December 20, 2009

The Alpha and Omega - Dec 20, 2009

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Advent is a time of getting ready. Just get in your car on a Saturday during Advent and try to get to a shopping mall. You’ll find that lots of people are getting ready during this time of year.

But right now, you and I get to take a break from all those busy things. From all those preparations for events. All those gifts we’re searching for. Right now we get to turn our attention away from all the busyness. Here and now, we want to concentrate on getting our hearts ready, to worship Jesus on Christmas.

The Bible says that God wants His people to worship in spirit and in truth. So above all, we need to get ready for Christmas – on the inside.

To help us get in the right Advent mindset, here at Redemption we’ve been examining different names that the Bible uses to describe Jesus. There are a lot of names for Jesus used in the Bible, and each one tells us something about Him. Today, our name for Jesus comes from Revelation 22, verse 12-13. There Jesus calls Himself, “The Alpha and the Omega”.

“12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12-13 NIV).

The Alpha and the Omega are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Jesus leaves no question as to what He means here by saying, I am the Alpha and the Omege, and then adding, I am the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He bunches up these “bookend phrases” as if to say, I’m not a minor player in this human drama, I’m the background. I the beginning and the end.

Now, we talked about how Jesus is the Alpha previously. We studied John chapter 1, where we’re told that the Son of God was already in existence when the universe was created. John 1, verse 1.

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3 NIV).

So, today we’re going to focus more and the second half of this name for Jesus. He is the Alpha, but also, the Omega.

Now, when we think of Jesus being, the Omega, or the End, It’s hard not to think of the Last Day. The Judgment Day when all people will stand before God to be judged. Jesus Himself associates Judgment with this name. He Himself says,

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV).

To some it might seem out of place to think about Judgment Day during Advent. Judgment Day, sin, separation, hell, those aren’t exactly Adventy themes are they? Those are things more fitting for Lent. Lent is the time for solemn contemplation of our sins. As we get ready to hear about How Jesus suffered on the rough wood of that Roman Cross. For our sins. That’s where thoughts of the judgment belong. That’s where self examination belongs, right?

Sure. But in the past, the church felt that some of these thoughts belonged in Advent too. Today our Advent services are more permeated with feelings of hope and peace and joy. Anticipation and expectation.

But in the past, Christians have considered Advent a time to focus on repentance and prayer. I time to look inside ourselves and see how much we’ve failed to live like God wants us to live. To identify what parts of our lives need to change. To see our sins.

In the past, Christians have viewed Advent as a kind of “mini-lent”. Look at the colors of our altar decorations (paraments). They’re purple. The same color as our Lent ones. And look at our Advent candles, they’re purple too.

And you know, the idea that Advent should be filled with self examination is a good one. Because we can’t celebrate Christmas in spirit and in truth without understanding how sinful we are, and how desperately we need that little Baby that was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

But self examination is a heavy thing. It takes time and energy and can weigh us down. Past Christians have felt this heaviness during Advent. In fact, that’s where this pink candle comes from.

You ever wonder why the third candle is pink? (In some churches the FOURTH Advent Candle is the pink one). It is the “joy” candle. And it meant, “we’re over the hump”. We’re almost to the end of this period of self examination. This period of seeing our sins and feeling the sorrow that comes with that. We’re almost to the part where we get to shout out with joy over the birth of the Savior who takes all our sins away!

Even if we don’t use Advent as a “mini-Lent” we can’t really escape seeing our sins and thinking of the day when God will judge all the people of the world. I mean, we’re getting ready to celebrate the first coming of the Son of God. How could we not think of the second coming that hasn’t happened yet?

When we compare these two events, we see obvious contrast. The second time Jesus comes to the earth will be enormously different than the first time.

The first time He came to earth, Jesus was born a weak little baby who had to be fed and changed and cared for like all human babies do. When Herod wanted to kill to kill the little Baby Christ, His parents had to flee to Egypt. But when Jesus returns, He won’t be doing anymore running. He’ll come with POWER. Psalm 2 describes this power. God the Father is talking to God the Son. He says…

“8 Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:8-12 NIV).

The first time the Son came to earth, He was almost hidden. He was a little human baby, born to no-name parents in a tiny Judean town. Sure, His birth was announced by angels, but their only audience was a small group of shepherds. Herdsmen, who most of the world considered low-class. But when Jesus returns, the Bible says He’s not going to be hidden. A loud trumpet will sound, and Jesus will appear in the sky with the angel armies of heaven at His side! (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Revelation 1, verse 7 says…

“7 Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen” (Revelation 1:7 NIV).

The first time the Son of God came to earth, He came as a lowly infant that was easily ignored. Remember how there wasn’t room for His parents in the Inn? Nobody could make room in Bethlehem. There were too many other people and to many other things to take care of to scoot over for one young couple and their newborn Son. And this is the case with so many today. There’s just too much going on to make room for Jesus.

But when Jesus appears on the Last Day, He will not come in low humility. No one will be able to ignore Him this time. The Bible says that EVERY KNEE will bow to Jesus on that day, whether they love Him as their Savior, or not (Romans 14:11).

The first time Jesus appeared, He came to see what is was like to be human. To live with all the pressures and troubles of human existence, and to do it without sinning. He came be the GOOD SON of God that we never were. To live right. Righteously. And to die in our place, to give us His righteousness. When Jesus came the first time, He came to save sinners.

But when Jesus comes the second time, He won’t be coming to humbly offer sinners salvation. He’ll be coming with supreme authority to judge sinners. To hand out what is deserved to every human being who ever lived. Did you catch that totally frightening way Jesus put it in Revelation?

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV).

He comes to “reward” the righteous for their righteousness and to “reward” the wicked for their wickedness.

Do you see why it makes sense to think about the second coming of Christ as we prepare to celebrate his first coming? If our hearts are ready to worship the humble Christ Child in the manger, than we’re ready to meet the glorious Christ at the End.

Now, we need to spend a little more time on verse 12. Jesus says that when He returns He’ll reward each person ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE. Some people get the wrong idea here. They think Jesus is saying that it’s all about what you DO and DON’T do. Like the number of kindnesses that we do in life will then be used as currency to buy us admission into heaven. It’s human instinct to think this way, but it’s completely wrong.

If heaven was gained by pilling up “kindnesses” than we wouldn’t need Jesus. That’s what’s happened in the Catholic Church. For a long time the Catholic Church has taught that sinners need to live a just life in order to earn salvation. In 2000, the Pope declared that because salvation is earned by doing good deeds, even non-Christians can earn heaven if they’re good people.

I’m not making this up. From the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“Tempering a controversial Vatican declaration on salvation, Pope John Paul II said Wednesday that all who live a just life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.
The pontiff, addressing 30,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, strongly reasserted the liberal interpretation of the Bible’s teaching on salvation that emerged form the Second Vatican Council” (St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 9, 2000).

The APOSTLE Paul says opposite in the Bible. Romans 3, verse 20…

“20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20 NIV).

Galatians 5, verse 4…

“4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NIV).

When Jesus says that He’s going to judge people on the basis of what they’ve done, He’s not saying that good deeds are like money with which you can BUY your way into heaven. Our words and actions are the outward evidence on an inward faith. They’re not like the currency in your wallet, they’re more like the driver’s license. They’re the thing that IDENTIFIES Christ’s followers.

Turn to Romans 4, verse 3. Here Paul explains how Jesus can look at Christians on Judgment Day and declare, “not guilty”.

“3What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5 NIV).

Through simple trust in Jesus, His righteousness is counted as ours. So the way to be ready to meet Jesus the Judge, is to know Jesus the Savior.

This Advent we want to totally chuck any trust in ourselves. Totally DESPAIR of being good enough for God, and simply trust the promise that Jesus makes to us…

“24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He created all in the beginning and He’ll be there to judge all in the end. But in the middle, He came to save us.

May God strengthen our faith in that Baby Jesus this Advent, so we’ll truly be ready to meet the Man at the next Advent. Ready with a faith that rests in Him alone.

Let’s Pray…

Prayer: Jesus, open our eyes to see our sins. Give us the courage and honesty to see them without excuse or explanation. Put us on our knees before You in thankful worship now, so that when we bow before you then we will do so with tears of joy. As far as time is concerned, You are the Alpha and the Omega. As far as our salvation is concerned You are the Beginning and the End. All glory be to You.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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