In the life of a follower of Christ, suffering can either push them into compromise or press them into adoration of the triune God. In this message on Revelation 4–5, David Platt teaches us that the triune God is worthy of our full devotion and praise, especially in the midst of suffering. In beholding the glory of the triune God, we are compelled to receive salvation, empowered to escape temptation, and enabled to endure temptation.
- The glory of God compels us to receive salvation.
- The glory of God empowers us to escape temptation.
- The glory of God enables us to endure tribulation.
Revelation: The Hope of Glory
The Glory of the Triune God
Dr. David Platt
August 26, 2012
The Glory of the Triune God
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev. 4:1–5:14).
If you have Bible, and I hope you do, turn with me to Revelation 4. And the good keeps getting better. We have seen a grand, majestic portrait of the gospel and of Jesus in Revelation 1. We have heard piercing, penetrating words from Christ to His church in Revelation 2 and 3. And now, today, we come to two of the most glorious chapters in the entire Bible: Revelation 4 and 5.
The glory of the triune God on display before all creatures in heaven and on earth and under the earth. A glimpse of men and women from every language and every nation bowing down before His throne.
I’ve got to tell you a quick family story. We were having family worship the other night. It was at the end of June when we were finishing up the Matthew series. It was a Saturday night before I was preaching on the Great Commission the next morning. Most of you know our family makeup. In case you don’t, we adopted our first son Caleb from Kazakhstan. Our second son Joshua came along the more natural way. Our third child Mara Ruth we adopted from China back in December. And then we have a fourth child, a son Isaiah James on the way around Thanksgiving, Lord willing.
So we’re sitting around having family worship that night and I told the kids, “Daddy’s going to preach tomorrow on making disciples of all nations. So let’s pray that tomorrow God might raise up some people from Brook Hills to go to other nations. I looked at Caleb and I said, “Tomorrow, buddy, God might raise up somebody to go to Kazakhstan and tell people about Jesus.” And he kind of smiled. I looked to Mara Ruth and I said, “Tomorrow God may call somebody to go to China.” She doesn’t really know what’s going on, but she was smiling anyway. Then I just said, kind of generally, “Tomorrow God may call somebody to go to Africa.” And Joshua sits up and with a hopeful look in his eyes says, “Is that where I’m from?” Caleb looks back at him and says, “No, Joshua, you’re from Birmingham.”
Oh, there is coming a day when men and women from Kazakhstan and China and Birmingham and every other place on the planet will behold the glory of the triune God and bow down in awe and praise and worship before Him. So very simply this morning I want you to see a portrait of God, and then I want you to realize the point for us.
I want to tie this vision of God’s glory with what we talked about last week. Revelation 4 and 5 don’t just appear out of nowhere. Jesus has just spoken to churches who are walking through war against sin and suffering. Some of them are thriving, and Jesus is encouraging them to endure. Others are compromising and falling into complacency. All of them need encouragement to hold fast to God and to preach the gospel at the risk of their lives.
So how does God motivate His people to stand fast in suffering? How does God motivate His people to turn away from sin? How does God motivate His people to spread the gospel, even when it may cost them their lives? He motivates them with a vision of Himself. He says to them, “See your suffering in light of who I am.” See your battles with sin in light of who Christ is. And spread the gospel in view of the glory of God.
This is the point of Revelation 4 and 5: for these people in the first century and for every person in the twenty-first century to look at everything in our lives through the lens of the glory of the triune God. This is my goal for today: that you would walk away from here in the next few minutes with new eyes, with a new perspective on every single thing in your life because you’re seeing it all through the lens of the glory of the triune God. So let’s dive in. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
The Portrait of God…
The portrait of God in Revelation 4–5. Imagine the scene as John sees a door standing open in heaven, and he is invited to come up and get a glimpse of God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All portrayed here in a kaleidoscope of heavenly images that absolutely take your breath away.
Revelation 4–5 Shows Us God the Father…
Let your imagination run wild as you hear John describe God the Father. And all of John’s descriptions are loaded with Old Testament allusions. You compare this passage to Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6, where Isaiah glimpsed the glory of God.
This is the culmination of all the throne scenes in the Bible as John describes God the Father seated at the center of the universe. He sits at the center of the universe. Everything in these two chapters revolves around God’s throne. Seventeen different times, the term “throne” is used by John, and God’s throne is the center of this entire scene. Everything
centers around God—everything in this scene and everything in the world. Every facet of your life revolves around God. Everything!
At school, students, every subject you study centers around God. Do not view science apart from the glory of the triune God. Do not look at history apart from the glory of the triune God. Science and history center around God. At work, ladies and gentlemen, every job represented in this room centers around God. You will not understand your work rightly as a lawyer, doctor, counselor, teacher, consultant, engineer, manager, mechanic, sales rep, or stay-at-home mom unless you understand that God is at the center of the universe, and everything in your work ultimately revolves around Him.
He sits at the center of the universe and He dwells in unapproachable light. Now we’ve got to be careful here not to get too carried away in these symbolic images trying to give literal meaning to them. Even the picture of God “seated” on a throne does not limit God to a certain place where He is located. We know, and we’ll be reminded in a minute, that God is omnipresent—He is present everywhere.
So these are symbolic pictures representing the glory of God. When we see God portrayed with the appearance of jasper and carnelian, these are pictures intended to provoke meaning in our minds. Just like in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 28 and Exodus 28, we see jasper—
this opaque jewel, often red, but at other times green or blue or brown or yellow or white— and we see carnelian—a fiery red stone popular in the ancient world. Together they form a picture of brilliant colors and light. To use the language of 1 Timothy 6:16, “God is the blessed and only Sovereign…who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15–16). It’s like John is grasping at the leash of language to describe the glory of God.
At the center of the universe, dwelling in unapproachable light, He is surrounded by unending praise. See the heavenly entourage around God.
Twenty-four elders. We’re not sure exactly who these are. They may be symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles as the people of God, or they may be simply angelic attendants. Then four living creatures that on one hand seem to represent all of creation, yet on the other hand are identified with imagery similar to cherubim and seraphim, celestial beings before God’s throne. No matter what they are precisely, though, the point is clear: they surround God with praise.
Verse 8, “The four living creatures…day and night never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Rev. 4:8). And whenever they sing (which is all the time!), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship, casting crowns before the throne saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…” (Rev. 4:11).
Think of it. At this moment there are angels and people and creatures, there is a heavenly host at this moment resounding to the praise of God. This is where we remember that when we come together as the church in worship, what we are doing in this room is an earthly expression of a heavenly reality.
When we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” we are joined by… better yet, we are joining in a chorus of praise that is resounding in heaven at this moment. And while I’m speaking now, they’re still singing. And they don’t stop. When you lay your head down on your pillow tonight, they will still be shouting God’s praise. And when you wake up tomorrow morning weary from a night of sleep, they’ll still be singing. View your life from this perspective! God the Father is surrounded by unending praise.
Now who is He? This vision in Revelation 4 tells us that God is the Judge of every man. All of the judgments that we’re going to read about in the chapters that follow ultimately come from the throne of God. That’s why Revelation 4:5 says “from the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder.” We’ve had some storms these last few weeks here, some that have woken us up in the middle of the night with loud thunder and continuous lightning, so imagine these heavenly convulsions reverberating from the throne.
Yet amidst this portrayal of God as Judge, we see that He tempers His wrath and judgment with mercy. The rainbow around the throne resembling God’s promise to show patience and mercy to a fallen world filled with sinners who are, every single one, guilty of treason and transgression against Him. Transgression against the One who is holy above all. God is separated by a sea of crystal clear glass, signifying His glorious transcendence above everything else in all of creation. He is different, other, incomparable, unlike us and unlike anything else anywhere in all of the universe.
He is holy, holy, holy and He has power over all. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). His perfect purity overflows into perfect power. “The Lord God Almighty” is one of John’s favorite titles for God in the book of Revelation.
The scene continues: God is infinitely timeless. He is “the one who was and is and is to come,” verse 8. He is “the one who lives forever and ever,” verse 9. Nothing can overpower His rule, and nothing can outlast His reign. Think about it, brothers and sisters, our president will lead for four, maybe eight years and then be done. But our God reigns forever and ever and ever. He is infinitely timeless, and He is infinitely glorious. “Worthy to receive glory and honor and power,” verse 11.
He is supreme above all things. Background here. “Dominus et deus noster” is a term that was used in the first century to address the Roman emperor. The Roman Empire said the emperor is literally “the Lord and our God.” So John, from an island in exile, writes, “No, he is not.” There is only one Lord and only one God who is worthy of that title, and it is not the Roman emperor. No matter what you try to force your citizens and various Christians to say, the Roman emperor pales in significance to the church’s “Lord and God.”
He is supreme above all things, and He is the sustainer of all things. “He created all things, and by His will they exist and came into being,” verse 11. Nothing in all of creation exists outside of the sustenance of God. You have breath this morning because God is giving you breath this morning. Your heart is beating at this moment because God is causing it to beat.
And were He to stop, so would you.
He is the sustainer of all things, and He is sovereign over all things. The vision continues unbroken into Chapter 5, where John says he “saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll within and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Rev. 5:1). This scroll, we find out in the chapters that follow, contains God’s foreordained plans for the course of history, specifically leading up to the end of the world and the consummation of His kingdom. This scroll contains God’s sovereign will for all creation and ultimate redemption. And He holds it in His hand.
Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of His hand. Is this good news or what? Listen to political campaigns and party conventions these next two weeks and be comforted by the fact that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney holds the world in the palm of his hand. Watch the news coming from Syria and Iran and Israel and India and North Korea in the days ahead, and realize that none of the leaders in these nations is ultimately sovereign over anything. God is sovereign over all of them. He charts the course of countries, and He holds the destiny of the world in His fingertips. Behold, God the Father.
Revelation 4–5 Shows Us God the Son…
And behold, God the Son. You get through Chapter 4, and you think, man, could this scene get any more majestic? And it does. So here’s this scroll containing God’s foreordained plans for the redemption and restoration of all creation, plans for the ultimate eradication of evil and the defeat of death in the world, plans for the final removal of sin and suffering and pain and persecution. This is the end to all world wars and physical diseases and natural disasters, the coming of God’s kingdom to man and the re-creation of a new heaven and a new earth where God’s people will enjoy Him and reign with Him forever and ever. It’s all written on the scrolls.
So who is able to open it? Who is able to bring these things about? And the silence of heaven testifies to the sinfulness of man. There is no one. No one is worthy, and John begins weeping loudly. Why is he weeping like this? Because He is overwhelmed by the prospect of the future without all of these things. No redemption, no restoration. No eradication of evil. No final removal of sin and suffering and pain and persecution…and no defeat of death. No hope.
Yet amidst John’s hopeless wailing, one of the elders speaks up and says, “Weep no more. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). And thus Revelation 5 introduces God the Son.
He is the conquering Lion prophesied in the first book of the Bible. Genesis 49:10, “…The lion of the tribe of Judah…to whom shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Prophesied in Isaiah 11, the Messiah who would come from the Root of David. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit…. The root of Jesse…shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Is. 11:1, 10). This conquering Messiah has come!
Oh, see the contrast between one minute, no one being able to open the scroll, and the next minute, someone being able to open the scroll. Throughout history, from the beginning of time, men have come and men have gone, women have come and women have gone. All of them, the noblest of them, the kindest of them, the strongest of them, the greatest of them, all of them have fallen prey to sin. All of them, every single man and every single woman a slave to Satan. All of them, generation after generation, century after century, every single man and every single woman on the earth succumbed to death.
But then came another man unlike any other man! This man did not fall prey to sin; this man possessed power over sin. This man was not enslaved to Satan; this man crushed that ancient snake. This man did not succumb to death; this man triumphed over death. The Root of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, has come and He has conquered!
How? How did He conquer? John rises to see the strong Lion, and to his surprise he sees a slaughtered Lamb. The conquering Lion is the slaughtered Lamb. This vision coming from the apostle who recorded the words of John the Baptist, who upon seeing Jesus said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), hearkening back to language from Exodus 12 when the Israelites took an innocent lamb into their homes,
kept it until the fourteenth day, and then killed it, spreading its blood over their doorposts. The people of God were saved from the judgment of God under the banner of the blood of a lamb. Isaiah, centuries later, spoke of a lamb who would be led to the slaughter. He prophesied: The only Son of God will be crushed according to the sovereign will of God.
How does this Lion conquer? By suffering as a Lamb. He conquered through crucifixion. He was marred, despised, rejected, stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, chastised, oppressed, and pulverized in the place of sinners…so that all who hide under the banner of His blood are safe.
He is the slaughtered Lamb of God and yet He is standing. Slaughtered lambs don’t stand! This Lamb has endured death, and this Lamb has defeated death. This Lamb who bears the scars of death is ultimately sovereign over death. This is the greatest news in all the world: the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all! And so the Lion-like Lamb goes—verse 7—and takes “the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Rev. 5:7). What breathtaking audacity! No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to take the scroll, and yet Jesus walks right up to the throne, surrounded by living creatures and elders and a host of angels, and He takes it from the hand of God the Father!
Is there any clearer picture of the divinity of Christ than His authority to accomplish the sovereign will of the Father while angels praise His name? God doesn’t share the spotlight with just anyone. God only shares the spotlight with Himself.
Jesus humbled Himself as a Lamb. He became
“…Obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8–11).
And so the angels sing a new song, this time to the Lamb, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
His worth is undisputed. Christ alone is worthy. Christ alone has the key to all of human history. Christ alone has the power to bring out the consummation of the kingdom of God. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive”—sevenfold, perfect praise in verse 12— “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). There is no one like him.
His worth is undisputed. His work is unforgettable. Don’t miss this. This is heaven and Christ is risen, yet He is pictured as a Lamb that looks like it’s been slaughtered. The implication is clear. For all of eternity, we will see the conquering Lion ruling as the slaughtered Lamb.
Brothers and sisters, for all of eternity, the slaughtered Lamb of God will be at the center of our worship.
“Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.”
His work is unforgettable, and His worship is universal. The picture we have in Revelation 5:9–10 is of a Lion-like Lamb receiving praise from people in every tribe, language, and nation. Jesus died on the cross not for the praise of one type of people, but for the praise of every type of person on the planet. He will receive the reward of His sufferings, a kingdom of men and women from all over the world who have experienced his salvation and who will exalt his worth. Behold, God the Son.
Revelation 4–5 Shows Us God the Spirit…
And behold, God the Spirit. In Chapter 4, we see again the seven spirits of God, the same language we saw used in Chapter 1 to describe the Holy Spirit. He is omnipresent. The language here recalls Zechariah 4 yet again, the mysterious Spirit of God who is omnipresent. He is omniscient. Nothing escapes His searching gaze. He is omnipotent. He has all power to enact judgment and to enable salvation.
It is God the Spirit who is sent by God the Father and God the Son to carry out the divine mission in the world. Obviously, His portrait is not as prominent here in Revelation 4–5 because His role in the Godhead is to exalt the Son.
The Mystery of the Trinity…
Behold, the mystery of the Trinity in these two chapters. Here in the last book of the Bible, we are seeing what we have seen in all of the Bible. God is three persons. The Father is worshiped as God, the Son is worshiped as God, and the Spirit is worshiped as God—here and throughout all of Scripture.
Three persons, and each person is fully God. The Father is not part of God, the Son is not another part of God, and the Spirit is not a third part of God. They are each fully divine, fully God. And yet there is one God who is at the center of this scene in Revelation 4–5.
It’s a mystery how all of these things come together. One person said of the Trinity, “Try to explain it, and you’ll lose your mind; try to deny it, and you’ll lose your soul.” See the majesty of this mystery here in Revelation 4–5.
The first two songs of praise that we hear are specifically sung to God the Father. The next two songs of praise that we hear are specifically sung to God the Son. And then the final song of praise that we hear is sung to both God and to the Lamb. With each song there is a progression of participants. From the four living creatures to the twenty-four elders to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders together to many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands (which, for those doing the math according to the way myraids are used in the Bible, that adds up to 100,000,000 angels), and then ultimately “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” (Rev. 5:13). That’s pretty much everybody and everything in the universe giving blessing and honor and glory to the mysteriously majestic God over all.
Brothers and sisters, don’t think for a second that one day in heaven you and I will finally be able to comprehend God. Because you and I will still be finite men and finite women, and He will still be the infinite God. We’ve already seen that God is infinitely glorious, which means that 10,000 years from now, there will still be more glory to be explored. And 10 million years from now, there will still be more glory to be enjoyed.
Stephen Charnock put it best in his Discourse on the Eternity of God when he said:
“After many ages, [our] joys will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites. When the glory of the Lord shall rise upon you, it shall be so far from ever setting, that after millions of years are expired, as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the sun, in the light of whose countenance you shall live, shall be as bright as at the first appearance; he will be so far from ceasing to flow, that he will flow as strong, as full, as at the first communication of himself in glory to the creature. God is always vigorous and flourishing; a pure act of life, sparkling new and fresh rays of life and light to the creature, flourishing with a perpetual spring, and contenting the most capacious desire; forming your interest, pleasure, and satisfaction; with an infinite variety, without any change or succession; he will have variety to increase delights, and eternity to perpetuate them; this will be the fruit of the enjoyment of an infinite and eternal God.”
The Point for Us…
So what’s the point for us? Is the point of this portrait simply to make us speechless? No. Yes, to make us speechless and to transform everything about us. There seem to be an infinite number of takeaways from this text, but let’s start with these four.
The glory of God compels us to receive salvation.
Number one, the glory of God compels us to receive salvation. So there are Christians in this room and there are non-Christians in this room. There are men and women who are following Christ, and there are men and women who are not following Christ. And no matter who we are, the picture here is poignant and clear. God holds the future glorification of believers in His hand. All who trust in Jesus, all who believe in the slaughtered Lamb of God who reigns as the sovereign Lord of all will one day be united with Him face-to-face in heaven. God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose, and He will bring your salvation to completion.
At the same time that God holds the future glorification of believers in His hand, He holds the final damnation of unbelievers in His hand. As we will see in the book of Revelation, all who spurn the Savior will be condemned in sin forever and ever. So non-Christian, every man, woman, student who is not following Jesus, I urge you to cry out for the mercy of Christ or collapse under His judgment of Christ. Jesus is in control of the past, present, and future of world history…and Jesus is in control of your eternal destiny.
He is the conquering Lion who has come to save. He has overcome death. He was crucified on the cross where He paid the price for sin before a holy God and everyone who trusts in Him to save their soul can receive, will receive mercy at that moment. At this moment cry out for the mercy of Christ in your heart, and by His grace through faith in Him, He will save you today! Do not spurn Him any longer. Do not play religious games before Him. Repent of sin, turn from sin, and trust in the Lion-like Lamb who alone is able to save you.
And then when you do (and for all who have) see how everything changes. Go back to Revelation 3:21. Do you remember how the letters right before this ended? Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Wow! What a promise! This just brings Revelation 4 and 5 right into your lap, Christian. Follower of Christ, He will grant you to sit with Him on His throne. If Revelation 4–5 takes our breath away, then remembering Revelation 3:21 knocks you out of your chair. It’s what Chapter 5 said, Jesus has purchased us and “made us a kingdom and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). We shall reign. We shall reign!
Now what does that mean? We’ve talked about this, just about every week so far because we’ve seen this every week in Revelation. For believers, without question, there is a future reign that we have in Christ, with Christ, in a new heaven and a new earth, which we will see specifically described at the end of Revelation. But there is a sense in which we are reigning with Him even now. And that’s the point of the book. Revelation is giving us a picture of what Paul means in Ephesians 2 when he says that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies and what Paul means in Romans 8 when he says that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Does that just mean in the future, that we’ll just be conquerors in the future? No! That means we are more than conquerors now, we are seated with Christ now, united with Christ now in this life. To use the words of Graeme Goldsworthy, Revelation was not written “to minister to armchair prophets in some far-off age.” It was written to encourage struggling saints in every age, and that’s why we have this scene.
We don’t have Revelation 4–5 just to give us a glimpse of God that we’ll one day have in heaven. We have Revelation 4–5 to empower and enable us for life on earth.
The glory of God empowers us to escape temptation.
For first century Christians and twenty-first century Christians struggling with compromise and complacency, don’t miss the point: the glory of God empowers us to escape temptation. Last week, we talked about battles with idolatry and immorality, with sin in our lives. How do we overcome these things in our lives? By seeing God as He is!
We overcome idolatry by glimpsing a greater God. When you see the grandeur of God in Revelation 4–5, you don’t bow down and worship a wooden statue or a Roman emperor. And when you see the grandeur of God in Revelation 4–5, you stop worshipping money and success and acclaim and you stop worshiping yourself. See a glimpse of a greater God and be delivered from the idolatry of petty, worthless, meaningless gods all over the world.
Similarly, we fight immorality through fulfillment in our Father. When you experience the pleasure and delight and feast that is found in the triune God, you are free from the pursuit of pleasure in the stuff of this world. You don’t lust over images on the Internet when your eyes are captivated with the glory of God. Christian, how do you overcome the pleasures of sin? By letting the triune God overwhelm you with the power of His satisfaction. Taste and see that the Lord is good, the Lord is great. Fight immorality through fulfillment in our Father.
The glory of God empowers us to escape temptation. We refuse to compromise in light of the example of Christ. I’ll borrow language here from Hebrews 12 to help us understand Revelation 5.
“Throw aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily entangles…fix your eyes on Jesus…consider Jesus…who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:1–4).
Consider Jesus, who conquered sin and who now empowers you to conquer sin. This Jesus lives in you!
So you and I refuse to compromise in light of the example of Christ, and we resist complacency in view of the excellency of Christ. How can we be complacent before the triune God? How can we be apathetic, affectionless, self-reliant, or self-centered before this God?
The glory of God enables us to endure tribulation.
The glory of God empowers us to escape temptation, and the glory of God enables us to endure tribulation. We’ve talked about this, and we saw it last week: brothers and sisters from the first century to the twenty-first century walking through suffering, wondering why it’s happening and if it will ever end. Revelation 4–5 makes three things clear.
One, our God is in control. Things in your life and things in the world may seem like they are spinning out of control, but they are not. God has all things under control. History rests in His hand, and He is bringing all things together for the good of those who love Him and for the glory of His name. Rest in this.
Our God is in control and our enemy has been conquered. Jesus has overcome! He has overcome sin and He has overcome death and He has overcome the devil. In the words of Colossians 2:15, He has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them.” And you are in Him! The conqueror lives in you and you in Him!
It may not look or feel like you’re a conqueror on some days, but isn’t this the beauty of the cross? Look at the cross. Is this a picture of conquering? A brutally bloody maimed man hanging naked on a tree, is that a picture of conquering? Not in the eyes of the world. And in the same way, is the picture of first century Christians being burned at the stake a picture of conquering? Not in the eyes of the world.
But the gospel turns everything upside down. For in the brutal crucifixion of Christ, Jesus was conquering death. And in the brutal murder of Christians, the church was advancing the gospel. So for Christians in the twenty-first century, in this room, who are walking through pain and suffering, and it doesn’t feel like you’re conquering, know this: as you share in the sufferings of Christ, you participate in the reign of Christ.
And you know that one day our suffering will conclude. The Lion-like Lamb has the authority to bring God’s ultimate plan of redemption and restoration to completion. Amidst your suffering, glimpse the glory of your God, and He will enable you to endure tribulation.
The glory of God motivates us to accomplish mission.
And finally, the glory of God motivates us to accomplish mission. Does divine sovereignty over the world mean we sit back and do nothing in the world? Do we just passively float through the sea of God’s sovereignty while He accomplishes His purpose in the world? No!
There’s mission to be accomplished here, based on this text. Jesus has purchased men and women for God from every tribe and every language and every people and every nation. And if we believe this, then we must work for the spread of the gospel to every tribe and every language and every people and every nation.
So Church at Brook Hills, based on Revelation 4–5, let us pray passionately for the spread of the gospel to all peoples. God’s sovereignty does not negate prayer; God’s sovereignty necessitates prayer.
We ran right over it in this text. When the twenty-four elders around the throne in verse 8 were holding golden bowls full of incense, these bowls were filled with the prayers of the saints. It’s similar to what we’re going to see in Revelation 8:3 when the seventh seal is opened, and an angel there offers the prayers of the saints before God, and this is what ushers in the coming of God’s kingdom. Do you realize what the Bible is teaching here? God is going to consummate His kingdom ultimately and eternally in response to the prayers of His people. This is why we pray, “God, may Your Kingdom come!” This is why we pray, “God, may Your Kingdom advance among all the peoples of the world, among the Saudi Arabs and the Iranian Turks and the Lohar of South Asia and the Somalis of North Africa and the Brahman of India and among every people group on the planet. Raise up men and women to go and cause Your Kingdom to come among every people group that has been purchased by Christ. Draw them to salvation.” This is what we pray for! Is this what you’re praying for?
Church at Brook Hills, let’s pray passionately, and let’s give sacrificially. God has made us wealthy for a reason. Men and women, you have jobs, and students, you’re getting thousands and thousands of dollars worth of education. Not so that you can waste it all on personal indulgences, but so that you can sacrifice it all for the spread of God’s gospel and the declaration of God’s glory to the ends of the earth. See it. The sovereign God of the universe has willed for us to be wealthy for the sake of His global worship. Stop hoarding and start giving.
Let’s pray passionately, let’s give sacrificially, and let’s go confidently. Let’s go to all of these people groups. Six thousand of them that are still unreached with the gospel. Let’s go as the Lord leads. God is likely not calling every single person in this room to move to an unreached people group, but He is calling some. So is He calling you? And don’t be afraid if He is.
Yes, these 6,000 people groups are unreached for a reason: they are difficult to reach and dangerous to reach. But think about what this text is saying. Brother or sister, as you and I go into hard, difficult places and among hard, difficult people groups in the world, we go in the sovereign hand of God. And nothing can happen to us apart from His good plan.
And on top of that, He has guaranteed us success. Every one of these people groups is one day going to be represented around the throne of the Lamb, so you can know that when you or I or we as a church take on a particular people group, no matter how dark or difficult or dangerous it is, we can know that when we go and preach the gospel among that people, whether in our life or in our death, somebody is going to believe. And somebody is going to be there in Revelation 5 (and as we’ll see, Revelation 7) singing the praises of the Lamb.
This is the story of the Moravian movement, what many have called the most remarkable church on mission in all of Christian history. During the eighteenth century, approximately one out of every 60 members of the Moravian church was serving as a missionary in a cross-cultural context. Scores of Moravian brothers and sisters literally giving up their lives and leaving behind their comforts for the spread of the gospel around the world. The story is told of two particular Moravian men who decided to sell themselves into slavery in order to reach unreached slaves in the West Indies. They sold themselves into slavery! And as they boarded the slave ship, these two men were said to have cried, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
May this be the cry of The Church at Brook Hills: let’s pray passionately and give sacrificially and go confidently, and let’s die willingly with the cry on our lips: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”
The Portrait of God…
God the Father…
He sits at the center of the universe.
He dwells in unapproachable light.
He is surrounded by unending praise.
He is the Judge of every man.
He tempers wrath with mercy.
He is holy above all.
He has power over all.
He is infinitely timeless.
He is infinitely glorious.
He is supreme above all things.
He is the sustainer of all things.
He is sovereign over all things.
God the Son…
He is the conquering Lion.
He is the slaughtered Lamb.
His worth is undisputed.
His work is unforgettable.
His worship is universal.
God the Spirit…
He is omnipresent.
He is omniscient.
He is omnipotent.
He enacts judgment.
He enables salvation.
The Mystery of the Trinity…
God is three persons.
Each person is fully God.
There is one God.
The Point for Us…
The glory of God compels us to receive salvation.
God holds the future glorification of believers in His hand.
God holds the final damnation of unbelievers in His hand.
Cry out for the mercy of Christ or collapse under the judgment of Christ.
The glory of God empowers us to escape temptation.
We overcome idolatry by glimpsing a greater God.
We fight immorality through fulfillment in our Father.
We refuse to compromise in light of the example of Christ.
We resist complacency in view of the excellency of Christ.
The glory of God enables us to endure tribulation.
Our God is in control.
Our enemy has been conquered.
Our suffering will one day conclude.
The glory of God motivates us to accomplish mission.
Let’s pray passionately.
Let’s give sacrificially.
Let’s go confidently.
Let’s die willingly.