Sermon on Revelation 14:6&7
Text: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
One of the books of the Bible that many people find interesting is the Revelation of St. John. The great pictures and images that are recorded there fill the imagination. Many different people have written books trying to tell you what is meant by all of them. Unfortunately, many people go off the deep end and tell you many things that don’t stand up in the light of the rest of Scripture. Yet, there is no reason why we should overlook the book of Revelation. It was given by our God for our spiritual enrichment. This morning we are going to look at two verses in the fourteenth chapter. On this festival of the Reformation we praise our God for THE ANGEL WITH THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL. We will look at 1. The Everlasting Gospel, 2. Martin Luther Re-Discovered It. 3. Let Us Hold On To It Tightly.
John was granted a vision or revelation by our God of future times. He saw the end of the world and beheld the glory of heaven. God also, by means of pictures showed him how things would happen for his Church until the end of time. In this particular part of his vision he saw three angels, each with a message to proclaim.
John wrote, “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.” (Verse 6) Angels often served as messengers to God’s people. God sent angels to Abraham, Jacob, Mary and Joseph. This angel, which John saw in this vision, also had a message that was to be carried to all people of the earth. It was the message of the eternal gospel.
The angel brings this message to all people. “He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’” (Verse 7) The angel speaks in a loud voice “Fear God.” When we hear the word “fear,” we naturally think of being afraid. Indeed, the world should fear God, because of the sins that are committed by each person on the earth. God is a righteous judge, who does not look the other way when sin is committed. The angel speaks a loud message of Law that says we are sinners. As sinners, we have every reason to fear God and his judgement, for the penalty is clear for those who sin. It is an eternity in hell, facing punishment for sin. The angel says, “Fear God.”
However, there is more to the word “fear” than being afraid. It also means to be in awe of, to respect highly. That definition is also fitting because of the rest of Scriptures, which show God as a loving Father, a Father who loved us so much that he sacrificed his Son on our behalf. He saw us as lost and condemned creatures, with no way of saving ourselves. So, he saved us. He forgives our sins because of the sacrifices that Jesus made on our behalf. Because he has shown such great love for us, we hold him in awe and want to worship him with our entire lives. We “give him glory.” We “worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
This is the message that the angel proclaims. It is, in essence, the entire Word of God. God was saying that his Word is to be proclaimed to every person on the earth. God also said that this Gospel is eternal. It would continue to be proclaimed until the end of the earth. This must have been quite a great comfort for John. John was the last surviving one of Jesus’ disciples. He was, at present, in exile on the island of Patmos. Very likely he was quite old and may even have been worrying what would happen to the teachings of Jesus Christ after he was gone. Would they continue to be taught in their truth and purity? Would false teachings come in and cloud the message? Would the message disappear quickly? With this vision, God assures John and the rest of the Church that his Word would continue to be spoken until the end of the world.
It is interesting to note that these two verses served as the sermon text for the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther. How well they fit his life, for the Word of God had been buried by the man-made traditions and rules of the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy. God used Martin Luther to again bring his Word to the forefront, as it rightfully deserves. October 31, 1517 serves as the birth date of what we today call the Lutheran Church. On that day, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses, or points of debate, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
To understand the significance of this action, we need to get a little background. Martin Luther was, at the time, a Roman Catholic monk and a Doctor of Theology, teaching at the university in Wittenberg. At this time a man by the name of John Tetzel came to a nearby town to sell indulgences. Indulgences were little pieces of paper that you could buy so that you or your loved one could get out of purgatory more quickly. According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, if you committed a sin, you were to go to the priest and confess it. After he forgave you, he would give you a task to do to pay for your sin, called penance. If you did not complete all of your payment during this lifetime, you would need to spend a number of years in purgatory, paying the remainder. By buying an indulgence, you were able to lessen your stay or a loved one’s stay in purgatory. Eventually, it became a great money maker and the pope authorized the sale of indulgences to finance the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Church in Rome.
Dr. Luther was greatly troubled at the abuses of indulgences. Many people, who couldn’t afford to do so, were spending a great deal of money on these indulgences. Others felt that these were little licenses to sin. They could go and do whatever they wanted because they had already paid for it. Beyond this, Luther was worried that people believed that they were forgiven by the pope, rather than by Christ himself.
So, to debate the sale of these indulgences, Luther posted these 95 theses. Luther was, at the time, still loyal to Rome. He had no interest in breaking from the church. He only wanted to correct some things that being done incorrectly. Little did Luther realize the furor that his theses would make. Within weeks, his theses were spread throughout Germany. Eventually the pope received a copy of them and demanded some of the leading theologians meet with Luther and demand that he retract what he had said and written. When Luther refused, he was branded a heretic and outlaw. A price was placed on Luther’s head.
Finally, at a meeting of the Holy Roman Empire in 1521, in a city called Worms, it came to a head. Luther was put on trial. He was shown a group of his writings and was asked two questions. 1. Are these your books? 2. Do you wish to retract them? Luther answered “Yes” immediately to the first question and asked for time to consider his answer to the second. The next day, Luther stood before the emperor and papal representatives and said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scriptures or by clear reason. . . I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.” Here he publicly stated for all to hear that he would not be bound by what the pope said, but on the Scriptures alone.
Throughout the rest of his life, he lived by that thought. If it is not taught in Scriptures, we are not bound to it. He spent the rest of his life making sure that this true Word of God was taught in its truth and purity to the people. He translated the Bible into the language of the people, so that they might read for themselves what God had to say to them. He wrote both the Large and Small Catechisms so that people would be taught the truths of God’s Word. He authored or helped with most of the confessions of the church, which explain the truths of Scripture: The Augsburg Confession and the Smalcald Articles. He tirelessly preached the Word of God to all who would listen. On his deathbed in Eisleben, Germany in 1546, Luther was asked, “Will you die professing Christ and the doctrine you have preached?” The last word that Luther spoke was the answer to that question, and it was a resounding “Yes.” Martin Luther died professing the everlasting Gospel which he had re-discovered.
We are heirs of the Lutheran Reformation. Let us hold tightly to the Word of God. It is the only place where we can find true salvation. Many people doubt the truth of Scripture. Even those who call themselves “Lutheran” have begun to doubt the truth of the Bible. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been quoted as saying, “The teachings attributed to Jesus need to be sifted critically so as to separate what might actually have been spoken by Jesus from that which stems from the early church.” Regarding the saving suffering and death of Jesus, some have written, “The meaning of the historical cross was transmitted in the superhistorical language of mythical symbolism. The cross is not a fact of history that interprets itself.” In other words, they are saying that Christ never really suffered and died. It’s just a picture that is used in the Bible. This just scratches the surface of the heretical writings that are coming out of the ELCA. They have let their so-called “wisdom” bury the clear truths of Scripture.
May we be on our guard, so that the same never happens to us and our church body. The one thing that stands alone is the Bible. Man-made traditions and teachings are nothing. May we stand firm on what the Scripture says. Of course, the only way to know is the church is standing firm on God’s Word is to be familiar with it, to know what God’s Word says. If you’re not sure about something, compare it with what God’s Word says. God has promised that his word would continue forever. May we not lose our hold on it, but, rather, let is hold on to it tightly.
It is truly a great gift of God which he has given us by his grace. God gave his Word to the prophets of the Old Testament. God gave his Word to the evangelists and apostles of the New Testament. God made sure that the Word was passed from generation to generation. For many years, it was covered by man-made teachings, but God used Dr. Martin Luther to re-discover it for us. Today we thank God for sending Dr. Luther to bring back the clear words of the Scriptures. May God help us to keep faithful to his Word and the Lutheran Reformation, that we never lose our grip on the Word of God. We thank our God for giving us his everlasting Word, by which we learn about Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
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