Christ Almighty

November 21, 2021/Christ the King Sunday

Revelation 1:4b-8

We have a quirky relationship with royalty, here in the United States.  After all, we fought a bitter war to escape the rule of King George, all those years ago.  Royalty chafes our independent sensibilities.  The idea of a king, a ruler, an almighty, doesn’t jibe with our American way of life.  So perhaps we struggle a bit with the description in our text this morning of Jesus Christ as “the ruler of the kings of earth.”  Perhaps the words bind a little tightly, suggest to us an overwhelming authority that makes us uncomfortable.

Check out the stained-glass windows in ancient European cathedrals or the iconography in Greenville’s own St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and you’ll find depictions of Christ in which the halo has been transformed into a crown.  Christ Pantocrator, in the Greek – Christ Almighty – “gazes down beneficently and powerfully upon the gathered worshipers.”[1]  We prefer Jesus the gentle shepherd or Christ the resurrected one, but the early church “needed a Christ who manifested his power.”[2]

Our text suggests that perhaps we need Christ Almighty, too.  The writer speaks of a God “who is and who was and who is to come.”  This God, first of all, is – the present rule of God emphasized before any discussion of God’s powerful acts in the past.  “God’s rule is made visible on earth now through those who hear and obey,” who are made a kingdom by Christ.  “God reigns now, even though the world’s circumstances may suggest otherwise.”[3]

“The image of Christ in the book of Revelation is not of a God waiting till the end of the world to enter the flow of history. … His power is exercised in the here and now, in love, in the fact that he has freed us from our sins by his blood, in that he made us to be a priestly kingdom.”[4]  Paul wrote, “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).  That bold statement is true “because Jesus really is the pantocrator who has set the “exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe” (Ephesians 1:19 KJV).

“What difference does the present and coming reign of Christ make [for us]?  Things are not what they seem.”[5]  Maybe you’re thinking about the times you prayed fervently for something or someone, or the times you really needed a helping hand, or the times you just wanted a sign that God was out there, somewhere, and things would be all right.  And then things happened, and you wrote it off as a coincidence or a bit of serendipity.  God’s power is subtle[6], and so sometimes we miss it.

Christ Pantocrator is Christ Almighty, as we usually translate it.  But “in the New Testament, kratos can also mean ‘hold’ or ‘grasp.’  In that sense, Christ Pantocrator could be ‘Christ who holds all things.’  That includes us.”[7]  The children have a song that captures the idea perfectly.

He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.

I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of a God who holds me.  This world is a violent, messy, weary place, but it’s the place in which I have to live.  The Lord God who is and who was and who is to come has already done for us all that was needed for us to live in this world.  “Christ’s love for us is always present, but his work on our behalf is in the past, though its effects continue perpetually.”

And so we are called “to live both as members of ‘a kingdom,’ under his authority, and as ‘priests serving his God and Father.’”[8]  “Like Jesus, who is the ‘faithful witness,’ the church is called to witness to the lordship of God by its opposition to all earthly powers that seek to usurp the place of God.”[9]  Consider the language of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, one of our church’s confessional documents.  Written in 1934 as Adolf Hitler consolidated his power in all aspects of society, the confession “proclaims the church’s freedom in Jesus Christ who is Lord of every area of life.”[10]  We might consider the example of Nazi Germany to be extreme and relax in the certainty that the church stands clear of such overt domination in the 21st century.  But does it?

Jared Longshore, who received his Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote about four practical threats to the church today:

  • We face a threat of not meeting regularly enough as a church.
  • We face a threat of self-centeredness.
  • We face a threat of being thin on the Bible.
  • We face a threat of fearing man and not fearing God.[11]

Jared and I might disagree on certain points of theology, but I can’t disagree with his perspective on the things we as Christians give the status of “kingdom.”  Our text from Revelation challenges us to be a faithful witness to Christ’s lordship.  “When the curtain is drawn back and the powers of this world are shown to be pretenders, will we be among the ‘faithful witnesses’ who, by our worship of the Lamb and resistance to pretenders, have been making this reality visible and hastening the arrival of the ‘new Jerusalem’ (Rev. 21:2)?”

[1] Brad Roth, “Christ who holds all things,” Christian Century, November 23, 2018

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jane E. Fahey, Feasting on the Word B/4, 328

[4] Roth

[5] Fahey, 328

[6] Roth

[7] Ibid.

[8] Peter M. Wallace, Feasting on the Word B/4, 329-331

[9] Fahey, 330

[10] Theological Declaration of Barmen, Book of Confessions, 280

[11] Jared Longshore, “4 Practical Threats to the Church Today,” Founders Ministries, May 2017

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