Introduction: A lot of church services today begin by asking people to turn cell phones off; but in some places that isn’t enough. I recently met a man who travels widely in restricted access nations, including the Islamic world. He said that in Egypt when Christians gather, they take up every cell phone and seal it in airtight plastic bags some distance from their meeting. He said that even if a mobile phone is shut off, it can still act as a microphone, allowing the government to listen to every sound and conversation. As long as a cell phone has its battery in it, it’s a portable eavesdropping device that allows the government to monitor every sound within its range, even when the phone is not in use. How ominous and antichrist-ish! That’s why our study of Revelation is so timely.
Review: Revelation 1 presents the opening vision of the glorified and enthroned Christ. Chapters 2 and 3 are miniature epistles to the seven churches of John’s circuit, and to every congregation of the church age. I believe the rapture of the church is implied at the beginning of chapter 4. And then we have one of the most bedazzling scenes in all Scripture—the worship convocation that will occur just before the unleashing of the Great Tribulation and the events leading up to the return of Christ (chapters 4 and 5). Chapter 4 focuses on the sovereignty of God the Father.
Revelation 5:1: At the beginning of Revelation 5, the Father is seen holding out a scroll sealed with seven seals. What does this scroll represent? Here are three possibilities.
- We don’t know. The contents of the scroll are never actually revealed in the book of Revelation, so we can’t be too dogmatic about them.
- Many Bible scholars such as Harry Ironside, John MacArthur, and David Jeremiah believe this scroll is the title deed to planet earth.
- Perhaps this scroll contains the battle plan for the end of history. In military terminology we have the phrase “sealed orders.” Sealed orders are the orders given to the commander of a ship or squadron, which he is not allowed to open until he has proceeded to a certain point into the high seas. In Daniel 12, we’re told that the battle plan for the end of history was sealed until the proper time (Daniel 12:8-10). Now, in Revelation 5 and 6, that time has come.
Verse 2-3: The problem was that not just anyone can open sealed orders. In the Navy, only the commanding officer has sufficient rank and authority to unseal the orders. There was awareness in heaven that none of the angels, none of the 24 elders, none of the cherubim had sufficient rank or authority to open the battle plan.
Verse 4: Something about this troubled John deeply. Here was the greatest convocation in the history of the universe, and the final consummation was near, and something was wrong; something was missing. Someone was missing.
Verse 5-6: Then Christ appears! He is pictured as both a Lamb and a Lion. The Lamb is a perfect picture of His mission at His first coming; and the Lion is an image of His second coming.
Verse 7-8: The Lamb/Lion takes the scroll amid awed worship as the golden bowls of incense are being poured out, which we’re told represent the prayers of the saints. This is one of the most beautiful moments in Scripture. All the prayers and longings of all the saints throughout history are about to find their ultimate fulfillment—and especially two oft-repeated petitions: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven and Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Those two prayers, which summarize all the others, are on the verge of ultimate and eternal fulfillment. The answer is about to be decreed. So all of heaven is awash in praise.
Verses 9-14: The scene ends with a series of thunderous hymns, sung by all the raptured saints of earth and all the myriads upon myriads of the heavenly host—billions of voices causing the very universe to vibrate. Notice that verse 9 implies that the church’s global mission is now completed, and all that’s left are the events leading to Christ’s return. All of heaven sings: To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever! The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.