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Awaiting the Bridegroom: “Knowing the Beloved: The Warrior and Judge”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
How many judges does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one; he holds it still and the whole world revolves around him.
Just one, but two lawyers have to explain to him how to do it.
At night court, a man was brought in and set before the judge.
The judge said, “State your name, occupation, and the charge.”
The defendant said, “I’m Sparks, I’m an electrician, charged with battery.”
The judge winced and said, “Bailiff! Put this man in a dry cell!”
What’s the difference between God and an Olympic gymnastics judge?
God does not think He is an Olympic gymnastics judge.
As a quick reminder, this Summer, among several other one-Sunday sermons, we are taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.
In the first two Sundays of this series we saw that this book could be seen as a love letter from the Bridegroom Jesus to His Bride, the Church. We saw that while many see this book as confusing and uninterpretable, we are choosing to see it in its simple format of Jesus’ revelation of Himself to us, His beloved. Then we imagined being truly known by the One who loves us more than all the words in the world could say! Today we will see a little of what it means to truly know our beloved – to know Him and His culture.
Last week we got our first Revelation of Jesus as the Perfect Priestly King.
Today, as we continue our journey through Revelation 4-18, not reading them to figure out every jot or tittle of this book, but reading them to better know the One who sends us this book. He knows us, deeply, intimately, personally. How well do we know Him?
Since this is a book which reveals, unveils, makes clear, who Jesus is – today we look to see that picture come into focus.
Look with me at Revelation 6 – 12. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 6, and to listen for the ways Jesus reveals Himself – as Warrior and as Judge.…. —-
1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
For almost 2,000 years God’s people have lived in expectation of both the fulfillment of Christ’s Kingdom at the end of time, and in trust that there’s a Kingdom reality pressing in upon us even now. And for the same 2,000 years, we have lived with all kinds of signs to the contrary – injustice, persecution, destruction, death. It is tempting to think that the God of Heaven is totally out of touch with life here on earth; that all that is going on in “the place beyond” is white-clad harp playing angels, while we duke it out here on earth.
Not so! Remember last week’s reading from Revelation 4: “Come up here! I will show you!”
The Revelation of the true reality in which we live continues. In these next several chapters of Revelation, we enter the present reality of the cosmic battle between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Christ. And as we watch this conflict play out even now through the wide-screen epic descriptions in John’s description of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, it serves us well to keep Jesus Christ in our line of vision; keep our eyes on His reassurances and promises, rather than getting lost and bogged down in the symbolic specifics (they are worth studying, but do not become burdened by our lack of understanding).
Last week I asked you to Name some ways you have always “pictured” Jesus; let’s do that again:
Shepherd, smiling, gentle, soft-spoken, ruddy, strong, (again, I am super glad no one said, blond-haired and blue-eyed).
How does Jesus describe Himself in this chapter?
Lamb, sovereign Lord, Judge.
Judge! (And even Warrior, in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)! This is often our cartoon picture of God – right? With St. Peter as the bailiff, the Judge-God determines who deserves heaven and who deserves hell.
Recently a teacher, a garbage collector, and a lawyer wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question.
St. Peter addressed the teacher and asked, “What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg? They made a movie about it a few years back.” The teacher answered quickly, “That would be the Titanic.” St. Peter let him through the gate.
St. Peter turned to the garbage man and, figuring Heaven didn’t REALLY need all the odors that this guy would bring with him, decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?” Fortunately for the trash man, he had just seen the movie on DVD and answered, “about 1,500.” “That’s right! You may enter.”
St. Peter then turned to the lawyer. “Name them.”
How many of you think that that’s the way it’s really gonna happen when we get to “meet our Maker”?
So … why is Jesus a Warrior? Why does Jesus reveal His “Prince of Peace” self as battle-scarred combatant? What is the battle described here? How does Jesus overcome the Enemy?
In the CS Lewis classic children’s adventure series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the Lion offers Himself up to die on behalf of Edmund and the White Witch thinks she’s got control of Narnia forevermore – always winter, but never Christmas. But Aslan the Lion reminds His human friends from England that the White Witch has only won this battle. And on the third day after He died, the Table on which He was lain cracks and the shorn-Lion stands fully maned and bigger than ever!
CS Lewis took the biblical accounts of Jesus and tells a delightful story of a Savior. Aslan had to die, just as Jesus really had to die, because from the beginning God has always been a holy God who demands justice. And He has always offered a way for us, you and me, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and for whom the wages of those sins is death – He has always offered ways to pay our debt of death – through sacrifice and faithful living – and from the Creation stories in the opening chapters of Genesis thru to the end of the Old Testament, He has promised a Messiah – the Anointed One of God – who would come and set His people free.
Jesus is that Anointed One – Messiah, Christ.
So, as the world around us refuses to worship God for who He is, God gives them over to their own desires, which affects every aspect of how they live.
Satan, the accuser, the one who steals, kills and destroys, tries to stand between us and the Judge-God, and tell us how unworthy we are to receive any gift God wants to offer – especially the gift of eternal Life with God in heaven.
He’s right – or, at least, partly right. We do not deserve any gift from God. But that’s the point! It is a GIFT, not a reward; it is the free gift of salvation, not our deserved payment. Our deserved payment would be death, eternity separated from God.
So what does it mean to see Jesus as the Lamb? He is the payment for our sin. He is the Sacrifice which offers perfect justice for our sin.
What does it mean to see Jesus as the Judge? He is the One who justifies our salvation. When we get to those “pearly gates” (whatever that really means), He will not ask us a test question about the Titanic or her survivors, or anything else like that. What He will ask us, I am convinced, will sound something much more like, “Do you love Me? – Do you believe I am the incarnate, killed, dead, and buried, and on the third day resurrected, Son of God and now sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty? – Do you believe that in your heart, and do you confess that with your lips – not just with your lives, that too, but with your lips, do you tell anyone what you believe?”
I am convinced that our answer to questions like that will determine our relationship with Jesus, with God the Father, with the Holy Spirit.
God is way more than just the gentle, loving old man in the sky. He is the Sacrifice, the Priest, the King – He is the Warrior who fights for justice; He is the Judge who determines Truth.
Way back on July 3, Pastor Robert Bushebi, from Bungoma, Kenya, preached here and called us, as American Christians, to be soldiers for the army of God in a war that we seem to be losing. He challenged us to join Jesus the Warrior in the same way that the Apostle Paul reminds his Church in Ephesus (and in Spokane) that “prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open.” (The Message, Ephesians 6:18)
Do you know Jesus as Warrior and Judge? How will you answer Him when faced with His questions of faith? Are you ready today?
Dear Lord and Savior – that is what we say we believe – help us to live like we really do believe it, today. We confess, dear God, that we take You for granted – we assume You are nice and will just forgive whatever – but we also assume You are so demanding of us that we can never just receive Your Good News, but that we have to deserve it. Paul tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus called us from lives of mundane, maybe even malicious, choices – and as we grow in grace and understanding we become more and more like You.
Hear our hearts today. We want to be Yours, more and more. We know that Your judgment is right when you condemn people for doing sinful things – and we know that only You are God, and we are not. Thank You for the gift You freely give, everlasting life found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 39-48.
Lewis, CS; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; 1950.