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The Lord's Church

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build a church. In Acts 2:47, Luke tells us that people were being added to that church. Thus, we can conclude that Jesus built His church sometime between His promise in Matthew 16 and Luke’s statement in Acts 2. Indeed, a closer study of the events in Acts 2 reveals that the Lord’s church was established on that first day of Pentecost following the Lord’s resurrection when Peter preached the first gospel sermon. That church is the

A common misconception about the church of Christ is that “The Church of Christ” is its name. It is not. The “church of Christ” is its description. The church of Christ is the church that belongs to Christ, that was established by Christ, that was built by Christ, and that was bought by Christ. It is not our church; it is His church, the Lord’s church. We are not voted into the church by men, and we do not join a church the way some might join a country club. Instead, God adds us to His church when we obey His gospel.

Are those in the church of Christ the only people who are going to be saved? Of course they are! God adds people to His church when they are saved. If you are not in the Lord’s church, then you are not saved. If you are saved, then you are in the Lord’s church. To be saved outside of the church of Christ is to be saved outside of the body of Christ – and that can never happen. Jesus is not just a way to the Father; he is the way to the Father. As Jesus said in John 14:6, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Thus, the real question is not what is the church of Christ, but is rather how do you become a part of the church of Christ? That question was asked in the first century as it is asked today, and the answer remains the same. We are saved and added to the Lord’s church when we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul, we are saved when our sins are washed away at our baptism.

There is one church of Christ. If you are a member of something else or something more or something less, then you are not serving God according to His plan or according to His will. He wants you to be a Christian and only a Christian, wearing only the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head and the savior of the church, His body.

What Must I Do?

What must I do? That same question was asked in Acts 2:37 at the end of the very first gospel sermon ever preached. Before we look at Peter’s answer in verse 38, let’s look at some answers Peter did NOT give.

What must I do? John Calvin answers, “Nothing!” According to Calvin, there is nothing we must do and nothing we can do. Each of us has already been personally predestined to Heaven or Hell without regard to anything we do on Earth, and so, logically, according to Calvin, the only answer to the question in Acts 2:37 is “Nothing.” But that is NOT how Peter answered that question.

What must I do? Many preachers today answer, “You must make Jesus the Lord of your life.” But that answer makes absolutely no sense then or now! Peter had just said in Acts 2:36 that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Jesus was already Lord of their lives! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, which means he is your Lord and your King whether or not you obey him or believe him. We obey Jesus because he is Lord and King – not to make him Lord and King.

What must I do? Many preachers today answer, “You must pray the sinner’s prayer and invite the Lord Jesus into you heart.” But no one in the Bible was ever told to do that. In fact, Paul prayed after he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), and yet Paul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always (Acts 10:2), and yet there remained something he still had to do after calling for Peter (Acts 10:6). If praying the sinner’s prayer was all that Paul and Cornelius needed to do, then why were Ananias and Peter needed?

What must I do? Listen as Peter answers that question: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) That answer has not changed one bit in the intervening 2000 years. If your preacher is telling you something different, then you need a new preacher! “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

Want to know more? Here is God's Plan of Salvation.

Lesson 8

4:4 Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads.

These 24 elders appear in a number of places in Revelation. Here in chapter 4 and later in chapter 14 they sit around the throne of God. In chapters 4, 5, 7, 11, 14, and 19, they worship and praise God. Who are they? Let’s consider the clues.

The 24 elders wearing golden crowns and sitting on 24 thrones before the Great Throne represent royalty in the presence of supreme royalty. They sit on thrones surrounding God’s throne, which indicates that their power is given them by God. Their white garments may represent the righteous deeds of the Saints as it does later in 19:8. The crowns remind us of the victory crowns we saw in 2:10.

These 24 elders also represent a priesthood. Recall from 1st Chronicles 24:1–19 that there were 24 orders in the Levitical priesthood. Each of these orders had an elder who was sometimes called a prince or a governor (1 Chronicles 24:5). The Levites sometimes praised God with harps (1 Chronicles 25:6), and we will see harps later in 5:8, where we will see the 24 elders performing priestly duties.

Thus, what we have in these 24 elders is a royal priesthood. Where have we seen that before? 1 Peter 2:9 describes the church as a royal priesthood. What we are seeing here is the church. Their white robes are the white robes promised to the faithful in 3:4. Their crowns are the crowns promised in 2:10. Their thrones are the thrones promised in Matthew 19:27-29. These elders are the faithful people of God!

The church of Christ is a royal priesthood, just as Christ himself is both our King and our High Priest. Zechariah 6:9–15 depicts the High Priest being crowned with a crown, which could only happen after the Old Law had passed away since under the Old Law the priests were from the tribe of Levi and the kings were from the tribe of Judah. Psalm 110 also tells us that Jesus is both king and priest.

Why 24? One reason we have already mentioned is that 24 points us to the priesthood in 1 Chronicles. Others see 24 as combining the Old Testament (12 patriarchs) with the New Testament (12 apostles), which would thus depict all of God’s people from every age.

The crowns remind us of:

• 1 Peter 5:4 “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

• James 1:12 “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Jesus crowns us — not vice versa! Let’s remember that the next time we are asked to sing a song (such as #577) that pictures us as placing a crown on Jesus’ head! The only crown that man ever placed on Jesus’ head was a crown of thorns. The idea that we make Jesus Lord and we crown Jesus king is a denominational idea and is foreign to the Bible. (As for who made Jesus Lord, read Acts 2:36.)

5 From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God; 6a and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

Thunder and lightning are commonly used to depict God’s wrath and power to judge. Recall, for example:

• Exodus 19:16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

• Psalm 18:12-14 Out of the brightness before him there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.

• Psalm 77:18 The crash of thy thunder was in the whirlwind; thy lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.

In this book, thunder and lightning always precede something of unusual importance. For example, thunder and lightning precede:

• The breaking of seventh seal in 8:5.

• The blowing of seventh trumpet in 11:19.

• The pouring of seventh bowl of wrath in 16:18.

The seven torches of fire are the seven spirits of God, which, as we saw before, most likely represent the Holy Spirit, with “seven” being used to denote the perfection of the Spirit.

A torch of fire is a particularly good symbol for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit appeared as “cloven tongues like as of fire” in Acts 2:3. Like a torch of fire, the Holy Spirit is a revealer; he makes all things clear.

This sea stresses separation. (We will see this symbol again later in this book.) In Solomon’s temple a sea stood between the priest and the holy place where God dwelt (2 Chronicles 4:2-6). God is transcendent. He is separate from his creation, and his creation is called upon to remember that! Swete wrote of “the vast distance which, even in the case of one who stood in the door of heaven, intervened between himself and the throne of God.” And yet, with Jesus as our Savior, we can boldly approach that throne! (Hebrews 4:16)

John in particular knew what a separating sea meant! He was in exile on an island. In 21:1, we will find that the sea is no more!

6b And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 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 a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

As with the 24 elders, the four living creatures that we meet here will also reappear later in the book. We will see them again in chapters 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, and 19.

Who are the four living creatures? They may be the cherubim. In the Old Testament, God was pictured as sitting enthroned above the cherubim that sat atop the ark of the covenant, and he was often addressed that way in prayer. (2 Kings 19:15, Psalm 80:1, Psalm 99:1, Isaiah 37:16)

We are also told that the cherubim are God’s chariot on which he rides swiftly to judgment.

• Ezekiel 10:16 And when the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the wheels did not turn from beside them.

• Psalm 18:10 He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.

We are also reminded of the seraphim from Isaiah 6:2-3.

Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The seraphim are mentioned only by Isaiah. They may be the same as the cherubim, with the name “seraphim” being used by Isaiah to describe their dazzling appearance.

There are differences among the descriptions of the seraphim in Isaiah, the cherubim in Ezekiel, and the creatures in Revelation, but they may nevertheless be different symbolic descriptions of the same beings. (Remember one of our interpretive principles: Dissimilarity of symbols does not necessarily imply distinctness of subjects.) Isaiah’s seraphim have six wings; Ezekiel’s cherubim have four; John’s living creatures have six. Ezekiel’s cherubim have four faces each; John’s living creatures have one face each.

The purpose of the cherubim is to defend God’s holiness. They kept Adam from the tree of life. They were woven into the veil that stood between man and the presence of God in the temple. They stood over the ark of the covenant looking down upon the law of God. They would have demanded immediate justice were it not for the mercy seat that covered the transgressions because of the blood that was sprinkled there.

These creatures are the judge of all who enter the presence of God. They are endlessly concerned with God’s reputation and the vindication of his character. They never cease to say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Think of these creatures the next time you hear someone use the name of God in vain. They are watching!

What about the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle? Some suggest they depict nobility (the lion), swiftness (the eagle), strength (the ox), and wisdom (the man). Barclay says, “the four living creatures stand for everything that is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in nature. Each has the pre-eminence in his own particular sphere.”

These creatures likely depict all of nature, including man. That is, they depict all of God’s creation worshiping God. “The ceaseless activity of nature under the hand of God is a ceaseless tribute of praise.” Recall Psalm 19:1-2:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

We are also reminded of Psalm 148, which has been called a magnificent summons for the entire creation to join together in worship of God:

Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Barclay: “There is a tremendous truth here. The basic idea behind this is that anything which is fulfilling the function for which it was created is praising God. ... Cannot an earthworm serve God? Do you suppose that it is only a general who is a good soldier? Cannot the lowest private fight his best? Happy are you, if you are serving God and carrying out his purpose as faithfully as an earthworm.”

Why are there four creatures? The number four confirms our understanding that we see here all of God’s creation worshipping him. The number four denotes the created world — the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), the four seasons, the four directions. Compare Mark 13:27 ― “And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Some say that 4 being 3+1 denotes the creative works (1) that come from God (3).

If you have seen many stained glass windows or other religious artwork, then you have seen these four living creatures representing the four gospel writers. The first such identification dates all the way back to A.D. 170 with Irenaeus. Augustine identified Matthew with the lion because he depicted Jesus as the Lion of Judah, Mark with the man because he showed the humanity of Christ, Luke with the ox because he showed Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for all, and John with the eagle because the eagle is the only creature that can look straight into the sun. Others identify Matthew with the man and Mark with the lion. (See, for example, the painting of the four gospel writers by Rubens below.)

These four living creatures are full of eyes: They miss nothing. They proclaim God’s holiness, his separateness, his transcendence, and his unlimited might and power.

Here is the message of these verses in a nutshell: You think Rome is powerful and impressive? Just look at who we have on our side! Rome does not stand a chance!

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, 11 “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.”

The elders fall down before God and cast their crowns before the throne and worship God. This shows that their authority is a delegated authority. They owe their existence and present status to God’s power and will.

Twice we see see the phrase “who lives for ever and ever.” This description emphasizes the eternal nature of God, which stands in stark contrast to the supposed Roman deities who had been created and who had an appointment with death. It reminds me of Psalm 22:29 ― “All those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive.”

The word translated “worship” is a Greek word meaning to prostrate oneself before deity and to kiss the feet or hem of the garment. Verse 10, in fact, explicitly tells us that the elders fell down before God and worshipped him. If we had more time, there is a great deal we could say here about the proper worship of God and the improper worship of God. (For more on that topic, see the materials and sermons on www.ThyWordIsTruth.com.)

Notice that verse 10 in the Revised Standard Version tells us that these 24 elders were singing while worshipping before the throne of God. Other translations tell us that these elders were simply saying these words. Which is correct? The Greek word used here denotes speaking, and particularly denotes the content of the speech. Ephesians 5:19 does say, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” but the Greek word for “speaking” used there is different and denotes the sound of the speech. Thus, it’s not clear at all why the RSV used “singing” in this verse, and it appears to be incorrect. In any event, we will hear the elders singing later in 5:9, and we will have more to say about music at that time.

The phrases “worthy art thou” and “our Lord and God” were also used in the worship of the emperor. The emperor Domitian took “Lord and God” as his official title and required all government announcements and proclamations to begin with the phrase “Our Lord and God Domitian commands.”

The phrase “they existed and were created” in verse 11 is interesting. Some suggest that this verse indicates we somehow existed before we were created, perhaps, as one puts it, “we existed in the will of god and were then created at the appointed time.”

All of creation is the product of God’s will. Before anything was created, it had its existence in the mind of God. As Psalm 148:5 reminds us, “For he commanded and they were created.” When we study God’s creation we are thinking God’s thoughts after him.

The scene of this chapter is one of unending worship of God by the cherubim and by the church. The creatures worship their Creator. By contrast, Romans 1:25 depicts sinful men worshipping the creature rather than the Creator — and that verse from Romans described Rome perfectly!

Chapter Five

1 And 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;

The contents of this scroll will be revealed in the chapters that follow, but here we get a description of the scroll. It is written within and on the back, and it is sealed with seven seals.

What we sometimes call a “book” was really a scroll. Scrolls of that day were typically made of single papyrus sheets about ten by eight inches. The sheets were joined together horizontally when a long scroll was needed. The writing was in narrow columns about three inches long. The roll commonly had a wooden roller at each end. It was held in the left hand, unrolled with the right, and, as the reading went on, the part in the left hand was rolled up again. The book of Revelation, for example, would have required a scroll that was about 15 feet long.

This scroll was written on the front and on the back. In making papyrus paper, a row of papyrus strips was laid vertically with another row of strips laid horizontally on top of them. The whole thing was then moistened with water and glued and pressed together. The side that ran horizontally was known as the recto, and on that side the writing was done because the lines of the writing ran with the lines of the fibers. The other side was called the verso and it was not commonly used for writing.

But papyrus was expensive. So, if you had a lot to write, you would write both on the front and on the back. A sheet written on the back, the verso, was called an opisthograph.

That the scroll in God’s hand was an opisthograph (written within and on the back) tells us that it contained the extensive and comprehensive decrees of God. It contained the full will of God for his people and for the enemies of his people. That it is written tells us that God’s will in this matter has been determined, and it will happen. It has been decided. There will be no deliberation and no delay.

We see similar language in the description of Ezekiel’s book of lamentations in Ezekiel 2:10 ― “It had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.” And Rome will soon find that for them the comparison with Ezekiel’s scroll goes beyond how it was written. For them, this scroll will also contain words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

The seven seals on the scroll indicate that the scroll was perfectly and completely sealed. At this point, God’s plan had not yet been put into effect and had not yet been revealed. The judgments within the scroll had not yet been executed. But that is all about to change as the seals are removed.

The use of a seal reminds us of Daniel 8:26, where Daniel was told to “seal up the vision, for it pertains to many days hence.” The period called “many days hence” in Daniel 8:26 was in fact about 400 years. By contrast, the seals are about to come off of this scroll, and in 22:10, John will be told not to seal up his book for the time is near! Again, we must ask on what basis some people argue that the events in this scroll have not happened even to this very day — 2000 years after the seals were removed!

2 and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The question is not who is able to open the scroll and breaks its seals, but rather who is worthy to do those things. Whoever opens the scroll will be responsible for what follows. The word “worthy” (axios) literally means “of sufficient weight.” The word occurs 7 times in Revelation.

We will see this (or perhaps another) strong angel again in 10:1 and 18:21. In Chapter 10, the strong angel will lift his right to Heaven and swear there will be no more delay, so when we see this strong angel we should remember the time frame of this book.

Even this “strong angel” was not worthy to open the scroll. In fact, no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was worthy. The phrase “under the earth” likely denotes the grave or the place of the dead. (See Ephesians 4:9 and Romans 10:7.)

Taken together, the phrase “in heaven or on earth or under the earth” denotes the entire universe of created beings. Recall, for example, Philippians 2:10 ― “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” We also see similar language in the command of Exodus 20:4 ― “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

No one in all of God’s creation was worthy to open the scroll and loosen the seals. And John wept. Why? If the scrolls were not opened then there would be no protection for God’s people, there would be no judgments against the enemies of God’s people, there would be no ultimate triumph for believers, and there would be no new heaven and new earth. John wept at the delay! And how would John have reacted had he been forced to read a modern commentary that says nothing in the book has yet been fulfilled even to this very day? How would he have reacted to that delay?

And what was John told to do? He was told to quit crying and look at Jesus, and that is good advice in any circumstances! Swete, reminding us of the recurring theme that we must view things from God’s perspective, said: “Higher natures see that human grief is often needless, springing from insufficient knowledge.” Barclay: “If we had patience to wait and trust, we would see that God has his own solutions for the situations that bring us tears.”

We see here three descriptions of Jesus: (1) the Lion of the tribe of Judah, (2) the Root of David, (3) and we are told that he has conquered.

The lion of the tribe of Judah is a Messianic title. Jesus is from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14). Recall Genesis 49:9–10 ―

Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The Root of David is also a Messianic title. We know that Jesus descended from David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3). Recall Isaiah 11:1, 10 speaking of David’s father, Jesse ―

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. ... In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.

Finally, Jesus is described as the one who has (past tense) conquered. Not that he is about to conquer, but that he has already conquered. Jesus conquered Rome at the cross! In fact, Jesus was conquering Rome at the very point that Rome thought it was conquering Jesus. Once again, things are not always what they seem!

What is the purpose of this beautiful picture of Christ? This picture emphasizes how great a thing it is to which Christ is here called. He will sustain the kingdom he died to create ― and he will sustain us today. Jesus loves his church!

Finally, it is self evident that God did not need to search for someone to open the scroll. God did not need to search for Christ. The searching, the waiting, and the weeping are presented for dramatic effect. The angel in verse 2 knew the answer to his question before he asked it!

6 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; 7 and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 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 with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;

John looks over expecting to see a lion, but what does he see? He sees a lamb. In fact, he sees a lamb standing as though it had been slain. Where is the power in that? Again, things are not always as they seem.

What is meant by the phrase “as though it had been slain”? It means that the Lamb had the marks of slaughter upon it. It does not mean that the Lamb merely looked like it had been slain; it means that the Lamb had been slain. And the marks of that event were still evident upon it. And this slain lamb is standing — a vision of victory through sacrifice and suffering.

Three words in the New Testament are translated lamb: aren, amnos, and arnion. The first occurs only in Luke 10:3, the second occurs four times in John, Acts, and 1 Peter. The third word for lamb occurs once in John’s gospel (21:15) and 29 times in Revelation, 28 of which in reference to Jesus. (The other use is in 13:11.)

This Lamb, of course, is Jesus who overcame the world through his perfect sacrifice. He had overcome the world (John 16:33) and defeated his foes not as a lion but as a lamb, and by this his subjects must also now conquer. Recall:

• John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

• 1 Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.

• 1 Peter 1:18–19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

• Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

We tend to see a lamb as a docile and helpless creature, but we will find that this Lamb is very different. Later, we will read about the “wrath of the Lamb,” which is one of the most remarkable and striking phrases in all of the Bible.

One of the songs we sing quite often is “Lamb of God.” And while the song has some worthy sentiments, it includes the following line that has always bothered me: “Your gift of love they crucified, They laughed and scorned Him as He died, The humble King they named a fraud And sacrificed the Lamb of God.” Neither the Romans nor the angry mob sacrificed the Son of God; they murdered the son of God! (Acts 5:30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.”) Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:26 “but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”) See also John 10:18; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:2; Titus 2:14; and 1 Corinthians 5:7. Sacrifice is an act of worship, and neither the Jews nor the Romans were worshiping God on that day! (I suppose it is just poetic license, but some poets need to have their licenses revoked!)

Why does this lamb have seven horns? Horns were used by the Hebrews to depict power. (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:10) The seven horns here represent Jesus’ complete and perfect power and wisdom. Later in Revelation (and also in Daniel) we will see that horns are used to depict kings. Thus, these seven horns likely depict the royalty of Christ and his complete sovereignty over all things.

The Lamb also has seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God. Recall our earlier discussion on the seven spirits where we identified them with the Holy Spirit. (2 Chronicles 16:9; Zechariah 3:9, 4:10)

The bowls of incense are the prayers of the saints. We will see later that everything in this book came about as a result of the prayers of the saints. While despised on earth, these prayers are brought to God in golden bowls. The picture reminds us of Psalm 141:2 ― “Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.”

A major theme of this book is the power of prayer. We will soon see that this judgment against Rome is happening because of the prayers by God’s people. Yes, we are to love our enemies and pray for them, but sometimes that prayer can be that God will judge them, and perhaps in that judgment they will finally see the errors of their ways.

Notice that each of the elders is holding a harp. So, I guess that means harps can be used in our worship service, right? Wrong! We know from elsewhere in the New Testament that God’s chosen instrument for worship in the new kingdom is the human voice and the use of anything else is contrary to the pattern he left for us to follow. (See much more on this subject at www.ThyWordIstruth.com.)

Why then do we see harps in these verses? Remember that what we are seeing here are symbols. This language is figurative. For example, only in a vision could a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes take a book from someone’s hand. These harps are symbols for praise, just as the incense is a symbol for prayer. We will see a similar symbol in 14:2 ― “the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps.”

The Lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of God. Jesus is worthy to open to the scroll and do what is contained therein. What follows next has been called “one of the greatest scenes of universal adoration anywhere recorded.”

9 and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”

In these verses, “Heaven is revealed to earth as the homeland of music.” We find here the greatest chorus of praise the universe can ever hear. This new song is a song of redemption. It is a song about Jesus and about his church, the ransomed from the earth.

Think for a moment about the songs we sing. Which ones would we choose were we to find ourselves worshipping before the throne of God? (Certainly “Worthy Art Thou” should be on the list!) Are there any of those songs we would not sing on such a grand occasion? If so, then why would we ever sing them at all? Aren’t we worshipping before the throne of God when we gather each week in our worship assembly? Aren’t we the royal priesthood right here and right now? Just because we, unlike John, cannot see the throne of God doesn’t mean it’s not here. We know it’s here! God is (present tense!) dwelling with his people! Christ opened the door! Hebrews 4:16 ― “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace!” (I could go further and ask not only what we would be singing in such a situation but also what we would be wearing and how we would be acting in such a situation, but I’ve probably said too much already.)

One more comment about singing: Do angels sing? Most of us would likely answer yes. But interestingly there is a not a single example anywhere in the Bible of an angel singing. The closest we get is in Job 38:7 ― “The morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy." (Hark the Herald Angels Say? It just doesn’t have the same ring to it!) Also, did you know that God sings? See Zephaniah 3:17. And, in my opinion, angels also sing. How could they not?

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