Sermon: Evensong, 7th Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Seventh Sunday of Easter, 28 May 2017

Evensong

Bishop Ross Nicholson

The Lamb Wins!- Revelation 14:1-5, 15:1-4

-I want you to close your eyes and picture in your mind what you hear.

“The dragon stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Revelation 13:1-4

-Have you got a picture in your mind?

-That was the vision John the Elder was given of the times he was living in.

 

-The book of Revelation is a book filled with startling and often horrific images.

-And what could be more terrifying?

-A huge seven headed dragon that with a swipe of its tail can fling a third of the stars from heaven to earth.

-John has just seen how this dragon had been pursuing a woman,

-Spewing out a huge torrent of water trying to sweep her away.

-But its murderous attempts were thwarted as the earth opened up,

-And swallowed the river the dragon had spewed out of its mouth.

-So what’s the angry dragon’s next move?

-It calls up from the sea a beast just like itself,

-Seven heads, ten horns,

-With the speed and agility of a leopard,

-The brute force of a bear,

-And the fearsome power of a lion.

 

-But what’s maybe more horrifying to John is the response of the people who see this beast,

-They marvel at it,

-They’re attracted to its awesome presence,

-And they fall down and worship the beast and the dragon who gave it its power and authority.

-From these worshippers lips comes the cry,

-Or maybe it’s a boast,

-‘Who is like the beast?

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-Now if you understand that John’s book is what’s known as apocalyptic,

-You’d know that he wasn’t describing a real dragon but the devil.

-You’d also know that the beast was the Roman Empire.

-But dragon or empire,

-John is seeing the fearful sway that the forces opposed to God and his kingdom will mount up,

-Against the Church and the followers of Jesus.

-If the worshippers of the beast declare,

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-The question on John’s reader’s mind would be,

-‘How can we stand against such a power?’

 

-I tried to find out who originally proposed it,

-But someone once summarised the Book of Revelation in just three words,

-‘The Lamb wins!’

-The followers of the beast boast;

-‘Who is able to make war with him?’

-And the answer from John is ‘The Lamb!’

-The worshippers of the dragon brag,

-‘Who is like the beast?’

-The book of Revelation asks,

-‘Who is like the Lamb?’

-John is seeing a terrifying vision of the dragon and his surrogate the beast at the end of ch13,

-But ch14 begins;

“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion,” Revelation 14: 1

 

-Tonight we’re jumping late into the story,

-But if we go back to ch5 then we’ll be introduced to the Lamb.

-And what an introduction!

-John sees the door to heaven thrown wide open,

-And a voice calls on him to enter and see what must take place on earth.

-When he enters,

-The full majesty of heaven invades his senses as he steps into the very throne room of God.

-Then he writes in ch5;

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5

-This scroll is the scroll of the destiny of humanity,

-It’s the plans and purposes of God for the restoration of humanity,

-But it’s divinely sealed and no one in heaven or on earth could break the seals.

-Except the Lion of Judah,

-The Root of David,

-The triumphant king,

-He can do it.

-And the whole of heaven waits expectantly for this Lion King to come forward.

 

-John must have been overwhelmed by the glory of his vision of the One sitting on the throne,

-Because he looks again and standing in the centre of the throne,

-Encircled by four living creatures and the twenty four elders,

-He sees a Lamb.

-But even more astounding is that this Lamb looks like it had been slain.

-The Lion is a Lamb that has been ravaged by death.

-And as the Lamb takes the scroll from the hand of God,

-The four creatures and twenty-four elders sing a new song;

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

 

-After seeing the terrifying vision of the dragon and the beast rising from the ocean,

-John once again looks and once again he sees the Lamb.

-This time he sees him standing on Mt Zion and with him are 144,000 saints.

-But we know from ch7 that this isn’t just 144,000 individuals,

-144,000 stands for a great multitude that no one could count,

-From every nation, tribe, people and language.

-These are the followers of Jesus who the four creatures and elders sang about,

-Who are a kingdom and priests who will serve God and reign on earth.

-It’s Jesus’ and the Father’s name that they carry on their foreheads.

-Not the name or the mark of the beast.

-These are the ones who didn’t crumple under the onslaught of the dragon and the beast.

-Just listen to how John describes them;

“These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.”

 

-They have four characteristics that mark them off as belonging to Jesus.

-First they kept themselves pure.

-It wasn’t that they never married,

-But they didn’t follow the licentious path of the culture around them.

-Rather than following the beast where it led,

-They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

-The weight of that statement lies in the knowledge of where the Lamb went,

-To death in order to save his people.

-Redemption was the third mark of the 144,000,

-They were purchased by the blood of the Lamb to be the people of God and serve the Lamb.

-Finally they’re truthful,

-No lie was found in their mouth.

-Because of all these characteristic,

-Because of what the Lamb did in dying,

-They’re blameless.

-The dragon has lost his power over them.

-Friends, can I remind you that these are words describing us,

-We are the ones John sees amongst that 144,000.

-Because the Lamb wins!

 

-As horrifying as the visions of ch12-13 are,

-The truth is that the seal has been opened and we can see the future.

-The dragon loses!

-Listen to how ch15 begins;

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” Revelation 15:1

-History is moving inexorably to its conclusion,

-And in describing that future John alludes back to another rescue of God’s people Israel.

“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name.” Revelation 15:2

-Exodus 15 records the Song of Moses as the rescued people of God stand safely on the other side of the Red Sea.

-God’s judgement has fallen upon the Egyptians.

-The people sing;

“The Lord is my strength and my defence, he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.”

-The Lord wins!

 

-And just as the Lord delivered his people from the power of the Egyptians,

-So the Lamb delivers his people from the power of the Dragon;

-And his people sing;

“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4