Hallelujah! The King is Back (Rev. 19-20)

Publié le 30 octobre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Pastor Samuel Niblack on 17th October 2021

When we think of Revelation, we often think of misfortunes and judgment, but this is a book that is mostly about happiness. Do you want to be happy? Are you looking for happiness, joy, elation? This book is for you!

The number 7 gives a certain structure to the book – 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls of wrath. And there is another list of 7; if you read the book, you can count 7 blessings, beatitudes: “Happy is he…”. (1st in Rev 1: 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein!) This is not trivial. This book is not primarily to scare you, confuse you, mystify you, this book is to make you happy, happy when the news is often unhappy, happy because you know the happy ending. Any definition of happiness should take into account the long term, eternity, the afterlife.

And this morning we’re going to watch the happiest moment of all. You will not leave church sad this morning!

Bible reading: Revelation 19-20 (try to locate 2/7 beatitudes of the apocalypse)

After 14 chapters announcing the judgment, we come to the conclusion. John sees a vision of that long-awaited moment for all mankind: the return of Jesus Christ in glory. As Christians, we believe the Incarnation, the miracle that God became man, we believe the crucifixion, the miracle that Jesus died in our place, we believe the resurrection, the miracle that Jesus came to life , we believe the ascension, the miracle that Jesus ascended to heaven. The miraculous nature of it all is a challenge to our reason, our faith, but still, we can rely on historical evidence, testimonies. But the return of Christ, that great miracle that we are waiting for, requires a future faith, a hope. I cannot line up witnesses who have seen it. I can’t give you historical evidence. However, I can give you existential proof. 

When you think about your thirst for happiness, your desire to be happy, Christ’s return with the Last Judgment is the only thing that meets your desires.

There are three scenes in what we’ve read that help us say, “Amen! Alleluia! » thinking of the return:

A feast, wedding hall, with Jesus as a bridegroom

A battlefield, with Jesus as the victorious knight

A throne of a tribunal, of a kingdom with Jesus as judge.

    I. The happiness of being loved

    II. The happiness of being a winner, of winning

    III. The happiness of not being judged, but of reigning

1. The happiness of being loved.

The apocalypse ends with the most beautiful image: the wedding in v7-9 …

The previous chapters had spoken a lot about the great harlot. This prostitute, symbol of Babylon, of an anti-god world, an idolatrous world, of an unfaithful world, but contrasted with this prostitute, there is the Bride, the princess, symbol of another city, the new Jerusalem, itself a symbol of the people of God. Paul too had used this image of the Church as the bride of Christ, the bride of Christ while awaiting the wedding day.

This bride is a picture of all of God’s people, made up of people who were once evil, made up of ex-prostitutes, ex-Pharisees, ex-criminals, ex-atheists. People who come out of Babylon. Every Christian recognizes himself as an ex-idolater, someone who had practiced spiritual prositution. But Jesus loved us, transformed us, and enabled us to do righteous works. But is a wedding day such a happy thing? This happiness to be loved. The bride is always beautiful in the eyes of the bridegroom on her wedding day.

We often spend our lives being disappointed in ourselves, disappointing others, thinking that we are not very kind. How many lives were broken by not to having received the love of a parent, a spouse. But God, the author of the story, writes a script that ends with a wedding, with you, you as the beloved!

II. The happiness of being a winner, of winning

We change our image, this is not the wedding feast, it is victory on the battlefield, v11. Jesus is more than a kind character.

What does a white horse do in the days of drones, satellites and fighter jets? But even with all our technological and military progress, we have found no better way to capture the notions of glory, courage, victory, honor than horses, knights, banners in the wind, the fanfare of trumpets. Thanks to Narnia, to the Lord of the Rings, to the legends of King Arthur, Robin Hood, to Disney (the old ones), to the tales of fairies, to the castles in France, which help us to enter a little into the glory of this scene. (It’s no coincidence that The King’s Return won 11 Oscars, a record; the story can’t be beat.)

All these chivalrous images make us taste the happiness of victory. Ride with Christ and win the last battle! These scenes of anger and carnage with the birds of prey are extremely violent warning us not to be on the wrong side. And even in these shocking images, several things call out to us:

– His garment is stained with blood, v13. That of his enemies? Possible, but that’s before the battle. Perhaps a picture of his own blood, that reminder that he himself bled, gave his blood, to offer salvation to anyone who would like to escape judgment.

-The armies with him v14,: several passages say that Jesus returns with the angels, the heavenly armies, but here it is said that these armies are covered with fine linen, white, pure, it is the same description of the bride, which suggests that it is his people. It is a special army. Who dresses in fine white linen, for a battle? She rides with him, she’s part of the victory, but she doesn’t have to fight. 

The only one who wields the sword is Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This sharp sword which strikes the nations seems symbolic, since it comes out of its mouth, which corresponds to its name: « the Word of God ». The mere fact of having said « this is me » in the garden of Gethsemane had overthrown the entire Roman patrol. Before this word, the battle will be over before it even begins. (This kind of text prevents us from taking physical weapons as a Church. It is only Jesus who has the right and the authority to go to war against evil.)

III. The happiness of not being judged, but of reigning and living fully

We are now going to talk a little about the millennium, but I don’t want you to leave confused, but above all happy!

Chapter 20 describes the sequence of events that revolve around the famous 1000 years. (The return of Christ-> the beast and the false prophet thrown into the lake of fire-> Satan bound in the abyss for 1000 years, Christ reigns with his own for 1000 years-> Satan loosed-> Satan cast into the lake of fire and the last judgment …)

Some will say that these thousand years are symbolic of salvation in Christ from the cross, therefore a present reality; others see it as a concrete future reality. The position of our church is more like a future reign after his return. 2 things make us lean in this direction:

1) The activity of Satan during the 1000 years, v1-3: it is said here that Satan will be bound, chained, thrown into the abyss, imprisoned, the entrance sealed, so as not to seduce the nations any longer. Some will say that it is already a reality since the cross, but it is difficult to reconcile with his activity, we have already seen in this book (the church of Pergamum “remains where is the throne of Satan” and Satan is very present in the rest of the New Testament to annoy the apostles, the churches …)

2) The meaning of a resurrection, v4-6. This chapter has 2 resurrections: the first in which believers participate, those who are written in His book of life, those who died in the Lord, to reign and judge with Christ at the beginning and then another at the end, later, to be judged, it is that which is described in v11-15.

Why such a sequence? Why not destroy all evil at the same time? The only answer in the text, “it is necessary” (v3). God knows how to write the most interesting, exciting, convincing story….

20v6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection … It is the blessing not to be judged, but to reign with Christ.