Behold, He is Alive Forevermore!
Text: Revelation 1:4-18
2 Easter, C
Recent events here in our own country and around the world may have more than a few of the faithful reeling in horror over the seeming advance of every evil influence and power. It isn’t just getting worse, it is happening faster and faster. Some may even be wondering if the end, the return of Jesus and the final judgment, is very near at hand. After all, has it ever been as troubled in this world of ours as it seems to be now? How much worse does it need to be, or will it be, before Jesus comes again in glory?
To be sure, there is nothing new under the sun. No, today is certainly not the first time that the faithful have had to fear for their freedoms and their very lives. Many saints have in fact been made to die for their faith, have wondered where God was in the world, or if God really is all-powerful. This is not the first time that the faithful have cried out “How much longer must we wait for you O Lord our Saviour?”
So how’s your endurance? Running out of gas? Running out of joy? Hanging on for dear life in the fervent hope of an imminent Day of the Lord’s return? Not sure how much more you can take? What’s fundamentally necessary to the faithful in times like these are not trite answers, secular ideologies and slogans, government intervention, or flavour of the month formulas for success in the world. What’s fundamentally necessary when life is hard and being a Christian is dangerous is a grounded realism, a steadfast hope founded upon the substance of who Christ is, what he has done, and why that matters. Only this informs a person’s understanding of his or her own purpose of life in this world, and gives hope for the one to come.
After all, it is with a message of Hope that Christ has come back from the dead! It is with hope that He returned to give the holy vision to a suffering apostle John for the sake of the persecuted church. 9I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” ...
All believers are once the most miserable in the sight of men and the most blessed in the sight of God. By the working of the Holy Spirit we share in the patience of Christ, especially for times of tribulation, and thus we are able to persevere, steadfast in the midst of all the misery and distress and affliction of this life. Take the example of John himself. The island of Patmos was a penal settlement to which the Roman authorities sent offenders. What was John's crime? The steadfast preaching of Christ and the Gospel. The authorities thought they were banishing John to a place where he could no longer testify to Christ and the Gospel. But God used that very martyrdom to reveal Himself to John, not just for his own sake but for the Church throughout the ages. They meant evil to John. God used it for tremendous good.
For all of this ... all of history, every part of your life is lifted up in the One who comes in all His glory! 12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
The once dead, now raised, and exalted Son of Man now enjoys the full use of all of His divine attributes. And in His glorious presence the Churches are 'the light of the world,' but that light is not their own. It is derived from Him who is 'the light of the world,'" Christ stands in the midst of his churches in all generations. They are inseparable from their Head and Center, Jesus. He possesses a true human nature, but with this is combined the majesty of His eternal Godhead. He is both our High Priest and our King.
And so the picture of Jesus granted in this vision, shows the holiness, the all-penetrating power before which absolutely nothing is hidden. It details the majestic authority, the purpose, intent, of Christ and the power to back them. The eternal dominion is Christ's. The whole point of the vision is the wonderful majesty of the exalted Jesus, Whose human nature now fully uses all the attributes of the divine nature ... for the sake of His Church. All His attributes are a threat and terror to the unbeliever. All His attributes are an eternal comfort to the believer.
And again, that comfort is directly tied, not just to His risen glory and might but with His eternal message of Hope! 17When I saw him, [John wrote] I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
The prophet was dismayed in the presence of the Son of Man as Gideon once was dismayed in the presence of the Angel of the Lord and as Isaiah cried out when he beheld the King, the Lord of hosts. John collapsed before Him as Daniel collapsed and as Ezekiel fell unconscious. It was the same feeling of sinful inadequacy that moved Peter to cry out in the boat. But the prophet need not collapse in terror before Christ. The precious Gospel-call 'fear not' was intended to fill him with trust and confidence. What is true of the Lord God of the Old Testament prophets, is true also of Christ, He is the First and the Last, His is from everlasting to everlasting, the Refuge and the Strength of all believers until the end of time. He is the Living One. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
And so in the heavenly vision of St. John we are reminded of this glorious Easter reality. Christ is living. Christ is in the midst of His church. Christ holds the whole of human history in His loving hands. There is no amount of suffering or frustration or grief that will deny you what is coming. For He is right here giving it to you even now. In the Gospel and the Sacraments you have been given the keys to life everlasting. You are no longer the last or the least, but the first in God’s heart and thoughts. In Holy Baptism, you are the living one who has already died and risen. And in Christ you (yes you!) will live forevermore!