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The Throne Preparing for Judgment
Revelation 4:1-11 and Revelation 5:1-14
We are now approaching the second division of the Book of Revelation. Chapter three concludes the message to the Seven Churches. Chapter four begins "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in Heaven."
It seems to us that we are now passing into the story of the Tribulation, in its beginnings the first half of that time known as the Day of Jacob's trouble.
1. We are living in a solemn hour. From thousands of pulpits the cry is being made, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" Holy men, taught in the Scriptures, and filled with the Spirit of God, are calling upon the lost to repent, and to be made ready for the Advent of the Lord. just around the next shore line we see great clouds of judgment and wrath sweeping down upon a world that knows not God.
We thank God, however, that there is a rift in the cloud that seems to lighten the way to Glory. Up through that rift the saints will soon be called to go, inasmuch as God hath not appointed us unto wrath.
2. We are living in an expectant hour. The message which is being heralded from the pulpit is the expectant Hope of the pew. From every part of the world, with upturned faces, multitudes of saints are saying, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." What means this expectation? this yearning voiced by countless myriads of the choicest of God's redeemed ones? Has the Lord put a yearning in their souls for naught? This cannot be. Surely the Coming One will soon come, and will not tarry!
3. We are living in an hour of dread. The whole Christ-rejecting world seems to be dreading that which lies ahead. The Bible puts it this way: "Men's hearts failing them for fear." There is a certain looking forward to the things which are about to come to pass. The world seems trembling over the crater of a great volcano awaiting its imminent eruption. There is not a statesman, nor a diplomat that is not fearful of the future. Sometimes they talk optimism, but they "feel" pessimism.
The nations are all of a tremble. The daily papers are read with a wonder as to what will happen next. Unrest is the spirit of the hour. The governments have been unable to cope with the depression which exists. Great numbers of people are ready to try any new thing that may show its head with a promise of better times, the world has hysteria.
4. We are living in an hour of Jewish activity. God's ancient people are experiencing a renaissance of old-time, historic, national hope. The fig tree is putting forth its leaves. The Jews are turning their faces toward Palestine. Many of them are beginning to look for a Messiah.
Little does Israel realise that they are hastening on their way to their greatest, and yet, final catastrophe. Into the vortex of sorrows they will soon plunge. God, however, will watch over them by day and by night, and. will bring them, finally, through many travails, into joy and peace forevermore.
5. We are living in an hour of the preparation far the reign of the antichrist. The world is becoming accustomed to federation and confederations. Amalgamations and alliances are the keynote of the hour. Colossal combines are the byword of commercialism. All of this is but a preparation for that time when no man can buy or sell without the mark of the beast and the. number of his name.
The world is so fraught with problems that seem impossible of solution that it is turning its face in hope that some one will arise that can lead mankind out of the labyrinth of their difficulty. Such a man, the antichrist will prove himself to be.
I. THE THRONE SET IN HEAVEN (Revelation 4:2-3 )
1. The throne set up. The throne of God is now in the third Heaven. It was from there that Christ came to this earth on His mission of redemption.
The throne of our verse, is a throne which is "set." The word "set" suggests a new placing of a throne. The new placing is in the Heavens not the third Heaven, but the Heaven which is immediately above the earth. The vision of this throne is emphasized in the Book of Daniel. Let us quote from the seventh chapter. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit." The expression "cast down" does not mean overthrown. They are brought into position. They came down and were set up as in the Book of Revelation,
2. The throne Sitter. Our verse says, "And One sat on the throne." His appearance is described as follows: "And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone."
In Daniel we read: "And the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool." To some, all of this may seem to be no more than figurative and poetical; however, for our part, we believe that the Father will come to the air, and that the throne will be placed, and that He will sit upon the throne. The Ancient of Days is the Father. We will have more of this anon.
3. The throne environed. Around the throne there was a rainbow. This rainbow was not like other rainbows with the seven prismatic colors. It was in sight like unto an emerald. It was not a rainbow which was a semicircle, but a complete circle. It surrounded the throne.
In a little while we will see that the throne stands for judgments which are about to ensue upon the earth. The rainbow, however, gives promise that in wrath God will remember mercy. The rainbow given to Noah, and which we still see, is God's pledge of assurance that the earth shall never again be destroyed by water. This rainbow is God's promise of a new day for earth. The color of the rainbow was emerald, that is, green. Green stands for summer with its new life. It stands for the passing of the winter. Thank God that after the Tribulation comes the thousand-year reign of peace.
II. THE HOSTS ABOUT THE THRONE (Revelation 4:4-6 ; Revelation 5:11 )
There are three groups gathered around the throne. The first, herein described, are the four and twenty elders. The second are the four living ones. The third is an innumerable company of angels.
1. The four and twenty elders. These are described in verse four. Let us observe them. The four and twenty elders may be a representative group of the redeemed. Of one thing we are sure, these elders have harps, and they hold golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. They sing a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
2. The four living ones remind us of a similar four in Ezekiel's vision. See Ezekiel chapters one and ten. They are God's holy ones who are before the throne continually. They rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty."
3. The many angels round about the throne. Their number is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. These angelic ones join with the others in giving praise to God.
We want you to try to get this wonderful vision of praise and of glory before your mind. Beginning with the throne and the One seated upon the throne, and the glory shining forth from the throne, we want to imagine the majestic scene: The four and twenty elders, the four living ones, the innumerable hosts of angels. Now we want to hear them as they give loud acclaim saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
III. THE LIGHTNINGS AND THUNDERS FROM THE THRONE (Revelation 4:5 )
We now come to the verse which gives us the time setting of our scene. It is the time when God arises to send forth His wrath against those who rejected His Son, This is a solemn picture.
1. There remaineth a day of wrath. The Holy Spirit, in Romans, speaks of treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Some may think that wrath will never fail. They are unmindful of the periods of judgment that have already swept over the horizon in days long past. The expulsion from Eden, the flood, the destruction of the tower of Babel, the destruction of Jerusalem, are all periods of Divine retribution.
2. The day of wrath will be one of sore trouble. One of the minor Prophets puts it this way: "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread on the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations."
When Daniel described the throne, he was guided by the Spirit to say: "His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened."
IV. THE FOUR LIVING ONES (Revelation 4:6-9 )
We have already referred to the four living creatures which stand in the midst of the throne. Now we desire to go more into detail.
1. These living ones are called the four beasts. They are, in fact, four of God's chief angels. They come to us now under the vision of four beasts, more accurately, four living ones, because they carry four particular likenesses.
The first is like a lion. Here is kingliness. This living one is representative of Christ is His Kingly aspect. The Gospel that counterparts this vision of Christ is the Gospel of Matthew.
The second is like a calf. Here is meekness, humility. This living one represents Christ in His humiliation as He moved among men, a plodding servant. The second Gospel, Mark, stresses this characteristic of Christ.
The third is like a man. Here is the story of Christ made, flesh, and tabernacling among us, the God-man; God the Son, and Son of God. The Gospel that emphasizes this vision of Christ is Luke, The fourth is like a flying eagle. Here is Christ in His glorious Deity. He is now the One who declares God, manifests God, interprets God, for He was God. This is the message of the Book of John.
These four living ones are seen in Ezekiel with marvelous vision. They are also described, we believe, by the Spirit in Isaiah 6:1-13 , under the vision of the seraphim who cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts."
2. These four living ones are filled with praise. We have just mentioned Isaiah's vision. In Revelation the living ones are seen as resting neither day nor night, as they say, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." These living ones continually give glory, and honor, and thanks unto God. We, in this man-glorying age, need to catch the spirit that sways these living ones. We should never cease to praise Him.
V. THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS (Revelation 5:1-5 )
In the right hand of the Father, the Ancient of Days, the One who sat upon the throne, was a book. Let us read the description of this book. "A book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals."
1. This book holds a vital part In all that follows. As the breaking of its seals takes place, we discover much of what the book contains. Some have said it held the title deeds to Christ's earth-inheritances. This may be so. But we prefer to say it held the judgments by which that inheritance was to be realized. The book was of tremendous import.
How are the kingdoms of the earth to become the Kingdoms of the Lord? This will be accomplished by the Lord when God speaks unto the nations in His wrath, and vexes them in His sore displeasure. It will come to pass when the Lord breaks them with a rod of iron, and dashes them in pieces as a potter's vessel. The "book" contained the series of judgments by which Christ would accomplish that very thing.
2. This book at the first remained unopened. As John looked he discovered that "No man in Heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon." For this cause John wept much. Beloved, we may assure ourselves that the Church cannot bring in the Kingdom, and buy back unto Christ His sovereignty upon this earth. No man, and no set of men can oust Satan from his seat of authority and power among men. He is still the prince of the power of the air. the spirit that energizes the sons of disobedience. The world still owns his sway, and still lies in his lap.
3. The book was finally opened by Christ. John wept much, but he was comforted by the angel, who said, "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." John turned to look to see this mighty Lion, and behold "in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain." John looked for a lion and behold a Lamb, yea, a Lamb with the marks of slaughter.
VI. THE LAMB WHO TOOK THE BOOK AND BROKE ITS SEALS (Revelation 5:6-9 )
1. The vision of the Lion-Lamb. Christ was indeed, and He is now the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the "Mighty God." He is a Lion because He is a Victor. He met principalities and powers and vanquished them, triumphing over them. When did He do this? It was when He came as the Lamb of God. He was Lion, yet He lived as Lamb. He was Almighty, yet He became the servant of all. He meekly took the bufferings of men, their shame and spittle. He went up the hill of Calvary, bearing His Cross; He went as a Lamb to the slaughter.
How did the Lion conquer? He conquered as a Lamb. He yielded Himself and His Person to the assaults of Satan, and of Satan-driven men, and then in the moment of His seeming defeat, He turned defeat and death into victory; death became the way of life, humiliation became the path to exaltation.
Thus John turned to see the Lion, and saw the Lamb the Lamb as it had been slain. What do we understand in all of this? Simply stated it is that the One who will take from Satan his power and reign, is the One who met him at the Cross; and it will be by virtue of that Cross, on the merit of its atoning grace, that Christ will ultimately undo the works of the devil.
2. The praise of the Lamb. When John saw the Lamb, as He had been slain, taking the book he also saw Heaven break loose with praise. Then it was that the four living ones, and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors. Then they sang a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth."
Sir Philip Gibbs tells of standing in Hungary on a state occasion. Bands were playing Hungarian marches. A little lady by his side said, "We shall never forget. Never! There are things we can never forgive. Never!' We belong to a fighting race. This peace cannot last, We shall get our people back and our lands, if we have to fight with our fingernails." Hungary now cannot fight. They are bankrupt But Gibbs says, "The hearts of the Hungarian people are filled with bitterness years after the war, In every street car, on the walls of every schools in restaurants and churches and dance-halls, over the fireplace in every Hungarian home, there is a map of the new Hungary with the lost territories in black, surrounded by a crown of thorns. Underneath is the question: Can it remain like this? And beneath that question is an answer: No. No. Never!" Gibbs, commenting on this, says, "If one day there is not a peaceable revision of these frontiers, there will be the tramp of marching men through many passes, and the flames of war will redden the sky above the hills of Hungary, with villages burning like torches, and people fleeing once more in terror, with revenge advancing upon them."
"Unrest, political and economic, is everywhere in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Roumania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Arabia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Egypt, India, and so on throughout the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
"Japan, with an over-production of both goods and population is merely biding her time to consolidate her position in the Far East. In one way or another, by peace or war, the Japanese empire of the future will reach far into the Asiatic mainland." Simms.
Whether the above is all true or not the general condition certainly does exist. The red horse of war still lives.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13