GETTING THE MESSAGE/Jesus died for sinners

GETTING THE MESSAGE/Jesus died for sinners


In Revelation chapter 4, the apostle John relates to us a view of the throne of God. The vision is symbolic.  The symbols are to be interpreted to understand the truths that they convey to us.  In verse 5 we read, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder.”

Here God discloses his holiness and justice in the dramatic activity of a powerful thunderstorm. The judgments that will come from his throne to earth are connected to the deliverance of the redeemed of God. The plagues in the book of Revelation are patterned similarly to those that fell upon Egypt when the Lord delivered Israel from Pharoah’s hand.

We see throughout the book of Revelation that even though the plagues on earth are severe, people do not repent and turn to God. Disasters and other judgments are reason to lift up our eyes and hearts to God. They are signs that we have need of a Savior. God is angry with the corruption of the world but is merciful to those who look to him.

Christ came into this world to save sinners. His righteous soul encountered all the symptoms of the depravity on earth: demonic power, disease, oppression, conflict, hate, sin abounding, and death. The Lord Jesus went about doing good. He delivered, healed, forgave sins, showed compassion and love, and underwent the judgment of God on the cross to deliver men from their sin.

The truth of God’s holiness and justice, his anger against sin, points us to the need of Christ’s death for sinners. If sin is such an evil that it requires the death of Christ to clear the debt of it, then it is no fable that there is such a place as hell for the impenitent whom God gives over to their depravity and justly punishes.

In Hebrews chapter 12, we are reminded of how great a salvation it is that Christ accomplished for his people. The apostle says to Christians, “You have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.”

This refers to Mt. Sinai, and the voice was declaring the law and righteousness of God along with the severity of the sanctions for sinners who do not attain the glory of God in their works. Those who try to approach God by way of their own righteousness and deeds are approaching a mountain of destruction and death. All fall short of the glory of God.

The apostle gives us the good news: “You have come to Mt. Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant.”

Jesus died for sinners. Now sinners, once under the condemnation of God, can approach the holy God and be welcome and blessed. God, in Christ, reconciled them to himself not imputing their sins to them, but rather taking their sin away in Christ. This is the way we may approach God. In Christ, there is no condemnation. 

In the second half of verse 5 we read, “Before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” Seven is the number of perfection and this vision represents the Holy Spirit of God. It follows the vision of God’s justice because we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and our need of Christ.

Repentance toward God is not a natural thing for sinners. Men don’t change their ways without seeing good reason why. To turn to God there must be sound conviction that it is a bitter thing to offend God. That doesn’t happen apart from the Holy Spirit working in the heart of man. But God was pleased to give us his Spirit to bring us to Christ.

Therefore, we have need to call upon God, beseeching the throne of grace. The one who knows Christ has many benefits. He is forgiven for all his sin. He has come near to God. God has adopted him. He calls God Father. God calls him his son. He has new life, new hope, and a place with God forever. Truly, it is a great salvation, a great Savior, that God gives to us.

The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.

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