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Sunday, August 16, 2015

For Thine is the Kingdom (Revelation 5, 7, 11)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; August 16, 2015
Text: Revelation 5:11-14; 7:9-10; 11:15-17

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used ::
Song of Praise: "Build Your Kingdom Here" (Rend Collective Experiment)
Song of Praise: "Lion of Judah" (Robin Mark)
Offering of Music: "Revelation 19" (choir) (LaValley)
Song of Sending: "Ye Servants of God" (HANOVER)

:: Affirmation of Faith ::
adap. from the Westminster Shorter Catechism (q.106)
What is taught by the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer – “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen”?
The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only,-1 and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him.-2 And, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.-3

1-Daniel 9:4,7-9,16-19; 2-1 Chron. 29:10-13; 3-1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20-21
:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

We are closing in on the end of the Lord’s Prayer. Over this week and next we will be looking at similar passages from Revelation to talk about the final phrase, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.” Today we are going to focus on the KINGDOM and next week on the power and glory of God.

Today I want to look at three passages from Revelation, and what each has to say about God and His Kingdom.

The Worth and Worship of the King (Revelation 5)

When you read or hear the text from Revelation 5, it’s hard to miss the worship going on there. There are heavenly beings worshiping: angels, living creatures, and elders numbering in the thousands of thousands. And then there is all of God’s creation – every created thing in heaven, earth, under the earth, on the sea, and in the sea. And all the beings of Heaven and earth are worshiping like some kind of giant antiphonal choir sounding a singular theme: God (and the Lamb of God) are worthy of all the praise that could and should be given because God is ultimately worthy of praise. Here is their mighty declaration:

The Heavenly beings:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.

Every created thing:
To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

The four living creatures: Amen!

And the elders fell down and worshiped as well.

Rather than dissect and try to explain who all the players are, what I want to highlight is the theme of their collective worship: the Kingdom belongs to God and God is WORTHY of all possible praise and adoration. It’s a collective and comprehensive expression of worship.

Is God some sort of megalomaniac, who desires adulation from all beings and things in existence? No, that desire is only true of beings that aspire to be God. You’ve heard the adage, “It’s not bragging if it’s true.” This is the infinite, perfect version of that. Only a perfectly powerful, good, right, holy, just, and compassion being is worthy of the kind of worship and praise described here. It’s only right and only makes sense if God is who He says He is. And He is.

When we pray, “Thine is the Kingdom,” we are acknowledging what is true, that this is the God we worship and that recognition should lead us into worship.

The Kingdom is Comprehensive (Revelation 7)

In revelation, there is a similar scene of worship, but what I want to focus on with you is who is worshiping. These are the throne who experienced the salvation of God and they are crying out, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” They are described with words that are probably familiar to you, but I don’t want you to miss the importance of it. It is a great (and uncountable) multitude “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.”

What I want to highlight here is that God’s Kingdom is comprehensive. I try to remind you often of God’s heart for the whole world, for His whole creation… that He did choose a people (Israel), but chose and blessed them that they might bless all the nations. God’s pattern is to use those who know Him to reach those who do not. This pattern is amplified and clarified in the New Testament, in the Great Commission of Jesus and particularly at Pentecost, when God’s Holy Spirit blesses the movement of early Christians to reach beyond Jerusalem to the people of the world. We will look at this some more this Fall, but over and again the New Testament texts describe a God who calls those who are far off, in order to bring them near.

As we have also heard many times over the past many years, the implications are that the Church doesn’t primarily exist for its members, but for its community. Like Israel, it is true that God has brought us together here for worship, growth, encouragement, and blessing; but all that is to feed and equip us to go out into our neighborhoods for Christ. The Great Commandment is to love God and love neighbor. Christ goes before us into the world and we are to follow!

All this, Old Testament, New Testament, and our own mission as the Church, finds expression in the glorious picture of the uncountable multitude in Revelation 7. When we pray, “Thine is the Kingdom,” we are recognizing that God’s comprehensive Kingdom includes us and has implications for our purpose and mission.

The Kingdom Is Here, but Not Yet Here (Revelation 11)

Finally, in Revelation 11, we are reminded of that theme of Jesus’ teaching that we’ve touched on several times this summer: God’s Kingdom is already in our midst, but it is not yet fully realized as it will be one day. The kingdom of this world is still in process of becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

This has implications for us as well. We no longer live completely in the dark; we have glimpses and experiences of God’s Kingdom in our midst. We have the teaching of Jesus. We have the comforting presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We have an identity and citizenship in God’s Kingdom through our identification with Christ. We have a hope and a purpose that are defined by God rather than by this world. And we have a future hope that all will be set right, that there will be no more tears and no more sorrow.

But, we are still in the “not yet” time where the shadows linger. We still endure the consequences of human sin and disobedience. We struggle against evil and the temptations and distractions of this world.

Though God does already reign in a certain sense, we look forward to joining the twenty-four elders who declare, “We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.” (v. 17)

When we pray, “Thine is the Kingdom,” we declare our faith and hope that we belong to God even now, but will one day enjoy and celebrate the full and final victory of God’s justice and power.

The Omnipotent King is Father

And just as a kind of final note to connect back to the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, this all-powerful, amazing King of all things who will reign into eternity is the same one Jesus invited us to call, “Our Father.” Even with all the mind-boggling scenes of worship, the scope of God’s saving plan, and the assurance of a Day of justice and peace, the infinite God is intimately interested in each of you as beloved child, through Jesus.

So, even when we pray, “Thine is the Kingdom,” we also pray, “Our Father.” And our mighty Father hears our prayers! Amen.

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