November 25, 2018

The Return of the King

Passage: Revelation 19:11-21

If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to Revelation 19. And if you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can grab a Bible, we are going to be in Revelation 19.

This morning, we are concluding our sermon series on the Kingdom of God. And my hope is that we have seen, throughout this series, how important our understanding of the Kingdom of God is to our lives.

The Gospels mention the many times that Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, while He was on this earth. The Kingdom was what Jesus was bringing to the world, it’s what He purchased on the cross, and it’s what Jesus said He was going to fully restore when He returned.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave the Church the mission of bringing the Kingdom near to the world, so that the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, continues to increase wherever the name of Jesus is preached.

And we see these glimpses of the power of the Kingdom, as the desire for sin diminishes, as people become healed of various diseases, as relationships are restored, as dignity is given, as love is shown, and as the kingdom of darkness is pushed back by the Kingdom of light.

But we also see glimpses of the Kingdom still to come, as there continues to be injustice, as death continues to occur, as sickness continues to plague us, and as we continue to look around and see that things just aren’t right in the world.

We live in the now / not yet of the Kingdom of God. But there is coming a day when all the wrong will be made right, when all the broken will be fixed, when all things will be restored. And all of this is coming, with the return of the King of the Kingdom of God. When the King returns, all will be made right.

A little tidbit you might not know about me. I love The Lord of the Rings. I have never read the books, but I have seen the trilogy of movies many, many times. And I would say that they are my favourite movies, which is a bold statement for me to make, because I love movies.

But one of my favourite scenes in the movies is from the second one, The Two Towers. And if you haven’t seen the movie, this might not matter to you, as much as it does to me.

But in the movie, Saruman’s army of orcs and Uruk-hai warriors descend upon the fortress of Helm’s Deep. The battle rages all night long, and there are many casualties. But in the morning, when things are looking grim for the people, one of the main characters, Gandalf the White, appears, and Saruman’s army is completely wiped out.

And why I love this scene is because it reminds me of our text for this morning. We are taken to the last book of the Bible, where John the Apostle is given a revelation of what was to take place. And in Revelation 19, we see the return of the King. And whenever I read this passage, I have this image of Gandalf in my head, riding down to conquer the army of darkness.

So, if you have your Bible opened to Revelation 19, let’s begin reading in verse 11: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Here we see the return of the King: King Jesus. Growing up, in our house, we had a painting of Jesus holding a little lamb. You might know the exact painting I'm talking about, because you had one, too. But in this painting, Jesus is walking with this lamb in His hands, with green grass all around and a river flowing next to them.

And the feeling you get when you look at this painting is that Jesus is this soft and gentle Shepherd, who takes care of His sheep. Like, Psalm 23 Jesus, right? He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. Or like, the Jesus who lets the little children come to Him.

We have this view of Jesus that He is soft and gentle.  And Jesus is this. I don’t want us to lose this view of Jesus, because when you read the Gospels, you read about how Jesus is near to the broken and the needy. He comforts us in our affliction. He guides us throughout all of life’s struggles. This is Jesus.

But the problem comes when this is our only view of Jesus. If we only view Jesus as Psalm 23 Jesus, and not also as Revelation 19 Jesus, then we need to re-evaluate our view of Jesus, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

We might not like the idea of a Jesus who is coming in righteousness to judge and make war. We might not like the idea of a Jesus with fire in His eyes, and a robe dipped in blood, with a sword in His hands. This Jesus might just make us uncomfortable. But if we want Jesus, then we need the whole Jesus—Shepherd and King.

Let’s look at why this matters, in verse 17. The apostle John continues: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’ 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”

This is a very graphic piece of Scripture, but what it does is it exposes our hearts. On the one hand, there are those of us who want justice, but we become uncomfortable with judgment. We want justice, but we don’t like the idea of judgment.

When things don’t go our way, or when people come up against us, or when we look around and we see the injustice in the world, our desire is for Jesus to come, set up His Kingdom on earth, and do away with all the evil in the world. But do we know what that entails? Bloodshed and death. And this makes us uncomfortable.

Helena and I were listening to a sermon, a couple of weeks ago, and the preacher was talking about this very topic of justice and judgment, and he said something that really struck me. He said, “There is no justice without judgment.” In order for God to be a God of justice, He must also be a God of judgment.

And the reason why this makes us uncomfortable is because it means that we are accountable—that we are held to a standard. And we don’t like that. We don’t like reading about how King Jesus is going to come and do away with evil in the world, because we know, at our core, we deserve this. But in order for there to be justice, there must also be judgment.

So, on the one hand, we want justice, but become uncomfortable with the idea of judgment. On the other hand, we want judgment too quickly.

When we read this passage, the response that we should have is not, “Go Jesus go! Go get ’em!” The response that we should have is one of weeping and mourning, for the many people in the world who have no desire to turn away from evil and turn to Jesus, because this is coming for them.

What we need to realize is that, if we have put our faith in Jesus, judgment is not coming for us, not because of who we are or because of anything we have done, but because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.

We have experienced the mercy of God—we have not received the judgment that we should receive—so what right do we have to want judgment for others? What right do we have to not want God to show them mercy?

I watched a video this past week of a commercial put out by Planned Parenthood. And if you know anything about Planned Parenthood, you know exactly where I’m going with this.

But the video shows a happy baby girl, cooing, as the tune of a lullaby plays in the background. And interspersed with this footage are the following captions: "She deserves to be loved. She deserves to be wanted. She deserves to be a choice." And the video ends with the hashtag: #StandwithPP.

She deserves to be a choice? When I watched that video, every fibre in my being was saying, “Jesus is coming. And when He does, He will lay waste to the demonic belief that this OK. And everyone who believes that this is OK, Jesus is coming.” Confession. That was my first thought.

But then, I read this text, and what this text reminded me, and hopefully what it reminds each one of us, is that there is still time, before this takes place, for all these people who believe that this is OK, to repent and instead believe in Jesus. And that we shouldn’t desire their demise, but hope for their salvation.

I was humbled by that. This text is saying, “It’s coming. Justice is coming, when all the evil in the world will be made right.” But it’s not coming because you want it to come; it’s coming because King Jesus wants it to come.

All the evil done to the millions of children that have been torn to pieces as a result of abortion, will be made right. All the evil done to the millions of women and children who have been subject to the sex slave industry, will be made right. All the evil done to the millions of professing followers of Jesus, all over the world, who are suffering daily for their faith in Jesus, will be made right.

And it should make us weep that many people will not turn from their evil and turn to Jesus. The return of the King will not be sweet for them, like it will be for us. Their time of grace will be over, when God will remove His grace from them, when the King will return and will judge rightly. It will be a day of devastation, and we should hope and pray that hearts will be turned to Jesus before then.

When the King returns, there will be a restoration of the Kingdom of God. There will be the promised renewal, when all things will be made right. But let’s see what that looks like.

Turn over to Revelation 21:1-5: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

Isn’t this a beautiful picture of heaven? Doesn’t this sound like an amazing scene? But notice that the emphasis isn’t on where we are, it’s who we are with. “The dwelling place of God is with man.”

You see, God from the beginning of Creation has made the initiative in being close to mankind: God created man in His image; God walked with man in the Garden of Eden; God entered into continual partnerships with man to increase His image in the world; God made atonement for man when man failed; God did what man could not do, so that God and man could be in right relationship.

And then, here, in the restoration of the Kingdom of God, we see God dwelling with man, pledging to be their God for eternity.

The reality is that there are many people who want heaven, but who don’t want Jesus. There are individuals who get to the end of their lives, not knowing or believing in Jesus, but we make a big deal about them being in heaven. What is that? Where do we get that? I don’t see that here.

Heaven is not the goal. It looks beautiful. It looks greater than anything I can imagine. But it’s not the point. Jesus is the point. The goal, at the end of our lives, isn’t to get to heaven, it’s to forever be with Jesus. If I don’t have Jesus, then I don’t have heaven. But what we’re after is eternity with Jesus. What we’re after is to dwell with God, forever.

It says that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This is the glory of restoration. This is what the entire narrative of Scripture has been building towards, since mankind decided to go their own way and do their own thing. There is coming a day, when everything will be the way it was always intended to be.

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Notice that the text doesn’t say, “Behold, I am making all new things.” It doesn’t say that, because God isn’t creating something new, He’s restoring what was broken.

We see that in the beginning with the Fall of Adam and Eve. God didn’t just start over with a new batch of created beings, when the first batch was defective. He went about restoring fractured relationships and restoring broken people.

And this is good news, because it means that God doesn’t give up on us. God doesn’t say to us, “You failed, so now I have to start from scratch.” No, God is drawing broken humanity to Himself. He’s restoring what humanity messed up.

And it doesn’t matter how lost we are, or how lost our kids are, or how lost our loved ones are, God is always near to the broken-hearted, ready to forgive and ready to make them new, through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

So, with the return of the King, we see the restoration of all things. We see the broken, fixed, and the wrong, made right. But then, we see our role in the Kingdom of God. What does it look like when all things will be as they should be?

Turn over again to Revelation 22:1-5: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

When mankind was created, we were given dominion over all of God’s Creation. We were created in the image of God, and we were to have fill the earth with more image-bearers. We were to rule as God’s representatives. But mankind sought to be their own rulers, over their own dominion. And as a result, our rule became fractured.

But the last phrase here, “They will reign forever and ever,” that’s pointing back to the servants of God, in verse 3. This is what the servants of God will do. And what this means for all those who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, is that we will reign alongside God, forever and ever.

That’s what all of this Kingdom language, that we see in Scripture, is building towards. It’s marvelous enough that we will even be worshipping our God who saved us from the penalty of our sin, forever and ever. That’s amazing enough. But to think that we will also reign with Him, forever and ever.

There is coming a day when our role in the Kingdom of God will be co-rulers with Christ. We will one day rightly represent the God whose image we bear. We will one day reign the way we were always intended to reign, but had to failed to reign.

Like, if we think about our lives now, we are kings and queens of the Most High God. This does something to us. This instills in us a deep sense of worth. We are more than the world gives us credit for, because our identity is rooted in Christ and not in the world.

If you have struggled with purpose, and you’ve wondered what you are doing here, it’s because you’re longing for what you were created. You were created to rule with Christ.

Grab hold of that. Don’t let that go. The world is going to tell you otherwise. The world is going to tell you to get what you want, to go after what will make you happy, and to find fulfillment in whatever you can.

But if we know anything about the Kingdom of God, it’s that our hearts are restless and that we were made for something greater than anything this world can offer. We build our kingdoms and we chase our desires, but until we grab hold of the Kingdom of God, it will only leave us wanting.

And we come to the same question that we started this series out with: To whose kingdom do we belong? Do we belong to the Kingdom of God, or do we belong to the kingdom of this world? To whose kingdom do we belong?

We are entering the season of Advent, when we look back at the first coming of Jesus while at the same time looking forward to the second coming of Jesus. And what the Kingdom of God reminds us is that the conquest that Jesus began with His birth is brought to completion with the restored Kingdom to come.

The baby in a manger would become the exalted Saviour who would become the triumphant warrior King. And depending on whose kingdom we belong to, God or the world, we will one day share in that glorious reign. Let’s pray…

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Kingdom and its impact on our lives. We thank you that you have given us so rich a salvation that includes glories we can’t even fully comprehend here on earth. But there is coming a day, Father, when all these things will be revealed. On that day, we will know fully. Help us, O God, to be merciful. Help us to rest in your wisdom. Guide us into all truth. Cause your Spirit to do a mighty work in us. May this Kingdom language infiltrate our lives and give us courage and hope for the troubling days ahead. And may your Kingdom come and may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This we pray, in the name of King Jesus. Amen.

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