Last Sunday of the Church Year - Revelation 1:4b-8

Revelation 1:4b-8 (NIV)

… Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits  before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, He is coming with the clouds,” 

and “every eye will see Him,

even those who pierced Him”;

and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.”

So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

            Have you heard the news today: Kids have been poisoned by their parents drugs, someone what injured in a quad bike crash, scores of people are dead in a bus crash in India. Not to mention all the wars, famines, earthquakes, fires, floods and murders…

            Take heart! Jesus Christ has come to save the world. He stands at the centre of this and every other Scripture to offer hope for life beyond the suffering and pain of this world. His first coming at the first Christmas resulted in forgiveness and life for you and hope for all creation, and His second coming will perfect the new creation that you are.

            Here in the introduction to the book of Revelation with the granting of grace and peace to you the doctrine of the Holy Trinity sets the scene of Heaven for us and tells us where this grace and peace come from.

God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, God the Father, who is eternal, without beginning and without end, together with His Holy Spirit, here referred to as …the seven spirits before His throne… Now, here’s an unusual way of referring to the Holy Spirit which has its origins in Isaiah 11:2 (NIV) which reads:

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of might,

the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—

            Bishop Gregorie of Nazianzus in the 4th Century wrote of this Isaiah text that “…seven precious spirits are named; for I think Isaiah loves to call the activities of the Spirit, spirits.” God is revealing Himself and His purpose for us in the work the Holy Spirit does in and through us bringing: comfort, wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and respect for God.

            and from Jesus Christ, who fearlessly witnessed during His ministry on earth and in His trial before Pilate as to who He is. Jesus had said in John 5:36 (NIV) 36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent Me.

            Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, whom St Paul wrote about to console you and all who suffer the fate of the grave, reminds us that resurrection from the dead will not be for everyone’s comfort and consolation. There are many who will be raised for judgement and not for eternal life with God.

            The unwritten question arises: what are you doing to increase the number of those who are being saved?

            Luther explains this: “…I will say nothing of that great vulgar throng which seeks its pleasure and consolation only here, which [despises] God’s Word and cares not a mite for God and His Kingdom. It is not surprising that such people are annoyed to hear of the blessed resurrection; for us, however, it is pure joy, because we hear that our greatest treasure, over which we rejoice, is already in heaven …”

Our greatest treasure is of course Jesus. Do you want your family, friends and neighbours to share the eternal joy Jesus brings?

            All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus – our text confirms this with Revelation chapter one declaring Jesus’ coronation to rule eternally. After the resurrection of the dead Christ will rule without opposition.

            The Kingdom of God can be understood as “God’s righteous reign” which is where Divine action occurs – where Jesus is present through His words and deeds. In and through your life and service to God, each other and the community in which you live you are in effect Jesus’ voice and hands in the world today.

            God opens His Kingdom to all people, not just a few. Jesus’ Kingdom does not discriminate between ethnicities, wealth or lack thereof, male or female, health or mental capacity – all are welcome to share in His grace.

            But not all will enter the Kingdom of God – the problem is human pride and a self-righteous attitude which blocks the work of the Holy Spirit.

            It’s only after our achievement or “pretense of personal merit” has been stripped away that a sinner can come to know the full grace of God in Jesus Christ.

      Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:3 (NIV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Your membership in the Kingdom is not determined by what have or have not contributed in offerings or service but by faith in Jesus the faithfull witness who was raised from death to eternal life, who loves you and who has freed you from all that burdens you: guilt and shame, pride and arrogance.

You are being led to God the Father as His priests, ordained in Baptism to serve Him so that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit may receive all the glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

            You, as Christians, follow God’s people of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Early Church to exercise your priestly function. How do you do this? By prayer and as 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) tells us: …, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

            You have, from God Himself His own Word, given that you may know that Jesus sits as the right hand of God the Father, who judges the living and the dead. The living are all who believe and trust in Jesus – you are amongst those who believe and hope in Jesus. Jesus desires, even commands, that you share this hope with those who have not yet heard and received Him.

            John Hus, a reformer who was martyred in 1415 wrote that “…, Christ is everywhere present, since He is the very God whose right it is to be everywhere without limitation.” To paraphrase Hus, Jesus is the one who baptizes and takes away all sin. He is the one who joins in marriage, makes priests and pastors, gives us the sacrament of His body and blood and confirms His faithful ones.

            This Christ Jesus is the one we are told about in Revelation chapter one: He is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen.

God the Father affirms Jesus - God who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. God highlights Jesus’ eternal nature and the need for all humanity to be in a right relationship with Him.

            It’s interesting to note that what is said of God the Father being the beginning and the end is also said of Jesus in Revelation 22:13 (NIV) 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. So we have testimony of Jesus eternal Divinity.

      As much as to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, to Jesus also belongs the glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Not to us, although Jesus invites you to share in His glory and power as you share His name because of your Baptism.

      It is not you who save and grow God’s Church. It is Jesus Christ who says: I am with you always, to the close of the age. It is Jesus working through us by His Holy Spirit.

Be assured, Jesus will come soon, despite our constantly falling short of His law’s expectations. You cannot afford to give up or compromise your faith and the expression of it.

John praises the one true God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—while simultaneously clarifying your identity as God’s people: proclaiming that you are the “Kingdom” and “priests” for whom He will soon come.

Given our continual failure to live up to this high calling as “priests”, we all need to hear again and again the truth of our identity in Christ and what He has done for us.

When the Gospel of God’s grace is shared, whether it be as you share with a friend over a cup of coffee, in a Bible Study group or preach to a crowd, the Church may speak a hearty “Amen” in its conviction that Jesus will return and then perfect our redemption.