In the liturgy of our church we often reaffirm our common belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Part of that affirmation includes the prophetic faith in Jesus’ bodily return to set everything right.We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ….
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
Until that day believers are commissioned by Christ to live in the here and now; we are expected to live into God’s plan for building His kingdom. The problem is that God’s enemy, Satan, always wants to go in the opposite direction!
The Christian life is compared often in Scripture to a warfare. And so it is! Whenever I think of war movies, the 1940's black and white ones are the pictures in my mind's eye. There are always some constants -- there is a guy who prays a lot because there's an enemy; there is a couple who want to get married before Johnny goes off to battle; and there is a time of preparation for the battle -- scenes of Worship, Wedding, and War:
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they said,“Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.” Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Revelation 19:1-6 (NRSV)
Only here in the New Testament, does the word alleluia appear. It means praise to the Lord. The word omnipotent means He who controls all. At another church I served, we often sang as the call to worship, Our God Reigns.
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those
who bring good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace and liberty to everyone,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.
There was never a time when we sang it, that the little hairs on the back of my neck didn't stand at attention. It put the picture in my mind of that great worship scene, where the praise of the multitudes of saved sinners lifts the roof off planet earth. The salvation, power, honor and glory are expressions of gratitude, reverence and trust to the God who is omnipotent and reigns. God judged the false church, and now defeats the Beast with his truth. His judgment was predicted:
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!
Psalms 104:35 (NRSV)
And His reign was predicted through the line of David:
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. 2 Samuel 7:16 (NRSV)
Why do we worship in anticipation of the reign of the Lord God, Almighty? It is the defining moment in all of human existence. It is the fulfillment of the promise that sin would not always be our lot. It is the moment when God declares that enough is indeed enough! It is the second coming of our Lord.
Beyond the Worship Scene, there is a...
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said£ to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Revelation 19:7 - 9 (NRSV)
If all of the saved of the ages anticipated the second coming of Christ; it is the marriage supper of the Lamb, for which the church has waited. Paul's passage which we read at weddings is really about the church, the bride of Jesus:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25 - 27 (NRSV)
This tells us that Jesus is expecting a righteous bride.
2I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Cor 11:2
By contrast with the harlot of a false church in the Tribulation period, the true church of Christ is faithful to Him. It is something that ought to make us pause and check the things we do daily. Our works do follow us to glory.
But, how can we be wrinkle-free? (I can't even get a no-iron shirt out of the dryer without a major wrinkle or two -- How am I going to have my own life without spot or blemish?) The answer is in the imputed righteousness of Christ. We can never be perfect -- but He is, and God forgives us for Christ's sake! That's how the church will be spotless -- Jesus puts us through the holy rinse and spin cycle!
The sight of all this made John the apostle, lose his sense of propriety -- he fell at the feet of an angel to worship him,
Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
Only God should be worshipped. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and everything in scripture points to Jesus. That which we do in Jesus' name here on earth, will become like a fine white linen garment of righteousness.
We will not wear them very long, however. I believe, as in the case of the Elders casting down their golden crowns at the feet of Jesus, we too will gather around, and the garment of His righteousness in us will serve to reflect the glory of the throne throughout the entire universe.
Nothing created -- including the devil in the abyss, and the lost of all ages -- will be able to look in the direction of the throne. It will be too wonderful and painful a sight for them. But for us --- glory, glory, glory!
A worship scene, a wedding scene, and,
11Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in£ blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From 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 wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16
This is indeed a war scene, but there is hardly anything of war -- but there most definitely is A Warrior! The picture of the coming of the Lord should make our mouths drop to the floor. Jim Henry is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fl. He tells of an incident from his youth. He was saved at Hopewell Baptist near Nashville, Tenn. Just as he entered his teens there was going to be a special service at Hopewell. Jim lived nearly 30 miles from the church by then. Wanting to attend, he convinced his mother to allow he and his cousin to hitchike out to the service. As they were walking along, a big black Oldsmobile came down the road, going in the same direction. Jim Henry stuck out a thumb. As the car got near, it began to screech to a halt, and Henry noticed a State Trooper sitting behind the wheel. He was afraid the Trooper would arrest him. The window rolled down -- Wher'ya goin' boys? he said. Jim explained, and he and his cousin were invited to hop in. When he got in the back seat there was another man in a suit. The man stuck out his hand and said, Hello, Jimmy, I'm Frank G. Clement, governor of Tennessee. I am going up to the Hopewell Church to speak, and I will be glad to give you and your friend a lift.
They took off and the patrolman got them there in a flash. When they pulled up there was a welcoming crowd. The whole county was there. Who was the first one out? Jimmy Henry! He tipped his hand in the direction of Mr. Clement, and said, Thanks for the ride, Governor -- and God bless you. Ol' Jimmy Henry was somebody! The fact is Jimmy Henry was next to somebody. He was still little 13 year old Jimmy. Governor Clement was the somebody.
Who is somebody to you? The last time Jesus came, He had a manger, and simple barnyard animals for admirers. He told us plainly who he was,
Yet, he was still a nobody to us all: He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. John 1:11 (NRSV)
The next time Jesus comes, the only animal in sight will be the white horse underneath him -- a horse ridden by a victorious, conquering King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
The next time He will not be a gentle baby, with Mary singing lullabyes in some feeding trough. He will be a mighty warrior with an avenging righteousness.
The next time He will not wear a simple shepherd's robe. He will have a garment dipped in blood, with which he will cover, cleanse and purge the entire earth.
The next time He will not hold a shepherd's staff. He will have a conquering sword that will smash the world systems into oblivion.
The next time He will not pass out broken bread and grape juice. He will be marching on the grapes of wrath, and squeezing every last drop of the fierceness of a holy God who has been scorned.