Sermon Notes for 1st Sunday after Easter, 12 April 2015 Anno Domini
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev 1:7-8)
The Lord shall return in the clouds! This is not such an unreasonable revelation considering that He was in the Pillar of Cloud that followed Israel in the Wilderness; He was in the cloud that obscured His appearing on the Mount of Transfiguration; and He was received up into the Heavens at His Ascension by a cloud. Clouds are not solid masses, but semi-transparent and elusive. The clouds that obscured our God of the Wilderness Tabernacle, and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration suggest that there shall always be some mystery that surrounds our Lord until we are joined with Him in eternity. The Word of God itself, despite the petty claims of theologians, is fraught with mysteries that cannot be fully comprehended, but must be fully believed. Tantalizingly, the closer we get to our Lord in wisdom and knowledge, the more the cloud of mystery is lifted to expose more and more of His glorious Person.
Today’s lectionary text is taken from the Book of Revelation – a book that most men refuse to address for the mystery that it seems (to them) to contain. Truly, it will always be a mystery until the Lord wills that those mysteries be revealed fully; however, the title of the Book itself suggests that God desires that we study the book diligently to derive the glimmers of truth that are the object of its revelations.
At the outset of our deliberations of this text, we should recognize that our Lord conquered death, Hell, and Satan on the cross by His own death, burial, and resurrection. He died once a physical death. All who are sheltered in the Ark of Christ shall die only once that same physical death; but be advised that the soul NEVER dies of either good or bad. Those who have rejected Christ, even by professing Him falsely, shall die a double death – the latter being a relegation to the death of Hell which is made the greater pain for being separated from God. There are no smiles in Hell. No mercies in Hell. No friendly words in Hell. These are all characteristics of grace, and there is no grace in Hell, either. It is the second death to which the saints of God are not subject. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Rev 2:11) Jesus was buried in a borrowed Garden Tomb so that we, too, may need only a borrowed tomb.
Those who believe on the Name of Jesus Christ and are the called according to His purpose shall NEVER die in reality. “ . . . . the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Eccl 12:7) “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?(John 11:26) I hope you read this last verse from John 11 with deep thought: All, both wicked and just, shall be believers at the Second Coming; but the Child of God must believe while he yet lives in this life. Once death comes, there are no more decisions of faith or hearing the call of the Lord to repentance.
The Revelations were given to John, the Apostle, as stated at the 1st verse: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Rev 1:1) The purpose of Revelations, according to this introductory verse, is to reveal – not to conceal – the glorious prophecies of God.
The striking future event prophesied in today’s text, and repeated throughout the Scriptures, is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God! Just as He was received by a cloud at His Ascension, He shall return in the CLOUDS of Heaven. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) There is one subtle difference between His ascension and His return: A cloud received Him at His ascension, but He will return in the CLOUDS. He is not returning alone, but with the hosts of the Armies of Heaven. “Behold, he cometh with clouds.”
We will examine the following topics related to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who will see the Lord at His return?
What will the response of the world be at His appearing?
What is the disposition of those who have known Him as Lord and Savior?
How different is His return from His ascension?
What does the title, Alpha & Omega, mean?
Every eye of every man, woman, and child, then living, or who have ever before lived upon the earth, shall behold Christ’s return; for every grave shall be opened. Those who have trod underfoot His grace and truth shall see Him in terror and great regret. They will know their guilt for His cross – that they were the ones who called for His death and crucifixion by their rejection and sin. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11) These include men such as Caligula, Nero, Muhammad, Tamerlane, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, and, yes, Barack Obama (unless he comes to Christ)! They will all confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but too late to save their souls!
All who die in the Lord shall arise from their graves, as Christ did at Easter, with a glorified body that is not subject to pain, sorrow, or death. When we were children we may have had days when we played so hard that we were exhausted at bedtime. We were put to bed, and the lights were extinguished. We closed our eyes and seemingly opened them immediately to the morning glow of the sun. We could not believe that we had slept all night, but we had. The same will be true at the death and resurrection of the people of God: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:52-57)
The Great Cloud of Angels that shall accompany the Lord at His return will fill the Eastern sky, and cover the heavens from East to West. It will be sudden, and without warning. The old Hebrew wedding custom of the Groomsman (Gabriel, perhaps) of the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) shall stand and sound the trumpet, and the Bride (the church) must be ready for immediate flight to the Wedding Party. “. . . . at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The Lord Jesus Christ shall be seated upon a white charger armed for the purpose of judgment. He came as a little child at Bethlehem, but He returns with all power and great glory: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev 19:11-16) This is not the man on the white horse of Rev 6, but the final appearing of Jesus Christ as Lord!
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Great I AM, and the Ancient of Days (without beginning or end). Often we have discussed His titles. Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (in which the New Testament manuscripts are written), define our Lord as the Whole WORD from beginning to end. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) He is the first Word, and the Last Word, and every Word in between. He is the first and last letters of every alphabet – Hebrew, English, French, Korean, Chinese, Urdu, or Arabic and every letter between. He exists in the Eternal Present. Notconfined, as we are, to the Space-Time continuum, He is ever in the present. He is I AM six thousand years ago, two thousand years ago, today, and eternity future. Our Lord was with God the Father as the Ancient of Days in the Eternity Past before there was a heaven or an earth. Here is love and grace: He was mindful of you and me even then in eternity past! He agreed, even then, to die in redemption of our sins. God knew that Adam would fall. He knew that Adam would bring death and hell upon all his progeny ……unless provision was made for a Savior. That provision was agreed to in Eternity Past by our Lord Jesus Christ. This should make each of us mindful of the great value of our salvation, and the love which purchased it at so great a cost. Are we? AMEN.