AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/28/2001
#4 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 5:1-14
INTRO:The future unfolds with a dramatic moment in Heaven, there is a scroll with seven seals that represented the destiny of the Earth and mankind … and at first there is tension in that no one seems worthy enough to open the scroll. If no one is found worthy what will the destiny of man be?
This is the question in the minds of mankind to this day, what will happen tomorrow, will we be destroyed, will we destroy ourselves … will we be just a blip in this universe only to disappear again? Is the future certain and is anyone in control?
The answer is a resounding YES! Looking into the darkness of this world and the sometimes dark future we may wonder … but if we look long enough we will see a Champion!
ILLUS:In the National Gallery of Art in London there's a picture of the Crucifixion that is so dark that when you first look at it, you can't see anything. But if you stand and ponder it, and if you do not permit your gaze to falter, eventually you will see in the darkness a very dim figure of the crucified Christ. If you look longer and do not allow your attention to be diverted, you then begin to discern behind the figure of Christ the presence of God the Father, whose hands are holding up his Son, and on his face is a look of unimaginable grief.
There, in those five hours, no matter what the depths to which he went, Jesus knew his Father was with him. The Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--suffering together. That's a mystery. I cannot explain it. But it is true. -- Bruce W. Thielemann, "The Cry of Mystery," Preaching Today, Tape No. 66.
John will not take us down the road of the dark future on Earth until he has shown us the champion, the light in the darkness, and that is why this picture of our champion precedes the calamities on earth. The believer has confidence in the future, the unbeliever cannot!
ILLUS:I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right. Billy Graham (1918- ) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 4316.
PROP. SENT: The Bible confirms the certainty of the future, Christ is triumphant over time and eternity … for the believer the future holds great promises and celebration.
I. CONTROL OF DESTINY 5:1-10
A. Worry! 5:1-4
1. The scene in Heaven opens with God on the throne holding in His right hand a large scroll, sealed with seven seals.
a. This scroll holds the destiny of the future … and an angel cries out, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" (5:2)
b. There is tension over the fate of the Earth and mankind here.
2. John says, "I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside." (5:4)
a. This dramatic scene has John perplexed and fearful … is he witnessing the sealed fate of humanity without even knowing what that might be?
b. There is the sense that if someone could be found who was worthy enough to open this scroll that this same person would be the champion of man's destiny.
c. There is a moment here of wondering … at least from John's standpoint, hence his tears of fear.
3. John of course is thinking like a human, so many times man thinks he knows his future only to discover that he is not as much in control of it as he thinks he is!
ILLUS:Notice on a college bulletin board: "Owing to unfortunate circumstances, our course -- 'Predicting Your Future' -- has had to be canceled." -- Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996).
a. Man's best attempts to know his future will always fall short … man predicts a wonderful future of technological achievements that will eventually end all suffering and poverty … but history shows us that scientific advances only raise the stakes of tensions in the world, not diminish them.
b. Man's power over his sinful nature is not strong enough to conquer it by his own strength … we need a champion to do this!
4. John's worry and pain is very real here … he weeps … the Greek word used here: "eklaion" [eklaion] is a strong word meaning "to wail, to sob, wail aloud!"
a. John is distressed to think that mankind's future may be unknown and uncontrolled.
b. Is even God able to control destiny?
B. Worthy! 5:5-10
1. Immediately, as John weeps, one of the elders in heaven speaks up and calms John by stating, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (5:5)
a. There is one, and only one who is worthy enough to open the scroll, who has control over the future.
b. There is little doubt as to who this is, "the Lion of Judah, the Root of David" is none other than Jesus Christ Himself!
c. The uncertain fear about tomorrow is answered in Christ, He is worthy to open the seals, to control the future!
2. This is the repeated theme in the Bible, Jesus Christ is triumphant, he is victorious!
ILLUS:Before the advent of the tape recorder, a man bought a machine that enabled him to cut his own records on discs. He'd listened to Winston Churchill's famous speech over the radio and recorded it. But the record cracked, and if you played it you heard Churchill saying, "Our aim is victory, victory, victory, victory!" When you read the book of Revelation, you seem to hear the word, like the refrain of a great hymn, over and over in the background: "Victory! Victory! Victory!" -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. As John turns to look at the "Lion of Judah" he is surprised to see instead "a lamb, looking as if it had been slain!" (5:6)
a. It is surprising that a slain lamb could have the power to open the seal, but obviously, only one who had conquered sin could control the destiny of mankind, and this was the one who died for our sins, who overcame sin and death!
b. This is Christ, both the Lion and the Lamb! It is His sacrifice as the "lamb of God" that makes possible His rule over all things, for He has overcome!
c. He is the "Lion of Judah" in heaven, but when we see Him He appears to us also as the "Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world."
(1. The angel saw Christ as the lion
(2. John looks and sees Him as the lamb, John was a sinner saved by grace while the angel was not.
4. One would expect us to die for our sins, not almighty God, that God reversed this and died for us is incredible … and unique among religions, in most religions the gods expect their followers to pay for their sins, to somehow atone for them … but in Christianity God Himself paid the price to redeem us!
ILLUS:In the 1993 hit film In the Line of Fire, Clint Eastwood played Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan. Horrigan had protected the life of the President for more than three decades, but he was haunted by the memory of what had happened thirty years before.
Horrigan was a young agent assigned to President Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas in 1963. When the assassin fired, Horrigan froze in shock. For thirty years afterward, he wrestled with the ultimate question for a Secret Service agent: Can I take a bullet for the President?
In the climax of the movie, Horrigan does what he had been unable to do earlier: he throws himself into the path of an assassin's bullet to save the chief executive. Secret Service agents are willing to do such a thing because they believe the President is so valuable to our country and the world that he is worth dying for. Obviously they would not take a bullet for just anyone. At Calvary the situation was reversed. The President of the Universe actually took a bullet for each of us. At the Cross we see how valuable we are to God. -- Douglas G. Pratt, Allison Park, Pennsylvania. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.
5. Our future is wrapped up in the past sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, God who paid the price for our deliverance!
a. Notice in the text that the prayers of the saints (represented by the golden bowls held by those around the throne) are there before the throne of God.
b. Those prayers we make are not lost, they find their way to God's throne … hence we are told by the writer of Hebrews, (Heb 4:16) "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
c. They all sing a new song together, worthy is the Lamb … "God has purchased men from every tribe and language and people and nation."
II. CHAMPION DELIVERER 5:11-14
A. Wondrous! 5:11
1. John now sees those around the throne of God, and the crowd can hardly be numbered it is so great!
a. John cannot number them all!
b. The future is not dark, there is a great crowd in heaven, man's destiny is not an empty end.
c. There will be scores of people in Heaven who have accepted Christ as their Lord and savior … will you be in that number?
2. There is a continuous celebration of Christ's victory over sin and death!
ILLUS:In the fifth and sixth centuries there was an order of monks in Eastern Europe called "the sleepless ones." They sang the Divine Office in relays, thus assuring a continuous, nonstop service of praise to God. They were reflecting in a small way what happens in Heaven. The book of Revelation pictures twenty-four elders and four heavenly creatures singing night and day without stopping, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." They don't do it in relays. They never have to rest. Their song never ceases. Someday "we'll join the everlasting song!" -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. Rather than weeping, John is now celebrating … thank God for a wondrous champion!
B. Worship! 5:12-14
1. When one realizes that God has made a way for us to be victorious over sin and death one cannot help but burst out in worship!
a. The scene here is one of "loud" voices of praise, (in contrast to John's earlier loud weeping) "In a loud voice they sang, 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'" (5:12)
b. The focus has shifted from the sealed scroll to the one who alone is worthy to open it.
2. Where there had been tension at who could possibly be worthy enough to open the destiny of mankind there is now relief with the only one who is worthy, Jesus Christ the Lord.
a. They all break out in song.
b. It is not a complicated song, nor one that requires a printed hymnbook, it is spontaneous and clear, "Worthy is the Lamb" It is the song of the redeemed!
ILLUS:Ancient Egyptians believed that when people died, they were united with Osiris, king of the underworld. To please him, words from sacred hymns were inscribed on the interior walls of tombs. We think that after we die, we, too, will praise our God--but we'll need no hymnal. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. Everyone in heaven joins in the song … heaven is now filled with joyful and intense singing, with worship of the Lamb of God.
a. There is a champion in this universe, one who can be trusted with your future, His name is Jesus!
b. There is no other god, no other way, no other champion!
4. Concern over the future has melted away into worship in Heaven … this is why we can worship today when facing a dark tomorrow … we know that our destiny is in God's hands and that we will be triumphant in Christ!
a. The sting of death is gone.
b. The sting of sin is gone.
5. No matter the circumstances of the present or the future, when we are in Christ we can celebrate for all of these things are under the control of our "champion"
6. A failure to celebrate when facing darkness is a failure to show confidence in our champion … there is no excuse for failing to celebrate Christ's victory even in the midst of dark moments.
ILLUS:The most conservative of Jewish sects is the Hasidic. Found principally in Brooklyn, New York, and Jerusalem, they are fiercely opposed to Zionism and fanatically devoted to Jewish ritual and custom. Surprisingly, joyous dance is a part of their worship. The founder of Hasidism said, "To be sad is a sin." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
a. Christianity is joyous faith, even when faced with difficulties!
b. Joyfulness is the hallmark of Christianity.
c. Even the Bible says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh. 8:10)
7. John too is captured in the moment with worship and praise, there is one worthy in heaven to open the scroll … one worthy of praise and worship, one worthy of taking away the sins of the world, one worthy to be champion of man's destiny.
a. The only question left is, "are you able to celebrate your future?"
b. Is your sense of the future secure in the Lion of Judah, the lamb of God that takes away your sins and secures your destiny?
c. That confidence can start today, by accepting Jesus Christ as your champion, the one who has conquered sin and death, the one who alone is worthy to open up mankind's destiny.
8. Are you ready for tomorrow … you can be!
CONCLUSION: Are there certainties in life? If so, who controls them? History is not stumbling toward an uncertain end, God alone controls the destiny of all things. The fact that Christ rules over time and eternity brings comfort to those who know Him as Lord, but discomfort to those who reject Him. If you want to be on the winning side, have Christ in your life, He is the only Champion!