This sermon is from our expositional study of the Book of Revelation and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Revelation 1:18One morning in 1888 Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred’s brother that had died and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The “Dynamite King,” the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred’s life. None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered. As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament–an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later)–would be the expression of his life’s ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. It is called today, the “Nobel Peace Prize.”
So there are times when we look at the end of our lives and re-evaluate what we are living for. The celebration of Resurrection Sunday is one of those sobering moments when we realize anew the glorious hope we have in Christ and bring our lives into harmony with his will for us.
The resurrection is the hinge of history. If Jesus had died on the cross and was buried with no resurrection – Christianity would have ended there. No church would have been formed. The disciples would have lived out their lives with good memories of Jesus and his teachings, but would not have had the dynamic to spread his word over the world. But when he conquered the grave and showed himself alive their hearts burned within them and their souls were set ablaze with the vision to carry his truth to the ends of the earth. Word spread quickly throughout Jerusalem by various ones saying, “I have seen the Lord!” The women told it first. Then John and Peter rushed to the tomb and found it empty. Then the disciples had a hastily called meeting that night in the upper room and he appeared to all of them. The same thing happened the following Sunday night and Thomas was with them. When he saw the Lord he fell at his feet and made the greatest exclamation of faith ever given. He said, “My Lord and my God!” With that kind of passion they dedicated their lives to tell the world that man’s greatest enemy had been put to death. He also was seen by more than 500 at once. So that was the death of eternal death.
It had been over 30 years since Jesus ascended back to heaven. John was now in his 90’s when Jesus appeared to him on the Isle of Patmos and gave him the vision of the Revelation. That is when Jesus said to him, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold I am alive forever more. Amen: and have the keys of hell and death.”
I. CHRIST CONQUERED DEATH FOR US – BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS.
“I am he that liveth and was dead.” Revelation 18:1a
That “I am” must have triggered in John’s mind what he had previously written about Jesus. There are seven statements of “I am” in John’s gospel. Do you remember certain sayings of your loved ones that trigger wonderful memories in your mind and you remember the person he or she really was. I remember talking to my mother about her death shortly before she died. She said, “Well, it is something that we all have to do and I am at peace.” Jesus said some wonderful things about his death and ours also.
BREAD OF LIFE: “I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:41,51.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.
DOOR: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…” John 10:9
GOOD SHEPHERD: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?” John 11:25,26
THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
TRUE VINE: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5
Can you imagine someone like that who wants to do something great for you? Jesus could triumph over death because of who he is. No one else in all of history could do that.
II. CHRIST CONQUERED DEATH FOR US – BECAUSE OF WHAT HE DID.
“…DEAD; AND, BEHOLD, I AM ALIVE FOREVER MORE.” Revelation 1:18b
It is astounding that someone like him could ever be dead. But there was a divine purpose in it. It was planned before the foundation of the world. It was promised in the Garden of Eden. It was foretold by the prophets. He was born for the very purpose of dying for the sins of everyone here this morning. He was as dead as you and I will be. But death could not keep him. He had to rise for the great purpose of giving everyone here victory over death. He said, “Because I live, you shall live also.” If he had not resurrected, we would have no hope. We would still be in our sin and lostness.
In 1887, twenty two years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his coffin was dug up and opened because there were constant rumors that his body was not in the grave. So they dug it up and the body was there. The rumors continued so 14 years later they had to dig it up again. Both times witnesses were present who testified that Lincoln was still in the grave.
Three days after the death of Jesus Christ, similar rumors began to spread throughout the land of Israel. Only this time there were no witnesses who could say that they had seen His body. In fact, to the contrary, many witnesses claimed to have seen him out of His grave and even talked with Him after the resurrection.
Last week, we viewed a service for the three soldiers that were killed in the shooting at Fort Hood. The service was closed with the playing of taps. Do you know how that practice began?
“Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When the captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.
The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted. The captain had asked if he could have a group of army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But, out of respect for the father, they did say he could have one musician play.
The captain chose a bugler, and he asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform. This wish was granted. The haunting melody we now know as “Taps,” used at military funerals, was born. I have walked across Arlington National Cemetery and the cemetery at Normandy, France where so many of our brave men are buried. It is awesome to see all of those graves and to contemplate their lives. But in the midst of it all – on so many of the grave stones there is a cross that is a reminder of what Jesus did to conquer death for them.
III. CHRIST CONQUERED DEATH – BECAUSE OF WHAT HE CAN DO FOR YOU.
“I have the keys of hell and death.” Revelation 1:18c
Who else could make such a claim to hold the keys to our destiny? You say, “Pastor, what can Jesus do for me today?”
HE CAN OFFER YOU FORGIVENESS. The Bible says that you are a sinner. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That means you, me, everyone. There is no perfect person. The Bible also says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Can you see that Christ holds the keys to both hell and heaven? Sin that is un-repented of and the Savior un-believed opens the gates to hell. But he has done everything possible to keep anyone from going there. It is important to note that although he holds the keys to hell – he does not send anyone there. It is all done by personal choice.
HE CAN OFFER YOU ETERNAL LIFE.
The blessed truth is that he holds the keys to death for he has removed its ability to hold us eternally.
Revelation 21:4 – And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
1 Thessalonians 4:14 – For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Romans 14:8 – For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It was May Day, 1990. The place, Moscow’s Red Square. “Is it straight, Father?” one Orthodox priest asked another, shifting the heavy, eight-foot crucifix on his shoulder. “Yes,” said the other. “It is straight.” Together the two priests, along with a group of parishioners holding ropes that steadied the beams of the huge cross, walked the parade route. Before them was passed the official might of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: The usual May Day procession of tanks, missiles, troops, and salutes to the Communist party elite. Behind the tanks surged a giant crowd of protesters, shouting up at Mikhail Gorbachev. “Bread!…Freedom!…Truth!”
As the throng passed directly in front of the Soviet leader standing in his place of honor, the priests hoisted their heavy burden toward the sky. The cross emerged from the crowd. As it did, the figure of Jesus Christ obscured the giant poster faces of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin that provided the backdrop for Gorbachev’s reviewing stand. “Mikhail Sergeyevich!” one of the priests shouted, his deep voice cleaving the clamor of the protesters and piercing straight toward the angry Soviet leader. “Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!” (Charles Colson)
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!