Sermon preached on November 13, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Did you ever get a gift you weren't sure you really wanted? Some Christmas gifts can be like that. I've gotten bathrobes that have been absolutely hideous. You know that, "One Size Fits All"—it's not true. I've also got some neckties that I could show you. One was a Christmas one that had a sound chip in it that would play a Christmas song when you pressed it. I tried to find it to show you but I couldn't find it. I must have thrown it out.
But I do have something to show you. This didn't happen here, but over in my old church. One Sunday morning I came to church and found this mug on my pulpit. I thought to myself something along these lines,
"Someone's left me a nice gift. How thoughtful. What a nice mug!"
But then I read what was written on it. It said,
"If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they put all of them there?"
Why would someone give me that?
It's also true that sometimes you get a gift, that at first, you don't like it, but later your change your mind about it and love it.
You're going to find this story about me difficult to believe, but it's true. When the iPhone first came out, I didn't get one. It was too expensive and at that point I had given up on cell phones because they weren't worth the money and they were too difficult to use. I had had a three cell phones over the years before that and they were exercises in frustration if you wanted to do anything but make calls. Do you remember where if you wanted to put someone's name in you had to use the number keypad and press each number until you got to the correct letter? What really finished me on cell phones back then was how sometimes I would get some data charges on my bill, when I hadn't used any data. I didn't use the email functions of the phone, I didn't use the Internet, not once. But I guess a few times I must have inadvertently hit a button that caused the phone to use some data. It wasn't much, less than a dollar each time, but it was the principle of the thing—I really hadn't gotten any benefit. So I cancelled our cell phone and decided not to get another one for awhile.
So even when the iPhone came out, I didn't get one. But that Christmas, I decided that I would get the girls and Marg an iPhone each. I figured I could share Marg's—that we would have a cell phone between us. So you can imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning that year when after I had given them their iPhones, they handed me a present and it was an iPhone for me. When I saw it, I was actually disappointed. I really didn't think that Marg and I needed one each. So the first thing I thought when I saw it was,
"Oh, this is going to cost me more money each month."
It's true. But I tried not to let my disappointment show.
But of course I've since changed my mind about that. What was I thinking, thinking that I could share an iPhone? When you get an iPhone it soon becomes a very personalized thing—with your email, apps, settings, bookmarks, address books etc. I can't believe I thought we could share one. My disappointment soon changed to—
"I'm really glad I got my own."
We may have something like that in our text. At first glance it seems like a strange promise. It's about having authority over the nations and dashing them to pieces like pottery. That sounds kind of unpleasant. Is that a promise you want?
I mean, there are professing Christians today who don't believe in hell. They reject the Bible's teaching and believe either that everyone is going to be saved eventually, or they believe that the ungodly are going to be annihilated—just snuffed out—so that there will be no such thing as an eternity in hell. In light of that, if they reject the doctrine of hell, it's clear that they won't want to participate in putting people there. Thus, some people, even Christians who believe in hell, when they hear this, might say,
"I'd rather skip this part and go right to eternal glory and bliss."
They find this promise a little uncomfortable. It disturbs their sensibilities. It's like a gift that they don't want.
But such thinking is obviously wrong. Jesus gives this promise to those that are faithful. This promise is one that should be close to our hearts, one that we should cherish and look forward to. It's a good promise that is extremely valuable. So let's look at it.
The faithful ones are promised authority over the nations, to share in Jesus' authority over them. This authority will result in the nations being dashed to pieces like pottery.
The first thing we should realize from this is that the great spiritual warfare that we are involved in
is an all out battle to the death.
By that I mean, not just physical death, but being cast into eternal hell.
Satan and His forces hate you. They hate you with a hatred that will stop at nothing less than your total destruction—being cast into hell's fires forever.
One of the Terminator movies had the line about the terminators, those robots that came from the future to kill John Connor or his mother. A soldier from the future was explaining what they were like and said something like,
"You can't reason with them. They don't have pity. They're killing machines. That's all they do."
In World War II the battles between Germany and Russia was exceedingly fierce and brutal—much more so than on the western front. Both sides knew that it was a battle to the death. Prisoners were sometimes taken but they were routinely starved to death.
One of my relatives fought behind the lines and he told me a story of how ferocious the Nazi's were. He and his men were planning an ambush on a high ranking German officer. They had found out that he was coming to a certain village. So beforehand they took up positions in and around the village, some of them in up in trees. He said that when the advance party of German soldiers came they started going through the houses to make sure they were safe. In one house there was a mother and her newborn. They grabbed the baby from the mother and took it outside. The mother followed them and begged for her baby's life. But they took it over to the bank of a river and threw the baby into the river. Their cruelty was unbelievable. It reminds me of what the Bible says of Ammon in Amos 1:13
"This is what the LORD says:
'For three sins of Ammon,
even for four,
I will not turn back [my wrath].
Because he ripped open
the pregnant women of Gilead
in order to extend his borders,"
Satan and his forces want to destroy you. They are not your friends. They hate you with an implacable hatred. It's impossible to appease their hatred.
Satan saw Adam and Eve in Eden and he wanted to destroy them. They were happy. They were enjoying God. Yet Satan would have none of it. Satan wanted to destroy Job. Consider what he put Job through. The death of Job's children and all his suffering. Why? Because Job was righteous. Consider what he wanted of Peter—to sift him as wheat and have his faith fail.
Consider how Satan hated Jesus when the Father sent Him into this world. It's described to us as the Woman and the Dragon in Revelation 12. We read, (verses 2–4)
"She was pregnant and cried out in pain
as she was about to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven:
an enormous red dragon with seven heads
and ten horns and seven
crowns on his heads.
His tail swept a third of the stars
out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child
the moment it was born."
It describes how the child was snatched up to God in heaven and how the woman fled into the desert where she was taken care of. It then describes the war in heaven and how the dragon and his angels were cast out of heaven and thrown to the earth. He knows that his time is short and is, (verse 17)
"enraged at the woman and went off
to make war against
the rest of her offspring
—those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."
Christians, you are involved in the great struggle between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is working to save you. They only way you will be safe is if your enemies are thoroughly defeated and put in the place where there is no escape. Jesus is doing that. He is saving His people by thoroughly defeated their enemies. These two things go together. You can't have one without the other.
Christians, how thankful you ought to be for the work of Jesus!
What work can compare with it! Saving His people by defeating their enemies. It is one of the best works ever. Christians, look forward to it. Anticipate it. Thank Jesus for it.
The second great truth we see from our text is that
Jesus is going to give you a share in that great endeavor.
Defeating the enemies of good, of Jesus, is one of the greatest honors ever—and it will be given to you if you are faithful.
The promise here is a quote from Psalm 2:9. Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm that predicted the victory of the Messiah over the rebellious nations. You'll remember it from our Responsive Reading. God says to His Anointed One,
"You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
Ask of me, and I will make
the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery."
What's interesting about the way that Jesus quotes it to the faithful in Thyatira is that He tells them that they personally will share in this rule. Jesus tells them that He will give the faithful ones the role that the Father promised Him in Psalm 2. Jesus said, (Revelation 2:26–28)
"To him who overcomes
and does my will to the end,
I will give authority over the nations—
'He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery'
— just as I have received authority
from my Father."
This is an incredible promise. (Mounce, p. 90)
"Christ will give authority to the overcomer just as he has received it from his Father."
What the Father gave His Son the Son is going to give to His faithful ones! The faithful will share in Christ's Messianic power, glory and victory. They are going to have authority over the nations and they are going to rule and execute judgment on them. They are going have a part in ushering in the eternal kingdom of God.
One of the questions that should be answered here is,
When is this going to take place?
The promise is given to the faithful one who,
"does my will to the end…"
That seems to mean the end of their lives, so it refers to some time after they die. In Revelation 20 we read about the saints, after they were killed, ruling with Christ, during the 1000 year reign. It says,
"I saw thrones on which were seated
those who had been
given authority to judge.
And I saw the souls of those
who had been beheaded
because of their testimony for Jesus
and because of the word of God.
They had not worshiped the beast
or his image and had not received
his mark on their foreheads or their hands.
They came to life
and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
So it seems that this having authority over the nations refers to the Millennium. If you are a Premillennialist, you believe in a literal 1000 year period called the Millennium. In their view, after the Second Coming of Jesus, Satan is bound and Jesus ushers in a 1000 year period of peace and prosperity. Amillennialists, on the other hand, understand that we are in the Millennium right now, that it began when Jesus came the first time and bound Satan by His victory over him on the cross.
According to both views, the faithful in Jesus are given a share of this rule in the Millennium. There is some indication that this rule will extend beyond the Millennium to the Day of Judgment. You'll recall what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians, (1 Corinthians 6:2–3)
"Do you not know that the saints
will judge the world?…
Do you not know that we will judge angels?"
It will also extend after the Day of Judgment—as we read in Revelation 22:5
"And they will reign for ever and ever."
But what is in view in our text is ruling in the Millennium and that on the Day of Judgment. During that time
the faithful will be ruling the nations with an iron scepter and dashing them to pieces like pottery.
This is their work. The idea here is of thoroughly subduing. Christ will exert absolute power over the rebellious nations. All rebellion will be forcibly wiped out. Vern Poythress writes, (p. 89)
"the rebellion of nations against Christ receives God's wrath and destruction."
The great rebellion against Jesus Christ will be put down once and for all. Revelation 19:19–20 says,
"Then I saw the beast and the
kings of the earth and their armies
gathered together to make war against
the rider on the horse and his army."
They gather together to fight against Jesus. But He thoroughly defeats them. Herman Hoeksema writes, (p. 108)
"the dominant thought is that the powers of the world strive to break the dominion of Christ and rebel against the Most High, but that the Son shall have the ultimate victory in the day of His coming and shall execute vengeance upon all His enemies."
Now, what does all this mean?
This text provides the answer to those who reject God because of all the evil in the world.
"Why isn't God doing anything about it?"
He is. Jesus Christ rules. 2 Thessalonians 2 tells us that the man of lawlessness is currently being held back. The evil that would be evident in this world would be incredible if the restraining power of God wasn't hold him back. But God is holding him back and His gospel is going forward. People are being saved.
If someone was truly concerned about the evil in the world, they should be embracing Christ, they should be faithful is being holy and righteous—and when they die they will be rewarded with authority over the nations and once and for all doing away with evildoers, and establishing the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, you should recognize that that role of dashing the nations to pieces is future.
Our job right now is different. We see this clearly from Acts 4:25–27. Earlier in that chapter we read how Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. The next day there were brought before the Sanhedrin and after Peter preached the gospel to them, the Sanhedrin order them not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus. After they threaten them, they let them go. When Peter and John met with their fellow Christians and told them what happened. When the Christians heard it, they said,
"You spoke by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of your servant,
our father David:
'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.'
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate
met together with the Gentiles
and the people of Israel in this city
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus,
whom you anointed."
Now what's very interesting about what happened next is that the Christians did not pray for the destruction of their persecutors. They asked God that He would consider the threats of their enemies, that He would enable them to speak boldly, an that he would stretch out His hand and heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. They didn't pray for vengeance or destruction, but for miracles of mercy. (Alexander)
That's a lesson for us. Now is the day of salvation. We are to be praying for our enemies. We are here to evangelize, to witness, to be ambassadors for Christ.
But, there is a time coming when God's enemies will be past hope. The day of salvation will have past. God's enemies will be firm and steadfast in their hatred of God and His plan and salvation and they will fight with everything they have against Him. They will try to stop the establishment of His kingdom.
Thirdly, this should help us be patient and subdue any present thoughts of vengeance.
Vern Poythress, (The Returning King, p. 89) Christ promises authority over the nations,
"to people who must have felt puny and powerless in worldly ways."
In this world we can feel powerless. We can feel that our efforts aren't making a difference. It may seem that we, the Christian church, is losing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even when we appear to lose, when we appear to be crushed—we are winning. Poythress writes, (p. 181)
"Even when demonic forces are ravaging the church, they are only establishing Christians in positions of real and permanent power!"
Fourthly, this is an encouragement to be faithful in doing good.
Matthew 25:21. The master replied,
"Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master's happiness!"
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,
this shows you that you need Jesus.
You're on Satan's side or God's side. There's nothing in the middle. You are either going to rule with Jesus or be destroyed because of your sin. Go to Jesus before it's too late. Take this opportunity to do something really good in the world—embrace Jesus.