Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Worthy Is the Lamb - April 10, 2016 - Third Sun. of Easter - Text: Revelation 5:(1-7) 8-14
Have you ever wondered what heaven would be like? If you have, listen up, today’s text, and as we continue in the book of Revelation, we will see a glimpse of heaven in John’s vision. This morning we continue with “The Distant Triumph Song” of Revelation. We continue to see the resurrected Jesus alive in all His glory, the glory that He had given up to be born as one of us in order to give His life for ours on the cross.
I should also preface our text with a reminder of what was happening at the time of John’s vision and the writing of his vision. While John was in exile on the Island of Patmos, having this vision, the Holy Christian Church was being persecuted for their faith. John is writing to many people who saw no hope for their lives. The people were being beaten down for their faith and the only place they could turn was to the Lord, or deny their faith. John’s words in this vision are words of comfort and hope for these people, for these Christians and even for us today. As the persecution of Christians continues around the world and even seems to be on the increase and as that persecution may in fact one day soon reach our shores so that we are persecuted, perhaps we would do well to take heed of John’s Words for us when our day of persecution comes. John encourages us by reminding us that yes, Jesus did rise from the dead. Yes, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. Yes, Jesus does care. Yes, Jesus will come again with great power and glory to judge the living and the dead and to take the faithful to heaven to be with Himself forever in eternity. John’s vision gives the people of his day and even us today the strength they need to hold up until the end. John’s vision brings to mind Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans when he said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
The first few verses of our text show that John understood the struggle of the people to whom he is writing. To John the question is asked, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seal?” And John was rather discouraged because he believed no one was able and John believed this might mean the end of God’s revelation and counsel to humanity. But he too is comforted to know that there is one who is able to open the scroll and of course that one is Jesus Christ Himself.
The setting of our text is that we are enjoying a glimpse of heaven. We see and we hear the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing a new song to Jesus, the Lamb of God. Their song is: “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, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (v. 9-10). And then we hear what we might call the first chorus of their song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (v.12). John begins by trying to describe something that is undescribable, which is most of what he has been seeing. He is trying to describe the number of angels he sees. What he is seeing is all the angels in heaven which is truly an uncountable number. So, John says, “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 thousand” (v.11). Again, what John is seeing is an enumerable number of angels, all the company of the heavenly host.
These angels were in a circle around the elders and the living creatures, who are all creation. So, we see a picture of heaven that looks something like this: Jesus is at the center. He is seated on the throne. He is the Lamb of God. He is the light of the world. There are four living creatures surrounding Him. Next is a circle of the twenty-four elders and the last circle around the throne is the circle of the countless angels.
The angels sing a sevenfold song. Remember that the number seven is a number of completion, thus their song is a song of complete blessing. Also, the number seven is made up of two numbers, the number three which is the number of the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and the number four which is the earth number, thus this song of sevenfold blessings reminds us that it is Jesus who came to give His life in order to restore our relationship with the Father in heaven and to restore the fellowship between God and the world which was destroyed at the fall into sin.
Just briefly let us look at the words in this sevenfold blessings. The hymn begins with the word “power.” Power does belong to Jesus, it is His as can be seen in the creation of the world, as well as in His defeat of Satan on the cross. Jesus is all powerful. Next is “wealth.” All the wealth of the world is His. He created all things and all things are in His hands. As we say in stewardship terms, “God owns, man owes.” What we have when we are born in this world and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours, thus nothing is truly ours. Everything we use in this world, no matter how much we want to possess it (and we have to admit, we do get pretty possessive at times), is only ours on loan until we pass on into heaven. Next is the word “wisdom.” Divine wisdom is evident in all the works of God: His creation, preservation, and justification, all things dealing with sin and its result, redemption, sanctification, justification, and glorification of the saints and the eternal condemnation of the lost. And, as we were reminded not too many Sunday’s ago that, the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. Next in this sevenfold blessing is the word “strength.” We see strength in the all creating and in the all preserving hand of His creation. And we were reminded, along with wisdom, that the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. The next word is “honor.” Jesus is due honor, even all honor. We say in the explanations of the commandments, “we should fear and love God.” Honor is fear, reverence, awe and respect. The next word is “glory.” All glory belongs to Jesus. He is the one who gets the credit, the glory for all things. And the last word in the sevenfold blessing is “praise.” Christ is worthy of all praise because He has done all things and He has done all things perfectly. Yes, these words of sevenfold blessing are indeed both appropriate and descriptive of Jesus.
Following this first chorus comes the second chorus, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (v. 13b). This chorus is sung by “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea” (v. 13a). Notice that there are four “places” mentioned. The number four is the earth number, thus we see that every created thing, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, now raises its voice to sing. When we first hear these words they might remind us of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the Pharisees asked Jesus to tell everyone to be quite. Jesus’ response was to tell them that even if the people were quiet, the very stones would sing. Here we have all creation, animate and inanimate objects, praising the Lamb, Jesus.
And their song is a fourfold, earthly song. Their fourfold chorus echos four of the seven words that the angels sang in their chorus, “praise,” “honor,” “glory,” and “power.”
Finally, “The four living creatures said, ‘Amen.’” The imperfect tense is used here which indicates that they said “Amen” not once, but a number of times. Amen, the word we use to conclude our prayers. The word which literally means “God is faithful.” God is faithful. Because of His faithfulness Jesus came to give His life. Because of His faithfulness Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith. Because He is faithful Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to work to strengthen and keep us in faith until He comes again. Because of His faithfulness Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, in all His glory. Because He is faithful Jesus continues to watch over us, rule over us and intercede for us.
This morning we are given another glimpse of heaven. We are allowed to see Jesus, the Lamb of God in all His glory. We hear the first chorus, the angels, the heavenly creatures, sing a sevenfold praise to Jesus. We hear the second chorus, all the earthly creatures sing a fourfold praise to Jesus.
We are reminded that every Sunday and every day that we sing praises to the Lord, we join in this unending hymn as we sing with all the saints above. We may think we are singing alone, but we are not singing alone. We are indeed singing with all the saints. And we echo the loud “Amen,” confident that God is faithful.
Certainly, we do not face the trials and tribulations that many of the early Christians faced, although there are many in our world who are facing just such trials and tribulations, yet we do daily face the struggles of this world. John’s vision reminds us that Jesus is with us, that He is watching over us, that He cares for us and that sometime soon He will come to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. The question we might ask ourselves is, are we ready? Now, more than ever, is the time to set our hearts and minds on the things above. We have seen Jesus die on the cross, for us, for our sins. We have seen Him, risen from the dead. As we continue in our trek through the book of Revelation we see Him ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father in all His glory. We see Him being given all the glory that is His by all creatures in heaven and earth. But, again, are we ready for His return?
As I reminded you last week, we ready ourselves by making regular and diligent use the means that He has given to us to get us ready, His Word and His sacraments. As we make use of these means that He has of coming to us, He gets us ready. How do we know if we are ready? Might I suggest that if we have a strong sense of urgency about our own spiritual well being as well as a strong sense of urgency about the spiritual well being of others, we might be getting ready. If we have a strong sense of urgency to remember our baptism, to confess our sins and even more to hear those most beautiful words of absolution, that our sins are forgiven, that we have a strong sense of urgency not only to read our Bibles, but to be in divine service and Bible class where we might also hear the Word of God, and that we have a strong sense of urgency to partake of the Lord’s body and blood through His Holy Supper. This sense of urgency is how we know we are ready. My prayer for you, continually, is that the Lord will work in you through the means of grace so that you will be ready for when He comes again. So that you will be ready to stand at His throne and sing with all the saints. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.