- Jeremy Whiteley
Seeing behind the curtain
In the last blog we saw how we can use the book of Revelation in the same way as a sneaky look at the final pages of the book when we’re reading a thriller novel. Seeing how it all turns out takes away all the suspense. And that’s OK for a Christian to do! We don’t have to live life in constant suspense – we can trust that God has it all sorted and we are safe in His hands.
But if you’re like me, worry doesn’t just float away! As I listen to the news and see the things that are happening around me, all sorts of doubts and questions arise. I suspect I’m not alone. The good news is that as I turn to the final book of the Bible, it doesn’t just tell me where its all heading, it explains what’s happening now as we live life today.
We saw last time that John paints a series of dramatic pictures in the book of Revelation, each with its own theme, each relating to real-life life now. And linked to each, we are privileged to go “behind the curtain” to see what’s happening back-stage. Chapters 4 and 5 do that for us as we see into heaven, and then chapter 6 moves into the picture language of the seals. So what does John show us that help us live life now?
There is a throne
In verses 1 & 2 of chapter 4 we are shown a throne. A throne is the symbol of a ruler. Anyone who sits on a throne has importance, has power, has the ability to rule. The picture here is no ordinary throne, but a throne in heaven. No throne exists without courtiers and important people all around. So here the throne is surrounded by heavenly courtiers. And clearly the throne is above all else. All other crowns submit to this throne.
Its perhaps difficult for us to grasp in our modern culture. For us leaders come and go. Often power is deliberately limited. Leaders may be in weak positions trying to shore-up support from various factions. Not so here! Proverbs 21:1 says “The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases”. All other crowns and powers submit to Him. Whoever they are, whatever they are.
We’re looking behind the scenes.
Behind the mess of life, behind all our failures and regrets, behind all our worries and fears, there is a throne. Someone is in control!
Behind COVID and restrictions and lockdowns, there is a throne. Someone is in control!
Behind world events and all the things that we see on our TV screens, there is a throne. Someone is in control!
What kind of a throne is this? Kings have usually served their own ends and are interested in maintaining their position and power above all else. But not this throne.
Verse 3 pictures a rainbow encircling the throne – a Bible picture of covenant faithfulness. God is good! God is faithful! We can be tempted to question at times. But here the rainbow shines like an emerald, shouting out to us “what a faithful God have I, faithful in every way.”
The biggest obstacles, the greatest worries or fears are all in God’s hand. He rules everything. Nothing is too hard for Him. And His throne is a throne of faithfulness. Whatever happens, as a Christian, you can trust that God will be there in it with you.
There is a purpose
In chapter 5 we see that God has a scroll in his hand. The scroll has something written on it – commands, instructions from the throne. God has a plan, a purpose. John wants to know what’s written in the scroll but he can’t. And neither can anyone else.
God has instructions. God has a plan. God has a purpose. Not just for then but for now, for all history.
History. Purpose. Life itself. No-one else can make sense of it all – no-one else is worthy or capable. Politicians have tried and failed. Empires and their rulers have come and gone. Religions and atheism. Materialism. Science. All have tried. All have been found wanting. No-one could open the scroll or even look inside. They can’t make sense of history, they can’t control it.
But in verses 4 & 5 someone steps forward who is worthy. He takes the scroll. He is able to open it. He is able to unfold history, to bring a purpose to it all
Jesus can enact God’s plan, in fact he IS God’s plan. As we often say, history is His Story. And God’s purposes are now in HIS hand. There’s a scroll. There’s a plan, there’s a purpose. All is in Jesus control.
Life isn’t just random. Life isn’t a cruel game of chance. There is a purpose. Through all the sadness. Through all the unanswered questions. Through all the “whys”. Whatever happens is all for a purpose. God knows. God sees. He’s in control. And He has a purpose for everything. The question I have to ask myself is will I trust God to rule my life and circumstances, will I trust His purposes, or will I try to manipulate God into doing what I want?
So, Jesus is able to open the scrolls. He is the Lord of history. But what happens next doesn’t seem very nice – as you read chapter 6 where the seals are opened there are wars and famines and death and persecution. What’s going on? Well, the Bible is entirely realistic. Jesus was entirely up-front. He didn’t hide things. In this world you will have trouble. Wars and rumours of wars will continue to the end. What you see in Revelation is what you see on your TV screens going on in the world today. So what IS going on here? If God is in control, if Jesus is Lord of history, if there is a purpose, why isn’t it all different? What we see here is God’s answer.
This world is in a mess. Its beyond human remedy. No-one else could open the scroll. If they could, God’s plan wouldn’t be needed. But no-one could, all were found wanting. It needed God’s intervention, it needed HIS plan. So at the centre of the throne is a lamb, looking as if it had been slain. A sacrifice. Its all about the cross. It’s a throne of love – God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son. At the very centre of God’s purpose is the cross.
His purpose wasn’t to give us comfortable lives in a cosy world. That’s what people have tried to do and failed over and over. God’s plan is to bring something good out of the mess of this world – so move on a page and we see into heaven again and there are multitudes of people praising God (Chapter 7: 9-14). God has the long-term in view. He never promises an easy ride. But what He does promise is that He will get you there. And its only possible because of the cross. Because a price was paid for your sin and mine.
As we look ahead with all the COVID uncertainties and all sorts of other worries and concerns, in our own way we are effectively asking the question “Who is worthy to open the scroll”. Who can make sense of it all? Who can bring anything good out of it? Who can guide me through life? Who can give me purpose and a destiny? If you’re a Christian, you can say with the words of chapter 5 verse 12, “worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” All is in His hands.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®