On Sunday, January 8th, 2017, Mr. Rick Schelthelm spoke on Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation.
Click on the link to view the MS Word file of his message.
Revelation 4 and 5 Message:
Good morning. It is a privilege to share God’s word with you this morning. We have given Aaron a couple Sundays off from the pulpit as he prepares for and participates in his class at Southern this coming week. Since Brett and I have been teaching through Revelation in Sunday School we volunteered to share some of the insights we have gained in studying that wonderful book. I hope that this first message is used by God to set the tone for a new year in which God works in your life, and in the life of His church to glorify himself, and bring forth his kingdom. The main point of my message today is this:
The Sovereignty of God, and the Supremacy of Christ are the foundations of unwavering hope and peace in the midst of the chaos of life.
Let me say that again. The Sovereignty of God, and the Supremacy of Christ are the foundations of unwavering hope and peace in the midst of the chaos of life.
Is there chaos in the world today? Consider the war in Syria. Millions have been displaced, more people than live in the state of WI have lost their homes. Thousands and thousands have been killed, or injured. Atrocities have been committed by multiple sides such that it would seem that nation can never be united again. Elsewhere in the world there is ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko-Haram, and attacks on Christians throughout the world. There are many world leaders who seem unfit to rule. If you read the news about these events it is easy to become discourage, or lose hope.
Closer to home, is there chaos or trouble in your life today? Are you or someone you know going through serious health issues? Has someone you love recently passed away and you are struggling with the challenges of that personal loss? Are you struggling to pay the bills, or with other financial issues? Have you lost your job? Do you have a difficult boss or co-workers? Are there family or other relational struggles in your life? Some or maybe all of these things will await us in 2017.
Now let’s think about what the early church was going through at the time Revelation was given to it. Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed. There was widespread persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. They were fed to lions for sport. All of the original Apostles had been martyred, Christ had been crucified 60 years earlier, and the last Apostle John was nearing death. The churches were small and perhaps seemed insignificant. Probably most believers had experienced persecution, or someone they love had been persecuted or even killed for their faith in Christ.
Did it seem to them that God was in control? Did it seem to them that history was heading to a glorious culmination where the Devil, sin and death were destroyed? Did it seem like the saints would reign forever alongside Christ, with no more tears or suffering or hardship, but only peace, joy, love and the indescribable wonder of being in the presence of God?
The early church knew the truth, but what they were experiencing and seeing on a daily basis was something completely different. It is in this context that John is given Revelation 1:1 “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Apparently, what the church needed at that time, and what I believe we need today is to know that God is completely in control, and that Jesus Christ the Savior of the world is going to bring salvation to every nation, tribe and people, AND execute God’s righteous judgment and wrath against sin. Before he shows us this he adds verse 3, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it because the time is near.”
My hope and prayer is that you will be blessed when we read these glorious truths this morning, and when you hear them. Let’s pray.
In chapters 2 and 3 Jesus goes into great detail explaining how he is currently walking among the churches and knows their deeds. He speaks to 7 real churches that have real brothers and sisters in Christ with real issues, and represent the state of each of our lives and our churches. He gives praise where praise is due, identifies problems, prescribes solutions, and gives promises. Then after examining the state of the churches he gives John a new revelation. Let’s read what he says to those seemingly small, insignificant, and persecuted churches with real problems and be encouraged as they were when they read these things.
Read Revelation 4 and 5.
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. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings[a] 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.”
Chap 5: 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.”
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. 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.
Folks this is the original Mic drop. You know, when someone at some important event makes a bold statement and then drops the mic. The statement speaks for itself. Boom! The mic drops for emphasis. Let these words soak in, because God is dropping the mic on his eternal plans, his eternal rule, his glorious redemption, and his destruction of sin, death, and the devil are about to take place. Boom! Nothing else needs to be said. I told Aaron I was going to read this, drop the mic and walk off the podium, but that would be a really short message so let’s continue on for a bit.
First I will highlight a couple things about the Sovereignty of God in chapter 4, then I will make a couple observations about the supremacy of Christ from chapter 5, and then I will suggest a few ways that these truths can benefit us today.
Chapter 4, verse 1 sets the stage. John and we are going to be shown what MUST take place. “What must take place.” The events that are going to unfold before John’s eyes and ours as we read and study this book are 100% sure to take place. God has determined them, and so we know with complete certainty that they will happen. Nothing, and no one can change or defeat God’s plan or purposes. How many people like to jump to the end of a book or novel and know how it turns out? This is telling us what Must take place. There is nothing else possible. This isn’t “highly likely”, or “probably going to happen”, or 90%, or 95%, or 99.99999% chance of happening. These events, have to happen exactly as God describes because God has determined them, and planned them out. We know what the end will be, that God will triumph, that Christ will reign, and that our continued struggle on earth is worthwhile. These truths are unshakable, and they should give us great encouragement no matter what we are experiencing today.
Now this vision starts with the throne room of heaven. God is the absolute sovereign King and ruler of the universe. He has perfect power, authority, and dominion, and all his servants worship and adore him. His rule is unquestioned, unchallenged, and undeniable. He is about to execute judgment, and reclaim and restore the world to his complete, perfect, and eternal rule. The prayer of the saints through all the ages, “Thy Kingdom come, and thy will be done,” is about to be fulfilled. Revelation chapters 6-19 will describe in great detail the events that “Must” take place because God has planned them, and ordained them, but first, FIRST, we have to know that God is on the throne, that Christ has conquered, and all of creation will bow before him in worship.
In addition to God’s sovereign control, the focus is on the character and attributes of God. Let’s take a very brief look at what the heavenly host tell us about our King and then about our Savior.
First our King is Holy, Holy, Holy: God is perfectly holy, completely separate from sin, special in every way, and in a class by himself. “In Hebrew, the double repetition of a word adds emphasis, while the rare threefold repetition designates the superlative and calls attention to the infinite holiness of God-the quality of God felt by creatures in his presence as awesomeness or fearfulness.”
MacArthur says, “Now what does it mean, “holy, holy, holy”? Well, first of all, it is the only attribute of God repeated three times like that. The Bible never says God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, grace, grace, grace, wisdom, wisdom, wisdom, justice, justice, justice. But it does say He is holy, holy, holy. Now why is it repeated three times? Well I believe it is because it is the summation of all that God is. It is His most salient attribute. God’s holiness is His utter and complete separation from evil in any form and that makes Him different than His creation.
Then they say Lord God Almighty: This is speaking about His absolute dominion, power and authority over everything and everyone. The only true God. It is another superlative. In English we say fast, faster, fastest. The superlative one means the fastest of all. This is a superlative of power. God, the strongest, God the most powerful, God who has the prevailing strength. And the term itself, almighty, has the idea of a conquering power, of an overpowering strength that cannot be withstood. He can do whatever He wills to do. There isn’t anything that is do-able that He can’t do and there isn’t anything that He wills to do that He can’t do. And having done it, He is never tired. And having expended His energy, He has never lost any energy. He is never weary. He is never tired. He loses no energy. He is Almighty! He is all powerful!
Next they say “who was and is and is to come.” He is eternal. He always was in history past, he always is in history current, and he always will be for all of eternity. We don’t have to worry that there will ever be a year, a day, an hour, or one moment when God is not God. He will always reign. He will always be in complete control, and his character will never change or diminish.
After that we see the praise of 24 elders in vs. 11 which I believe represents the church, and what do they add? God is the creator. All things were created by him and for him. He designed them, and He knows everything about them. He understands our strengths and weaknesses. He knows what we need. He has a plan and purpose for us. This is true of all of creation, including you and I.
Whatever you are experiencing today you can know with complete certainty that the absolutely perfect and pure, all-powerful, ever living creator, who knit you together in your mother’s womb has numbered every hair on your head, and planned every moment of your life for your good, and his glory. He is seated on the throne and He reigns over all of creation. There are no circumstances, or situations, or people, or powers that can change that.
Now what is true of God the Father is also true of God the Son. In Chapter 5 we see that Christ is exalted, and worshipped as God by all of heaven, and then by all of creation.
Christ alone is worthy to execute God’s plan of judgment and redemption. The emphasis of chapter 5 is on Christ’s worthiness.
A question is asked in heaven about the worthiness of everyone in heaven. It is rhetorical. They all know the answer that there is only one who is ultimately worthy. They are all created beings receiving their worth from God. No created being, however, can compare to the eternal, perfectly Holy, and Almighty God who was just described in chapter 4. Apparently, this is a moment for all of creation to examine themselves in light of God’s previously displayed glory and recognize how far short of that glory they are. The question is not how holy, or Christ-like we are in comparison to one another. No, in comparison to our infinitely Holy, and perfect, and awesome God we are all nothing. Christ alone is worthy!
Of this moment MacArthur says, “Myriads and myriads, thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand angels are there and none of them speak. Millions of Old Testament saints are there including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah, Elisha, Moses, David, Job, Ezekiel, Daniel (my insert – this is the faith hall of fame), none of them speak (and none of them are worthy). Millions of New Testament saints are there, the Apostles are there, the great missionaries of all of history of the church are there, the great saints, the godly are there and none of them speak. Nobody says anything.”
All of heaven is in awe of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, The Lamb of God.
Why? The new song of the church v9-10, the song of all the angels in v12, and the song of all of creation V13 tell us why.
Of these songs Barnes says, “the song of redemption was a different song, and is one that would never have been sung there if man had not fallen, and if the Redeemer had not died. This song strikes notes which the other songs do not strike, and refers to glories of the divine character which, but for the work of redemption, would not have been brought into view. In this sense the song was new;”
The idea of a new song is very prominent in the book of Psalms. Psalm 33, Psalm 40, Psalm 96, Psalm 144, Psalm 149, and elsewhere pick up this wonderful theme. When God saves somebody, it brings a new song.
Redemption should bring a new song. First there is the awe and amazement at the glory of God the father, and then there is the new song of Redemption when we receive Christ. Now let’s take a brief look at some of the wonderful truths included in these songs.
Jesus’ is worthy of praise because his sacrificial act of submission to God, for God’s glory sets him apart far above all created beings. His substitutionary death on the cross uniquely qualifies him to be the one to judge and condemn all those who reject his gracious payment of our sins. He ransomed, redeemed, or purchased men from every tribe, language, people and nation. This is he bought them from the clutches of sin, death and the devil. To be very clear that God’s salvation is universal, that no unique group of mankind will be missing. His salvation goes to the end of the earth, and the “Great Commission” will be and has already been (in God’s plan) fulfilled. It is effective, it is not what might happen, or what is possible, but what has happened and is done. As Christ said on the cross, “It is finished.”
MacArthur paraphrases these verses like this, “You have a right to redeem Your own, You bought them. You have a right to redeem the universe, You made it. You purchased for God with Your blood, You paid the full price.” He goes on to say, ‘The background of this rich imagery is the buying of slaves from the marketplace and setting them free… At the cross the Lord Jesus paid the price to buy the slaves of sin with His own blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and set them free. He bought them from the slavery of sin and redeemed them to become saints to God for His service and for His worship. He redeemed them from sin and death and hell and Satan and demons to make them saints to God who share God’s glory. And the price…His life.”
V10 tells us what the purpose of this salvation is. He made us a kingdom and priests. His purpose was to take sinful, rebellious, enemies of God and turn them into worshipers, a new kingdom of subjects who delight in God, and serve him. Rather than being ruled by the devil, or evil, or the sinful nature they will be ruled by God, and be restored to their rightful position of ruling with God as his stewards over creation (as it was in the beginning in the garden before the fall). Consider Ro 8:28-29 which tells us that God works to transform us purposefully into the image of Christ. That is what kingdom dwellers look like. We are a kingdom. We are priests. We are children of God and coheirs with Christ. We will rein with him forever. Isn’t that amazing?
Now look at V11: “myriads of myriads” or as the NIV has it “10,000 times 10,000”. 10,000 was the largest Greek number that had a word for it. The largest number times the largest number and thousands more. It is an uncountable number. Imagine what the choir of innumerable angels looks like and sounds like. All of heaven is now in complete unity, and comes together for one purpose; to declare the praises of the Lamb.
Continuing to V12: In a loud voice they sang. Now the crescendo is amazing. The worship is loud and resounding through all of heaven. So loud that it resonates to all of creation which also has to respond. What praise does all of heaven give the Lamb? Worthy! To receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise. All things that are found in, and only in God, yet here is all heaven singing these things about the Lamb. He must be equal with and one with God. To worship and adore anyone or anything but God is an abomination, it is at the very heart of wickedness. Here all of heaven, and in vs 13 all of creation shouts, “You are worthy” to the Lamb. He alone is worthy of our worship! This is one of the strongest declarations of the deity and dominion and supremacy of Christ found in Scripture.
V13: Imagine what it sounds like when all of creation sings praises to God at the same time. This is not a new concept either. Consider Ps 96 vs 1-3 “Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations,” and then what happens after you tell of his salvation and declare his glory among the nations?, Vs 10-13: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth, He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. All of the heavens and earth rejoice and resound (including trees) because the Lord comes to judge. The same thoughts are expressed in Ps 98. All the earth, including the rivers, the seas, mountains, and all that is in them praise God for his salvation and his judgement. Both God’s salvation and judgment deserve praise, and both are praised in these psalms, and in the presence of God in Heaven. This praise belongs to both God and the Lamb. The glory is about both, and shared by both. And this glory and praise lasts forever and ever. It is endless praise to God the Father and Jesus the son, the Lamb of God.
So how do these amazing truths affect the way we think, act and live today? Let me give you a few things to consider as you start a New Year and experience new challenges, and circumstances.
Here are several ways that the Sovereignty of God, and the Salvation of Christ impact our lives today.
God is sovereign and in control. He works all things out for His glory and our good. You and I can trust that this eternal, almighty God is at work in the situations and circumstances of life and have peace and worship him. What we see with our eyes, or read on the internet, or feel with our emotions are not representative of heavenly reality. Putin thinks he controls Russia, Assad thinks he controls Syria, ISIS thinks they control parts of Iraq, people think Trump controls the U.S. The true reality folks is that God is in control everywhere, at all times, and working for his glory and our good. Trust in that. Rest in that. Your eternal destiny, and your current circumstances are in God’s hand.
History is going somewhere. We have an incredible inheritance and position prepared for us and we should be looking ahead and longing for that. We are a kingdom. We are co-heirs with Christ. We will reign with him forever. We are priests. We declare the glories and mysteries, and wonders of our God. All the current tragic world events are opening doors for the Gospel to advance among Muslims, Buddhists, Animists, and atheists throughout the world. There will be worshippers from every tribe, language, people, and nation. It MUST take place. Remember that, “It Must take place.” That is where all these events are taking us. And when we get there, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Amen!
Our God is so awesome and amazing and holy, and he deserves our continuous and unending worship. Fixing our eyes on the glory and majesty, and work of God in the midst of life is what gives hope, encouragement, and perseverance. In the midst of terrible suffering and persecution the early church was given a vision of the glory and majesty of the throne room of heaven. Similarly, we need to look up to God and Christ. Consider Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (the faith hall of fame in Heb 11), let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us.” How? How do we do that? Vs 2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Fix our eyes on Jesus, in the throne room of heaven. Just as he fixed his eyes on the joy before him we need to fix our eyes on the joy that awaits us in heaven. NOT here on earth. Do not fix your eyes, do not set your heart on joys or rewards here on earth. Those are all fleeting, and unfulfilling.
God will soon judge the world, punish rebellion, do away with sin, and restore his kingdom so we should be active in warning sinners to repent before Christ returns. The infinitely holy God must punish and destroy sin. The coming judgment of Christ is imminent, and certain. The cry of the martyrs, “How long….until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” in Rev 6:10 is about to be answered. God’s eternal wrath and punishment is real and near. It MUST take place.
We should be willing to sacrifice and serve today for the sake of Christ and His Gospel because of the joy set before us. The joy of those who are in the presence of God is indescribable. Just as Christ focused on the joy before him, when he went to the cross so we should focus on Christ whenever we go through trials or difficult circumstances for His glory. David Platt says of these chapters in a wonderful message that, “A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death defying missions.” According to Platt that should motivate us to “pray confidently, give generously, go fearlessly, and die for the sake of the Gospel”.
Remember that Christ has completely conquered sin, death, the world, and Satan already. It is finished. Satan and all his demons have been defeated by the cross. Sinners from every tribe, language, people, and nation have been purchased and redeemed. They have become a kingdom and priests to serve God forever. We should have confidence proclaiming Christ because we know some will respond. Will there be opposition? Will there be persecution? Will some of us die for proclaiming the truth? Yes, to all of those things, and in fact the closer we get to the end the more those things will happen. It is also true that the more we suffer and die for the Gospel, the more people will turn to Christ. As we have studied through Revelation we have seen that while it is a time of God’s judgment, it is also the greatest time of salvation the world has ever known. More people will come to Christ in the last days than ever before so be encouraged, and be faithful proclaiming Christ.
No situations, or circumstances, or hardship, or challenges, or opposition are outside of his plan, or beyond is grasp or knowledge, or ability to control and direct them for our good. Remember, he works in “all things” for our good, that we might be transformed into the image of Christ. Ro 8:28-29. All things! Big, small, good, bad, unexplainable. God is at work in ALL things. Do not anxious about tomorrow! That is why Paul can say this about prayer in Phil 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How is this possible? Because you know God is Almighty, and in control, and working for your good in All things.
Every knee will bow before Christ, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Worship begins in heaven, and with the church, it moves to the uncountable host of heaven, and then to all of creation. Phil 2:9-11 has been, and will be fulfilled forever. All the evil in the world, all the evil Satan can muster, all the demons of Hell, all of man’s pride and everything that seems to be opposed to truth and the Gospel will be crushed with one word of the King. Do not despair or lose hope. Christ has conquered, and so our hope is undiminished, and undeniable, and that hope in the midst of the chaos of life should attract people to Christ.
Jesus’ blood has covered over all our sin, and he is able to save us completely and make us priests to serve God forever. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. He holds us in his hand and protects and preserves us. Nothing can snatch us out of His hand. If you have put your trust in Christ, then your eternal joy in the presence of God, and your eternal inheritance as a child of God are secure. Do not become discouraged by your failures, your weakness, or your unfaithfulness. Your salvation does not depend on you. It depends upon the one who is always faithful, who is almighty, and who’s love for you is higher than the heavens are above the earth. Turn to him, and delight yourself in him.
Finally, rejoice in the Lord always! He deserves our unending and eternal praise. Fix your eyes on him, gaze upon His splendor and majesty, delight in Him and what he has done for you, and worship him along with the host of heaven. Worship will lift your soul, and encourage you in the midst of trials just as it encouraged the early church, and just as it will encourage the church after us that goes through even more persecution and suffering. Worship is the antidote to worry.
No matter what 2017 brings to us individually, as a church community, as the part of the body of Christ, or even as a nation let’s remember that
The Sovereignty of God, and the Supremacy of Christ are the foundations of unwavering hope and peace in the midst of the chaos of life.