Thursday, June 02, 2016

Spoiler Alert - Revelation 19:1-6


Revelation 19:1-6

1          After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2          for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
3          And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
4          The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"
5          Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"
6          Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

          Several years ago, I was very wrapped up in the World Series.  I don’t remember which year this was, but it was an exciting series and I reserved my calendar for every night’s game. 

          No committee meetings.  No family gatherings.  Nothing was going to keep me from the television.

          But one night I got a call from a parishioner and I had to go meet a family in the emergency room.  I had enough time, however, to turn on the VCR before I left.

          I got home too late to watch the game, so I left notes all over the house – on the television, on the refrigerator, on the bathroom door – “Don’t tell Maynard how the game ended until he sees the video tape.”

          I woke up the next morning and left the newspaper on the driveway.  While the family ate breakfast, it was forbidden to turn the television on to watch the Today Show.
          Finally, when everyone had gone to school or work, I settled into my easy chair to watch the previous night’s game.

          I was just about to settle into my chair and watch the game when I decided to call the office and tell them I’d worked all night and was taking the morning off.

          My secretary answered and before I could say anything, she said, “Could you believe that game last night?  I can’t get over how badly the Braves lost.”


          We don’t like to know the ending until we live through it.

          Don’t tell us how the game ends, let us watch it and savor the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

          Don’t tell us how the book ends, let us read through the chapters on our own.

          Don’t tell us how the movie ends.  Let us buy the ticket and enjoy the film.

          How many of you are familiar with the term “Spoiler Alert?”

          I see that more and more in the newspapers and on the Internet.  Anytime a writer is dealing with a movie or television series and is about to reveal the ending of the show, the writer will warn the reader that there is a “Spoiler Alert.”

          In other words, if you don’t want to know the end of the movie until you see it, the phrase “spoiler alert” is a warning not to read any more of the article.

          Today’s sermon is a spoiler alert. 

I’m not going to tell you the end of the movie – I’m going to tell you about how reality turns out in the end.  The end of history.  The end of time as we know it.

In fact, this is what the Book of Revelation is all about.

Revelation is a confusing book.  We get bogged down in all of the strange parts of it.  We know there are important clues, but we don’t know how to interpret them.  666?  What’s that about?  All those earthquakes and fires and floods?  Meteors falling to earth?  How are we to understand all of that?

You can get bogged down in a lot of little issues in Revelation, but I’m going to give you the bottom line, big picture of how it all comes out in the end.
The answer to the most important question is not – what does 666 mean.  The most important question is “who is in control here?” 

The answer is -- God is in control.

That is what Revelation is all about.

When you were in school, you often had to pick out the thesis sentence of an article or a book.  Or if you wrote a paper, you sometimes had to write and identify the thesis sentence, which was a sentence that identified the purpose of the paper or article.

The thesis sentence of Revelation is in our Scripture lesson for this morning.  It is the spoiler alert that reveals what Revelation is all about.  It is the answer to what life and history are all about.

Verse 6 of our reading lays it out very clearly.

“Our Lord God Almighty reigns.”

God rules!

God is in control.
God never stopped being in control.  God was never threatened.  God has always been on his throne. 

Now that sounds great.

Until you lose your job.

Or you can’t finance your home.

Or the doctor tells you that you have cancer.

Or you discover that in a low-crime area a man broke into a home, brutally stabbed and killed a 67 year old woman in the wee hours of the morning. 

If God is in control, why doesn’t he just stop all of this? 

Why must evil exist?

C.S. Lewis imagined a world without pain and suffering and evil.  He wondered why God didn’t just stop evil, but he came to realize that such a world would make little sense.

Lewis wrote, “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.”  (C. S. Lewis The Problem of Pain Harper Collins:New York, 1996 p.24-25)

In other words, God is in control, but not in the same way that a puppeteer is in control.  God created, and allows us the freedom to reject the Creator.

So here we are in a world of evil.  So when a child is molested and killed, do we simply smile and say, “God is in control?” 

To simply do that seems so shallow.

Almost silly.

In fact, it is almost to be in denial that there is so much evil around us.

What does it mean to live in an evil world and to say, “God is in control?”

When the Book of Revelation was written, it was during a time of tremendous violence and evil.

Christians were being killed for their faith.  There was no religious freedom.  There were wars.  There were terrorists.  Crime was rampant.  The city of Rome had suffered a terrible city-wide fire.  Ethics were out and scandals were in.

It would have been easy for Christians to lose their faith.

It would have been easy for them to respond to violence with violence.  It would have been easy to have given up on ethical living, and to have lived like everyone else.

But when John told his church, “God is in control,”  it meant, “we know how the movie ends.  We’ve read the spoiler in the review.  We know what the last page of history says.” 

To know that God is in control is to be able to live justly, in unjust world.

To know that God is in control is to be able to love, when there so much hate in the world.

To know that God is in control is to be able to watch the television news with its stories of rape and violence and murder and not go crazy.

In 1770, an incident in Boston led to British soldiers firing upon civilians, killing five Americans.  You’ve read about that incident – the Boston Massacre.  The colonists were outraged and this incident contributed to a growing movement of American independency.  Many wanted to hang the British without trial, calling them enemy combatants.  John Adams, one of our greatest founding fathers, agreed to defend the British troops in a court of law.  He believed that even in the face of great evil, the rule of law and the right of trial must be held sacred.

But he and his wife faced threats of violence, and they were concerned for their lives and for the lives of their children.

In his diary, John Adams reflected on the encouragement he received from his wife, who had told him that, “she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust that God was in control.”

To say that God is in control is not to understand God, but to trust God.

God is in control.

He was in control at the time of creation.

He was in control at the time John wrote Revelation.

He is in control today.

And someday, Christ will return and establish his rightful and righteous kingdom and there will be no longer any doubt that God is indeed in control.

That is the good news of Revelation.

I heard a story recently about a mother who was struggling with her strong-willed 3-year-old son, Thomas, who looked at him with a stern eye and asked a question that she thought would bring the child in line.

“Thomas, who is in charge here?”

She did not get the answer she expected or hoped for, which was that she, the mother, was in charge.

But she was not disappointed with the answer.

Apparently quoting what he had learned in Sunday School, Thomas answered without batting an eye, “Jesus is in charge.”[1]

We live in a time of violence, but it will not always be this way – for God is in control and Jesus is coming back soon.

We live in a time of illness and disease and terrible deaths, but it will not always be this way for God is in control and Jesus is coming back soon.

We live in a time of terrorists and crime and natural disasters, but it will not always be this way – for God is in control and Jesus is coming back soon.

Copyright 2016. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.

[1] – A Higher Order; Citation: Susan C. Kimber, Brea, CA. Today’s Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."