The following sermon was preached at the First Baptist Church of Benbrook on December 19, 2010.
The apostle Peter was an “eyewitness of the majesty” of the incarnation (see 2 Peter1.16). When he wrote his second letter, which is contained in the New Testament, he spoke of being present with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the full glory of Jesus was revealed to him, along with James and John (see Matthew 17.1-13). Peter remembered well hearing the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (see 2 Peter 1.17). Oh, how I am sure that Peter loved to tell the story about the life of Christ. In fact, most scholars think that Peter was the primary source that the gospel writer Mark used when he wrote the second gospel.
But even as much as Peter loved to recount the story of Jesus’ life on earth, he spoke even more passionately about something else. In 2 Peter, in the same paragraph where he retold the story of the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter speaks of something even more sure than his memory of that incredible moment. He wrote,
17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts… (2 Peter 1.17-19 ESV)
And what is that “prophetic word” that Peter had that was “more sure” than even the reality of the life of Christ? Peter describes that “prophetic word” and sure hope with these words,
…you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3.2-4 ESV)
The “something more sure,” even more sure than the majesty of the incarnation is the “promise of His coming.”
The last few Sundays, we have been looking at the promise that the King is Coming. We have been reading the prophets of the Old Testament and learning that many of the prophecies of what the Messiah would do really relate to the second coming of Jesus and not the first. In the first coming, Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. It is the second coming where Jesus will return as the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. It is the second coming that will fulfill Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11, Micah 4, Zechariah 14, and so many other prophetic words that Peter was writing about in his letter.
When the New Testament speaks of the second coming of Jesus, whether it is the apostles Paul or John or Peter, or even Jesus Himself, they all speak of a time of distress, tribulation, and rebellion that will proceed His coming. And as disturbing as these things sound to us, they also speak of great hope that is found in the return of Jesus. I would like for you to hear the words of Jesus as He spoke about His return in the gospel of Luke,
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21.25-28 ESV)
Jesus spoke of the distress that is to come upon all the nations, where the seas will roar and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Naturally, there will be great fear upon all the peoples, so much that people are fainting with fear with “foreboding of what is coming on the world.”
But for those who are prepared for His return, there is a completely different reaction. Peter said that those who are prepared for His return are actually “hastening the coming of the day of the God” (see 2 Peter 3.12). Paul told us to “encourage one another” with the words about the return of Christ (see 2 Thessalonians 4.13-18). And Jesus said, when these things begin to take place, we are not to faith with fear or to be distressed. Instead, we are to “straighten up” and “raise our heads” because, and here is the key phrase, “our redemption is drawing near.”
We tend to think of redemption and salvation as synonymous or interchangeable terms, and that is partly correct. The Bible says that “in Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1.7 NIV), an obvious reference to our salvation. But more often than not, when the word “redemption” is used in the New Testament, it is used in the future tense. Consider,
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8.23-24 ESV)
Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1.14 NIV)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4.30 ESV)
So often, redemption is used in the New Testament, not to merely point to our salvation from sin, but to the future redemption, to the return of the Son of Man.
I find it so interesting that Jesus commanded us to “straighten up and raise our heads” on that day. How will it be possible to resist the spirit of fear when such distress is overcoming all of the world? Because our redemption is drawing near. I have been meditating on this all week and asking the Lord to show me what it is about the “redemption drawing near” that will allow me to “straighten up and raise my head” when such distress falls upon the world. The Spirit reminded me of just a few of the promises and hopes that we have in the return of the Christ.
First, I will straighten up and raise my head because the Bible tells us that with the return of Christ, evil will be defeated once and for all. You don’t need me to give you illustrations of this because everyday you read the same newspapers that I read. And everyday we read another story of the evil things that one human can perpetrate against another. It really is awing how evil people can be. That is why I find hope in the redemption that is drawing near. In John’s vision that he recorded in the book of Revelation, the end of the Devil and of his angels is recorded,
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20.10 ESV)
I am so looking forward to the day when evil, and people who prefer evil, are no longer a part of God’s creation, when the Evil One and his angels are cast into what Jesus called “the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (see Matthew 25.41), when there will never be another Hitler or Rwanda massacre or civil war in Sudan. Evil will be no more. Our redemption is drawing near.
Second, I will straighten up and raise my head because my sin nature will be taken away. In our study of Romans, Paul testified to his struggle with the sin nature in chapter 7, a sin nature that is in the body. And in chapter 8, he wrote about the redemption that is to come with these words,
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8.23 ESV)
When Jesus returns, our sin nature that we struggle against in our fight to be holy, will be redeemed and taken away. Our redemption is drawing near.
Third, I will straighten up and raise my head because my mortal body will be replaced with an immortal body. The Bible tells us what will happen when Christ returns,
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15.50-54 ESV)
Everything that we so hate about our mortal bodies, that they decay, that they get sick, that they limit what our heart and soul would like to do, all of that will be changed. There will be no more sickness when Jesus returns. Our redemption is drawing near.
Which bring me to the fourth reason I will straighten up and raise my head: because death will finally be defeated. The Bible says,
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15.26 ESV)
When Jesus returns, the endless cycle of life and death will finally be broken. Our redemption is drawing near.
Fifth, I will straighten up and raise my head because peace, genuine peace, will finally become a reality. Not just a temporary cessation of hostilities, but an eternal peace. Listen to how the prophet Isaiah described the peace to come,
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2.4 ESV)
Can you imagine? Nation will no longer lift up weapons against another nation? Can you imagine that weapons will become so useless that they will be converted into farming implements? Our redemption is drawing near.
The sixth reason I will straighten up and raise my head is that when Jesus comes back, I will be ushered into “a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells” (see 2 Peter 3.13 ESV). Perhaps the most beautiful description of this new heaven and new earth is found in Revelation 21,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21.1-5 ESV)
Our redemption is drawing near.
Seventh, I will straighten up and raise my head because when Jesus returns, I will be able to seen Him face to face for the very first time. The Bible speaks about how we see dimly now, like we are looking through a veil, but the time will come when the veil will be removed and we can see clearly (see 1 Corinthians 13.12). But an even greater promise is found in Revelation 22,
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22.1-4 ESV)
Did you hear that? We will see His face! Our redemption is drawing near.
An eighth reason that I will straighten up and raise my head is because I will be joining the incredible worship of the God Most High around the throne of God. One thing that I have noticed is that there is always a discontentment with worship among the people of God. We all feel that there is something missing. We may attribute our discontentment to the quality of the music or the quality of the preaching or something else, but really, the reason that we will always be discontent with worship is that it will never be what it is meant to be. There will always be something missing, and that something is the visible presence of the Most High God. Listen to the vision that John had about the worship of God in heaven,
9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7.9-12 ESV)
When our redemption is drawing near, that means that the day is quickly approaching where we will gather around the throne in worship!
I could probably list a dozen or more reasons why I will be able to straighten up and raise my head when the distress falls upon the world, and you can surely add a dozen more. But I will leave you with just one more reason to lift up your head. The prophet Isaiah tells us what it will be like when the Messiah returns,
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9.6-7 ESV)
Can you even begin to imagine what life could be like if we were rule by a King who reigns in absolute pure justice and righteousness? Our redemption is drawing near.
So, thank you choir for reminding us of the majesty of His coming, both His first coming and the “something more sure,” the prophetic promise that the King is Coming.