If your God is in control,
then what in the world is God doing?
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty- four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
The Old Ugly Story
Even a brief consideration of what is happening in the world is enough to chill the strongest heart. What do we hear of every day, every week, every month and every year? It is the same ugly story—war, violent crime, terrorism, suicide, famine, deadly diseases, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and fatal accidents. In one sense it is not surprising that people try to escape from reality by drugs, alcohol, orgies and other forms of distracting pleasures. And it should not surprise us when those who are not fully committed followers of Christ look at the world, then listen to us talk about the God who is in control of all things, and then challenge us by saying something like, “If your God is in control, then what in the world is God doing?” Or, “what kind of God would be in charge and allow all this?” Perhaps you even ask such questions yourself.
Part of the answer is that the ruin in this world comes from human sin. God never tempts or impels anyone to sin (James 1:13). If you and I sin, that is our choice. We think it is a superior choice, prefer the pleasure it offers, and so willingly choose it. But human sin is only part of the answer, because obviously the God who is in charge could easily stop all this ruin immediately. Therefore, we must seek from the Bible the answer to this important question!
A problem was announced in heaven (5:1-4). A challenge resounds from God’s throne (5:1-2). What is the scroll? It is the message of God’s eternal plan. It reaches from eternity to eternity, proclaiming God’s purpose to reveal his glory—in judgment to his enemies and in grace to his chosen ones. So then, God issues a challenge to all creation. He asks everyone, who can open up my plans? (Think of a rolled up set of blueprints.) Who can make them known or bring them to fulfillment? Who can show my surpassing significance or worth?
The Holy Spirit tells us of the inability of creation to meet the challenge (5:3-4). A search of everything in creation revealed the complete unworthiness of all creation. No one has the capacity to disclose and develop God’s great plan. You cannot explain reality by starting from yourself. You are a created being. You are too small; you lack power; you are unworthy.
John’s response was to weep and weep.
I do not think he was weeping out of frustration of not being able to know the future, but out of a sense of loss of meaning and purpose and destiny. This is the condition of many in our world. People have been smashed by modern and postmodern ideas. Humanity is nothing. There are no morals, no destiny and no hope. Go ahead and manipulate people, or fabricate news stories in the media. You are free to satisfy your cravings for whatever you feel the urge to communicate or to do! If you understand this sad state of affairs, weep. Yes, weep for people who have no ultimate meaning or significance.
However, the living God does not tell us this in order to abandon us to despair. He speaks so that we can understand our insufficiency. Perhaps then we will desire to listen to him, not for entertainment, or not out of religious obligation, but out of desire for his perspective and plans. As you begin a new work week, listen to what God communicates to you.
God presents his solution to the problem set out in Revelation 5:1-4.
We see a startling appearance—the Lion who is the Lamb. Can you capture the drama of the moment? One of the elders tells John not to weep because the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed. John thinks about the elder’s words. “Yes, a Lion! A noble, courageous, conquering champion! Surely he is able!” But when he looks at the throne, he does not see a Lion but a Lamb—hardly a picture of a champion!
It is exactly at this point that God breaks the back of human wisdom. People think that a grand display of power is the way to handle what is wrong in the world. “Drop the bombs! Send in the army! Conquer and evil will be gone!” But evil remains as destructive as ever. We fail to listen to God’s word, and therefore we don’t understand the necessity of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The only hope for your life is the gospel. The only hope for the church is the gospel. The only hope for our people and the world is the gospel.
On the other hand, when you look at the Lamb, you can see that he is very special.
The Lamb is slain but alive! Here we see someone with resurrection glory about him. Here is the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4). The Lamb is standing in the center of God’s throne. Who is the King of the universe? He is the one who wore the crown of thorns. The Lamb is the focal point of angels and mankind. They encircle him, looking to him for meaning, joy and life itself. The Lamb has power and wisdom (symbolized by horns and eyes). This shows his connection with the Holy Spirit of God. He sends the Spirit, doing mighty works by him and revealing himself by the Spirit.
The Father explains the Lamb’s worthiness.
Its basis is his sacrificial work on the cross and what it accomplished (5:8-10). He purchased a people for God out of humanity. This is the basis of evangelism and missions. He made that purchased people a kingdom—a new nation. The Lamb also made them priests; they are able to worship God in his presence. He guaranteed their reign on earth, which will be ultimate victory.
What in the world is God doing? He is creating a new humanity in his Son to share in the glory of God. He did this in the saving work of Christ. Everything in history is the unrolling of that plan. One by one, the Spirit is putting purchased people in that new humanity. The most significant activity that you and I can get involved in is to become Christ’s coworkers in God’s plan. In other words, our mission is to make fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. Pray for the Sovereign Lord to lead you to people that you can bring to the Lord Jesus for salvation.
Grace and peace,