Revealing Revelation: Return of the King

Scripture:  Revelation 22:12-17

I will say up front that I did not watch it, but I noticed that the second debate of the various Republican contenders for the presidential nomination happened this week.  I noticed it because I happened to run across a CNN promotional teaser for it.  Now sadly, I could find a video of it, but it was a little silly.   This 30 second teaser flashed the last name of the various top candidates along with a slow motion highlight reel of them debating.   I did not know debate highlight reels were a thing.  The entire time dramatic, blood pumping music played.   After watching that commercial, I would have been a little disappointed if the actual debate did not start with an announcer shouting “Let’s get ready to rumble.”  Their ad presented the debate less like a dignified discussion of issues and more like a prize fight.  American politics is a bit of an odd animal, and it is going to be an animal that we spend a lot of time with.  The 2016 election is over a year away, and it already dominates the news.  This will only increase as the months pass by.   Over the course of the next year, billions of dollars are going to be spent to convince us which candidate is most deserving of our important vote.   Regardless, of how you personally feel about American politics or its current state, it is hard to argue that as Americans we greatly value the idea of democracy.   There is a very interesting tension that I think we rarely consider.  Our national identity as Americans lifts up democracy as the ideal form of governance.  However, as Christians our true identity should be as citizens of the kingdom of God, and God’s Kingdom is not a democracy.  It is a monarchy.   In God’s kingdom there is no vote.   Jesus is king.   In God’s kingdom, we do not get to pick our party, we simply respond “Yes, your majesty.”   Our instinctive, knee jerk reaction to this kind of thinking can be negative. However, as Christians we must seriously consider what it means to have Jesus as our king.

            For the past six weeks we have been focused on the book of Revelation.  Through Sunday school, youth group, bible studies, and Sunday morning worship our entire focus has been on what is revealed in Revelation.   This morning’s scripture comes from the very end of the book.   Revelation begins with Jesus revealing himself to John and telling him to record what he sees and hears.  It ends with Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, giving an invitation and a promise.   There is an invitation to come.  All who are thirsty are invited to come and drink the free gift of the water of life, and have their name written in the book of life.   The promise is in verse 12, where Jesus states, “Look, I am coming soon.”   Jesus, the beginning and the end, is coming back.  If you participated in one of our midweek bible study sessions over Revelation, then you know there are multiple ways to interpret this book of the Bible.  However, no matter what interpretation ones go with there are some baseline truths in Revelation that all interpretations confirm.  One of these is that Jesus is king, and another is that Jesus is returning to judge the living and the dead.   One of the most fundamental things that Revelation reveals is that there will be a return of the king.

            We may not like the idea, but we absolutely cannot deny the kingship of Jesus.  Twice in Revelation Jesus is referred to as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This is a truly ancient title that implies absolute sovereignty.  In the gospels, Jesus himself claims kingship.  This is most present in John 17 when Jesus speaks with Pilate at his trial.  Jesus states, “My kingdom is not of this world.”   When Pilate further asks if Jesus is a king, he replies, “You say that I am a king.  In fact the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”   It was also absolutely by God’s design that when Jesus was crucified he was under a sign that declared him “king of Jews”:  King of God’s chosen people.  Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom, and his kingdom is not of this world.  At least not yet.  This morning’s scripture tells us that the king is coming back to this world.  When he does, the kingdom of God which has already begun, will be fully realized. 

            The idea of having a king is very much against the ethos and belief system we are all immersed in.  After all, we threw off the shackles of monarchy and declared all the way back in 1776 that “we hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal.”  We believe strongly in the idea of self-determination.   We believe that we are free to craft our own destinies, and we hate the idea of anything being sovereign or ruling over us.  That is a wonderful thought, but I am not sure how grounded in reality it truly is.   No person is truly an island to themselves.   We all a lord that rules over us.  We all have a higher authority that we serve.  The question is who or what is truly our king? 

            A king is a sovereign power.  This means our king is that which has the most power, influence, and governance over their lives.   One of the most common kings in the world today is money.  Perhaps since the invention of economics this has been true.  It was true in Jesus day.  In Matthew 6:24 he said, “You cannot serve both God and money.”  There are certainly people who serve money today.  I dare say that money may be an even stronger king today than it was in Jesus’ day.  There are so many people that dedicate their entire lives to the acquirement of money.   This need for more money holds sway over these people lives, it governs their decisions, controls their actions, and truly is their master.  There are many people, who in service of money, accept a lesser king as their master:  their jobs.  Our jobs are a way to make a living, they should not be a way of life.   Yet, there are people who serve their job and their company, as if it is their king.  For these workaholics, their job is the king that guides and rules over every aspect of their life. 

            Then there are people, who do try to make themselves their own king.  They proudly declare that “no one is the boss of me”, “no one can tell me what to do”, and I am free to do whatever I want.  Yet, the people who believe this serve the most oppressive king of all.   If someone truly lived as if they were above all, as if they were their own sovereign, then that only leads to one place.   We live in a broken world, fallen into sin.  Lifting ourselves to our own king can only mean we fall deeper into the sins of selfishness and pride.  This leads to a place, where a deeply selfish person who can only focus on themselves treats their selfish sins as virtue.  Selfish behavior where a person only cares about themselves is recast as being “strong and independent.”  People who try to be their own king or queen, instead find themselves serving sin.  They find themselves sold out completely to the sins of selfishness and pride.  Our own experience confirms this.  We probably have all met (or surely seen on TV) someone who is a little too full of themselves, a person who puts themselves first in everything, and a person who truly believes they are the center of their own little universe.  We also normally want nothing to do with those people.   The cruel reality is that the people who seek to be the rulers of their own lives find themselves enslaved to their petty and selfish desires.  Sin is truly their king.

            We all have a king, a sovereign, which rules over our lives.  Who or what is your king?   I choose to serve the king of kings and the Lord of Lords.  Jesus is my king, the ruler and governor of my life.  As this scripture reminds us we are all invited to have Jesus as our King:  “Let the one who is thirsty come.”  If Jesus has not been the kind of your life, that can change.   You are invited, we all invited, to accept Jesus as our king.   When I think about what it means to have Jesus as king, I bring to mind the concept of homage.  In Medieval times, when a knight swore to follow a King, they both took the oath of homage.   In this oath the king promised to provide for, protect, and look out for the best interest of the knight.   Jesus did this for us on the cross.  He proved God’s love for us, took the penalty of sin and death, and through his blood purchase our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.   We can trust that Jesus is a good king, because while we were still sinners he died for us.    

            The knight would then in return get on their knees in a sign of reverence and respect, place their hands in the hands of the king and pledge to follow the king.  The knight pledged to serve the king unquestionably.  In fact the knight pledged that the king’s will would be more important than their own.  In other words, the knight said “Your will be done.”    The knight pledges their loyalty, their life, and their very purpose into the hands of the king.   This is what it means to declare Jesus is Lord and king.   Our daily prayer is “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”   We do not live for ourselves, but we place our very lives in the hands of the king that already died to save our lives.  We trust.  We obey.   We follow Jesus as our king.   If Jesus is not your king yet, and especially if you want that to change, then please lets have that conversation. 

            If Jesus is your king then this scripture from the end of Revelation tasks us with the question, “what do we do now?”  This morning’s scripture reminds us that Jesus is coming back to make his kingdom a fully realized reality, but what do we do now?   What do we do on this earth, while we wait for Jesus to return?   Again, looking at medieval times, there was the concept of the steward.   When a king had to go away, they left a steward, a trusted follower in their place.  The steward of the king was to carry out the will of the king.   As the disciples of Jesus Christ on this earth, we are his stewards.  Until Jesus returns we are to carry out his will. We know the will of Jesus.  He told us the greatest commandments to love God with all of our being and love our neighbor as ourselves.  We know he gave us the new command to love one another, and we know the mission he tasked us with:  To make disciples of all the nations.   These are the commands and mission that we have been entrusted with.   How is your stewardship?   Remember, everyone has a king over their lives.  If Jesus is our king, then these commands and mission should be the driving force in our lives.  When we rise, our chief concern should be how will we love God and love Jesus on this day.  How we can love another and make new disciples should be a primary motivator to our actions.   Serving Jesus as king should be what guides, shapes, and governs every aspect of our lives. 

            Jesus once told a parable about stewards.  If you want to read it for yourself you can find it in Matthew 25.   The stewards that were faithful to their master were told “Well done good and faithful servant.”    In this morning’s scripture Jesus said “Look, I am coming soon.”  When the king returns, may we hear him say to us “well done good and faithful servant.”   The beauty of serving Jesus, is that he is a king of grace and forgiveness. If you know that you have not been good and faithful.  There is forgiveness, there is grace, and there are second chances.  If that is you, then may you repent.   May you bow your hearts, put your hands in the hand of the king of kings and lord of lords.  May you once again confess with your heart that Jesus is Lord.   As we finish our study of the book of Revelation, we can be confident that it reveals the return of the king, and when he returns the kingdom of God will be fully realized.   Jesus is the King.   Long live the king!