If we are Christ-followers, we live our earthly lives contending with a world system that violently opposes the authority of the King and Kingdom we serve (Jn. 15:19).
In this world, authority is synonymous with ‘’greatness’’. Nations demonstrate their greatness through displays of military and economic might. Leaders boast openly about their nation’s greatness as if this so-called ‘’greatness” is a birthright. This eagerly sought-after greatness is defined as possessing importance, power, might, distinction….and authority.
Such a message is easily embraced by a world desperately seeking a sense of identity. Consistently being told that your future depends on how great you are, or your nation is, feeds into this ancient human need for identity, and too often promotes an unhealthy form of nationalism that can easily be manipulated to suit specific political agendas.
This race for greatness has been pursued throughout human history and continues to be repeated through all levels of human society. But all worldly authority is limited and subject to a time frame within God’s purposes (Jn. 19:10-11). All human kingdoms are built, maintained and then eventually surpassed by others who are moving up the ‘’greatness’’ hierarchy. Very sadly, many church leaders and their congregations have bought into this greatness lie, combining the politics of nationalism with their particular brand of Christianity.
But it is not so in the Kingdom of God.
When Christ’s closest followers demonstrated this same worldview of authority, He would have none of it. Jesus went straight to the heart of their desire to be the greatest, telling them what they really wanted was rulership over others, just as they witnessed daily among the gentile Roman occupiers of their nation (Luke 22:24-30). At the time the Roman Empire was the greatest kingdom in the world and its power and reach is legendary to this day. Just to hold Roman citizenship entitled you to special privileges not accessible to non-citizens. Where is this great empire now?
We are not of the world – we belong to the Lamb and His Kingdom, not at some time in the eternity to come, but here, now, today (Jn. 15:19; Gal. 6:14). And in His Kingdom greatness belongs to the ones who the world would judge as least entitled to it, and authority to the one who does not desire it (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
Many Christians constantly busy themselves focusing on spiritual warfare with Satan and his cohorts. Far fewer recognise the more subtle and dangerous trap set by the world system Satan has built around us (1 Jn. 5:19). Satan is a defeated enemy whose future is sealed (Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:2 & 10). He is to be resisted certainly, but the world system he built must be overcome. Jesus and the New Testament writers had a lot more to say about overcoming the world than about Satan (Matt. 8:4-10; Jn.16:33; 1 Jn. 4:4; 1 Jn. 5:4-5). Being born of God we have been given Christ’s authority to overcome the world just as He overcame the world. As He is, so are we in this world.
When the Jewish leaders questioned the source of Jesus’ anointed teaching He spoke to them of two kinds of authority – one originating with God and another arising from the human heart that always ultimately seeks its own glory.
But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (Jn. 7:14-18)
The everyday Jewish people too, used to this self-glorifying type of authority among their religious leaders, were openly astounded when Jesus demonstrated true, God-ordained authority because it was so distinctly new and different:
They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Mark 1:22).
Wait! What? Not as the scribes? But the scribes were one of the most highly respected groups in Jewish life and culture. They were elite ‘’teachers of the law”, legal experts who held exclusive authority to interpret the Old Testament law to the ordinary people. Their very word was as law. Yet the Jewish people recognised a contradictory authority in Jesus, one that stunned and amazed them:
They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” (Mark 1:27)
The religious leaders, who considered themselves God’s authority on earth, were confounded by this unfamiliar authority evident with Jesus, and implied it originated from evil sources rather than from God (Mt. 21:23,24; Jn. 8:48). They were deeply offended by this country bumpkin Galilean who exercised an obvious power over disease, nature and demons they themselves did not hold, and which He claimed came from God.
The unworldly authority Jesus walked in was obvious even to a non-Jewish Roman Centurion who sent to Jesus pleading for Him to heal his beloved servant.
Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:2-10)
Here was a man who understood well how authority works in this world. Centurions could be in command of anywhere between 200 and 1000 soldiers, were regarded as important members of the ruling Roman society and often wielded great social and military power. Yet he recognised in Jesus a different type of authority, not based on human hierarchy, military might, education or national identity. And he understood the authority Jesus demonstrated was from a very different and even greater source than his own.
The book of Revelation reveals Christ as the Lamb who has been granted all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). Only He is worthy of such authority and only He will exercise that authority in truth and righteousness.
Revelation progressively reveals the Lamb to us as:
Judge (6:1; 6:16; 14:10; 19:11);
Israel’s Anointed One standing on Mt. Zion (14:1, compare Psalm 2);
Warrior King/Commander of heavenly armies (17:14, 19:11-14);
Ruler of the nations (17:14; 19:11-15);
Husband/Bridegroom to His Bride (19:7-9; 21:9; 21:22-23).
This world has yet to witness authority of the level that belongs to the risen Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was dead and now lives (Rev 1:18). It is this Jesus Christ upon whom God has bestowed the name above all names, to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess His Lordship (Phl. 2:9-11).
And this Lamb…. well, He has a wife, a bride to whom He has pledged to bestow His Kingdom and share His throne (Luke 22:29, Rev. 3:21)
She is not His wife because she is great on the earth. She is not His wife because she has earned the title through a moral lifestyle and regular church attendance. (God sent His Son to find the sinners, not the righteous (Mat. 9:13). ) And she is not His wife by virtue of national ‘christian’ heritage. God is not subject to the world’s political or national boundaries and chooses people from all nations, tribes and languages, and dare I add political views, to inhabit His Kingdom (Rev. 5:9).
The wife who rides with the Lamb is there simply because of faithfulness – to Him (Rev. 17:14). This wife of the Lamb is said to have ‘dove’s eyes’ – eyes that are single focused and do not wander (Song 1:15; 4:1). For the Lamb, His bride’s deepest beauty lies in her unwavering faithfulness, even in the face of opposition, persecution, hardship and tribulation.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was alluding to when He said “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith/faithfulness on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The Greek word commonly translated in English as faith here is the same word as faithfulness and I personally believe, given the context, faithfulness is a reasonable translation.
True God-given authority does not need human approval, and will never be understood by the world. But it is recognizable to all creation. The Lamb laid down His inherent authority in order to become a servant of sin-ridden humanity. The Lion of Judah laid down His majesty to be humiliated and slain as a sacrificial lamb. Therein lies true greatness. Therein dwells ‘’greatness’ so unfamiliar to this world that when it walked among us very few recognised it.
I wrote this series focusing on Christ the Lamb as He is revealed in Revelation because there is an intense spiritual battle taking place for the allegiance of those called to be Christ’s Bride. The danger of deception is real. The temptation to align ourselves with those who promise us some kind of “greatness”, whether that arena be at national, church or any personal level, feeds directly into our ancient desire to be god-like (Gen. 3:5) devoid of the Cross of Christ. Many of us need to choose between kingdoms – the kingdoms of mankind, which are destined to crumble, or the Kingdom of God.
If and when we find ourselves worshiping before the Throne of God, it is the Song of the Lamb we will be singing, not our national anthem, or even our favourite worship song. He is the only One worthy of our allegiance and our dove-eyed focus. If we do not make the Lamb and His Kingdom our single pursuit, we are in danger of deception, finding ourselves aligned with the spirit of anti-christ, whether that spirit be found in a political system, a false gospel or a charismatic personality.
Regardless of how we interpret Revelation’s apocalyptic events, one thing is certain. The next time we see the risen Lamb each of us, whether slave, soldier, politican, royalty or otherwise, will know exactly Who He is. And we will either sink to our knees proclaiming His majesty, or we will fall on our faces begging the earth to hide us from His wrath (Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 6:16).
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘’Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Rev. 5:12-13
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Rev. 6:15-17
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2020 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.