The Queen’s Gospel

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” 
John 14:6

We pause again in our journey through Revelation to consider the profound events of this week.

Monday 19th September 2022 was the day Queen Elizabeth II was remembered at a number of events connected to her death. A day of funeral services, of pomp and splendour, of crowds of people, but also a day of grief and mourning. A day of sadness watched by many people throughout the world – some have estimated as many as four billion people in a global audience surpassing national and international boundaries. In the traditional Anglican service, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon, the content of which reverberated all the way to God’s throne. All the forces of darkness, the devil and his minions in the heavenly realms, joined by atheists and unbelievers on earth, would have squirmed uncomfortably as the words of Justin Welby’s sermon rang out, their impact enhanced by 21st Century media technology to instantly reach all those who were tuned into the funeral service. Yes, there would have been language barriers. Yes, many of those watching would have mentally switched off as the unfamiliar format of an Anglican funeral service passed before them. Yes, without a doubt many will have dismissed the message as being irrelevant and not for them. But on Monday the Word of God, the Gospel, reached perhaps the biggest audience this world has ever seen live on one single occasion. 

From the transcript of Welby’s sermon, here are some highlights:

“Jesus – who in our reading does not tell his disciples how to follow, but who to follow – said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Her late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed”.

“In 1953 the Queen began her coronation with silent prayer, just there at the High Altar. Her allegiance to God was given before any person gave allegiance to her. Her service to so many people in this nation, the Commonwealth, and the world, had its foundation in her following Christ – God himself – who said that he “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many””.

“Christian hope means certain expectation of something not yet seen. Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity”.

“We will all face the merciful judgment of God: we can all share the Queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. Service in life, hope in death. All who follow the Queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: ‘We will meet again.’” 

In the moment of her death, the Queen’s life rose high before people everywhere, as a celebration of the Gospel message. A beacon of the Good News of Hope, penetrating deep into the physical, mental and spiritual lives of 21st Century mankind. With the benefit of readings from the Book of Revelation, I believe the events of Monday 19th September 2022 will be seen as a significant event in the End Times scenario. Matthew 24:14 reads, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come”. 

We don’t know when the world will end. But end it will one day, because Jesus said so. Whether or not the End Times will come soon, we pilgrims must be prepared and ready. And if there is anyone reading this today who has not yet embraced Jesus’s message of love and grace, a profound message saving them from a place where they will not want to go, don’t wait. The time for decisions may be shorter than we think.

Dear God. We thank You for the life of Your servant, Elizabeth. May Your Message of Hope touch people’s lives everywhere. And please help us pilgrims to grasp every opportunity to share it with those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Seven Spotless Angels

“The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living beings handed each of the seven angels a gold bowl filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. The Temple was filled with smoke from God’s glory and power. No one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had completed pouring out the seven plagues.”
Revelation‬ ‭15:6-8‬ ‭NLT

As John’s eyes remained fixed on the Temple vision, he noticed seven angels appear. They were holding the seven plagues. He didn’t elaborate on how this would be possible. How do you hold a plague? But the origins of plagues aren’t visible to human eyes without optical or similar assistance. Viruses and bacteria are incredibly small living organisms, so John, perhaps through his spirit, knew the angels had something terrible to unleash on the earth. As we know, a small glass phial would have been sufficient.

The seven angels “were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests”. In other translations, there is a hint that these angels were clothed in a precious stone, but we get the picture that the clothes represent purity and righteousness. Back in Revelation 1:13, John recorded, “And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.” Perhaps the gold sashes were a badge of honour for those belonging to Christ.

In John’s vision, one of the “living beings” enters his field of view. This time he appears to be a messenger, carrying seven bowls, one for each of the angels. These bowls contained God’s anger, ready to be poured out on the earth and all those remaining in it. And the scene finishes with the picture of the seven beautifully dressed angels, carrying golden bowls and glass phials containing the plagues, and the Temple full of smoke from God’s glory and power.

Back in Isaiah 6, the earthly Temple was filled with the smoke of God’s presence. Isaiah wrote, referring to the seraphim flying around in God’s presence, “They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:3-4‬ ‭NLT). This wasn’t your ordinary smoke, pouring out of a chimney or from a burning trash can. This was the glory and power of God, so tangible that it appeared to natural eyes as smoke. But surely the original “Holy Smoke”?

The seven bowls contained “the wrath of God“. An angry amalgam of God’s anger, that had been building up for ages, anger with the stubbornness of mankind, who were still unrepentant until, literally, the last minute of time. And before them was the stubbornness of previous generations, who had died in their sins. There was no more opportunity to repent now. The Gospel had been declared. God’s grace and patience had finally ended. The seven plagues were the final judgement, completing the End Times and allowing new beginnings to be established.

To us pilgrims, it is inexplicable that so many people in our families and communities have stubbornly resisted all contact with God. But we keep trying anyhow, with our appeals, our sharing, our love and grace. We never give up sharing the Good News about God, making opportunity of every moment. But just to let these people face the consequences of their reluctance to embrace the One who created them is not in God’s plan. Not yet anyway. As long as we have breath we will share our faith in the One who deserves all the glory, all the honour, all the praise, all the worship.

Dear Father God. We don’t know when the clock will finally click over into the ultimate End of Time. But we do know the Clockmaker. And we praise and worship You today. Amen.