MESSAGE FOR DAY THREE—“FUTURE” FROM REVELATION 4-5

 

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MESSAGE FOR DAY THREE—“FUTURE” FROM REVELATION 4-5

 

This morning as we think about the future as it relates to the Great Commission, I want us to spend some time thinking about the final culmination of all of God’s redemptive activities here and to the nations.  We want to focus on the majesty and splendor of God as we move into his very throne room as the Bible presents that in the book of the Revelation.  We all know from Revelation chapter seven that around the throne of God, the Lord will gather to himself people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”[Rev. 7:9]  I want us by God’s grace to spend some time thinking Biblically about that throne and the God who is there and will be there.  My goal is this—as we gaze upon the glory of God and the Lamb in his enthronement—that we would be renewed to persevere in our mission of reaching the unreached with the gospel. 

John’s purpose for these chapters in the book of Revelation is to encourage believers to persevere as Christ did.  Just as Christ persevered through his suffering, and received an eternal throne, so also when we, who are in Christ persevere, will receive a reward.  Jesus says it this way in 3:21, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”  Jesus perseveres and sat down with the Father on his throne.  We persevere and WE sit down with Jesus on HIS throne.  That’s the promise and I trust we will be reminded of just how staggering that promise is as we take get a closer look at the throne of Christ a bit later.

Before we get into the text, let’s set the stage for how we are going to approach the book of The Revelation this morning.  First, I will not be trying to decode the apocalyptic symbols.  My goal is for us to meet God here, not to solve all the puzzles.  In that sense, we are looking this morning at the forest, not the trees.  It’s not wrong to look at the “trees” of the Revelation, but too many people lose the forest for the trees and miss out on the big message that is so incredibly motivating for us to press on with God.  For instance, I’m convinced that when John opens the door to God’s throne room here in Revelation chapters four and five, the Holy Spirit is less concerned that we unlock the meaning of all the apocalyptic symbols, than he is that we feel something—he wants us to come away with a distinct and life-altering experience of the glory of God.  John uses apocalyptic language not to confuse us but, but in part, to overwhelm us.  He wants to stoke our affection for the glory of God with this impressionistic painting he through the Spirit presents here. 

Second, we must understand that the symbols, even the most graphic, powerful and striking--don’t even begin to convey the extent of God’s glory.  John has been to the throne room of heaven; he has pierced the veil into the very presence of Almighty God.  What he saw simply cannot be fully contained in words and so he paints a strikingly vivid picture.  We must never forget that this description of the sovereign majesty of God, as awe-inspiring as it is, offers only a faint shadow of the glorious reality.  The reality goes well beyond this word picture he paints under God’s inspiration.

          Now, let’s take a brief look at Revelation four and five.  John describes the throne room as it appeared is in his time and he writes,After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."  2At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  3And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.  5From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,  6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

          And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.  8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! 9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  Now, let’s move to chapter five, verse six.

“5:6And 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.  7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.  8And 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.  9And 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, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

         11Then 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,  12saying 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!"  13And 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!"  14And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

          Let me make three very general observations about God that are clearly impressed upon us by this text.  First, our God has a throne like no other.  All agree that the throne  communicates God’s absolute sovereignty over all things—the sun, moon and stars—all humanity and all living things—every people group and every demonic stronghold.  We must remember that big message as we look at this throne of God.  He rules OVER all—so we can take heart that no opposition we face—no challenge we encounter is outside of his control.  No other throne has “a rainbow that has the appearance of an emerald” encircling it.  The throne of God is framed by a rainbow—the symbol of his great mercy.  The backdrop for God sovereign reign is his mercy. Aren’t you glad our God rules with mercy for now?

John intentionally mixes the images of a rainbow and a precious gemstone to communicate that this is beyond words.  He’s saying that God’s throne and the sovereignty it represents is beyond quantifiable categories.  His sovereign reign is like a horizon-arching emerald rainbow.  A rainbow with the quality of a gemstone--what on earth is that?  And if that visual image doesn’t fry our circuits, we read in verse five, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder…”  When you combine the visual spectacle along with the sound spectacle the picture is of a comprehensively glorious, sovereign God.  This is a throne fit for a God from whom according to Romans 11, all things come and through whom all things must pass and to all things return to redound to his glory forever. 

          A second observation from the text is God has a royal court like no other.  When you see photographs or movies depicting royal throne rooms, there is always an array of attendants or courtiers who attend the king and the more powerful the king, the more impressive is his royal court.  You can judge how impressive a monarch is by the rank of his courtiers—how impressive the people who attend to him.  Second, how many people attend him and third—how do they respond or reverence their king.  So measure the comparative glory of God by plugging those three measuring rods into his royal court.  John paints a picture of a royal court here that is not simply more impressive than any other king’s.  This royal court is qualitatively different than any other.  In closest proximity to this heavenly King are not simply wise and trusted advisors, but are four breath-takingly intimidating supernatural beings.  A six-winged, lion, ox, man and eagle.  At the very least the man, these represent all the kinds of creatures on earth.  That’s a sizable court.

          And the response to God from these glorious creatures is not (as is found in other king’s courts) a deep bow or curtsy.  It is never-ending, impassioned worship.  “…day and night they never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.”  Our response to someone who endlessly repeats the wonders of something is to assume they must either be suffering from severe dementia, or have a very low I.Q. to be so perpetually captivated.  We all know how quickly and easily jaded we can become to even the most impressive natural wonders.  The first time you look at the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls it is a deeply moving experience, but for the tour guides that work those atttractions, they barely notice them.  After you have seen it dozen times, the level of awe and wonder exponentially diminish.  Not so with our King!  Being in his presence is not like watching something created by Walt Disney or Stephen Spielberg or George Lucas—God’s glory never “gets old.”  The light of his glory never fades.  Creatures who have beheld his glory for 1000’s of centuries—creatures who are themselves awe-inspiring--like these four creature and the 24 gold-crowned elders--they never acclimate to him!  They stand perpetually amazed at his blinding holiness and his eternal nature.  They cry out over and over, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”  They don’t respond this way because this is the place in the production where they shout their well-rehearsed lines—this is not staged or contrived.  They do it because as they behold the glory of God, they can do nothing less than spontaneously erupt in adoration and as for the duration of this level of intense worship, it is interminable—it never ends.

          A third observation about our God is:  He has a Son like no other Son.  In chapter four, the One seated on the throne is the God of creation—wee that from all the worship and symbolism.  But in chapter five, the spotlight shifts to the Lamb on the throne and notice the scene doesn’t change.  It’s the same throne, the same court worshipping him with the same intensity.  It is precisely the same context.  Christ sits on the throne of God because he is God.  He is King Jesus now enthroned on high.  In John 17:5 Jesus prays to the father on the eve on his crucifixion, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”  Though we can’t know all of what he was asking for there, this scene and the glory he receives here is surely part of the answer to his prayer. 

          Another layer of worshipping courtiers is introduced in chapter five.  In addition to the other beings John says, “11Then 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, 12saying 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!" An innumerable number of manifestly different angelic beings also worship in a loud voice.  We must feel something of the overwhelming splendor of this spectacle.  If that weren’t enough, in verse 13 yet another group of worshippers is heard from.  13And 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!" In addition to what is happening inside the throne room, John has been given the capacity to hear that “All creation in heaven, earth, sea and the realm of the dead have joined the host of angels and archangels[1]

In chapter seven, we are given an account of John being brought back to the throne room.  Much has occurred in redemptive history between chapters five and seven and here in seven we see another group of worshippers that were mentioned in chapter four who had been purchased by Christ but who were not yet worshippers.  This group is--all those worshippers who have been brought in by the Good Shepherd—who have bowed their knee before King Jesus from all the people groups on earth.  This is what John mentions first in verse nine, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"  11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Around the throne are assembled believers from every people group on earth—red, yellow, black, white—Tribal, Hindu, Unreligious, Muslim, Buddhist, Sich, Drue praising the Lamb for the salvation he has wrought.  The difference between chapters five and seven is the addition of these people whose presence before the throne of Christ fulfills God’s promise to Abraham that from his offspring all the families—all the people groups of the earth shall be blessed.  That foundational promise behind the Great Commission is here fulfilled.  For the first time finally, God’s vision for humanity is realized.  This was what God was thinking in eternity past when he created Adam.  The saving power of the gospel—the redeeming power of the blood of the Lamb is now finally fully manifest as we witness the glorious masses of blood bought humanity.  Now, after more than 6000 years, all those people groups who fell in Adam when he rejected God’s rule, recognize and bow down in worship before the sovereign reign of this King of all kings.  All is now as it was created to be.  Finally and forever, God is receiving the worship he is due from countless sinners he has saved and perfected by his sovereign grace.

Beloved, this is ultimately why we are here this week.  God wants to use this conference to raise up an army who will storm the gates of hell and rescue his blood-bought people who he will clothe with the righteousness of his Son, adopt as his children, and gather to himself around his glorious throne.  And the reason why we will, by God’s grace spend ourselves in that task is because the King we have so imperfectly beheld this morning is worthy of our blood and sweat and prayers and tears and lives.  His mercy and his sovereign majesty demand nothing less. 

I charge you in the presence of the King of Glory to earnestly seek your place in his global plan of redemption and when you find it—stay there until he moves you.  And in those moments when you want to give up and throw it all in, remember the main reason God presents this glorious spectacle of our King.  That is—to motivate you to persevere, knowing that after you conquer through patient endurance, Christ will allow you to sit with him on this glorious throne and rule and reign with him on the earth.  Paul knew this and that’s why he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”   Today, we have looked at only a faint image of the divine glory.  Someday in the future by God’s grace, we will behold the Sovereign Majesty in its full expression.  May God give to each of us the grace to be used of him in some way to call out his people from every tribe, tongue and nation so we may all gather before the throne for his glory and our eternal joy.


[1]Carson, D. A. 1994. New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) . Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA

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