Christ is at the Center

January 15, 2023

Book: Revelation

Scripture: Revelations 11

All right, let’s jump into the Book of Revelation. And I think this is a great moment to kind of remind us of what our thought on studying out Revelation, because Revelation is one of those books that you can get really into the weeds in. But we’ve decided that we are pulling out the principles. We are, we are looking for guiding principles for troubled times. And I think this is, this is a good thing to remember in a chapter like chapter eleven that we’re going to see today.

Because chapter eleven is one of those chapters that has a lot going on and you could, you could kind of get into the weeds with it. But we’re going to try to get our compass and we’re going to try to really work towards what it is. And really the theme today is that Christ is the center. And I want to appreciate what Roy talked about because that is the focus, that Jesus is the center of all that we do and that is the focus of the Book of Revelation. And I want to remind us as a congregation of kind of the fact that Revelation was a letter.

And sometimes we are spoiled by the fact that we have the written word and we can go back and we can read and reread and discover. And I think sometimes we can get into the minutiae of the Scriptures and miss the point of the Scriptures. And so sometimes I like to just listen to the word of God because it’s different. When I study the Bible and I read, I’m a, I’m a slow, deliberate reader. I am the person that looks at every reference in the margin of the Bible and I will go and follow every rabbit hole that there is. So if I say I’m going to read a chapter of the Bible, it takes me three weeks to read a chapter of the Bible.

But to be honest, that is not the way that Christians, in the time that the Bible was written, studied the Bible. They got a letter that was read to them. And Revelation is one of those letters that was written in a way to remind the hearers of certain things and to make reference to certain things. So as we study through it, sometimes we can say, well, what does that word mean? Think about what does that word picture mean?

What would that have brought to mind of the people who are listening to this for the first time? Because I think this is one of those books and one of those chapters where you can kind of get lost in the minutiae of it all.

Let’s open up in Revelation, chapter eleven, verses one through four. Says, I was given a reed like a measuring rod, and I was told, go and measure the temple of God and the altar with its worshippers, but exclude the outer court. Do not measure it because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months, and I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1260 days clothed in sackcloth. They are the two olive trees and the two lampstands, and they stand before the Lord of the earth.

We’ve seen kind of maybe you think, well, what does that mean? What is being communicated in this moment? I think God is calling the reader to dig a little deeper back to the time of the prophets. He’s reminding them of things that weren’t of that time, but were definitely relevant. And I think that’s one of the things that we have to see. God was reminding them of a time, and that time was specifically the second temple period.

We’ve seen images that parallel the visions that were given to Isaiah, to Ezekiel, to Daniel, the Jeremiah, and others. But now in this chapter, we’re transported to the time of the second temple in the time of Zechariah.

And that just it confirms that last week what Marshall was talking about is that Revelation ten points us to Ezekiel and to Jeremiah, who they witnessed the fall of Judah and the exiled Babylon, and Zechariah prophesied after the fall of Babylon. So the measuring rod we see in Zechariah two, chapter one, the sack cloth in Zechariah three, verses three and four, and the two olive trees and the lampstands we see in Zechariah four. And they all point us back to the prophet Zechariah. Chapter four, verses two through 14. These are excerpts. It says, I see a solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it with seven channels to the lamps.

Also, there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left. This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabel. Not by my might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. The hands of Zerubabel have laid the foundation of this temple. His hands will also complete it.

Then I asked the angel, what are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand? So he said, These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord and all the earth.

We see this. The remnant was returned to rebuild the temple. The foundation was laid, but the work was still there, and it needed to be done right? And I think that’s something we have to understand. The foundation of the church has been laid.

Jesus laid the foundation for the Church. His sacrifice laid the foundation for the Church. But it’s our job to build this temple. That’s the message for us. We have to be brave enough to stand up to the opposition, because that’s the problem the prophets had to encourage the people because there was a lot of opposition to building the temple.

Now, Church, is there any opposition to building Godly lives today? Does the media, does the world around us oppose Godliness? I don’t think it’s ever been easy to be a true Christian. I just want to lay that out because sometimes we think all back in the day, I don’t think there’s ever been a period when it’s actually been easy to be a Christian. But I do believe there have been periods in the world where it has been more accepted to be a Christian. Not so much today.

We used to have to make a difference between somebody who called themselves a Christian and somebody who actually lived as a Christian.

That difference still exists, but now there’s more resistance even being called a Christian. And I think sometimes we get lost in the situation because I think sometimes we fear too much what other people think. I don’t know about you, but sometimes we can fall in the trap of caring a little too much about what the people around us think. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have people that filter you.

I personally need filter. My kids remind me all the time that I need a filter. But at the same time, I don’t think you need to fear what people actually think about what you believe.

I think sometimes we want to play nice. We want Christians to be liked. One of the things I really like about Jesus, he really didn’t care about being liked. People liked him. He was great to be around until they didn’t like him, because he was also very upfront about things.

But I think sometimes we want to be nice neighbors and we want to be liked, and we don’t want to be those people. But really what we see in the Bible is that we don’t need to worry that much about it.

We need to let God handle his part. Yvette, just so you know, I lost control, so you might have to just try to follow me around. So we have to let God do his part, and we need to keep building the temple because I think sometimes in a good hearted fashion, we can try to defend God. Have you ever been on Facebook and just, oh, I got to have to defend God as if he needed you? You know, I just really wish Bill would step in and defend me.

God’s got this. God’s got this. We have to just do our part. We are not God’s defense team. What we are his temple builders. And I think sometimes we misunderstand what our job is. And sometimes we even have to defy the orders of the highest kings and trust God and let Him do his thing. In Revelation, chapter eleven, verses five and six, it says, if anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.

They have power to shut up the heavens so it will not rain during the time and that they are prophesying and they have power to turn on the waters or turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. Who are these prophets? We keep finding clues that are pointing back, they’re pointing the faithful back to the prophets of old. You know, verses one through four, they’re talking about Zechariah. And then we see in these two verses reference to the, the ministries of Elijah and Moses.

Men were were sent from, from King Ezekiah to harm Elijah, and, and twice he spoke, and fire came from the heaven and burned them up. And we see that in First Kings, chapter one, verses ten through eleven.

And it says, Answer me, Lord, answer me. So these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again. And then the fire, the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil. It also licked up the water in the trench. James 517 says, Elijah was a human being even as we are.

He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. We see God using a famine and a great test for three and a half years on both the wicked and the faithful. See, I think sometimes we forget that a lot of times when there are challenges, it’s not just for the bad people.

I think sometimes we have to check our prayers because how many of us fall into the God, please let it go well for me? That is normally my prayer. That is not a very biblical prayer, or at least it’s not a very biblical result of prayer, because I don’t know about you. How often do we learn through the easy times? I love the easy times. I learn absolutely nothing.

I learn that life is good and I enjoy that, but I don’t learn from it. How much do we learn in the hard times? How much do we learn to seek God, to trust Him, when there’s no one else to trust? And so these are the things Jesus is revealing to John, and he’s reminding us of the need to do these things.

When a test comes and we’re in it, God is still using it. When you go through hardship, God is using it.

God is using very difficult times in life, and we have to understand that. We have to know that because a lot of times I resist lessons and I think that’s in character because how many of us like to go to school?

There’s a few masochists among us, but most of us would try to fake sick.

I would try to fake sick in the 80s when there was nothing decent on daytime television. That was desperation.

But in the times of Moses, the Nile was turned to blood and the plagues were on Egypt. So who are these two prophets? Who are the two lampstands standing before the Lord if it’s not Moses and Elijah? And so if so, we’ve seen these two witnesses standing beside the Lord before. And we see that in Matthew 17, verses two and three, right? There in front of him his appearance was changed. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became as white as the light. Just then, Moses and Elijah appeared in front of them. Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus.

So in the time of the grand transfiguration, we see Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, and they’re talking to Jesus. So do we think that God can’t handle the kings of this earth? Has he not been in control the entire time? And we see it through all of history.

Can God handle the war in the Ukraine, the social problems we have in our country? Bill Gates, Donald Trump, you name the person you want, george Soros, whoever you want. Can God not control and handle that person? Because I don’t know about you, with so many times we see something in the news and we think the world is spiraling out of control. The message of John is, the Lord is still at the center of the universe.

Jesus is still on the throne. I don’t know how sometimes we have to rethink. And that’s what when you’re hearing Revelation eleven, it’s the reminder these things have happened before and God was in control. And there were problems in the world before, but God was in control. Remember, the Book of Revelation was written to a church that was suffering through persecution, through difficulties, and they were starting to doubt and drift.

We should ask us, have we doubted or drifted because of the things in our world? And if we have, then Revelation Eleven is a great message for us. So even though the language might seem confusing, are we supposed to start measuring things? And do I need to apply a specific date or a specific measurement to a certain thing?

Let’s look at the big picture. God is urging us to believe the prophets. They’re the witness to Jesus, who’s the center of everything. Look at Revelation Eleven, verses seven through ten.

Now, when they had finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will attack them and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days, some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts. Because these two prophets have tormented those who live on the earth.

That is a dark section of scripture, isn’t it? But understand, the prophets of the Lord were largely rejected always. They were killed. And Jerusalem was the city where a lot of that happened. Many of the prophets were killed in Jerusalem, and yet it was the city that the Jews would come to, to honor the prophets and decorate their tombs with gifts. And Sodom, and I think we have a map here. You have Sodom on the east of Jerusalem and Egypt on the west of Jerusalem. And again, the holy city is the lampstand in the middle, in between the two witnesses. And this is the very city where our Messiah was escorted out to die on a hill between two Gentiles. The two thieves, their bodies will lie in the public square, the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom, and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. So even we we have the figurative language.

So we we see Sodom and Egypt are witnesses to the Lampstand, but we also see that the two thieves were witnesses of the injustice done to our Lord. Revelation eleven eight says, their body will lay in the public square. And verses eleven through 14, but after three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet. What are we talking about? You know, days before his arrest, Jesus preached in the temple, and he said in Matthew 23, woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build tombs from the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, if we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we wouldn’t have not taken part with them in the shedding of the blood of the prophets. So you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead then, and complete what your ancestors started, you snakes, you brood of vipers.

How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore, I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify. Others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, and so upon you will all the righteous blood that has ever been shed on the earth, from the blood of the righteous able to the blood of Zechariah, son of Barraciah whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly, I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

You see, the message is clear. God holds everyone accountable for the rejection of his word. I mean, how many times have we not done the same thing? Oh, if I were alive in Jesus time, I surely because I’m so much better.

See, I think I think my my default at least. See, I love that my daughter loves all things modern. And so I do all of these personality tests. I’m I’m an enneagram three. So basically, what an Enneagram Three is, is somebody who believes that the greatest thing that has ever walked the face of the earth. And my job is to convince all of you of that. There’s a dark side to that. We won’t get into that today, but just so you know.

But I may have an elevated opinion of myself, so I need people around me that bring me down a notch or two and that’s what happened here. Do you think you would not have done the same thing? Dummy?

I think sometimes we think, oh, especially those of us have been around for a while. Some of us can’t remember the last time we did the thing that terrified us to confess before we got baptized. And because we can’t remember that thing, we don’t think we have any other thing.

We have to have a sober judgment of ourselves. Not because we’re awful, but because if we don’t have a sober judgment of ourselves, we don’t understand grace. We don’t understand how good God is. We don’t understand that he’s in control. Because we start spiraling out and say, how can God love someone like me?

No, we have to think, God loves me in spite of who I am.

Revelation 11:11 through 14. It’s already up there, but it says but after three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, come up here. And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a 10th of the city collapsed.

7000 people were killed in the earthquake and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to God of heaven. The second woe has passed and the third woe is coming soon.

I don’t know if you’re listening to that, what’s being referenced here. Remember, this is the church. This is about 100 years after Jesus. There’s a clear reference to the resurrection.

Life returns and even the bodies of many holy people return to life. I don’t know about you, but I mean, I can wrap my head around God will resurrect us on the last day. I can’t wrap my head around the guy I saw buried is walking around town. Just think about it for a second. That is a freaky thing.

But there’s clear reference. What else? The earthquake in the city. The temple curtain was torn, people were terrified. We celebrate the resurrection. It’s amazing, but could you imagine being there?

Could you imagine being in Jerusalem when the city went dark and an earthquake hit and the temple that was the center of all things God was torn and then all of the holy people were seen walking around town. I can get behind that in my 2000 year removed mind. But that had to be a terrifying moment.

You see, even our hope sometimes is placed in terrifying moments. And I don’t know what you’re going through today, it may terrify you.

We’ve started this year with terrible news, people who are really ill, people that are not doing well, but that’s not unlike any other year or month or week. Terrible news is around us all the time, but we have to decide, are we going to be terrified by it, or are we going to put our hope in Jesus?

But what happens if we ignore the message? Because I think there is a moment where we can just kind of ignore it. Judgment comes.

Luke 16, verse 27, he says he answered, then I beg you, Father send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them so that they will not also come to a place, this place of torment. Abraham replied, they have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them. No, Father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.

They said to him, if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced. Even if somebody rises from the dead. I think sometimes we think, oh, if someone could just see. I think sometimes we don’t think that the Bible is enough. We need the word of God and something.

But the Bible is clear. We have the prophets. We have the word of God. Revelation eleven, verses 15 through 19 says, the 7th angel sounded as trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven which said, the kingdom of the world has has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and I will and he will reign forever and ever. And the 24 elders who were seated on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, we give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and the people who revere your name, both great and small, and for destroying those who will destroy the earth. Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the Ark of His Covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peels of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

The first six trumpets announced the beginning of trials and judgments. The 7th trumpet announces the end of all earthly trials. It announces the beginning of God’s reign and the final judgment. I think when it’s over, when we’ve been tested to the thing, God brings all things into judgment. All of the testing, all of the trial has been terminated.

I think sometimes we fear death, we fear the end. I know. As you know, last week I turned 51, and so I’m now on the downhill part of life.

I’m hoping it’s like my childhood. You struggle to get up the hill, but then you coast down. But I was talking to Luis Geurette today, and he was walking funny a couple of weeks, and now he’s walking funny for a different reason this week. I’m like, okay, this getting older thing does not seem like it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

We resist it, don’t we? But at the end, all the trials are over.

That’s the moment where we’re anticipating. My entire life, I fight against a couple of years. I got to get healthy because I’m going to die.

So I’m prolonging my suffering because I want to be with Christ. It’s a catch 22. I want to be healthy so that I can enjoy my time here with my people. But it’d actually be better to die and be out of here because this place is jacked up.

Sorry. You guys are all good. For the righteous that’s a day of vindication. That’s the day of, hey, we got it right. It’s done.

But it’s also a time of terror for anyone who is imposterous. Anyone who Jesus says, people come to me and say, lord, Lord, and he’ll go away from me. I don’t know you. Judgment is a very scary time if Jesus is not truly the center of your life. And so that’s my challenge to the church, is, one, we need to make sure that Jesus is the center of our life, that he is the apple of our eye. But two, as a church, our focus needs to be building the temple.

We’ve had a few years of a lot of distraction. Can I get an amen? I mean, the media circus and I appreciate Marshall using the circus as an ex clown. I appreciate any time you can bring the circus into a sermon. I appreciate that.

But we have been very focused on the sideshow, very focused on the extemporaneous. Falling into Satan’s lure to not focus on the important things.

That’s not new to us. It happened all the time. If you look in the Old Testament, time after time after time, the reminder is, hey, you’re building your own houses while the temple is in shambles. Hey, focus over here, because this is not the real problem. We need to get back to being builders of God’s temple.

We need to get back focused on helping people repair their lives that are falling. We need to get back to being hope for hurting people. I think sometimes we’re too scared. I can’t talk about Jesus because there’s a negative connotation to anything church, anything God, anything Jesus. So let me help them and let me call it mentorship or counseling or this or that. And we want to label God things that he’s not.

And I think we just need to unapologetically say, we are building God’s kingdom. We are unapologetically fixing broken things.

It said that Jesus was the center of the temple. And if we remember what was in the holy of holies right? The Ark of the Covenant.

There was a gold jar of manna, there was Erin’s staff that had budded. And then the stone tablets of the Covenant were in the Ark of the Covenant.

The manna was God’s word. Jesus is the bread of life. Manna is daily walking with God. Deuteronomy 8:3. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known. Mana actually means what is this? I don’t know, but we’re eating it anyways to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. And the Bible says Jesus is the bread of life, so he is that mana. And we have to learn that daily our focus has to go to Him.

We can’t make it day to day if we can’t focus on Jesus. I know that personally because the day I don’t read my Bible, I don’t get my head right. I am not a good person to be around.

Aaron’s Budding staff, a number 17, four through five and again ten. It says place them in the tent of meeting in front of the Ark of the Covenant Law, where I meet you, the staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites. I love this.

God’s people were just complaining. Now God’s people don’t complain anymore, do they? We have dealt with that sin in the camp, right?

The Lord said to Moses, put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Ark of the Covenant of the Law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to the grumbling against me so that they will not die.

Do we have any complainers around us? Do we fight a little too hard for justice? We have the Karens and the Darrens. I think that is I don’t know. Karen Wilson is the exception to that. She’s awesome. But social media, there’s kind of a I can complain my way into whatever.

Jesus is the high priest and he chose Aaron to stop the grumbling. You know what is awesome is as a minister, I can say, you know what? This is the word of God. And the problem is not with my thoughts, but with what Jesus says. Jesus is the highest priest.

He is the authority in our lives. And that stops the grumbling. Because I don’t want to do it, but God says I should do it. Okay, I’m going to do it. And then the stone tablets, God’s word. Exodus 31, verse 18. When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him two tablets of the Covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribe by the finger of God.

John describes the image of the heavenly temple, and Jesus is the fulfillment of all three. John 6:51, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world.

Aaron’s staff. Matthew, 17:15. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, this is my Son, whom I love. With him, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.

Yeah. And the tablets. John 1:14. The word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the center of everything. He’s the centerpiece of the temple. He’s the centerpiece of this church. He needs to be the center of our hearts. He needs to be the apple of our eye. He needs to be our main focus.

John 12:47 through 48 says, I don’t judge a person who hears my words but does not obey them. I did not come to judge the world. I came to save the world. But there is a judge for anyone who does not accept me and my words. These words I have spoken will judge them on the last day.

Jesus himself didn’t think he needed to defend God. He said, the word I’ve spoken is all I need. Church. Let’s make 2023 a year that Jesus the center.

First we need to ask ourselves, is Jesus really at the center of our lives? And what distracts him from being that? How easily am I moved off center?

Are you easily distracted by the other things going on? Even the good things going on? And third, are we doing our part to build up Christ’s earthly temple of the church? I think sometimes we think of church as a place, and we think our participation is passive and we are all builders. We’re all active in this.

And I think that’s one of the things that we have to take on 2023. I am going to be an active participant in the building of the church. Because I I get it. I know none of you have ever complained about the church.

I have.

I’m like I don’t like the preacher of this church. I am the preacher of this church.

I don’t even have to complain about you guys. I don’t like myself most days.

But let’s daily remember, are we going to build God’s church for his glory? That’s our purpose. Church is great to be together, love. Let’s make 2023 an incredible year, but let’s make Jesus the center of that church. God bless.

Orlando Church