LWMS Fall Rally at Zion, Springfield, MO October 7, 2017
Revelation 14:6-7 Theme: Fly to Proclaim the Gospel 17:2034
(At Martin Luther’s funeral this verse from Revelation was utilized as the sermon text.)
On October 31, 1517, all Hallows Evening, a man in dark robes shuffled down the cobblestones of Wittenberg. His step led him to the doors of the Schloss Kirche. From beneath his robe he drew hammer, nail, and parchment. On it was written an invitation to debate questions on repentance and the sale of indulgences that had risen within the church of his day. Bam! Bam! Went the hammer. His job was done for the present. Then Martin Luther wheeled around and disappeared into the city streets. But the notice named the Ninety-Five Theses remained, and its call to rediscover the timeless truths of the Gospel became the focal point for the Reformation of the 16th Century and the Church today.
Because of that and what followed I am glad to confess: “I am a Christian, a Lutheran Christian!” Some hesitate to say that. I don’t know why they hesitate. It’s only because they don’t study and appreciate what it means to be a true Lutheran Christian. But if they did and they really applied themselves to the task, they would know that being a Lutheran Christian means nothing less than being a totally Gospel-centered believer who confesses the Word of God, the whole Word of God, and nothing but the Word of God. It has nothing to do with traditions, genealogies, or man’s own thinking. It has everything to do with the Word of God.
Once a friend of mine was talking to me about my financial future. He suggested (kidding) that I ought to consider joining the clergy of his denomination because it had a great retirement plan. My response was, “But Lutherans have the Word; that endures forever!”
That’s not to say that all who call themselves Lutheran are truly Lutheran, just as all who call themselves Christians are not truly Christian. But those who attach themselves to the Word of God, to the whole Word of God, and nothing but the Word of God are thrilled by the sight of the angel whom St. John saw flying in mid-heaven in our text. To that angel we cry, Fly, Oh, Heavenly Messenger; Fly to Proclaim the Gospel.
I. But, who are you? Who is this angel flying in mid-heaven?
When you hear the word “angel,” what do you think of? Generally, we think of some bodiless spirit with wings. But the Greek word angelos, from which we get our word angel and also evangelical, really means “messenger.” It’s someone who has a message to tell. This message was a good and very important one.
Picture it; he’s flying in mid-heaven. What’s that about? Our English translation says in midair. But this goes farther than thinking of the air or the atmosphere. He’s flying in mid-heaven. Heaven is where God dwells. But there is more to this than that.
In the chapter right before this, John had seen in a vision two beasts linked with Satan. One was coming out of the sea and the other out of the earth. As you read more about those beasts in that chapter, you soon get the impression that they symbolize the anti-Christian forces on earth that seek to destroy God in us. Some is found in the governments that rule the world; some is found in the organization of the church. Not all rulers are good; and not all who call themselves “Christian” are Christian. Satan will throw such people into governments and into the church who will deceive and hide the truth of the Gospel here below in this world. That’s why Jesus once said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name…You must be on your guard” (Mk.13:5f).
When John saw those deceiving ones in his vision, they came from below – the sea and the earth. But the messenger was flying in mid-heaven, far above them. Since he’s flying above the two beasts, they cannot reach him; they cannot stop his gospeling, as they want to. In other words, no evil force, no brutal tyrant, no deceiving teacher on earth can stop the course of the Gospel, the Good News of the Savior that God sends to us from above.
Here is a very graphic picture of those promises God proclaimed when He said, “My Word shall endure forever” and “the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.”
“Fly, Oh Heavenly Messenger; Go!” is the Lord’s command. “Nothing will stop you.” And he goes unimpeded by anyone.
Oh, what a comfort that is to us because we Christians too often get the impression that the evil people in this world will prevail and win out. But God has not and will not abandon us here to the control of Satan and his beasts. God promises that the Gospel will not be silenced. It can’t be touched by those who seek to destroy it.
John proclaimed it, Luther did too. And so must we in our age. That’s what mission work is about. And as we go, here is our strength and promise: All the anti-Christian forces of this world cannot touch God and His Gospel. Oh, they can bark at you, but they cannot take from you what God sends His messengers to proclaim – Christ, Christ, only Christ, our Savior.
So it is that in confidence we watch and in grateful joy we respond: “Fly, Oh Heavenly Messenger, Fly to Proclaim the Gospel! Fly through us to proclaim it to the world.” God grant it to us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.