Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4b-8
November 21, 2021
- Christ the King – The Coming King on the Clouds
I know the men’s Bible class has been studying the Book of Revelation recently, and it has probably made them scratch their heads a few times. That’s just the way the Book of Revelation works. It puzzles us and scares us and makes us wonder why we even opened it to begin with. What if I told you the thousands of migrants in Belarus right now trying to escape the avalanche of problems in the Middle East by moving through Belarus to enter Poland, have a greater grasp of the weight of the Book of Revelation than we do?
That’s because of the kind of writing that Revelation is. Not that they interpret the Bible better than anyone else but the writing in Revelation is written for people who are being crushed by geo-political politics, people who are being persecuted by the powers and authorities, people who suffer because of the structures of the world that are supposed to keep us safe.
For those people who are desperate and crying out for help and who are on the ropes with next to no hope for tomorrow, who see no future for their children as things are, or who cannot stand how the world wants to throw them away, Revelation answers us with Jesus the King. This is not your Vacation Bible School Jesus.
Someone in seminary once presented me with a Jesus doll that Cokesbury Christian Bookstore used to sell. It looked like a large Cabbage Patch Doll with dark Mediterranean complexion and a robe and tunic. While it is good and right that Jesus did not have blond hair or blue eyes, what the doll missed was the Jesus that saves us is not something that can be rolled into a doll. Cute and cuddly Jesus is not the Jesus that walked through the passion of his torture or execution. That severe and determined Jesus could have stepped out of the torment at any time but refused; instead, with his earthshaking love he put one foot in front of another then another then another. He took the execution, death, and hell itself and all of its excruciating evil without flinching.
That same Jesus returns in Revelation, but he is even more and even bigger, more fantastic, scarier, more majestic – awesome in the true sense of wrapping us in awe. John writes in verse 17 that after seeing Jesus he fell at his feet as if he was dead. He was overcome by the presence of the eternal Christ. Why does Jesus have to be so powerful that the whole world will wail at his appearing?
Woe to the powers of this world and their arrogance, their violence, their oppression, their cruelty, their greed, their falsehood, their idolatry, their lies, and their love of power. The powers of this world all seek their own good. Every government on the face of the earth seeks its own interest first. They turn away the hearts of the broken, the weak, the forgotten, the hurting, the small, and the different. The tsunami of sin that crashes into the peoples of this world is too large to truly grasp. Entire peoples are hanging in the balance in places of war and famine and pestilence and drought. Evil rages wherever good people stand by. That’s why we have a King in Jesus who will come to set things right. The same cloud rider from Daniel is identified in Revelation as the mighty King Jesus. He is the beginning and the end, the King over all kings. He is the one who holds everything in his hand. It is no wonder that in a world crying out for something better, he answers as God’s best.
If you have ever yearned for God come and fix the world in the mess that we human beings have made, then you have prayed for this Jesus to return. If you have ever languished in the depths of loneliness, been overcome by fear, or lived on the edges of society, then you know in your heart the need for hope for this Jesus. If you have struggled to know what future we might possibly have as a people, as a church, or as a civilization, you have opened your eyes to time’s horizon in search of God’s answer of King Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Today is Christ the King Sunday when we bring the Christian calendar year to a close. Our calendar begins with the birth of Jesus. It goes through his life, his death, and his resurrection. Then, it ends with him ruling over all in the promise that King Jesus will come, again, to finish what he started.
That is the story of Revelation, by the way. If you are fine with the world the way it is, then you are not going to look to Revelation, and it will mean very little to you. If you are happy with the systems and powers and comfortable with worldly agency, then you are going to find Revelation fairly useless. King Jesus will be as good as that doll that used to sit on my office couch.
For the rest of us, though, Jesus brings us a witness. Notice that both of these passages are about seeing Jesus in heavenly majesty coming to us. These are witnesses to our King’s coming. Once we recognize our King, we are witnesses and we will get ready.
This is like getting a note on presidential stationary with all the necessary and official seals stating that the president is coming to your house for dinner. It does not matter what president – I’m not thinking Biden, Trump, Obama, or Bush. It does not matter. If the president is absolutely certain to come to your house for dinner, then you are probably going to get ready. You are going to go to good lengths to prepare the space, the food, your appearance, and everything else. I imagine you will probably act differently – your behavior will sharpen up.
How much more with the King of kings and Lord of lords? That’s the point. Once we are witnesses to the rule of Christ and his coming Kingdom, we change. We spend the rest of our lives getting ready. Even when we tire of preparing, that witness is still there. Here we are, again this year, opening our eyes to look for our King. If we are dulled or distracted, it is time to wake up. We have been beaten down by Covid for the last nearly two years, yet Jesus is still King.
Our witness is not just to straighten up our homes, smarten our manners, or open our pantries, however. Getting ready for our King is much more than how we care for ourselves. Christian witness in the Heart of Virginia means where we find oppression, we say no. Where there is injustice, we say no. Where there is evil, we say no. Where there is no love, we respond with a greater love. Where there is brokenness, we respond with mercy. Where there is estrangement, we respond with reconciliation. Where there is emptiness, need, and loneliness, we answer with the witness of compassion, community, and grace. We answer past sins with needed honesty and forgiveness, present sins with repentance, and future sins with prayer for help and change.
That is the witness of our King of kings and Lord of lords. “Revelation Jesus” sparks our spirits into action. Our actions bear witness to our vision of the coming King. Our witness shapes the world around us to more closely resemble God’s heart for God’s people, all of them.
I am so thankful for this witness that promises me something better is coming. This witness gives me hope and the desire to work for God’s Kingdom here today. If Jesus is your King, you are welcome to join in the witness. If you crave a more holy world, find the promise of Jesus in the middle of it all. See the glory of his coming, even and especially on a cloudy day. Watch the clouds. That day will be a good day. To God be the glory. Amen.