Summary: there is more to this season than Christmas.
Not Returning as a Baby: an Exposition of Revelation 19
It’s Christmas time again. At least here in America, the malls are packed. People are searching for the right gift. The manger scenes and light displays are on the front lawn. It is a time we are excused for eating too much. It is a time in which we try to have joy in the shortened days of winter. Will there be a “white Christmas?” Will the sales boost the economy? There is much bluster about the day. Some who are secular would rather call it “Winterval.” Others wait the arrival of a sled full of goods from Santa Claus.
The people of the churches also prepare for Christmas. The Christmon tree is put up. The Greens are hung and the halls are decked. The manger scene is set up apart from the baby Jesus who does not arrive until Christmas Eve. We have lessons and carols. We have our Christmas parties too. We are all waiting for the baby Jesus to arrive on Christmas Eve. Then we put the Christ doll in the manger, and all is well. The Baby Jesus has arrived on earth again. Let us sing Jesu Bambino!
There is a big problem with this picture. We can celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ came down from heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary. Whether this was the 25th of December or not is anyone’s guess. We should remember the Incarnation. But this is an event that happened once in the past. It does not need repeating. Yet we try to repeat the magic every year.
It is comforting in one way that we think that Jesus comes every year as a baby. A baby is totally dependent upon others for sustenance. We feel that we are in control of a baby Jesus. A baby is threatened but cannot threaten anyone. When I was in what was once in East Germany, the only time the churches were filled was on Christmas Eve. Easter was mostly dead, as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has implications. The risen Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth. He is no longer a baby at all. And He is returning to earth again.
So when we come to the 19th chapter of Revelation, we see an entirely different. We see the return of Jesus Christ to earth, but not as a baby. Rather than holding the infant Jesus in our arms, we are confronted with a picture of sinners in the hands of an angry God. This time Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. The chapter starts with a hymn of praise sung in heaven about Jesus. “Praise the LORD, for salvation, glory, honor and power belong unto the LORD our God.” Instead of angels singing to shepherds, we have a song that shall resound to all the earth. He has come to judge the great whore which has corrupted the earth and to avenge the blood of His martyred servants. This is indeed a time in which the knees will shake for those who have rejected Him. It is a time of comfort for those who have prepared for His return. This is the great Advent. It will either be the most joyous day for those who believe and have been faithful to Jesus, or it will be the most dreadful day for those who are not. There is no middle ground. You either belong in one group or another.
How much different is this than the presentation of God we have in so many churches that God is a God of love who would never judge anyone, especially to hell. How much different is this picture from “Little Jesus, meek and mild. He is but a little child.” People who believe this false gospel will not be prepared in the day of His coming. The smoke will come up, and the 24 elders in worship shall respond: “alleluia, Amen.”
The text continues with a great blessing for those who have believed in Jesus and remained true, even to the point of death. They respond to the rule of God with praise. “Alleluia, for the LORD God Omnipotent reigneth. So instead of Handel’s wonderful chorus “Glory to God” in His Messiah, we are comforted by the majestic “Hallelujah Chorus.” As much as the shepherds were awed by the angel choir on the night Jesus was born, we have the majestic choir of the redeemed crying out in exuberant joy! How much more than the angels is this song. The angels did not need redemption. It is offered only to us humans. Considering what judgment, we so richly deserve; we have all the more reason to rejoice greatly as the daughter of Zion. It is not a band of angels arrayed in white who are invited to be the bride of the Lamb. We, whose righteousness is described in Isaiah as filthy rags are not the spotless bride. This transformation was not a result of our own effort but is instead of the work of Christ who washed us white in His own blood. How blessed we are to be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.