11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels who were around the throne and around the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands upon thousands. 12 With a loud voice they were saying:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive
power and riches and
wisdom and strength and
honor and glory and blessing.
13 I also heard every creature that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on 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 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders bowed down and worshipped.
You sit in your kitchen with your morning cup of coffee, scrolling through the news headlines. You read about senseless violence and acts of terrorism, some of it targeting Christians. You read about people blatantly disregarding God’s will and being praised for it. You read about heinous crimes being committed-disturbing crimes- and it makes you wonder-is God really present and ruling here?
You sit in a lecture hall with a college professor who goes out of his way to speak about the foolishness of Christianity and a God who allegedly died on a cross. He speaks about the foolishness of anyone who would believe in a such a God and that such a God is in control of this world. He makes you and others like you out to be losers. He makes it clear that people that matter don’t believe like you believe. And sometimes you’re tempted to wonder if he’s right.
You sit in an office filled with your co-workers. They talk about the things they did over the weekend, and they look at you like you have a second head when you reveal you spent two and a half hours at church on Sunday morning for worship and for Bible class. They’re wondering why you’d give up such valuable down time to be at church.
You sit in this church this morning. And you realize that you’re a part of maybe the fifteen percent of our Overland Park/Johnson County population that does this regularly. We’re such a small, seemingly insignificant little group.
You live in a world where living as a Christian doesn’t seem to be so glorious or victorious. And sometimes, you’re tempted to think it’s silly and a waste. Sometimes, you’re tempted to think that the concept of Christian victory is a concept far removed from reality.
And that is why the Lord allows us to take a seat inside his throne room today next to the Apostle John. That’s what the Lord is doing as we hear these words which John wrote in the book of Revelation, chapter 5. Today, in this section of Revelation, the Lord pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of reality-a reality which we just don’t see on this side of heaven, except through the eyes of faith.
The book of Revelation is so named because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a revelation which the Lord revealed to his apostle John. And in this part of the revelation, just previous to the words open before us today, John is taken into the throne room of God in heaven. And he sees this spectacular vision of God in heaven on this throne. It’s a fantastic description. And as the vision progresses, John sees that God is holding a scroll in his hand. This scroll revealed what the future would be. But this scroll is sealed up-probably with some wax seals or something similar. And John wept and he wept because no one was found worthy to break the seals of this scroll which revealed what the future would be.
But then, as the vision continues-as Revelation chapter 5 begins- John sees this. It says: “And I saw a Lamb standing in the center, near the throne, surrounded by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. The Lamb seemed to have been slain…The lamb came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when the Lamb took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders bowed down before the Lamb…And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and you bought us for God with your blood out of every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them to be a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Who can break the seals of the scroll on which is written the future? Who controls the future? The Lamb which was slain. The one who is also in the center of the throne room on the throne. This is Jesus. He is the one who controls the future-our future, the future of his Church, the future of everything. And why? Did you catch this? The song being sung said, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and you bought us for God with your blood.” Your Lord Jesus is the one who gloriously rules over your future. And he holds that honor-he won that honor- precisely because he is the one who lowered himself by becoming a man and humbled himself all the way to the point of dying on the cross to redeem us from death and give us eternal life. He humbled himself and died so that we would be a part of his glorious kingdom.
People, that’s a reality. It’s a very well documented historical reality, that Christ died on the cross for your sins. He’s the Lamb that was slain. And more than that-he then took his life back from the grave. He rose, victorious over death. And there were all sorts of eyewitnesses of his resurrection from the dead who attest to the historical reality of his resurrection. And now he sits in heaven, in the throne room, at the right hand of God, and he rules over his kingdom. He’s the exalted King. And that’s where this portion of Revelation 5 that makes up our lesson this morning picks up. Remember, this is God pulling back the curtain and revealing for John and for us the present reality in heaven. Listen again. John wrote, “And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels who were around the throne and around the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands upon thousands.” In heaven’s throne room surrounding Jesus, the once slain, but now very much alive Lamb of God are the angels-tons of them. Too many to count. Sometimes I think we tend to forget that there are even a few angels simply because we don’t see them. But there are so many of them. And they are there, surrounding Jesus in heaven, worshiping him. And there’s four living creatures which also surround the throne. There’s some debate about what those four living creatures are. But based on a parallel vision seen by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, these living creatures seem to symbolize a specific category of angels called the cherubim (See Ezekiel 10:20).
Finally, there’s 24 elders who are surrounding the throne. The interpretation of who these 24 elders stand for is more cut and dried. In the Old Testament, there were 12 tribes of Israel which made up the people of God. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus entrusted his saving Word to the 12 Apostles, who spread that saving Word all over the world to bring people into Christ’s kingdom. 12 Old Testament tribes of Israel plus 12 New Testament Apostles equals the 24 elders who, along with all the hosts of angels, are surrounding the Lamb. The 24 elders are representative of the believers in Christ from both the Old and the New Testament. The 24 elders are the Holy Christian Church.
And what are the angels and the living creatures and the people of the Holy Christian Church doing in heaven? It says, “With a loud voice they were saying, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” They’re praising their risen and victorious Lord. They’re worshiping him for the victory he won for over our spiritual enemies. It’s a victory which they presently are experiencing in heaven.
And then, as the revelation continues, all creation joins the heavenly chorus in the next verse of the song. John says, “I also heard every creature that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on 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.’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders bowed down and worshipped.”
Wow. What a reality.
Does it occur to you why the Lord decided to reveal this revelation to the Apostle John and to us? Why would God tell us these things? Well, it’s because of where we started this morning, right? Because John belonged to a church in his days of the late first century A.D.-a church which did not look all that victorious. A Roman Empire-wide persecution had broken out against the Christian church. Believers in Christ were being tortured. They were getting killed for their faith. In fact, that’s what had happened to the other 11 Apostles. John was the only of the 12 apostles who hadn’t been put to death for his faith in Christ. John was only sitting in exile on a prison island called Patmos. But he had been exiled because of his faith. Being a Christian didn’t seem very victorious. The Lord knew how easy it would be for his people to become discouraged. So he gave John a dose of reality. A large dose of glorious heavenly reality. They needed to know that the reality of things in God’s kingdom is not what they seem to be here on earth. Christ was slain. To redeem us. But now he lives. And now he rules.
And do you see? That’s the reality right now, too. The reality. Christ rules. And one day, we’re going to join that heavenly choir and sing the praises of the Lamb as we gather around him in the throne room of God.
And this reality means that present day persecutions and the blatant disregard for God’s will and the heinous crimes committed do not mean that God isn’t in control. It simply means that the reality of Christ’s rule is hidden right now in a world corrupted by our human sinfulness. But Christ has redeemed us from this world of sin. Our victory is hidden in Christ’s cross. So come, Lord Jesus, and fully reveal this victory.
And this reality of what’s going on in heaven right now and what we will one day be doing in heaven-this means that we’re not the losers for being followers of Christ. We’re actually the winners. We already are. We’re just waiting for that victory to be fully revealed when our King comes back on the Last day. So come, Lord Jesus, and fully reveal that victory.
And finally, this reality means that we’re not wasting our weekends away when we gather in this place, even for two and half hours on a Sunday morning. We’re here to bask in the glow of a victorious reality. To join our voices with voices unheard right now- voices in heaven-to sing the song of the Lamb once slain. Because we need to keep reminding each other and encouraging each other of this victorious reality that is ours already. So sing we will-sometimes on tune, and sometimes off key. But that’s ok. Because when we join the multitudes already there in this heavenly throne room, worshiping Jesus, face to face with him? That’s going to be one glorious song of triumph. And if you’re looking forward to that, in the name of Jesus, please let me hear you say Amen.