He’s Got The Whole World…
Revelation 4 and 5
There comes a day among men and nations when the cup of iniquity is filled full — when the mercy of God repeatedly flaunted issues in the judgment of God (Gen. 6:5-7; Jer. 9) — when the truth of God flagrantly refused prepares men to believe the lie of Satan (2 Th. 2;8-12) – when the long-suffering of God inexcusably ignored results in the Spirit no longer striving with man (Gen. 6:3; 2 Th. 2:7).
There comes a day among men and nations when unbridled sin and degradation will ascend from the altars of this unregenerate world to the nostrils of God. And, not unlike a basket of summer fruit, mankind — decaying, smelling and repugnant—will ready itself for imminent, unavoidable, catastrophic judgment (Amos 8:1).
There comes a day among men and nations when, with “nuclear reactors” at full throttle, mankind will propel itself at “self-destruct” speed toward a collision with its Creator.
That day is rapidly approaching – the cup of iniquity is nearing overflow level. The rebirth of the modern state of Israel (Ezek. 37) the emergence of a super power (Russia) to the far north of Jerusalem (Ezek. 38:15) — the beginning of a confederation of nations in Western Europe (the Common Market, Dan. 2; 7) – the breakdown of the family unit (2 Tim. 3:2) — rampant immorality and homosexuality (2 Tim. 3:3) – children who are disobedient to their parents (2 Tim. 3:2) increased religion without life-transforming power (2 Tim. 3:5) — these are some of the indications of the lateness of the hour.
Deity is soon to intervene directly into the affairs of humanity. This theme is of such staggering importance that under the designation “the day of the Lord” it is referred to more than twenty different times in the Bible (Joel 2:31-32; Amos 5:18, 20; 2 Pet. 3:10).
“The day of the Lord” is a technical designation for that period of time bounded by the Rapture of the true believers from the earth at its inception, and the Great White Throne Judgment at its consummation. Within these two termini points (the Rapture and the Great White Throne Judgment), the seven-year Tribulation period, the physical return of Christ to the earth, and His glorious thousand-year kingdom will unfold.
While large portions of the Old and New Testaments are given over to a consideration of the Tribulation period and Christ’s thousand-year reign, it falls to the final book of the Bible to give the fullest description of this crucial period of human history.
It is with reason that the last book of the Bible is called “Revelation”. “Revelation” literally means an “unveiling” or “burlesque”. The book of Revelation depicts “the day of the Lord” in that it unveils the Lord Jesus Christ as He intervenes directly in the affairs of mankind.
A helpful clue to the book is given in the first chapter. John had been exiled by Rome to the island of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. “Well-stricken” in years and the last survivor of the twelve disciples, John is permitted by God to view the consummation of human events — and the ultimate triumph of the Lord Jesus whom he had loved and faithfully served.
But, this “revelation” was not for the eyes and ears of John alone — rather, it was for all redeemed sons and daughters of grace who look eagerly for the return of that One who alone is the great Lover of our souls.
John was commanded to “Write the things which thou hast seen” — the events of chapter 1; “and the things which are” — the characteristics of the seven churches of Asia Minor revealed in chapters 2 and 3; “and the things which shall be hereafter” — the panorama of end times portrayed in chapters 4 through 22 (Rev. 1:19).
The events of chapters 4 through 22 are property understood to be futuristic. They will occur after the Rapture and during “the day of the Lord”. Chapters 4 and 5 are like a heavenly foyer that must be successfully navigated if the remainder of the book is to be properly understood — it gives the only proper frame of reference from which to view the solemn, sober and sacred events which follow.
Chapters 6 through 19 describe the Tribulation period itself, ending as it does with the final battle of Armageddon and the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth.
Chapter 20 is a brief description of the Kingdom age during which Christ will personally rule and when the curse placed upon the earth because of sin will be lifted and righteousness, justice and peace shall prevail.
The final two chapters, 21 and 22, allow the reader to “peek”, however briefly, beyond the veil and get a glimpse of “the glorious Lamb and the eternal glory He has secured for those who have been washed in His life-giving blood.
But by what right, it may well be asked, does God invade human history? And, is not Jesus simply another despot who will conquer by force and impose His will on man? Why can man not be left to his own devices? These are valid questions. And, God’s Word provides satisfactory answers.
In chapter 4, John is caught up to Heaven and permitted to view the eternal God seated on His throne (vv. 2, 8). The scene is of such transcending majesty that mortal man at best can but inadequately comprehend it, Emanating from the throne are two colors identified by two precious stones. The one is jasper, described in 21:11 as “clear as crystal”; that is, the color of light. The second is the sardius stone, named for the city of Sardis where it is found; this stone is blood red in color.
Surrounding the throne is a rainbow of tight green, the color of an emerald. The rainbow speaks of God’s faithfulness (Gen. 9:11-17). Encircling the throne as it does, this rainbow speaks of unending faithfulness. This imagery is parroted in the wedding ceremony where the wedding ring suggests unending or unbroken love.
That which John sees is a throne of judgment. This is underscored by the lightnings, thunderings and voices which emanate from the throne (v. 5).
Around the throne are twenty-four elders — representative of the redeemed. On their heads they wear the crowns indicative of reward and are attired in white raiment. Both the crown for reward and the white raiment are used in the Bible exclusively for redeemed saints and argue convincingly against their being angelic beings.
Also surrounding this throne are four living creatures. These four represent a high order of angelic being associated with the holiness and glory of God (Isa. 6:1-3).
Together, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures ascribe to the One seated on the throne glory, honor and power. They attribute to Him not only the creation of all things but the motivation for creating all things as well (literally, “on account of Thy will they are and were created”). That is, God’s will is the cause of creation, and He himself is the agent of it. The point to be remembered is this: SINCE GOD IS THE CREATOR, HE HAS A RIGHT TO DO WHAT HE CHOOSES WITH HIS OWN CREATION, and His will shall be revealed in the flow of events recorded in the Scriptures that follow.
Chapter 5 is inseparably linked with the preceding chapter. They, therefore, must be viewed as a single unit.
The scene is still the throne room in Heaven. In the right hand of God the Father is a scroll with writing on the front and back and sealed with seven seals (Rev. 5:1).
The right hand suggests power and honor. Scrolls normally had writing only on the inside – that this scroll had writing on the inside and back suggests the content of the scroll was extremely important.
It was characteristic of official Roman documents to be sealed. Often this sealing was done with wax and an identifying imprint was stamped into the wax. It was probably this kind of Roman seal which secured the tomb of Jesus (Mt. 27:66), and only a qualified individual was authorized to open the seal and reveal its contents. The scroll which John saw had seven seals — a numerical value intended to suggest perfection and completion.
It was a strong angel who inquired with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose its seals?” (Rev. 5:2). The emphasis is on the word “worthy”. That is, is there a man who is “worthy” — who has the authority to step forward to open the scroll and loose its seven seals?
A universal search is made. The heavens, the earth and beneath the earth – all are searched out and no man is found who is worthy to open the scroll. Even worse, there was no man found worthy to even look upon it (Rev. 5:3).
John testifies that he wept much. Literally, he sobbed audible sobs. But, these were not simply the sobs of a man who had grown old with years – nor were they the sobs of isolated melancholy. There was far more involved here. The Apostle John realized that the scroll in the right hand of the One who sat on the throne was the title deed to the planet Earth.
Man had sinned and lost his inheritance. Satan had usurped man’s right to rule over the planet. To recapture man’s lost destiny, the scroll must be opened.
A redeemer must be found. To be “worthy”, he must be first a kinsman — man lost his inheritance and only a man can redeem it. Second, to redeem he must have the price of redemption, and third the redeemer must be willing to redeem even if his own inheritance is marred in the process.
If no man can open the scroll, then John’s exile to Patmos for his faith is in vain.
If no man can open the scroll, then John’s fellow disciples, all of whom had died as martyrs, died in a losing cause.
If no man can open the scroll, then any hope for John’s beloved people, Israel, who had only recently been defeated, destroyed and dispersed by Rome, was in vain. And the ancient prophets who foretold Israel’s ultimate restoration were in error.
If no man can open the scroll, then holiness and justice must fail mortally wounded at the feet of wickedness and sin.
if no man can open the scroll, then a golden age when the weapons of warfare are forged into weapons of peace (Isa. 2:4), and the wolf will lie down with the lamb (Isa. 11:6), is but an empty, foundationless dream never to be realized.
If no man can open the scroll, then all men must bear in their own bodies the just reward of eternal condemnation for sin. The “earnest”, or down-payment of salvation (Eph. 1:14), cannot be completed if the scroll is not opened.
If no man can open the scroll, then Satan wins and Jesus loses — all is defeat and despair, and life itself is an irreversible tragedy of infinite proportions.
John sobbed because he understood that an unopened scroll meant that all hope of redemption for earth and man was gone.
And then, in the midst of tears, came the command from one of the elders, “Weep not…” (Rev. 5:5) — take another look — you’ve missed something, John. “… the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the scroll, and to loose its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).
In obedience, John looks again. And this time, from the midst of the throne he beholds a Lamb (Rev. 5:6). Informed that a Lion had prevailed to open the scroll, when he looks he beholds a Lamb — herein is the greatest paradox of the ages. Four characteristics of the Lamb dominate the scene. First, the Lamb is STANDING, suggesting His impending judgment of the earth. Second, the Lamb is SLAIN, a reminder that the One who is about to judge is the same One who had earlier come to die. Third, the Lamb is STRONG, indicated by the seven horns. Horns throughout the Bible speak of strength (Ps. 89:17, 24; Mic. 4:13), and the number seven of perfection or perfect strength — this Lamb is, therefore, all powerful. Fourth, this Lamb is SEARCHING, for He is described as having seven eyes — that is, this Lamb is all-knowing.
IT IS THE LAMB’S PERFECT STRENGTH AND PERFECT KNOWLEDGE WHICH WILL PERMIT PERFECT JUDGMENT.
“And he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:7).
He alone was worthy because first, He was a kinsman (human) by virtue of His miraculous virgin birth. Second, He had the redemption price —”Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold . . . But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Third, he was willing to redeem even though His own inheritance was marred in the process — “For he [God the Father] hath made him [God the Son] , who knew no sin, to be sin-for us. . . “(2 Cor. 5:21). It must be noted, and not in passing, that the One who alone can open the scroll, loose the seals and redeem a fallen creation is both God and man. Concerning His flesh. He is of the tribe of Judah and family of David (Rev. 5:5) — true Son of the Hebrew race. Here is the ultimate fulfIllment of God’s ancient promise to Abraham, “. . . in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12;3).
“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb . . . And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5: 8-9).
The “spiritual” that says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” is not without Scriptural foundation — He does. God has the whole world in His hand by right of might. But more than that, legally He has a right to do what He wills with the planet Earth because it was created by God the Father (Rev. 4:11) and redeemed by God the Son (Rev. 5:9). And, only with that foundation can the Tribulation events be property understood.
To the believer saved by grace, the Tribulation is a vindication of the holiness and justice of God. To the unredeemed who have spurned God’s love, rejected His grace and refused His mercy, it will be a time of unprecedented judgment.
One question alone remains — and it is of supreme importance. Have you, by faith, dove into the boundless, refreshing ocean of God’s love? Or, are you standing in the dry, parched desert of His wrath?
The sobriety of the text discussed requires directness — there can be no “tiptoeing through the tulips” here. God’s Word declares:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36
Rejoice if you re saved — partake if you will — get angry ‘if you must — but don’t sit there like a lifeless bowl of fruitless Jell-O. The eternal destiny of your soul is at stake.
On the pages that follow, four of my esteemed colleagues have written on such themes as “The Purging of the Planet Earth,” (Rev. 6); “The Holy War: Holocaust II” (Rev. 12); “The Last Blasphemer” (Rev. 13); and “The Triumphal Re-Entry” (Rev. 19-20). It is our collective prayer that these articles will give insight into the present hour of history and the future fulfillment of prophecy — and that they will help the pilgrim on his journey to higher ground for the glory of God.