************ Sermon on Revelation 1:5-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 9, 2007
"He Loves Us"
Lord's Supper Sermon
Revelation is written to a church under attack. It is written to Christians facing persecution, death, trials, temptations. It is written to Christians asked to compromise on the essentials of faith. It is written to Christians who are in a battle – a battle against the beast, against Satan, against the dragon.
What does John do as he thinks about his brothers and sisters on the front lines of the battlefields? John breaks out into song! He sings, "to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." The Greek is even more emphatic: "to him be the glory and the power." John is saying, "to Jesus be all the glory and all the power for ever and ever! Amen."
This is the first of many doxologies, the first of many songs of praise to God, that we find throughout Revelation. The church is in a battle and the four living creatures and twenty four elders of Revelation 4 & 5 sing a song of praise when they see the Lamb of God Who has been slain. The church is in a battle and in Revelation 5 thousands upon thousands of angels and every creature in heaven and on earth sing a song of praise to the Lamb Who was slain. In Revelation 7 those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb sing a song of praise.
Amazing, isn't it?! In Revelation the response to warfare is a stirring song of praise to God.
Why is this the response, do you think? I cannot help but observe this is the way it was in the Old Testament. It was this way already on the banks of the Red Sea. The Egyptian corpses floated like so many dead fish and Miriam led the Israelites in a song of praise (Exodus 15). When Israel marched into battle against Jericho do you remember who led the battle throng? Leading the way were the musicians (Joshua 6). When King David returned home after killing the Philistines, the women came out from all the towns of Israel with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.
This raises an interesting point: singing is an important part of battle, worship is part of spiritual warfare.
The church is under attack. What does she do? She focuses on the praise and worship of God. You see, when you focus on God and His glory and power then the enemy doesn't seem quite as scary, temptations are not near as tempting, the need for compromise fades, and your heart and mind and soul are strengthened and encouraged. Revelation teaches us that worship and praise are a necessary part of spiritual warfare.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday we want to take special note of why John bursts into his song of praise while the church he loves is under attack.
I He Loves Us
A John praises Christ, "to him be glory and power for ever and ever," because Christ is "him who loves us." Note that John does not use the past tense – Christ "loved" us. Nor does John use the future tense – Christ "will love" us." Rather, John uses the present tense – Christ "loves" us. In the Greek it is a present and ongoing love. It is a love that is abiding and permanent and never ending. To Christ be glory and power because He loves us and continues to love us.
B "To him who loves us ... to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." Some of John's audience might question this love. After all, they are Christians under attack. They are facing persecution and even death – for instance, Antipas of Pergamum has lost his life because of his witness to Christ (Rev 2:13). The Roman authorities hate them. The Jews slander them. So how can John say that Jesus loves them?
Don't we often think and talk the same way based upon the circumstances of our life? We wonder or even doubt if Jesus loves us because: we lost our job, a loved one has cancer, we are facing surgery, there is a family fight going on, someone close to us has died, the stock market has crashed, the wrong political party has control of congress or the White House, our spouse wants to leave the marriage relationship, a daughter has gotten pregnant, and the list goes on and on. We look at these circumstances and we question whether Jesus loves us. We throw a "pity party" and doubt whether Jesus loves us. We feel sorry for ourselves and think only about ourselves and conclude no one loves us.
How do you know if Jesus loves you? Is it based upon your feelings? Is it based upon the circumstances of your life? Is it a conditional love based upon how religious you are? Of course not! He loves us – regardless of how we feel, regardless of what happens in our life, regardless of how many times we sin. Jesus loves me and you, says John.
C How do you know if Jesus loves you? The New Testament points to one event as the crowning expression of the love of Jesus for His people. This one event proves beyond question that Jesus loves you. What is this one event? You know it and John states it: He "has freed us from our sins by his blood."
I want you to notice that John changes the tense of the verbs he is using. John uses the present tense to tell us that Jesus loves us with a present and ongoing love. John now uses the past tense to tell us that Jesus "has freed us" from our sins by His blood.
How do you know if Jesus loves you? As the Lord's Supper shows us, the present love of Jesus for you is proven by His past act of freeing you from your sins.
How does Jesus show His present day love for you? John says He "has freed us from our sins by his blood." Implied in this is bondage or slavery or imprisonment. We are in bondage to sin, enslaved to sin, imprisoned by sin. But Jesus set us free by His blood. Blood means sacrifice, it points us to the cross, it reminds us of the crucifixion.
Now, in the Greek language the word for "freed" also means "washing." How does Jesus show His present day love for you? By washing you with His blood. John is thinking of baptism. Baptism points us to the "washing" we get by the blood of Christ. We are dirty from sin. We are filthy from all the pollution of evil that clings to us. We need washing or cleansing. We are washed or cleansed by the blood of Christ.
D John has an Old Testament event clearly in mind here. Think about the images: bondage or slavery, freedom, blood, sacrifice. What Old Testament event does this sound like? Doesn't this sound like the Exodus? The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt, they were in bondage. On the night they were set free they sacrificed the Passover lamb and smeared its blood on their doorposts. In the light of the New Testament we know this anticipates a greater rescue and a far more significant sacrifice – being freed from our sins by the blood of Jesus. Even the baptism and washing image points back to the Exodus. At the time of the Exodus Israel came out of the sea just as those baptized come up out of the water (1 Cor 10:1).
As an aside, doesn't John surprise you by his use of Old Testament texts? We've looked at only the first eight verses of the "revelation of Jesus Christ" so far and we have seen all sorts of references to the Old Testament. And they are references we don't usually expect when we think of the book of Revelation:
-verse 1 - Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2
-verse 4 - the "I AM" speaking out of the burning bush in Exodus 3
-verse 4 - the return from captivity and the lamps of Zechariah 4
-verse 5 - God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89
-verse 5 - the Exodus from Egypt, the Passover, the Red Sea
Here is a reminder that if we don't know the Old Testament we cannot properly understand or appreciate the book of Revelation.
By his use of various Old Testament texts and events John is telling the persecuted church something very important: the God Who was at work in the Old Testament saving and rescuing His people is the same God Who saves and rescues His people today. The God Who killed Egypt's firstborn, the God Who brought Israel back from Babylon, the "I AM" Who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, is the same God Who loves us today.
E How do you know Jesus loves you? How do you know Jesus loves you right now, today, at this very moment, and in this place? Don't go by your feelings! Don't look at life's circumstances! Don't look at how religious you are – as if you can somehow earn the love of Jesus! On this Lord's Supper Sunday, if you want to know that Jesus loves you all you have to do is look at the cross, all you need to do is go to the cross, all you need to do is contemplate the cross. All you need to do is think of the rescue and washing you get from the blood of Christ. Isn't this the message throughout the New Testament?
(Gal 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Do you hear the common refrain? Over and over again Paul says Christ "gave himself" and draws a direct connection between this and Christ's love. The cross is the measure and the proof of Christ's love.
(Eph 5:2) and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Eph 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
To the cross. That is where you go if you want to feel loved. Let me put it this way. Christians who are most preoccupied with the cross are Christians who best know and understand how much Jesus loves them.
F "To him be glory and power for ever and ever." Why? Because Christ is "him who loves us" and shows His love when He freed and washed us from our sins by His blood. Jesus deserves glory and power because He saves us.
I read an interesting article in "Newsweek" magazine a few weeks ago. Norman Borlaug was praised because, as the headline put it, "He Only Saved a Billion People."Jesus has done far more than Norman Borlaug. He didn't just teach but He also sacrificed Himself. He didn't just save from hunger but has saved from sin. He didn't save just a billion people but has saved "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Rev 7:9). For his work Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. For His work Jesus gets all the glory and all the power – "to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."
Most people have not heard of Norman Borlaug. He brought planting and soil-conservation techniques to India that increased Indian crop output sevenfold. He did the same thing with China and the rest of Asia. He is now turning his attention to Africa.
In 1960 about 60% of the world's people experienced some hunger every year. By 2000 that number was 14% even though the world's population has increased tremendously. A big part of the credit has to go to Norman Borlaug who has saved a billion people.
So, this Lord's Supper Sunday we give Jesus the glory and the power. "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Rev 5:12-13).
II Kingdom and Priests
A How do we know Jesus loves us? John points us in one other direction this morning. Jesus not only saves us from something but also for something. Jesus freed us from our sins – that is what He saved us from. And, Jesus "made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father" – that is what Jesus saved us for. "To him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."
Jesus loves us! How do we know? He has "made us to be a kingdom and priests."
Doesn't Peter say almost the same thing? Listen to how Peter puts this:
(1 Pet 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
B Jesus loves us. He has "made us to be a kingdom and priests." Do you know where this language comes from? It comes from Exodus 19. Israel has been freed from the bondage of Egypt. The Passover Lamb has been killed and Israel has passed through the Red Sea. Moses climbs the mountain and God tells Moses what He has saved His people for:
(Ex 19:4-6) 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. (5) Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, (6) you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
Why did God save His Old Testament people out of Egypt? What is the ultimate reason for the Passover? And, why did God save us? What is the ultimate reason for the cross? To make us "a kingdom and priests."
C Jesus loves us. How do we know for sure? He has made us to be a kingdom. A kingdom has a king. Who is the king? Jesus is the King of the kingdom. We, who have been freed, bow down to King Jesus, acknowledge His rule, and obey His will.
Jesus loves us. How do we know for sure? He has made us to be priests. The job of a priest is to offer sacrifices. We all offer ourselves as living sacrifices of thanks to God the Father (Rom 12:1).
Jesus loves us. How do we know for sure? He has made us to be a kingdom and priests. Think of what this says to a church under attack. The church is small, struggling, afraid, persecuted, tempted, weak. And, Rome is so big and powerful. But, the church has the upper hand – it belongs to and serves the very King of the universe. The church has been made into a kingdom of priests. What dignity, what status, what position!
Jesus loves us. How do we know for sure? He has made us to be a kingdom and priests. Think of what this says to a church that knows the Old Testament and its promises. This means the church is the very thing that God promised Israel would be – a kingdom of priests. The church of Jesus Christ is Israel fulfilled.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday we bring praise to Jesus because He loves us. How do we know He loves us? Because He has freed and washed us from our sins by His blood. Because He 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."
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