THE LAST CHRISTMAS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 21, 2014
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just …
Once more they cried out,“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” …
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great” …
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,“Hallelujah! For theLord our God the Almighty reigns.
— Revelation 19:1,3,4-5,6, ESV
As surely as there was the first Noël, there will be a last Christmas. Every one of us will one day celebrate our last celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The thought sounds depressing at first, for few of us are really ready to spend our last dollars on presents and our last time with the ones we love. But for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, our last Christmas will be our best Christmas, for its presence will commence a countdown of days until we see God’s greatest gift, Himself, face to face.
If this was going to be your last Christmas, could you honestly say you are ready to meet Christ, face to face? What in the other world will He say to you? What in the words of this world will you say to Him? The best word I can find to say when our last Christmas has passed and we go to meet the Lord is, “Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah” is a sacred Hebrew word that has been transliterated from Hebrew to Greek to English. It is a compound word formed from the words “praise” and the personal name for “God” — “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” It is translated with the phrase “Praise the Lord” when it appears in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament it is simply transliterated “Hallelujah.” Oddly enough, the word only appears four times in the New Testament, all inthe book of Revelation, all in this passage in chapter 19, and all to be spoken after the last Christmas, and our last day on earth, has passed.
“Hallelujah” is a word that inspired the Apostle John as he neared the end of his God-breathed writings in Revelation. It is a word that inspired the great composer George Frederick Handel and dominates the final movement of his magnum opus, Messiah, originally written for an Easter service but now a staple of Christmas concerts everywhere. It is a word true Christians can say in spirit and truth, at Christmas time or any time. It is a word we can say today, “Hallelujah,” and with this four-fold rendering of the word in Revelation, I want to give you four reasons to shout it out.
Hallelujah for God’s Salvation
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” God saves His people for His own glory by His own power. Hallelujah!
In atheism, salvation does not exist. There is hardly any such thing as sin; therefore, there is no need to be saved from anything, except perhaps something that puts an obstacle inthe way of your personal pleasure and prosperity. Usually the biggest obstacle is religion, which is why atheists are on the attack against Christianity.
Religion should be scrutinized, all religions, to see how each defines and provides salvation. In virtually every case study of every other religion except for Christianity, salvation can be achieved by self-help, determinative action, or some other means by which mere mortals can satisfy the requirements of the gods. Salvation exists, and salvation must be earned, according to religion.
Biblical Christianity is remarkably different. Salvation is certainly a necessity, for sin is defined and our universal culpability condemns us and separates us from God. The way of salvation is provided, one unlike anything else you will find in any other religion. Salvation for humans is a gift from God and cannot be bought nor earned by any human effort. Asthe Old Testament prophet said, “Salvation is of the Lord” (ref. Jonah 2:9). Salvation belongs to the Lord, it is His gift to give, and He gives it to His chosen people for His own glory by His own power.
You can say, “Hallelujah!” if you are one of God’s chosen people. If you have received thegifts of repentance toward God (ref. Acts 11:18) and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (ref. Ephesians 2:8), then in essence you have received the gift of salvation (ref. John 1:12-13). It came to you not by the energy of your own mind and body, but by the power of God’s Spirit (ref. John 3:1ff; Titus 3:5). The gift of salvation puts you in a family of people who exists to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Hallelujah for God’s Smoke
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” God makes smoke. Hallelujah!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon smoked cigars, which leads many to believe that God does, too. I plead agnosticism on this point. But I do know that the smoke that evokes the second “Hallelujah” does not come from even the finest tobacco. It comes from the wrath of God falling down upon a world of ignorant and militant unbelief.
The figurative source of this smoke in the revelatory words of John is identified as “thegreat prostitute.” This is not the world champion of the world’s oldest profession, but thegrand sum of the great damage that secular humanism and world religions have placarded on this planet. The lives of people who would not acknowledge sin and the lives of people who try to pay off God to absolve their sin will all go up in smoke. Yet the death of thewicked and the unbelievers is no reason for rejoicing.
We do not praise the Lord when sinners are punished. We praise the Lord when sin is no more. After our last day on earth has passed and we are completely saved in the presence of the Lord, we will cast an eye briefly on the world we leave behind and the smoke will rise. At that time we will realize that we are free from the penalty of sin by the price Jesus paid on the cross. At that time we will realize that we are free from the power of sin by theglorious transformation of our bodies to be like the body of Christ. At that time we will realize that we are free from even the presence of sin, for we will live in a new world where sin will be no more.
Hallelujah for God’s Servants
“Hallelujah! And from the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, small and great.’” God has servants, and we can be included in that number. Hallelujah!
Who can praise the Lord for His salvation? Who can praise the Lord for deliverance fromthe penalty, power, and presence of sin? The people of God, yes. The children of God, oh yes. The members of the blood bought church of God, certainly. Believers, followers, even sheep, okay. But there is another name used here that fits every person who is a benefactor and recipient of the great salvation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ: servant.
Are you a servant of God? This is synonymous with asking, Are you a Christian, or Are you saved? It is true that one cannot be saved by serving; but, it is also true that one is not saved by the Lord who does not serve the Lord. And all who serve the Lord serve Him out of fear.
Fear, here, does not connote terror or scary feelings. Fear here means, as it does so often in scripture, reverence and awe. Only one is worthy of such feelings, and that One is our triune God. This is why Christians worship Him in the ways and means He has subscribed, at least one day a week in public and every day of the week in private. This is why we engage in lifelong learning about Him, for God is worthy and God’s word is worth our investment of time and study. This is why we ordain our lives around Him, for all Christians are ordained servants of Christ, and every one of us has lasting gifts, latent talents, and a lifetime of days to give to God in service of our King.
Some servants of the Lord are small, like you and me. Some are great, like Luther and Calvin and Spurgeon. But through a door in Heaven marked “Servants Only,” all true Christians will slip the surly bonds of earth one day and gather together in Heaven and shout!
Hallelujah for God’s Sovereignty
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” God is sovereign. God is in control, at all times, over all people, places, and things. Hallelujah!
The first lines of Handel’s Messiah were inspired by the prophecy of Isaiah, the last lines bythe revelation of John. It was this verse exactly that we hear echoing in the repeated strains of the dramatic, final chorus. “The Lord our God omnipotent reigns” … “He shall reign forever and ever” … “Hallelujah!”
When it is all said and done, God will sit on His holy throne, and we will sit around His feet to give Him glory and praise. We will realize, at that time if not before, that God has been on His throne forever and ever, from eternity past to present to future. We will be pleased, we will be at peace, and we will praise the Lord. Hallelujah!
When my earthly father died, I was at peace with him. The last conversation we ever had occurred on Christmas Day 1998. It was our last Christmas, our last day, to talk, although neither one of us knew at the time he would pass away a few days later. Courtney Grace was a week old, all the DeVane girls had opened their presents, and we enjoyed a long conversation about the great gifts we received. We didn’t always say it, but the very last words we said to each other on that last Christmas were, “I love you.” Hallelujah!
Today you can be at peace with your Father, your Heavenly Father. Who knows, but Him, if this will be the last Christmas of your life? So much matters, your family, your friends,the things you have planned for your future, it really does. But nothing matters more than having peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This secures a love connection that will last for eternity. Tell God you love Him, believe in Him, worship Him, and serve Him. Tell God the one word that praises Him now and glories Him forever: “Hallelujah!”
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org