Friday, November 22, 2013

Revelation 5 : A Door standing open in Heaven #2

Text : Revelation  5
Title :  A   Door standing open in Heaven  #2
Date:  10/11/2013 

Summary :   Revelation Ch.  4:
·        A vision of the One worshipped ( 4:1-6a)
·        A vision of the worshippers gathered around the throne in heaven  ( 4:6b-11)
Heaven  is a world of worship. Everything  that has breath gathers to give glory to God. Sunday worship  reflects a little of heaven on earth. True worship focuses, gathers, reveals, sings and  glorifies the One on the throne in heaven. Heavenly worship  is God centered. This  ought to be reflected also in our worship on earth.
Revelation Ch. 5   is a  continuation of Chapter 4. These 2 chapters provide the background  against the rest of the book of Revelation. In reading  this book   we may  get fearful  as we see the forces of evil at work in this world. These two chapters  give us great courage  because  they show  us  that  God  is on the throne of the universe. He is  in the process  of bringing all things in heaven and on earth together. This will  involve    a battle  between  Satan’s   demonic forces    and  the army of God, but the  final  outcome of the book  of Revelation  is that Satan and his chronies  will be cast into the lake of fire (20:10). Paul reminds  the Roman Christians: “The God of peace  will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom.  16:20)
The 5th chapter  introduces a vision of the  Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain  (5:6,12).   He is the main  figure of this chapter. He receives  power from God to do what no one in all creation was worthy and able to do, namely, to bring  the  kingdom of God  to its completion. 

 [5:1] Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.   What did John see?  He sees the LORD God on the throne, but his focus  is upon a scroll (Gr. biblion lit. ‘book’),   sealed with 7 seals which is in  God’s  right hand. This book which  was written within and on the back is sealed. The fact that it is  sealed means  that  its contents  are as yet  secret. It also means  that nothing can be added to this book, and nothing may be subtracted from it. In this sense the book of Revelation  is also  sealed (see Rev. 22:18,19). The truth  contained in it is unalterable. “It is written…”!    

What is the significance of this scroll? Whatever we do not yet understand,  we may be certain that it contains the  information  concerning the  things which must soon take place  (1:1à 4:1) [2] And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice…”. The  strong (mighty)  angel   is asking a weighty question:  “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”    A challenge is   presented  to  every creature in  the world:  "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  Listen to the dramatic invitation  that Herman Hoeksema  imagines to hear : [1]
“…the creature receives the opportunity first. Before the Lamb…steps forward and takes the book out of the hand of Him Who sat on the throne, every creature must receive the invitation. Hence, the message goes forth. It goes forth to the angels in heaven: "Can you open that book, you myriads of holy spirits, who day and night surround the throne of God? Can you save the world? Can you bring peace and bliss to a world of sin?"
The challenge also comes to the earth, particularly, of course, to man. "Man, here is your opportunity. If you are worthy, take the book, and bring the kingdom. Send righteousness and bliss to all the world. You wise men of the world, you giants of thought, hear the message resound. Do you know how to open the book? Can you suggest the way of salvation for the world? You rulers and mighty ones, can you open the book? Can you by your laws and institutions, by your armies and power, inaugurate the kingdom of peace? All you that speak so highly of the regeneration of society, of a better world to live in, of social righteousness, here is the challenge! Are you important enough to take the book, and are you able to break the seals? Come on, now, human wisdom and power, riches and wealth, science and invention, come and take now the book, and open its seals."  

You can hear a pin drop! All creation is silent  [3] “And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,…”. All  of creation confesses by their silence  that no one is able to break the seals and therefore no one is able  to usher in the kingdom of God. All the political  systems of men, whether  monarchy, democracy, capitalism , socialism, communism,   the United Nations, the African Union and  the  European  Union  cannot bring  in a lasting kingdom.  No amount of education,  the making of better laws, nor  the working for   better living conditions will bring in the kingdom of God.  No one is able to redeem  this world!

The thought of this    frightens John, and we read… "[4] and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.”     John senses what is at stake. If  that  book remains sealed, the kingdom will not  come. The breaking of those seals  does not only mean  the revelation of God’s plan , but also the execution of God’s plan Hence,  John weeps  loudly because he cannot see how the prayers of  the saints for justice will be answered (5:8)  . He cannot yet  see how the kingdom  will be established.  BUT, remember  that John has not yet seen the Lamb! 

Thankfully it does not take long for  John to be comforted :  [5] And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”  An elder  (one of the 24 elders  representing the church of the OT and NT) steps forward  and points John to Christ -  the Lion of Judah,[2] the  Root of David[3] .  These two OT  pictures  connect  the Lord of Glory  with the  OT Messiah who was anticipated by all the prophets.    He is the  seed of  the woman that will crush Satan’s  head (Gen 3:16). He is  the  ark of our salvation (Gen.  6&7). He is  Abraham  and Isaac’s  substitutionary lamb (Gen. 22). He is  the Lion of Judah, the  Root of David.  He alone can open  the scroll. He alone  can usher in  the kingdom  of God.   

Having drawn his attention to Christ,  John sees Him !  [6] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. To our surprise,  the Lion of the tribe  of Judah  is now presented as  a Lamb. The picture now corresponds with  Isaiah 53:7 : "Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." Our Lord Jesus, the  Lion of Judah also  is the Lamb of God. He is bold as a Lion and strong in His conquest  and yet He is also  meek and humble  as a Lamb as He  conquers  the  world through  presenting Himself as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29,36). Here   He bears the marks of a slain lamb. The miracle  is this: though He was killed, He now lives !   He is the Lamb  crucified and now  glorified!  
Furthermore, note  that the Lamb  has  seven horns. The horn is the symbol of  power and dominion in Scripture. Seven is the number of completeness with a view to the completion  of  the kingdom of God. He also  has  seven eyes, which  we are told are “ the seven Spirits of God” . The Lamb has the  Spirit of God in all His fullness, and  He   sends   that Spirit into the whole world. His presence is in all the earth, ransoming people for God (Rev.5:9).
Note also that  the  Lamb stands between the throne and  the  four living creatures and  the 24 elders. He is  approaching the throne  to receive the scroll.  You may perhaps be wondering,  When did Christ receive the scroll  from the Father on the throne? We must  not be tempted  to bring the time element into the vision. He received  the scroll not at this time (when John saw  it in  95 AD) but after He had been crucified, risen  and  ascended to the Father in heaven, where  He is now also exalted to the highest place  to the right hand of the Father in  heaven.  From here He now  directs all  of history and all of the future – what must soon take place.  He is no absent landlord . He  is fully aware  and fully engaged in the world. He  directs every gospel effort, and  He  watches, allows   and overrules world events, working out  His  decrees. He breaks seal after seal, as we shall see, and He brings to pass all that must still  happen. When His purposes will have been accomplished, and when Satan’s power  is finally broken  the  kingdom  will be the Lord’s.

RESPONSE : Worship (vv. 8-14)
[8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. [9] And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, [10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” [11] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, [12] saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” [13] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” [14] And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

What a contrast! A moment ago all creation was silent, and John  wept because no one could open the scroll.  But now the problem is solved. The Lamb is able  and worthy to break the seals. He is able to execute  what needs to take place, and therefore He is   praised and glorified.  The new song (5:9)   celebrates  His victory  over every  evil and  sin by which  He  ransomed His people for God from every  tribe, language and people and nation. The saints are  a kingdom and priests to our God  and they shall reign on the earth – this is true  NOW  as well as in the new creation, when  the heavens and the earth shall be renewed.  
The cross, the resurrection and the ascension  have made all the difference  and the closing verses  affirm  how this  fact is celebrated  in the entire universe  when myriads of angels join in the song of the creatures and of the elders, singing: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and wealth, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing"  - a 7-fold adoration. No creature can keep silence at this glorious occasion, now that the victory is assured and the coming of the kingdom safely rests in the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb  which was slain!

[1] H. Hoeksema : Behold He cometh p. 169-170
[2] Genesis 49:9,10
[3] Isaiah 11:1,10  cf.  Revelation 22:16

No comments: