Revelation 5.1-5 – Who is worthy?

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.

2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice,

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 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.”

Now we begin to read of a new focus, the church letters are past, John has seen God seated on His throne, observed worship by the living creatures (Cherubim) and the Elders, now, a scroll is seen in the right hand of God.

Unusually, the scroll is written on both sides. It was normal just to write on one side of the scroll. Ancient scrolls were read horizontally not vertically. Apparently, the scroll would be held in the left hand and unrolled with the right as you read. On a scroll typical for the day, Revelation would be 4.5 meters long! To write on both sides then means that whatever was written on this scroll was supremely detailed.

What then is written on this scroll? The best fitting idea is that this is God’s will for all of humanity, wow! Roman law and wills at the time of writing was sealed seven times, each from a witness to the law/will contained inside. The idea behind this then is that only God knows what is written on this scroll, He holds it in His hand. There is no way for sure to know what is written on it, so at best we can take educated guesses. The point, though, is that we are not worthy to open it and see what is written, we are not worthy to know God’s ultimate plan for His creation,

The thought is a disappointing one; there is nobody in heaven, on earth, or under the earth – basically anyone ever – who is worthy and able to open the scroll or even to look into it.

If this is the case, we can never know God’s will.

If this is the case, we are left stranded and floating through life.

If this is the case, how will we ever be sure of our Salvation?

If this is the case, our quality of life and peace of mind just took a nosedive.

It’s easy to follow this train of thought and arrive at quite the dreary, bleak, depressing station…end of the line and nothing much to hope in.

Just as John seems to be playing this out, one of the Elders comes forward with some prophetic references for him (and us) to let it be known that there is One who is worthy to open the scroll, One who is worthy to break the seals, One who is worthy to look inside and know the will of God the Father, the Lord God Almighty, creator and sustainer of the universe.

Jesus, a descendent of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God (John 1.29) has conquered death and is worthy to open the scroll (John 5.22).

Jesus is the Root of David, and He is worthy to open the scrolls and break the seven seals (Isaiah 11.1-2, Zechariah 3.8, Zechariah 6.12, Revelation 5.5, Revelation 22.16).

The point is simple yet beautiful; Jesus is worthy to open the scroll.

Jesus is worthy to look into the will of God and know it.

Jesus is worthy to know God’s will and guide us through life.

Jesus is worthy, able, and willing to save us.

Jesus is worthy and able to be our peace, out completeness.

Through Jesus, we can be sure of our Salvation because He has conquered and has opened the way to God for us.

He is the way, He is the truth, and He is the life.

 

 

 

 

Revelation 4.5-11 – People and Living Creatures

5 From 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, 6 and 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:

7 the 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.

8 And 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!”

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the 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.”

Today there are people and living creatures present, present in heaven with the Lord God Almighty (which, by the way, is a triple strength superlative for our great God; Lord, God, Almighty). There is life in heaven!

The first person present is the person of the Holy Spirit; before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.The Holy Spirit is a visible presence in heaven, quite a contrast to His current role as the active member of the Godhead in the world today, unseen but very present and at work.

There are also cherubim present, angels of the Lord God Almighty. Not people, but living creatures. Could they be the creature Ezekiel saw in Ezekiel 1.4-14 and 10.20.22? Quite possibly. Quite possibly they are the cherubim of the Lord God Almighty. What are cherubim? This sums it up well,

The cherubim serve the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God’s praises, they also serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.”

So, we have the visible presence of the Holy Spirit, cherubim magnifying the holiness and power of God through constant worship, and we have people. The twenty four elders (12 tribes and 12 apostles) are also engaged in this never ending cycle of worship of God,

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the 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.”

Basically, then, all the time!

The elders are definitely people, not more angels. God has promised those who love Him a place in this eternal forever. Paul had a firm grasp on this truth;

Romans 8.16-17

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

2 Timothy 2.11-13

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.

 

The question today then, is, do we want to find ourselves part of this never ending cycle of worship in heaven?

Do we want to see and experience this all first hand, with our own senses?

 

If we do, the Word of God is so clear on what we must to ensure this, Romans 10 reads

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

Revelation 4.1-4 – Symbols and reality

1 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.”

2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

3 And 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.

4 Around 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.

Chapter one detailed things in the past, chapters two and three in the present, and from chapter four onwards we read of things yet to come, literally, meta tauta, after this…

Chapters four to nineteen of Revelation details God’s judgement (hold on to your seats), from His throne in heaven and via a seven-sealed scroll which we will get to. After chapter nineteen, He’s back; Jesus’ earthly reign begin. Four to nineteen, then, details what most people would call the Great Tribulation, God’s judgement being poured out.

There are lots of symbols in this short section, lots of things which paint us a picture of what John saw. Remember, he simply didn’t have the vocabulary to describe the glory of the things he saw, so he used the words he had to paint us as accurate a picture as he could. The really important thing though is to remember that a symbol is never greater than the reality.

Take for instance, our church logo;
Logo w. Mission

It’s clear, striking, shows what we value, says who we are, says what we (are aiming to) do, this particular version is black and white which is often a symbol of a clear cut right/wrong situation.

However, the church family is more than the logo, the church experience, the worship experience, is more than the logo…

Consider even this symbol;

Unknown

It means a great deal to us. By it we have life. Through it we are alive. On it our sacrificial Saviour gave His life to save us from death. But, even the symbol of the cross is nowhere near as powerful as the real thing, are you with me?


Basically, symbol < reality.


Here, then, John sees God on His throne, wow!

Here’s our first symbol,

And 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

The appearance ofappearance of

We know from the Old Testament that rainbows represent God’s promise never to wipe out humanity through a flood again, Genesis 9 says,

11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Using word pictures to describe the supernatural isn’t something only John did, in Matthew 28 we read,

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

But, symbols are never greater than the reality.

This means that throughout the coming chapters when we are awed by what we read, what we are reading of is actually even more awesome than we can imagine.

But, on the other side of that coin, when we shudder at what we read, this is even more terrible than we can imagine.

Both should point us in the right direction, this one…

Unknown

 

Revelation 2 and 3 – Synthesis

The seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 and 3 were real churches at the time of writing (in the 90s…90s A.D., not the 1990s, John did not write this whilst listening to the sweet melodic tunes of the Backstreet Boys…).

There were others in the region that were not written to (Colosse for example). So, the fact that Jesus spoke to this seven is significant. Theories abound on this; for example, the order of the seven churches is representative of the pattern of church history. Interestingly, Paul also wrote to seven churches (bonus points if you can name them in the comments below) and Jesus Himself gave seven “Kingdom Parables”.

Big word time; Jesus is not capricious in His choice here. Simply, He chose these seven churches for a reason. Why, we are not told explicitly so there has to be a certain amount of reasoned and considered conjecture.

The church age theory is very interesting;

Ephesus – Apostolic age

Smyrna – Age of persecution (remember Polycarp)

Pergamos – Imperial Church age

Thyatira – Age of Papacy

Sardis – Reformation age

Philadelphia – Missionary age

Laodicea – Age of apostasy

 

Alternatively, we could consider the overall characterisation of each church as key;

Ephesus – backslidden church

Smyrna – persecuted church

Pergamos – promiscuous church

Thyatira – lax church

Sardis – dead church

Philadelphia – favoured church

Laodicea – lukewarm church

 

If we take just the final four – Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea – there is certainly a lesson for us to take from this.

  • We can be unrepentant and unfaithful as a body of believers, not taking our call to be holy and separate seriously.
    • If this were us, the Great Tribulation awaits.
  • We could be empty in our practices, be a church of head but not heart, present in the body but absent in the Spirit.
    • If this were us, empty religious practices would characterise us.
  • We could remain faithful to the Word of God, seek to love and care for others above all our own personal wishes and desires.
    • If this is us, the promises of the true and faithful witness will be ours.
  • We could be lukewarm, feeling that we are actually doing well but in actual fact causing our Lord and Saviour to spit us from His mouth.
    • If that doesn’t jolt us back into line, so to speak, I’m not sure what will.

 

We are encouraged, repeatedly, to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. There is something for us to take from each of the seven churches written to in the then-present day immediate context of Revelation. The problem with the church age theory is that, in the words of Joseph Seiss,

‘There are…holy ones in the midst of abounding defection and apostasy, and unholy ones in the midst of the most earnest and active faith; light in dark places, and darkness in the midst of light.’


We do, though, have characteristics of all the churches, both good and bad.


It is the responsibility of all of us to work together to make our local expression of the wider, global, capital C Church a church that our Lord looks at and says you have kept my word and have not denied my name…because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

What can we do to help that today?

 

Obadiah 5-9 – Boasting

In Obadiah 1-4 we read that pride was a serious problem for the Edomites, the decedents of Esau, twin brother of Jacob. Here, in verses 5-9, we see that they also boasted in their allies, those nations around them whom were thought to be friendly;

If thieves came to you,

if plunderers came by night—

how you have been destroyed!—

would they not steal only enough for themselves?

If grape gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

How Esau has been pillaged,

his treasures sought out!

All your allies have driven you to your border;

    those at peace with you have deceived you;

they have prevailed against you;

those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—

you have no understanding.

Pastor and Bible commentator David Guzik, writes this,

‘When God brings judgment against Edom, they will know the sting of treachery against them. The alliances they once trusted in would come to nothing, and they would be double-crossed by their former friends. The Edomites were proud of their political alliances, but God would break their pride and bring them low.’

People are fickle, if you go to any sports game you will see fans cheering their team on one minute, then lamenting the fact that “My grandma could have scored that!”, or “He couldn’t hit a beach ball with a cricket bat.”…heroes one minute, incompetent lucky-to-be-pro-sportsmen the next…


But, what should we boast in?


The Bible says we should boast only in the Lord; His person, His works, His ways, His will. Really, are people worth boasting in? None of us are righteous by our own accord, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God (harsh, but true).

There is one worth boasting in, isn’t there, one who brings hope for the future and for today, one who took the nails, one who tore the veil, only one spotless lamb.

Let us boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Scriptures to meditate on today;

Jeremiah 9:23

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;

Psalm 20:7

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.

Galatians 6:14

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.