God In Heaven Revelation 4:1-11, Revelation 5:1-14 As the first three chapters we looked at last time concerned the Church on Earth, these two chapters set the scene and sketch the truth that God is in Heaven: a fundamental Christian belief that needs no introduction. Indeed these verses are quite familiar to us and are often used in the context of worship to stimulate praise and they provide the content for many hymns and newer songs. It gives us a glimpse of that heavenly adoration of which all earthly worship is but an echo. John has been invited to ‘come up here’ (4:1) and see what heaven looks like, a privilege shared by few during their lifetime (Paul had a similar experience: 2 Corinthians 12:1-6 ‘caught up into a third heaven’). Sometimes we need to stop and start seeing things from the perspective of heaven: a very different starting point. For it is the place where God reigns and from which He rules. ‘Throne’ is the keyword and it occurs 16 times in the whole of Revelation: ten times in these two chapters. Notice the emphasis is on ‘sitting’ (4:2, 9, 10, 5:1). This is the control centre of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. The scene is breathtakingly beautiful, almost defying description. Green Rainbows (!), Golden Crowns, thunder and Lightening, Blazing Lamps – one can almost imagine John’s eyes darting from one striking feature to another as he gazes in awe and wonder. In trying to describe what he can see of God Himself, he can only compare this with two of the most brilliant gemstones he has ever seen before (Jasper and Carnelian). Above all, there is a peaceful aspect to the whole scene, expressed as a ‘sea of glass’ stretching to the horizon. The sharp contrast with profound disturbances on Earth (from chapter 6) is clearly intentional. God reigns supreme above all the battles between good and evil. He did then. He does now!! He does not have to struggle; even Satan has to ask His permission before he can touch a human being (Job 1). He is not even surprised by anything. He knows exactly how to deal with whatever arises, since that also can only be what he allows. If you have not understood God’s sovereignty then there is a chink in your armour. He is God, not man. He is therefore worthy of worship (the word derives from ‘worthship’, telling someone how much they are worth to you). The creator receives non-stop praise from the creatures He has made. The four ‘living’ ones are only ‘like’ a Lion, Ox, Man and Eagle; together they may represent all creatures from the four corners of the Earth (though there are 20 other interpretations). Some say they reflect the gospels: In Matthew we see the Messiah-King (the lion). In Mark we see Jehovah's Servant (the ox). In Luke we see the Son of Man (the man). In John we see the Son of God (the eagle). It needs all four aspects to give the full truth. As Sovereign He comes to reign and rule. As servant He comes to serve and suffer. As Son of Man He comes to share and sympathize. As Son of God He comes to reveal and redeem. Their praise is vaguely ‘Trinitarian’: ‘Holy’ three times and God in 3 dimensions of time- past, present and future. 24 Elders comprise the ‘Council’ of Heaven (Jeremiah 23:18); almost certainly they represent the two covenant peoples of God, Israel and the Church (notice the 24 names on the New Jerusalem’s gates and foundations; 21:12-14). They have ‘crowns’ and ‘thrones’, but only delegated authority. There is no action in Chapter 4, other than unceasing worship. It is a permanent scene with no time reference and a timely reminder of how things really are! With Chapter 5 the action begins – with the search for ‘someone’ in heaven and earth, someone ‘worthy to break he seals and open the scroll’. The significance of the scroll becomes apparent in the light of events. On it must be written the programme, which will bring to an end the age of earthly history in which we live. Breaking its seals begins the countdown. Until this happens the world must continue in its present state. The ‘present evil age’ must be closed before the ‘age to come’ can open. There must be a termination of the ‘Kingdoms of the World’ if the ‘kingdom of God’ is to be universally established on the Earth. That is why John ‘wept and wept’ (v4) in frustration and grief when no one was found ‘worthy’ to set this in motion. But why was this a problem? God himself had released many judgments on the earth through History. Why not the final ones. Either He does not choose to do so or does not feel He is qualified to do so! This last thought is not so bizarre or even blasphemous as some might think, in the light of what is said about the one person who is found to be ‘worthy’. Who is it? Someone who is both a ‘Lion’ and a ‘Lamb’! Actually, the contrast between the two is not as great as many assume. The Lamb is male and fully mature, as was every Lamb used in sacrifice (‘one year old’ Exodus 12:5). In this case, the ‘Ram’ as we should really say, has seven horns (one more than Jacob sheep), signifying perfect power and seven eyes, signifying perfect oversight. Yet it had been ‘slain’ as a sacrifice. The Lion is the King of the Jungle, but here of the tribe of Judah and rooted in the Davidic dynasty. So we have a unique combination of the Sovereign Lion and the Sacrificial Lamb, which corresponds to the Coming King and the Suffering Servant predicted by the Hebrew prophets (e.g. Isaiah 9-11 and 42-53). But it is not just what He is, but what He has done, that fits Him to release the troubles that will bring the world to an end, for ‘end’ can mean two things: termination or consummation. He will bring it to the latter. He has prepared a people to take over the government of the world. He has purchased them at the price of His own blood, out of every ethnic group in the human race. He has trained them in royal and priestly duties in God’s service and thus prepared them for the responsibility of ‘reigning on the earth’ (this is fully developed in Revelation 20:4-6). Only someone who has done all this is able to begin the series of disasters that will bring all other regimes down. To destroy a bad system without having a good one ready to replace it can only lead to anarchy as we well know. And He himself is a worthy Sovereign over the Government He has prepared, precisely because He is willing to give His all to make it possible. It was because He became ‘obedient to death- even death on a Cross!’ that God exalted Him to the Highest Place. (Phil. 2:8-9). No wonder thousands of angels agree, in musical acclamation, that it is only right to give Him power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and praise. Then all the creatures in the universe join the choirs’ anthem, though with one significant addition. The Power, Honour, Glory & praise should be shared between the One sitting on the Throne and the one standing in the centre in front of Him, the Father and the Son together. For it was a joint effort. They were both involved. They both suffered to make it all possible, though in very different ways. Nothing reveals more clearly the divinity as well as the humanity of Our Lord Jesus as the offering of unqualified praise and worship to both Him and God together. God is in Heaven. He is ultimately in control: its His-Story – a truth that we need to cling to as next time (18th) we see how Satan does his worst in the Earth. Pastor David October 4th 2015.