Powerful Passages, Pt. 2 (cont.)
Study Guide – September 11, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
It’s hard to describe the beauty of God’s Earth. And the reason we’re taking a look at our beautiful planet is because last week we started looking into one of the most powerful passages in the Bible where the Apostle John witnesses the title deed to the Earth being given over to Jesus, along with some other amazing revelation as well. So let’s go back to the future as we look at this scene in Revelation 5. Rev 5:1-5- “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. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” NASU
The Apostle John witnesses the greatest title transfer of the greatest parcel of land in all of history…the very title deed to the Earth is given over to Jesus Christ. Now, of course, it also symbolizes even more than this, since the scroll included the seven seal judgments that are described in chapters 6-9, and this title deed included all rule and authority over all creation as well, including the animal kingdom and all mankind. But the major point that John is revealing, not just to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but revealing to the whole world, since the Bible was written for the whole world (and that’s another powerful point we also need to unpack sometime soon…) is that there is only one human being who is worthy of receiving all rule and authority over all creation, and that is the one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus, who is also ‘the Christ’, the Redeemer, the Messiah and Lord.
Just think of that: all rule and authority is given to the only one who could ever and has ever accomplished this: Rev 5:9- “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.” NASU
Now think about this: When considering the false teachings of the world’s false religions consider their founders: Who among them could have had that said of them? “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Think of some of the founders of the world’s religions, like: Siddhartha Gautama of Buddhism; like Confucius of Confucianism; like Muhammad of Islam; like Lao Zi of Taoism; like Parampara, who basically compiled the early beliefs of Hinduism; and so on. The one thing that all these founders of the world’s religions have in common is the same thing that the Bible states about every unsaved person of Earth: Rom 3:10- “No one is righteous—not even one.”; 23- “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” NLT And Eph 2:1- “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God.” ERV
This is the spiritual description of every person who has ever lived, including these founders of the world’s religions. All have sinned and they all have needed a Savior. And when you look at life through these Biblical truths it changes everything in our world. Think about it: What was the greatest need of Gautama, the Buddha? The Buddha’s greatest need was to have his human spirit that was dead in trespasses and sin brought back to life again through receiving the Messiah, the Redeemer as his Lord and Savior. What was the greatest need of Muhammad Ibn Abdullah? Islam’s founder’s greatest need was to have his human spirit that was dead in trespasses and sin brought back to life again through receiving Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Redeemer, as his Lord and Savior. And the same goes for every founder of every religion and for simply every person who has ever lived and who ever will live, because no one else but Yeshua Ha Mashiach is worthy to redeem men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation on earth.
Again, as the Apostle looked the world over and even into the heavens, no one was worthy of being the Savior and Redeemer and Ruler of all creation except the One who purchased for God with His own precious and sinless blood men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And that’s also why the Apostle Peter proclaimed: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NASU No wonder we call him “Savior, our Redeemer and God”.
It’s fascinating how even the Old Testament practice of the Kinsman-Redeemer pictured Jesus’ work of redeeming or purchasing our freedom and having us become co-heirs of the Earth with Him. In the Old Testament times if a man became poor and had to sell his land, or himself, he could be redeemed by a kinsman. The story of Ruth is based on this law. The redeemer had to be a near relative who was willing and able to purchase the property and set the kinsman free. All of creation has been under bondage to sin, Satan, and death; but now Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer, alone, is able to set creation free.
God makes it clear that only Christ can redeem. No saint in it, no person on earth, no soul in the underworld of death, could take that book. No one was worthy. John wept for several reasons: (1) he longed to see creation set free from bondage; (2) he wanted the promise of the resurrection to be fulfilled; (3) he knew that the OT promises to Israel could never be fulfilled unless the scroll could be opened. John himself was sharing in the “groaning” of Rom 8:22-23. The angel dried his tears by pointing to Christ. And as we saw last time the “Lion” takes us back to Gen 49:8-10 and speaks of Christ’s royalty in the family of David. And the “Root of David” speaks of His deity, the One through whom David came (Isa 11:1,10). Christ is worthy to open the book because He has “prevailed,” which means “to overcome”, “to conquer”, or “to win the victory”. The Lamb has won the victory!2
Also embedded in this powerful passage are a couple other amazing revelations. Notice: Rev 5:8- “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.” NASU We talked about those amazing beings of the four living creatures last time. But look at what John says are stored in Heaven – Our prayers! What? Now, whether God has containers of our prayers stored in Heaven, we’re not certain of that. But we certainly do know that God does have a record of our words, which include prayers. And we do know that our prayers mean more to Him than we can even imagine.
Think about it: It doesn’t take too much imagination to imagine times ahead with God when He is reviewing our life on this Earth and says something like: “Do you remember when you prayed this prayer?” Maybe it was a prayer for someone’s salvation, or a prayer for their healing, or a prayer for the nation, or a prayer for someone’s need or well-being, or even a prayer of your own salvation. And then God will show you how it set off ripple effects and how He used your prayers or answered your prayers and so on. But especially, God is going to finally enable us to understand just what our prayers have meant to Him.
Remember, the Psalmist knew that the incense on the altar was a symbol of the prayers of God’s people. The Scriptures are clear that the fragrant fumes that ascended from the incense represented the prayers of God’s people, those in covenant relationship with Jehovah. David even prayed this:
Ps 141:1-2- “O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” ESV Also remember that when Zacharias was executing his office as priest, he entered into the temple to burn incense. And it’s not without significance that “the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense” (Luke 1:9-10). Plus, even later in Revelation, as the judgments on Earth begin, John sees this going on: Rev 8:3-4- “Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.” NLT
If you want to better understand prayer, a better understanding of how incense in the Scriptures symbolizes prayer will help. Incense was beaten and pounded before it was used. Notice that the Psalmist says that the kind of prayer that is like sweet incense before God is one that comes from a humble and repentant heart. Ps 51:17- “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” NLT Then, the incense was also mixed with fire on the altar. You see, when God listens to the words of our prayers, what He is also listening to is our hearts along with our prayers. In other words, He listens to the attitude of our prayers as much as the words of our prayers. That’s why He cautioned people about just praying with their words, but not with their heart. Matt 6:7- “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” NASU It’s only when you mix your heart in with your words that your prayer then becomes like sweet smelling incense coming up before God. And then the incense was understood to be part of the sacrifice that was given to God for both His pleasure and for His purposes. God wants us to understand that He considers our prayers to be like sacrificial offerings. They are both pleasing to God and of great importance to God. He counts on us joining in His works through our works of prayer. And as we do, it is like a sweet smelling aroma rising up before God.3
One other amazing point before we leave this powerful passage is what John reveals about part of our destiny. Notice: Rev 5:10- “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” NASU One of the glaring omissions in many people’s ideas about Heaven is that they tend to leave out the Earth. Which is really strange, because one thing that has been prayed for as much as anything in this world are the words: Matt 6:10- “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” NKJV And the answer to that prayer from The Lord’s Prayer is what the Apostle John is revealing to us. The King has now received the title deed to His kingdom of Earth, and His will is going to be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. The Lord’s Prayer is about to be answered. And not only will the King Jesus reign upon the Earth, so will His people.
How amazing is that? When it is time for you to leave Earth for Heaven, know this: You’re coming back. When the King returns to Earth to establish His Millennial Kingdom and after that His Eternal Kingdom of the New Earth and New Heavens, He is bringing His people back with Him. Remember, Jesus is given title deed to the Earth, and is the true heir of it. Heb 1:1-3- “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” NASU Now, watch this: Rom 8:16-17- “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” NASU
So Jesus Christ is the heir of all things, and as children of God, we are fellow heirs with Christ. Well, that changes the picture of everything, right? So take a fresh look at this planet we call Earth, because since God has made you a fellow heir with Christ, the Earth is part of your inheritance as a child of God. And it’s only a matter of time before our King comes back to set up His Kingdom on Earth, and appoints His joint-heirs, all the saved children of God, to reign, or to once again, have dominion and stewardship over this beautiful planet we call ‘Earth’.
God’s Kingdom is coming, and His will is about to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven!
Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.
The Treasury of David, John Owen, Psalm 141:2 PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.