Sermon Notes for Easter Sunday 2016 – “Fear Not!”


Slide3The Risen Christ

Revelation 1:9-20

John, as we just read, was in prison when he received this revelation.

He personally was exiled on this small, barren, volcanic island in the Aegean Sea called Patmos.

He was not a young man, probably in his late 80’s or perhaps early 90’s.

Aged. Oppressed. Exiled. Alone and probably not a little concerned for the state of the Church – as the last living Apostle, he has much to wrestle with.

He has seen astounding things over his lifetime.

His 3+ years with Jesus.

The Crucifixion.

The Resurrection.

Pentecost.

The birth of the New Covenant Church.

Much persecution. His own escape from being boiled in oil.

And the deaths of all his fellow Apostles.

And our text finds him on this prison island – as it says in vs. 10 – “In the Spirit, on the Lord’s Day.”  i.e. – In prayer.

And it is while he is deep in prayer, that he receives this divine visitation from the resurrected Christ.

One would think it no big deal for Jesus to appear to the one Apostle who was called “The Beloved” – but the vision is so overpowering that John says: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead[1]

Nevertheless, Jesus tells John not to be afraid – and to record all that He will reveal to him next.

But for this morning, I want to fix our attention on the reasons Jesus gives John in this text – for why he ought not to be afraid – tho the present circumstances are dire, and the Church – as Jesus reveals in letters to each of those in Asia Minor, was in a very mixed condition of spiritual health.

Jesus’ 4 Reasons for John to “fear not”.

1. “I am the first and the last”:

He is the first and the Last.

If there were ever any doubt in John’s mind, or that of anyone else – as to precisely who this Jesus is – this declaration was designed to wipe those doubts away forever.

The words used here: “I am the first and the last” are not just a casual way of speaking.

In Isa. 41:4  /  Isa. 44:6  /  Isa. 48:12 this title is used by God as an exclusive title regarding Himself!

No mere human being, and no angel had a right to take this name to themselves. This is God’s title for Himself.

Isaiah 41:1–4 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.

In all three of these instances, the use of the title is to show that He is sovereign over all creation as its maker, and even over Pagan nations!

No doubt an incredible comfort to John and His fellow Christians suffering unspeakable persecution by the Roman government.

He is the God who made Patmos.

He is the God who made John himself.

He is the God who superintends the Roman government that exiled him.

He is the God of His people – The Church.

Don’t be afraid John, the one on whose bosom you laid your head at the last supper, is Lord and God over ALL!

TRUST ME!

The full force of those passages from Isaiah are meant to crash in on the suffering Saint’s soul and bolster him for whatever lies ahead.

Isaiah 44:6–8 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

This risen Christ is Lord and God of all.

And if He gave His life to cleanse those who believe in Him from all of their sins – if we have nothing left to fear from Him in the burning presence of perfection and holiness and judgment – then surely we have nothing to fear from this life and its challenges.

Fear not! He proclaims to John. And to all those who are in Christ.

God has a purpose in it all.

The beginning of God’s ways are located in Christ Jesus, and the end of His ways are located in Him.

His eternal purpose to reveal the depths and wonder of His mercy and grace – culminating in the blessedness of the saints WITH Him forever.

2. “The Living One”.

He is the Living One. He is RISEN!

Once again, ties to the OT come to the fore, and in this case, with a saying that most often finds its use in how it is God swears, makes binding promises or takes oaths:       “Deut. 32:39-42 ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever, if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh— with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’

He is the One who swears upon His own immortality that all that He has promised will come to pass – and ESPECIALLY the final overthrow of all that opposes His Kingdom and His people.

Secondly, He is alive among His churches and His people – regardless of their condition.

This is the meaning of John seeing Jesus in vss. 12-13 as “in the midst of the golden lampstands” – which vs. 20 says are the Churches.

He is alive here among us. Knowing our every plus, and our every failing.

Our challenges, our strengths, our weaknesses and our needs given our circumstances.

As you progress through this passage and see how intimately He knows the circumstances and the spiritual condition of all His Churches, so He has not stopped dealing with them – with us.

He has not left us on our own in this hostile world – but is the One who is Living, and living right in our midst.

He is not some far off mythical deity, but the Living God who dwells in the midst of His people.

He is here today Believer.

He is in your home with you.

In your car.

In your workplace.

In the emergency room, and in the ambulance and in the Dr.s office.

In your loneliness.

In your sorrow.

In your doubt and fear.

He is WITH His people at all times as the Living One.

FEAR NOT!

3. “I died, and behold I am alive forever more.”

Sin has its remedy in Him.

Wrath is swallowed up in Him.

He died in our place, and was raised for our justification and will never cease to be our living Savior and intercessor.

He has conquered the unconquerable – DEATH – on our behalf.

We do not worship a dead man – we worship the Living Christ!

Who  – as Isaiah 53 so fully demonstrates:

had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Who was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

It is he who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

He died – and is alive forever more.

And that too – as our ever living Intercessor before the throne of the Father. Watching and caring and pleading and seeing that our every need is attended to.

4. I have the keys of death and Hades.

To “have the keys of Death and of Hades” is to possess authority over their domain…According to Rabbinical teaching, this is the sole prerogative of God;[2]

For John – this was a most comforting reality, and one he was supposed to write down and share with all the Churches of Christ – He is Lord over our living, and Lord over our dying.

Lord over our living in when and where and how we live.

Lord over our dying as to when and where and how – and especially able to raise us up from it, since He has absolute dominion over it!

He is the One who can raise us from the dead to our everlasting inheritance in Him.

Nothing can hinder His salvation – for He conquered death and the grave for us.

Nothing, not even the grave can prevent us from receiving everything He has promised to us in our union with Him.

As John recorded what Jesus said in John 5:25–29 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

And here stands before John, the risen Christ Jesus to reaffirm His claim in undeniable glory.

Because He is the First and the Last, the Living one, the One who died and yet is alive forevermore – all that He has said will come to pass in perfect measure and in His perfect time.

FEAR NOT!

Glory!

Now, as we said to the audience over at White Haven earlier this morning –

So I ask you today – do YOU know Him?

Not merely the material facts about Him – do you KNOW Him?

Have you met Him?

This, is THE great question isn’t it?

Do YOU know Him?

Not simply – do you know God exists? – everyone knows that, even those who deny it (Rom. 1:18-23).

And not – do you merely have some acquaintance with Him? Nicodemus, the Rich Young Ruler and a thousand others could claim that.

Not – do you have some true relationship to Him? Jesus’ unbelieving brothers were no different.

Not – do you consider yourself His disciple? Judas was truly a disciple and one of His chosen apostles.

Not – do you know Christ as divine? For the devils themselves know that much.

To KNOW God in that it is eternal life, is to know Him such that the wretchedness of this world’s and your own sin are shameful, rebellious and completely “other”, and that He is so perfect and infinitely lovely in every way, that your heart longs after Him and seeks Him and delights in Him.

Do you love Him so as to love nothing else as much?

Do you know Him so that He captivates your heart and mind?

Do you love Him with a constant longing to love Him more and to have others see Him and love Him too?

Do you love Him so as to want to make His glories known?

Do you know His glories such that every glimpse makes you want more?

Do you know Him so that Heaven is to be with Him and to know Him fully?

Do you know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent – in mercy and grace to be the propitiation for your sins?

Do you know Him?

Have you believed upon Him and been joined to Him by faith so that you are included in His death, burial and resurrection?

You can today. That is the glory of the Gospel. Moving from mere facts to genuine, saving faith.

Forsaking all other hope or means of being good enough for God – and having Christ’s own goodness put on your account, by trusting Him and Him alone. Coming to know Him by faith.

He is RISEN! And all those in Him – will rise again too – to the eternal life that is in Him.

Those that DO know Him, can FEAR NOT – indeed!

 

 

[1] 2001. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Swete, Henry Barclay (ed.). 1906. The apocalypse of St. John. 2d. ed. (Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament). New York: The Macmillan Company.

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