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Beyond The Door Of Death: Heaven—Part 4
Good morning, everybody. If you would, please take out your Bibles, now, and turn in them to the fabulous book of the Revelation and chapter number 5—the book of the Revelation and chapter number 5.
I don’t really know how many times in recent years I’ve been flying on an airplane—it’s been a number of times—but I’m always impressed how everything looks different when you get up and you have the elevated vantage point of being on an airplane. You ever notice that? I mean, you just take off, and suddenly when you get up there, life has a whole new perspective to it—a whole new angle. You see the big picture of things in a way that you don’t normally get to do. In fact, for example, your normal view in everyday life is that you see the street light outside of your house. But you get up in that elevated vantage point and you’re looking at the lights of an entire city. It’s really interesting how you can observe, when you get up there, the design of the city. I’ve noticed on roadways and highways you can see events before those on the flat land can tell they’re coming. You know, sometimes you can see a big traffic jam; and you’re looking at the people down here on the road, and they don’t even see that it’s happening—or an accident, or something like that. The things that appear to be big obstacles on the ground—rather large, looming things—from an elevated viewpoint are far less formidable.
Well, just the same way you get that new perspective from an airplane, you can get the same kind of a perspective from the elevated vantage point of heaven. You see life differently, when we actually are seeing heaven for what it really is. And now, when we investigate heaven, we begin to take on a new perspective. You know, it’s kind of interesting as we’ve been working through our study, you begin to see the bigger picture of things—our vistas are broadened. We’ve begun to see some divine design. Actually, we’re going to see some events that are going to take place before anyone on the flat land really knows about them because we have an opportunity to be in the elevated view of heaven. And from the elevated view of heaven, things that appear to be big obstacles in this life really aren’t so formidable from heaven’s elevated vantage point. I never grow tired of flying, and I never grow tired of being able to see things from the vantage point of heaven.
We are involved in a series of messages that we launched a number of weeks ago entitled, “Beyond The Door Of Death: The Bible On Heaven And Hell.” And we have chosen to investigate heaven first; and today we’re coming to part number four in our study of heaven. And I want you to know that we’re coming, today, to one of the most dramatic chapters in the Bible. And I wish I could literally transport us there, and we could feel the emotion of everything that happens in this chapter. We’re going to have to do the best that we can. In fact, we’re going to go all the way through chapter 5, today, so we need to batten down the hatches and get ready to move out. But there’s great drama here. And as the great drama unfolds, we’re going to see some very exciting things.
Now, let me give you an outline that I have for Revelation, chapter 5. First of all, we have, in verse 1, the book; and then we have, in verses 2 to 4, the problem. And then, in verses 5 to 7, we have the solution to the problem; and then, in verses 8 to 14, we have the celebration. So, that’s what we’re going to see as we break down this chapter; this great, great drama that occurs. We have the book, in verse 1; the problem, in verses 2 to 4; the solution, in verses 5 to 7; and the celebration, in verses 8 to 14.
Now, I want to remind you—just to put you in some context—of what we’ve already studied from Revelation, chapter 4. You might remember that in those first couple of verses, we have the door of heaven that is opened up. And the command is given to the apostle John, who is on ‘Survivor Island,’ to “…come up here.” And he not only goes up to heaven, but we believe he is transported ahead in time. And the time in which he is finding himself in heaven, in Revelation, chapters 4 and 5 and following, is a time of the final events on the earth—the time we call ‘the time of tribulation.’ And so, we see him up in that time frame. He gets up into heaven, and he sees, first of all, a throne that is in a very central position in heaven. And the heavenly Father is sitting on the throne in chapter 4. We saw a group of individuals, called the twenty-four elders, in chapter 4; and we have identified them as the redeemed individuals who are in heaven at the start of the tribulation period. And then, we saw another group of individuals, as we studied the end of chapter 4, and that would be the four living creatures that are there, which we believe would best be understood as high angels—the seraphim—who are the guardians of the holiness of God.
Now, that’s the beginning of things. In chapter 5 I want you to notice the very first word in verse 1 of chapter 5. You’ll notice it’s the word ‘and.’ It’s simply a continuation; there really shouldn’t be a chapter division here, but we have to have chapter divisions to make it easy for us to find our way through the Bible. But this is a continuation. And remember the picture: Come up here—transported in the future—and he’s simply reporting on what he sees. And we’re able to take this tour with him. And you’ll notice he says, in verse 1 of chapter 5, “I saw.” He’s just simply reporting what he sees. In verse 2, he says, “I saw.” In verse 6, he says again, “I saw.” In verse 11, he says, “And I looked, and I heard…”. So, we’re on this tour of heaven with John, and we have a tremendous drama that is going to unfold in chapter 5.
Now, it all begins with this book. Notice, in verse 1, he says, “…I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne…”—that would be the heavenly Father. There is a book there in His hand, “…written inside and on the back…;” and it’s sealed up, it says, “…with seven seals.” Now, it’s important for us to understand they did not have books, in their day—not books like we have at all. In fact, they had really what would be scrolls—in our terminology. Um…simply a scroll; in fact, it should be translated, “There was a scroll in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” They would make a scroll out of papyrus, which is a plant, or out of vellum, which would be animal skin—or calf skin. They would simply lay that out flat; and then what they’d do is, they would write on the scroll. And then, as they were writing on the scroll and they completed that, then they would roll the scroll up. And so, that’s what’s pictured in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. This is the ‘scroll that is rolled up yonder.’ ( some laughter)…come on…come on…come on! Let’s wake up a little bit, here. [this is intended as a humorous word play on the hymn When the Roll is called up yonder] The scroll that is rolled up yonder is right there in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now, here’s what I want you to notice…(just checking to see if you’re all awake, today. Everyone’s looking, you know, fairly unawake).
Well, notice verse 1. And the scroll that is rolled up yonder; it is written on the inside, it says, “…and on the back, it’s sealed up with seven seals.” Now, what we have here, really, is a picture of a common…legal document of the day—this was known all over the Middle East in those days—and what you would do is, simply, you would take a scroll, and you would write for a little while; and then you would…put a little seal on that part of it, as you rolled it up. And then you’d write for a little while, and then you would roll it up and you would seal it. And you would do that like, for example, seven times, which is what this one is sealed with—seven seals. And then, you would write on the outside of the scroll. Now, why would you write on the outside of the scroll? Because if you’ve got scrolls laying there, you don’t know what’s on the inside of them if they’re sealed up unless something is written on the outside. And so, we have this scroll that is rolled up yonder, and it is sealed with seven seals in it; and it has something written on the outside, or on the back of it, which is—no doubt—the content of the scroll. So you could see it if you saw it lying there. The key question that we have to ask is: what does this scroll signify?
Now, let me just take you on a little bit of a tour of interpretation. Many people believe that this scroll is to be identified as the title deed to the earth. If you know your biblical history, you know that dominion to the earth was given by God to Adam; he was to have dominion over all of the earth. And yet, Adam rebelled against God—sinned against God—and he forfeited that in Genesis, chapter 3. And ever since that time, Satan has functioned as the god of this world. And so, this world is waiting to be reclaimed. And so, some people would say this is the title deed to the earth. It’s a very plausible view; it’s a very possible view. But I, personally, don’t think that’s the best way to understand this scroll that is rolled up yonder. I believe the best way to understand the scroll is to see it as containing the counsels of God; the decrees of God regarding the final cataclysmic judgment that He wanted to levy on a rebellious world.
There are two reasons why I believe this contains the counsels and decrees of God regarding the final judgment of the world. Let me give them to you. Number one reason why I believe that’s the best way to understand the scroll has to do with a parallel passage that’s found in the book of Ezekiel. Turn with me to the book of Ezekiel—for just a moment—in the Old Testament—Ezekiel, chapter 2. And what we have, in Ezekiel, chapter 2 is a very similar situation to Revelation, chapters 4 and 5. If you go back and study the book of Ezekiel, you’ll find out that in chapter 1 the heavens are opened up and Ezekiel is called in for a tour of heaven. And I want you to notice what happens in Ezekiel, chapter 2, verse 1. Ezekiel is up in heaven, and God says to him, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” Now, that’s one thing that’s going to bring you to attention pretty fast; when God says stand up, “I want to talk to you.” And then, notice verse 3: “…He said to me, ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel…’ ”—now, here’s a key thing—“ ‘…to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.’ ” Now, let your eyes go down to verse 9, and Ezekiel says, “Then I looked…”—remember he’s seeing things—“…[and] behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll…”—a book—“…was in it. [and] When He spread it out before me…”—this scroll—“…it was written on the front and [the] back; and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.” In other words, in a very similar scene we have a scroll appearing, and the scroll really relates to God’s judgment that He was getting ready to levy on the nation of Israel. So, the first reason why I like to see the scroll back in Revelation, chapter 5 as the counsels and decrees of God regarding His judgment on a rebellious world is because we have a parallel situation in Ezekiel, chapter 2, where the very same type of a scroll contains God’s decrees of judgment against Israel.
But there’s a second reason, that’s even more prominent, why I would understand this scroll as signifying the decrees and counsels of God regarding the final judgment on the world, and that’s simply what happens when the scroll is opened. As the scroll is opened up, what flows out of the opening of the scroll are the judgments of God; the final, cataclysmic judgment that God has planned for everyone on the earth. Now, we’re not going to—in our study of heaven—get into these chapters, but I’m going to give them to you if you’d like to read them. As this scroll—the decrees of God regarding the judgment of God—is opened up, in chapter 6 we have what’s called the ‘seal judgments.’ There are seven seal judgments that are going to be levied and fall upon the earth. And when the seventh seal judgment is opened up, out of that comes the trumpet judgments; and they’re found in chapters 8 and 9 of the book of Revelation—the trumpet judgments; seven of them. And out of the seventh trumpet judgment, then comes the bowl judgments on the earth, and they’re found in chapter 16. So, the events that flow out of the opening of the scroll would be in chapter 6—the seal judgments; in chapters 8 and 9, the trumpet judgments; in chapter 16, the bowl judgments. Therefore, it seems very clear to me that this scroll contains the counsels and decrees of God regarding the final cataclysmic judgment He has planned for rebellious world.
See, the picture we seem to have here is that God’s wrath is reaching a boiling point. You know, we know that God is very patient, and sometimes people think, “Well, God’s never going to do anything.” Listen, there’s going to come a time when His wrath is going to reach a boiling point. And this scroll is a picture of the counsels of God and His decrees of judgment against a rebellious world. That’s the book; that’s the scroll that is rolled up yonder.
But there’s a problem in this drama; and I wish I could really reproduce the drama, but there’s a problem in verses 2 to 4. Notice verse 2. He says, “…I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the
and to break its seals?’ ” In other words, see, the question is—that this angel is shouting out—who has the credentials? Who is authorized? Who is qualified? Who is authorized and qualified to judge evil? Who is authorized and qualified to overturn injustices in the world? Who is authorized and qualified to punish wrong and to reward righteousness? Who has the credentials to bring rebellious men to their knees? Who has the credentials to bring Satan to captivity? Who has the credentials to restore the earth to its rightful owner? Who has the credentials, as it says in Revelation, chapter 11, to take the kingdom of this world and turn it into the kingdom of our Lord? Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?
And so, what you really have, in essence, is a celestial search committee that begins to go out and find out who is worthy. And notice, they begin to search around, and there’s no one that is found in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth who is able to open the book or to look into it. Now, you have to picture the drama of this whole thing. All the way…in all the corners of the universe the committee goes out to find anybody that would be worthy to open the book. And you notice, in verse 4, no one’s found. And so, John begins to weep greatly. He begins sobbing; he begins wailing. I mean, after all, from his viewpoint, it seems that God’s kingdom is being postponed. It…it seems that God’s judgment is being derailed. The forces of evil are going to be left unchecked. The helpless and the downtrodden are going to be left without any hope. No one is worthy to open the book.
Isn’t it interesting, in our world, where we put our hope; in the world today, where we have historically put our hope: You know, it’s interesting how much evolution plays a role in the hope of mankind. Do you ever think about that? See, evolution is part of the hope that men and women have. I mean, if we could just keep evolving and we can just keep improving, we’ll just get a little bit better. And we hope that eventually evolution will take place, and we’ll be able to finally reach the pinnacle. In our world, people’s hope is often placed in human philosophy. If we can just come in contact, you see, with the right human wisdom and then we can educate and begin to propagate that out with people, then finally we’ll be able to reach where we need to get. In our world, historically, people’s hope is often placed in government. If we could just get the right government in there, and have the right kind of government, then we could reach where we need to be. But the truth is that no politician, and no program, and no political system is ever going to successfully eliminate injustice in this world. There is no politician, no political program or system that’s ever going to usher in the ‘Golden Age.’
And so, we have a scroll here; we have a book, and we have a problem. No one is found who can open the book; who is worthy to open the book. But then, in the drama—like any good drama—a solution appears. Notice in verse 5—verses 5 to 7—“…one of the elders said to me, ‘[John] Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ ” The Lion of the tribe of Judah. The lion is a picture of something that is ferocious and fearless; it’s strong and majestic. He says, “Wait a minute. You don’t need to weep. There is someone who can handle this. It’s the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” And, you know, you almost get the idea, if you immerse yourself in the story, that it goes something like this; you know he’s weeping and he’s wailing and he’s told, “Wait a minute. The Lion of the tribe of Judah can do it.” And it’s almost like, you know, he’s kind of wiping away the tears and like he turns his head. And you notice in verse 6 he says, I…I turned my head, “And I saw…”. It’s almost like we’re expecting, here, a lion-like figure…right? “Oh, it’s the Lion of the tribe of Judah that can do it,” and so he turns and he sees…but he doesn’t see a lion. He says, “…I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the [elder] a Lamb standing, as if slain…”.
Now, it may not come across in our translations, but this is very graphic language. You have a picture of a Lamb standing, as if slain. The word that’s translated ‘slain’ means to cut up; it means to mutilate; it means to slaughter. There’s a Lamb standing there, as if slaughtered. And immediately, you know, our minds go back to the book of Isaiah, chapter 53; where it talks about how Jesus was like a lamb that was led to slaughter, and He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that brought us peace was put upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
A Lamb standing, as if slaughtered. Do you remember? What Jesus went through was very violent! His skull was pierced by thorns; there was a whip with pieces of metal that lacerated His back; there were fists that bruised and cut up His face; there were nails that gouged His hands; there was a spear that tore deep into His side.
And so, he finally turns to look at the Lion, and he sees a Lamb standing, as if slain—as if slaughtered. It’s not dead; it’s standing there.
I remember Peter’s words to the people of Israel, in Acts, chapter 2—speaking of Jesus, he says—this Man was delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. This Man you nailed to a cross, by the hands of godless men, and you put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
The story is told of a Sunday School teacher who was teaching young boys, and she was telling them there would be nothing in heaven that is man-made. And one of the little boys put his hand up, and she said, “Yes.” And he said, “Yes, there is going to be something man-made in heaven, teacher.” And she said, “What?” And he said, “You know, the…the nail prints in Jesus’ hands.” And it’s so true. Isn’t it a wonderful picture, here? That you have the Savior in glory, and you still see a Lamb standing, as if slaughtered. For all time, the marks of love on the Lamb will be seen by us.
Really what you have is a two-fold picture, here. It’s one of a few places you have them back-to- back in the Bible. There’s really just two pictures of Christ, ultimately. You see, for those who reject Christ, they will have to face the Lion who comes in judgment with a holy fury. And then, for those who trust in Christ, there’s a different picture that you see, and that is the picture of a sacrificial Lamb; a Lamb that had been slaughtered, and yet it’s standing in new life. Those are the two pictures that people have to face—only two. Those who reject Christ face the Lion, and those who have trusted in Christ see a sacrificial Lamb who loved them.
Notice verse 7—what happens. This Lion of the tribe of Judah—or, if you will, the Lamb that’s standing as if it had been slaughtered—He comes and He takes the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Jot down the reference: Daniel, chapter 7, verses 13 and 14. It’s a parallel to this, where Daniel also is having some view of heaven. And Daniel says there, “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that
will not pass away…His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”
Do you see the picture and the drama, here? Really, Jesus is stepping up as the hero. He is the hero who steps up and grabs the scroll out of the right hand of God the Father. He is the hero; He is the One who’s poised and ready. He’s poised and ready to execute judgment on the earth. He’s poised and ready to judge the living and the dead. He’s poised and ready to bring history to its appointed end, and no one—no one—is going to have the power to annul even one word of God’s sovereign decree. Christ is our hero; the ultimate hero of all of history!
So, it all begins with this scroll—this book. And then, we have the problem presented in the drama, then we have the solution presented. But I want you to see, it next goes to the celebration, in verses 8 to 14. And what I want you to see, as we look at this celebration very quickly; it begins around the throne, but we’re going to see it cascade outward. It’s going to go out to the angelic realm. And, eventually, it’s going to go to every realm of every corner of the universe.
Notice, it says in verse 8, “…when He…”—the hero; the Lamb—“…had taken the book, the four living creatures…”—the seraphim—“…and the twenty-four elders…”—that would be us; the redeemed who are in heaven at this time—“…fell down before the Lamb…each one [having] a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Each one having a harp.
Some people go, “I don’t really like harps.” Well, you know, a harp in the Scriptures always the most joyous instrument. And I don’t really believe the only instrumentation we’re going to have in heaven are going to be harps, although I’m sure there’d be harps like you’ve never seen before—incredible harps. But Psalm 150 talks about how every instrument is to be used to praise God. But the picture, here, is one of joy. These joyous instruments are used to give worship to the hero.
And then, you notice they also have golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Do you ever think about what’s gone on over the decades with the saints—with the believers? Think about some of the things that have happened to people over the years. Think about how often the prayers have gone up to God: “Oh, God, make things right, Lord, in this world. Bring justice in this world, God. God come vindicate Your name. People are always using Your name like a trash word. People are blowing away anything in terms of any kind of respect for You. Come vindicate Your name. Come Lord Jesus; come quickly Lord Jesus.” See, those prayers have been uttered for decades, and decades, and decades by the saints.
Remember Jesus’ prayer that He taught the disciples? Pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done…”—where?—“…on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s been a prayer of the church all of these centuries. And those prayers have been collecting in the bowls, and they’re about ready to be cashed in by the hero Himself.
And notice, as the celebration goes on, it says, in verse 9, “And they sang a new song…”. I don’t know if you’ve ever really looked at…at music and songs before, but you know, primarily, a song is designed to express emotion and to tell a story. And here, with all this drama unfolding, they sing a new song. It’s just a new depth to things. But the theme is so very critical. Do you know what the theme is, as we look at this new song that they sing? It’s the finished work of Calvary. “Worthy are You to take the scroll, and to break its seals; because You were slain, and You purchased] for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
Many of you have heard me say, for a number of years; when you start looking at issues of salvation and all the religious systems that exist in the world—and there are probably hundreds of them—there are only two approaches to God—there are only two of them. You have biblical Christianity, and then you have every other single kind of approach to God. They all fit into one of those two categories. And the summary of all the other religious systems of the world can be summarized, really, by one word and that word is the word ‘do.’ There’s something that human beings have got to do; you’ve got to do something. Now what fills in the blank for the ‘do’ will vary by religious system, but biblical Christianity is completely different from that. You summarize biblical Christianity with the word ‘done.’ It’s already been done. It was done, not by human beings; it was done by God Himself. See, the essence of all these religious systems—I don’t care what it is; it always comes back to it—the essence of it is human achievement. The essence of biblical Christianity is divine accomplishment. You see, there’s two different things here. The key, in all the other religious systems, is that your aim is to earn something; you’ve got to earn standing with God. You’ve got to earn acceptance with God. You’ve got to earn salvation. You’ve got to earn your right to go to heaven. But biblical Christianity says the aim is differently; the aim is to receive, as a gift, what God has done.
And the new song deals with the fact He’s worthy to take the scroll because of what He did at Calvary. And see, what people need to do, who are involved with all these other religious systems, is they need to cease from their own effort and they need to turn and count on His accomplishment on Calvary for them. See, that’s the essence of what biblical Christianity is all about. And so, that’s what needs to be done. And you know what? People are going to do that. People are going to do that.
Notice he says, You purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe, every tongue, every people, and every nation—every tribe, every lineage that exists in the world; every tongue, every language, every people, every race, every nation, every national alliance is covered by the work of Calvary.
Now, in verse 10 he goes on…part of the celebration goes on to say, You have made them—these individuals who’ve trusted in You—“…to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” The first hint we have of some of the roles we’re going to have in heaven. You have made them a kingdom. We are righteous, heavenly citizens. We’re a kingdom. And not only that, we’re priests. You know, a priest is the one who has the unimpeded access to God; direct access to God. And that’s one of the things we’re going to have, even in heaven. It’s amazing to think about! I mean, there’s a lot of times I think, you know, I’d like to ask God what in the world’s going on here? You know, I’d like to have direct…a direct line. But in heaven we’re going to have that direct access; we’re going to actually be able to sit down with Him and converse with Him. And then, we’re also going to reign. We’re going to talk about that more in the weeks ahead.
If you’d like to just look at a parable that relates to our reigning, you might look at Luke, chapter 19, verses 11 and following. It’s going to talk about some of the issues that’ll be involved in reigning in heaven.
But I just want you to begin to get the idea that when we’re in heaven, we’re not just sitting up there bored to death, spit polishing our halo for the one-thousandth time—“I don’t know…I’ll see if I can get it a little bit brighter, here…Oooo!”—you know. No! We’re going to be with our hero; we’re going to be heroes with Him; and we’re going to be ruling with Him in the future kingdom. And I just want you to see the celebration that begins, you see; first, with those around the throne, it begins to cascade outward. This is really unbelievable—unbelievable stuff. He says, “I looked…”—in verse 11—“…and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.” The word ‘myriad,’ really, is a word that means ten thousand. If you just take a myriad by a myriad—ten thousand times ten thousand—that would be one hundred million. But he uses a plural, here. There are myriads of myriads of them! You know, the largest number in the book of Revelation is two hundred million. And yet…he’s reaching for language. He says, there are…when all these angelic beings get involved, there are myriads of myriads and thousands of–there are billions of them who join in the celebration. And you know what I believe? I believe that this doesn’t just happen in heaven. I believe that when we worship here, down on the earth, and we are saying, “Worthy are You to be praised, God,” I believe that we are joined by the angelic realm—even now. They don’t just sit up there and say, “Well, I wonder how they’re doing down there.” They’re going to get involved in the process. When Jesus Christ is being lifted up and worshiped, they’re going to join in. We may not be able to see them, we may not be able to hear them, we may not be able to feel them, but we are not alone. And when we’re worshiping God, we are joined by billions of living creatures in worshiping Him.
And notice what happens as they all get involved. They’re “…saying with a loud voice…”—we probably should translate this: “with a roar!” I just want you to see this is not a sedate, you know, kind of hushed little worship service—“I think I’ll say something…or sing something…”. We have a roar going out here. We have excitement and emotion going out, here. We have a glorious story that they’re singing about. There’s deep emotion involved: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And then, I want you to notice; not only does this cascade out to take in the angelic beings, but I believe in verse 13 we have a prophetic leap that occurs.
See, there was a prediction that God made—it’s recorded in Romans, chapter 14 and verse 11. This is what it says: “…As I live, says the Lord…”. Now, that’s a pretty stern beginning to a statement. “…As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me and every tongue shall give praise to God.” God says, I’m going to step forward and make you a promise, “As I live…every knee is going to bow to Me…every tongue is going to give praise to God.” And I believe that’s going to happen at the very end events of history. And I think we have things projected ahead, in verse 13, because every created thing—every created thing—including all the demonic beings, everybody in hell, and everyone on the earth and under the earth and on the sea. And all things in them, he heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” Everyone…everything…everywhere is going to do this.
Do you know what that means? That means that the agnostic; the agnostic who would only reluctantly maybe concede that Jesus was a good man, is one day, himself, going to have his knee bowed, and he’s going to be making a clear declaration—a very clear declaration—“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” That means the atheist is one day going to recognize his grave error; maybe worshiping material things, or worshiping himself. But one day his knee is going to be bowed, and he’s going to give full acknowledgement that “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb [are] blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
It’ll be too late for them; they’ll be facing an eternity without God, but every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to give praise to God. And then, you’ll notice as it concludes the celebration, in verse 14, “…the four living creatures kept [on] saying, ‘Amen.’ ”—so be it; so may it be—“And the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Isn’t it amazing how, from heaven’s elevated viewpoint, our vistas are changed; our vistas are broadened? And how much we can increase in appreciation for God by being in that elevated vantage point.
Now, it’s an…incredible chapter. We’ve had to rush our way through it. But I want to…I want to anchor some life application for us, as we come out of Revelation, chapter 5. And I want to use two terms that will be our anchor for life application. The first term is ‘centerpiece’—the first term is centerpiece—and the second term is ‘confidence.’ The first term that’s our anchor to the life application of this section is the term ‘centerpiece.’ You know, when you look at this, it becomes very clear. Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the universe…right? He is the centerpiece of the universe. He is the central focus of all history. Well, I think in regarding Him being the centerpiece, there are two questions that we need to ask. And the first one is this: Do you know Him as the Lamb who was slaughtered for you? Do you know Him as the Lamb who was slaughtered for you? Or, will you be facing Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah? He is the centerpiece, and we have a choice. We’re either going to know Him and see Him as the Lamb who was slaughtered, or we’re going to face Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is coming in holy fury.
And I know, sometimes, there can be people around and they’ve heard this message of Christ I don’t know how many different times. The key question is: Do you, right now before your heart stops beating and you enter into eternity, do you know Him—have you turned to Him—have you ceased from your own stuff that you’re trying to do, and trusted in Him as the Lamb who died for you. Because if you haven’t done that, you’re one heartbeat away from facing the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Because He is the centerpiece, you see. And we need to make Him the centerpiece of our salvation by trusting in Him.
But, you know, many of us have done that, and there’s still something about the centerpiece that I think has application for you and for me. And the second question I want to ask you—if you’ve trusted in Him; if you know Him as the Lamb—is He the centerpiece of your life right now? He is the centerpiece of all of eternity and all of heaven, but…is He the centerpiece of your life right now? Is He the centerpiece of your business life; the way that you operate in your business and the way you operate at work? Is He the centerpiece in your dating life as you’re dating? Is your whole dating life centered around the fact you want Him to be honored? Is He the centerpiece in your student life? Is He the centerpiece in your marriage? You know, our marriage is designed to be a picture of Christ and the Church. Are we thinking about that, when we’re relating to our spouse; that we have some advertisement to do and make Him the centerpiece of our marriage? How about the centerpiece of your family life?
See that what’s interesting is He is the centerpiece, but we have a choice as to whether or not we’re going to allow Him to function as the centerpiece in our life. And so, you might take some of those areas of your life and ask, “Am I using Him, or allowing Him to be the centerpiece?”
So, the first anchor on some life application from Revelation 5 is the word ‘centerpiece.’ The second anchor is the word ‘confidence.” You know, when I look at a passage like Revelation, chapter 5, you have to come out of it with a sense of confidence.
You know, it’s interesting to go back and look at the early church, isn’t it? You realize that the church—the early church—started a revolution that’s now gone for twenty centuries—for twenty centuries. And a key part of it, I believe, was their deep awareness—their deep awareness—that heaven was their home. Because heaven was their home, the church…had the confidence to be willing to suffer. They had the confidence to be willing to share even their possessions. They had the confidence even to be willing to die. You see, confidence in heaven makes a difference.
I just want to read you a very brief thing from Joseph Stowell regarding this idea of how confidence makes a difference. He says, “When we have this confidence in heaven, we are free to serve Him with nothing to lose here and everything to gain there. We could lose our houses or jobs, yet we do not sink in despair, because none of these commodities brings lasting safety or peace. When the Spirit taps us for our most precious commodities that we have in this world—our resources, our money, or…or even our children—we’re not destroyed. We can become non-negotiably faithful here because home is there. And that’s the lesson many believers in China have learned, as they’ve suffered for their faith. The possible loss of earthly goods does not really matter, but honoring the Savior; that does.” And he tells the story of a real person in China—a church leader by the name of Lin Xiangao. See, pastor Lin was sentenced to sixteen months in prison and was barely out—after sixteen months—when he was condemned again. This time, he was sentenced to twenty years of labor in a coal mine in the northern province of China. His job was to link coal cars as miners filled them. One slip would mean his injury or his death. During several—I love the way the communists do this—”political study” meetings during that imprisonment, the officials wanted pastor Lin to denounce other Christians. And they promised him rewards for doing so. He refused. Once they tried to make him denounce Christ, he was unmoved. He said, “Even if you prolong my sentence or kill me, I cannot criticize Christ.” He was in prison for a full twenty years. What did he do afterwards? Well, a few years ago a writer was visiting a clandestine church, hidden on a third floor room of a Chinese building—a church that was underground in the heart of Canton. Everyone in the attic church, he says, knew that gathering was illegal; the police might burst in at any time to beat them and drag them away. And leading them in worship was pastor Lin. And neither Lin nor any of those members hesitated to worship God in that place despite the threat of suffering and jail. Why? Because their hope was fixed on heaven their future home.” See, confidence in heaven…it makes a difference.
A number of years ago, Bishop Warren Chandler—the school of theology at Emory University was named after him—was on his deathbed. And, you know, when you’re on your deathbed, it’s interesting how friends come by and they want to inquire of things with you. And so, this friend came to Bishop Chandler and they said to him, “Would you please answer a question for us frankly…just frankly? Do you fear crossing over the river of death?” Chandler said, “Why? I belong to One who owns the land on both sides of the river.”
You see, confidence in heaven…it makes a difference…it makes a difference.
I want to conclude by reading the words of Harriet Buell who expresses the confidence that we can have in heaven. She writes this: “My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holds the wealth of the world in His hands; Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold; His coffers are full, His riches untold. My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men, once wandered on earth as the poorest of them. But now He is reigning forever on high, And will give me a home in heaven by and by. I once was an outcast stranger on earth; A sinner by choice and an alien by birth; But I’ve been adopted, My name’s written down; An heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown. Though exiled from home, Yet still I may sing: All glory to God, I’m a child of the King. I’m a child of the King, A child of the King; With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.”
Let’s pray together. Father, we just want to thank You, again, for an incredible chapter, an incredible scene, an incredible drama. And, Lord, I would pray that You would help us, as men and women and young people, to see things from the elevated vantage point of heaven. May we be men and women who make Jesus Christ the centerpiece of our life, because He is the centerpiece of the universe. And, Father, breed in us deep the confidence that we have of our heavenly home. We are a child of the King, and we give You praise for that in Jesus’ name. Amen.