Pastor Scott Andrews | April 24, 2022
I think most of us would agree that Jesus is coming back. That is an indispensable, undeniable, inviolable truth of the Christian faith. Believers may disagree as to the timing or circumstances of that return, but with this we must agree – Jesus is coming back. Now think about that statement for just a moment.
I said Jesus, and I mean Jesus – the one born to Mary some 2000 years ago. An angel appeared to both Joseph and Mary, who were betrothed – engaged – to be married, but they had not yet been married, so they had yet to physically consummate their relationship – meaning, Mary was a virgin.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he told her she would bear a son – who would actually be Son of the Most High – the Son of God – and she was to name Him Jesus. Later, when Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph was considering breaking the engagement when an angel appeared to him – we can assume Gabriel – and told him Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit – and they were to name Him Jesus. So they did. Jesus is the English name of the Greek name of the Hebrew name, Yeshua – Joshua, which means the Lord saves. The angel told Joseph, name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.
So when I say, Jesus is coming back – I mean that Jesus – the one born of the virgin Mary who grew up in Nazareth as a carpenter’s son, who lived a perfect life, who then became an itinerant rabbi, who claimed to be the Son of God – because, that’s who Gabriel said He was. He called 12 apostles to Himself, performed amazing miracles, taught authoritatively, and irritated the religious and secular establishments. So, as we saw last week, according to God’s predetermined plan, He was put to death on a Roman cross, bearing the sins of His people – this is how He would save His people from their sins.
But, of course, as we celebrated last Sunday – He didn’t stay dead. He was raised the third day – again, all according to the Scripture and the predetermined plan of God. After 40 days, appearing to many witnesses, He ascended back to heaven.
Which leads to the next word of the statement – Jesus is coming back. If you’re taking notes, mark it down. We don’t say, He might come back, He could come back, it is reputed that He will come back – no, we say Jesus is coming back. As I said earlier, it is an undeniable truth of the Christian faith. And since He is, it ought to impact the way we live our lives. I mean, if we believe it – that He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for my sins, was raised the third day, ascended to heaven, and is to return – it should change our lives. (Routine)
I’ll come back to that. Next, Jesus is coming back. Now remember when Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives, just to the east of Jerusalem, He took His disciples and they got a bit ahead of themselves – like we do – is it time for You to set up Your kingdom? Is it now – is the fullness of Your kingdom here?
To which Jesus responded – don’t miss it – it’s not for you to know – so stop treating Revelation like a treasure map – it’s not for you to know the time of My return – but you be My witnesses in Jerusalem – probably pointed right across the Kidron Valley, you could see the city from the top of the Mount – in Judea, could have pointed around Him – in Samaria – would have pointed to His right or to the north – and to the ends of the earth, dropping His hands. Don’t miss it – I’m returning to heaven and the fact that I died for your sins and that I am coming back ought to change your lives – go be My witnesses. But that is going to cost you.
At that point, Jesus was taken up right before them up to heaven. I don’t know what that looked like, but it would have been amazing. Don’t miss this – and a cloud received Him out of their sight. You see, clouds in the Scripture indicate divine presence and majesty. For example, when God delivered His people from Egypt – a pillar of cloud led them by day. Remember Mt. Sinai – a cloud came down and covered the mountain. So also at the Tabernacle a cloud covered the tent as God came to the Holy of Holies, and so later the Temple. A cloud signifying the presence of divine majesty.
Well, a cloud received Jesus out of their sight. With mouths agape and eyes of wonder, they stood gazing into the sky, wondering if Jesus would reappear. And indeed, He will. You see, two angels stood beside them and said, what are you doing – why are you standing here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you in a cloud will come in just the same way as you watched Him go into heaven. So, do what He said. This same Jesus is coming back in the same way. Until then, what He has done by His life and death, and the promise of His coming should change your life – your activities and priorities and mission.
This same Jesus is coming back, and while His coming will be similar – that is, with the clouds in the sky – its purpose will be a bit different. The first time, He came as Savior – to give His life a ransom for many – the lamb of God. But when He returns, He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, as glorious conqueror and judge – to lead His people to victory.
Matthew said it like this: “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” Not an inauspicious coming as a baby in a manger. They will all see Him coming – power and great glory.
Mark said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth and the farthest end of heaven.”
Luke said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In other words, we are supposed to be looking – noticing things taking place – because it signals the coming of Jesus. While busy about His work, we are supposed to be ready.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” I’m coming back to get you.
Paul said, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain at the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall aways be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Don’t miss that – the promise of His return is supposed to comfort believers. Jesus is coming back. And His second coming will be different than His first. And the book of Revelation tells us about it. Here are my questions for you this morning. Do you believe Jesus is coming back? If you do, has that truth changed your life? Do you live like you believe it? If you truly believed it – how would that change your life tomorrow and the day after that?
Further, do you think the promise of the return of Christ in judgment and salvation would bring courage and comfort to suffering believers? The purpose of the book of Revelation. Who is this Jesus coming back? Let’s read about Him in Revelation 1:4-8.
I don’t even have the words to express the glory of these verses. I told you this book contains three kinds of genres of literature – it is an apocalypse, it is a prophecy, and here we see it is a letter. It follows the normal letter-writing convention of the day – writer to recipient(s), greeting, sometimes a thanksgiving, and sometimes a purpose for writing. Now, this letter also contained those first three verses we looked at last time which is a bit different than the typical letter – it was sort of an introduction or superscript before the salutation. Here’s the way we outlined it:
- Superscript (or introduction) (1-3)
- The Salutation (4-5a)
- The Doxology (5b-6) – this is also different.
- The Purpose (7-8) – he dangles the promise of His return, which is the focal point of the book – I know you’re suffering – struggling – paying the price and it seems all is lost or God may have lost or is not in control, but know this, Jesus is coming back.
So today, we’ll look at the Salutation, the doxology, and the purpose. The writer identifies himself simply as John. I already covered this in the introduction to the book, but the internal evidence and the unanimous position of the early church was the Apostle John wrote the letter. He was so well known by these churches – remember, he had moved to Ephesus right before the destruction of Jerusalem – he didn’t need to identify himself any further than simply, John.
The readers or recipients of the letter are the seven churches in Asia. Asia would have been Asia Minor, a Roman province in western Turkey. By the way – this will be important later – Asia Minor was especially known for its vigorous support of emperor worship.
Now, many question why John wrote to these churches. Clearly, there were other churches besides these seven in Asia. Some say John chose these seven because they were on a circular route that would have been easy to deliver the letters. Interestingly, we will find in chapters 2 and 3 that each of these churches is addressed individually, so some say what was going on in these churches would fit the broad spectrum of all churches of all time. Not only that, many note the book is full of the number seven, so it speaks to the totality of the church of Jesus Christ – again, that all churches throughout time can be represented in these churches.
Let me tell you why I think these seven churches were addressed – look at verse 11, “[Jesus] saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Why did John write to these seven churches? Jesus said to. I know that’s deep – try and keep up. Again, we will find in chapters 2 and 3 Jesus had something specific to say to each of these churches. I’m fine with Jesus identifying seven so we’d understand they represent the totality of churches – but John wrote to these seven because Jesus said to.
Next come’s the greeting – Grace and Peace. These were the typical Greek and Hebrew greetings of the day – the normal Greek greetings was shortened to grace, and the Hebrew peace was the greeting, Shalom. We know Paul used this in most of his letters, sometimes adding the word mercy. We also know these general greetings were Christianized – they carried much gospel meaning. Grace – the grace that saved you and sustains by His mercy, be yours, resulting in peace – reconciliation with God – not only peace, but a sense of well-being. By the way, the order is important – grace comes first, then peace. It can never come the other way around – you’ll never get peace without grace.
Now, what is the source of grace and peace? John launches into a series of threes that are breathtaking – and meant to encourage and strengthen suffering believers. First, we see these Christian graces – grace and peace – come from God the Father. But here, John calls Him, who is and who was and who is to come. There is so much here. First, you should know this is not good Greek – it’s odd – but it’s intentional and meant to startle the hearers. Not only that, this is not typically the way you would say it – you would say from Him who was, who is, and who will be. That’s chronological – it would make sense.
But that’s not what John says. He says, Him who is, followed by who was, and who is coming. Why? The focus is on the present. He is – right now. I know it doesn’t seem like it. You’re suffering – things aren’t working right, and by the way, it’s only going to get worse. And you’re wondering where is God – is He in control? Has He fallen asleep, is He unaware, is He on vacation? No – He is right now – and He is the one who was – just like you saw His hand in ages past. Oh, and He is coming – which of course means He will be – but He is coming. It’s tough right now, but He hasn’t forgotten you. He is coming to make all things right.
Many suggest this is another way of saying I Am. Remember in Exodus 3, when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He told Moses go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites. They won’t believe me – who am I? Better question – who are You? When they ask me, who sent me, how shall I answer? What’s your name? My name is Yahweh – the tetragrammaton – I Am that I Am. Tell them I Am sent you. And this is the covenant name by which I will called – I Am. It speaks of so many things – to include His existence, His eternality, His self-sufficiency – His aseity. He is. The reminder to these readers is that God is the all-sufficient one, the sovereign one who is in control. And I am coming.
Further, grace and peace come from the seven Spirits who are before His throne. This is challenging, understandably. The seven Spirits are spoken of in three other places in Revelation:
3:1 – “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says this.” In other words, notice Jesus has the seven Spirits – or we could say, the seven Spirits are the Spirits of Jesus.
4:5 – And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. A little confusing – but we find the seven lamps are in the same place – before the throne, and they somehow represent or signify the seven Spirits.
5:6 – And I saw between the throne and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
Confusing. The seven Spirits are before the throne, whom clearly Jesus has – who are also referred to as seven lamps of fire and seven eyes sent out to into all the earth. What are we to make of this? Said simply, most agree the seven Spirits is a way to refer to the Holy Spirit – notice listed with the Father and the Son in these verses. Further, nowhere are we told that the blessings of grace and peace come from anyone but God. Remember, there is much imagery in Revelation, and the seven Spirits speak of the Spirit’s perfection. Further, it’s likely an allusion to Isaiah 11:2, which lists seven characteristics of the Spirit:
- The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him (that is, the shoot from the root of Jesse – that’s the Messiah.
- The spirit of wisdom
- and understanding,
- The spirit of counsel
- and strength
- The spirit of knowledge
- and the fear of the LORD.
Not only that, in Zechariah 4 – Zechariah has 8 visions, this is his fifth. We read:
1 Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep.
2 He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it;
3 also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.”
4 Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, “What are these, my lord?”
5 So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
10 “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.”
Most agree John has this passage in mind. Notice the seven lamps with seven spouts which are to remind Zechariah that it is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit that the temple will be rebuilt. The point is, the seven lamps are an image that point to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Lord. You have this OT idea that John capitalizes on – again, in highly symbolic, image-driven language. Readers familiar with the OT would undoubtedly understand this reference points to the Holy Spirit.
But here’s what I want you to see – the seven eyes in Zechariah 4 and in Revelation 5 remind us that God sees everything perfectly. And the Spirit of God stands before the throne of God. We see in this image the omnipotence, the omniscience and the omnipresence of God by His Spirit. Meaning, yes readers, I know you’re suffering, but God sees and knows, and further, His Holy Spirit bears you before the throne.
Third, these blessings come from Jesus Christ. Don’t miss this reference to the Trinity – these divine blessings come from the Father, the Spirit and the Son. Do you think that would be encouraging to suffering believers – grace and peace to you from the Father, Spirit and Son. Having mentioned Jesus Christ, John gives three titles of Jesus, all of which find their inspiration in Psalm 89 – a Psalm about David which finds ultimate fulfillment in David’s greater Son, Jesus.
First, Jesus is the faithful witness. Meaning, everything He did, everything He said was a faithful witness to and of His Father. He always did those things that pleased the Father – to include His death on the cross. He persevered – and remained faithful. And the word witness is the word from which we get our word martyr. It didn’t mean martyr then – but every time it is used in Revelation, martyrdom is close at hand. John starts with, Jesus is the faithful witness who died, and you may too.
But that’s okay, leading to the next one – He is the firstborn of the dead. Yes, there had been others raised from the dead, only to die again. Jesus is the firstborn, the first to rise from the dead, never to die again. He has conquered death – He is sovereign over death – the last enemy to be destroyed. And notice, He is the firstborn – which implies there will be many more to come. Are you fearful of dying, either by persecution or COVID or cancer? Jesus has opened the way for you. He is the firstfruits of them that sleep.
Third, having been raised from the dead, conquering death, He is the ruler of all the kings of the earth, who by the way have all died. The kings of the earth in Revelation over and over are the ones who take their stand against the kingdom of God. Again, this is a reference to Psalm 89:27, speaking of David, but finding its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name – that name? Lord. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
This caused John to break into doxology. Remember at the end of Jude, we saw a typical doxology has an addressee, an ascription of praise, the duration of the praise, and the affirmation by those listening. This has all four. John starts with To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood – making it clear this is a doxology to Jesus, the first doxology addressed solely to Jesus in the NT – more are to come. And He says Jesus did three things for us (from three titles to three actions – who He is to what He has done):
Notice, to Him who loves – present tense – who loves us and demonstrated that in the past, He released or freed us from our sins – that speaks of redemption, of buying us out of the slave market of sin – at what price? By His blood. This was the redemption price. A steep price.
Having done so, He has made us to be a kingdom. Lots of talk about the kingdom of God – here, it’s made clear – we are the kingdom – at least, subjects of the kingdom – and perhaps we are co-regents, co-rulers with Christ. This is yet another very important OT reference – Exodus 19:6, which reads, God speaking to Israel, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” To be a priest means we have access to God, and we serve Him by proclaiming the good news of His reign and the offer of forgiveness – amnesty – to people. This was of course quoted by Peter and applied to the church in I Peter 2, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
And we remember, when Jesus ascended, He left us the responsibility of being His witnesses. We are to proclaim the good news, the Gospel as subjects of His kingdom – further as priests to His God and Father – representing God to the people. Again the question, has the fact that Jesus saved you and commissioned you and made you part of His kingdom and a priest to our God – has that changed your life? You say, but I’m scared to open my mouth about Jesus – I know. It will likely cost you – but this book reminds us, He is the God who is, who is with us; the Spirit sees us and bear us before the throne, for whom Jesus died – and is coming back.
Now, I’m not going to get into the church being the New Israel or anything like that. I personally don’t think God is done with His OT people of Israel. But clearly, they failed in the responsibility to take His name to the nations. And now we, the NT people of God – the church – we are to be the kingdom, the priests proclaiming His excellencies to the world. (driving in)
To this One – who released us from our sins, who made us a kingdom, who made us priests, to Jesus be the weight of glory and the dominion or majestic, ruling power forever and ever. That’s duration. Do you think this would be an encouragement to suffering believers? And the only response of affirmation from us is, Amen.
Last point – I call it the purpose – because this is the focal point to which Revelation heads – unerringly, definitively, conclusively: Jesus is coming back. Verse 7, Behold, His is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
Yet more OT allusions – these in Daniel 7 – which John references many times, and Zechariah 12. In Daniel 7, after visions reminding Daniel of the empires to come, we read:
9 “I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
10 “A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened.
This is a vision of God – the Ancient of Days. The text goes on, here’s the quote:
13 “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14 “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
One is presented to the Ancient of Days – God sitting on His throne – and to Him was given an everlasting kingdom. And we will serve Him. And when He returns with the clouds, every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him – that is, those responsible for His death – that’s everyone – and they will mourn – that is, those who have not been freed from their sins by His blood. This is a reference to Zechariah 12:
10“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
In this Zecheriah verse, it is Israel mourning for the Messiah. It isn’t clear to them at this point that they are mourning over the one they have rejected and pierced. (John 19) But John broadens the prophecy to include all people of all tribes of the earth, responsible for the death of Christ by their sin. And they will mourn – not mourning in repentance, but mourning because they are responsible, and it is too late. This is to bring unsettled comfort to those suffering for the name of Christ from those who have rejected Christ.
He finishes by reminding us – the first of two times in this book that God Himself speaks, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” – these are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and include the entire alphabet, like we would say, from A to Z. I am first and I am last and I am everything in between. I am sovereign over everything – there is not a maverick molecule in the universe. God Himself then says of Himself – who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. The Almighty is used of God 10 times in the NT – nine of them in the book of Revelation. He is the Almighty one – do you think this would have been an encouragement to those suffering for the cause of Christ? He is Almighty, and He will be victorious. Amen.
I’m done. So here’s the question – Jesus is coming back. Do we long for His return? Will it be the culmination of our blessed hope, or will it be an interruption? For these readers, they could hardly wait. So it is to be – may it be for us.