Illnesses – cancers, depression
Churches failing – ministers failing
Spread of evil – IS in Middle East, conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza
Three glimpses of heaven to give us encouragement.
The Scroll and the Lamb
5 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
The one seated on the throne of heaven is the Lamb which looks as if it has been slain, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Only He is worthy to take the scroll announcing God’s judgment and open its seals. And He is worthy not only because of who He is, the Son of God, the Word of God, the agent of Creation. But he is worthy also because he is the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world. With his blood he has purchased men and women for God and made them to be a kingdom and priests. He will reign for ever and ever, and we will reign with Him!
We need to remember that Christ is victorious. But his victory only came through suffering and death and it will be the same for us. If you will not bear the cross, you cannot wear the crown. There are churches around nowadays which preach a false gospel. Large, growing, successful churches. They say there is health and wealth and prosperity for every Christian. They say that because Christ has suffered we won’t need to. They say that because Christ is now victorious, he shares his victory with us here and now. I wish that was true. But it isn’t.
The truth is that we will suffer in this life. For many true Christians, the more closely we are following Christ the more suffering and discouragement and persecution we will experience.
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
We follow the Lamb who was slain. We have no right to expect our lives to be any easier than our Lord’s life was.
Some years ago I arranged a series of discussion evenings between members of the different churches in Brentwood. I learned something very interesting in our discussion about baptism. The clergy all sat at a table together and we were considering whether a person can be a Christian without being baptised. The Roman Catholic and Anglican Priests all agreed that baptism is necessary for salvation. “Except of course,” one of them said, “For the Martyrs!” If somebody had died for their faith in Christ it didn’t matter if they had been baptised in water or not. They were considered to have had an even better baptism. They had been baptised in their own blood.
Are we ready and willing to be baptised in our own blood?
The Rider on the White Horse
19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no-one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Crowns have always been the sign of authority and Kingship. The great King Charlemagne who ruled over most of Western and Central Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries wore an octagonal crown. Each of the eight sides was a plaque of gold, and each plaque was studded with emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. The cost of that crown was incalculable. Richard the Lion Heart had a crown so heavy that two earls had to stand, one on either side, to hold his head. The crown that Queen Elizabeth wears is worth tens of millions of pounds. Edward II once owned nine crowns, something of a record. Put them all together, from all of Europe and from the archives of the East, all of them are but trinkets compared to Christ’s crown.
Revelation 19 says Christ has many crowns. He wears a crown of righteousness. He wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and power. Among those crowns, one outshines the rest. It was not formed by the skilled fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a craftsman. It was put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers. It was not placed upon its wearer’s head in pomp and ceremony, but in the hollow mockery of ridicule and blasphemy. It is a crown of thorns. And his name is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
You will all know that between 1014 and 1035 England was ruled by a Danish King named King ……. Canute. King Canute got bored with hearing his retainers flatter him with extravagant praises of his greatness, power and invincibility. He ordered his chair to be set down on the seashore. There he commanded the waves not to come in and wet him. No matter how forcefully he ordered the tide not to come in, however, his order was not obeyed. Soon the waves lapped around his chair.
You know the story of King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in. You may not know the ending. One historian records that after that day, Canute never wore his crown again. He hung it instead on a statue of the crucified Christ.
When Queen Victoria had just ascended her throne she went, as was the custom of Royalty, to hear a performance of Handel’s Messiah. She had been instructed that as Queen she must not rise when everybody else always do at the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. When that magnificent chorus was being sung and the singers were shouting “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” she remained seated only with great difficulty. It seemed as if she would rise in spite of the custom of kings and queens. Finally they came to that part of the chorus where with a shout everybody proclaims “King of kings, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” Suddenly the young queen rose and stood with bowed head, as if she would take her own crown from off her head and cast it at His feet.
We follow and we worship and we serve the one who was laid as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Who taught the people as a poet and a peasant. Who died as a criminal on a cross. But we also follow and worship and serve the one who rose victorious from the dead and now is ascended and sits at the right hand of God on high. We worship the one whose name now is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah!!
The Great Multitude in White Robes
7: 9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”,,,,,
7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Think about how they make paper. You start with a heap of filthy rags and end up with pure spotless white paper. The rags are torn to pieces and ground to a pulp, bleached with chlorine, and washed until they are white. Then they are compressed into a fabric, and sealed between hot rollers to make the paper smooth and even.
Almost as fierce and painful as the great tribulation where the robes and the saints themselves are washed and purified.
Our lives may be filled with suffering and persecution and tribulation! But hear what awaits those who have suffered for Jesus, as this passage goes on
15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The end is in sight!
There’ll be crowns for the conquerors and white robes to wear,
There will be no more sorrow or pain.
And the battles of earth shall be lost in the sight
Of the glorious Lamb that was slain.
Come on heaven’s children,
The city is in sight.
There will be no sadness
On the other side.
Lots of people find the book of Revelation hard to understand. One old man proved he understood the book very well when he said very simply, “It means that Jesus is gonna win.”
The story is told of an elderly couple who returned home from a lifetime of service on the mission field. Their ship was welcomed into port by bands and speeches but that was for the President who was aboard – not for them. Nobody came to welcome them. As they settled into their retirement flat nobody came to visit. The husband became resentful. In his prayers he poured out his heart to God. “I thought at least one person would come to welcome us home.” But God quietly spoke to him. “You aren’t home yet!”
Life is full of discouragements! But don’t give up. Jesus is gonna win. The Lamb that was slain is on the throne! The Rider on the White Horse wearing many crowns is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! And the multitude in white robes are going to be there to celebrate His victory forever and ever AMEN!