Home   Complete Index    2009-2010 Sermons   2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

 

Email

 

565  Sermons Available

 

Who Is in Charge of Our Destiny?

Revelation 4-8:5

Jim Davis

When you look around in our world, do you ever ask, "Who is in charge of the world order?" The Cold War crumbled the East Berlin wall, however, it seems to have unleashed a kind of world order that may be more threatening and scary than ever. The threat of fanatical groups buying up the leftover weapons of the Cold War era on the black market isn't exactly what we envisioned when we won the Cold War. The threats are no longer contained behind walls; the enemy is now charging our home front.

Wars for ethnic cleansing and religious hatred are spreading over our globe at an unprecedented rate. Most think that the battles between Israel and Palestine are threatening world peace, but the enemy is much closer than those wars lead us to believe.

The enemy is now entering through the front doors of our homes. More Pinellas County kids are going to school with guns and knives than ever before. Kids are killing kids, and teachers in our school systems. The massacres in our schools are but a reflection of the enormity of the problems in our homes. Marriages are falling apart, and personal relationships are disintegrating at an unprecedented rate. Rage is a common insanity on our highways today as well as in our homes.

We have come to hate the law and those who enforce it. The law has also developed an unhealthy cynicism toward its citizens. Have you noticed the security guards in our banks and our grocery stores lately? The growing number of security alarms in our homes is another indication of how close and personal each of us is affected by the onslaught from the enemy.

The gods of economy and prosperity are creating monsters out of greed and envy. These monsters are breeding self-gratification and intolerance, while promising peace and safety.

Our culture's continual push for greater moral license keeps chipping away at our homes. This is not only breeding licentiousness in society at large but it is also predisposing Christians to a lack of discipline. Statistics are revealing that the moral values by which Christians live today are no different than the moral values the world embraces, which is an indication that all of us may be worshipping the same gods.

Church trouble in our age complicates our world even more, as it threatens to extinguish the light of the gospel message. It is disheartening to think that churches are more focused on defining and changing tradition than changing hearts.

A Sense of Hopelessness Pervades Our World

The really frightening part is that the buzzword being used to describe our world today is "HOPELESSNESS!" Even those who are supposed to be in the know are saying that our young people are losing their hopes to have better lives in the future. I heard a behavioral scientist in an interview a few weeks ago refer to our society as a "decomposing society." No, he wasn't a Christian behavioral scientist lashing out at a decomposing secular world. He was from the secular establishment. He was part of the decomposition giving shallow answers to the probing questions of our hearts.

Expectations are at an all time low. More importantly, as you look at the world order of things, what are your expectations for our world for the next decade? If a society as a whole doesn't believe things will get any better, you can rest assured things will only get worse.

The battles raging within our minds and hearts make the situation extremely personal. The enemy is lurking in our hearts and threatens to destroy each of us in a more personal way than any threat from without ever could. Do you remember the movie, The Day After, which was a movie about the survival of the world the day after a nuclear holocaust? The uneasiness at home and abroad is more unsettling than the wildest nightmares the Cold War ever instilled into our minds. That would still be a great title for a movie today, if it were based upon the ideal of survival the day after the world lost all hope.

There is a need as never before for Christians to reclaim their faith in God. Challenges to our religious rights have never been greater. There has never been a greater need for Christians to demonstrate faith in action. As churches and preachers seek to build monuments to themselves today, we must remember that monuments will not prepare our hearts to face the battles ahead that are designed to test the very fabric of our soul. A grip on God is the only thing that will overcome victoriously through the fiery trials ahead.

The book of Revelation was designed to help first century Christians maintain their faith in God as Rome sought to persecute Christians. The book is also designed to help Christians in every age to maintain a viable faith in God through difficult times, even through death if necessary. The only way to maintain faith is to have inspiring hopes for our confidence.

God Is in Charge of The Destiny of the Faithful (Revelation 4-8)

Last week we studied about Christ's pursuing us as a lover pursues his bride. It is certainly moving to see the presence of Christ personified as he walks among the seven churches of Asia. (Revelation 1-3) He knows their present struggles as well as their future difficulties awaiting them. He knows their weaknesses as well as their strengths, yet he has not deserted them. He is in hot pursuit of them. It is reassuring to know that no matter how badly we fail Christ continues his pursuit of us.

However, the heavenly view of Christ's presence is even more awe-inspiring. John is caught up into heaven to catch a glimpse of our struggles from heaven's vantage. As we are caught up with him in his Revelation we begin to realize the source of our confidence. Our confident hope resides in the position Christ occupies in heaven at God's right hand.

Before we get so caught up in the details of the scene John paints in words in Revelation 4-8, we must see the central message the images seek to convey. In order to do this you must focus on the major focal points of the portrait being painted. There are distinctive focal points in the portrait John paints with words upon the canvas of our minds. We must restrain ourselves from being so caught into the details of the portrait that we overlook the major focal points.

Let us view the major emphasis of the portrait John describes in Revelation chapters 4-8. God the creator is on his throne holding in his hand a scroll with seven seals on it that holds the destiny of the world. (5:1-4) Then John shifts our focus to Christ as the only one worthy to open the scrolls to reveal the destiny of the world. (5:5) Now John shifts our attention to the twenty-four elders before God's throne with golden bowls full of incense, which we are told, represent the prayers of the saints. (5:8) After this John directs our attention to the 100,000,000 angels who are worshipping the One worthy to open the seven seals. (5:11) Then John paints this wide-angle view, which reveals that every creature in heaven and on earth worshipping the Lamb. (5:13-14) Then you see Christ open the seven seals revealing the destiny of those on planet earth. (6:1ff)

As you observe these images, I want to ask you a couple of questions. Who is in charge of the destiny of our world? Who is in charge of the Christian's destiny? It is obvious that the One on the throne has delegated the destiny of the world to the Lamb, which was slain from the foundation of the world for our sins. The twenty-four elders bring our prayerful petitions to Christ as they engage in worship to him.

As we read the message we must not get so caught up in the splendor of it all that we tend to overlook heaven's deep interest in our needs, which is represented by the golden bowls full of incense in the hands of the worshipping elders of heaven. The bowls of incense representing the prayers of the saints may seem like a small detail in the overall scene, but they are actually the major detail. God is portrayed upon his throne for the purpose of answering those prayers. Our prayers are brought before the creator and sustainer of our world.

As John directs our attention to the scroll with seven seals, which contains the destiny of the inhabitants of the earth, we began to realize the unfolding of the plan of God as he rules the world to protect and save those who serve him.

Initially, as Christ opens the seals in succession we see four riders on horses riding out onto the stage. The first rider has a crown on his head and rides out on a white horse to conquer. (6:1-2) As the second rider rides out on a red horse he is given a large sword to make war and take peace from the earth. (6:3-4) Then the third rider rides out on a black horse with a pair of scales in his hands. He weighs out a quart of wheat for a days wages, which indicates the scarcity of food and the presence of famine. (6:5-6)Then we see the pale horse whose rider's name was Death. He was given power to kill by sword, famine, plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (6:7-8)

There is little doubt but what these scenes represent the temporal judgment of God upon mankind for their sins. A world filled with those who desire to conquer and make war and bent on bringing destruction and death is very unsettling to say the least. There may be many who escape the horror of the battle, but they will experience the devastation of the war through famine and death.

How would you feel in a collapsing world order that is brought about by the judgment of God? How would you feel with Christians dying all around you for the proclamation of their faith? It is no accident that in the midst of opening the seven seals that we have a scene of those who have been killed for their faith.

Revelation 6:9-11
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (NIV)

The war between God and Satan is like every other war; there are always causalities. Causalities on both sides are inevitable, but Christians must realize that the destiny of those killed fighting God's battle is much different than those fighting Satan's battles. We find the martyred Christians gathered around God's throne as their cries for those on earth are being heard. They aren’t seeking revenge; they are seeking relief for the Christians who remain on earth. God hears their prayers. He simply asks them to be patience while he works out his battle plan on earth.

Think about this beautiful scene as everyone in heaven intercedes for those alive on planet earth. God, Christ, twenty-four elders and 100,000,000 angels, along with all the dead saints who have preceded us are interceding for each of us. What a glorious hopeful scene to inspire a courageous faith in difficult times. It reminds me of a scene from the book of Daniel as an angel spoke to Daniel.

Daniel 10:11-13
He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. (NIV)

As the dead saints wait patiently in heaven Christ opens sixth seal. It is in the sixth seal that John describes scenes representing the collapse of the world order.

Revelation 6:12-17
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (NIV)

In apocalyptic language, when we read of earthquakes, suns turning black, moons turning to blood, stars falling from the sky, trees dropping fruit, and skies receding as mountains and islands are removed from their assigned places, we understand that these things represent the fall of the nations.

The scene conveys the message that God's enemies, who are also our enemies, will not escape his personal judgment, they will seek to escape, but they will fail. "Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'"

This is not a picture of the final judgment. It is a portrait of what is going on down on planet earth. It is a picture of God's judgment against Rome as she persecutes the servants of God.

The Security of the Saints

The security of God's people is the real theme of Revelation. Where are Christians as the judgment of God comes upon the earth? How will they survive the colapsing world order as God's judgment comes upon earth?

To give assurance to Christians John describes a scene portraying the protection of God's servants on earth. (7:1-17) We have seen that heaven hears our prayers and that heaven is the final destination for those who die in the Lord. However, John now reveals the protection of the saints living on earth.

John reveals the collapse of the world order, but he hastens to reveal God's provision to protect each saint on earth before God's judgment begins. The scene portrays the protection of the saints during the calamities that befall earth as a result of God's judgment.

Revelation 7:1-3
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." (NIV)

The angels placing the seal of the living God upon the foreheads of the saints is the most touching scene in John's vision. The angels are withholding the judgment of God until the seal of the living God is placed upon the foreheads of the servants of their God. Later John reveals the purpose of the seal of God.

Revelation 9:4
They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (NIV)

Many read John's Revelation only seeing those with the mark of the beast "666", but the focal point of the book concerns those who are protected by the seal of the living God.

During difficult times we may think we are alone. Discouraged Elijah concluded that he was the only faithful one left in Israel. God assured him that there were 7,000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal.

John's vision assures us that we are not alone. He portrays 144,000 from Israel sealed with the seal of the living God. (7:4-8) Then he sees a multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne in front of the Lamb. (7:9-10) One of the elders in heaven leaves no illusion as to what the scene portrays as he explains it to John.

Revelation 7:13-17
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?" 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. 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. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center 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." (NIV)

God Has A Plan for Everyone

As I was growing up in the church as a child I always heard about how few would be in heaven. I was reminded numerous times that of all those who left Egypt with Moses only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land. I have been reminded that even Moses didn't make it. I have been reminded that only eight were saved in Noah's Ark. Jesus said. "Few there be that find it . . ." (Matthew 7:21-22) I speak from my own personal experience, but I have discovered that you can't live a life of faith with practically no hope of going to heaven.

Those persuasive tactics seemed honorable to preachers who were seeking to persuade an audience to walk down the aisle during an invitation. However, some of us were scared into walking down the aisle, but we were robbed of any real hope of ever getting to heaven. If a person's chances are slimmer than having a winning lottery ticket, why not just play the lottery? Of course, the other extreme is that no one will be lost. Sadly, extreme views rob us of any real hope of heaven. There is a view that only 144,000 will be saved. However, when you consider the billions who have lived, your chances of winning the lottery would still be greater.

How far can you count? There aren't just 144,000 who are going to be saved. It is a multitude that no one can count. (7:9) The angels could be numbered, John says that the number of angels was 10,000 times 10,000, but not so with the saved. The message is that God is going to save all kinds of people from all over the earth from all walks of life.

The beauty of this scene is that our salvation is in the hands of God. Notice the hallelujah chorus of the redeemed as they stand before God's throne.

Revelation 7:10-12
And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" (NIV)

Difficulties discourage us by focusing us on our troubles. We may think that life is impossible because of our circumstances. John is told that our salvation belongs to God and God alone. Our salvation is in the hands of God who sits upon his throne ruling the universe. Our salvation is dependent upon his honor, wisdom, power and strength. This scene reminds me of Jesus' words.

John 10:27-29
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (NIV)

Of course, eternal salvation is contingent upon listening to Jesus' voice and following his teaching. Those who listen to Jesus become a part of his spiritual kingdom upon earth. John calls those to whom he is writing a kingdom of priest. John speaks of Christ as the ruler of the kings of the earth and those who follow him a kingdom of priest.

Revelation 1:5-6
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-- to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

Only heaven's inspiring hope can enable you to patiently endure until God works his plan for your life.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (NIV)

As the seventh seal is opened John sees angels offering up the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before the throne. The prayers ascended up before God.

Revelation 8:1-5
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (NIV)

As the seven trumphets are about to announce God's judgment upon earth, John is reassured of God's concern for the saints as the prayers of the saints ascend up to God's throne. The reaccuring scenes of Revelation convey God's concern for his faithful servants. Saints prayers have the special attention of heaven. Saints protective concerns are considered before God brings judgment upon the earth.

Conclusion:

The church of our Lord is a place of protection; it is a place of refuge. God desires to place his seal upon your life. His seal is your guarantee that you will be escorted through this world in safety. This doesn't mean a life free of troubles, but a life that is safe in the hands of God.

Do you have the seal of God upon your life? If you don't have it, you will eventually suffer God’s judgment for your sins. Christ invites everyone to receive the seal of God upon their lives.

Ephesians 1:13-16
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory. For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (NIV)

You receive that seal at baptism.

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (NIV)

Acts 2:36-39
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call." (NIV)

2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (NIV)

As you seek to serve God, you must sing a new song to Christ.

Revelation 5:9-10
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men [us] for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them [us] to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they [we] will reign on the earth." (NIV)
 
 
 
 

 

Home   Complete Index    2009 Sermons 2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

Email