The Right Response 12-2-18
Revelation 5:8-14 Lesson 22
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 5, taking a look this morning at verses 8-14. The title of our message this morning is A Right Response. What really is worship? There’s lots of debate on what worship is. The best definition I’ve ever heard of worship was given to me by one of my professors in seminary, J. Dwight Pentecost; he was actually teaching through the Book of Revelation when he gave this definition. Worship, he said is a response to truth. It’s a response to truth.
And what has been unfolded for us in Revelation 4 and 5 is truth. Is God qualified to bring His judgments to the earth which will begin in chapter 6, I almost said those are going to begin next week in chapter 6 but maybe I shouldn’t say it that way, I don’t know when they’re going to begin. But hopefully we’ll begin chapter 6 next week talking about these judgments. Does God really have a right to bring forth these judgments? And in fact He does because in chapter 4 He is worshipped as the Creator. In chapter 5 He is worshiped as the redeemer. In fact, John has been called up into heaven to get a glimpse of heaven itself and the Triune Godhead before judgment comes. And what an astonishing thing John has seen. He’s seen a seven sealed scroll, chapter 5, verse 1, we talked about it last week, which is the title deed to the earth. [Revelation 5:1, “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.”]
He’s seen the question asked and answered: Who is qualified to open the scroll. He’s seen an inves-tigation, verse 3, that other than Jesus Christ no one is qualified to open the scroll and consequently John sees that scroll shut and consequently the earth can be continuing on in its current state of bondage and he begins to cry, verse 4. But then he is comforted, verse 5, because there is someone who is qualified to open that scroll, Jesus Christ, verse 6. Jesus receives the scroll, verse 7. We know that a great victory is about to occur, the scroll will open, the judgments will come to the earth, Satan will be gradually evicted from the earth, the glorious kingdom of God will be established upon the earth but the process that starts the whole thing is the opening of this scroll. Once the scroll begins to be opened we know that the victory is just a matter of time; it’s a done deal.
So what does heaven itself do when they see all of these things transpire? They have a reaction, they have s response, if you will, to the truth of what has just been seen. And when we look at their reaction, which we’re going to look at here, verses 8-14, we really see what worship is all about. Worship is a response to truth. Truth has been unfolded; truth has been revealed and the only thing the human heart can do as it wells up with gratitude to God is express that praise to God in the form of worship. Worship is not so much about getting my personal preferences met; it’s not so much about whether they’re going to be singing my favorite song. It has to do with the mechanism by which we respond to God because the truth that He has revealed to us is so completely and totally overwhelming. That’s what’s happening here at the end of Revelation 5, verses 8-14. There are actually four cycles of worship that we’re going to try to, God willing, work ourselves through this morning.
But notice if you will number one, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders begin to worship the Lord. We have the worshippers, verse 8, and then their actual worship, verses 9 and 10. Take a look, if you could, at Revelation 5 and notice if you will verse 8. Revelation 5:8, “When He had taken the book,” what book? The seven sealed scroll that will now be opened; the title deed to the earth. “When He had taken the book the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
You’ll notice here the different players. Number one, the “four living creatures; we’ve sort of identified those as kind of a special part of the angelic realm. Number two, the twenty-four elders, the previously raptured church, we’re going to have a lot more to say about that in just a minute. And number three, the Lamb. The angelic realm, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders begin to explode into praise and worship to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The worship you’ll notice here is intelligent, it’s not a matter of, as an eastern mysticism teaches, emptying your mind of things and then you praise God for the first thing that enters your mind. This is not some kind of mindless repetition, it is intelligent and its based upon what Jesus is about to do, has done, verse 9, and is about to do, verse 10.
The better you understand truth the better you understand the Bible, the better you understand doctrine the better our worship should become because worship is not so much about a feeling, although feelings often enter into it, it’s about responding to the truth that has just been revealed and declared. And it’s very interesting in verse 8 it talks about “each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense,” which represent or “which are the prayers of the saints.” What prayer exactly would it be referring to? I believe largely it’s the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10 where He said this, prayed this way: “Thy kingdom” what? “come, on earth as it is in heaven.” In fact, no doubt the disciples began to pray for that coming kingdom, that prayer has been uttered by countless… I don’t know how many people over the last two thousand years.
And what we’re discovering here with the opening of the seven seal scroll is that prayer is about to be answered. The scroll is about to be opened, Satan is about to be evicted from the earth, and the glorious kingdom of God is going to come upon the earth. That’s, I believe, largely the prayer that is pictured here as coming before the Lord in the form of these golden bowls of incense.
Oftentimes when we pray we wonder is God really listening? Does God really care what I petition to Him? And many times we’re deceived into thinking that God doesn’t listen or doesn’t care because we don’t see immediate results to our prayers. But the reality of the situation is payday someday. In other words one of these days all of these prayers that people have been uttering over and over again concerning the redemption of the planet earth, those prayers in fact will be answered. God wants us to pray. The fact of the matter is God is more concerned about our prayer life than most of us are most of the time. It’s not some sort of empty ritual, it’s not some sort of meaningless repetition or activity but these are bona fide petitions that God wants to regularly hear from His people.
The Book of Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 sums it up. It says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Is anybody here in a place of need? Do they need help and do they need mercy? Many of us fit that standard quite regularly. What are we to do? We’re to go into the throne of grace and we’re to petition the Lord. And we’re tempted to think well God really doesn’t hear what I say, He doesn’t really care what I think or say and yet here are these prayers are portrayed as golden bowls of incense coming before God’s throne. That’s how much God values our prayers. It’s interesting in verse 8 it talks about the prayers of the saints. What kind of prayer does God hear? Well, not only is it a prayer within His will but it’s a prayer that comes from the saints. The saint is every Christian. As J. Vernon McGee said “you’re either a saint or you’re an ain’t.”
The moment a person trusts Christ they are positionally declared as saints of holiness before the Lord. The sin debt has been erased between them and God and now they have free access to God via prayer. If a person is not “in Christ” there is a great incumbrancer to their prayers, called the barrier of sin. But “in Christ” that barrier has been demolished and we are all saints of the living God who have this great privilege, if you will, this great honor of going into via prayer the throne room of the Creator of the universe and petitioning God.
And if all of this is true then why are we so busy that we don’t have time to pray? Don’t we understand our position? Don’t we understand our role? Don’t we understand what we’ve been given? Don’t we understand how badly God wants to hear and to answer. And so you see worshippers there in verse 8 and then you see the worship itself.
Take a look, if you could, at verses 9-10, the worshippers are the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures; we’re going to focus here just for a moment on these twenty-four elders. You remember the twenty-four elders, don’t you, Revelation 4:4. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.” [Revelation 4:4]
And now we can augment that with what we’re learning here in Revelation 5:9-10, and what are they praising God about? “And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” They are praising God for what He has done in the past, verse 9, and what he is about to do in the future, verse 10. “Worship” you’ll notice is guided by truth. This is what we would call intelligent worship.
Now when we were in Revelation 4 I tried to make the case that those twenty-four elders represent the church of Jesus Christ, which has been raptured into heaven. It’s interesting that this is not the first heavenly scene that we have in the Bible. There’s another one in Isaiah 6, the prophet Ezekiel describes things taking place in heaven. And in all of those prior occurrences you never find these twenty-four elders. You find the four living creatures described many times, you find the myriad of angels described many times but not the twenty-four elders. Why are the twenty-four elders here all of a sudden? Because John is in the futuristic section of the book and the twenty-four elders are the priestly raptured church taken into heaven. That’s why they suddenly appear here where as before we didn’t see them.
And it’s interesting that when you look at how these twenty-four elders are described they’re described exactly the way Jesus described the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. First of all they’re crowned, that’s what Jesus said to the church in Revelation 2:10. They are resurrected, Revelation 4:4. How do you put a crown on someone’s head if they don’t have a head yet because they’re still a disembodied spirit? I mean, when did these folks get bodies. They received their glorified body at the point of the rapture; they’re clothed in white, that’s how Jesus described the church, Revelation 3:5. [Revelation 3:5, “’He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”]
They are redeemed, Revelation 5:8-10; more on that in a minute. They come out of a great global evangelistic campaign that covers the whole earth. Doesn’t that describe the age of the church? Didn’t Jesus tell the church to go and make disciples of Americans and not just Americans, every nation. [Revelation 5:8-10, “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
They are enthroned, Revelation 4:4, they’re sitting on twenty-four thrones, twenty-four elders enthroned, that’s what Jesus said to the church at Philadelphia and Laodicea. [Revelation 4:4, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.”] They’re called elders, isn’t that interesting? How do we govern a church in the church age? Through a plurality of godly men called elders. We just spent the last couple of weeks in Sunday School class talking about that.
They are called “a kingdom of priests,” verse 10. [Revelation 5:10, “and made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on earth.”] Isn’t that what Jesus said to the churches, that they are “a kingdom of priests. Revelation 1:6. [Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”] And there are twenty-four of them. In other words, these twenty-four represent something very significant about the church. We track the number twenty-four through the Bible, I think a couple of Sundays ago. Twenty-four is in reference to the priesthood. This is a reminder of our role as high priests. We don’t have a particular tribe the way Israel did that the priests came from, they were a descendant of Levi, being a descendant of Aaron.
But we believe in the priesthood of all believers, all of us are priests. You may not feel you’re a priest, you may not think you’re a priest, you may not even act like a priest but positionally when you trusted Christ you are part of this company called the priesthood of all believers which is why your prayers can be answered. They can be petitioned… why God looks upon prayer as golden bowls of incense coming before His throne.
Now as you probably know there’s a great debate on will the church be in the tribulation period? We believe that the correct view is the top one, for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which is the elders representing the church are in heaven before the judgments begin to be poured out beginning in the next chapter. If the church is in the tribulation period they would not be resurrected and rewarded in heaven, they would be on the earth experiencing these judgments. We believe the correct understanding of the end times is the church for many, many reasons, not the least of which is the position of these twenty-four elders. The church will be in heaven before the tribulation period even begins.
And it’s very interesting that when you look at Revelation 5:9-10, look at this very carefully. “ And they sang” that’s the twenty-four elders, “ a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and language.  “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
Now if you’re an astute reader you might be saying to yourself, well if this is the church praising God for their own redemption, why in the world are they referring to themselves in the third person “them,” “they, “men,” why don’t it say “we.” Why doesn’t it say “us”? And so people will say well, these twenty-four elders are not the church they’re just angels singing about the redemption of the church. And if that’s true then a key piece of the argument is deleted for the idea that the church will be in heaven before the tribulation period even starts. And so there becomes a theological battle as to who these twenty-four elders are. I believe the twenty-four elders is the church. Well if they’re the church then why does it say “they” and “them” and “men”? Why doesn’t it say “we,” “us,” and “our”. This looks more like people say angels singing about the redemption of the church than it does the church singing about its own redemption. And so we have a little problem here, don’t we?
Well let me see if I can answer this real quickly. Number one, it is completely possible in the Bible to speak of yourself in the third person. Do we have any examples of that? Yes we do; we have the nation of Israel who passed through the Red Sea, Exodus 14; they got to the other side of the Red Sea, Exodus 15, God had closed the Red Sea upon the pursuing Egyptians, Exodus 14, and in Exodus 15 the nation of Israel starts to praise God for their own redemption, their own safe passage through the Red Sea and the destruction of their enemies as God closed the Red Sea upon the pursuing Egyptians. And the whole worship song is recorded in Exodus 15, verse 13 and verse 17. And notice what it says:  “In Your lovingkindness” these are the worshippers, “ You have led” notice what it says, not “us” or “we, “the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength, You have guided them to Your holy habitation.”  “You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.” You have precedence for people praising God about their own redemption in the third person.
Beyond that, many times Biblical writers will refer to themselves in the third person because they’re modest. How does the Apostle John, in his book called The Gospel of John, portray himself? Not “I or “me” but “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He’s referring to himself, not in the first person but in the third person. Paul did this too with some frequency. For example, Paul was caught up to the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12, and when he got back to the earth he didn’t break into print and write a bestselling book of the subject. He didn’t make a movie about it as many people do today, claiming they’ve had some kind of elevator ride into heaven. Paul kept the whole matter to himself. He was sort of modest about it, humble about it. So in 1 Corinthians 12:2 he says, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago– whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows– such a man was caught up to the third heaven.” As you continue on in that passage you’ll see that Paul is talking about himself. Why is he talking about himself in the third person? Because he’s modest about his experiences, as was John.
And you would think that these twenty-four elders who are now in glorified bodies, you would think that they would have that same degree of modesty, not us priests, or we priests, which may sound a little pompous but they keep referring to themselves in the third person.
In other words, it’s completely possible to handle this passage with the third person references by still seeing it as elders representing the church in heaven, praising the Lord over their own redemption. However, let me add another layer to this that you may have never thought about before. Have you seen this passage in what is called the King James Version. What does the King James say? I was just reading out of the New American Standard Bible, what does the King James say? It says, “They” the elders, “sang a song, You are worthy to take the scroll, to open up its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us.” They’re not using the third person here, they’re using the first person, plural, “redeemed us to God by You blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nations, and have made us,” not they or them, “kings and priests to our God and we shall reign upon the earth.”
Now hold the phone, the New American Standard records the same verse in the third person; the King James Version records the same verse in the first person. The third person would favor the angel view, many people argue that; the first person makes it no doubt who these elders are singing about, they’re not singing about someone else’s redemption, they’re singing about their own redemption. So why in the world would the New American Standard Bible say one thing and the King James Bible say something completely different. And I’m so glad you asked the question!
This gets into a subject that we would text criticism. We do not have the original manuscripts from the New Testament. The manuscripts that the biblical writers wrote don’t exist anymore. And you say well, doesn’t that throw everything open to speculation then? Not necessarily. There’s great wisdom in God not allowing us to have the original manuscripts. What do people do when they think something is an original manuscript? They begin to worship it, don’t they? Look at how people act when they think they’ve found a splinter from the cross, how they flock to some remote area to pay homage to that thing. And God in His providence didn’t allow us to have the original manuscripts to prevent that problem.
Think about this also, if we had the original manuscripts and they get damaged or stolen or whatever then the whole cause of Christ suffers. What if somebody forges or damages or puts something into the original manuscripts that’s not supposed to be there? So God, in His providence did not allow us to keep the original New Testament manuscripts.
You say well what do we have? We have copies of the original manuscripts. And you say to yourself you mean my whole Christianity is based on a copy of an original? Well don’t throw things out too fast because we come out so far ahead compared to any other work of antiquity. The works of Caesar, how many copies do we have? Ten, and yet there’s a thousand years between the earliest copy and when Caesar wrote. The works of Plato, how many copies do we have? Seven, and yet there’s one thousand two hundred years between that earliest manuscript and when Plato wrote. The same kind of numbers you see with Thiazides, Tacitus, Suetonius, even to some extent Homer in The Iliad, Homer writing The Iliad only 643 copies and there’s five hundred years between when Homer wrote and the earliest copy that we have. And I don’t see anybody today crusading against Homer and The Iliad. Do you? They’re not crusading against Suetonius or Tacitus or Thiazides or Plato or Caesar, yet they all want to throw the Bible out on this basis.
What do we have with the Bible? We have twenty-four thousand copies. Caesar ten, Plato seven, Thiazides eight, Tacitus twenty, Suetonius eight, Homer 643, we’ve got twenty-four thousand. You say well why do we have so many? We have so many because Christianity has always been looked at as a missionary evangelistic faith. That’s how Christianity was practiced from its inception and so the goal was to take the truths of the Bible and get it to as many people as you possible can. Not to mention you could probably repeat the New Testament completely together simply through the sermons of the church fathers who in their sermons referred to over and over again to Biblical passages.
Well what’s the distance timewise between the earliest manuscript we have and when the events of the New Testament took place. Look how short of a distance it is; twenty-five to fifty years. What’s the distance with Caesar? A thousand years. Plato? One thousand two hundred years, etc. etc. etc. Tacitus, a thousand years; Suetonius, eight hundred years. What do we have with the Bible? Twenty-five to fifty years. I’ll take Christianity over any other work of antiquity anytime on this issue because the numbers are completely on our side, not only in terms of the volume of manuscripts but in terms of the very short distance between the earliest manuscript and when the original was written.
These manuscripts, twenty-four thousand of them agree with each other 99% of the time. It might even be higher than 99% but just for the sake of a round number, an individual number, they probably disagree with each other 1% of the time. And by the way, the disagreement that they have with each other never relates to some key cardinal Christian doctrine. So here we have a problem; we don’t have the originals but we have copies of the originals most of which are completely in agreement with each other, but what to you do with the one percent of the time where there’s disagreement? Which manuscript should I hold to? Shall I hold to manuscript A or manuscript B? That becomes the science of text criticism where you’re navigating your way through this 1% where there’s a deviation and you’re trying to understand which reading is the authentic reading. This is what is called the science and art of text criticism; there are many people that devote their entire lives to this discipline.
And what you have to understand is the New American Standard Bible, which is a very good translation and I typically will use it, follows one theory of text criticism; the King James Bible which is a very good Bible translation as well and I use that as well, follows a different theory of text criticism. The New American Standard Bible and other version basically says this: “You go with the earliest manuscripts when there’s a conflict; earlier is better. The King James comes along and says no, we don’t go with earlier is better, we go with the majority. If a particular reading can be found in the majority of manuscripts that’s what you go with. So for example you’re reading your Bible and you read about the woman caught in adultery in John 8, and if you’re reading from the New American Standard Bible there’s this troubling mark there, (have you seen that), it’s got a bracket with a footnote and it says this: “This reading is not found in the better manuscripts,” and you read that as a new believer and you say oh my goodness, is this whole thing just up in the air or what? What do you mean it’s not found in the better manuscripts?
Well the reason it says that is you’re reading out of the New American Standard Bible and the New American Standard Bible, when there’s a conflict in manuscripts is going with the earlier. You read that same story in the King James Version and that bracket is not there, those footnotes are not there. Well why doesn’t the King James Version say this is not found in the better manuscripts? It says that because the King James is following a different theory of text criticism; they believe the story is authentic because it may not be in the earliest manuscripts but it’s in the majority of manuscripts. See the debate?
And this is why when you get to the subject of the twenty-four elders and the third person versus the first person you’re going to reach different conclusion based upon which Bible translation you’re using, because your different Bible translations are following different theories of text criticism.
So here’s the deal. In an earlier manuscript called Alexandria’s, the text here does not read “us” the way the King James does, it reads “they” or “them.” So people following that manuscript are basically going to say look, this is not the church singing of their own redemption, this is angels singing of the redemption of others that will be saved in the tribulation period. However, when you read this same passage in the New King James Version it doesn’t say “they” or “them” it says “us” or “we” which means that this crowd is singing about their own redemption, not someone else’s redemption which furnishes further evidence that this is the previously raptured church.
Here’s the bottom line folks. The “us” or “we” shows up in the vast majority of manuscripts. The “they” or the “them” shows up in one manuscript. The NASB likes that manuscript because it’s earlier but the King James says not so fast, the pronoun switches to first person in the majority. And just to show you that I’m not completely insane, making things up here, let me quote an ancient commentator, (ancient 1901, not that long ago).
- A. Seiss, who in his commentary on the Book of Revelation is dealing with this very subject, he says” “us.” “Some critics and expositors have rejected the ‘us” for the reason that it is omitted in Codex Alexandrinus and in the Ethioptic version; though the latter is not much more than a loose paraphrase, The Codex Siniaticus, however, which was discovered in1860, and which is of equal antiquity and authority with the Codex Alexandrinus contains the “we” or the “us.” The Codex Basiliensis in the Vatican contains it; the Latin Coptic or Memphitic, and Arminian, which are of great value contain it.” J. A. Seiss goes on and he says, “As do all the other manuscripts and versions. And to discredit it simply and only because it does not appear in that one single Codex Alexandrinus is most unreasonable and unjust to the weight of the authority for its retention.”
Ηγὸρασας ἠμᾶς. Some critics and expositors have rejected this ἠμᾶς (us), for the reason that it is omitted in the Codex Alexandrinus, and in the Ethiopic verso; though the latter is not much more than a loose paraphrase. The Codex Sinaiticus, however, which was discovered in 1860, and which is of equal antiquity and authority with the Codex Alexandrinus, contains it. The Codex Basilianus, in the Vatican, contains it. The Latin, Coptic or Memphitic, and Arminian, which are of great value, contain it. [Seiss, J. A. (1901). The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ with Revised Text (Eighth Edition, Vol. 1). New York: Charles C. Cook.]
[Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”]
And then he quotes Dr. Tragillus, “on full examination was firmly convinced of its right place in the text before the Codex Sineaticus appeared and the presence of the “us” in that manuscript ought to settle the question of its genuiness forever. The evidence from the context also argues powerfully for a construction which necessarily embraces it whether expressed or not” look at what J. A. Seiss says, “we regard it” what’s the “it”? The us, the we, which means the twenty-four elders are singing about their own redemption. “We regard it as indubitably genuine.” [Seiss, J. A. (1901). The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ with Revised Text (Eighth Edition, Vol. 1). New York: Charles C. Cook.]
Probably the first guy that started to show me this issue was Pastor David Hocking; I was just with him at the Pre-trib Study Group. He writes this, and he looked heavily into this matter. He says, “The Greek manuscripts (that we have today) of the passage in Revelation 5:9 are 24 in number,’ twenty four manuscripts, “and 23 of them read “US” ‒ only Codex Alexandrinus differs in this regard.” [David Hocking, The Book of Revelation: Understanding the Future (Tustin, CA: Hope For Today Publications, 2014), 271.]
The New American Standard Bible and other similar versions have its house on one manuscript. The King James Bible following the majority theory has built its house on twenty-three manuscripts. David Hocking’s answer to this question—so what? I mean, some of you, your eyes are probably glazing over at this point. This is not why I come to church to learn this stuff, I mean, I need three points and a poem.
You may be asking what difference does it make? And why go to all the trouble that is listed above. There’s a very long explanation which I just [can’t understand word] to you in forty-five minutes, which is my introduction by the way. [Laughter]
The answer is quite important, the King James reading of the text clearly teaches the church age believer’s represented by the twenty-four elders are in heaven and are seeing about their own redemption and since the twenty-four elders are in heaven during the tribulation period the correct view of Bible prophecy as to the rapture of the church age believer, Jew and Gentile, is that they are removed before the tribulation begins. Our response is simple, Praise the Lord!
The vast majority of manuscripts out there don’t say “they” or “them,” they say “us” or “we.” [can’t understand word] manuscript says they or them. And you average person reads that and they don’t understand that. They believe it because it’s in the NASB which is a very good translation in most other areas and I’ll continue to use it. And they think that this issue is somehow close; it’s not even close. This is a blowout. What do you want to pick? One manuscript or the others, the twenty-three others.
The bottom line is these twenty-four elders are in heaven and they’re praising God intelligently for what He has done, verse 9, and what He will do, verse 10, and what has He done? He has redeemed them, they are part of that great company called the church age and they are in heaven. If you want to go through the tribulation period you feel free to put your request in with God, as for me and my house we’re not going through it. You say I don’t know Pastor Andy, I don’t believe all this rapture stuff. Well, I’ll tell you what, we will explain it to you on the way up, how’s that? [Laughter]
So they began to explode in praise for their redemption. Take a look if you could at Revelation 5:9, Now I’m reading the NASB which I think is wrong here, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men” I don’t think that’s right, “from every tribe and tongue and people and language.  You have made them” I don’t think that’s right either, “to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they” I don’t think that’s right either, it should say “we will reign upon the earth.”
You’ll notice this expression “worthy are you,” that’s worship. They are ascribing worth, which is what worship is, to Jesus Christ because of what He’s done. They’re not involved here in the worship wars and the generational preferences. I don’t know if that’s even a subject in heaven. They just can’t wait to get into the presence of God Almighty, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who is qualified to open the seven sealed scroll. They can’t wait to praise Him not even so much based on what he’s about to do but what He’s already done. And they begin to praise the Lord.
And you’ll notice where this Scripture comes from—from every tribe, people and nations. [Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;”] Didn’t Jesus say at the beginning of the church age go and preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations? [Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”]
That has been fulfilled to a large extent. That has been accomplished. Every people group has been reached that is destined to be reached; in the age of the church no people group is omitted here. You’ll notice the global nature of what Jesus did. I have to talk about this just for a minute because there’s a lot of people out there coming from Reformed theology trying to sell evangelical Christianity on the idea that Jesus didn’t die for the whole world. It’s called limited atonement. You say well isn’t this a bunch of theological meandering, I mean, doesn’t this relate to daily life? Let me show you how practical this is. It will affect how you share the gospel.
- Adams, who I happen to have a lot of respect for because he brought back biblical authority into biblical counselling; in his very important book called Competent To Counsel, says this; he’s a counsellor: “[But counselors, as Christians, are obligated to present the claims of Christ. They must present the good news that Christ Jesus died on the cross in the place of His own, that He bore the guilt and suffered the penalty for their sins. He died that all whom the Father had given to Him might come unto Him and have life everlasting.] As a reformed Christian,” what does that mean? A five point Calvinist, limited atonement. “As a reformed Christian the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him,” why not? “FOR THEY CANNOT SAY THAT. No man knows except Christ Himself who are His elect for whom He died.” [Jay Adams Competent to Counsel, 70.]
This doctrine of limited atonement is such a barrier on his thought process that it is hampering his ability to share the gospel. The fact of the matter is your Bible teaches… it even teaches it right here in Revelation 5:9, “every tribe,” every language, every people. [Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”’] Christ died for the whole world. The whole world, as I am speaking, is savable. Now they are not saved until they trust Christ as Savior but they are completely savable, not only on the basis of this passage but what about 1 John 2:2? “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but” for the sins of who? The elect… it doesn’t say that, “also for those of the whole world.”
If nothing else build your house on John 3:16, “For God so loved the” elect… “the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” How many Puritans do you know? Ever thought about that? How come a family or a couple moves in down the street and we don’t way what a nice Puritan couple? Who are the Puritans? They founded the United States. In fact, the Puritans built largely a lot of our famous Ivy League institutions, originally designed to train ministers. They built what Roger Winthrop called a shining city on a hill. And yet where did they go? What happened to them? They went out of existence. How did they go out of existence exactly? They got involved in doctrines like this, like what Jay Adams is promoting here, and they quit evangelizing.
We don’t know if we should evangelize so and so because, you know, they may not be one of the elect. The Puritans quit evangelizing their own children so is it any surprise that those that founded the United States of America within two to three generations would cease to exist? It’s no surprise to me at all, it relates to a distorted view of doctrine. We have to be balanced in our doctrine. We have to look very carefully at what the Bible is saying and what it’s not saying.
The reality of the situation is every single person you encounter this week you can go up to them and aggressively and confidently and categorically tell them that Christ died for you because we don’t believe in limited atonement, it’s not biblical. We believe unlimited atonement. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The LORD is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for” the elect, it doesn’t say that, “all to come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 4:10, “…the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” it says. Is He the Savior of all believers? Yes He is, especially, but He’s actually the Savior of all men. Everybody is savable! And may God help us to understand this and to not be sidetracked from the task of worldwide evangelism because some people got involved in a distorted version of the sovereignty of God. I can’t explain the sovereignty of God but I’ll tell you this much, God never told me to explain it to anybody or even to understand it. I’ll tell you what I do understand, the commands given to me. I understand those. And the commands given to you, and the commands given to the church, those are unambiguous, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” all of creation, all the nations. And apparently the church will reap a harvest from all over the world because of this. That’s why all of these people are in the presence of God singing about their own redemption and they are clearly people from every tribe, people and nation and tongue, a global praise to the Lord.
So they are praising God for what He has done and they’re praising Him for something else, what He will do. Look at what it says there in Revelation 5:10, I’m going to start halfway through because that’s where I start verse 10, “You have made them” now it ought to say us, shouldn’t it, “to be a kingdom of priests to our God and they will reign” future tense, where are they going to reign? Up in heaven somewhere in the clouds? It doesn’t say that. “…on the earth.”
When this seven sealed scroll begins to be opened the chain is now in effect, a chain reaction, sort of like dominos toppling one knocking over the other. The thing that gets the ball rolling is the opening of this scroll. And what is happening in the Book of Revelation is Satan is being evicted from planet earth. And how does the whole thing end? It ends in Revelation 20:1-10 with the glorious kingdom of God upon the earth with Satan bound in the abyss for a thousand years.
[Revelation 20:1-10, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;  and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.  Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,  and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.  And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”]
Now are you looking forward to that? I sure am. And these folks in heaven, these twenty-four elders, this previously raptured church is looking forward to it as well because they understand the significance of this scroll that someone is qualified to open, Jesus Christ, and they can’t even control themselves anymore, they just like to praise the Lord.
I mean, what in the world are we praising the Lord for anyway? People say “praise the Lord,” what are you praising the Lord for? You praise Him for what He’s done and you praise Him for what He’s about to do. That’s why you praise the Lord. You don’t get wrapped up in “well, I don’t like this person’s singing or that person’s singing or this person’s style or that person’s style.” I know I am stepping on toes when I say that. That kind of stuff to me is so heart breaking because we’ve switched the discussion to ourselves. It’s not about us!!! It’s about Him and what He did and what He’s about to do. That’s why you praise the Lord. I get the idea that songs ought to be doctrinally correct, I’m completely on board with all of that but to me the worship words are heartbreaking because to me the focus is on ourselves and our preferences. Why don’t we just forget about that for a while; why don’t we just remember what it is and who it is and why it is we’re supposed to be worshipping. Let’s praise the Lord for what He’s done and what He’s about to do.
So you find the worshippers, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures and the worship itself.  Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,” these are the worshippers. Another group of people, we have angels and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders; you’ll notice here that the twenty-four elders are distinguished from the angels. See that, which means that the twenty-four elders are not angels. If you think that the twenty-four elders does not represent the church then you’ve got to come up with some explanation as to who these are. A lot of people say they’re angels, these twenty-four elders. But you’ll see here that they’re distinguished, these twenty-four elders, from the angels.
So the angels are singing alongside the church here in verse 11. And you say well how many angels are there? What does it say here, myriads; “myriads of myriads, then thousand times ten thousand.” It says that also in Daniel 7:10. [Daniel 7:10, “A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.”]
I find it very interesting that in the Bible angels are called stars. Job 38:7. [Job 38:7, “When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”] Lucifer, of course, was a high ranking angel called a star, Isaiah 14:12, Revelation 12:4, 7 calls angels stars.
[Isaiah 14:12, “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”  And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 12:4, “And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” Revelation 12:7, “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,”]
How many stars are there? You know, humanity in its arrogance used to think you could count the stars and now with the discovery of inventions and things we have like the Hubble Telescope you start to figure out you can’t count the stars. They are innumerable and we say I should have believed the Bible from page one because God, long before the invention and innovation of the Hubble Telescope said this to Abraham, Genesis 15:5, “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”
God tells humanity at the beginning there’s so many stars out there you couldn’t count them if you wanted to. And now we have to have all this modern technology to figure out well, I guess God knew what he was talking about. Do you understand this about your Bible, that it makes statements that are scientifically accurate way ahead of its time? You’re not going to find that in the Qur’an, you’re going to find backward statements. Not the Bible! And it’s very interesting to me that stars innumerable as they are, are called angels and that’s what God says about the angels, “myriads upon myriads, ten thousand by ten thousand.” There must be some fixed number that only God knows but it’s so high that you can’t even count them.
And by the way, aren’t you glad that two-thirds of those angels are on our side? I mean, look at the advantage you have there. One-third, as we’ll see in Revelation 12, is with Satan; two thirds are with us. And why do these angels exist? They are “ministering spirits” to give aid to those who will inherit salvation. Hebrews 1:14. [Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”]
And we’re looking at our little problems and panicking and God says don’t worry about it, not only am I all powerful but two-thirds of this innumerable company of angels are on your side. So we have the worshippers here of the angels, the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders and what exactly are they worshipping God about? Their worship is described right there in verse 12, “Saying with a loud voice,” now hold it down, don’t raise your voice, don’t get upset, keep proper decorum. I think when God wants praise He wants it loud; that’s what I think. And verse 12 says, “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
The second reference there to “worthy” which is what worship is, ascribing worth to somebody, Jesus Christ. You saw it in verse 9, now you see it again in verse 12 and you say well, I thought Jesus already had, verse 12, power, riches, wisdom, might, honor and glory and blessing.” He does. But what does Psalm 110:1 say? “… sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” The power that’s about to be exerted by Jesus Christ is not yet present the way God wants it on planet earth. That power will be demonstrated in full force with the manifestation of the kingdom of God where Jesus will rule with a rod of iron in righteousness. In terms of power and riches and blessing and all of these things that Jesus currently possesses “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Because He says “sit at My right hand until, Psalm 110:1, “until” until what? “until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Well when is that going to happen? The Book of Revelation is going to describe it, the process. And it begins with what? The opening of the seven sealed scroll. And then who else gets into the act? Verse 13, “Every created thing” gets into the act. Take a look if you could at Revelation 5:13, “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth” and then it even says, “and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, [‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’”] Well wait a minute, wasn’t it back in verse 3 that we couldn’t find someone to open the scroll when Christ had not come forward yet? And wasn’t that search made? Where? Verse 3, in heaven, on the earth, under the earth. [Revelation 5:3, “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.”]
Now that it looks like… doesn’t look like, it’s going to happen, the scroll is about to be opened; the very entities where we couldn’t find someone qualified are not worshipping the Lord. The worship is coming from the very places where the search went out to find someone qualified. So you have a deliberate paralleling there between verse 3 and verse 13.
Well what are they worshipping the Lord for exactly? What’s the worship? Look at verse 13, the second part of the verse, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” You’ll notice that Jesus in heaven is in a seated position. In fact, every single time with the exception of on that I can think of where Jesus is portrayed in heaven He is sitting, and thank God for that because in the tabernacle that Moses constructed under God’s direction there was a piece of furniture missing called a chair. No chair! Why is that? Because the tabernacle priests, their job was never completed because the sacrificial system itself kicked the can down the road for a year. And then that year would come and go, Yom Kippur would kick in and you’d have to do the whole thing again because the animal sacrificial system never fixed the problem.
And yet how different it is with Jesus Christ. His final words on the cross were “It is finished!” That’s why in heaven He’s typically portrayed, almost every time that I can think of, as in a seated position. The work is done! And so they’re praising the Lord because His work is done. They’re praising Him for what else? Because He will exist forever and ever and ever and ever. He is the only uncaused cause. He is the only one who’s always been and will ever be. Certainly a pastor doesn’t have that quality, certainly a Board doesn’t have that quality, certainly a denominational head doesn’t have that quality, but Jesus does. And so we ascribe worship to Him accordingly.
And then one more round, verse 14, “The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders,” look at what it says there in verse 14, “And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’. And the twenty-four elders “fell down and worshipped.” You have worship coming from the four living creatures and you have worship coming from the twenty-four elders.
Why are these four living creatures worshipping the Lord? What are they saying? They’re saying “Amen.” Isn’t that what my daughter said a little earlier. What does that even mean, Amen? And by the way, we didn’t rehearse that, that was one of those spontaneous utterances. What does that mean, Amen? Why do we even say that? It means it’s true. It means it’s certain. It means it’s going to happen. It means its accurate. Everything that seven sealed scroll represents in terms of the liberation of planet earth is going to happen because someone is worthy to open it. And what do these twenty-four elders say, “And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped.” I thought they were sitting, verse 4. They were, they were enthroned but in the presence of Jesus Christ they fell down, chapter 4, verse 10 and chapter 5, verse 14.
I mean, even the enthroned church with all of its promises and privileges in the presence of Jesus Christ, who is the only one worthy of being worshipped, the only thing the church knows how to do is just fall down in the presence of the Lord. Wow!!! What a worship scene that is; it’s a heavenly reaction is what it is, to the truth of the reality of the opening of the seven sealed scroll. And next week we’re going to look at the seals as they begin to be opened. We’re no longer in that heavenly scene but now the actual judgments are about to manifest on planet earth. You might want to take a look in your study time this week reading Revelation 6.
And you may be saying to yourself, I don’t what the judgments of God to fall on me. I can’t say I blame you for that one, these judgments are pretty severe. The gospel or the good news in the whole thing is the judgment of God already fell on Jesus and if we find ourselves, by way of faith, under His protective covering to absorb the wrath of a holy God in our place, in this life we have ups and downs and tribulations but you are not a candidate for the wrath of God or the judgment of God. It’s been paid for! Jesus is seated. And the only response that He asks from lost humanity is simply to receive it as a gift. It’s Christmas time, lots of people giving and receiving gifts. Have you received the greatest gift that can be given to you… your salvation! If you haven’t received that you become a candidate for the judgment of God; you’ve never received the greatest gift available.
Which raises an interesting thought, how do you receive a gift from God? Well the Bible is very clear, it says this a hundred and sixty times to believe in what He has done. What is the work of God? This is the work of God Jesus said, to believe in the One He has sent. You say well, there’s got to be more to it than that? No there’s not because He did all the work. That’s why He’s seated. There’s nothing else for you to do other than to receive it as a gift. To believe means to trust or to rely upon. It’s not something you have to walk an aisle to do, raise a hand to do, join a church to do, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where the Spirit places you under conviction. Many of you probably are under conviction now, or people watching or listening via media, social media may be under conviction. And to respond to that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit by the best you know how in the quietness of your own mind and thoughts and heart trust in Him or believe in what Jesus has done. I would advise you to do that right now even as I’m speaking. If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for this special chapter, this special task that we have as worshippers, what it means. I just pray for Your continued blessings upon this church as we move through the Book of Revelation together. Help us to learn what You would have us to learn. Be with the children’s program tonight; help it to be a great testimony and glorification to You for what You have done and what You are about to do. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!