And they are told to wait until God’s time would come. We are not to take revenge, but God says vengeance is mine, I will repay. God would indeed avenge their blood.  John is told that waiting to see evidence that Jesus is in control and that he is ruling everything for the church, waiting to see evidence that Jesus is going to bring judgment on those who persecute his people and thereby execute justice, will take patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. We are to remember that what might seem to us like slowness to act on God’s part is really the loving patience of God providing ample time for the gospel to be preached to all the earth because he wants all to come to repentance and faith in Jesus.

  But just as it was in the days of Noah, and just as it was for the people of Canaan, God’s patience will come to an end. The flood did come as Noah had warned, after 120 years of grace. Israel did destroy the Canaanites 400 years after Abraham, as God had foretold. Judgment will come. God will make it clear to all that he is indeed in control ruling everything for the good of his Bride, the church. 

  In his vision, John sees heaven standing open so that he can see what is happening there. He sees a white horse with a special rider. There is no doubt who that rider is. He is the one who alone can be called faithful and true, the one who judges and makes war in righteousness.

 He is able to judge in righteousness because his eyes are like blazing flames. He is able to see through all the masks that people wear, all their lies and false representations. He is able to look at the heart. He knows not just everything everyone has done, but knows the thoughts and intentions behind what they have done. Nothing is hidden from his sight. His judgments are always right, just, and true. Before him every tongue is silenced, and everyone is held accountable for every sin of thought, word, and deed.

  He makes war in righteousness. That’s something that might cause a lot of people trouble. Jesus makes war? How can a loving God; how can Jesus make war? Is there really such a thing as a just, righteous war?

  The Bible tells us that God is love. He loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to save us. Jesus loved the world so much that he went to the cross to save us. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for us. But as fiercely as he loves us, his bride, he hates those who want to harm us. His great love for the us, his bride, moves him to fiercely defend us and bring just punishment on all those who reject him as their Lord and king and who unjustly seek to destroy those who trust him as their Lord and king.

  Jesus, the Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who always speaks the truth and is faithful to all his promises, rides forth on his white horse to battle our enemies for us. As the almighty Lord, the outcome of the battle is never in doubt. The armies of heaven are with him, clothed in white, clean, fine linen, following on white horses. The angels are holy and sinless. Those who have joined them in heaven have been given a white, clean linen garment to wear- the righteousness of Jesus that covers all their sins. They are living and reigning with Christ and they share in his victory.

  The hosts of heaven follow Jesus into battle, but notice that they don’t have their clothing stained with the blood of battle. Jesus does all the fighting for them. The sharp sword that comes out of his mouth, the word of the Lord, defeats and justly condemns all who stand against him. He himself tramples the winepress of the fierce anger of the Almighty God.

  What John sees reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah, Who is this coming from Bozrah, clothed majestically, marching out with great strength? It is I, the one who speaks in righteousness. It is I, the one who is mighty to save. Why is your clothing so red? Why are your garments like those of someone who has been trampling grapes in a winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples there was no one with me. So I stomped on them in my anger, and I trampled them in my wrath, and their juice splattered on my garments. I stained all my clothing. For the day for vengeance was in my heart, and the year for my redemption has come. I looked intently but there was no helper. I was shocked that no one supported me. My arm delivered me, and my wrath supported me. I trampled the peoples in my anger. I made them drunk in my wrath, and I will pour out their juice onto the ground.

  Jesus, the rider of the white horse, is the one who fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 2, Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession. You will smash them with an iron rod. You will break them to pieces like pottery.

  All those who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are his beloved bride. We are his beloved bride. In love he will defend us and bring down just judgment on all who seek to harm us. As fierce as his love is for us, so fierce is his anger against all who hate us and try to harm us or steal us away from him. As we see what he has done and is doing for us, how he sacrifices for us and fights and wins our battles for us, our hearts swell with love, and hope, and peace, and joy and thanksgiving and praise.

  As long as this world endures there will be times when we wonder what Jesus is doing. There will be times when it’s hard to see how he is ruling all things for the church, for us, his bride. There will be times when we call out with the martyrs in heaven, How Long Lord until you avenge us? But be assured that Jesus is faithful and true. When he knows the time is right, he will appear in the clouds of heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will come to sweep us, his bride, off our feet. Our knight in shining armor will rescue us from all our enemies, from all evil, and from all the consequences of sin, and carry us off to the wedding celebration that never ends. Then woe to those who have despised the Lord, who have persecuted his bride or harmed us in any way. They will experience his fierce wrath. He will smash them like pottery with an iron scepter. He will trample them like grapes in a wine press. He will slay them with the sword of his word which will condemn all who reject it. All will see that he is a God both of unimaginable love and unending justice.

  When you are tempted to wonder what Jesus is doing, remember your bridegroom, the rider on the white horse, is coming to carry you off to the wedding feast in heaven. As his bride, his victory over every enemy is yours.