AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/21/2001
#3 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 4:1-11
INTRO:The focus now changes in the book of Revelation. The outline of the book was given clearly in 1:19:
(1. "things which you have seen" (chapter 1)
(2. "things which are" (chapters 2-3)
(3. "things which MUST take place" (chapter 4 ff.)
Interestingly enough, the beginning of revealing this future to John starts with a withdrawal FROM Earth to heaven! We call this the rapture of the Church, or as the Bible calls it, the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) of the believer.
The anticipation of the rapture of the Church should be in the heart of every Christian and in the uppermost consciousness of every Church.
ILLUS:The primitive church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death or about heaven. The early Christians were looking not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory. They were watching not for the undertaker but for the uppertaker. -- Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 9913
If we are not ready for the imminent return of Jesus we are not ready for the future!
PROP. SENT: The Scriptures teach us that the future is certain, that God has a wonderful plan and reward for His Church, to catch it away to Heaven.
I. CHORUS OF CONFIDENCE 4:1-4
A. "Come Up!" 4:1-2
1. The opening volley of the future begins with John being commanded to "come up here" -- to heaven, the voice was "like a trumpet."
a. The trumpet heralding this call heavenward sounds much like Paul's statements about the rapture of the Church being preceded by a "trumpet." 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Th 4:16; and Jesus' words that a trumpet will begin the process of His angels gathering together the saints in the last days. Mat 24:31
b. John being snatched away here may well represent the Church being snatched away at the beginning of the tribulation period, and it would fit with Paul's remarks that we are not appointed unto wrath. 1 Th 5:9
c. The future in the book of Revelation thus begins with the "blessed hope" or the rapture of the Church!
2. Rather than a doctrine of escapism however, this hope has very practical purposes for the present, it encourages holy living in anticipation of an event that we can't possibly know when it will occur! 1 John 3:3 "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."
a. Such a hope will keep us alert in the present!
b. With the knowledge that we could be in Christ's presence at the "twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor 15:52) we should keep focused in the present and how we live.
ILLUS:During a course at Western Illinois University I was required to attend a session where a well-known lecturer was to speak. Realizing I had gotten a late start, I decided to make up the time by exceeding the speed limit. I was almost to my destination when I heard a siren and noticed red lights blinking in my rearview mirror. I pulled off the road and hastily explained to the officer that I was on my way to meet a very important person and I didn't want to be late.
As he proceeded to write the ticket, he replied, "I know ma'am, I just wanted to make sure you have everything you need, like wings and a halo!" -- Mrs. Sammy L. Blender, Raritan, IL. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
3. Notice that there is no hesitation in being translated to Heaven, "
at once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven
a. Again this reminds us of the language of Paul's description of what will happen to the believer when the trumpet of God sounds, it will be an instant change, like the "twinkling of an eye." 1 Cor 15:52
b. No wonder we call this a "rapture"
it will be a joyous moment for every believer to be caught away and brought instantly into the presence of our Lord!
c. There will be a whole chorus of worshippers gathered together before Christ on that day, will you be in their company?
B. Comfort 4:3-4
1. John now attempts to describe the sight in Heaven, the Christ on the throne has the appearance of "jasper and carnelian"
a. These two gems are interesting in that they were the first and the last gems on the breastplate of the High Priest in Israel, with the names of the first and last tribes on Israel inscribed on them. See Ex. 28:17-21
b. This breastplate showed that the High Priest carried over his heart the entire nation of Israel
and Christ's appearance as of these gems perhaps represents Christ who has carried His people over His heart for eternity as our ultimate High Priest!
c. This sight brought great comfort to John!
2. Jesus is also described here by John as having "a rainbow resembling an emerald encircling the throne."
a. The rainbow was the sign of a covenant, a perpetual one.
b. The emerald green in color may represent God's mercy, thus a covenant of mercy.
3. At this point John discovers that he is not alone, there are many others there also around the throne, Heaven is not a lonely place!
ILLUS:Interestingly, of all the songs in the Book of Revelation, not one is a solo. The twenty-four elders sing and cast their crowns before His feet, the united voices of countless angels resound, every living creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and all that is in them are joined in one song. Those who are victorious over the beast are given harps and a song to sing. In every case multitudes of people or angels unite in the same song with absolute unity. -- Graham Kendrick. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.
4. If you think you don't have to be a part of a Church to be a Christian and worship God you are in for a big surprise if you make it to Heaven, being around the Church and worshipping with others will happen all through eternity, so you may as well get started on it here and now!!!
a. John was in good company!
b. These 24 other thrones around Christ's throne may represent the 12 Patriarchs of the Old Covenant and the 12 Apostles of the New Covenant
again remember the symbol of the covenant over the throne of Christ.
c. If so, this simply shows that the true Church is one, all have been brought together from under both Old and New and made now as one
as indeed Paul said in Eph. 2:14-15.
5. These "24 elders" surely were not angels, but men who had some great leadership role like the patriarchs and apostles.
a. These "24 elders" are said to be wearing "crowns" -- a symbol of reward, and no angels are ever said to have crowns or have earned them in any way, the only mention of creatures wearing crowns in the Bible are the places were it is promised that if we serve well and live well we will be given crowns in glory, thus these elders are not likely angels, they are probably redeemed saints.
b. Their being dressed in white would indicate purity
they were those who had been cleansed from sin.
c. These garments were the ones they looked forward to, garments that will be ours one day also!
d. It indeed was an exciting moment for this chorus of celebration!
II. CHORUS OF CELEBRATION 4:5-11
A. Conqueror 4:5
1. John now hears much thunder, reminding us of the times in the Old Testament when God spoke and it came forth like thunder and lightning.
a. Here God dwells, John was in the very presence of God.
b. Unlike the Old Testament when Israel was fearful of God's thundering and lightning John here and the others are thrilled with God's presence, represented also in the "7 spirits" which simply mean God's perfect Holy Spirit.
2. The image here of thunder also gives the idea of God's power and control, He is the conqueror!
a. God's power and light were everywhere around the throne, and that is the only way John knows how to describe this sight, "thunder, lightning, and 7 lamps were blazing"
b. The image here is clearly one of God's power and might!
3. John lived ready to go to His Lord
and here he gets to see that moment!
ILLUS:When Bernard Gilpin was privately informed that his enemies had caused thirty-two articles to be drawn up against him in the strongest manner, and presented to Bonner, bishop of London, he said to his favorite servant, "At length they have prevailed against me. I am accused to the bishop of London, from whom there will be no escaping. God forgive their malice, and grant me strength to undergo the trial." He then ordered his servant to provide a long garment for him, in which he might go decently to the stake, and desired it might be got ready with all expedition. "For I know not," says he, "how soon I may have occasion for it." As soon as this garment was provided, it is said, he used to put it on every day until the bishop's messengers apprehended him. If we all thus realized to ourselves the hour of our departure, we ought by anticipation to sleep in our shrouds and go to bed in our sepulchers. To put on our burial clothes now is wisdom. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
B. Cleansed! 4:6-8
1. John now introduces us to the "sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne,
a. In the Old Testament the bronze laver was called "the sea" (see 1 Ki 7:23-25)
b. It was the place between the tabernacle or temple and the altar of sacrifice ... the place of cleansing.
c. John is describing the great "sea" around the throne, only those who have been cleansed can approach God's throne!
2. The four living creatures with 6 wings:
a. Cherubim are described by Ezekiel as having only 4 wings, while Seraphim had 6 wings.
b. It is a guess as to the description of these 4 creatures.
3. The 4 Creatures:
a. Like a Lion -- Matthew's Gospel shows Jesus as the "Lion of Judah"
b. Like an Ox -- Mark's Gospel shows Jesus as the sacrifice for man, the ox being a sacrificial animal.
c. Like a Man -- Luke's Gospel shows Jesus as the "son of man"
d. Like an Eagle -- John's Gospel shows Jesus as the one who connects us to heaven.
e. *note: It is uncertain the exact meaning of these 4 creatures, but what they do is not uncertain, they cry out day and night "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
4. These creatures along with the rest in Heaven are in a constant state of praise over God's presence with them.
a. Those who are cleansed from sins are worshippers!
b. Knowing our sins are forgiven WILL MAKE US worshippers!
ILLUS:Martin Luther had a dream in which he stood on the day of judgment before God Himself--and Satan was there to accuse him. When Satan opened his books full of accusations, he pointed to transgression after transgression of which Luther was guilty. As the proceedings went on, Luther's heart sunk in despair. Then he remembered the cross of Christ--and turning upon Satan, he said, "There is one entry which you have not made, Satan."
The Devil retorted, "What is that?"
And Luther answered, "It is this--the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sins." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 67-68.
5. The eyes all over these creatures simply refer to the fact that they see God in front of them, and man behind them
perhaps a way of bridging the gap, and if this is meant then the symbol of these creatures may be that of "priesthood" -- those who stood in the gap between God and man.
a. Note that they never stop giving "glory, honor, and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever,"
b. The power of cleansing creates the power of worship!
c. If we cannot worship God it may be that we do not appreciate our cleansing or have not experienced it!
C. Convocation 4:9-11
1. Note here that the 24 elders now fall down in worship before the throne, and they do something else, they take off their crowns and cast them before the throne of God!
a. In this humble act they recognize that their sacrifice can no where match Christ's sacrifice, that their reward palls in comparison!
ILLUS:In an essay titled "Good Guys Finish First (Sometimes)," Andrew Bagnato told the following story:
Following a rags-to-riches season that led them to the Rose Bowl--their first in decades--Northwestern University's Wildcats met with coach Gary Barnett for the opening of spring training.
As players found their seats, Barnett announced that he was going to hand out the awards that many Wildcats had earned in 1995. Some players exchanged glances. Barnett does not normally dwell on the past. But as the coach continued to call players forward and handed them placards proclaiming their achievements, they were cheered on by their teammates.
One of the other coaches gave Barnett a placard representing his seventeen national coach-of-the-year awards. Then, as the applause subsided, Barnett walked to a trash can marked "1995." He took an admiring glance at his placard, then dumped it in the can.
In the silence that followed, one by one, the team's stars dumped their placards on top of Barnett's. Barnett had shouted a message without uttering a word: "What you did in 1995 was terrific, lads. But look at the calendar: It's 1996."
It's great to celebrate the accomplishments of the past. But with God, our best days are always ahead. -- Chicago Tribune Magazine (9/1/96). Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
b. Throwing down their own crowns showed that they considered all that they had done to be nothing compared to now being in His presence.
2. When we truly see Christ as He is and what He has done our own self righteousness and rewards will fall by the wayside!
3. The focus is ALL on Christ, as they cry out in a chorus of celebration, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."
a. The chorus is sung, the work is done, the victory for the Church is real!
b. Christ alone gets the credit
and believers get to enjoy the benefits!
4. Are you ready to spend eternity with God?
a. If the trumpet of God sounded right now, would you be left behind, or would you join the chorus of worshippers in Heaven?
b. The ticket in is that yours sins are forgiven, that Christ is Lord of your life
have you taken this step of faith?
CONCLUSION: The first glimpse of the future in Revelation begins here in chapter 4 with John being translated to Heaven, away from the coming Tribulation! The future starts with this "catching away" and the celebration around the throne of God for those who find themselves there! No dark moments in the entire chapter -- it is a chorus of confidence and celebration. The rapture of the Church is indeed the "blessed hope." Will you be "caught up" when Christ calls?