Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 19 – Return of the King
What’s something you’ve been waiting for a long time? Or better stated, what’s something you’ve been waiting for the arrival of? As we come to Palm Sunday this morning that’s the key word I want us to be thinking about-arrival. And I’m sure there’s lots of things we’re awaiting the arrival of. Officially spring is here, and spring break has gotten underway-but we’re still awaiting the arrival of those consistently warm days-not just a few warm days scattered between the cold and rainy ones. Or maybe you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of your vacation-you can already taste the warm weather and the beach, or the arrival of summer break from school, or the arrival of graduation, or the arrival of your wedding, or the arrival of a new baby, or the arrival of a new product launch at work or the arrival of the newest video game release or blockbuster movie-which these days means watching it at home streaming. But I think we can all agree that we’re looking forward to the arrival of normal Covid-free life! At least we hope that’s going to arrive sometime soon! But has there ever been something you dreaded the arrival of? Again-maybe normal, Covid-free life. Obviously we all want the Covid virus gone-but maybe you dread the arrival of things getting back to normal because you’ve liked the new normal of working from home and staying home (social distancing was fine!) That returning to normal life sounds scary and you somewhat dread it. But we’ve all dreaded the arrival of finals week at school. Or dreaded sports practice when you know the coach is going to work you really hard. Maybe you’ve dreaded arriving at the gym for a workout-but know you have to! As a little kid I used to dread arriving at the pool for swimming lessons in the summer when my mom would drop me off. In the afternoons when everyone was there to swim it was fine because it warmed up and was hot outside-but those chilly mornings during swim lessons were the worst when you dreaded having to get into that freezing cold water-where the phrase “you’ll get to used to it” wasn’t true because you just shivered for an hour and turned blue until the swimming lesson was over! But does anybody dread amusement parks? It’s supposed to be a fun day going on all sorts of rides having a blast-and it usually is-but what I dread is that first big hill on the roller coaster! I don’t mind the twists and turns later on, maybe even some loops-but going up that first hill is when I’m dreading arriving at the top and taking that plunge where my stomach just drops to the ground! I’m always going up the big hill wondering-why am I on this ride? Do I have time to rethink this decision? Is it too late to stop this and get off? Why is this considered fun? Anybody else ask these questions as you’re dreading that moment of arriving at the top?
As we consider Palm Sunday this morning-that idea of arrival is what we want to think about. No arrival was more anticipated and longed for than the arrival of the King. Much longer than just waiting a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years, Palm Sunday celebrates the arrival of the King that was over 600 years in the making. It celebrates the fact that the throne which for so long had been vacant was now filled. Israel’s king had finally arrived. And yet this was also a dreaded arrival. Far deeper than any finals week, cold swimming lessons or scary roller coasters, this arrival brought with it the reality of what this King was about to face. Take a look at it-John 12:27. And by this hour Jesus is actually referring to the 3 hours He’s going to spend on the cross. And you can hear the dread in His voice. You can hear our Savior say His soul is troubled. Never think that just because Jesus was the Son of God that He was beyond human emotions. He is wishing He could be spared from this hour on the cross, saved from this horrific experience-who could blame Him-and yet in order to save us, He can’t be saved. Never forget that truth! The very thing He wants to say-Father save me from this hour-He doesn’t say-because He has come to this earth for this hour. That’s the very reason for His arrival into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Listen to how Jesus describes it-Luke 18:31-33. Now the resurrection is there, Easter Sunday is included in this statement-but before that can happen the dreaded hour comes first. And don’t miss these words-delivered over-meaning arrested-Son of God should be delivered over to no one, mocked, shamefully treated, spit on, flogged, killed. That is what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. That is why He’s come to earth-and now it’s about to arrive. Luke 19:28-31. What Jesus means is that He has need of the colt so that He can use it to ride into Jerusalem to come and do what He’s meant to do-which is die on the cross. This colt begins the procession that by the end of the week leads to His execution. I can’t imagine the heaviness of heart! If you were in Jesus’ shoes would you be proactively seeking out this colt? Would you be willingly entering Jerusalem knowing the dreaded death that awaited you there? I know I wouldn’t! I say this every Palm Sunday-but if I’m Jesus I’m getting on that colt and riding it as fast as I can in the opposite direction of Jerusalem! Ride like the wind little donkey! But Jesus doesn’t do that. Palm Sunday celebrates the fact that our King doesn’t run away, but willingly faces what is most dreaded for Him because it was most necessary for us. Look at-Luke 19:35-38. The crowds are celebrating the King’s arrival. Little do they know that this King isn’t taking the throne-at least not yet-but instead going to the cross.
So what we want to recognize this morning is that this isn’t the King’s only arrival. That in fact this arrival on Palm Sunday serves as a glimpse, a foreshadowing of His second arrival. So Pt1:Two Arrivals: First in humility, one day triumphantly. You see the crowds weren’t wrong to praise Jesus as King-but what they anticipated from their King, the victory of this King first came through a cross. You might be wondering, why didn’t Jesus show up powerfully the first time? Why not wipe all His enemies out at the start? Only by humbling Himself to be delivered over to the soldiers who crucified Him could we ever hope to be saved by Him. Our King’s first order of business wasn’t wiping out the evil armies around us-but instead conquering the evil armies within us-that being our sin and it’s resulting death. Look at 1 Cor 15:55-57. That’s what our King has first come to do-and that victory occurs the moment you trust in Jesus to save you. It’s not something you can do on your own. Look at how Paul describes it-2 Tim 1:9-10. And we see how death is destroyed and immortality has come when Jesus arrives the second time. And in this case He is no longer coming to suffer on a cross but ride forth triumphantly with all of His followers saved by His death. This is the moment all of history is pointing to. This is the moment God’s people are eagerly anticipating. This is the moment that Palm Sunday foreshadowed all those years ago-from a lowly colt to a mighty warhorse! Check it out-Rev 19:11-14. There it is-The Return of the King! When John saw this vision and wrote it down-only emperors and conquering generals rode white horses in victory after a battle-but now that’s exactly what Jesus is doing-along with all of His followers-riding forth in triumph because death has been conquered, the grave has been rendered useless, and the world and all it’s fleeting glory has fallen. Here come the victors riding forth. Here come the heroes. If you remember the final battle in Avengers Endgame it was great when all the superheroes assembled and rode forth. Here it’s happening in reality-not just the movies. All of God’s people-past, present and future. All who’ve trusted in Jesus-both now and to come-will be assembled riding in victory behind Him!
And the text makes that clear. This isn’t referring to an army of angels-it’s believers because the fine linen white and pure refers back to what we looked at last week just after the funeral of Babylon-Rev 19:7-9. Now we know that we’re not saved by our deeds, but saved through faith. We saw that a moment ago in 2 Timothy as Paul explained the gospel. But for all who are saved, for all who’ve been forgiven and made new in Christ, there is a transformation that’s taking place. The righteous deeds we do aren’t the requirement of our salvation-but they are the result of it. Huge difference-but so important! And it means every believer will have righteous deeds to be clothed in; righteous deeds to display because they’ve been changed and transformed by Christ. If you claim to be a Christian but there’s been no change in you-than you need to come and re-surrender and recommit yourself to Christ-because if you’ve truly trusted in Him He won’t let you stay the same. Christianity equals change-and we see it here vividly when just as a Bride puts on her white wedding dress and says to her husband I’m yours-so believers have finally and forever put on righteousness as they’re in Christ’s presence saying to Him I’m yours. And because believers belong to Christ-here they come with Him, riding forth together in victory at the end. Jesus doesn’t arrive all by Himself-He does so with His followers-Rev 19:14. I’m looking forward to that ride! But here’s what struck me about the verse. It reminded me once again that it’s always about following Jesus, not trying to get out in front of Jesus or do my own thing apart from Jesus. That in the end, those who will follow Him at His glorious return are those who have already been following Him in this life. Have you ever thought about that? Are you following Jesus now? Because if you’re not-then why would you have any reason to assume you’ll be following Him then? And here’s where this is all going-only those who’ve followed Jesus in His death will be there in the end following Him in victory. Remember what Jesus said-Luke 9:23-26. And that’s Jesus referring to this exact moment. If you don’t follow Him now, if you don’t pick up your cross now and die to self, if you’re embarrassed of Him now, ashamed of Him, trying to hide your allegiance to Him, pretending to the world that you don’t belong to Him, than you won’t be with Him when He returns in glory. John 12:24-26.
That means being with Jesus in His death now in order to be with Him in victory then? Are you willing to go where Jesus goes and follow where He leads you? To not love this life even when it tugs at your heart? That’s what Jesus showed us when He was here on Palm Sunday. Yes He dreaded that hour of the cross. He didn’t want to suffer and die anymore than you or I would want to-but He arrived into Jerusalem to face that pain because He didn’t love this life.
And nowhere is that highlighted more than in the contrast between His two crowns-John 19:1-3. Exactly what Jesus said would happen is happening. They’re flogging Him, hitting Him, and mocking Him. They can’t believe that Jesus is a king. To them it’s a farce, it’s something to laugh at and ridicule Him with. And so ironically, the soldiers crown Jesus with exactly the kind of crown Jesus knows He has to wear at this moment. Not a crown of glory-but a crown of pain, a crown of suffering. A crown that perfectly symbolizes what He’s here to do at His first arrival which is pour out His blood as those thorns pierce His flesh. Pt2:Two Crowns: First crowned with death, then crowned King of Kings. These soldiers don’t understand how their actions fulfill our Savior’s mission, how it vividly displays the message of the gospel-and they certainly don’t understand how this king they’re ridiculing will one day return no longer crowned with thorns, but crowned with many crowns! Back to Rev 19:11-12. And whether Jesus actually has a stack of crowns perfectly balanced on His head I don’t know! But it reveals His identity, not just the King of one place, or one nation, or one time period or location, but the King of Kings for all time and all space, and all eternity! And Jesus has the tattoo to prove it-Rev 19:16. This means that Jesus has no equal, no competition, no superior. He has absolute and complete authority over all. Every earthly king and every person, including you and me must bow to Him-whether in reverent surrender today or in judgement one day.
What does it say in Phil 2:8-11. There’s the difference between the 2 crowns-from being obedient to death and wearing the crown of thorns to being crowned with many crowns and given the name that’s above every name. And right now the world ridicules the name of Jesus-just like the soldiers ridiculed Him. Right now the world ridicules the followers of Jesus-you’re made fun of-but that won’t always be the case. One day it will be absolutely clear that at the name of Jesus all will bow before Him. Those who did so in faith will be following Him at His return. And those who didn’t will face His wrath-Rev 19:15-16. And where does this take place? Where is this judgment going to happen for all who’ve rejected Jesus, the King of Kings? The place where we last left the kings of the earth in chapter 16 after the 6th bowl of God’s wrath-on the outstretched plains below Mt Megiddo-otherwise known as Armaggeddon! There the armies of the world have been waiting-Rev 19:19. Here is where the battle begins!
And before we look at how it’s won-we need to notice one more set of contrasts-because in His own words Jesus described how this is going to take place-Matt 24:27-28, 30. Not a comforting thought! This isn’t believers who’ve turned to Christ eagerly anticipating His return-this is unbelievers who’ve rejected Christ despising His return. And because of that-Cue the vultures-there’s going to be a lot of carnage as judgement day’s arrived. Let’s be honest Jesus isn’t trying to soften the scene for us-but describing it as vividly as possible because this image of vultures carries right through into-Rev 19:17-18. The birds and the vultures are there to pick apart the corpses-that’s why vultures don’t have any feathers on their head because they insert them right into the carcass-it’s gross! I’m sure we’ve all seen some vultures along the side of a road eating an animal that got hit by a car. I remember living in TX there was always a lot of squashed armadillos. They called them Texas speed bumps when you hit one-bump. Or maybe you’ve seen vultures picking apart a deer that got hit. Or it’s always ominous when you see vultures circling overhead because you know there’s something dead nearby they’re looking for-hopefully not your dog! One day the vultures will be circling overhead-not looking for animals or roadkill-but for unbelievers who’ve rejected Christ. They’re looking for a feast-the great supper of God. It’s harsh-but Scripture doesn’t shy away from it. And that’s the last contrast-what did we look at last week-Rev 19:9. That’s the supper you want to attend. As one commentator said-this is where believers are called to come and celebrate with the Lord-but the other supper is where unbelievers are condemned by the Lord and become the supper, they’re the entree. Pt3:Two Suppers: First the marriage feast for believers, then the vulture’s feast for unbelievers. The stakes couldn’t be any higher! Jesus first came to earth and was condemned for us at the cross so we wouldn’t have to die when we believe in Him, but for all who don’t believe in Him, who ignore Him and reject Him they will be condemned and die. The world will become a vulture’s feast!
And look at how quickly it takes place-Rev 19:20-21. So there’s the disgusting image of fat vultures-again a dire warming for all who would reject Christ. And the beast and the false prophet are the first to enter the lake of fire-that place of eternal punishment. The devil and unbelievers will eventually go there in the next chapter. But here’s all these armies, all the kings of the earth have assembled at Armageddon. They have their swords drawn, guns ready, missiles on the launching platforms, tanks are in place, soldiers on the ground-all aimed at Jesus and His followers. This is the moment-humanity’s last stand. All the rebellion from the beginning of history, that which started at the tower of Babel-we’ll make a name for ourselves-this is it-time to claim that name-for people to finally overthrow God and gain their sought after independence from Him. And what happens? As one writer said-Before anybody can even utter the word Armaggeddon the battle will be over. Did you notice-there weren’t massive sword fights in the verse, soldiers didn’t rush each other, missiles weren’t launched, no shots were fired. Instead the battle was won because of one word from Jesus-the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse. And that’s not an actual sword-Jesus doesn’t have some giant blade or an awesome lightsaber He pulls out of His mouth. This is the voice of the Son of God-the One speaks and it happens. Listen to John Phillips, 299. This is exactly how the battle is won. Jesus doesn’t swing a sword or fire a shot-He speaks! Because who is Jesus-Col 1:15-16; John 1:1-3. The Word uses His words. Back to the stilling of the storm-Jesus didn’t weave some magic in the air, He didn’t employ some fancy technology to affect the atmosphere, He just told the wind and the waves to stop and they did. That’s because He is our God, our Creator. It comes full circle. In the beginning He spoke and creation began. Now at the end He speaks and His Word spells the doom of all who reject Him. When Jesus speaks it happens! This morning we’ve seen 2 arrivals, 2 crowns, 2 suppers-but it all funnels down to Pt4:One Word: from Jesus destroys sin and brings the victory. He is completely and thorough in control. We are more than conquers in Him. His Word spells the victory for all who trust in Him. And here’s the thing to not forget on Palm Sunday as we approach Good Friday and the cross-Jesus could have used His words to stop everything that was happening to Him. As the Son of God He didn’t have to endure any of that, all the pain and suffering could have been removed. Back to the first verse we looked at this morning-John 12:27. Jesus didn’t say those words. Jesus didn’t speak and have a legion of angels come down and wipe out all the Roman soldiers. He didn’t tell the crowds to quiet as they shouted from Him to be crucified. He let them arrest Him and mock Him and beat Him and spit on Him. And how did He do it? Isaiah 53:7. At His first arrival Jesus was silent. The Word of God didn’t use His words-because He came to give up His life for you and me. But when our King returns He will not be silent. He will not be led away or sentenced to death. In the end, our King, the King of Kings, will have the last word! And all who’ve trusted in Him will be there with Him. All who’ve rejected Him will be forever silenced by His words. Where will you stand?
And the even more important question-have you used your words to confess your faith in Jesus? Have you used your words to communicate your repentance and surrender to Him? That’s what each of us is called to do. You’re not saved just by thinking about it or feeling good about Jesus. You’re not saved because someone else spoke good words over you or prayed over you. You’re saved when you say-Lord I am lost without you, I’m a sinner and have no where to turn but you. I need you to forgive me, make me new and transform me. And He will. So the question is have you said those words? Will you use your words to communicate your faith and your absolute dependance upon Jesus? At the end of the day-we were given mouths, we were given words in order to praise and worship The Word Himself, the Son of God, our King of Kings!