Sermons

Revelation’s Veterans

Sermon on Revelation 1 – 3 and 7
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 11/10/2023
©2023 by Maylan Schurch

Please open your Bibles to Revelation chapter 7.

Well, as you know, today is Veterans Day, November 11, this very day. On this day we look back to wars our military people have been involved in. Most often, those who have been closest to the fighting are the ones who are the least willing to talk a lot about it.

But because of our veterans, you and I can wake up in the morning and move freely about. We can get an education. We can vote how we want. This Tuesday Shelley and I drove to our nearby public library and slipped our ballot envelopes through the tiny slot, and no one tried to intimidate us or pressure us to vote a certain way.

And these rights have often been defended by the people who have fought for them, and those who have supported those who fought. If it hadn’t been for brave veterans from many countries – most of them who have died by now – Adolf Hitler’s successors would probably be ruling Europe, and maybe England, and maybe the United States.

So we owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served our country – and sometimes countries far from ours – and fought to move them toward freedom.

It occurred to me this week that pretty much every Bible person whose name we know was a veteran. Some of them were literal military veterans, like David. But most Bible veterans faced conflicts other than military ones. Abraham must have battled some strong peer pressure, and family pressure,  to not leave his hometown where he had built up a lot of wealth and laid down roots. But Abraham obeyed the call of his Heavenly Commander, a commander he had never seen, and headed hundreds of miles northwest, and eventually came to the Promised Land.

And there are many more names like his. Both men and women faced God’s enemies, trusted in not them but in Him, and emerged as veterans of the battle. And of course the greatest battle of all, and the one with the most eternal consequences, is the great controversy between Christ and Satan. This battle’s issue is, Is God fair? Jesus says yes, and Satan says no.

So we are all veterans. Anybody who wakes up in the morning singing, “Be like Jesus, this my song, in the home and in the throng, be like Jesus all day long, I would be like Jesus” –anybody who wakes up with that attitude, determined to do what that song says, will come face to face with the Prince of Darkness in some way. And struggle is what makes a spiritual veteran.

If you’ve resolved to be a spiritual veteran, I would like to point your attention to Revelation chapter 7, where you will see your future self. This is sort of like time travel. Watch this:

Revelation 7:9 – 14 [NKJV]: After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation . . . .”

Remember, these are people from all ethnic backgrounds, all tribes, all countries. Down through the centuries, whenever people turn faithfully to God and live the way He wants them to, tribulation eventually comes, because the same devil who tempted Jesus in the wilderness does his best to make life difficult for those who are faithful to heaven.

And that makes us veterans. Not veterans of a foreign war, but veterans of a cosmic war, a cosmic conflict, which is fought mostly within the heart.

Anyway, could you see yourself in that innumerable group of white-robe wearers? That’s the group to be in. Jesus wants you there. And we’re going to see just how much He wants you there. Turn back to Revelation chapter 1.

If you’ve ever been in the military, you know that every once in a while – often without warning – you are subjected to an inspection. Normally a superior officer shows up to your barracks, and you stand at attention, and the officer looks you over, sees how well your boots are polished, notices how tightly your bunk has been made, how neatly and recently your hair has been cut. And the officer snaps out a list of strong suggestions you need to follow up on if you know what’s good for you.

The first three chapters of the book of Revelation are eerily similar to a military inspection. But there are some great differences, and we’ll see what they are.

But first of all, let’s set the stage for our sermon points. The question these points will answer is this:

“If I am a ‘Revelation veteran,’ what does Jesus want me to know?”

To start getting answers, let’s meet our Commander.

Revelation 1:4 – 16: John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

So, what do you think? There’s your Commander!

Is He a bit overwhelming? John thought so.

Verses 17 – 18: And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

It’s probably tempting at this point to say, “Well, some of this picture is metaphorical. Jesus probably doesn’t really have a double-edged sword coming out of His mouth, does He?”

I think before we start backing away from this brilliant being, and hunting for a pair of sunglasses, we’d better pause and just get used to this picture.

In fact, let’s lay down Sermon Point One right here. Remember the question is, “As ‘Revelation veterans,’ what does Jesus want us to know?”

Here’s what I think His first answer is:

“I am incredibly near.”

How do we know He is near? Well, remember where He is standing. He’s not sitting on a lofty throne 200 feet up in the air. He’s not peering down from heaven with binoculars, trying to get a clear view of us.

No, He is walking among a group of seven candlesticks, bright lamps. Each of those lamps represents one of the seven churches He has mentioned. And Jesus is right there, incredibly near, watching over those shining lamps.

And I believe we can think of the Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist church as a lamp He is paying close attention to. Jesus is incredibly near to us. He is in this room. Where people gather in His name, He is among them.

And there among those golden candlesticks, Jesus is about to conduct an inspection.

And again, this might be a bit intimidating. Here is this glorious being, eyes flashing, His face as bright as the sun, His voice is as thunderous as the sound of Snoqualmie Falls in springtime. And He is going to inspect me?

But let’s remind ourselves just who this is. Glance back at verse 5:

Verses 5 – 7: . . . Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father . . .

Do you see the humbling? And do you see the exaltation? Jesus humbled Himself to come down to earth and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and He has exalted us to be kings and priests for God.

So as bright as He is, as dazzling as His eyes and face are, this is our Savior. And that’s good to remember, because of what He says to each of the seven churches He is inspecting.

Revelation 2:1, 2: “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works . . . .”

Here comes Sermon Point Two. As “Revelation veterans,” what does Jesus want us to know?

His first answer is, “I am incredibly near.” His second answer is “I know you very well.”

“I know your works,” Jesus says. “I know what you do.” And since He said this to every one of the seven churches during His inspection, this knowledge must be a good thing.

So as we hear Jesus saying, “I know your works,” this shouldn’t scare us. Remember, He is the one who offers His blood to wash all our sins away. In Isaiah 1:18, the prophet quotes the Lord directly:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

Neither Jesus nor His Father is afraid of your sins. The reason is that they know the remedy, and they have applied that remedy. And you and I need to accept it.

So what do I do now that I know that Jesus knows me very well? I need to think about what I’m doing. Jesus knows my works, knows what I am doing. And if what I’m doing is something He doesn’t want me to do, I need to ask Him to forgive me and change me. The same John who wrote these Revelation verses also wrote 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And now, as Jesus moves from church-lamp to church-lamp, He has another “Revelation veteran” message for us.

Revelation 2:12 – 16: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

Here comes Sermon Point Three. As “Revelation veterans,” what does Jesus want us to know?

First, He says, “I am incredibly near.” Second, He says, “I know you very well.” Third, He says “You are under attack.”

Again, this can be intimidating. But Jesus’ friend Paul gives us details about how we can respond to Satan’s attacks. Keep your place here in Revelation, and turn to Ephesians 6 for a moment.

Ephesians 6:10 – 13: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

And then Paul goes into more detail about this armor of God. (As he writes, this he may be gazing at the gear of the Roman soldier who is right there guarding him.)

Verses 14 -18: Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

So these are the pieces of armor-equipment which the Revelation veteran needs to repel the devil’s attack: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, God’s Word, and intercessory prayer.

And back in Revelation 2 and 3, I mentioned that Jesus says the same phrase to all the churches: “I know your works.” And there is an additional word He says to each of those churches – the same word to each one.

Let’s watch how He uses it in His message to the church of Sardis:

Revelation 3:4 – 5: You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Remember how in chapter 7, we met those “Revelation veterans”? They were dressed in white robes, and Jesus promises these Sardis Christians that if they “overcome,” they too will be dressed in white robes.

In the Greek, this word “overcome” is the verb nikao. The noun form of that word is nike, which means “victory.” That’s where the sportswear brand Nike got its name – they wanted to signal that people who buy and use their clothing products are victorious. They overcome their opponents.

Okay, where does that leave me? When I hear the word “overcome,” especially in a sports contest, a great weariness washes over me. With my brother, it’s exactly the opposite. He’s a great competitor. I taught him how to play chess when I was in college and he was in his mid-teens, and in three months he was beating me almost every game!

In chess, or in any other sport, he was an overcomer. He wanted to achieve victory.

But if that’s the kind of high-energy and I need to put into the spiritual battles Jesus tells me about, I don’t think I’d have much of a chance.

So how do I get this nike victory? Paul tells us:

1 Corinthians 15:57 – 58: But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Those are really encouraging words. Jesus gives us the “overcoming” victory, and in response, we can have the courage to be steadfast, immovable, and abounding in the Lord’s work, because we know that our labor is not in vain.

In fact, let’s put down another sermon point. As Jesus’ “Revelation veterans,” what else does He say to us?

First, He says, “I am incredibly near.” Second, He says, “I know you very well.” Third, He says “You are under attack.” Fourth, He says, “Overcome—but do it My way.”

Jesus never gave me the ability (or even the desire) to overcome my sports-minded, competitive younger brother. But that’s not the kind of overcoming He’s talking about here. Jesus’ kind of overcoming is where He gives us victory.

That doesn’t mean we can just settle back and not really be involved in our salvation. If you read through Jesus’ advice to all seven churches, certain words show up again and again. “Overcome” is one of them, but also “persevere,” “repent,” and “watch.” Going triumphantly through to victory, so that we can be given those dazzling white robes of Revelation 7, is a daily matter. We can’t save ourselves, but we can persevere, keep alert, and always be ready to repent and ask forgiveness.

In Revelation 7, when John asked who the white-robed multitude were, the answer came quickly: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Someone wrote some wonderful poetry which has become a beloved gospel song. It’s one of those “teaching” songs, which makes its topic very clear. And the topic of our closing song is the blood of Jesus.

Let’s stand and let this song teach us once again about the love of our Savior, and how we can become right with Him.

 

“THERE IS A FOUNTAIN” — #336

 

 

 

 

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