Scripture
Revelation 14:6,7
Date
November 4, 2018
Speaker
Pastor Georgeson

End Times 1, Year B (Reformation)

November 4, 2018

Seth Georgson

Revelation 14:6,7

 

Then I saw another angel flying in the middle of the sky. He had the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said with a loud voice:

Fear God and give him glory,

because the hour of his judgment has come.

Worship him who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.

Proclaim the Eternal Gospel”

The year was 1546. It was 3:00 A.M. on February 18th, and nothing would ever be the same. Martin Luther, the Reformer, at the age of 62, was dead. The way it was recorded was that “his heart burst” – he had a heart attack. He had been visiting the town of Eisleben, the town where he had been born, to help settle a civil dispute which involved some of his relatives who were still living there. The dispute was settled and Luther closed the series of meetings by preaching a sermon. But he was overcome with weakness and had to cut his sermon short. For two days he lay in bed in his room there in Eisleben, until he woke up at 1:00 AM on the 18th in great pain. After nearly two hours, Dr. Justus Jonas, a friend and fellow pastor asked him, “Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?” And Luther answered loudly and simply, “Ja!”

That was it. That was the end. Martin Luther died that morning, and so went one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a man who was not afraid to stand up to pope and emperor. He was a man to whom princes went for advice and the common people looked up to him as well. He and his teaching and preaching brought people together, and now it was all over. Nothing would ever be the same.

Most of the time telling the story of the Reformation takes more of a fairy tale, happily-ever-after approach. If you're going to write Luther's history like that, you'll probably end around the time of the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, which would eventually lead to Lutheranism becoming a legally accepted denomination. Instead of Luther standing on his own in front of the Emperor there in Augsburg, it was the German princes who were standing and offering for him to cut off their heads rather than move them from the Word of God. Still today the Augsburg Confession is one of the confessional, founding documents of the Lutheran Church.

That event was a hugely important, climactic moment for the Lutheran Church. But the end of the man Martin Luther wasn't nearly so climactic. After popes and emperors and princes all wanted him dead, tortured, executed, burned, Martin Luther died in a bed of natural causes. In his pocket there was a piece of paper on which he had written, “Hoc est verum. Wir sind alle Bettler.” – a mixture of Latin and German for “This is true. We are all beggars.”

Luther's wife Katie was devastated by his death. Besides the loss of her husband she had to flee their home and the substantial possessions she managed, which were mostly destroyed. She would die almost seven years later after being thrown from a carriage. In the same year that Luther died the Smalcald War broke out with Emperor Charles V and the Catholic German princes attacking the Lutheran princes. In the Battle of Muehlberg the Lutheran army was smashed and two of its most important leaders were captured. Charles marched into Wittenberg, and standing by Luther's grave some of his officials urged him to dig up Luther's body and burn it, but he said, “I do not make war against dead men.”

Things must have seemed pretty hopeless right then. Martin Luther had accomplished some great things, but now with him gone it was all falling apart.

I wonder if the apostle John ever felt discouraged like that. He'd certainly been through a share of ups and downs. He'd seen someone much more important than Martin Luther die: He was there when Jesus was nailed to the cross and breathed his last breath, executed at only about 35 years old. We know how discouraged and afraid all Jesus disciples were at that time. But that great low turned into the greatest of highs when Jesus rose from the dead three days later. John was there when Jesus ascended into heaven and left his disciples to grow his church. They did, they traveled, spreading the gospel, and I'm sure they all had a lot of really great experiences as they told people about what Jesus had done for them. But they all faced a lot of rejection as well. One by one, Jesus' apostles were all put to death. According to tradition every one of them other than John was executed. John was the last one, and he too suffered, exiled to the island of Patmos. The Christian churches were facing all sorts of problems. Believers were being hunted down and tortured, imprisoned, and put to death. Inwardly they faced divisions, they battled apathy, and they were led astray by false teachers. I have to think if you were John there would be times you would feel pretty discouraged, pretty hopeless. A lot of great leaders were gone, and everything was falling apart.

Maybe it was for that very reason that God gave John the amazing vision that he recorded in his book of Revelation. Marooned there on Patmos, Jesus appeared to John. He didn't appear the way he was before he was crucified. Instead, he appeared in brilliant glory. When you read John's description of what he looked like, you realize that there aren't really words that describe that kind of glory, because it isn't something that we can possibly picture or understand.

And then John saw a series of visions that put the whole history of this world, including the things that are to come, into perspective. It wasn't all happy stuff. Some of the things in his vision were pretty discouraging. The kinds of things he saw are fitting for this week, but more because of Halloween than because of Reformation. An enormous dragon. Horned beasts from the sea and the earth. A lifeless image brought to life. People bowing down to worship the beasts, and anyone who doesn't follow along with it all becomes an outcast to society and risks death.

It doesn't sound like what you'd expect to read in the Bible. It sounds like horror movie material. It's all symbolic stuff, but for John who knew people who were being told “Worship our gods, the gods of Rome, or die!” the meaning was clear. The power of Satan in this world is very real. It appears in all sorts of different ways – in earthly governments, in false religions, and in corrupt doctrines within the church, as Martin Luther would face. It's the same kinds of things we see today, and it's enough to make anybody feel discouraged. What can we possibly do when Satan's power is so great? It feels hopeless, and all we can do at times is sit and watch everything fall apart.

But that wasn't the end of John's vision in Revelation. After this Halloween scene of Satan's power and influence over the world, John saw a new scene, a glorious vision, of God's chosen people around his throne, singing a thunderous song of the praises of the Lamb. And John says,

6Then I saw another angel flying in the middle of the sky. He had the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7He said with a loud voice:

Fear God and give him glory,

because the hour of his judgment has come.

Worship him who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.

 

Do you ever feel discouraged, when you see what's happening in the world around you? The power of Satan is still evident today. Our nation continues to move away from Christian morality. Immoral, anti-Christian teachings are everywhere. Our little church seems at times to be pretty helpless. But if we start to feel discouraged we need to stop and we need to remember who is really in control. Satan may assault us with abominations from the sea and the earth, he may attack us from without and within. But our God made the heavens and the earth. He made the sea and the springs of water. And the hour of his judgment is coming, and has already come.

God's judgment came on a dark Friday, when, to all who observed, it seemed that Satan had won. When Jesus the Son of God hung dying on a cross. When God himself seemed completely helpless. But one little word can fell him. Satan, you are a liar! It is finished! With one little word Jesus, the Word made flesh, crushed the head of the serpent. He destroyed his power forever. And three days later he broke open the gates of death.

The mighty angel in John's vision had a message, the eternal gospel, to proclaim. It's a message that transcends time. God's love endures forever. You are his own dear child. “See, I have taken away your sin, and remember your guilt no more.” As in Adam all died, in Christ all will be made alive.

That gospel message truly is eternal. It's a message that was proclaimed in the garden of Eden. It continued to spread after the apostles were gone and after John had died. It did not stop spreading when Martin Luther’s body was placed in the ground. Still today it is proclaimed around the world. God's mighty angel continues to carry the gospel, even as those people have been gathered to worship God around his throne.

And so here we are. Are we discouraged by Satan's power? Do we feel helpless? God is in control. His mighty angels support us as we carry out God's work of proclaiming the gospel. And the gospel will not fail. Proclaim the eternal gospel, the message of our triumphant Jesus. Stand firm against the assaults of Satan, with God at your side. Proclaim it to every nation and tribe and language and people. The kingdom's ours forever.

Amen.