REVELATION 4 - 5
GOD'S THRONE IN HEAVEN
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; (NU omits: and they had) with crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
We have now arrived at the largest section of the book of Revelation...
THE VISION OF JESUS CHRIST IN JUDGMENT
It takes up all of chapters 4 through 18, and is the meat and lion's share of the book.
Suddenly, John saw a door standing open in Heaven and the trumpet voiced One said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. The Greek words, after this, are μετὰ ταῦτα (meta touta). These are the same words that Jesus used back in 1:19, when he told John what he could expect to be writing down. These words tip us off that, from this point on, Christ will be revealing future things to us. Immediately, John was transported through a door in Heaven by means of the powerful voice that came from above. This reminds me of the Rapture of the Church, does it you? One day, all of us believers will hear this same trumpet-like voice that John heard ... and we too will be immediately transported up and out of this world. As you have it in First Thessalonians 4:16-17,
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Upon arrival, John's senses were flooded with stimuli. Heaven is a real place, even more real than where you and I are right now. There, John was confronted with amazing realities ... realities of substance, color, noises, voices, angels, people and thrones. Quickly, his eyes were drawn to a great central throne upon which sat an awesome Throne Sitter. He exclaimed, behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. The Throne Sitter was a visible manifestation of the Father, by the way. We know this to be the case because Jesus will approach him in chapter 5. John says that the Throne Sitter’s appearance was like the sparkling luminescence of a jasper stone, combined with the blood red of a sardius stone (named after Sardis, the area around which it is found).
There is a wonderful significance to the colors of these two stones that were emanating from the Father's person upon his throne. In Old Testament times, twelve stones were sewn on the High Priest’s vest ... one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The jasper and sardius stones were the first and last stones on the vest. The jasper stone stood for the tribe of Reuben. Ruben’s name meant, behold a son. The sardius stone stood for the tribe of Benjamin. His name meant, son of my right hand. The fact that the Father was emanating the colors of these two stones is significant. Both the Father and the Son reflect one another, you see. That’s because, in essence, they are truly one. The Lord Jesus perfectly reflected his Father when he was on Earth. As you have it in Hebrews 1:3a,
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (KJV)
And again in John 1:18, we read,
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
In John 14:9, when Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus replied,
Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Here, in the heavenly scene that met John’s eye, we find that the reverse is also true. He that has seen the Father has also seen the Son. Doubtless, this is why the Father is reflecting the colors that are associated with his Son whose throne this is as well.
Next, John’s eyes lifted upward to behold a magnificent emerald rainbow that encompassed the Father's throne. You will recall that God designated the rainbow to be the sign of his Noahic Covenant, wherein he promised never again to destroy the Earth by water (Genesis 9:8-13). Every rainbow that has appeared, from that day to this, has been a reminder of that covenant. This particular rainbow, that surrounds God’s throne in Heaven, is there as a permanent reminder that the one true and living God, who occupies this throne, is a covenant and promise keeping God.
Now, I have a question about this scene. Where is Jesus? Shouldn't he be seated at the right hand of this Majesty on high? But he isn't, is he? Where do you think he is, then? To answer the question, let’s begin by asking ourselves, Where is Jesus right now, at this very minute? Why, he is seated on this very throne, is he not? As you have it in Hebrews 1:3,
Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
And again, as we had it back in 3:21,
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
The fact that Christ is not present on this throne suggests that there is something uniquely unusual about this scene indeed. May I say to you that he was not present at the point in time when John arrived because he had left his Father's throne? In the immediate future, Jesus will only leave his Father’s throne for one of two reasons. First, he will temporarily leave it to go and personally fetch his Church from off the earth and bring it back to Heaven (First Thessalonians 4:16). Or, second, he will leave his Father's throne to return to Earth to rule and reign here for a thousand years (Zechariah 14:34; Rev. 20:4). It will become apparent, as we gather more information about this scene, that Jesus is not seated with the Father because of the Rapture of the Church. Time-wise, John had arrived in Heaven just after the Rapture ... and just before Christ had returned to the throne.
Next, John says, Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones were twenty-four elders sitting. Can you identify these men? Let's see if we can do so by taking a closer look at them.
First, they are called elders. The Greek word used here for elders is the word πρεσβυτέρους (presbuteros). In the New Testament, this term is one that is used for the spiritual leaders of the Church. It describes their office. The other Greek word, used for Church leaders, is ἐπίσκοποs (episkopos), translated bishop or overseer. This word describes the function of the office.
Second, there were twenty four of them. What might be the significance of this particular number? Well, the old Aaronic priesthood was divided into twenty-four divisions (I Chronicles 24:1-19). They forfeited their priesthood, however when they rejected their Messiah and his work for them on the cross and were subsequently cut off (Romans 11:17-22). The Lord then turned to the Gentiles and they, along with a small remnant of Messianic Jews, took the place of the former Aaronic priesthood. You will remember back in 1:6, believers are called a kingdom of priests. I believe these twenty-four elders sitting around God's throne here are representatives of a transferred right of priesthood. They are probably individual heads of a twenty-four division, Melchizedecan, priesthood in Heaven (Hebrews 7:16-17). If that is the case, then their individual divisions could well be assigned specific times and tasks of service, as were their ancient Aaronic counterparts on Earth. In any case, everything about them speaks of the fact that they are representatives of the Church. This is further confirmed in 5:9, where John hears them singing to the Lamb ... You ...have redeemed us to God by your blood.
Third, they were seated upon thrones. Only the Church is promised thrones in Scripture. Jesus promised them to his disciples in Matthew 19:28,
Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The above scripture may help us to speculate as to who some of these twenty-four elders might be. I don’t think we would be far from wrong if we said that twelve of them are the Lord’s Apostles, fulfilling Matthew 19:28, above. They would then be representing the Jewish side of the Church. Then, it would make sense that the other twelve are elders who represent the Gentile side of the Church. If that is the case, we should find the major founders and nurturers of the Gentile Church seated there as well ... such men as Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, Luke, Mark, Titus, Aquila, Gaius, Aristarchus, Epaphroditus and Sopater.
Fourth, they were clothed in white robes. Back in 3:5, Jesus said, He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments. Only Church saints are promised white clothing in the Bible. Both of these words, garments and robes, are translations of the same Greek word, by the way.
Last, they were each wearing crowns of gold. Only the Church is promised crowns in the Bible. They will be given out as rewards. The fact that these elders are seen as already crowned is very important. It tells us that the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10), has already taken place.
So, there is more than ample evidence here that these men who are seated around the throne of God are representatives of Christ’s Church. Not only had John been caught up into Heaven ... but he had arrived at a future time as well … and at an event that the Lord wanted him to witness. It was a time and an event in which the Church was all present and accounted for. This is in agreement with the words of the One who called John up there in the first place saying, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.
Having observed the elders and their thrones, next John’s senses were confronted by sudden and ominous sounds coming from the throne. Like a summer storm, unexpectedly bearing down on a countryside, God's throne rumbled to life with lightning, thunder and voices. John’s eyes, having been riveted back to the throne by these awesome sounds and flashes, saw that there were now, Seven lamps of fire ... burning before the throne, which are the Seven spirits of God. This reminds me of that verse over in Hebrews 1:7, which says,
And of the angels he saith, who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. (KJV)
These are the same spirits that greeted us back in chapter one. Now, however, John sees them burning before the throne of God. What a sight! It is becoming apparent from these descriptions that this is a throne preparing for judgment. At long last, the one who sits upon this throne is about to intervene upon the earth. He is about to step in and do something about evil and wickedness and unbelief. These ominous rumblings and flashes of lightning coming out from the Father's throne, speak of the fact that God, at this point in time, is coming to the end of His patience and long-suffering. Like a nuclear reactor approaching critical mass, this throne was becoming unstable. The balance between long-suffering and justice was tilting toward an overriding demand for justice. That being the case, and I believe that it is, the voices John heard emanating from the throne, were probably the stored up cries of countless thousands of saints who, down through the ages, cried out to God for help as they were being beaten, robbed, raped, tortured and murdered and finally cast off like so much garbage. We can rest assured that our God has not forgotten a single one of their cries. Proverbs 15:3, says,
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
And, again in Deut. 32:25,
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’
At long last, the God of the whole earth was about to rise up and take action ... and his seven avenging angels were ablaze before his throne, standing ready to carry out their God’s bidding. The point in time that John had arrived in Heaven was on the very brink of the fulfillment of the words of Romans 12:19b,
It is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord.
Before the throne there was (NU adds: something like) a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!'
As John's attention continued to be riveted upon the throne, he observed that four living creatures, ζῷα (zoa), were present there as well. In Scripture, these awesome beings are almost exclusively found in association with the throne of God. The only exception was when one of them was placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Ezekiel 1 and 10 are key chapters to study for a more detailed description of these magnificent beings and their throne related functions. The first time Ezekiel saw them, they were coming out of the wilderness carrying this same throne of God Almighty. We learn from that account, that they not only bear God's throne but they are also its protectors ... flashing around and about it like lightning and with wings that thunder with deafening noise (Ezek.1:14, 24). It would be time well spent to read those chapters to get the complete picture of Lord's mighty and awesome Zoa.
Now, John saw the living creatures as one-dimensional because he only observed them from one angle. Therefore, to him, each one seemed to have a different face. Ezekiel, however, tells us that each one of the Zoa are four sided beings and each have all four faces. Standing together, apparently they are always so situated that anyone who approaches the throne of God will see all four of their faces which makes them able to watch in all directions at once. Furthermore, just as the colors from the Father represent the Son, so also the specific aspects of the living creatures reflect the Son as well. For example, each of the four faces of the Zoa, speak of a specific function of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s look at them and see if it is not so.
THE LION FACE
The lion faces of the living creatures emphasize that the one whose throne they bear, protect and surround, is the King of Israel ... The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. By the way, this is the theme of the book of Matthew. Matthew’s argument is that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Therefore, Matthew's genealogy traces Christ's lineage back to King David establishing Jesus' legal right to the throne of Israel.
THE CALF FACE
The calf faces of the living creatures emphasize the fact that the Lord, who's throne they surround, is God’s prophesied and beloved Servant. A calf or ox is a serving beast. In Isaiah, God said of his Son,
Behold! my Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom my soul delights! I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:1
The entire argument of the book of Mark is that Jesus is God's Servant. As Jesus himself put it in Mark 10:45,
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Consistent with Mark's theme, there is no genealogy of Christ found in Mark ... for who would care about the lineage of a servant?
THE MAN FACE
The man faces of the living creatures emphasize the fact that the Lord, who's throne this is, is a human ... the one who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He was and is the man, Christ Jesus (First Timothy 2:5). Ever since our Lord’s return to Heaven, a man has been seated at the right hand of the majesty on high! This is the theme of Luke's gospel. That’s why Luke gives us such a detailed account of the birth of Jesus and traces his lineage all the way back to Adam. Over and over again in Luke, Jesus refers to himself as the son of man.
THE EAGLE FACE
The eagle faces of the living creatures emphasizes the fact that the Lord, whose throne they bear, is God of very God. Make no mistake about it, Jesus Christ was and is deity. In the Old Testament, Jehovah God is often likened unto an eagle. Boaz used this metaphor when he said to Ruth,
The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. Ruth 2:12
Psalm 91:4, says,
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust. (KJV)
The theme of John’s gospel is the straight up proposition ... Jesus is God. He takes up this subject with the very first verse,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (KJV)
And, in verse fourteen, he says,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Each of the living creatures had six wings. In Ezekiel's account, he said these creatures flashed from place to place like lightning (Ezekiel 1:14). This speaks of the fact that the one whose throne they bear and protect is the Omnipresent One. The One who is anywhere and everywhere, all at the same time.
Next, John observes that each of the living creatures were full of eyes in front and in back. The Zoa's myriad of eyes speak of the fact that the Lord on this throne is the Omniscient One. Jesus is all-knowing and all-seeing. As you have it in Luke 6:8a,
But he knew their thoughts. (KJV)
Last, John says that the living creatures never ceased, night and day, to proclaim, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come. At the point in time when John arrived in Heaven, the living creatures were continuously, spontaneously and loudly proclaiming God’s holiness around the clock. That is because the judgments that Christ will shortly unleash upon the earth are rooted in his holy nature. He is the Holy One of God.
To sum up then, what John saw was a throne set for judgment. It was rumbling like a volcano ... emitting flashes of lightning ... surrounded by four living creatures ceaselessly proclaiming, Holy, Holy, Holy ... as seven angels burned like fire before it. What a sight, aye? And, what a day it will be when you and I attend this exact same event one day when the long delayed justice and retribution of God is about to be unleashed upon the earth.
May we step aside for a moment? Christ Jesus came into our world to save poor lost sinners from the wrath of God that is to come (First Thessalonians 1:10). For that reason, he shed his precious blood on the cross in order to reconcile estranged and sinful men and women to Holy God. Because the holiness of God demands that sin be punished, his death on the cross was absolutely necessary. As we have it in Romans 3:25-26 (speaking of Jesus),
Whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Make no mistake about it, it was the holiness of God that sent Jesus to the cross and it was there where God's just demands against sin were met and satisfied. Jesus paid it all. He experienced and absorbed God's wrath against sin for us all and then, and only then, was Holy God propitiated (satisfied) and able to throw the door open wide for sinful men and women to come to him. Propitiation is a good Bible word that is not often used in our modern vocabulary. It simply means that when God's wrath against sin fell on his Son at the cross, God’s demand for justice was satisfied. Christ Jesus alone had the infinite capacity to absorb his Father's wrath against sin on our behalf. It should have been poured out on us. We were the offenders, but it was poured out on God's substitutionary Lamb instead. Christ Jesus bled and died in our place. He paid the penalty of death for each and every one of your sins and mine. It was a penalty that Holy God demanded. As you have it in Romans 6:23a,
For the wages of sin is death.
Only after that sacrifice, could God freely justify and forgive sinners their debt. Only after the cross, could God remain holy and just in pardoning and receiving sinful men and women to himself (Romans 3:25-26). Amazing plan, amazing grace! Also, we need to keep in mind that it will be the justice of God that will be the eternal undoing of all those who turn away in unbelief from this great gift of forgiveness and salvation that God has so freely and graciously provided through his Son. The awful consequences of spurning Christ will be set before us in the pages to follow.
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, [NU omits: O and adds: 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.
After observing God’s throne set for judgment, all of Heaven was suddenly caught up in a great outpouring of worship. Beginning as the four living creatures were crying, Holy, Holy, Holy ... suddenly, the twenty-four elders left their thrones and fell down before the Throne Sitter ... and began casting their crowns at his feet. The NIV says that they lay their crowns before the throne but, Dr. Zodhiates says the Greek verb cast, βαλοῦσιν (balousin), used here ... in all its applications retains the idea of impulse. What uninhibited worship takes place in Heaven! Aye? What a contrast it must be to so much that purports to be worship here. Real uninhibited and spontaneous worship is a rare and precious thing down here but, praise God, it is the norm up there. I'm looking forward to that, aren’t you?
Again, keep in mind that the event that John is telling us about here is a real one that is yet future ... and you and I are actually going to be there when it occurs. On that day, we will be participants in this very worship that John saw and that we are reading about here. Doubtless, it will be worship so complete and so sublime that it is presently almost beyond our comprehension. You and I will really worship on that day. We will speak to our dear Lord with utter abandon and adoration ... with all our hearts confessing what he means to us and what he has done for us. He loved us, he saved us and he kept us. It was his plan, his grace, his mercy, his Son, his Spirit and his Word by which he rescued us to himself. And, on that day, we will spontaneously cast our crowns at his feet with utter and glorious delight.
John heard the elders crying out, You are worthy O Lord to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things. Our great God and Father is worthy of worship simply because he is our Creator as well. It is fundamental to a creature to praise its Creator. May I ask you a question? Are you glad that God created you? Are you thankful to him for your existence? Isn't it wonderful that he called you and me into being? Life ... the gift of existence ... is a priceless treasure, brother and sister. Thank you, Jesus. My, how we will worship our wonderful Creator on that day!
In conclusion, let me suggest that a helpful way to remember the content of a chapter in the Bible is to simply assign a key word to it. Here, in chapter 4, a good key word would be Holy. This is the central theme of the chapter. God’s holiness is at the core of his nature and will be fundamental to the judgments of the Tribulation that are about to be unfolded before us.
And I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?'. And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open (NU omits: and read) the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, or to look at it.
Although this is a new chapter, the words, And I saw, tells us that we are still at the same scene which began back in 4:1. John is continuing his record of this yet future and incredible day at which he stood. In fact, here in chapter 5, we will discover the key to the entire event.
John’s attention is now drawn to a mysterious scroll in the Throne Sitter’s right hand. As he looked more closely, he saw that it was full of writing on its front and on its back. There was no room left anywhere upon it for more to be written. In this regard, it was exactly like the book in Ezekiel 2:9-10,
Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then he spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.
However, these are two different scrolls (books) altogether. Ezekiel’s scroll contained a prophecy of impending judgments on Israel. This one, we will learn, contains the prophecy of impending judgments on the whole world. Ezekiel was instructed to preach the contents of his scroll to Israel to warn them that, if they did not repent, judgment was coming. The Throne Sitter’s scroll also contains warnings of judgment to come but, this time, they will be upon the whole earth. These judgments will unfold before us as the scroll's seals are broken off by Christ in chapter 6.
Now, there was something very unusual about the scroll in the Throne Sitter’s hand. John heard a strong angel with a loud voice cry out … Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals? But … no one was found worthy to open the scroll, or to look at it. It was a unique book indeed. It was for one’s eyes only … and his hands alone. If he could be found, he could open it and the program it contained could be initiated and bring about the defeat of all of God’s enemies and usher in God’s long awaited kingdom and everlasting dominion on Earth. This book belonged to one alone … the worthy One. It was his title deed, as it were, to the earth and all of its inhabitants.
No doubt, the angel’s call for one worthy to receive it, echoed throughout every nook and cranny of the universe … emphasizing that, among men, there is no one else to whom this scroll belongs. There is only One who is worthy and qualified to receive it and to carry out all that is written within it. One solitary man possesses the moral quality and precise credentials to open and carry out the judgments and program that are contained in this document. He is a perfect and righteous Man, for he who enforces holiness must himself be Holy. He, who judges sinners, must himself be without sin. In John 8, when a woman was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before Jesus by the Pharisees, he told them, He that is without sin let him cast the first stone. Do you remember what happened next? All her accusers slunk away, did they not? No one could judge her because no one was any better than she was. The Scripture says, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All but One, that is … the One who will do the stone casting one day ... for, in that he is sinless, righteous and just, he is worthy to do so. The one who opens this scroll will unleash the judgments of God upon the earth and the only one worthy to do that is the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world and has, for centuries, offered himself to mankind as the way out through his blood!
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. First John 2:2
This whole scene was the exact same one that Daniel saw concerning that future and momentous day when the Son of Man would receive his kingdom and authority and dominion from the hand of the Ancient of Days, you see. As you have it in Daniel 7:13-14,
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days,and they brought him near before him. Then to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.
Someone approached the weeping John and told him to dry his tears because, indeed, One had been found who was worthy and qualified to take and to open the scroll. Then, as John was drying his eyes, suddenly … there He was. A Lamb appeared in the midst of the Throne. This was his rightful place, by the way. An elder cried out, Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. Won't that be something, when we hear these very words for ourselves one day?
Those two Old Testament titles for Messiah speak of the fact that the kingdom that Jesus will establish on Earth will be a Jewish kingdom, presided over by the King of Israel. Let's look at them.
First, the Lamb is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. You will remember that when Jacob was blessing his sons … when he came to Judah ... he prophesied that royalty would come from Judah's line … specifically, One who would be called Shiloh. He said,
Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people. Genesis 49:9-10
Because of Jacob's prophecy, the Lion became the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Jesus was born of that tribe and Shiloh is one of his names. It means rest. One of the great blessings of Christ's Millennial reign on Earth is that he will provide rest to the earth and to his people. There is a great need for that today, is there not? Our world is in such endless turmoil. It will not experience rest, however, until Shiloh comes. Peter, preaching to the Jews in Acts 3:19-21, said,
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Second, the Lamb is called the Root of David. This further identifies the one who John saw appear on the throne that day and take the scroll from the Throne Sitter’s hand. This Messianic title emphasizes that Jesus is from the royal line of David. He is the descendant of David's father, Jesse. And, as such, he will one day come to rule the world in righteousness. Let's look at another wonderful prophecy concerning this coming Davidic King. It is found in Isaiah 11:1-10,
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, nor decide by the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins, and faithfulness the belt of his waist. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek him, and his resting place shall be glorious.
When the angel Gabriel announced Jesus' birth to the virgin Mary, he said,
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:32-33
John testifies, in the midst of the throne ... stood a Lamb as it had been slain. What a paradox, the great conquering King of kings appears in Heaven before his Church as a Lamb ... slain. To them, he is God's Lamb, first and foremost, you see. Later, he will reign as King. So, there standing on the throne in full view of his entire Church, his saints, and all of God’s holy angels, stood Christ, the Lamb of God. What a moment that will be when it actually occurs, aye? To us believers, by the way, he will ever be our dear, precious, sacrificed Lamb. I believe that he will forever bear the marks of his sacrificial death before us and we will forever be reminded by them of what he did for us and how much he loved us. Let’s take a moment here to look at a few scriptures that speak of it.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!' John 1:29
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. First Peter 1:18-19
He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7
The Lamb had now returned to his Throne. Let’s look closer at John’s description of him.
First, he says the Lamb had seven horns. In the Bible, horns are often used as symbols for power. The idea is that the strength of horned creatures reside in their horns. This Lamb, by having seven horns, is symbolically declaring that he possesses all or perfect power. Make no mistake about it, the Lamb of God possesses all power. By the raw power of his Word alone, the entire universe is presently being held together. As you have it in Hebrews 1:3,
Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...
Now that’s POWER, brother. This Lamb is the Omnipotent One himself!
Second, he says the Lamb had seven eyes. Here, the symbolism is explained to us. John says his eyes are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Again, this is referring to the same seven spirits who greeted us back in chapter one and who were, at this moment, burning before the Throne (4:5). The Lamb's eyes are symbols of these spirits because they are the ones who will, as extensions of Christ, carry out his judgments on the earth when they blow their seven trumpets (8:6).
Then, the great moment came. The Lamb took the scroll from the Throne-Sitter's hand. I can almost hear the low gasps and exclamations of all those who witnessed it that day, can't you? Words fail to describe the profound significance that this moment will one day bring in Heaven. We'll just have to see it for ourselves. Oh yeah ... and we will!
Now when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made [NU changes: us kings to: them a kingdom] and priests to our God; and [NU omits: we] they shall reign on the earth. Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing! And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the [NU omits: twenty-four] elders fell down and worshipped [NU omits: him who lives forever and ever].
When Jesus receives his commission to judge the earth and establish his eternal kingdom here, it will be the greatest turning point in all of human history. It can't happen too soon, Amen? So, when he took the book from his Father’s hand, the greatest praise and worship session Heaven will likely ever see broke out. First, the Church, represented by the twenty four elders, fell down before the Lamb and began to sing to him. Then, the living creatures accompanied by a myriad of angels exuberantly began to speak forth their praises. Then, all of God’s created creatures joined in the mounting thunder of praise. This was topped off by the biggest and loudest Amen ever uttered from the combined voices of the four living creatures. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus will not be able to hold a candle to the crescendo of praise and song that will break forth in Heaven the day the Lamb takes his scroll from his Father's hand! Because this event is so important, it is worth our while to examine it even more closely.
First, the elders fell down before the Lamb. They had fallen before the Throne Sitter in chapter 4, but now they fall before the Lamb. As they are falling, they are seen to be holding two things. John says they had:
...Harps. Since these elders are representatives of the Church, I believe this implies that all of us believers will be given one of these instruments one day. Now, I’m a guitar player of sorts. My two boys can out-play me now, but I have used my guitar to facilitate my own praises as well as those of others many times. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these harps in heaven. I believe they are specifically designed by God to be facilitators of the praises of his people. Don't worry about being able to play it though. You'll do just fine.
...golden bowls full of incense. They had golden bowls of incense. The symbolism of the incense is explained here. John says that the golden bowls of incense were the prayers of the saints. Soon, that of which we are only reading about here, will actually come to pass in history and will issue in Christ's long awaited reign on Earth. This has been the dream, yes, the prayer of God’s people, both Jews and Gentiles, from ancient times. God has not lost one of those prayers. And, at this exact point in time they will be poured out afresh before his throne by the elders of the Church. What an event. The time will have come to answer them, you see. I am sure that many of your prayers are in those bowls. Have you ever prayed, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven? Those prayers of yours will surely be mingled in with all the others in those golden bowls which will be poured out afresh before God on that momentous day.
Second, the Church began to sing to their Lamb. These verses continue to nail down the Lamb's identity beyond question. The song that the elders sang was about the redemption that their precious Lamb had provided for them. They sang, you were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. I can’t wait to put that to melody, along with the rest of the saints, can you? This word, redeemed, means to be purchased out of the slave market of sin in order to be set free. As you have it in Titus 2:13-14,
Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself his own special people, zealous for good works.
By the blood of Christ, you and I were redeemed out of the slave market of sin for the express purpose of being set free! Glory to God!
Third, innumerable angels joined in, speaking their praises to the Lamb. The NIV says the angels sang. But, they didn't. The Greek word here should be properly translated, saying. It is λέγοντες (legontes). Old traditions are hard to break, I guess. Angels are never found singing in Scripture. Not even when the Shepherds heard them that night in Bethlehem, you ask? I'm afraid so. Apparently, of all of God’s created beings, only you and I have the capability to sing to God.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Music is an amazing and wonderful thing. I love all kinds of music from classical to jazz, from country to gospel, from rock to blues. I like it all. But I love instrumentals the best. Maybe that is because when man puts words to a melody or rhythm … he all too often just fouls it up! Where do you think music came from in the first place? What was its original source? The obvious answer is that it came from the Creator, the source of all things ... our Lord Jesus Christ. Music finds its origin and nature in God himself. Did you know the Scripture says that God will sing to his people one day? We find it in Zephaniah 3:17,
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
God himself is musical. Man, having been made in the image of God, is therefore musical as well. Problem is, fallen man’s music is all too often centered upon himself and, as such, is often perverted and foul. Nevertheless, even man’s worst music has elements of the image of God in it. I wish the Church would utilize a broader spectrum of music in its worship and praise, by the way. A good Bluegrass instrumental, for example, with its guitars, banjos and mandolins, can really make one's heart sing! Take it for what it’s worth ... all music has a divine element to it.
Now, I believe that this is why you never find angels singing in the Bible. They can’t. They were not made in the image of God, you see. So, it says here that the angels joined in saying with a loud voice ... Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. Notice also, that they do not speak about redemption. That is because they have not and cannot experience it. Christ Jesus did not die for the angels. But, they do know, worthy, when they see it. So they speak loud and clear to their great Sovereign Lord of his worthiness.
Then, all the creatures chimed in. Do you think that every creature will actually speak praises to the Lamb on that day, you may ask? Yes, I believe they will. At his triumphal entry, didn’t Jesus say that if his disciples stopped praising him (as the Pharisees demanded) that these very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40)? John heard all the creatures saying, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to him that sits on the Throne and to the Lamb forever and ever. The animal kingdom will play a significant role in our Lord’s future kingdom, by the way. They are mentioned in many Old Testament prophecies. Romans 8:19-22, speaks of this as well.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Last, the four living creatures capped it all off with a thundering, Amen.The scene closes with the Church still worshiping. At long last, their precious Lamb was about to rise up and reign.
A good keyword to help remember the content of this chapter 5 would be the word Worthy. Jesus is the only Human worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals. Sinners who choose to reject him and his great salvation must one day face him as their Judge. He died for them and has done everything possible to save them. Therefore, he is worthy to judge them. The Lion, not the Lamb, is the one who those who persist in unbelief will have to face one day. Furthermore, it is to this Lion who entire new generations of sinners will have to answer and obey during his one thousand year reign on Earth.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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