Walker, MN

April 28, 2019 Alive Forevermore!
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

It’s pretty common that around Easter-time every year a few news-magazines will feature articles about Jesus = ‘did he really rise?’ I suppose now the internet & social media has its share of alternative theories to explain-away the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But *are there any new theories, or just the same old ones? They say: the disciples were fooled by their overactive imaginations; a mass hallucination caused by extreme fear & grief =PostTramaticSress; OR the apostles hatched a plot to be rich & famous by starting a new religion with gullible people to believe Jesus rose. OR there’s the Muslim version: Jesus is a prophet of Allah, but not the Son of God; and did not actually die on the cross, someone else was crucified in his place, and Jesus ascended directly up to Allah without dying.
Yet, as recorded in Acts 5 this morning the resurrection is not only the fulfilment of prophecies thousands of yrs old, but also the apostolic witness from the very beginning: even when faced with prison or death, they could not stop telling what God had done. They said: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

About 60 yrs later, John was the last of the 12 apostles still alive. Nearly 100 yrs old, he was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony of Jesus. While there, God gave him the vision that we just heard in Rev.1; let me read a couple of verses again, beginning at vs.9 {Read Revelation 1:9–16.}

*Why is it that the world cannot accept the testimony of the resurrection, but has to have alternatives? Well, because IF the resurrection is true, it would prove just one religion as true & all the others false; and prove Jesus alone as God over life & death. Our Creator has given all humans a spiritual instinct; this instinct would conclude that God would not go to such lengths just for ‘fun’. The death & resurrection of Jesus calls for a bended knee & humble repentance.
So, IF God himself: /arrived on earth & took on our flesh, /died in our place, /& bodily rose again, we must have desperately needed him to do it. Even though our sinful nature does not want to admit it, most people recognize that, IF Jesus actually did die & rise from the dead to be the world’s Savior, then that makes US the sinners who need his rescue. But if a person doesn’t want to repent, or don’t think they really need to repent, then they will try to hold Jesus at arm’s length with alternative theories = that’s what the world does.
Because of this same spiritual instinct, people are not naturally ‘atheists’ = to say there is no God at all. But, people claim to be atheists for a couple of main reasons: some say that because things in life are not fair, or logical, or run according to their expectations so there must not be any God. OR, there must not be a God because God would not allow the innocent to suffer = like children. If a ‘supreme being’ can’t or won’t keep bad things from happening to good people, *what good are they? So, people decide they’re better-off on their own.
That’s not really an ‘atheist’, that’s being ‘agnostic.’ An agnostic is someone who doesn’t care if there’s a God or not; they decide their life is their own, and some ‘God’ way out there in space somewhere doesn’t affect them.

Many agnostics might sound like Thomas: that if Jesus would appear to them personally & physically then they could believe; otherwise, not. Such people don’t understand their own old-nature fights against their own soul. The real reason people doubt & deny God is that if Jesus actually did rise from the dead, they would have to repent of their sin with great humility & guilt; and that’s the last thing they want to do.
So, worldwide, people generally DO acknowledge that Jesus lived 2000 years ago;
but they often want to treat him as just ‘history’, & not very relevant in our day. And since they have never seen a miracle -such as those in the Bible- they reduce Jesus to stories & myths. But since God is the almighty, Creator & ruler over all things, all of man’s thinking doesn’t change Him, or the truth.

Just as Scripture tells of the real death of Jesus on our behalf, so the apostolic witness is clear: Jesus bodily rose from the dead. That fact supersedes everything. When John saw the Lord Jesus, he said, “I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’ ” (vv 17–18).
The Book of Revelation is one ‘revelation’, made up of 7 visions; each vision covers the same time-period between Jesus’ first coming & his 2nd & final coming; between Christmas & Judgement Day. Each vision has some different symbolism & increases in intensity; but each vision packs an overwhelming punch of Christ’s victory over sin, death & the power of the devil. Revelation overwhelms us with the assurance that -because Jesus is alive forevermore- so in Jesus we will live also with him == & that is the whole goal of salvation.
John is on Patmos, exiled for his testimony of Jesus. But in these visions, God allows him to peek behind the eternal curtain, to see & hear how the work of Jesus all fits together for our salvation, and to see that Jesus alone has the keys of death and hell.

God’s people, you & I, have been troubled by the devil’s temptations. In this world, that will continue until Jesus returns. However, Jesus has not left us alone to struggle.
Our Living Lord has the key to lock up the devil & limit him. That key is his Word = the sharp, double-edged sword of Law & Gospel; that Word is the Spirit of the Loving Lord.
The resurrection means Jesus is alive to give us what we need in the battle = namely, a new birth & forgiveness. He gives that by that same Word & Spirit; He cleanses us from our sins by a baptism of water. He is alive now to mold us into faithful servants to His God & Father; so that, forgiven and restored, we serve Him as ambassadors toward others, & living witnesses of His worship & holy living.
*Have your ever seen a funeral director take out his silver handle, a ‘casket key’, to crank shut the lid of a casket? Jesus has the key that will open every casket. That key will be His voice. As He previewed with Lazarus, He will call you by name and say, “Come forth!”
And we will rise, just as He said. Yes, we die a real death. Jesus also truly died; no one took His place; He joined us in the wages of our sin. And just as He rose from the dead and is truly alive forevermore, so He will raise US, and give us the life that never ends.

The Christian Church itself is proof of the resurrection power of Jesus. Despite 2,000 of effort to extinguish it, the ‘bride of Christ’ can never die; the Risen Lord will continue to have the witness of His believers on the earth until he returns.
From the very beginning, opponents, competitors & enemies tried putting the apostles in prison; they exiled John to an island prison; all the other apostles, & many others, were martyred, all because they believed in the risen Jesus as Lord & God.
The number of those being imprisoned or killed because of their Christian faith is increasing world-wide. Socialists & communist leaders think that faith in God is a threat to their power & control, so they punish Christians. Muslim leaders think that any religion other than their own is an abomination; and whether it’s ransacking churches in Europe, or killing Christians on Easter in Shri Lanka, they think they have a ‘license to kill.’ We can pray that we might be spared persecution, but so many of our brothers & sisters of the faith have not been spared.
And yet, like the apostles, persecution does not change or take away our faith.
Our hearts are anchored in our Living Lord, & on things above. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness. Because of His resurrection, the Gospel Word that turns hearts & makes believers cannot be silenced; the threat of death cannot turn our trust away from the One who actually holds the keys of Death and Hades!

So, *what does John witness for us? Life-changing assurance. The One speaking to him /stands in the midst of lampstands, representing congregations of His people; /His white robe & white hair represents His priestly purity & equality with the Father; /His golden sash represents His authority; /His fiery eyes are able to see thru evil to the truth; /bronze feet means His strength cannot be moved; /all must listen to His voice = like the roar of water;
/He commands His angels guarding His congregations = those are the stars in His hand;
/and His sword is His double-word of judgement & mercy. This is the One on our side;
the living one, in all the bright glory as God. He is our assurance in trials, troubles, sorrows, persecutions, and death.
When John saw Him, he fell at his feet as though dead; but Jesus laid His hand on him and said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Like John, when facing God, we become mindful of our daily inclination to sin; there is nothing hidden from this One. Each of our sins is a threat to our soul & relationship with God. So we must put away all our excuses, and repent.
Without repentance & turning away from our sins, it doesn’t matter how many times we say or sing the name ‘Jesus’; our sins interfere with our faith. If we willingly continue in our sins, we will die apart from him. So, we come here to fall at His feet as tho dead; and we wait for Him to speak.
And so, His word comes to us: “Fear not!” He says: “I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me.” (Jn 10:14). “Fear not, your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more; bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” …that means ‘live as a holy child of God.’
“Fear not . . . I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on the last day.” (Jn 6:38–39). And even as He speaks His Word, so Jesus also cleanses us by His blood in the water of Baptism, and touches our lips with His body & blood for forgiveness and life everlasting.

Finally, there is another proof of the resurrection; shown in what WE are doing right now. We have gathered for worship on Sunday. For centuries, Jewish believers correctly gathered on the Saturday, their 7th -day Sabbath. The Son of Man changed that with His resurrection & appearances. Suddenly, and without turning back, Jewish believers in Jesus began to worship on Sunday; John calls it ‘the Lord’s Day.’ Only something as important as a real Sunday-morning resurrection from the dead could’ve changed that deeply held OT practice.

For 2,000 years, God’s people have been acting on our Lord’s command to
‘Do this, in remembrance of me.’ That includes gathering on ‘His Day’ & listenig to His et.Word, we baptize, we receive His Meal; everything we do is in remembrance of Jesus and His saving work for us.
You & I have been brought in to that 2,000 year line of believers who gather to receive all the gifts of the Living One, and to receive his full assurance: “Fear not, He says, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold … with Me, you will be alive forevermore.”