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Jan 13, 2019

The Lord of the Churches

The Lord of the Churches

Passage: Revelation 1

Preacher: John Moody

Series: Churches of Revelation

Keywords: apocalypse, churches, faithful, fearless, persecution, prophecy, revelation of john

Summary:

This message serves as an introduction to this 9 week series on the Churches of Revelation.

Detail:

The Lord of the Churches

Revelation 1

John Moody

January 13, 2019 – Mosaic Fellowship, Spokane

Introduction

  • New series!!!!
    • The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3
    • We start with the first church/letter next Sunday
    • My job: set the stage
  • Our Plan of Attack
    • Follow the advice of verse 3, and read it!
    • Talk a bit about Revelation
    • Talk a bit about the seven churches
    • Talk a bit about the vision John receives at the end of chapter 1
    • Talk a bit about how this all applies to us in 2019
    • Summary: Read a bit, talk a bit, talk a bit, talk a bit, talk a bit, then talk a bit.
  • (Read the chapter!)

Let’s Talk a Bit About…Revelation

  • What is Revelation (the book)?
    • Letter/Book – (v. 10)
    • Prophecy – (v. 3)
    • Apocalypse – (v. 1)
      • Symbolism – Things that stand for something else
        • Animals/Beasts
          • Horses, Locusts, Strange creatures
        • Objects
          • Lampstands, trumpets, seals, bowls
        • Cities
          • “Babylon”
        • Numbers
          • The number 7 – fullness or completeness
        • Revelation is chock-full of references and allusions to the Old Testament
          • Almost every verse in Rev. has some pointer back to something in the OT
        • Why was Revelation written?
          • 9
            • John is in exile on Patmos (he is AT LEAST 80 years old!)
            • “Your brother and partner in tribulation”
            • Increased persecution by the Roman Empire
          • Rise of the emperor cult in Rome
            • Common for Caesars to be named “divus” (divine one) after their death
            • Nero (mid 60’s AD) sought to establish a “imperial cult” during his lifetime
            • After his death:
              • Four emperors in 1 year
              • The one who survived, Vespasian, downplayed the emperor cult, as did his son, Titus.
            • Domitian (early 90’s AD – took throne after Titus [brother] died after 2 yrs)
              • Restored the imperial cult within 2 weeks of his accession
              • Signed his documents “dominus et deus” (Lord and God)
              • It became common for officials to require to burn incense to the emperor and/or to declare that “Caesar is Lord”
              • Christians could do neither – it would be an act of apostasy
            • Trajan (c. 135, via letter from Pliny the Younger)
          • Churches are starting to feel the effects of persecution, and it’s ramping up
            • Some are turning away (back to Judaism?)
            • Some are falling under the sway of false teachers
            • Some are suffering yet remaining faithful

Let’s Talk a Bit About…The Seven Churches

  • The seven church are all located in Western Asia Minor (modern day Turkey)
  • Of the seven cities mentioned, only Smyrna still exists (modern day Izmir)
  • Why these seven?
    • Seven – the number of completeness
    • In the seven, we run the gamut from unfaithful to faithful to mixed
    • These messages were meant for the benefit of all the churches
  • Arranged in the order that a messenger would have visited the seven cities

Let’s Talk a Bit About…That Vision

  • Verse 10
  • The voice: Write what you see, send it to the churches.
  • The speaker:
    • This is obviously Jesus (we know from his description in v. 17)
    • But John never says “this is my BFF from 60 years ago”
      • It is not his personal intimacy with Jesus that is the focus here, but his transcendent deity
    • These images are echoes of Daniel 7
      • (verses 9-10 – the Ancient of Days)
      • (verses 13-14 – the Son of Man)
      • We already know that Jesus is the Son of Man (favorite title in Gospels)
      • The images of Jesus in Rev 1 sound like the Ancient of Days
      • Jesus is being described in terms used to describe God
      • This is not the meek Galilean preacher, but the reigning divine Lord over the Universe that John sees.
    • The response
      • John (predictably) falls on his face
        • (Aside: Are we TOO familiar with Jesus in our worship?)
      • Jesus’ response #1: Fear not!
      • Why?
        • I am the first and the last (I am eternal, and eternally powerful)
        • I died and am alive forevermore (I conquered my own death)
        • I have the keys of Death and Hades (I’ll conquer your death too)
        • Jesus has defanged death for the believer!
      • #2: Therefore, write this vision down.
        • The “therefore” implies a connection to the reasons not to fear
        • Write down what you’re about to see, because it will make it clear that I have overcome death and the forces of evil and will destroy them utterly.
        • Note that Jesus could have chosen to give them the vision directly, but he didn’t. John gets the vision, the churches get the book!
        • Why? Because the churches aren’t to revolve around a steady stream of new revelation, but upon the settled, revealed, written word.
      • #3: I’m in the midst of the churches
        • Dual meaning here:
          • Jesus has not left us to fend for ourselves!
          • Jesus is watching!
            • “removing the lampstand” is threatened to one of the churches if they don’t repent!
            • We do not get to freelance, because the church belongs to Jesus!
          • “Angels”
            • Possibly human pastors, but not likely.
            • Guardian angels?
            • Lots of messages in Revelation come through angelic intermediaries

Let’s Talk a Bit About…How This Applies to U

  • Revelation was written to churches in the midst of increasing state-sponsored persecution
    • Wang Yi – pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China
      • Arrested December 9 along with his wife and 100 members of his church
      • Knowing he could be arrested, he wrote a note to be released if he was detained for more than 48 hours.
      • From that note:

…I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.

But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.  

As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.

  • This is an example of FAITHFUL FEARLESSNESS.
    • Sermon clip: “If Xi Jinping (general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party) does not repent, he will perish!”
    • No First Amendment in China!
  • I like FAITHFUL FEARLESSNESS for the sake of the gospel!
    • Hugh Latimer, about to be burned at the stake for preaching the gospel, shouting a final encouragement to his young colleague and fellow martyr: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man! We will by God’s grace light such a candle in England that shall never be put out!
    • I like Jim Elliot, who wrote in his college journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”, then stands and dies at the hands of the savage Auca Indians in Peru even though they had guns and could have defended themselves.
  • FAITHFUL FEARLESSNESS comes from a few bedrock convictions:
    • A conviction that Jesus Christ is the reigning Lord over the universe.
    • A conviction that Jesus Christ reigns over the hearts and decisions of wicked rulers (verse 5).
    • A conviction that Jesus Christ will build his church, even though the gates of hell stand against it.
    • A conviction that the church and its members are to speak truth to a lost and dying world of the truth of the gospel.
    • A conviction that persecution, suffering and even death are things to be expected in this life, but that following Christ is worth whatever may come.
  • How are we to respond in such a climate?
    • Let me ask you this:
      • Is Jesus Christ the Alpha and the Omega?
      • Is he the first and the last?
      • Is he the divine Son of Man?
      • Is Jesus the firstborn from the dead?
      • Is Jesus the one who died for our sins?
      • Is he the one who rose from the dead?
      • Is he alive forevermore, reigning right now as Lord?
      • Has he freed us from our sins by his blood?
      • Did he make us a kingdom and priests to our God?
      • Is Jesus present in the lives of the churches?
      • Is he coming with the clouds to execute judgment and salvation on the earth?
      • Does Jesus hold you in his hand even now?
      • Does he hold you so tightly that no one can snatch you out of his hand?
      • Does Jesus hold the keys of Death and Hades?
      • Will Jesus put an end to evil?
      • Will Jesus judge Satan and all the forces of evil?
      • Will Jesus wipe away every tear from your eyes?
      • Do you belong to him forever?
      • Then WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
    • Be FAITHFUL. Be FEARLESS. Be like Jim Elliot. Be like Hugh Latimer. Be like Pastor Wang Yi.
    • Go forth in a FAITHFUL FEARLESSNESS, rooted in an unshakable confidence in Christ!