Take Heart [1-23-22]




Today we're launching our sermon series on The Revelation to John. While today is the start date, I have not set a targeted end date. It will end when it ends. As we begin this series, all I ask is that you set aside everything you think you know about this last book of the Bible. Try to forget all the fantastical ways in which The Revelation to John has been leveraged in order to sell books, promote movies, and in general stir up misplaced passion for the "end times."


In its beauty and richness, the prologue to The Revelation to John touches on some foundational truths that will guide us in our study.


So, of course, counterintuitively, we'll begin with verses four through six:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


The first thing we're going to do is put these three verses in our context.


As we celebrated Christmas last month, we marked it as one of the happiest times of the year. But, in the midst of all the joy, there was also sorrow. For some, the holidays were difficult. There was sickness. Loved ones died. For many, it was the first Christmas without a loved one. There were economic struggles. Relationships were strained. Many were riding out heartache and hardship while singing "Joy to the World."


Beyond our lives here in Michigan, the past several years brought upheavals almost too numerous to keep track of. Sometimes it seems like the best approach is to not keep track of them.


There were wars and rumors of war. Natural disasters. Floods and fires and entire buildings collapsing.

There was a pandemic and reactions to the pandemic that, at times, were irrational, fearful, authoritarian, and driven by political partisanship.


The last year saw a record number, worldwide, of babies murdered in the womb…over 40 million.


In our own country, there have been riots and attempted rebellions. After incidents of police brutality against people of all colors, there was a call to limit funding for law enforcement. After an ongoing rise in crime of all categories, there was then a movement to restore funding to law enforcement.


People of all ages disappear, including here in Lenawee County. Children are trafficked. Slavery is at an all-time high around the globe.


Last year, there were over 100,000 opioid deaths in the U.S. alone. Drugs pour in through our porous southern border. Did you know that, at the height of Columbia drug cartels activities, they were spending $1200 per week on rubber bands? They were losing over $2 billion annually to

damage to their cash caused by rodents and moisture. And since then, the

drug problem has gotten worse.


To add to the anxious knot in our stomachs, we don't know what's next.


In December 2018, a meteor with the force of 10 atomic bombs exploded over the earth. Nobody knew it was coming. NASA scientists didn't discover it until after the fact, largely because the event took place over the Bering Sea. It was the second largest explosion in 30 years.


Often, we are the cause of our worst traumas. Our sinful nature can lead to much pain, suffering, and misfortune.


A sloppy withdrawal from a foreign war led to the loss of American and ally lives. The hasty response to that mess further caused the death of 10 innocent civilians, including seven children. Their unlawful deaths have been all but forgotten by our national media. Justice is still not forthcoming.


Let's not even go down the path of military entanglements taking place around the globe. The violence visited on people in Myanmar and Indonesia is appalling.


We have lived through several years of torturous upheaval.


Through it all, we have voted into positions of leadership people who were born in sin, just like you and me.


Our last president was, at times, vulgar, unkind, and needlessly provocative.


Our current president is, at times, startlingly incoherent, fiscally promiscuous, and unnecessarily divisive.


A year does not pass without the experience of unstable days in national and international events.


And the disruptive dynamics of our day barely compare to what the

followers of Jesus Christ endured when The Revelation to John was written.


Then, and now, followers of Jesus experience times of great instability.


The Revelation to John speaks reassuring words into the instability.


Let's look at Revelation 1:4-6 again:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The phrase I want to focus on today is "the ruler of kings on earth."


In the midst of amazing and agonizing upheavals, John declares that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all the kings and presidents and CEOs and premiers and governors and prime ministers and even Dr. Fauci and all the rocket surgeons and brain scientists at the CDC, FDA, AMA, NIH, WHO or whatever other alphabet combination you care to throw together.


When Jesus rose from the dead, God "highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" {Philippians 2:9-11}. From the time he ascended into heaven up until this very moment, Jesus is alive today presiding from heaven over the rulers of the earth.


Let that breathtaking truth hold you fast, especially during times of trial, terror, and tumult. How many people do you think actually believe that or even think about it? But it is at the heart of the Biblical truth we'll be talking about for months.


First, when verse five says that Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth, it means:

JESUS CONTROLS WHO BECOMES A KING AND WHO DOES NOT.


As Daniel 2:21 says about God's sovereignty:

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.

Connect that with what Jesus says in Matthew 28:18, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," and we have an understanding that the authority to remove kings and set up kings has been given to Jesus. God the Father does this through the Son.


Now, there are some things this means, and some things it doesn't mean.


There are some things God allows. The Bible says that, at times, God keeps the way clear for people to get lost in their sinful desires or passions. While God directs the choices and will of people according to His perfect plan, some reject it, some follow it imperfectly, and some obediently pursue it. We don't always have to know why. We simply know that it is.

All we know is nothing happens outside of God's sovereign will.


This doesn't mean that every appointed leader lives an obedient, Christian life or pleases God. It also doesn't mean that a godly leader is going to be a good leader. Case in point…Jimmy Carter. As the Bible says, rain falls on the good and the wicked. Sometimes bad people prosper and good people suffer. God's purposes are God's purposes.


In the Bible, God deposes those who do not please Him or who aren't obedient to Him. God also uses unbelievers to accomplish His will. In the case of the affirmation of verse five, Jesus can and does overrule the sinful acts of evil rulers. He also makes their sin and their folly a part of his wise plan for history. It's always been interesting to me how the despots and cruel leaders throughout history fade, fizzle, or are toppled by stronger forces for good. King Jesus is at work in the world.


What verse five also means is that the ways of Christ's rule are not simple. There are things we don't know and there are things we'll only partially know. Paul puts it this way in Romans 11:33:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How

unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

While we don't know how Jesus is working, for example, to remake the trajectory of China, we know it is his plan and purpose to establish a new era for the people of China.


Here's something you might want to write down:

JESUS HAS HIS WISE AND LOVING PURPOSES WHEN HE ALLOWS SIN TO TAKE ITS COURSE, AND HE HAS HIS WISE AND LOVING PURPOSES WHEN HE RESTRAINS THE DESPOTS OF THE WORLD.


And that's a good place to stop. We'll end with another powerfully reassuring statement from verse five. "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood." That's the point which must be pressed. No matter what we experience or go through in this broken, fallen world, the One who is in charge is the One who died on the cross to free us from sin and death. It is Jesus' death on the cross that frees us from the bondage and misery of sin. No matter what happens in this world, all is well because Jesus is our Savior.

Verse six is our concluding doxology:

To Him Be Glory and Dominion Forever and Ever. Amen.















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