Revelation 4: 9 - 5: 2
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.’
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. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’
Think about it. The Apostle John, as an old man faithfully serving God his whole life is living through persecution, suffering and exile for his faith in Jesus. Probably for John, and for many other Christians at the time, life just doesn’t seem to make sense. If Jesus is really Lord like they say he is, and if God they worship is really in control like they’ve been taught He is, then why is life so painful and difficult? Why is God letting this all happen? Why is He doing nothing about it? Good questions that we still ask today when life doesn’t seem to make sense.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?
Why didn’t God do something to stop it?
There’s 2 levels to this. There’s the stuff out there, in the world around us. Isis, Syria, natural disasters – that’s all somewhat at a distance.
It’s when pain comes up close, when we actually go through it for ourselves:
When we lose someone we love and we’re not sure we can go on
When our hearts get torn apart and trampled on
When sickness wears us down physically and emotionally
When we are doing our best and it’s getting us nowhere
When we are misunderstood and feel small and insecure
When it feels like all hell has come against us
That’s when we really start to ask the hard questions, that’s when we need to get beyond superficial Sunday school answers and trite religious sentiment – and know – where is God in all of this, and does life, does my life, have any real meaning and purpose.
That’s really the question of our generation. What’s the point? What’s the meaning of my life?
That’s why the bestselling book in the world ever, after the Bible, is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, subtitled: What on earth am I here for. In just a few years it sold over 30 million copies. People are longing for their lives to have some sense of meaning and purpose, to feel significant and special, to know that their time on earth here meant something, it made a difference.
That’s why our generation, more than any other probably in history, loves activism and getting involved in worthwhile causes and addressing . Everything from protecting the environment to stopping sex trafficking to feeding the homeless to giving money to charity – deep down we just want to feel like our lives mean something, that we were part of something bigger than ourselves.
All of that is noble and good. But the truth is, that until we see God on the throne, as the only Lord and King of human history, and properly see our lives in relation to Him, we will struggle to find lasting meaning and purpose.
Meaning only comes as I see my life, my little story, and every other life and situation and everything around me– meaning comes as I see it all as part of His bigger story, His cosmic story. It’s a story which began in Genesis at Creation and finishes in Revelation with a new creation. That’s where life makes sense – I find my place in God’s great plan of redemption, of the renewal of all things and actively join Him, I become part of the bigger story, part of what He is doing.
I see that pain and suffering and heartache and grief – are real and awful and were never meant to be part of God’s good creation – but he has a plan, He is in control, and He is moving human history, all things, everything, towards His predetermined conclusion where all wrongs are put right, and all evil is destroyed and all suffering is gone for good.
That’s what John will see.
As we go into Revelation chapter 5, we read about a scroll:
“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. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’” (vv 1-2)
This scroll contains details of all that lies ahead in the future. All the events, trials, tribulations, transformations and triumphs that will happen to John and to all of God’s people are going to be played before John in a vision – like a great apocalyptic movie before his eyes.
That’s really what the rest of the entire book of Revelation, from chapter 6 to chapter 22, is all about. The unfolding of what is to come.
But notice the order that God shows John it. John’s vision doesn’t start with the future. His vision starts with God. God who is on the throne. God who is in control. God who is sovereign and rules and reigns over all times and all places and all things.
God who has a supreme purpose and plan and is moving history towards a pre-determined, pre-ordained, already decided final chapter. Which we will discover when we get to the end of the book, is actually a brand new beginning, a new heaven and a new earth.
God has already written His big story, we know how it all ends. And you’ll be glad to know, that it’s a happy ending. It turns out pretty good.
And so John, and the church suffering along with him in the first century, and every single follower of Jesus, including you and I, need to see our story as part of His bigger story.
That what we experience – whether that be good or bad – that’s not all there is. There’s more to come.
That any suffering, pain, heartache, persecution or even death – we might go through – is not the last word. But there is more.
And in the midst of every single thing that happens to me, every moment of every day of my existence – one thing never changes – God is still on His throne.