Today’s reading continues with the book of Revelation, but the easy part is over. The next several chapters are heavily cloaked in apocalyptic language which is intended, as I mentioned yesterday, to reveal only the outlines of what God has planned without giving specific details. Please keep this in mind as we read through. Some have made the mistake of seeing too much in these visions. It is best to take them as broad sketches of God’s plans.
The Grand Scene — 4:1ff
This wonderful look into the throne room of God — even given the fact that it is a physical attempt to describe something spiritual — is amazing! The feel is majestic and awesome (in the truest sense of this often abused latter adjective). And this is the intention of this portion of the revelation. It was important for a severely persecuted church to know that their God was truly King of the universe, and that nothing Satan or his agents could do would ever really even come close to defeating Him. The final verse summarizes this for the original readers and us — Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Never doubt that God will win. Sometimes things look pretty dark, but that’s only the way things look, that’s not the way they really are.
The Grand Scheme — 5:1ff
And indeed there is a great and grand scheme that God has predetermined for the course of this world. This is not to say that God has planned out all the details of my life and yours; we still have our own moral will and make our own decisions. But God has a destination in mind for the history of the world, for the fate of the sinful, and the reward of the saved. We may join either side, but the final destinies of those general groups are already fixed and determined — clearly we do well to join the winning side. But it appears that Jesus is the executor of this grand scheme, since He is deemed worthy to open the scroll (book). It’s contents seem to be aimed directly at the plan for answering the prayers of the saints and particularly of the martyrs.
All the prayers of the saints are heard and kept — 5:8
This isn’t an expansive passage but it has an important message for anyone who’s ever suffered because of the name of Jesus: God has heard and even keeps your prayers. When prayers aren’t answered with a “yes”, the temptation is that God hasn’t heard and that your prayer has “died” as the last echoes of your voice faded out. But this idea that the prayers of the saints are kept in an incense bowl is kind of comforting; those prayers didn’t just fade into the ether; God is keeping them and intends to answer them in His own time. For who suffer, the answers to our prayers may not be quite as soon as we had in mind, but when He does answer (as we’ll see later) it will be with final authority!
Made a kingdom — 5:10
There are theologies that believe that the kingdom of God is still in the future. But here in the book of Revelation we can see that He has already made (past tense) a kingdom and priests as we reign on the earth with the Lord. Now, of course, there’s a fuller sense in which we’ll be that kingdom after the end of time in the eternal realm, but don’t miss the fact that we are actually in that kingdom now.
How long, O Lord? — 6:9ff
Here’s a disturbing and yet comforting revelation. As the martyrs, those who had given their lives already in the service of the King, ask how long these persecutions and martyrdoms would go on, ask for God’s judgment and just revenge to finally rain down on a world who had shed their blood, the Lord says essentially, “Wait. Wait until the full number of your martyr brethren are also slain.” Gulp! The mortal struggle goes on. That wasn’t particularly good news for the folks hearing this for the first time — or even in our own day — because the mortal struggle between good and evil, God and Satan, would go on, goes on even now, and will go on until the end. Gulp! But the comforting part is, first, that their victory (symbolized by their white robes) and struggle is over, and, second, that justice really will be done — because God is “holy and true”, He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t let injustice prevail. Here are important things to be reminded of — we’ve seen things like this before in our readings — we are not just at war, we are in the war zone, and the our already defeated but enraged enemy will cause as much suffering and even death as he can manage. So don’t be surprised. Remember this passage just a few days ago: 1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you”? So be strong, persevere, be hupomene (the Greek word for more than mere longsuffering, it is a word for heroic, courageous, and defiant perseverance to the death)!
Trying to hide from the Lord — 6:15ff
When the hammer finally does fall on the wicked world, however, the wicked world will find no comfort. They’ll wish for the rocks and hills to fall on them (ouch) to hide them from the judgment of the Lord — though it will do them no more good than the fig leaves and Adam and Eve tried as they hid in the bushes from God walking through the Garden.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.