Rev. Dan Haugh
Please read: Revelation 1:4-8
The Book of Revelation is arguably one of the most discussed and misinterpreted books of the Bible. This letter is written in an apocalyptic, heavily symbolic way that has given people much to banter over and (sadly) argued over for years. While some view it as a manual for the future, it was written by a real pastor in a real place to a real congregation going through very real suffering. At the time the letter was written these Christians were living under the oppressive rule of a succession of Roman Emperors who demanded they be worshipped both as “King” and “Son of God”. Christians who refused to acknowledge these Caesars as Lord were being executed.
This kind of tribulation raised pressing questions for these people about how God runs the world and how long God would let this injustice continue. And so, at the heart of the letter, John paints a picture for them of God acting decisively and triumphing over evil. One could sum up the message of Revelation in three words: Christ is Coming! While John was writing to a specific situation, I believe there is a timeless and timely message for Christians now. The message for us today is quite simply this: evil will be defeated and Christ our King will return to rule his kingdom.
The One who was there from the beginning will be the One ruling in the end. The second lesson refers to Christ as the Alpha and Omega. Alpha is the first letter and Omega the last of the Greek alphabet and so this depiction indicates completeness. Christ is eternal. He was before time began, he is now, and he will be when time ends. He has been the God of all who have trusted in him; he is the God in whom at this present moment we can put our trust; and there can be no event and no time in the future which can separate us from him. No matter what befalls us in this life; the uncertainties and constant change, there is One constant.
Now, this does not mean we live in a perfect world now, far from it. We are living in the time in between Christ’s first coming in the Incarnation and his second coming in the Completion. The kingdom of God broke forth against the powers and principalities of this world with Christ, and has been forcefully advancing through his followers ever since. We see glimpses of the Kingdom of God when lives are made whole, people are reconciled to God and one another, when the rights of all people are advocated, when the lost are found, the broken mended, and the eyes of the blind are open to see the truth of God’s love. These are signs of the Kingdom of God.
Our eschatology shapes our ethics. What we believe about the future shapes, informs, and determines how we live now. Jesus advocates for a full engagement with the world. not escape from it. God’s will for the earth, God’s passion for this world is very different from what we see around us and God desires to do something about it here and now. What Jesus taught, prayed for and anticipated was the day when earth and heaven would be one...the day when God’s will would be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
This kind of kingdom would look far different from the other kingdoms of the world. Pilate may have been surprised to meet Jesus and hear the many accusations against him, thus questioning “Are you the king of the Jews”. Even Jesus’ physical appearance did not appear kingly by the world’s standards. Jesus was a new king of King. Jesus responds to Pilate’s question by stating that his kingdom was not from this world.
Jesus came to initiate a new kind of Kingdom. He ushered in the spiritual rule of God in the hearts and lives of people. His kingdom is not of this world for it is truly radical and counter-cultural. In Jesus’ kingdom, the least will become the greatest, and the greatest will be humbled. This is a kingdom were money, beauty, fame, or accolades do not win favor or earn merit. Rather, service, submission, and sacrifice are heralded. In this kingdom, it is not about having it your way or advocating for your will at all costs.
People in this kind of kingdom willingly lay aside their agendas and wills for the sake of loving others and gladly offers their lives as an offering for our King. We are being formed into a new kind of people for a new kind of Kingdom. Truly, Jesus’ kingdom was not of the world, but it is for this world. Lives, institutions, and societies can be radically transformed by this kind of kingdom. The kingdom of God is about a great reversal of the way things are. It is the way the world would be if God were king.
Like any kingdom, there exists a King and loyal subjects. As followers of Christ we acknowledge him as both Savior and Lord. Our newest members here at ACP have acknowledged this statement and their allegiance. Christ as Savior affirms belief that the death and resurrection of Christ has achieved for us what we could never do on our own. Our sins have been forgiven and we are made righteous both now and for eternity. We have been given grace and peace, thus restoring the harmony between God and man.
Confessing Christ as Lord acknowledges that we are not in control of our own lives. Our allegiance is ultimately not to a nation, political leader, or the world around us. We follow Christ as our King both now and forever. This has significant implications on our lives here and now. Rather then prioritizing our lives chasing after the things of this world, we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. This means when we are confronted with decisions or actions contrary to God’s Kingdom we remember Christ is our King.
When we witness institutional injustices, whether political or ecclesiastical,we stand up for the kingdom priorities and remember that Christ is our King. When economic, political or religious powers perpetuate inequality and injustice, we remember that Christ is our King and act accordingly in response with courage and strength
Later in John’s book, we are offered a glimpse into what the Kingdom of God will look like in its completeness. In this vision there will be no more pain, sadness or sin. Every tear will be wiped away and death will be no more. Imagine a world where there is no more war, greed, rape, injustice, starvation, violence, pride, division, exploitation, or disgrace. Imagine a world in which the shalom of God rules; the peace, harmony and health that God intends for his people. This was and is the dream of Jesus and his followers and the more we become people of peace and justice and worship and generosity, the more actively we participate now in working to bring about God’s intended purpose. This implies an intentional and purposeful partnership. As Saint Augustine wrote, “God without us will not; and we without God cannot.”
Jesus has made us to be a kingdom of priests to God. We have been given royalty and through Christ may become the true sons and daughters of God. As priests we can come boldly before the throne of God’s grace and enter daily into the presence of God. We are called to be priests of God to live as Kingdom people in this world.
Franciscan friar and theologian Richard Rohr writes these words,
“I hope you've met at least one Kingdom person in your life. They are surrendered people. You sense that life is OK at their core. They have given control to another and are at peace. A Kingdom person lives for what matters, for life in its deepest sense. There's a kind of gentle absolutism about their lifestyle, a kind of calm-freedom. Kingdom people feel like grounded yet spacious people. Whatever they are after, they already seem to be enjoying it-and seeing it in unlikely places. Kingdom people make you want to be like them. Kingdom people are anchored by their awareness of God's love deep within.”
Friends, when Christ first came, it was celebrated as good news of great joy for all people. I believe that when Christ comes back it will also be good news for all people. The world is in pain and suffering and longing for the Kingdom of God in its fullness and completion. And so we wait, but we wait not with fear and trepidation. We wait with excitement, anticipation, hope and purpose.
As most of you know, my wife Lauretta and I are expecting the arrival of twin boys. In fact, our doctor recently told us they could arrive any day now. (I actually have my cell phone on me for these services....just in case). We have known for the past 8+ months that new life is coming! Its true that we have been waiting, but we have also been actively planning and preparing. There have been books to read, movies to watch, and multiple instruction manuals to read through and decipher.
We have been extremely busy as we make preparations for their arrival. It is true we do not know the exact time but we are certain they will arrive and we will do our best to be ready for them and make our home prepared for their presence.
So may we do our best to prepare for our King to return and may Christ find our hearts, our homes, and our world anticipating his arrival with great joy as we make his prayer become our daily anthem. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the name of the soon and coming King, Jesus. Amen.