Based on: Revelation 14:6
The license plate from the state of North Carolina makes a very a bold claim. It says, “First in flight.” Of course they are referring to the Wright brothers and the first powered and sustained flight at Kitty Hawk. Do you see some irony in that – a license plate on a car which takes pride in flying?
It may be true that the first powered, human flight took place in North Carolina, but long before Orville and Wilbur Wright were even born, the gospel was flying. God gave the gospel wings through his people, flying it to the hearts and minds of every nation, tribe, language, and people.
God tells us that the gospel has wings, but do you find that hard to believe? If you look on the Internet, you will find that one of the more popular YouTube videos proclaims, “God is dead. All Christians are weak and stupid.” As you watch the news you hear more than you ever have before about people who follow Allah, Buddha, or the gods of Hinduism. As you worship, more people act as if they have something more important to do on Sunday morning. Is the gospel really still flying today?
If it were not for John’s Revelation, we might not be able to answer that question very well. However, the fact remains that God’s Word in Revelation gives us great comfort and great encouragement in a world which desires to see the flight of the gospel grounded forever. Today, the Holy Spirit says to his people, The Gospel Is Flying: Through God’s People and To All People
It wasn’t always possible for a huge piece of metal to fly through the air. In order to fly, the Wright brothers had to overcome challenges. Yet, their challenges to flight are nothing when compared to the challenges facing the flight of the gospel. In three of the four visions leading up to our verses for today, the Apostle John tells us about the enemies of the gospel as they appeared in his vision. The first enemy is Satan pictured as “an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.” With him are two other horrible beasts – one representing Satan’s use of secular government to harm the church and the second, Satan’s use of false teachers to harm the church.
We could say that John had a nightmare in which the church would be attacked by dangerous enemies. John saw the saints dying and the church in a terrible struggle. Perhaps he felt much like the prophet Daniel. It was Daniel who laid in bed for days after hearing similar news about what the Jews would face. But what about the people who would actually live through that nightmare?
Well, we are the ones living John’s nightmare. In our own synod, you can see the results of Satan’s fight against the flight of the gospel. Leaders in our synod have had to say to missionaries, “You are coming home. We cannot support you financially in your mission of telling people about Jesus.” The president of our Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary has had to tell men on call day, “We know you are ready and willing to serve, but you might not receive a call to serve as a pastor.” WELS President Mark Schroeder has released a statement saying, “WELS membership statistics have been released, and once again they show slight declines.”
Yet, Jesus’ promise about the future is this: “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.” As we read this verse there are a few things that we must consider.
First of all, what does John mean when he uses the word “gospel?” John is specifically talking about the good news of salvation – the same good news he proclaims throughout his book. Take this passage for example, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” So God says about us in the gospel, “I have written your name in the book of life. I wrote your name in the book with the ink of my Son’s blood. Believe it. You’re mine.” This is the gospel the angel had.
But who is the angel in the verse? Lutherans have often been reminded of Martin Luther when they read this verse. But the angel in this prophecy is more than just Martin Luther. God uses all his people to give the gospel wings. The gospel flies when a teacher says to her class, “Jesus is risen for you and for me. Look, his body is not in the grave.” The gospel flies when a pastor in New York City baptizes a new believer saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In fact, the gospel flies as every single WELS man, woman, and child witnesses in their lives to the world. There are hundreds of thousands of us scattered all over the world flying with the gospel. So the gospel flies, as Tim studies the Bible with John in New York, in Montana as Matt prays with Sara, in Japan as a missionary explains the gospel to Helen, in Wisconsin as Jane tells her friend that death for a Christian means eternal life. So together, the gospel flies through God’s people.
But let’s get personal for a second. Is the gospel flying through you? Don’t think of anyone else right now. Simply answer the question for yourself, is the gospel flying through you? To find out, take a little quiz: #1) Do you look for opportunities to tell others about the love of Jesus? #2) In your personal budget, what receives the larger share: your offerings or your entertainment? #3) When is the last time you brought someone new with you to church? #4) Have you done everything in your power to share the gospel? Be honest with yourself and realize that if the gospel is not flying to others in your life, you have sinned against God.
Yet, see the trouble for what is it. We remain the redeemed of God. Our eternity remains secure. Our names are written in the book of life. Your sins are forgiven. Even more, God has made sure that angel after angel after angel has flown into your life to make sure you remain in Jesus. Parents, teachers, pastors, and even children are God’s messengers to us, proclaiming “Jesus has forgiven all your sins. Yes, he forgives you for the sins of timidity, fear, and selfishness.” He sends to you angels to personally speak the words of the gospel, just like he did for the shepherds when Jesus was born.
Now that you have the gospel, God makes you an angel so that, through you, the gospel may fly to many others. John wrote, “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” The gospel is not sleeping, walking, strolling, or sprinting. It is moving at the speed of sound to the hearts of the world. But not only that, it is flying in midair so that many people could see him. In other words so that he could proclaim the gospel “to every nation, tribe, language, and people.”
But you are only one person and you know only a few people. You probably speak only one language, maybe two. How can you possibly fly to every nation, tribe, language, and people? It’s true that you are just one person, but you join with many others who want the gospel to fly just like you do. That is why you are a member of our church. That is why your church is a member of the Wisconsin Synod. We want all people to hear the gospel.
Together in the Wisconsin Synod, the gospel really is flying to every nation, tribe, language, and people. Sure Foundation Lutheran Church from our WELS Connection video is just one example of that. Sure Foundation is truly a joint mission. Through Sure Foundation, you are reaching the most diverse neighborhood in the world. On any given Sunday, up to 15 different nations may be represented in worship. Together, in the Wisconsin Synod, the gospel is flying to all people.
There were many nay-sayers ahead of the Wright brothers’ first flight in North Carolina. In the same way we face Satan and his primary opposition to the flight of the gospel. He has not yet been permanently damned and locked away in hell. Even so, the gospel is still true and will prevail. It is our gospel – and ours to proclaim. Let’s take our gospel so graciously given to us and fly with it to the ends of the earth!