Christ the King Sunday
November 21, 2021
Our King Is Our Faithful Witness!
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
If you were to go to a website such as Indeed.com and post a job opening for a king, what characteristics would you expect the “ideal candidate” to possess? When I Googled that question I quickly found a website that specifically addressed the question, “What Are Characteristics of a Good King?” The website states, “Some of the qualities of a good king include being calm and centered, being decisive and having personal integrity. Being hardworking and energetic, speaking well, protecting people, maintaining order, blessings others and acknowledging the efforts of other people are a few more ideal characteristics of a king.” After listing these qualities of a good king the website goes on to say, “While most people would likely find these qualities virtuous, history has proven that they don’t always translate into the kind of actions you might expect.”
As we peer back through the pages of history we can see that there haven’t been very many “good kings.” Even among God’s Chosen People each and every king had his flaws. Each and every king had his shortcomings. King Saul suffered from having a proud and rebellious heart. King David succumbed to both pride and lust. Wise King Solomon was led astray by foreign wives and ended up engaging in idolatry.
In reality there has been, there is and there will forever be only one “Good King”! He is the King whom we gladly worship! He is our King! He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords! He is Christ the King! As we gather together in our King’s Name today let’s see how this portion of Revelation focuses our attention on this joyous truth: Christ Our King Is Our Faithful Witness! As we study this text there are two points we want to highlight. First, let’s see that Christ our King is the faithful witness to God’s Truth. Then, let’s see that Christ our King enables and empowers us to be faithful witnesses to God’s Truth.
The book of Revelation is widely considered to be one of the most “difficult” books of the Bible. The visions and the pictures and the symbols contained in this book can indeed seem rather confusing. The central theme of this book, however, is simple, clear and comforting. Written to people who were being persecuted by the mighty Roman Empire for believing and trusting and proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, God the Holy Spirit has the apostle John remind God’s people of two undeniable and unchangeable truths: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22); and, not even the gates of hell itself will be able to “overcome” God’s Church! (See Matthew 16:13-20)
John begins his letter to God’s people in “the seven churches in the province of Asia” in a very familiar yet unique way. John replaces the common greeting, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (See Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3) with the words “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
“Grace” is, of course, God’s undeserved love for us sinners. Even though our sins separated us from God (See Isaiah 59:2), even though our sins are like “filthy rags” in God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6) God’s grace, God’s undeserved love for us led Him to send His only begotten Son into this world to be our Savior. The result of God’s “grace” is “peace.” This is true lasting “peace” between us and God. This is the “peace” that calms our troubled conscience. This is the “peace” that is based on the complete forgiveness of all of our sins. (See John 20:19-23)
This “grace” and this “peace” come to us from only one Source— our Triune God! While John’s description of God the Father— “he who is, and who was, and who is to come”— and while John’s description of God the Holy Spirit— “the seven spirits before his throne”— are worthy of being studied all on their own, since today is Christ the King Sunday we are going to concentrate on John’s description of Jesus— “who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
Since we are specifically focusing on the fact that our King is our faithful “witness,” the natural question we need to address is, “To what does our King faithfully witness?” We find a clear answer to that question in the words that Jesus spoke to Pontius Pilate, “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). The word that is translated in our text as “witness” and the word that Jesus used in His response to Pilate, “testify,” are simply different forms of the same word. Our King is the faithful “witness” to the Truth! What is the “truth” concerning which our King faithfully “testifies”? It is— the message of the Gospel!
Think back over Jesus’ ministry here on this earth. In both words and in actions our King served as a faithful witness to the Truth— the Good News of the Gospel. Long before Jesus stood in front of Pontius Pilate He served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel. When Jesus was twelve years old and His earthly parents were frantic when they thought that He was lost somewhere in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaimed the Truth of the Gospel to them, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well He served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel when He offered her “living water.” (John 4:10ff) When Jesus went to Bethany to comfort Mary and Martha and to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead He served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel when He promised us, “I am going there (heaven) to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). Over and over again our King served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel with the words that He proclaimed to others.
At the same time, Jesus openly served as a faithful witness to the Truth of the Gospel through the actions of His life. Our King served as a faithful witness to the Gospel as He adamantly refused to give up His goal for coming into this world— “to save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He revealed Himself as the faithful witness when He overcame the temptations of the devil. (Matthew 4:1ff) He revealed Himself as the faithful witness when He overcame the temptation of Peter. (Matthew 16:23) He revealed Himself as the faithful witness when the Pharisees or the Sadducees or the teachers of the law tried to trip Him up with trick questions in an effort to derail His ministry as the Lord’s Messiah. And, of course, our King revealed Himself as the faithful witness as He resolutely made His way to the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) where He willingly offered His holy, precious, innocent blood as the atoning sacrifice for all the sins of all mankind. Yes, my friends, with both His words and His actions our King did indeed serve as our faithful witness!
As our King and as our faithful witness Jesus now enables and empowers us to be faithful witnesses of the Gospel! That truth is brought out in our text when John writes, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father— to him be glory and power for ever and ever!”
Filled with the love of God and set free from the guilt and the power and the punishment of sin, our King has now made us into a kingdom of holy priests! By His power and by His grace we are among the priesthood of all believers! As members of God’s Kingdom and as priests of the only and only true God we now have a glorious privilege, my friends. We now have the privilege of serving as witnesses to others, witnesses of what our God has done for us, witnesses of what our God has done for everyone! Peter emphasized this very same truth when he wrote in his first epistle, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
You are a member of God’s Kingdom. You are a holy priest of the Most High God. That means that you are a faithful witness. Now a witness needs two things. A witness needs a message to proclaim. A witness needs someone to whom they can proclaim that message. Your King has given you both of those things.
By virtue of the gift of saving faith in your heart your King has given to you the exact message He wants you to faithfully proclaim to others. It is the message of “grace and peace” from the Triune God. It is the message of the cross on Calvary’s hill. (Pointing to the cross) It is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your King does not want you to come up with your own message to proclaim. Your King wants you to follow His example so that in both your words and in the actions of your life you can be a faithful witness of Who He is and what He has done for the people of this world.
To whom does your King want you to be a faithful witness? The easy answer to that question is— everybody! Through your prayers and through your offerings you can serve as a faithful witness for your King to people all across the world! Then there are the people to whom you can serve as a faithful witness in your everyday life. Look around in your circle of family, friends, and neighbors. Go through your list of brothers and sisters in Christ. Is there anyone who is facing persecution and ridicule because of their faith in Christ the King? Is there anyone who is being overwhelmed with trials and temptations? Take them aside or take them to lunch and be a faithful witness for your King! Is there anyone who is struggling with questions or with doubts concerning their faith? Is there anyone who is being led astray by false teachers or false teachings? Invite them to study the Bible with you. Invite them to come to church with you. Your King has empowered you with everything you need to be a faithful witness for Him! As a kingdom of priests you have His message to proclaim. As a kingdom of priests you have people all around you to whom you can be a faithful witness for your King!
What are the characteristics of a good king? I was somewhat surprised when I Googled that question and found this website. While the qualities of a good king listed in this article make sense to our logical human minds, finding these qualities in a mortal sinful human being is impossible.
Praise God that as we gather together in His Name to celebrate Christ the King Sunday, we have the insight that only God’s holy Word can give to us. That insight, my friends, is what enables us to rejoice in knowing that our King (Pointing to the across) is our faithful witness! Our King is the faithful witness to God’s Truth. Our King empowers us to be faithful witnesses to God’s Truth.
To God be the glory!