FOCUS ON REVELATION - LESSON 10

Someone Is in Charge
Revelation 4-5

"Houston, we have a problem." When Commander Jim Lovell spoke those words he was more than 200,000 miles out in space. An oxygen tank aboard Apollo 13 had just exploded, causing serious damage to the service module. But the message reached Mission Control immediately, and hundreds of engineers, physicists, and computer experts got right to work. With their accumulated wisdom, they came up with a rescue plan. They talked the astronauts through the procedures step-by-step. Out in the vast darkness of space, the friendly voice of Mission Control guided Jim Lovell and his companions safely back to Earth.

The infinitely wise Creator of the universe has His own communication system which reaches across the vast heavens to individual human beings in need of rescue. His Mission Control site, from which He rules the galaxies, is of course, far more complex than the control center of NASA. But in Revelation 4, God invites John to take a look inside His "control room" in heaven. The result: a mind-boggling vision.

Read Revelation 4 in its entirety.
When you have done this, return to verses 1 and 2.

Come on in!

If you visit someone and they throw the door wide open with a big smile and exclaim, "Come on in! Wonderful to see you!" how does it make you feel? How would you feel if the person welcoming you was a head of state, the leader of your country? Pretty special. You'd be able to relax in presidential quarters. Well, God did something like this for John. The door He threw open so graciously led to the very throne room of heaven, where He showed John some impressive sights.

In chapter 3 God's voice is described as thunder coming from the throne. Here God's invitation sounds like a trumpet blowing.

1. Why did God invite the apostle John into heaven's throne room by means of a vision?
     (Revelation 4:1, 2.)
   As a reward for John's faithful service.
   To show John things that must take place.
   So that John would understand why God has to punish the wicked.

Exciting news for John. God is going to show him the future; the apostle will be looking at events on planet Earth that haven't happened yet! Guess what? You get to look over John's shoulder and listen in!

The One on the Throne

In verse 3, John describes the One sitting on the throne in a very striking way. To picture divine glory, he refers to brilliant jewels—the fiery sardius stone and the flashing jasper. A whole rainbow of colors seems to encircle the throne.

Two other verses in Revelation 4 also identify the One sitting on the throne. Read verses 8 and 11.

2. How do the four living creatures that are around the throne describe God? (Revelation 4:8.)
   As the Lord God Almighty, the One who was, who is, and who is to come.
   As the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  
As the Ancient of Days.

3. How do the twenty-four elders who are around the throne describe God? (Revelation 4:11.)
   As the Bright and Morning Star.
  
As the Creator of all things, the One who is worthy to receive glory, honor, and power.
  
As the Everlasting Father.

Everyone there is mesmerized by the Almighty. The four living creatures can't stop proclaiming His glory. The twenty-four elders fall down before Him and worship. They know they're in the presence of the Maker of the universe, the Lord of lords, the center of all things. He is the One who leads the galaxies in their synchronized celestial dance and who also touches lives on planet Earth. God, through John, invites you into His throne room. He wants to show you the future of our world because He cares about your individual future. There's great peace in really knowing God cares about you.

The Throne Room and the Throne

Besides John, others in the Bible were also given remarkable glimpses of God on His throne. The prophet Daniel saw the "Ancient of Days" clothed in snowy white on a throne that seemed ablaze with glory. A fiery stream flowed from it (Daniel 7:9, 10). Isaiah was shown God "high and lifted up [exalted]" on a throne. The train of His robe filled the temple, and six-winged "seraphims," or angels, hovered above Him (Isaiah 6:1-3). Ezekiel pictured the Almighty and His throne as having the "color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it" (Ezekiel 1:27). His throne rested on an "awesome crystal" (vs. 22), or expanse, sparkling like ice. Living creatures whirled around Him within a brilliant light like "a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day" (vs. 28). Just before his martyrdom Stephen received a vision of God's glory on His throne and saw "the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). All those privileged to look into heaven put the experience in similar words. If you find some of their descriptions hard to understand, remember they are human beings trying to picture in human language the most spectacular sights in the universe.

To think about: If you had to describe God to someone, what would you tell him or her?

The Throne

A well-respected Roman aristocrat named Cornelia once received at her house a wealthy lady who proudly showed off her jewelry. Her visitor then challenged her hostess to display her finest stones. Cornelia gestured toward her two young boys, who had just entered the room, and replied, "These are my jewels." Those two boys, Tiberius and Gaius, grew up to become the famous reformers of Rome's agrarian laws. When Bible writers describe God's glory in terms of brilliant jewels, they also reflect something of the way He feels about His children because to the heavenly Father, His redeemed people sparkle in His hand "like jewels in a crown" (Zechariah 9:16).

That glorious rainbow John and others saw above God's throne echoes the same truth. The rainbow first appears in Genesis 9, after the worldwide Flood which destroyed the earth. God lifted it up as a sign that He would never again destroy the world by water. Whenever the sky darkened and the rains poured down, the rainbow would always remind people of God's promise. It's like a greeting card assuring us that God's word is trustworthy, and that we're important to Him. We are His children, His jewels. And each of us can "grow up" to do great things for Him.

The next few verses in Revelation 4 describe activity from the throne, before the throne, and around the throne of God. Let's examine these three descriptions.

4. What did John see and hear coming from God's throne when he was shown the throne
    room in vision? (Revelation 4:5.)
    A waterfall, a rainbow, and the sound of trumpets.
    An earthquake, a great wind blowing, and angels singing.
    Lightning, thunder, and voices.

John hears thunder as God speaks. He sees lightning as the angels flash from the throne of God to carry out His commands. Where are the angels going? They're traveling from "Mission Control" to Earth. While the tragedy of sin and suffering grips this planet, all the attention of heaven is focused on our individual needs. Every frail voice whispering, "God, we have a problem," is instantly recognized. God immediately responds in the way His infinite wisdom knows is best. All the living creatures whom the prophets saw swirling about God's throne are not some distraction. They are an extension of God's concern for you and me. The voice that thunders is friendly; it's God talking us through His rescue plan, step-by-step.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us what is going on before God's throne.

5. What else did John see before the throne in God's throne room? (Revelation 4:5, 6.)
   Lamps of fire and a sea of glass, like crystal.
   Pavement shining like gold and beautiful trees with golden fruit.
  
Tables covered with delicious food and angels serving one another.

Imagine the scene. A throne sitting on a crystal sea. Like a prism, the "sea of glass" spreads the dazzling colors of the beautiful rainbow above it. It also reflects the light of seven blazing torches. The Holy Spirit in all His perfection is represented by the number seven in various ways. And the Holy Spirit is yet another way in which God reaches out to His "jewels." The Father wants us to experience His wonderful qualities. He wants to live in us. That's what the Holy Spirit is all about. God's great love makes the Spirit available to each one of us.

Read verses 6 and 10 and note the activity around the throne.

6. What does John see going on around the throne? (Revelation 4:6, 10.)
    Angels flying here and there as God assigns them tasks to carry out.
    Four living creatures and twenty-four elders praising and worshiping God on His throne.
    
The redeemed from earth playing harps and bowing down before the throne.

In ancient Israel, priests who served at the temple were organized into twenty-four groups. They made sure the Hebrew system of festivals and holy days flowed uninterrupted throughout the year. Similarly here, the twenty-four elders on twenty-four thrones have a special task of worshiping God and singing praises to Him, because He is the Creator of all things. During their anthem of devotion, the elders take off their crowns and lay them before the throne of God.

To think about: If you had a crown of gold what would cause you to lay it before another person?

Next we come to "four living creatures." From descriptions in Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 we can identify them as angels. They are each pictured in highly symbolic language. The lion represents strength. The ox symbolizes a willingness to serve. The face of a man represents intelligence. The eagle depicts swiftness and keen perception. The many wings suggest the speed with which the divine will is to be carried out. These creatures are "all-seeing" in a very graphic way.

The four living creatures actually portray four dimensions of Jesus' character. He is a king (the lion), but also a servant (the ox). He is a human (the man's face), but also soared above as fully divine (the eagle). What characteristics do you appreciate the most about Jesus?

Isn't it wonderful that, early on in the book of Revelation, God gives us these striking word pictures of who He is and how much He cares for us? He's taking us on a tour of His heavenly Mission Control. He's showing us that in everything—in His omnipresent Holy Spirit, in the flight of angels, in the work of supernatural beings—He acts ceaselessly on our behalf. Are you important to God? No question! The throne room of heaven demonstrates that fact.

The Lamb

Now let's look at Revelation 5. This chapter continues our tour of the divine throne room. But the focus shifts from God Almighty on His throne to the Lamb of God before the throne. The Lamb is now the center of attention. As the scene opens, the attention of the universe is riveted on a great drama unfolding before the throne. John sees God the Father seated on His throne, holding in His right hand "a book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1). In ancient protocol the right-hand side, especially of a sovereign, always signified favor or highest standing. In other words, this book has special significance. But its message is sealed.

7. Next, John sees a powerful angel. What question does the angel ask in a loud voice?
     (Revelation 5:2.)
    "How long will it be until sin and sinners are destroyed forever?"
    "Where is the judgment to be held and when will it begin?"
    "Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?"

8. Why does John begin to cry following the angel's question? (Revelation 5:3, 4.)
   Because sin and sinners will soon be destroyed.
   Because the judgment will not take place for another thousand years.
   Because no one could be found to open the scroll and loose its seals

It appears that no created being in the entire universe can unseal the scroll's secrets (vs. 3). It's going to take someone extraordinary. And that means there must be something extraordinary in this book. Think about it! Not one of the twenty-four elders, not one of the four living creatures, not one of the innumerable angels, can open the book. All stand silent. John is so distressed by this predicament that he begins to weep.

Have you ever felt so hopeless and overcome by a tragedy in your life that all you could do was cry?

If you did not know how to find comfort and hope in your time of crisis, the next few verses will point you to a solution that lasts forever!

One of the twenty-four elders comes up with a solution. Let's follow the drama as it unfolds.

9. What solution to the problem does one of the twenty-four elders discover? (Revelation 5:5.)
   Sinners need not be destroyed with sin; they can be redeemed by God's grace.
   The judgment will confirm God's justice and His mercy.
  
The Lion of the tribe of Judah is able to open the scroll and loose its seals.

10. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is also described as: (Revelation 5:6.)
   A Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes.
   A white horse.
  
A strong and powerful angel.

The number seven represents perfection. Horns symbolize power. The seven eyes and seven spirits represent the all-seeing Spirit of God working efficiently on our behalf.

11. Why is the Lamb (Jesus) worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals? (Revelation 5:9.)
   Because He has created the heavens and the earth.
   Because He was slain and has redeemed the saints by His blood.
  
Because He has given visions to His servants the prophets.

Who is the Lamb?

When Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, John spoke these words: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

The apostle Peter referred to Jesus in the same way: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

The Lamb is none other than Jesus the Son of God who died on the cross of Calvary to save us from our sins!

As soon as Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes the sealed scroll in His hand, heaven's silence is broken by thunderous ovations of adoration and praise. Harps ring out. Voices grow ecstatic. Heavenly beings are moved to bow before the Lamb. The throne room of God is filled with intense celebration. All are overcome by the same realization: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!"

12. What do all the beings in heaven declare that the Lamb is worthy to receive? (Revelation 5:11, 12.)
   Power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing.
   The worship and adoration of everyone on earth and in heaven.
   Equal power with God the Father in governing the universe.

Revelation 7:14 shows us exactly why the Lamb is so highly honored. It states that those who are saved and receive eternal life will have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." As we noted previously in Revelation 1:5, Jesus Christ "loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood."

A very successful pop star had begun to feel that his life of nonstop limos, adoring fans, and champagne had left him pretty empty. After one concert, a young man began to talk to him about Christ, and the singer found himself listening, then praying, then pouring his heart out to God. He confessed his sinfulness to the God who had shed His blood to save him. And the pop idol made a remarkable discovery: "I was washed, cleansed—I couldn't believe it. Suddenly, when I admitted that I was sorry for the life I had led without God, everything collapsed, and I was perfectly balanced. I had been given day one again."

God can indeed wash away the pain and guilt of your past and give you day one again. That's what it means to wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb. Christ's death on the cross turns forgiveness into a free gift. If you haven't done so already, you can accept that gift right now. Simply acknowledge that you are a sinner, that you can't earn salvation; believe that Jesus died for your sins, and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. You can do it by repeating the following prayer. Say it out loud to God.

Prayer

Dear Father, I need You. I am sorry for my sins and ask You to forgive me. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I give You my life and receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You for hearing me and helping me to follow Jesus. In His name. Amen.

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