6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
The author of these words, John, lived in time when emperors ruled the vast Roman state. Sometimes the emperors were good and able rulers. Augustus and Tiberius had long and stable reigns. Other emperors were unstable personally and the empire might be wracked with unrest. John wrote these words in the days of Diocletian, a particularly unstable man who lashed out at many people, including Christians.
When the emperor died a new emperor would be proclaimed. A herald would come into the community, blow a trumpet, and announce “good news – the reign of…has begun.” The Bible picks up that formula to describe Christian preaching. Paul, Peter, and the rest of the early church apostles and preachers were heralds of a new king with a twist. Instead of announcing that the old emperor had died, and a new rule had begun; they announced that Jesus had risen, and his eternal reign had begun. They used much of the same language that the heralds of a new emperor used. You might think about that when it comes time to inaugurate whoever wins the next election. That Christian proclamation has continued through the rise and fall of republics, monarchies, empires, and dictatorships. For 2000 years, Christians have gathered, heard words of absolution, participated in heaven’s feast, and been welcomed into fellowship with God himself. They have been citizens of Christ’s kingdom. I make no prognostications about elections or the consequences of victory for political parties. Too often people imagine that the kingdom of God and the success of this or that party are the same thing. There are better candidates and policies, but they all are human and fraught with human frailty. Decisions do make a difference for some things in our lives, but the most important things remain unchanged, for they are under a different lordship altogether. They belong to Christ and his gracious kingdom. Pray for our country, vote when you have the chance, and rest in the assurance that the Kingdom of Christ has been proclaimed.