Okay, if you have a Bible, you can turn to Revelation chapter one.
We're going to be looking at verses four through eight tonight.
This evening, I want to start off with a question to get our minds going
and prime the pump a little bit. And the question is this:
if Jesus Christ were to return one week from today, what would you do and how would you feel?
This is not wishful thinking, this is not a random guess, and this is not my Harold Camping impression.
Let's just say that if you knew for a fact, and there was no doubt about it, that Jesus Christ was going to return one week from today,
what would you do and how would you feel?
Would you feel a little bit scared? Would you feel fearful?
Would you feel a sense of hope? Would you feel a sense of excitement?
Would you get to a place where you think, 'Man, I need to change a lot of things in my life'?
We probably wouldn't go to work, we probably wouldn't pay our phone bill or our mortgage.
We'd probably catch the last episode of Duck Dynasty (more than likely).
There are a lot of things that we'd probably stop doing.
I'm not talking about what you would do as far as little, minor changes. I'm talking about your character.
Are there things in your life that you know that are not pleasing to the Lord?
You know that if the Lord were to return, he wouldn't be all that pleased about these things.
My guess is that if somehow we could know with certainty that Jesus Christ was going to return,
I think it would bring a lot of clarity to our life.
Things that seem somewhat or really important to us, we'd probably see them in a different light.
It's like when the lens of eternity goes over your eyes, everything changes.
The things that seem so important to us, they begin to appear differently to us.
Like our house. Our house is a big deal, but it's very temporary.
If you knew that Christ was going to return one week from today, you'd probably look at your house differently.
'It's good to have a house, but man, I'm only going to live here for one more week.'
It's really only temporary value.
Your cars or your things; if you knew that Christ was going to return one week from today,
we would view our TVs differently. I think it would bring a lot of clarity into our lives.
We would be able to see the Iowa vs Iowa State game for what it is:
as the single most important event in human history each and every year, right?
That is the idea. We would see life more clearly.
I think that John, in writing this book, this is one of the things he is trying to accomplish.
He wants us to get to a place where we see our lives through the lens of eternity.
And some people think that the Bible teaches us that we are to live each and every day like we believe Jesus Christ
is going to return that day. Well, I don't think that is what the Bible teaches.
If you believed that Jesus was going to return today, you probably wouldn't pay your mortgage and you would quit your job.
What the Bible teaches is that we are to live every day recognizing that this world is temporary.
Live every day recognizing that this life is not all that there is.
Live every day as if we're prepared to see Christ.
I think that this is the fight of the Christian life in many ways.
This is what we're fighting for. We're fighting to maintain an eternal perspective.
And the more and more we're convinced of the brevity of this life, the temporary nature of this life,
the more and more we're going to live for eternal things.
I think that John had this in his mind.
He was approaching the end of his life.
He was moving to a place in his life where he knew he wasn't going to live much longer.
He had walked closely with Christ. At the end of verse seven, I love John's response.
He talks about the return of Christ. Some of your translations probably translate the end of verse seven differently.
There are a couple of different ways you can look at it.
But he says, "Even so, Lord come." This is what he says.
He talks about the return of Christ and these different things that are going to happen.
And he says, "Even so, Lord come."
He says, "This is what I've been living for. This is what I've put all my hope it. This is what I'm excited about.
This is what I've sacrificed for. Even though it's going to be difficult, if though there are going to be come hard things, even so, Lord come.'
I think the Book of Revelation was given to us to help us have a more eternal view on this life.
Seeing our life through the lens of eternity.
This passage we're going to look at tonight is just packed with incredible truths.
With truths that I think God really wants us to get a grasp of.
What I've done is broken this passage down into three different parts to help us grasp this truth.
Essentially this passage is a summary statement of the whole book.
It's as if John knew all that he was going to write in the Book of Revelation, and he got super excited and couldn't contain himself.
Even in the middle of his greeting to these seven churches, he begins to talk about the whole book.
He just gives this summary statement. It's like a 30,000 foot view of the Book of Revelation.
It has some truths in it that are so foundational to the Christian life.
So we're going to be looking at these three different components in John's opening message to believers in Asia.
I'm going to go ahead and read the passage and then we'll break it down.
It says in verse 4, "To the seven churches in Asia. Grace and peace to you from the One who is, who was, and who is coming;
from the seven spirits before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth."
So he says, "John: to the seven churches in Asia [minor]" or Asia, which is modern day Turkey.
And then he gives a greeting from God.
And in this greeting, something that is unique about it is that it is a greeting from the Trinity.
John includes all the members of the Trinity and he gives them titles.
For example, he says, "Grace and peace to you from the One who is, who was, and who is coming;"
Throughout the Book of Revelation, this is a title that John gives to God. To the Lord God, or to God the Father.
And then, "from the seven spirits", which speaks of the sevenfold role of the Holy Spirit.
If you want to read about it more, see Isaiah 11:2.
"And from Jesus Christ". We have the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And he says, "Grace and peace to you". This is really God's disposition toward His church.
God loves the Church. Jesus loves the Church.
He gave His life to die for the Church.
His disposition, His posture toward believers (His body) is grace and peace.
Now that doesn't mean that he's not going to discipline you or rebuke you.
In fact, rebuke/discipline is a sign of God's love for you.
But his disposition is grace and peace to you.
And this message is addressed to these seven churches in Asia.
As I've studied this passage I've come to realize that there were a lot of other churches in Turkey (Asia Minor) aside from these seven.
You have the church at Corinth, the Colossian church, the church at Derby, and there are a variety of other churches.
So I've thought to myself, 'Why are only seven churches addressed here?'
I think there are a lot of reasons, but here are three:
Seven is the number of completion. You read through Revelation and you're going to see seven of everything.
There are seven blessings, there are seven trumpets, seven seals, seven churches, and it refers to the Holy Spirit as the "seven spirits before the throne of God".
It is the number of completion. This letter is written to seven real churches in real cities that actually existed.
But I think it also serves as a message to the Body of Christ throughout all time and throughout every generation, which is a pretty cool thing.
Really the last book of the Bible is a message that He gives to the Church.
Seven is just the number of completion. It is the number of fullness.
The second reason is that these seven churches (most scholars agree) were the most influential churches in the region.
These churches were geographically located in very important places in their region.
They kind of served as hub cities. The [churches] spread out from these different cities.
There were a lot of people here. And my understanding is that these churches had grown and flourished.
Many people had come to faith in Christ. These were very influential churches in this region of the world.
The third reason is this: these seven churches were churches that John pastored.
If you read Acts 19, you see how the church at Ephesus got started.
There were three missionary journeys and the Apostle Paul was very involved in seeing the church Ephesus come into existence.
And it says that there was this crazy event. There were all of these crazy things happening where God's supernatural power was being poured out in that church.
Many, many people were coming to faith in Christ. That city was being turned.
There were so many people coming to faith in Christ that the whole culture of the city was changing.
The church at Ephesus actually became the base of ministry operations for the Apostle Paul in that region of the world.
Especially after the year A.D. 70. During that time period the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
The temple was were the Jews would go. But now the temple was destroyed. Christianity was no longer based in Jerusalem.
It was based in Ephesus. And these six other churches were planted from the church in Ephesus.
John served as a pastor there toward the end of his life.
The church at Ephesus had the Apostle Paul as a pastor, Timothy as a pastor, and then the Apostle John as a pastor.
They were about 20-30 miles away, so John would make trips to check on these churches and see how they were doing.
They worked together and they knew each other. This was really a multi-site church.
This is how it was set up.
What was happening in these churches is that they were going through a great deal of persecution for the cause of Christ.
Within the first 150-200 years of Christianity there were three great persecutions.
The first one was at the hands of the Emperor Nero. He was responsible for killing the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, and many other believers.
And then there was another Emperor who came in the year 81 A.D.
His name was Domitian. And he was responsible for the second great persecution of the Church.
What ended up happening is that these churches, because they were flourishing and growing, they were the target of much persecution.
In fact, there is a statement that Domitian made which is a pretty interesting quote if you want to kind of get into the mindset of the Roman Emperor during that time period.
This is what it says, "No Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion."
This was the philosophy of the Romans.
Unless [Christians] were willing to renounce their faith in Christ, they were going to be punished.
Domitian was responsible for dipping the Apostle John in a vat of boiling oil.
He was responsible for killing Timothy, the Apostle Paul's beloved disciple.
And so there was great persecution against the church.
I believe that the Apostle John in this passage is greeting them and introducing them to things—to the Book of Revelation.
But he's really fighting to remind them of two things.
He's fighting to remind them of what Jesus Christ has done for them
and he's fighting to remind them of what Jesus Christ will do for them.
He's trying to help them take their eyes off of the difficulty of their trials
and put their eyes on what Christ has done and what Christ will do.
There's something about pain. There's something about pain that can shake you to your core.
There is this sense of discomfort in your soul. When your circumstances aren't going all that well, there is a great temptation.
And the temptation is this: that you begin to view God through the lens of your trials.
This is what happens. When you begin to view God through the lens of your trials it leads to a distorted view of God.
That's what happens, right?
What happens is that you go through difficulty and we say, 'Why would God allow this difficulty?
I was trying to walk with Him and this is what I get for trying to follow Christ. I lose my job, or somebody disowns me as a friend, or I get a disease, or I get into a car accident',
or whatever it is, we begin to view God through the lens of our trials.
And what that leads to is a distorted view of God.
But really what John is trying to help them do is this: he's trying to help them see their trials through the lens of God's Word,
through the lens of what Jesus Christ has done, and through the lens of what Jesus Christ will do for them.
He's trying to help them remember rightly, because as we study through this book
we're going to see the key to endurance is remembering rightly what Jesus Christ has done for us and what He will do for us.
Right? This is the key to endurance. It's the key to being an overcomer. It's the key to walking with Christ in the face of difficulty.
And it is also the key to living an undistracted life.
For so many people, life goes really well and we get distracted by so many things.
What's the remedy for that? How do we live an undistracted life that is totally devoted to following Jesus Christ?
We need to remember rightly what Jesus Christ has done for us and what He will do for us—what He has promised us.
He lays out three things in this passage— three things that God has already done for us.
And this is the second component. This is the blessing.
So the audience is the seven churches and the second component is the blessing, which is being in Christ.
This is what he says in verse five: "To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood,"
The first thing John reminds them of is this: God has set us free from our sins.
Which implies that sin is a form of slavery.
What does it mean to be enslaved to sin?
What does it mean when Jesus says in John 8:34, "Jesus responded, "I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin..."
In Romans chapter six, Paul talks about being a slave to sin. What does that mean?
I understand slavery—the idea of having a master who is in charge and he's whipping people.
'You've got to do this, you've got to do that, and you've got to do this.'
A master who is over a person or a group of people—I kind of get that idea.
But what does it mean to be enslaved to sin?
Romans 6:12 says this: "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body".
Don't let sin be in control of your physical body so that you obey its lusts. So that you obey its desires.
The word there is the word 'epithymia', which just means 'strong desire'. That's all it means.
So to be enslaved to sin simply means that we do what we want. We just live in accordance with our own desires.
Jesus says the default position of every person on the planet is that we are enslaved to sin.
When people are born, they aren't born basically good with this wonderful nature that is perfect in every way and every once in awhile we make a mistake.
The default setting in your life and in my life—when somebody is born and when people come into existence—is that we are slaves to sin.
We are enslaved to sin. And I think that most people instinctively know that we are enslaved to sin.
I think people know that. I think we get this sense that there is just something wrong.
We look at the world or at our lives and we just instinctively know we're enslaved to sin.
We might not put that term on it, but we know that there is something wrong.
How do we know? I think there are two things that really stand out—that communicate to us loudly and clearly that something is wrong.
The first thing is that when we look at the world around us, we get this sense that something is wrong.
People lie to each other. People steal from one another. People murder one another. People are sexually promiscuous.
STDs are running rampant. People are dropping chemical bombs on people. This is crazy.
You look at the world and you say, 'this is not quite right.'
So when we look at the world, I think we get a sense that the world is out of whack.
There's chaos in the world.
Now, why is there chaos? The reason there is chaos is that everybody is doing what is right in their own eyes.
They just do what makes sense to them and as a result it leads to these consequences that are devastating.
I think we know that instinctively—that there is a problem in the world and there is a problem with sin because of the world around us—
but we also know that human beings have a problem with sin because of the world within us.
If we take a second and we look at our own heart and our own life, we recognize that to some degree—in some way, shape, or form—I have contributed to the chaos in the world.
Even if you try to live a good life, you recognize it.
'Yea, I've lied. I've stolen. I have been sexually immoral. I've done things that I know are wrong.
I knew what was right and I chose to do what is wrong.' And you look at the world and you say, 'What is it?'
We can't look at frogs and say it's the frogs' fault. Why is the world chaotic? It's because of frogs.
It's because of the whales and the dolphins. It's because of the wind. Why is there chaos in the world?
It's because there are people; and people do what seems right to them. They do what is right in their own eyes.
We do, at times, things that we know are wrong.
And it's almost as if Jesus, in John 8:34, it's almost as if Jesus is kind of taunting us.
Not necessarily us, but the crowd that he's talking to.
If you read that passage, He's almost saying, 'Why don't you just try to stop sinning? Just try to stop.
If you don't think you're enslaved to sin, just try to stop. Just don't lie to anybody. If you don't think you're enslaved to sin, just try to stop.
Just don't lie to anybody. Just don't lust after anybody. Just don't be greedy. Don't be anxious. Don't be angry. Don't get drunk. Don't be jealous. Don't be selfish.
And if you can do all of those things, then don't be proud about it.' That's the way that it works.
I heard one pastor say that Satan doesn't care at all—in any way, shape, or form—if you don't lie or steal or commit adultery or rob banks.
He doesn't care about that at all as long as you're proud about it—because it just leads to a self-righteous spirit that takes you down the same path.
And Jesus says that slavery to sin ends very badly. We see the chaos in the world and slavery to sin ends very badly.
Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death..."
It is death. The consequence of sin is death. The penalty for sin is death.
And the picture here is that people are almost employees of sin. That's the way that it works.
We are employees for sin and our wage(salary)—or what we make as a result of simply doing what is right in our own eyes—is death.
It's physical death and then it is eternal death in hell.
And if you take a step back and you think about it, that's pretty devastating.
Think about all the problems we have in the world. What's the biggest problem?
The biggest problem we have is that human beings are in sin.
That's our problem because it creates chaos now and it creates death eternally in hell forever, and ever, and ever.
Even as I've been studying this passage, I feel like God has brought things to my mind—just different experiences—
and there are times when I just have this clarity about how awful hell will be.
You know, if you're having a bonfire you may think, 'Oh man, it'd be bad to be in there.'
Or if you experience some pain—there are some times in my life where I just don't want that to happen.
Awhile ago I was next to my bed (and I have a lamp right next to my bed) and it tipped over with the light bulb in it.
It kind of broke the head of the lamp a little bit so it was hanging down. And I thought, 'Maybe I can fix it'.
So I just put hand on the lightbulb and I go 'bzzzzz'. Oh my goodness.
There is just something inside me that just wasn't mentally prepared for that, you know?
All of a sudden I'm shocked. Oh my goodness gracious. And I thought to myself, 'That would be horrible. That was a horrible experience.'
I wasn't like, 'Meg, this was awesome. Let's try it again. Do you want to do it kids? Quinn, try this out!'
No, this is horrible. This is a terrible thing.
But you think about hell for a moment.Golly, it's not pleasant.
There are a lot of things that make it unpleasant.
There is darkness. You never sleep. You're not in the companionship of anybody else.
Jesus says sin ends badly. Our greatest problem is that we are sinful. We sin. We're enslaved to sin.
So John starts off in Revelation 1:5, "To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins..."
That's what he starts with. Jesus Christ has met our deepest need. He has dealt with our deepest need and our deepest problem which is forgiveness.
How did He do it? It says in verse 5, "To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood..."
By His blood we have been set free from our sin.
The wage of sin is death. The penalty of sin is death. The result of being enslaved to sin is death. You die.
There is this time when you stand before God and it becomes painfully obvious—all the things you've done to offend God.
And then you're separated from Him forever.
Hebrews 2 says, "Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these,
so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil—
and free those" (Listen to this. Here is our language, right? Freedom and slavery).
"And free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death..."
And then it goes on to talk about how Jesus has tasted death for every person.
Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin. He died my death.
Sin equals death. Jesus paid my debt. He paid my penalty.
He died my death in order to set me free.
What does it mean to be set free? What does it mean that He has actually set us free?
It means two things. And I could go on and on about these two things, but I won't. I'll just give them to you quickly.
The first thing it means is this: You don't have to live in accordance with your sinful desires anymore.That's the first thing.
You just don't have to live in accordance with your 'epithymia'—with your natural inclinations, with your natural motivators—you don't have to do it anymore.
You have a new master, and that master is Jesus Christ.
Now you can live, not for your selfish desires, but you can live for Christ.
You can become a vessel where God's Spirit works through you to live the life of Christ. You've been set free.
The second thing it means is that He set you free from the fear of death.
It says in verse 15, "And free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death".
The fear of death enslaves people.
And see, as Christians, when we die we don't have to fear what is on the other side.
We don't have to do that because there is a death for all men that people will experience the moment they die if they are in their sin.
But Jesus has tasted that death for us.
And so, as Christians, we don't have to be afraid to die.
That doesn't mean we should look for opportunities to die. That's not what I'm saying.
'Let's just drive of the cliff. Here we go!' That's not what I'm saying.
'I'm not afraid to die. Yay!' I don't think that is what it's teaching.
It just means that we have been set free so that we don't have to fear death anymore.
We've been set free so we don't have to only think about life in terms of this life.
See, so many people live this life as if this is the only existence they have—that after they die, they cease to exist.
As so they try to cram every experience, every passion, every dream, every desire,
everything you could ever want into this life—and it enslaves you because all you think about is now.
But he says you've been set free so that death,
when we die as believers, it really releases us to experience the kind of life that God wants, fully in the presence of God.
Right now is just a taste. Walking with Christ is simply a taste of all the good things that God has in store for us.
We are set free. We don't have to fear death. It frees us to live for Him.
Now, why did God do this?
It says, "To Him who loves us". What was the catalyst? The catalyst that motivated God the Father to send the Son to die your death to set you free was love.
That's what it was.
I love the tense of the verb. It doesn't say, "Now to Him who loved us". It says, "Now to Him who loves us".
God's love is perpetually present. It is always strong. It doesn't ebb and flow.
Our love for each other, it ebbs and flows so much, right?
Have you ever been in a dating relationship before?
It's like, 'Oh man, I just want to be with this person for the rest of my life.'
and then sometimes you're like, 'I don't even know if I want to be with them'
and then, 'Ah, they're so great!' and then you're back and forth. 'I like that person a lot'. 'No I don't like them very much right now'.
You just go up and then you go down. Our love, it can just ebb and flow so much.
That's the way it works in the world.
The other day I saw this tweet. I'm going to put it up here. It's of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
They named their son Northwest. And they say, 'Man, they grow up so fast'.
I saw that tweet and there was a link. I clicked on the link and I read about Kim and Kanye's trouble in their relationship.
And I might be way out of date, but there was this interview and they were talking about how things are collapsing.
At one point Kim wanted to spend the rest of her life with Kanye, but now she doesn't know if she loves him anymore.
It's just so back and forth. It's so strong and then 'Now I don't love you at all'.
This is the way the world works. But see, God's love is not like that. It's perpetually present. It's always the same.
He has the same passion, the same enthusiasm, the same excitement, the same heart toward you right now that he's had forever.
In Psalm 136 it says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love is eternal."
And he goes through, 26 times in this chapter, and says "His love is eternal".
I remember reading this a number of years ago and a light bulb clicked on in my head.
Maybe this is such a simple thought, but it was so helpful for me. And the argument goes like this:
God is eternal. He has no beginning. No end.
God knows all things. He has never learned anything.
God has known everything that I have done or will do and he has know it for how long? Forever.
Really. Absolutely forever. He has never learned anything.
He has know all the horrible things that I've done.
He knows all the times that I've sinned and rebelled against Him.
But it also says that God's love is eternal.
How long have I been in the mind of God? There was never a moment where I didn't exist in His mind.
If this is true, then that means that God has know mean for how long? Forever.
That also means that God has loved me. For how long? Forever.
For as long as God has been in existence, God has loved you the way He does right now,
and the way He did at the cross, and the way He did when He sent Christ, and the way He did when he created the world.
God's love doesn't go back and forth. His love for us is eternal. He has loved us the same way forever.
It was God's love for us, God's love for me, His love for you;
that motivated Him to send the Son to die our death, to set us free.
He says, "To Him who loves us, and has set us free from our sins".
How? At the price of His own Son.
He starts here and he says this is just true of God. This is what He has done.
As soon as we begin to recognize we've been set free, it's like we go through this door, our sins are forgiven, and then it's this whole new world.
We get to follow Christ and know Christ. We get to discover all that God has done for us.
He says you've been set free.You've been set free in Christ.
Then He tells us two other things that He has done for us.
The second thing is that He made us a kingdom and the third thing is that He has made us priests.
It says this in verse five, "To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—
and glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen."
The idea of being the 'kingdom' of God speaks to our position in Christ.
Jesus is our King and we are citizens in His Kingdom.
But we aren't just normal citizens. That's not who we are. We're not just everyday citizens; just another number.
We are royalty. We are in a position where Jesus is our brother. That's what Hebrews says.
We're royalty. God the Father is our father.
We're not just random people. We're not just random people sneaking over the border to become a citizen.
That's not what's happening. We are royalty. We are absolutely royalty in the eyes of God.
We are dearly loved by God himself—so much so that He sent His Son.
Our position is that we are royalty—that's who we are.
The fact that we're priests speaks of our purpose and our privilege.
We're a kingdom of priests. 'Kingdom' is our position. 'Priest' speaks to our privilege and our purpose.
It says in Revelation 1:6, "and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—the glory and dominion are His forever and ever."
1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
He says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood."
I think this is the same idea that John has in mind.
There was a promise that God made to the nation of Israel, hundreds and hundreds of years before this actually happened—
that Jesus came and lived and died.
Exodus 19:6 says, "and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.'"
This has been in the mind of God forever, I believe.
That we would be a kingdom of priests.
I think sometimes, in our culture, it's so hard to think about being a priest as a positive thing.
Because when you hear the word 'priest', a lot of people they think about a celibate Catholic priest.
We think, 'Is that what I want to be?'I don't know if I want to do that.
Is this what John had in mind when he said 'priest'?
That is not what he had in mind at all. Rather, I think he is referring back to the Old Testament concept of a priest.
The basic idea is this: In the nation of Israel there was group of people called the Levites, one of twelve tribes of Jacob, that made up the nation of Israel.
And they were dedicated to serving God. This is who they were. Their whole, their whole existence was dedicated to serving God in the temple.
And the temple had different segments, different sections.
The first section, the Gentiles could come into that. You didn't have to be Jewish. You could be a Gentile.You could be in this first section.
In the second section you had to be Jewish. Gentiles could not enter this section.
The third section, you had to be a priest. You had to be a priest in order to go into this next section.
And then there was this final section which was called the 'Holy of Holies' where one priest, the High Priest, could enter in one time a year to make a sacrifice.
The idea was that in the Holy of Holies, this is where the presence of God was.
The whole of idea of being a priest was that you had a backstage pass to God.
I don't know if you've ever been to a concert before;Taylor Swift or whatever.
You go to the concert and everyone has some access to Taylor Swift during the concert. She even walks around a few times and you can get close to her if you want.
The idea is that everyone has a generic access to Taylor Swift during the concert.
But then there are certain people with backstage passages, who can go back behind the curtain.
They have special access to whoever is performing.
And the idea of a priest was that, in the Old Testament, you had special access to God.
You had this privilege of serving God in the temple.
The idea is that when someone becomes Christian, what happens to us is that we become priests.
It's the concept of the priesthood of every believer.
Now all of us who belong to Christ have the same access to God. We have this capacity to go boldly before the throne of God; to live and to walk in the presence of God.
The God of the universe hears your prayers.
You don't have to go through another person to be close to God.
Think about Billy Graham, this high and mighty person. He's a great man of God. He's awesome, but the Bible would teach that we have the same access to God that Billy Graham has.
Think about Tim Tebow. The Bible would teach us that we probably have the same access to God as Tim Tebow. Maybe it's not clear. I'm just joking.
The idea is that it doesn't matter who you are, what great Christian you think has special access to God, the Bible says that is not true.
We have the same standing with God. All of us do.
This speaks so much to our privilege. Throughout our life, every day of our life, we don't have to go to some temple.
Rather, where is the temple at? The temple is our body. And the Spirit of God fills our body. He has come and lives in us, and we have total access to God.
It also speaks to our purpose. What is our life to be about?
We've been set free for what purpose? To be priests.
And priests were totally dedicated serving God. Their whole life was dedicated to serving God in every way.
It says this in Hebrews 4:16, "Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time."
Ephesians 2:18 says, "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers,
but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God's household..." We belong to the household of God.
Hebrews 10 says, "Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh),
and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water."
I think that this thought is so helpful in my prayer life. This is who I am. I am a priest. I have full access to God.
God hears my prayers. I can walk with God. I can learn to live a life of faith.
I am involved in His kingdom. I am a citizen in His Kingdom and Jesus Christ is my king.
And I think it is very important for you to recognize, if you want to be involved and serving in ministry,
that you're primary ministry, where it starts first, is in your love and service to God.
This is where it starts. See, a priest was totally dedicated to serving God, to ministering to God, to praising God, to exalting God.
That's where it started. And then from there it would overflow to the people.
But I think that oftentimes what happens is that people like the idea of ministry; it gives them a sense of purpose and meaning.
So they do a lot of ministry. But over time they burn out, they get to a place where they don't want to keep going anymore, and they get frustrated with people.
I think people who are very easily frustrated with other people, the reason that is, is because they're not really walking closely with God.
They're putting all kinds of expectations on people.'You'd better be like this.'
'I'm giving my life to this cause. You'd better be like this. You've got to be like this.'
Jesus got frustrated with people. I get it.
But when people who are perpetually frustrated all of the time, it's because they are putting expectations on [other] people.
It's not necessarily first about God, but it's about doing things for God.
It's a great thing to do things for God, but if you want to go after Christ and follow Christ for the long haul,
you've got to recognize, you're primary ministry, the primary person you're serving is God first.
And from there it will overflow in your ministry to other people.
I think the 'kingdom of priests' speaks to our position, then it speaks to our privilege, and then it speaks to our purpose as believers.
So the blessing of being in Christ is that we are set free and that we're a kingdom of priests.
What about what He is going to do? What about the promise He has made to us?
The promise He has made is that He will return.
When are you going to experience the full blessing of being set free from your sin?
When are you going to experience the full blessing of being a kingdom?
When are you going to experience the full blessing of being a priest?
Well, there is a time when you're going to experience it.
It's not going to be right now, either.
We can begin experience the blessing, but there is coming a time when we're really going to experience the fullness of the blessing that God has given to us in Christ.
This is what it says in verse 6, "and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen."
And then in verse 7 it says, "Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him.
And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen."
And what John does in this passage is that he reaches back to the Old Testament and takes two Old Testament passages and puts them together.
He takes a passage from Daniel 7 and a passage from Zechariah 12:10, and he combines these two passages to communicate a new thought. This is what he does.
He just understands the Old Testament. He reaches back, grabs these passages, puts them together, and he communicates a thought about the return of Christ.
Now, when it comes to the return of Christ, there are so many different opinions.
There are so many different ideas about when and how. John doesn't really get into this right now, so I'm not going to get into it either.
I'm just going to tell you what is crystal clear from this passage. Ready?
There are four things that are crystal clear. The first thing is this:
He is coming in the clouds.
This is a reference to Daniel 7 where it talks about "coming in the clouds". This is a reference to Matthew 24: "He is coming in the clouds."
At first, you read it and you say, 'What in the world does that mean? That he is coming in the clouds?
Does that mean that he is coming from above? Is that all he means or is there something more to it?'
When the Bible talks about the word 'clouds', the idea of the 'clouds', it's a reference from the Old Testament and the New Testament.
It's a reference to the glory and the power and the presence of God.
Think about the nation of Israel for a second. How did they travel in the desert?
They traveled by this cloud. It was this picture of the presence of God being with them.
Think about Mark 9, when Jesus takes Peter and James and John up to the top of the mountain.
What happens is that Jesus essentially unzips his humanity and they just get a tiny glimpse of who Jesus Christ really is.
There was Moses and Elijah. And it says that there was this cloud that was around them that represented the power and the presence and the glory of God.
And when John says, "He is coming with the clouds", it does mean He is coming from above.
But I think the idea is that this is not going to be wimpy, basic, boring event.
The idea is that this is going to be epic.This is going to be a crazy event.
This is going to be an event that is going to blow everybody's minds.
I can just envision this time when the Lord returns and people who are at work come out of their buildings to take a look at what's happening.
It is an event that is going to blow people's minds.
It's not going to be boring. You're not going to miss it.
'Did Jesus come? I don't know if He came yet or not? I'm not quite sure.'
It's going to be something that is going to captivate the whole world.
The second thing we know is that every eye will see Him.
There is a lot of speculation about what exactly this means.
I think it just means that people who are alive at that time will see Him.
Which means something. A lot of times people think that this is event is going to be really fast.
When Christ comes is going to be really fast.
There is some debate back and forth about how long this going to take, for Christ to descend to return.
Some people think it's going to take an hour, some people think it's going to take a minute, some people think it's going to take a lot longer than that.
But I think it's going to be enough time for the whole world to see Him.
Everybody is going to be able to go outside and be like, "Oh my goodness."
The whole world; every eye will see Him.
Some people say, 'Maybe John had the idea of the internet and TV in mind here.'
I don't think that's true. Then everybody could see Him real fast. I don't think that's what he is talking about.
I don't think John had the internet in mind or the TV in mind.
I think his basic idea is that every person alive on the planet is going to be able to see the Lord when He comes.
The next thing we know is this: Everyone is going to mourn over Him.
People are going to mourn over Him. It says, "Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him."
That's a reference to the Jews (Zechariah 12).
"And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him."
Now why will they mourn? When Christ returns, why are people going to mourn?
Well, I believe the reason is that when Christ returns, for people who don't know Christ,
there is going to be this incredible sense like, 'I can't run anymore. I can't just push this off.'
You know, there are probably people here tonight who are just pushing following Christ off.
They just keep pushing it back. 'I've heard the Gospel, but I don't know if I'm actually going to believe it. Maybe I'll just wait.'
People who have done that, they're going to think, 'I can't keep pushing it off. I can't keep running.'
And there is going to be a sense that judgement is coming.
See, the first time Jesus came to save the world.
The second time He's coming to crush the world.
To bring His wrath.
And I think people are going to say, 'Oh my gosh.'
They're not going to be able to hide behind little, clever excuses.
'Oh, haven't you seen 'Zeitgeist' before? Duh, Jesus isn't real.'
People, they can't hide behind all these little, clever excuses.
'The Bible is filled with contradictions, therefore I'm not going to take it seriously.'
It's going to be in their face. And there's going to be this impending judgement.
In Revelation 6, John talks about this experience.
And what happens is that people begin to run into the caves, and they run into the mountains.
And they say, "Mountains, fall on us."
Which means, 'kill me'.
They're seeking death as a way to get away from the impending judgement of God.
John says there is coming a day where there is going to be this incredible mourning.
For us as believers, whoever is alive that's a believer then, there is going to be this excitement that finally it's here.
That Christ has come. That our faith has now become sight.
The fourth thing that is certain is that this is certain.
John says, "And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen."
Now, how do you know it's certain?
He goes on to explain it in verse 8. He says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty."
He says, 'How do you know? Well, I am the beginning and the end. I created the universe.
Do you exist now? Yes, you exist now. Okay, I created it. I put this thing into motion. I created this thing.'
And He says, 'I'm also the end.'
The one who spoke and created the universe is the one who is promising that there will be an end.
So John says, "This is certain. Amen."
Some translations say, "Even so Lord, come."
Come. He says this is what he wants. John's response is, 'Yes! This is good.'
So John is trying to emphasize that the return of Christ is going to happen. This is an absolute certainty.
Just practical things as we close here.
Number one is this: Ask yourself the question, 'Am I ready for Jesus to return?'
Are you living in a way that makes sense in light of His return?
If you're not a believer, if you have not turned from your sin and put your faith in Christ, are you ready?
The answer would be, no.
I think that this is such a healthy question for us to ask ourselves.
Have I brought my life into alignment with this reality?
The second thing is this:Live like you believe He is going to return.
In your mind you try to say, 'the fact that Christ is going to return, the fact that I'm going to see Him someday, how does that influence my week?
How does that influence my month? How does that influence my life?'
Try to begin to figure out what that looks like.
I believe that God will lead you as you say, 'God, I want to bring my life into alignment with that reality.'
Ask yourself these questions.
Are you ready for Christ to return?
Are you living like you believe it's actually going to happen?
I believe, as you wrestle through it, tremendous blessing will come into your life.
Let's go ahead and close.
Heavenly Father, we just thank you for your tremendous love for us.
I thank you that you have set us free from death, from our sins.
Lord, I just pray for us as a church, that you could help us to get our mind around the reality that this life is not all that there is.
Help us to rejoice that you've set us free from our sins, that we're your kingdom, and that we're your priests, Lord.
Help us to serve you like we believe that.
We pray these things now in Jesus' name. Amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.