Revelation 15:1-3, “The Song of Moses, and the Song of the Lamb”

1] Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous:  seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

2] And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.  3] They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
4] Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Chapter 15 introduces us to the final series of judgments, then, after an intermission of a few verses, chapter 16 gives us the quick execution of these judgments.  These two chapters are the consummation of events leading up to our Lord’s return to Mount Olivet and this world, described in chapter 19.

Though the shortest chapter in Revelation, this chapter has a great deal to say to us.  It has two sections, though we’ll only get through a small part of it today:

  1. Praise, vs. 1-4
  2. Preparation, vs. 5-8.

Praisevs. 1-4.

Before John gets into the actual description of the seven angels of v. 1 and the bowls of wrath they carry, something draws his attention.  In vs. 2-4, he sees a great company of people praising God.  Perhaps we might think this is nothing unusual.  After all, praise and worship of God is the main activity in heaven, willingly and  joyfully entered into.  However, it is this particular group of worshipers which is noteworthy:   they have the victory over the beast, v. 2.  They have endured the worst time ever witnessed in human history – and are victorious over it!  Now, from the standpoint of the world, perhaps, they were deserving criminals who were executed for their refusal to bow down to the Antichrist and his world government.  Perhaps their adversaries thought, “Good riddance!”  It’s still often true that what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God, Luke 16:15.

The world mistakenly thinks that the grave is the end, that is there is nothing “out there” after the final breath is taken.  Scripture says that is not true.  The bodies of these martyrs may lie in disrespect on this earth, but the martyrs themselves are in heaven!

And there’s a great deal to think about in what they are doing, as well.  They are singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, v. 3.  Why these two songs, and not some Psalms or other songs?  Because these two songs are especially songs of deliverance!

Exodus 15:1-21 records the song of Moses, a paean of praise for the great deliverance God had brought about for Israel, His chosen nation.  It had seemed like Israel was doomed, hemmed in by the Red Sea in front, and the armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit behind.  There was no way out!

Ah, but there was….

There was a great rushing of wind across the water and a path opened up through the Sea itself, Exodus 14:21, 22.  Israel was able to cross on dry ground, 14:16, and so perhaps Pharaoh and his armies thought they could simply keep on after them, v. 23.  Not so!  There was suddenly difficulty with the chariot wheels, v. 25, so that the Egyptians began to sense that the LORD was against them, and they tried to flee.  But there is no flight from the Lord, and the Scripture says, when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it, v. 27.  The Israelites saw the Egyptians dead on the shore, v. 30.  Not so much as one of them remained, v. 29.

Victory snatched out of the jaws of certain and overwhelming defeat!

The song of Moses.

What about the song of the Lamb?

It may be that the song recorded belongs to both of them, and aren’t two separate songs.  I don’t know that it really matters.

The song of the Lamb is also a song of deliverance.

Deliverance from a far greater bondage that Israel suffered in Egypt.

John introduced to the Lamb in 5:6, where he saw that there stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.

Notice, though, that the Lamb is standing – alive.  He’s not still hanging on the Cross, as so much of the “Christian” world portrays Him.  Nor does His body lie moldering in some grave somewhere, as the world likes to think.  No one will ever find the skeleton of Jesus!

He lives!

Or else the Easter services we had a few days ago are a monstrous lie!

 

 

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Revelation 10: The Bittersweet Word.

1] I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.  2] He had a little book open in his hand.  And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3] and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.  When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.  4] Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, 7] but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

8] Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”

9] So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”

And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

10] Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.  But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.  11] And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” 

In chs. 10 and 11, we come, as it were, to a break in the action.  The sixth angel has sounded his trumpet, but before the seventh trumpet is sounded, there are some things the Lord wants us to know about these judgments.  We are introduced to a mighty angel and a little book, vs. 1, 2.

Who is this angel?

Some believe it’s another appearance of the Lord Jesus, but the fact that this angel is another angel leads me to believe that it is not.  There are two words in the Greek language for “another.”  One word means “another of the same kind,” and the second word means “another of a different kind.”  The first word describes this angel:  he is like others “of the same kind.”  With whom may the Lord Jesus be compared?  The truth is, there is no one else to whom He can be compared.  Because of this, we believe that this angel is simply another of the mighty host who serve God.

In addition, seven thunders have something to say, vs. 3, 4, but when John is about to write down what they said, he is forbidden, v. 4.  We don’t know what they said, but that hasn’t stopped Bible teachers from trying to figure it out.  I have no idea what they said; it is the only thing in this book of “unveiling” that is still hidden.

There is something we can know, though, and that is the message of this angel.  Pay attention.  It’s very important.

The angel has an announcement about the seventh trumpet.  He says that “there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished.”

What “mystery”?

What’s this about?

I think this announcement will be the answer to the questions, “Why doesn’t God do something about evil?  Why did He permit it in the first place?”

As to why He permitted it in the first place, He hasn’t told us.  I don’t know that He ever will.  Whatever we might say about it is just uninspired speculation, finite creatures trying to understand an infinite Creator.

Romans 1:20 tells us that creation clearly reveals God’s eternal power and Godhead.  It tells us that there is a God, a very powerful and wise God.  It doesn’t tell us a lot of other things about Him, though.

Satan was one of the angels created, even before Genesis 1:1, cf. Job 38:1-7.  We don’t know how long it took, or even really why it happened, but Satan decided one day that he would be like the Most High, Isaiah 14:14.

That didn’t work out very well for him, and he, and all creation with him, learned about the justice of God.

Time passed, though we don’t know how much, and God created our earth, with two people as its sole inhabitants, not counting all the animals and lesser creatures.  And, no, we are not simply more highly-evolved “animals”.  Satan saw this happy couple fellowshipping with God, cf. Genesis 3:8, and thought, “Aha!  If I can get these two to sin like I did, God will judge them and they’ll be thrown out of His presence.”

Surprise.

God did judge them, Genesis 3:16-19, but He did something else as well.  He clothed them with coats or tunics of skin, thus foreshadowing the truth of salvation by faith in the death of a Substitute, and promised them a Redeemer one day, Genesis 3:15, though speaking to Satan and pronouncing a final judgment to come for him, cf. Hebrews 2:14.

God revealed His grace.

I don’t give these thoughts as inspired or any such thing.  They’re just my thoughts on a difficult subject.

There is coming a time, though, when perhaps not all will be made clear, but sin will most certainly and finally be taken care of once and for all.  There will be no more “delay”!  We see this in Revelation.  The “mystery” will be finished.

What about “the little book”?

We’re not told what it is, just what John was to do with it.

Like Ezekiel before him in a somewhat similar situation, Ezekiel 3:1, 2, he was to take it and eat it.

Let me make an application here.  God has given us a book, as well.  Granted, it’s not “little,” but it is His.  In His grace, He’s give it to us.  Yet how few professed Christians really read it, really digest what it says, like Ezekiel and John digested the books they were given.  How do I know that?  Just look around at the perversion and wickedness, the false teaching, that’s promoted even by many in “the church,” let alone those outside the church.  Christ has His “little flock,” Luke 12:32, to be sure, but the description of Israel in battle against the Syrians is certainly apt here:  Now the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the countryside, 1 Kings 20:27. Those who oppose the Gospel “fill the countryside.”

There is something told to John about his “little book” that is applicable to our own study of Scripture:  “it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth,” v. 9.

How can that be??

As we read Scripture, we see many precious promises:

The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Isaiah 11:9.

Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

Wonderful promises.

These are just three of many such promises.

But there are some “prohibitions” as well.  Revelation 20 describes the ultimate end of all those who do not know the Lord Jesus or who have rejected Him in this life:

11] Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  12] And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. … 13] …And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15] And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire,  Revelation 20:11-15.

Contrary to popular thought, everyone is not headed to “a better place.”  Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no such thing after death.  This life will be as good as it gets for those who don’t know the Lord Jesus, those who aren’t trusting His life and His death for their salvation.  We’ll have much more to say about this when we get to this point in our study.

And don’t be misled by the idea that the dead will be judged according to their works.  That does not mean that we’re saved by our works, as so many teach.  According to Isaiah 64:6, our very best, our “righteousnesses,” those good things we do, are no better in the sight of God than “filthy rags.”  That phrase describes the cloth used by a menstruating woman or by a leper to cover his sores.  Not a pretty picture, but descriptive of what our very best is when compared to the absolute purity and holiness of the Lord Jesus.

No, there is no salvation, no “better place” apart from Jesus.  It is indeed a “bitter” thought, the judgment that awaits sinners.

Oh, do you know this One who came to take the place of sinners, that One who endured the wrath of God you and I deserve?  Have you bowed before Him?  Is He your Lord and Savior?  Oh, that I had the heart of a Spurgeon, to plead with you to flee from the wrath to come!  Without Christ, eternity will be bitter beyond our ability to conceive of it.  Without Him, there will be no “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Revelation 8:1-6, The Sound of Silence.

1] When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  2]  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.  3] Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne.  4] And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.  5] The the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.  And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

6] So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  (NKJV)

This title has nothing to do with the song originally put out by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s, which I remember, and later versions, which I do not know or remember.  I’d forgotten about the song when I decided on the title for the post.

So, why this title?

How can “silence” have “sound”?  Isn’t silence the absence of sound?

Let me tell you a story.  I had a friend in Bible College whose family I would visit every so often.  One time in particular I remember.  The room they put me up in had the air conditioner in the window.  It gets hot in Tennessee.  Anyway, this one time it was running, very noisily.  As morning drew near, someone turned it off.  That was what woke me up, that sudden, deafening, silence.

As we come to our text in Revelation, remember the scene John has set:  chorus after chorus, anthem after anthem, shout after shout, of praise, adoration and worship continually being voiced by the multitudes gathered around the throne.  Then, suddenly,

there was silence in heaven….

Perhaps for the first time ever.

The sound of silence….

No “background music” to set the scene.

Just utter, complete silence.

Then…

Seven angels are given trumpets.

Another angel holding a golden censer approaches the golden altar in front of the throne.  He’s given “much incense” to offer “with the prayers of all the saints” on the altar.    Then he takes the censer, fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, which results in noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.

We don’t often think of heaven as having an altar or censers, but Hebrews tells us that the OT tabernacle was modeled on things in heaven, Hebrews 9:24.

It’s interesting that the prayers of the saints are mentioned twice.  And by “prayers,” I don’t think John meant those repetitive, formal prayers recited during church services or repeated during quiet times.  To be sure, they can be heart-felt and fervent, but I’m afraid that too often our mouths are saying one thing and our mind is thinking of something else.

When the Lord wanted to convince Ananias that it was safe to go find Saul of Tarsus, He said, [B]ehold, he is praying,”  Acts 9:11.  Now, Saul had been a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and, no doubt, like that Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, had often “stood and prayed…with himself,” telling God what a great guy he, Saul, was.

What was the difference?  Before, he had simply “said” prayers.  Now, he was “praying.”  He wasn’t just going through the motions; he had literally been stopped in his tracks.

“The prayers of the saints.”  Those prayers themselves are described as “incense” in Revelation 5:8.

Without getting into the typology of the Tabernacle and offerings, the incense offered with the prayers of the saints refers to the merit of the Lord Jesus.  It is He who makes them presentable to a holy, righteous and just God.  That’s why, in Colossians 3:17, we’re told, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

John brings up a subject we don’t really think about, don’t even like to think about, apparently.  Paul mentioned it in Romans 11:22:  consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Our society and culture is all over the idea of “the goodness of God.”  “God is love” is apparently all the theology many people have.  And we are thankful that “God is love,” else we’d all be in trouble.

There is more to God than “love.”  That same book that mentioned the love of God also said of God, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.  “This is the message” – not that “God is love,” but that “God is light,” that is, that He is holy, righteous and just.  That is the God with whom we have to do, not this sentimental, grandfatherly type that we seem to have today that chuckles over the foibles and folly of His children.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we ARE NOT His children, in spite of what is commonly believed today.  We are His subjects, He is our God and King, against whom we are traitorous rebels who are doing everything we can to dethrone Him.  We are the subjects of His wrath.  There is coming a time when that will be plain to all, when the inhabitants of the earth will have to acknowledge that wrath, Revelation 6:17.

The truth is, apart from the Lord Jesus there is nothing but wrath and condemnation for the unbeliever:  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:18, 36, emphases added.

That’s true of nations, as well.  Psalm 9:17 says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.  History is littered with the ruins of nations that have come and gone.  This country will not be exempt.  I’m encouraged by recent events that perhaps God has given us a breather, so to speak, but still, there is abundant evidence that the voice of the enemy has not been silenced, only muted a little.  Indeed, those same events may stir the enemy up.

Heaven may seem to be silent for the time being.  Life goes on.  But there is coming a time, sooner or later, when it will speak loudly and clearly, and finally, to the inhabitants of this world.

We do not rejoice in the idea of judgment.  God Himself has no pleasure in judgment.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  And Isaiah 28:21 calls judgment, His unusual work.

Indeed, God has gone to great lengths to make a way of escape from the judgment rightfully due us.

Seeing a mankind that would universally reject Him, He chose from among these rebels a vast number to be saved.  For those who object to such an idea, for Him to have chosen only one to be saved would be more than any of us deserve, let alone the countless multitudes that He has chosen.

Having chosen these otherwise condemned sinners to be saved, God sent His Son to take their place under His wrath.  The Lord Jesus suffered what we should suffer, who are by nature children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3.  Because He suffered, there is no more wrath for us, those for whom He died, Romans 5:9.

But there was still something that needed to be done.  Because we were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, because we once were alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18, and were alienated and enemies of God, Colossians 1:21, God sent the Holy Spirit:  God has revealed them to us through his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Our Lord referred to this work of the Spirit in John 3 as the new birth, a birth not of flesh and blood, but of or by the Holy Spirit.  Without this birth, we are unable either to see or to enter into the things of God, John 3:3, 5.  Without His work, there is no understanding at all of spiritual truth.  Religion, yes, spiritual truth, no.

Oh, there is so much more we could say about this.  It’s enough for now to say that judgment is coming.

Only those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared that judgment.

Have you believed on Him?

Revelation 5:4-14, “Worthy is the Lamb!”

So I wept much because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, nor to look at it.  But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep.  Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

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 us kings and priests to our God;
And we 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 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 twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and forever.   (NKJV)

As I read over this chapter gathering thoughts about it, chills ran up and down my spine as I contemplated the grandeur and majesty of this “worship service.”  I’m afraid ours pale in comparison with it.

But something else, first.

In the earlier part of the chapter, John had “wept much” because no one was worthy to take the scroll from the hand of the One on the throne and open it.  No one deserved even to look at it, let alone read it!

But one of the elders said, “Wait.  There is One.

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seals,”  v. 5.

“The Lion of the tribe of Judah.”  This takes us back to Jacob’s dying declaration to his sons in Genesis 49:9, 10, where he says,

“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 sceptre 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.”

“The Root of David.”

This takes us back to Isaiah 11:1, 10:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots….

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.

The rest of Isaiah 11 is wonderful and its thoughts are continued in ch. 12.  You should read them, though, for now, we’re only interested in the two verses.

Surely the elder talking to John portrays a mighty warrior, a prince among his people.  So John turns to see this person, and he sees –

a Lamb.

That most inoffensive and defenseless of creatures – a lamb.

True, the symbols of “horns” and “eyes” speak of strength and knowledge, but, still, a lamb.

But that’s not all.  John saw –

A Lamb as though it had been slain.

“As though” –

Not dead, alive, though bearing the marks of death.

And the elder has one more thing to say about this Lamb:  He has prevailed to open the book and to loose its seven seals,” v. 5.

You see, there is where it all starts, if you and I aren’t just simply to be condemned to hell because of our sins.

It isn’t enough just to have the Jesus of much of modern thought, or of other religions, or even much of what calls itself Christianity.  He wasn’t just a prophet or teacher, though He was that.  He wasn’t just a good example, because that would do us no good.  We could never follow His example.  And, contrary to some skepticism and unbelief, He did exist.  He’s not just a figment of some misguided imagination.  And He’s not just our buddy.

Scripture says that He came to be a Savior.  The angel told Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.  Now it’s true that the angel said to His mother that He “will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” Luke 1:33, but that “house” itself needs to be saved from sin.  The Cross had to come first.  He had to be the slain Lamb before He could be the sovereign Lord.

Without His death, there would be no salvation, no blessing, no grace.

But He didn’t just die; He “prevailed.”

He won.

He rose from the dead, evidence, to us,  that God accepted His death as the payment for sin.  Without the Resurrection, we’d have no way of knowing if His death was any different than the others who died with Him that day.  He ascended into Heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high, waiting for the fulfillment of the promises the Father made to Him.

Without that, a lot of the rest of the chapter wouldn’t be possible.

This brings us to the “chills”.

I love good music.  Handel’s Messiah.  The 1812 Overture.  Music like that, that doesn’t require an amplifier to be effective.  And that actually is music, and not just an assortment of notes accompanied by theatrics.  Those crescendos up to the climax….  I love them.

Read the chapter over again.  That crescendo of praise and worship.

The living creatures and the twenty-four elders, v. 8.

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, v. 11.

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, v. 13.

The whole of creation raises its voice in a crescendo of praise to its Creator and Redeemer, for even creation itself will be redeemed from the curse brought on it by our first parents, Romans 8:21.  How much more, then, ought you and I, who have been released from the bondage and curse of sin, raise our voices in praise to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and forever.

Hallelujah.

Revelation 5:1-3, “Who Is Worthy?”

And I saw on 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 earth or under the earth was able to open the book, or to look at it.
So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.    

John has been caught up into heaven, ch. 4, and has described something of what He saw of a throne and One who sat on it.  Now He describes that glorious Being as holding a scroll in His right hand, a scroll sealed with seven seals.  Then he hears a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 

No problem, surely.

After all, look at all man has accomplished, how much he has learned of himself and the world in which he lives.  No doubt there is at least one who is worthy, who deserves, who is able, to take the scroll and open it.

Then there are angels!  Far mightier than men.  Perhaps one of them….

Not so.

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it, v. 3.

Do you see it?

The scroll lies open on the hand of God, the word is sent out for one is worthy, who deserves, to take that scroll and open it.

And there is silence.

No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to open the scroll, or to look at it (!) emphasis added.

Do you really see that?

There’s not a single person anywhere who is worthy even to look at the scroll, let alone open it.

I wonder what this says about our careless and loose approach to spiritual things, to the Word of God.  That scroll only deals with a little bit of God’s purpose for this world and no one was worthy enough to open it.  Scripture tells us a great deal more about God and His dealings with us, and yet how few read or treasure it.

You see, we don’t deserve to have the Bible.  God could simply have abandoned Adam and Eve when they turned away from Him there in the Garden.  He didn’t.

And we too often follow in the footsteps of our first parents.  So does this world.  I’ve read that there are some 51 countries where the Bible is forbidden.  Even in our own country, it’s illegal in government and school.  And God allows us to reap the results of that rebellion and sin.  Every day, we see the consequences of that on TV and in the papers.

Therefore, if we have the Scripture, how we ought to treasure it!  I’m afraid our dusty and neglected Bibles will have much to say against us at the Judgment.

There used to be a TV show that promised to open “a world of endless wonder!”  What was not really true of the TV show is true of the Bible.  It opens up a panorama of eternal wonder.

But we’ll never see that wonder if we never get into the Book!

Oh, that this New Year might be The Year of the Book!

Revelation 3:20a, “Behold, I Stand At the Door”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”  

Revelation 3:20 is a very familiar Scripture.  One of my earliest memories is sitting in a church service in which a famous picture derived from this verse was being explained.  I don’t remember a lot about it anymore, except that it was the usual approach that Christ is standing at the door of the heart of the lost sinner, calling to him to open the door and let the Lord in.  One preacher in this vein even went so far as to refer to our Lord as “the Christ of the bloody knuckles.”

Ah, beloved, the Lord God and His Son have more interest in and concern for the salvation of sinners than you or I can even begin to imagine.  Look at all they’ve done to bring it about.  Salvation isn’t just the thing of a moment, the result of an “oops” on God’s part when our first parents fell.  It wasn’t some result of a “hastily called emergency meeting,” as one writer put it.  How anyone can even think such a thing of our God is beyond me.  There are no “emergencies” with God.

No. no.

Scripture tells us salvation stretches from eternity past, when it was conceived in the heart, mind, purpose and action of God, through today and the work of the Spirit in regenerating sinners and bringing them to faith in the Lord Jesus, into the boundless eternity of the future in the presence of These who loved us and gave themselves for us.  It was the Lord Jesus who died on the Cross, but the others have been or are just as active and have their own part in our salvation.

Christmas, just a few days from now, should remind us of all this.

But that’s not what John is telling us.  Our Lord is not talking to sinners, but to His own churches!  And since churches are made up of individuals, He’s talking to the individual members of those churches.

It ought to be a staggering thought – that the Lord of the church stands on the outside!  Asking for entrance!  No wonder John records Him as saying, “Behold”!

This doesn’t mean that the Lord is impotent, or that He “must” wait for us to “take the first step.”  It does mean that we are responsible for how we respond to His commands, and His entreaties.  Besides, Scripture tells us that He is quite able to open the door Himself, cf. Acts 16:14, which tells of us of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened…to heed the things spoken by Paul.

And we are responsible to respond.  Make no mistake about it.  Some have taken the sovereignty of God to such an extreme that they almost make men puppets or robots.  Or take them out of the picture altogether.  They’re like those who responded to William Carey, “the father of modern missions,” who felt a call and desire to go to India.  In effect, he was told, “Young man, if God wants to save the heathen, He can do it without you.”  Others go to the other extreme and make God little more than a humble supplicant at the throne of man’s will.

We’re not sticks or stones.  And we don’t just run on instinct, as much of the animal world seems to.  We’re creatures with intellect, emotions and will. We’re able to think, to feel, and to do.  The fact that these faculties have all been corrupted by the Fall of Adam doesn’t make us any less responsible to use them, or for how we use them.

Churches.

The Lord’s talking to them.

I wonder how many in their church services really look to see if the Lord is with them, or if He’s on the outside.  Or if they assume that just because they’re there, then so is He.  And Baptists tend to be as bad at this as those “formal” churches they differ with.  After all, their “order of services” is pretty much as “set” as any routine in any liturgical church.

But He’s not talking just to individuals in churches.

There’s so much application here.

He’s talking to churches, yes.

But I think He might also be talking to –

Families…

Neighborhoods…

Cultures…

Our nation….

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock….”

 

Revelation 3:7-13, The Church in Philadelphia: The Church With an Open Door.

“And to the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:   ‘I know your works.  See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Behold, I am coming quickly!  Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.  I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem,which comes down out of heaven from My God.  And I will write on him My new name.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘ (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 7.

The city got its name from Attalus II, 159-138 B.C., whose truth and loyalty to his ailing brother Eumenes won for him the epithet, Philadelphus (“brother-loving”).  Philadelphia was founded as a center for the consolidation and spread of the Greek culture and language, so was a “missionary” city from the beginning.

The city obtained world-wide fame through a disaster.  Philadelphia lay on the edge of a now extinct volcanic field, but in AD 17 a severe earthquake destroyed 12 cities, including Sardis and Philadelphia.  Evidently, the aftershocks continued for some time and so terrorized the inhabitants that most of them remained outside the city.  Those who did return to the city lived in constant fear of another earthquake.

The Emperor Tiberius helped these stricken cities and in commemoration of his generosity, Philadelphia took on a new name:  “Neokaisareia,” “New Caesarea,” though this name was gradually abandoned.

Philadelphia was distinguished from the other cities by several things:  it was a “missionary” city, there was constant danger, much of the population remained outside the city, and the city took on a new name from the imperial god.

In the last stages of the struggle of the decaying Roman Empire and the growing Turkish power, Philadelphia played a heroic part and held aloft the Christian banner long after the surrounding countryside had been conquered.  During the fourteenth century, it stood practically alone against the entire Turkish power as a free and self-governing city against and amidst the Turkish lands which surrounded it.  Twice, Turkish armies reduced the city to starvation, yet the city stood.  Finally, about 1370-1390, it fell to a combined Turkish and Byzantine army.  What the Turks could not do by themselves, they did by taking advantage of the division and jealousy among the Christians.

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 7.

His Personality,

1. “Holy.”  This refers to His inward character.  As Hebrews 7:26 puts it, He is holy, harmless, undefiled.

2. “True.” – “genuine,” as opposed to the claims of “those who say” in v. 9.  This refers to the outward manifestation of the inward character.  In the final analysis, what we do is determined by what we are.

His Power, “opens” and “shuts” and no one hinders.  We greatly need the assurance of this in our day.  There’s too much of the idea that we can somehow “hinder” or “frustrate” the God who created everything.  While we in no way deny our responsibilities or that our actions have consequences, we do deny that these in any way “mess up” the God of heaven.  I firmly believe this is why the churches – and indeed, the world – are in the shape they’re in.  We have the (false) idea that we can “mess Him up”.  The end and obvious result of such a view is the blatant skepticism and atheism we see all around us.  Who wants so feeble a god?

3. The Content of the Epistle, vs. 8-13.

The letter has three promises here:

Operation, “An open door”.  This clause is a perfect participle, meaning that the door is still open.

“able to shut,” implying that someone or is trying to shut the door and stop the missionary effort, but is not able to interfere with the Lord who keeps it open.

“no one” – not even Satan, though he certainly would like to.
1. No one can shut the door because the church “has a little strength”.  This is a great encouragement.  The church was evidently small, unimportant and feeble, especially when compared to the church at Pentecost, yet there is nothing but commendation.  No church can be judged, or may judge itself, by any other church.
2. No one can shut the door because the church “kept My word.”  Cf. John 14:23.  This implies obedience to, as well as, belief in Scripture.  This is a great responsibility.  Too much of our preaching and teaching is out of some commentary – what men say about the Bible.  While such things have their place and can be useful, we need to go to our primary source, the Word of God itself.  What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3, not “what does this source or that source say the Scripture says.”
3. No one can shut the door because the church has not “denied My name.”  With reference to the typical teaching from the church, perhaps this is a hint as to the great hour of trial yet to come upon the world – to deny Christ by receiving the “mark of the beast”.

Vindication, v. 9.  There are two interpretations of this verse:
1. The Jews will be forced to confess to the truth of Christianity at the Judgment, or,
2. Some Jews, now opponents, will be saved.

Both interpretations might be said to be true, though we believe the first one is more correct.

Many people, including Christians, forget that this life is not all there is to life.  A preacher of another generation, Rolfe Barnard, used to tell a story, something like this:

“There was a little country church surrounded by the fields of an ardent atheist.  One year, he decided to show his contempt for the church and what it taught.  The church had no air conditioning and so, in the spring and summer, had to have its windows open.  This atheist decided to plow his fields on Sunday, to cultivate his crops on Sunday, and finally, to harvest them on Sunday.  When the season was over, he wrote a letter to the paper in that town.  He said, ‘I planted my crops on Sunday, took care of them on Sunday, and harvested them on Sunday.  And I have a bumper crop.  A bumper crop.’
“The editor replied, ‘My friend, God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October’.”

“God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.”

Countless millions have died, and are dying at this very moment, and their graves are unsung and unhonored.  Their names are cast out as evil.  Perhaps a believer will be killed while you read these lines.  Even those who aren’t called on to give their physical life are often called on to suffer persecution in one form or another.  Even in our culture, businesses are forced to close because the owners will not do things which violate their faith.  Things which once were unthinkable are now said to be “rights” and woe to those who don’t agree.

God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.

There is coming a time, however, when He will settle those accounts, a time when righteousness is at home, 2 Peter 3:13.  Many Scriptures speak of this and it is unwise indeed to expect real justice in a time when justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off.  For truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.  So truth fails and he who departs from iniquity makes himself a prey, Isaiah 59:14, 15.  Though Isaiah was speaking directly to his own time, what he said of his nation and culture is applicable to this one.

“a synagogue of Satan.”  Because they had rejected the Messiah, no longer was their worship acceptable to God, nor was their synagogue of God, even though they carried the name “Jews,” and nominally worshiped Jehovah.  I wonder if God thinks that of those churches of our day and time which deny every truth of His Word.

“but lie”.  Romans 2:28, 29 describe a “real” Jew:  one who not only has the outward symbol of circumcision, but the inward reality that his circumcision symbolizes – the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

Separation, v. 10, “I will keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole earth.”

There are several elements to this.

1. A recognition of past faithfulness, because you have kept My command to persevere….  Contrary to what a popular Gospel song used to teach – that the Christian life is “without a care,” we’re called upon not simply to “believe” something, but to live as if that something were true.  While it’s certainly true that we have responsibilities in this present world – we’re children, siblings, parents, spouses, neighbors, employees, bosses, etc. – we have an ultimate responsibility with a view to the next world:  it is appointed for men once to die, but after this, the judgment, Hebrews 9:27.  It isn’t always smooth sailing, sometime we have to go through flood or fire, figuratively speaking, Isaiah 43:2.

2. A promise of future protection, I also will keep you from the hour of trial….  In Luke 21:18, after a description of what the disciples would be likely to suffer, even to death, our Lord promised that “not a hair of your head shall be lost.”  But in v. 19, he finished, “By your patience [endurance] possess your souls.”  All that’s not limited to the first disciples.  I think we see it playing out before our very eyes.  In parts of this world, men and women are suffering unbelievable, indescribable, things for the name of the Lord Jesus.  But they will stand before Him perfect, complete, whole, having lost nothing, but having gained everything.

As far as “the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world,” I’m not sure exactly what that might have meant to the actual church at Philadelphia.  Severe persecution under Diocletian was on the way.  It might have been that.  Or something else we don’t know about.  As far as any typical teaching might be concerned, and again, there is discussion about this, it seems to me that the Lord is promising that believers will be spared from that coming time of trouble  in which He said that unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, Matthew 24:22.

3. a plea for present faithfulness, v. 11, “Hold fast.”  It isn’t enough that we can look back and see how the Lord has blessed us, or what service we might have performed.  Nor is it enough simply to look ahead to that time when “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  Right now, there’s something for us to do.  To be.

The reason for that is that there’s a danger of loss.  Not our salvation, as some teach, but our Lord warned the Philadelphians that they could lose their “crown,” that is, lose the rewards they might have had.  John had something to say about this in one of his epistles.  In 2 John 8, he was concerned that his readers receive a full reward.  And Paul gives the picture of a person going through the judgment and discovering that everything he did was nothing but wood, hay and stubble, and losing everything, though he himself is saved, [yet] as through fire, 1 Corinthians 3:15.

As an encouragement, the Lord said He is coming “quickly.”  From the world’s standpoint, it’s been a long time since these words were written.  From an eternal standpoint, it’s only been a second or two.  Jesus may come before this day is over, or I finish writing this post, or you finish reading it.

John closes this letter with our Lord saying some things that it’s difficult to understand, to picture.  I won’t even begin to attempt it.  But there’s a feeling of permanence, of “belonging,” of things this world knows nothing about.  Our “hope” isn’t in this world, but in the One coming to straighten things out in it.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.