Our church is three weeks in on a series of the book of Revelation. If you live in the Des Moines area, and are looking for a good church, I strongly suggest you check out Valley.church in West Des Moines at the corner of Fuller Road and Mills Civic Parkway. Let me know you’ll be attending and I’ll save you a seat!
With Easter coming up, I thought it was a bold move to begin a new expository series now, but it quickly became apparent what the focus of the Easter message would be. Here is the opening verses of our next string of text:
Revelation 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Amen! Every church I have ever been a part of has a special service for Easter. Usually, it’s a one-off or an apologetic sermon about why you should believe in the resurrection. After all, the pastors tend to preach to the annual visitors here. As an aside, I believe that the church is the gathering of the faithful and those are the sheep that the pastor is to feed, not the annual visitor, but I am fully on board when the message includes morsels for both. And the timing of the Revelation series was scheduled in advance to land on this passage for the Easter visitors as well as those eager to see this series continue.
As last week’s sermon was going on, I was looking ahead to Easter. And in preparation for Easter we were given a multifaceted view of who Jesus is. We have this preconceived notion of God, which is no different than the people wanting to build a tower at Babel so that they could achieve the level of the gods or Moses asking God’s name at the burning bush so that He might fit into the headspace of mortal man.
Jesus is the babe in the manger. Jesus is the healer, the controversy, the one who defines love for us, the teacher, the creator, the atonement, the glory, the conquerer. He is all of this and more. He holds court in glory and a kingdom that I cannot fathom for I am flesh and blood. And so are you. And as such, we are unable to approach an understanding of how magnificent He is.
1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
This verse has been used by cults, to dispel the physical nature of the New Creation as well as the very substance of God. Literally. There is a cult that claims that Jesus is comprised of flesh and bones, as some sort of loophole around the verse that states that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. No, seriously!
Did Jesus shed his blood upon the cross? Yes. Does Jesus have blood coursing through His veins now? Yes. Jesus was raised imperishable. The same is true of all who trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 15:53) This does not mean that we are raised without blood, but that we will be raised, never to die again. Jesus is not the first person to be raised from the dead in the Bible, nor was he the last. But everyone except Jesus died again. Lazarus was raised. Lazarus has a body, currently dead, awaiting the resurrection. Lazarus is in glory even now, worshiping before the throne of God.
And this is important. You see, I don’t believe that Lazarus would be able to survive the glory of Heaven in his pre-glorified state. I don’t believe that any of us are constituted in such a way as to survive that. Everywhere in the Bible, whenever someone has an encounter with an angel, their response is one of submission, of falling “as though dead,” often in a position of worship, and the angels know that they are not worthy of worship from the imagers of God, so they tell the people to stop that.
People in our natural state do not have the categories necessary to comprehend the wonders that are just behind the curtain of visibility. Books like Revelation or Daniel contain images that are peeling back that curtain and exposing things from God’s viewpoint in such a way that we are able to perceive it. Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t currently stand among seven lampstands? Maybe. That was an image that had a specific meaning to a certain audience. What is being communicated is more important than the imagery used to convey that message.
Isaiah 64:4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.
Do you remember when you were first saved? For me, I felt such joy and energy for the first few weeks that I was starting to become concerned. I wondered if I should see a doctor about how excited I was and how my heart was racing with a gusto that couldn’t be explained by my circumstances. That was when I first developed this hypothesis. I do not believe that any human can be caught up to Heaven and see the wonders that await, not without bursting from the joy.
So what happened? Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. Conversing with the creator of the universe was not out of the ordinary for him. Later on, Moses is described as one who God spoke with openly, but Moses was unable to see God. On the day that Adam ate of the fruit, he certainly did die. His death was spiritual, making him incompatible with God, and it also began the degradation of his body. And ever since then, all of humanity has been in need of a mediator able to approach God.
This leads right into my “Two Mountains and a Valley” concept. We are in the category of ones unable to approach God, incompatible with His holiness from birth. Those who are found in Christ will never die. (John 11:25-26) Does this mean that I will not be lowered into the ground one day? No it doesn’t. It means that I am not my own, I was bought with a price. My soul has gone from a status of dead in my sin to alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2) And whoever receives the first resurrection will see the power of death over them dissipate as they long to serve and obey Jesus.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.