Thursday, July 11, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 21, The Elders Cast Their Crowns At The Lord's Feet/The Scroll With Seven Seals

In today's study we're going to conclude Chapter 4 and begin Chapter 5. In Chapter 4 we met the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. We ended yesterday with the four living creatures saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Now John tells us, "Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive honor and glory and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4:9-11)

In our lesson on Tuesday we discussed the evidence for believing that these twenty-four elders represent the body of Christ as a whole (the church, the bride). In the Old Testament, there were twenty-four courses of priests who served in the temple, and these twenty-four priests represented the priesthood as a whole, and since they served the Lord on behalf of the nation they were in a sense representing the nation of Israel as a whole. The Lord said that those faithful to Him would be a "kingdom of priests, a holy nation" in His sight. (Exodus 19:6) We who are in Christ are also called a kingdom of priests. (1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6) So in today's passage we find these twenty-four elders, who most likely symbolize believers (both the living and the dead who were called up to heaven in the rapture of the church), bowing before the Lord and placing their crowns at His feet.

Why do they do this? Because they owe Him all the honor and glory for being in heaven at all. If not for Christ, they'd have no hope, much less crowns to wear. An expert on Biblical prophecy, the late Dr. John Walvoord, said of this passage, "In casting their crowns before the throne they testify that if it had not been for God's grace, salvation, and goodness, they could not have had victory over sin and death." Chip Ingram, who teaches the program Walk Thru The Bible, feels that not only are these elders thanking the Lord for His mercy, but they are also acknowledging His sovereignty when they speak of Him as the One who created all things. "There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God's influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations. Just as peasants always bowed before their king for fear of offending the one who had the authority to take their life, God's sovereignty compels us to bow before Him. But unlike corrupt earthly kings who abuse their authority to terrorize their subjects, God rules in love. He loves you and wants the best for you."

The elders bow before the Lord because He is God, because He is the Maker of all things, and because He has the right to do with His creation whatever He chooses. They bow before Him because, although He has the right to do whatever He chooses, everything He does is done with love. Even the Great Tribulation is going to be a display of His love and mercy, for the events of those years will cause many to repent and turn to the Lord and receive salvation. Dreadful as those days will be, we must think of them as discipline and correction. When a parent disciplines a child, or when the justice system disciplines a lawbreaker, the desired outcome is that the disobedient child or the lawbreaker will correct his ways. During the Great Tribulation, the Lord is giving a disobedient and lawbreaking world a chance to correct its ways. But what happens when disobedient lawbreakers refuse to change their ways? On earth we often find repeat offenders and those whose crimes escalate in severity being sentenced to life in prison without parole. In God's courtroom, the unrepentant repeat offenders who have rejected His mercy at every turn will be sentenced to an eternity separated from Him. There will be no parole offered from that eternity. There will be no appeals and no overturning of their conviction.

It's important that the twenty-four elders acknowledge the sovereignty of God at this point in Revelation, for the Lord Jesus Christ is soon to open a scroll with seven seals, and as He opens each seal a new and dreadful thing will occur on the earth. (Remember, the church is in heaven with Him at this point.) But because He created the world and everything in it, He is sovereign over it. He has the right to unleash the events of the Great Tribulation by opening the seven seals.

"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." (Revelation 5:1) John would have recognized this document as a will, for in the Roman Empire it was the law that a will had to be sealed with seven seals. This lines up with what the twenty-four elders said at the end of Chapter 4, that by the Lord's will all things were created and have their being. Because everything was created by the Lord's will, and because He is the One who sustains the creation and because He is the One who gave every living creature its being (its consciousness and its spirit) He can do with the creation whatever He wills. This seven-sealed document contains God's will for the earth and its inhabitants during the seven years known as the Great Tribulation. It is not, therefore, His will for the church, which is already in heaven. It is His will for those who, at the rapture of the church, were left behind due to their rejection of Him. But as we said earlier in our study today, His primary intention in bringing the contents of the scroll to pass is to bring the inhabitants of the earth to repentance. However, judgment is included in His will for those who still refuse to give their hearts to Him.

When is a will opened and read? After the death of the person who made the will. The will is usually opened and administered by someone who practices law. Who has died in this case? The Lord Jesus Christ, as we will see in tomorrow's passage. And who is going to open and administer the will? The Lord Jesus Christ because, although He died, He rose again and is able to administer the will Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ is going to open and administer this will, for He is the lawgiver, and He is the one by whom and for whom all things were created, (1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 2:10, John 1:13), and He is the one whose laws have been broken. Who else is worthy to open this will and carry it out? No one, as well will learn tomorrow. A search will be made in heaven, on earth, and under the earth for someone who is worthy to open the seals and look inside the scroll, and it will be determined that no one other than the Lamb of God who was slain, and who rose in victory over death and over the power of the grave, is "able to open the scroll and its seven seals". (Revelation 5:5) Rejoicing will break out in heaven at this news. The redeemed of Christ will sing a new song. The angels---so many that it's impossible for John to count them---will encircle the throne and the company of the redeemed to give praise to the Lamb. John will hear even the animal kingdom giving glory to the Son of God before the Lord Jesus Christ begins to open the seals which usher in the end times.

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