Pastor Scott Andrews | April 23, 2023
The Apostle Paul was near the end of his life. You remember him – we haven’t talked about him much lately. He was the persecutor of the church, aggressively pursuing followers of the Way – what Christianity was first called. Having received letters of authorization, he would travel to cities with Jewish people outside Palestine, arresting those who had come to believe in Jesus.
You remember the story from Acts 9. On one such trip, he was on his way to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him. Saul, as he was then called, why are you persecuting Me? Who are you, Lord? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. You see, at the moment, Paul was spiritually blind, and further, physically blinded by the light. He made his way to Damascus where, having received his sight, both physically and spiritually, he became an ardent follower of the Way – a follower of Christ. Jesus told him that he would be an instrument of the Gospel – to Jews and kings and Gentiles. But also, that he would suffer much for the name of Jesus.
All that happened. From Acts 13 to the end of the book, we read of Paul’s extensive missionary journeys – taking the gospel through much of the then-known world. People were saved, churches were planted, half the letters of the NT were written bearing his signature, and almost endless persecution came. Which begs a question I suppose, was it worth it?
Well, now, his end had come. After a life of proclamation and persecution, He was arrested, imprisoned in Rome – the last of many times. He knew this would be the last – that this imprisonment would end in his death. He wrote his final letter to Timothy, his son in the faith. He wanted to encourage him to remain faithful – in the midst of this rising opposition, don’t shrink back – rekindle the gift that you received – fan it into flame. As he gets to the end of the letter, before his closing words of instruction, Paul writes his swan song – his final address. These are familiar words:
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [But then he says]
8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Can I tell you, that causes me to tremble. That day, all agree, is the day of Christ’s return. But notice, there is an expectation that we would love the promised appearing of Christ. The crown of righteousness – the stephanos, the victor’s crown, would be given to Paul by Jesus Himself. What is this crown of righteousness? Lots of discussion – either the crown given by the righteous Judge, Jesus, or the righteousness through sanctification – fighting the fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith – that Paul did through his life. Certainly, any righteousness we have comes through the finished work of Christ. But notice, this crown of righteousness will be given not only to Paul, but to all who have loved His appearing, that is, His second coming.
That is at the same time both encouraging and challenging. Because of the promise of His return, we are to love it – how do we do that? We love it so as to long for it and live holy lives in anticipation of it. We have loved His appearing – and the word love is a word you know – agapao – to love with a supreme, self-sacrificing kind of love. You love something so much, you are willing to sacrifice for it. Well, Paul did that, did he not?
The verses that follow in II Timothy 4 are intriguing and make for an interesting contrast. Paul says in the next sentence, having made the promise of the crown of righteousness to all who have loved – longed and lived for His appearing – he says, Timothy, make every effort – sacrifice – to come to me soon for Demas, having loved not the promise of the return of Christ, but having loved this present world, has deserted me. Interesting – same word – agapao – Demas has loved this present world so much that he sacrificed himself for it.
There’s the challenging contrast, for us. Are we ready? Do we love Jesus so much that we sacrifice everything for Him, loving, longing for His second coming, and thereby gaining persecution; or do we love this present world, and all it has to offer…such that we are not so much longing for the return of Christ; rather, we are focused upon, and sacrificing everything for this present world? The contrast is dramatic, with eternal ramifications.
Why do I start my sermon today with these thoughts? My brothers and sisters, a simple but perhaps life-altering question, what is the object of our supreme affection? What or who do you love so much that you would sacrifice everything for it? There is a sense in which Demas sacrificed himself in his love for this world – giving in to the calls, promises, enticements, and comforts of the culture. Paul, however, loved his Lord, his Christ, so much, that he paid for it, sacrificed himself for it. To be clear, that did not earn him salvation – he was already saved, years ago, in Damascus. But his loving the appearing of Christ – His longing for it, changed the way he lived. It changed his focus, his priorities. It’s how he could take up his cross daily and follow Christ – even to the point of death.
Do you see both the encouraging and challenging nature of the crown’s promise? The victor’s crown of righteousness for all those who have loved His appearing? So, how do we do it? How do we love and therefore long for the coming of Christ? Quite simply, He must become our greatest affection, our greatest treasure.
And can I suggest that’s why we have Revelation, chapters 6-18. We spent months in these challenging chapters seeing the wrath of God that will come against unbelievers, culminating in the destruction of Babylon the Great – in a sense, this present world and all its idolatry and immorality. Remember the laments of the kings and the merchants and the shipmasters when they saw Babylon burning – when they lost their greatest treasure?
- The kings of the earth will cry out, Woe, the great city Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.
- The merchants will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore. Woe, the great city…for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!
- The shipmasters will cry out, Woe the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!
Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world. Further, we saw the persecution that will be poured out on believers by such earth dwellers. We have been reminded over and over – don’t love this world, the things in this world – it is all going to be destroyed. Come out from Babylon. After all, Jesus is coming back. Such a picture is really good motivation to pursue Jesus as your greatest affection, when we see what’s coming. Both destruction of all the world holds dear, and the coming King we hold dear.
So here we are. The stage is set. Babylon the Great – an ends times empire empowered by the beast has been destroyed. But we are still left to contend with the dragon, the Antichrist, the False Prophet. We still have the Battle of Armageddon to be waged. With whom will we side? What or who is our greatest treasure, knowing, Jesus is coming back in all His glory.
You know the first time He came humbly, born to a virgin and blue-collar worker – not in the hallowed halls of the mighty, the noble, the elite, the wealthy, the religious – all those things we pine for. He was raised, not in the city centers of world empires – not in Rome, not in Babylon, not in Jerusalem – but in the two-bit, can anything good come out of Nazareth town. His army, His disciples – 12 scared men who deserted Him in His greatest need. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots – we don’t even know what some of them were. He rode into town humbly, on the colt of a donkey. No mighty stallion – what you would expect of the coming world ruler.
The Romans? They knew how to do that. A Roman triumphal procession was a sight to behold. The army, often clothed in all their military regalia, would come first, feet marching, hooves pounding, chariots roaring, swords, shields, spears polished and raised to the sky. The crowds watching would throw flowers in their path, releasing the aroma of victory. Soon, the victorious generals would enter to the loud cries of the people, followed by Caesar, dressed in stunning array, either in a chariot or on a white stallion. Last would come the prisoners of war – to the now loud jeers of the crowds – often headed to slavery or the coliseum or to the gallows.
Not much in common to the way Jesus came the first time. That first time He came as Savior, to give His life a ransom for many. To lay down His life for the sheep. But make no mistake about it – the second time will be a bit different. He will come in great glory, as a warrior king to judge. We read about it in our text – Revelation 19:11-16.
What, then, is our greatest treasure? We’ve been waiting for this since a year ago March – but the truth is, if Jesus is your greatest treasure, you’ve been waiting, longing for this since you first came to Christ and heard of His promised return. His followers have been patiently and eagerly waiting since He first ascended back to heaven 2000 years ago. Don’t let the delay discourage you. Time is not relevant with God; a day is like a thousand years, a thousand years like a day. He’s simply patient, waiting for His purposes to be completed. Jesus is coming back – and whether you’re alive when He does, or you are part of the army following Him – we will all be firsthand witnesses to the event.
This morning, I simply want to remind you, to encourage you to keep your eyes lifted heavenward. To look for heaven to open, see Jesus coming on the clouds of glory, hear the trumpet of God, hear voice of the archangel. I want you to love, to long for His promised return. I want you to receive the crown of righteousness. The outline goes like this:
- The Exalted Description of the Coming King
- The Expected Deeds of the Coming King
His appearance actually defies description, but John gives it a good go. Now remember, John actually titles this book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Lots of discussion about whether that means the revelation that Jesus gave to John, or is it the revelation – the revealing of Jesus Himself. I don’t think it’s an either-or decision – why can’t it be both. It is what God revealed through Jesus to John as to what must soon take place – namely, the judgments of God leading to the return, the appearing, the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Look at the exalted description. Heaven is opened. The first time, back in chapter 4, it was opened to let John in. This time, it is opened to let Jesus out – not that He is in any way confined – opened because the time has come. And behold, and exclamation of wonder – behold, a white horse. Not a donkey this time – a white horse, symbolic of purity, perhaps, but more likely, majesty, power and victory.
And He who sat on it is called Faithful and True. John actually gives Jesus four titles in this description, together painting a grand masterpiece. He was called the faithful and true witness back in chapter 3. He is faithful, that is, He can be trusted, He’s faithful to His promises; and He is true, all that He says is trustworthy and altogether true, without error. Such that His judgment is righteous. John’s been saying that over and over – all His judgments are true and righteous.
Verse 12 says His eyes are a flame of fire. We saw that back in chapter 1 when John first saw the vision of the glorified, exalted Christ. Eyes a flame of fire speak of His penetrating gaze – nothing is hidden from His eyes. He sees all, He know all. He is the perfect one to come in righteous judgment – He is faithful and true, and He knows all things.
On His head are many diadems – these are crowns, not stephanos or victor’s crowns, but diadems, crowns of majesty and royalty. Three times in the NT: the dragon, the beast, and Jesus. We are to see this in contrast to the usurped crowns of the dragon in chapter 12 and the beast in chapter 13. Their crowns are temporary, usurped, and will soon be removed.
Further, He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. Which has not kept commentators from guessing. This is one of the four names John gives, but we don’t know it. Some want to suggest it is revealed in the title Word of God or King of kings and Lord of lords. That’s possible, but then, we would know it, and it wouldn’t be a name that only He Himself knows.
Now, to know someone’s name back then was seen as having power or authority over someone. For example, when Jesus asked the demons in the possessed man, what is your name, some have said Jesus was gaining authority over Legion. Possible, I suppose. I mean, we’ve all experienced when a parent called you by your full name, Scott Randall Andrews – you knew you were in trouble. They knew my full name and used it when needed.
But Jesus does not need to claim any authority for Himself – He has all authority. It more likely speaks of His greatness, His ineffability – that there is a sense in which, while knowable, He is not fully known by His creatures. He is too great. He is too wonderful. Will we one day in eternity future know the name? I don’t know – will we ever plumb the depths of God?
He is called Faithful and True, He has a name that no one knows except Himself, and third, in verse 13, we are told His name is the Word of God. Many of us know John 1:1 – written by the same author – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. So, we are familiar with Jesus being called the Word, but this is the only place in the Bible He is called the Word of God. The idea is, He is the logos, the full authoritative disclosure of God – He is the visible and living representation of God. He is fully the word about God. Hebrews 1 says it this way:
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Colossians says He is the image of the invisible God; and in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. So, to be called the Word of God is a clear declaration of deity.
Last name, look at verse 16 – And on His robe and on His thigh – that is more likely, on His robe covering His thigh is a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Talk about a declaration of deity! He is the King of all kings. The dragon, Satan, wanted that for himself. And for a time, the kings of the earth bowed to him. But only for a time. Because the time has come for the King to be revealed from heaven, riding on a white horse.
Which brings us quickly to the Expected Deeds or actions of the Coming King. In verse 11, He comes in righteousness to judge and wage war. He comes to righteously judge the unrighteous, and to wage a final battle against the forces of evil and all those who have arrayed themselves against Him. This includes not just demonic forces, but earth dwellers who have sided with the beast.
Verse 13 is a startling verse, He is clothed with a robe dipped [by the way, the word is related to baptized] in blood. And immediately, you may think, this is the blood of the Lamb, by which our robes are washed and made white. A couple of issues with that – first, Jesus did not need to dip His robe in His own blood – He was and has always been righteous, faithful and true. And second, He has not now come for salvation, but rather for judgment. This is more likely speaking of the blood of His enemies which He will destroy at His coming. I know is hard to hear. Consider Isaiah 63, speaking of the judgment of Edom:
2 Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?
3 “I have trodden the wine trough alone,
And from the peoples there was no man with Me.
I also trod them in My anger
And trampled them in My wrath;
And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,
And I stained all My raiment.
4 “For the day of vengeance was in My heart,
And My year of redemption has come.
Most agree John has this passage of God’s coming judgment in mind. Further, verse 14 says the armies of heaven, clothed in white linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. This will come as a shock, but there is some disagreement as to who this army is. Some suggest these are angels, after all, in Matthew 24, speaking of the second coming, saying,
30 “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.
31 “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
So clearly, this and other passages speak of angels coming with Christ when He returns. And, there are passages which speak of angels in white clothing. But, several passages in Revelation speak of faithful believers being clothed in white robes. Chapter 17:14 said, “These (the unholy trinity and their followers) will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and the chosen and the faithful.” That is clearly believers.
So again, whether we are dead and in heaven before Jesus comes, or raptured to heaven before this time, or we are here at the end of the Tribulation, we will be witnesses of this event – likely joining Him and the angels of heaven when He returns to execute His judgment, which we will read about next week.
Finally, verse 15 speaks of the weapons of His warfare. From His mouth will come a sharp sword – we saw that back in chapter 1. The sword is an instrument of judgment and death – here, likely referring to the truth He will speak judgment as the Word of God which will destroy His enemies. II Thessalonians 1 has these breathtaking words:
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
Not only does He have a sword coming from His mouth with which He will strike down the nations, He also has a rod of iron by which He will rule them. This is a direct reference to Psalm 2 when the Father gives to the Son all the nations of the earth as His inheritance, and He will break them with a rod of iron. The rod of iron is the shepherd’s offensive weapon by which he warded off wolves and lions who would seek to destroy the flock. Jesus will protect His flock and destroy those who have opposed His people.
Lastly, He will tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. We’ve seen this several times in Revelation already – God’s judgment compared to a wine press containing the wrath of God. The point is, when Jesus comes back, He will deal out retribution and judgment, and only those obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ will be saved from the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. A good motivation to remain faithful.
In closing, I’d like to go back to our introduction and II Timothy 4, Paul’s final words, “the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” I will receive the crown because I fought, I finished, I kept the faith.
But he goes on, which the Lord will award not only to me, but also to all those – and here comes a curveball. You expect him to say, to all those who have also fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith. But he doesn’t. He says, to all those who have loved His appearing, that is, the coming of Christ. What?
Please understand, Paul equates faithfulness to loving Jesus and longing for His return. Do you see that? If your greatest affection, is Jesus, you will fight the good fight, you will finish the course, and you will keep the faith. And you will receive the crown of righteousness.
James says it this way about a different crown, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved (faithful), he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to (who?) those who love Him.” Don’t miss it – love for Christ as our highest affection will produce faithfulness, and therefore receive the crown of righteousness, the crown of life – eternal life in His presence. By the way, James said in the verse before, “For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.” That is, any Demas who loves this present world will wither.
You see, if you make treasure your greatest affection, if you love this present world and all it offers, you will sacrifice yourself for it. You will be a Demas and desert – walk away. All those people you know deconstructing, walking away, not keeping the faith? They have not loved Jesus, they have loved this world and its enticements. My brothers and sisters, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus – He must be our greatest affection.