When you hear of heaven, what do you think of? Clouds, chubby little cherub angels flying around with cute bow and arrows? Maybe brilliant colors far richer than anything found on earth?
Where do we get these ideas of what heaven will be like? For most people, their ideas come from Hollywood or books. If you do a Google search on what heaven looks like, you get images of clouds, bright lights, a golden city with a golden gate, angels, and a stair case. But is that what heaven will really look like?
Chapters 4 and 5 of the book of Revelation, John tells us what he sees when he is first allowed to look into heaven. John describes in chapter four how there is one sitting on throne and the throne was encircled with brilliant colors of that of fine jewels. Surrounding the throne are twenty-four elders and seven blazing lamps which are the seven spirits of God. Closer yet there are four living creatures who in endless praise sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). As they begin their praises, the twenty-four elders bow down and join in the worship.
From this we know that the one sitting on the thrown is God the Father. From our text we learn that God is holding a scroll with writing on both sides and is sealed with seven seals (5:1). A mighty angel proclaims, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” Everyone looks around, who’s it going to be? Waiting, waiting … no one steps up. No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth steps up to take the scroll. No one steps up because no one is found righteous, no one is able to stand before God without any sort of fear of God’s wrath. Because no one can step up … John weeps.
You see, you need to understand John’s position. John is living on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:9). He is exiled to this tiny island because of the severe persecution which was happening to Christians. Roman Emperors considered themselves divine and they wanted to be worship as a god. By worshiping Caesar, along with other Roman gods, the Roman Empire made money. Well, if Christians aren’t worshipping like they have been told to by Rome, then the Empire doesn’t make any money. So the solution … the Emperor would have the Christians persecuted. If they didn’t change or give in, they would be killed. This is why so many Christians in the first century worshipped in homes and in secret. The people of the late first century were looking for a sign of peace from God.
Thus why when no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it (5:3) … John weeps. If no one could open the scroll containing God’s plan of salvation … where is hope? What or who would one look to for strength and comfort?
Before we answer that, I want to tell you about Genelle Guzman. Genelle found herself in a situation where, like John, was asking the same kind of questions. You see, she was the last of four people who were caught in the debris of the Twin Towers to be found alive. After the two planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, Genelle began her descent down the stair case from the 64th floor of the North Tower. Steel beams in the building weakened to their breaking point. Solid slabs of concrete were busting into pieces. As the building was collapsing, her body found an air pocket.
Her right leg was pinned under heavy concrete pillars. Her head was caught between stacks of wreckage. Somehow she was still alive. Wondering though, would she survive … she turned to God in prayer. For twenty-seven hours, Genelle laid there. Trapped. Seriously injured. It was a little after noon on Wednesday, September 12th when she was discovered and pulled from the wreckage.
Where do you look for help? Where do you look for hope and strength? Where do you look for comfort when it seems that your world has crumbled around you and has you trapped? Some people turn to drugs and alcohol. Others, like myself, turn to work. Others yet to exercise or the purchase of material things. Some to family and friends.
Some of these are not bad things … but do they really provide a lasting sense of comfort and peace? They may get our mind off of things for a bit … but do any of these things provide us with the hope that we need to know that we will be pulled from the depths of our wreckage?
John weeps in our text when no one is found in heaven and on earth and under the earth to open up God’s plan of salvation. He knows from his time spent with Jesus and from his time of being persecuted for proclaiming Jesus as Lord that things in this world are corrupted with sin and that they cannot provide the salvation he desires.
John’s weeping … it doesn’t last long though. One of the elders says to him, “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” (5:5). John looks up and sees a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (5:6). This Lamb takes the scroll from God and when He does, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in the sea begin to go crazy, they begin to praise the Lamb. This is huge! It’s huge because of what it means!
John the Baptist proclaims in John’s gospel when he sees Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has paid the price, He has purchased with His very own blood every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). In other words, Jesus, the Lamb of God, has shed His very own blood so that you know that you are His! And because you are His … He redeems you, He promises to always be with you, He gives you the promise of everlasting life!
One commentator writes, “The ultimate purpose of Christ receiving the scroll and then revealing its contents to John and the whole church throughout the book of Revelation is to strengthen the church’s faith and to encourage the church, in the midst of all the sufferings, to remain faithful to Christ and so to attain the promise of everlasting glory.”
You and I … we are in need of some serious healing and strengthening. When Jesus takes hold of the scroll containing God’s plan of salvation for all people, for you … He says, “Fear not! Fear not for I have won the battle. I have triumphed and through my victory, you have the healing and strength you need to make it through your suffering … no matter what it is!”
As we gather today to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, we proclaim with King David in Psalm 30, “I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit” (30:1-3). Through this sparing, we get the future privilege of joining Christ our King.
I started out with a question. What do you think heaven will be like? Is it going to be puffy clouds with Hallmark angels floating around? Not at all. We will stand before our King, we will stand in the presence of Almighty God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. What more can we really ask for? I mean really, is there anything better than that? To the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever! The four living creatures (Rev. 5:13-14) and all of God’s people said … “Amen!”
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.