- Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching
- Hymns: LSB #605, 656, 937
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made Heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."
As we celebrate Reformation Day today, why do we have this text from Revelation? Why is this angelic message important to us? Within a generation of his death, Luther was considered to be the fulfillment of this sign from Revelation. His boldness in the proclamation of God's Word, especially after his rediscovery of the Gospel, brought about what we now know as the Lutheran Reformation.
The angelic Gospel message begins, "Fear God and give Him glory."
When Luther rediscovered the true Gospel, he notes that true fear and glorification of God was missing. It had been transferred from the Creator to a creature.
The Lutheran Reformation arose from the Middle Ages' overreaction to the Dark Ages. During the five centuries of the Dark Ages, everything in Europe was quite chaotic and war-driven. The only constant was the Church, especially after the rise of the papacy in the sixth century. Without a stable secular government, the Church became the primary power in people's lives. The more of a foothold the religious leaders of the Church got into the lives of people, the greater they made their own power and words. The Church became the great Babylon they were warned against in Revelation.
They established the Magisterium of the Church, which declares that the Church is the only legitimate interpreter of the Scriptures.
This mindset exists still today in the Roman Catholic Church. The fear, love and trust that are to be God's alone was moved to the institutional Church. The Church became an idol. The laity were commanded to worship the Church instead of the Creator.
One of Luther's greatest works, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church
, speaks of the idolatry in terms of Old Testament Israel. Just as God sent Old Testament Israel into exile in Babylon for her sins, He had brought the Churchâ€”New Testament Israelâ€”into the darkness of exile for her sins. Like Ezra and Nehemiah of old, Luther sought to bring the captive Church out of darkness and into the Light of God's holy Word. His reformations sought to bring the proper fear, love and trust in God back into the heart of every Christian. He wanted "every nation and tribe and language and people" to know the power of the eternal Gospel.
Luther boldly proclaimed Law and Gospel so that everyone, from the Pope to the smallest child, would know that "the hour of [Christ's] judgment has come."
The beasts of Revelation sought to mix Church and State together.
This came to fulfillment in the Middle Ages. In the Holy Roman Empire, the coronation of the Emperor could only happen with the blessing of the Pope. In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII declared himself not only the head of the Church but also the head of the Empire. The Pope's ultimate superiority in all facets of life made the idolatry more permanent among the lay people. The eternal Gospel was lost through the idolatry. When Luther appears on the scene, his 95 Theses begin a firestorm of judgment on the Roman Church.
But what does this have to do with the angel flying in Revelation? Because the Church refused to fear God and give Him His due glory, God was sending judgment on them. Judgment came as the Gospel re-emerged from the dark corner where they had hidden it. Luther and other Reformers sought to bring about a revival of faith among the lay people. First of all, getting the Bible and the worship service into the native languages. Throwing off the yoke of Rome's Latin oppression. It wasn't a revolution. It was a reformation.
God sends judgment into the world to reform sinners. That was the angel's message. That was Jesus' message: "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
The eternal Gospel seeks repentance and reforms the penitent. Driven by the eternal Gospel, Luther sought to bring the people out from under God's judgment. To shelter them from the wrath to come.
Those who are sheltered from God's wrath and judgment are those who "worship Him who made Heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."
Not only does the eternal Gospel bring about reformation. It brings about reverence toward the Creator. The Roman Church had brought about reverence for a creature, but Jesus points us back to the Creator. The eternal Gospel shows the Redeemer coming to seek and to save the lost.
Luther brought Jesus to the people. Jesus brings reformation and reverence in His life, death and resurrection. Jesus died to bring forgiveness of sins. Jesus rose from the dead to open the gates of Heaven so that all who believe in Him may enter into His rest. Jesus lives so that we may live. Jesus reforms our lives as He drowns our sinful nature in the waters of Baptism. He reforms our thoughts as we come and kneel before His table to receive the body and blood He sacrificed. He reforms our words by giving us His words.
We bow down in reverence as creatures before our Creator. He brought us into the world. He knit us together in our mother's wombs.
Our natural desire is to run away from God.
We want to make our own way. Christians aren't immune. That was the downfall of the Roman Church in the Middle Ages. Why Martin Luther sought reformation. He bowed down in reverence before God, knowing who was truly worthy of his worship. If you have questions about that, just look at his lectures on Genesis and the Psalms.
Luther bowed down in reverence before his Creator because he knew that everything came from Him in the first place.
We also bow down as unworthy servants.
We reverence God for the gifts He gives to us. The greatest gift is the eternal Gospel. The "power of salvation to all who believe."
Jesus comes to us and delivers us from all our sins. Jesus declared Himself the One to be worshiped as He ascended into Heaven and promises to come back to judge the living and the dead. Before Jesus "every knee will bow ... and every tongue confess" Him as Lord "to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus demands reverence by His very presence. So does His Gospel, which is why we stand when we hear it read in worship.
The eternal Gospel is different from every other message in this world. It is eternal. No beginning or end of God's grace. No beginning or end of God's mercy. No beginning or end of God's love. It may be hidden by human arrogance and pride, but it is never destroyed. The Gospel continues its eternal proclamation: "Fear God and give Him glory." Strive for this in your life today and throughout your everlasting tomorrows. Amen.
- ↑ Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament 2:631
- ↑ Revelation 14:6
- ↑ Revelation 14:8; 17-18
- ↑ Catechism of the Catholic Church 85-87; Dei Verbum 10
- ↑ Revelation 14:6
- ↑ Revelation 14:6
- ↑ Revelation 13
- ↑ Matthew 4:17
- ↑ Revelation 14:7
- ↑ Luke 19:10
- ↑ Job 10:11
- ↑ Genesis 3:8
- ↑ Luther's Works Volumes 1-8, 10-14
- ↑ Luke 17:10
- ↑ Romans 1:16
- ↑ Philippians 2:11