Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 4 and 5
Timothy J. Westendorf
Jesus’ letters to the seven churches remind us of an important truth: The Christian Church in this world is always the Church Militant. She is continually under attack from “the powers of this dark world and…the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.” The true Church stands secure only as she builds on Christ and his Word and his forgiving grace.
She finds strength “in the Lord and his mighty power,” clothing herself with the “full armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-12) As Christians fight this good fight of faith they are comforted and strengthened by the reminder that the Lord God Almighty is on the throne, very much in control of the events of this world. From time to time throughout the Revelation, John is given glimpses of this glorious truth.
Chapters 4 and 5 record one such instance and serve as the introduction to the second “sub-vision” seen by John.
The throne in heaven
He was an exile on the island of Patmos. Was his isolation and loneliness representative of the reality for those who placed their hope in Jesus? Was God really powerful? Was God really in charge? Or was it just some cruel hoax and scam? What an experience it must have been for John as he was allowed to see the throne room of God! Brilliant and majestic. Thunder claps and lightning flashes. The Spirit’s presence and serene peace. Four rather strange but strangely familiar creatures around the throne, high ranking angels that remind of the Lord’s promise to watch over and care for his people. Twenty-four elders, righteous in Christ and ruling with Christ, calling to mind twelve tribes and twelve apostles as representatives of all believers in Jesus. A continuous chorus of praise to the holy and eternal triune God, reminiscent of the seraphim’s song of Isaiah’s day (6:3). A glory-giving response offered by the crown-casting elders. Wow!
The scroll and the lamb
But then a temporary “problem.” God’s right hand held an important but sealed up scroll. It was important because it held information about the world’s and Church’s future. It was sealed up and nobody was found worthy or able to open it. John was moved to tears by this seeming dilemma, weeping until the appearance of the mysterious and paradoxical center of the story. He is the true and triumphant Lion King of the tribe of Judah and the line of David. But his worthiness to open the seals comes as a result of a much different description and set of circumstances. He is the self-sacrificing Lamb who was slain. With his precious blood he paid the redemption price for a world of lost souls. By his grace he grants the status of royal priests or priestly kings to those who place their trust in his worthy works and words. “He is worthy!” so say the four creatures and twenty-four elders. “He is worthy!” so say the thunderous voices of the countless angel army. “He is worthy!” so say all other creatures in heaven and earth, including, by God’s grace, you and me.
Reflect on the Revelation chapters 4 and 5
- Can you think of hymns or parts of worship that are drawn from these chapters? (eg, CW #195 or CW p. 34)
Consider the hymns in the Worship and Praise section of the hymnal (Hymns 233–261).Besides the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the order of Morning Praise includes the Te Deum (We Praise you, O God).That song dates back to about a.d. 700 and includes references to the angels, the martyrs, and the entire church that gives praise to God.
- How might reflection on the scene of God’s throne room enrich your personal worship as you sing and say these words?
Our hymns of praise here on earth are important, yet when we think that we will join the hosts of heaven to praise our God, we realize how much we have waiting for us. Think how moving and inspiring it is to hear a choir or a large gathering praise God here on earth. Then think what it means that all the believers of all time will sing God’s praises in heaven. What a sound! What inspiration! What magnificent praise!
- What comfort do you draw from remembering that Jesus is worthy to open the seals of the scroll (see and reveal the future) because of his sacrifice for sin as the Lamb of God?
Jesus has completely finished the work of our salvation. “It is finished,” he said. The sins of all humanity have been paid for. Hell has no power to change his completed salvation or undo the future he has secured for us. The devil is bound and in chains; he cannot hurt us or alter our future or the future God promises. Jesus sits on the right hand of the Father, equal in power and glory. He controls the future and will allow nothing to harm those who believe. As the Good Shepherd, he will let nothing snatch us from his hand.
This is the third article in as 12-part series on the book of Revelation.
Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019