Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ as it was given unto the apostle John. More specifically today’s passages is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book. “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1).
“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:2-5).
“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:6-8).
“Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:9-11).
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals? And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to take a look at it” (Revelation 5:1-3).
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as through it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:6-7).
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-fourth elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sant a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and you have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:8-10).
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).
“And every creature which is in heaven and to the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever. Then the four living creatures said, Amen! And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13-14).
When you come to the fourth and fifth chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find the scenery shifting from the earth to heaven. In the opening chapter of this prophetic book we find the apostle John being exiled to the island of Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. What makes this truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it is that despite the attempt to exile this apostle of Christ on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ they had absolutely no clue that he would receive one of the greatest revelations of all time. What’s more is the apostle John didn’t merely receive one of the greatest revelations of all time but he received one of the greatest revelations concerning the Last Days. The prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is not only a vision and revelation of Jesus the Christ but it is also a vision of those things which must take place hereafter. This is something we dare not and must not miss nor lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding this vision and revelation which the Lord Jesus gave to the apostle John specifically. This vision and revelation given unto the apostle John was given unto Jesus Christ Himself first and it would then be given unto this original apostle of Christ. What’s more is this vision and revelation was intended to show the servants of the living those things which were to take place—something which warrants strong consideration if we are to truly understand the nature and context of this prophetic book.
As I consider the words and language found within this prophetic book I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the vision and revelation which was given unto the apostle John by Jesus the Christ. It was Jesus the Christ who deliberately and intentionally chose to reveal this mystery unto the apostle John and in a place where he would be exiled for the word of God and for the testimony of Himself. The apostle John was indeed an original apostle of Jesus Christ and was in fact the longest surviving apostle of those who originally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle John was originally chosen by Jesus at the Sea of Galilee to come after and follow Him without any promise of what walking with and following Him would provide. When the Lord Jesus Christ called the apostle John together with his brother James he offered no such description concerning what the events would be like in the days which were ahead. Jesus the Christ never revealed unto them—at least not when He originally called them—what walking with and following Him would be like. It wouldn’t be until Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount where the apostle John and his brother James, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew and the multitudes who desired to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ would begin to understand and recognize what walking with and following Him would mean. In all reality when the apostle John accepted Jesus’ invitation to come after and follow Him he had absolutely no clue or idea that Jesus would indeed suffer in the flesh, would be betrayed by one of His own, would be denied by another, would be forsaken by all, would be delivered into the hands of sinners, would be scourged and tortured before ultimately being put to death on a Roman cross.
I read the words which are found within this prophetic book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the truth surrounding the call unto the twelve apostles and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I think about this the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and astonishing truth surrounding the call to come after, walk with and follow Jesus and yet how there were no additional details that were given concerning what walking with and following Him would be like. The only real indication or clue as to what walking with and following Jesus would be like—at least in the interim and outset of the call itself—was given unto Simon called Peter and the promise to be made fishers of men. When Jesus called the apostles to come after and follow Him He revealed absolutely nothing about His own suffering which would take place, nor anything about His death, nor anything about their own suffering and the call for discipleship. If you take the time to read the four gospel narratives which were written by the gospel authors you will indeed find and discover that it wasn’t until after Jesus called the apostles to come after and follow Him and after they would respond to that call He would begin revealing unto them what doing so would mean for their lives. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would also reveal His own fate and destiny as the suffering Servant who took upon Himself the form of flesh and blood for the purpose of suffering and death. In all reality this is what the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote in the second chapter of this epistle for they would write how Jesus took upon Himself the form of flesh and blood for the purpose of suffering and death that He might fulfill that which He was sent by the Father to accomplish.
This is something which cannot be ignored for when you come to the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ—not only will you find shadows of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ but you will also find shadows of the suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition which the apostle John himself would experience as a disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is something truly wonderful about the opening chapter of this prophetic book for within the opening chapter we find glimpses of the suffering and affliction the apostle John experienced as well as the suffering and death which Jesus the Christ experienced while in the flesh. When Jesus appeared unto the apostle John on the island of Patmos He was no longer in the form of flesh and blood but was in His glorified and exalted state. When Jesus appeared unto the apostle John it must be understood that the apostle John not only had seen Jesus’ appearance transfigured atop the mountain when His clothes became whiter than any launderer could clean and when His appearance was bright like the sun shining in all its strength but the apostle John had also seen the resurrected Christ. By the time we come to the prophetic Revelation of Jesus Christ we encounter the incredible truth surrounding this apostle of Christ who personally witnessed the transfigured Christ, the suffering Christ, the crucified Christ, the resurrected Christ and now the exalted Christ. Within the New Testament there are only two other individuals that I’m aware of who had a vision of the exalted Jesus in heaven and those were Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and Stephen the church’s first martyr. It would be unto Saul while journeying on the road to Damascus who would see the vision of the resurrected and exalted Christ while it would be Stephen who would see a vision of the exalted Christ standing at the right hand of the Father which was in heaven.
The prophetic book of the Revelation of Christ was a vision and revelation which came to this original apostle of Jesus the Christ while he was exiled on the isle of Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. This is incredibly important for us to recognize and understand for in the opening chapter we see shadows and glimpses of the suffering and affliction the apostle John would experience as well as the suffering and affliction Jesus Himself would experience. We would do well to recognize and understand this for there is no resurrection without the death of the cross. What’s more is there is no death of the cross without and apart from suffering. In addition to this there is no ascension without resurrection and there is no exaltation without and apart from resurrection. It would be the suffering that would prepare Jesus for death upon the cross; it would be death upon the cross that would position Jesus to be buried in the earth that He might be raised from death to life on the third day. It would be the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that would indeed make possible the ascension unto the right hand of the Father where He would sit exalted above any thing that was created in heaven, in the earth or under the earth.
With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels—first concerning the suffering of Jesus Himself which would ultimately lead to His death and secondly concerning the suffering, the affliction and persecution of the apostle John. The more I read the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ the more I am confronted with the incredible truth that the time is near. What’s more is that not only is the time near but so also is the end near. If the apostles and early Church believed the time was near and wrote as though the coming and return of Christ could happen within their generation we must ask ourselves how much more would this be manifested and true in our generation. I am absolutely convinced we are nearer now to the coming and return of Jesus than we ever have before in the history of mankind. IN fact there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if we will not be the generation that sees and witnesses the return and coming again of Jesus the Christ. The more I read and study this the more I can’t help but wonder if I myself will see and witness Jesus Christ coming in the clouds with the heavenly host as He prepares to rule and reign upon the earth for one thousand years. Will I be one who will be one of those who will be caught up together in the air to meet those who have died in Christ and have gone before us that we might all appear together with the Lord in the air? Will I be one who can and will experience the coming and return of Jesus the Christ in this generation and see prophecy fulfilled—even prophecy which was referenced in this prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ?
It is at this particular point I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention—first and foremost to the words which Jesus spoke concerning His own suffering and death and secondly to the suffering, the affliction, the opposition, the persecution and even the death and martyrdom of the apostles themselves. IN the first chapter of this prophetic book we find the apostle John being exiled to the island of Patmos for the sake of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. In the second and third chapters we read of the church in Smyrna experiencing tribulation and poverty as well as Jesus admonishing them not to fear any of those things which they were about to suffer. Jesus revealed unto the church in Smyrna that the devil was about to throw some of them into prison that they might be tested and they would have tribulation ten death. Jesus would then give them the clarion call and invitation to be faithful until death and if they did He would give them the crown of life. When speaking unto the church in Pergamos you will find Jesus speaking of Antipas His faithful martyr who was killed among them where Satan dwells thus continuing the theme of a suffering and persecuted church. When speaking unto the Philadelphian church Jesus spoke unto them as having a little strength and having kept His word and not denying His name. In addition to this Jesus promised them that because they kept His command to preserve He would also keep them from the hour of trial which would come upon the whole world to test those who dwelt upon the earth. In addition to all of this we find Jesus calling each of the seven churches to be those who overcome and giving them a promise if they did in fact overcome.
Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospels concerning Jesus’ understanding of those things which He must needs suffer before ultimately being put to death upon the cross. It would be beginning with the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus beginning to teach His disciples concerning His being betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders of that generation Moreover Jesus would also reveal unto His disciples that He must needs be delivered into the hands of sinners who would scourge Him before ultimately being put to death. Although Jesus did in fact reveal that He would be raised from death to life on the third day He would speak of His suffering and death on more than one occasion to make ready and prepare the disciples for those events when they did in fact take place. Beginning with the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus starting to reveal unto His disciples something which they perhaps couldn’t have even fathomed or dreamt of when they made the decision to walk with and follow Him. I would imagine that none of the disciples thought that when they made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus He would suffer before being put to death and yet that is exactly what would happen. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew just after the encounter Jesus and His disciples would have in Caesarea Philippi where He would ask them who they said that he the Son of Man was and Peter exclaimed that He was the Christ the Son of the living God:
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you. But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).
“Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up And they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 17:22-23).
“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).
It is quite clear from the words which are found in these passages of Scripture that the Lord Jesus was preparing and making ready His disciples for His betrayal into the hands of the religious leaders of that generation. Jesus prepared and made them ready for His being betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders before whom He would suffer many things. What’s important to realize, however, is the revelation of His suffering and death would continue for as time progressed Jesus would demonstrate that He must needs be delivered into the hands of sinners who would scourge, ridicule, mock, scorn and ultimately put Him to death. Jesus demonstrated and revealed unto the disciples that He must needs suffer in the flesh and ultimately be put to death for this was the reason He was born and the reason He was sent from the Father who dwelt in heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus who would indeed suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders of the Jews as well as at the hands of sinners themselves. Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples for those things which He would suffer in the flesh knowing that He had taken upon Himself the form of human flesh that He might fulfill the divine plan and purpose of the living and eternal God. It was the divine will of the Father that Jesus would take upon Himself the form of flesh and blood that He might indeed suffer before ultimately being put to death. Oh we must needs understand this for it is at the very heart and center of our faith. Who we are and everything we believe is directly linked and connected to the suffering of Christ at the hands of the religious leaders of the Jews and sinners, His being scourged, scorned and ultimately being put to death by the Romans and ultimately being raised from death to life. This is at the very heart and center of what we believe and our faith rests on the understanding and knowledge that Jesus suffered in the flesh, was crucified, was buried in the earth, was raised from death to life on the third day, ascended unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven and is coming again.
With all of this in mind I feel it’s absolutely necessary to consider the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning their own suffering. It’s important to note that Jesus didn’t merely teach the disciples about His suffering and death but would also teach and speak to them concerning their own suffering, their own affliction and persecution and even their own deaths. We must needs recognize and pay close attention to the suffering of Jesus for it is intrinsically linked and connected to the suffering which the apostles themselves would experience. We must recognize and pay attention to the death of the Lord Jesus for the apostles themselves as well as many during the days of the early church would face martyrdom. In fact two of the martyrs of the early church who were mentioned by name were Stephen who was mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts and Antipas who was mentioned in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. What’s more is that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ there is a great need to understand the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact it is in the fifth chapter of this prophetic book where we find another shadow and glimpse of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus for it was His suffering and death which would position Him to be able to take the scroll out of the hand of the One who sat upon the throne. It would be in the fifth chapter of this New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we encounter and come face to face with the Lamb of God which not only took away the sin of the world but who was also the only one in heaven, or in the earth or under the earth who was qualified to take the scroll from the hand of the Father, to break the seals which were upon the scroll and look at what was written inside.
Before delving into the words we find in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament prophetic book I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning what walking with and following Him would be like. Oh it’s important to recognize that during those three and a half years of walking with and following Jesus the disciples themselves would be shielded and somewhat protected from any form of suffering, affliction, persecution and even death itself. Oh it was true the scribes and the Pharisees accused the disciples before Jesus concerning picking corn on the Sabbath day as well as eating without washing their hands first but that was incredibly minor and minimal compared to what they would indeed face and experience in the coming days. Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father together with the arrival of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would change a lot of things for the disciples—and not only the disciples but also the members of the early church. When Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father and when the person and presence of the Holy Spirit came to the earth He would indeed endow them with power from on High, however, with that power would come persecution. There would be those who would like to think that the Holy Spirit only brought power unto the apostles and members of the early church, however, I would dare say that the person and presence of the Holy Spirit together with the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ would usher in a tremendous period of persecution, suffering and affliction. Oh the apostles and early church would indeed experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, however, they would experience so much more than just that power. The apostles and early church would indeed experience persecution which would rise up against them—first and foremost at the hands of the religious leaders of Judaea and Jerusalem, then at the hands of Saul of Tarsus and ultimately by Rome itself. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the following passages of Scripture which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the gospel authors:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:16-39).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? OR what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. We that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads let him understand), then let those who are in Judaea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, He is the desert! Do not go out; or, Look, He is in the inner rooms! Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:4-26).
“Then He said to them all, If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:23-27).
“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty-thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
We as the saints of God and those who would be disciples of Christ—those who would come after Him and follow Him—must recognize that doing so requires tremendous sacrifice. Those who wish to come after Christ must as Jesus said—“deny themselves and take up their cross.” In another section Jesus is recorded as declaring unto the disciples they needed to take up their cross daily, thus indicating that the taking up of our cross is not a one time deal. What’s more is that when you think about the cross you must recognize that before it was the instrument of the torture, suffering and death of Jesus it was a symbol and call to discipleship. I have long said that the cross is more than just a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and that which might be at the top of the steeple es of our churches. The cross is more than simply a gold plated emblem which we have connected to a chain we wear around our neck or a bumper sticker we have on our cars. For Jesus the cross was a symbol of denying oneself, coming after Him, sacrificing one’s life, forsaking and abandoning it all. When Jesus called the brothers Andrew and Simon, the brothers James and John and the other disciples He mentioned absolutely nothing about the need to deny themselves, the need to take up their cross nor the need to forsake everything. When Jesus called them He didn’t declare unto them that anyone who did not and who refused to take up their cross daily was not worthy of Him. Jesus didn’t immediately reveal the cost of walking with, coming after and following Him and would issue that revelation later on during their time spent walking with and following Him. Jesus called the disciples to come after and follow Him and it wouldn’t be until later on He would begin speaking of the need to deny themselves, the need to take up their cross and the possibility of affliction, suffering and persecution.
If you read the words which are found in the passages just mentioned you will find Jesus calling His disciples to forsake everything to come after and follow Him. Jesus would speak unto His disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow after Him. Moreover Jesus would reveal unto them they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding our need to come after and follow Jesus with a willingness to abandon and forsake everything in this world. The words of the song emphatically declare “Take the world but give me Jesus” and I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us can truly say that they desire nothing and no one else other than Jesus. How many men and women can truly say that they desire nothing else and no one else in this world other than Jesus? How many men and women are truly willing to abandon and forsake everything for the sake of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and coming after Him? It was Simon called Peter who would speak unto Jesus and recall how they had left everything to come after and follow Him. In response to Simon Peter’s words Jesus would speak unto both He and the disciples and declare that there is no one who left mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, house or land or anything else in this life that will not receive one hundred fold more in this life and in the next—with persecution. It is only in the gospel written by Mark we find the inclusion of persecution in Jesus’ words which means that anyone who forsakes and abandons everything in this life for the sake of coming after and following the Lord Jesus will receive one hundred fold more in this life BUT with the addition of persecution. Jesus did in fact promise the disciples a great return on their investment of coming after and following Him and yet He would be sure to add the understanding of it coming with persecution.
Having said all of this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Within these two chapters we encounter the tremendous shift in the prophetic book of the Revelation for the revelation shifts from the revelation of Jesus Himself and the letters to the seven churches to the vision and revelation of the throne room in heaven. What you find within these two chapters is the apostle John seeing a door standing open in heaven and the first voice which he heard like a trumpet speaking unto him and calling him to “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” What makes this truly interesting is that from this point on within the revelation it would e appear that the revelation could not take place on the earth and could only take place in heaven. Of the countless times I have read this particular passage of Scripture I find myself asking at this particular time why the vision would shift from the earth to the apostle John now seeing a door standing open in heaven and being invited to come up that he might shown those things which would take place after this. Why was the apostle John invited to come up here that he might see those things which were to take place in the coming days? Why was the apostle John invited to come up here that he might be shown those things which must take place in the coming days?
If you continue reading this prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find that after the initial revelation and vision of Jesus in the opening chapter there would be another revelation—one that would be entirely different from the vision of Jesus but intrinsically linked. In the first chapter the apostle John would see a vision of the Lord Jesus in His risen and exalted and glorified state while in the fourth and fifth chapters the apostle John would see a vision of the throne room of heaven. The apostle John would indeed see a vision of the throne room of heaven and one seated upon the throne in the midst of heaven. The vision which the apostle John saw on this particular occasion is absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about it for having seen a vision and revelation of Jesus the Christ standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands holding the seven stars in His right hand the apostle John would now see an entirely different vision. What makes this all the more is the apostle John heard Jesus declare unto he and the other disciples that those who saw the Son saw the Father. For three and a half years the apostle John would hear Jesus speak about the Father and how no man came to the Father but through Him. During those three and a half years the apostle John would hear Jesus’ teaching about the Father and what we find within these chapters is a vision and revelation—to some degree and measure—of the the Father whom Jesus spoke about. Pause for a moment and consider what it would have been like for the apostle John to hear the words which were spoken in this passage of Scripture and how He would be invited to enter into a door which was opened in heaven that he might behold something absolutely wonderful and beautiful altogether at the same time.
What we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is the apostle John was one of four different individuals who would see visions of the throne of God in heaven. If you study the Scripture—specifically the Old Testament—you will find that there were three Hebrew prophets who each saw visions of the throne which was present in heaven. In the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will find his seeing a vision of the throne of God which was present in heaven after the heavens were opened to him at the outset of the prophetic book bearing his name. In the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah you will find this prophet of the LORD seeing a vision of the throne in heaven and One sitting upon the throne in the year in which king Uzziah died. Not only this but in the prophetic book of Daniel you will find that he too would see a beautiful and wonderful vision of the throne of God which was in heaven. I am absolutely convinced that if we are to truly understand that which is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this prophetic book there is a great need to read and consider the words which are found within these prophetic books. Each of these prophetic books bring us face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful reality of the throne of God which was present in heaven and One seated upon that throne. Three ancient Hebrew prophets would each see visions of the throne of God in heaven and the apostle John would be given a vision and revelation of the throne at the beginning of the revelation of those things which must take place in the coming days. Before the apostle John would see a vision of the things which must needs take place in the coming days he would first and foremost see a vision of the throne of God which stands in heaven over everything in heaven, everything in the earth and everything under the earth. Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following accounts of these ancient Hebrew prophets who each saw visions of the throne of God which stands in the midst of heaven. Consider if you will the following passages before returning to this prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ:
“IN the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:1-8).
“Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was upon him there. Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire up gulf if itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each touched one another, and two covered their bodies. And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire was lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning. Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of the four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures as I’m the wheels. When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings. A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings. And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of his waist and upward I saw as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of fire within the brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:1-28).
“I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head was pure like wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from behind Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:9-14).
“I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. Thus he said: The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:21-28).
Each of these ancient Hebrew prophets saw a different vision of the throne which stood in heaven, however, there is one thing that is central to them all. Although each of these ancient Hebrew prophets saw a vision of the throne which stood in heaven they all saw the throne occupied with One being seated upon it. There has never been a time when the throne in heaven has not had someone sitting upon it—One with ultimate authority, dominion and power. There has never been a time in all of eternity when the throne which stands in heaven has ever been vacated or occupied by another. The same One whom Isaiah saw upon the throne was the same One whom Ezekiel saw upon the throne. The same one whom Daniel saw seated upon the throne was the same One whom the apostle John saw seated upon the throne. What’s more is that what was true during the days of Isaiah would continue to be true until the time of the end. How absolutely amazing it is to think about the fact that from the beginning until the end and throughout eternity the same One has been seated upon the throne. The prophetic book of the Revelation presents Jesus as the one who is, who was and who is to come and the epistle written unto the Hebrews presents the living and eternal God as the same yesterday, today and forever. This is important to recognize for when we think about and consider the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find that the same One who was seated upon the throne during the days of Ezekiel, Daniel and Isaiah was the same One seated upon the throne in the vision and revelation which the apostle John saw.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the vision and revelation which the apostle John saw here in this final book of the New Testament. The fourth chapter begins and opens with the apostle John seeing a door standing open in heaven and a voice like a trumpet speaking with him and calling him to come up that he might see those things which must take place in the coming days. The apostle John goes on to write how he was immediately in the Spirit and beheld a throne set in heaven and One seated upon the throne. It was the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews who spoke of the throne of grace whereby we might come boldly unto that we might receive grace and mercy to help in time of need. Here in the prophetic book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ we find the apostle John seeing a great throne set in heaven and One seated upon the throne. What’s more is the apostle John was indeed able to see the One seated upon the throne and described this One as having the appearance of jasper and a sardius stone. Moreover the apostle John went on to describe that there was a rainbow around the throne—perhaps as a sign and symbol to God of the promise He made to Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. What we must recognize is that the rainbow was God’s idea and originated in the heart and mind of God. The rainbow does not belong—nor has it ever belonged to—the LGBTQ community. Despite the fact they have adopted the rainbow as their universal symbol I fear it is actually a sign of judgment, devastation and the wrath of God upon them. I would dare say that the hijacking of the rainbow by this community is nothing short of storing up wrath and the judgment of the living God against and upon them unless they turn and repent from their wicked ways. The rainbow is mentioned as being round about the throne of God in heaven and we must needs recognize that the rainbow is a symbol of the holiness, the splendor and the beauty of the living God. Despite the fact that it has been hijacked by the LGBTQ community the rainbow has always been and will always be the symbol of the holiness, the beauty and the splendor of the living God.
In bringing this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the worship which takes place in the midst of heaven. If you read the words which are found in the fourth chapter you will find that each of the four living creatures do not rest day or night saying “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.” Moreover, when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne who lives forever and ever the twenty-four elders call down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him casting their crowns before the throne. These twenty-four elders continually exclaim day and night, saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.” IN the fifth chapter of this prophetic book we find that when the Lamb took the scroll the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb having hairs and golden bowls of incense which were the prayers of the saints. These sang a new song before the Lamb, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Not only this but the apostle John would see thousands times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” The reason I call your attention to this is because I am convinced that we as the saints of God need to experience the worship of heaven in our lives and in our midst in the house of the living God.
I sit here completely and utterly captivated with the tremendous truth that we as the saints of God have a desperate need to observe the worship which takes place in heaven and the humility and awe of the four and twenty elders, the four living creatures and even the thousands upon thousands which are present round about the throne. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as the saints of God to be such who seek after the songs of heaven and the worship of heaven that they might be manifested among us in our midst. We as the saints of God must needs be those who recognize and understand that we have in fact been called to be those who worship before the throne of God and to give everything that we have in worship unto and before Him. I read of the throne which is present in heaven and I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the absolutely astonishing and beautiful truth that we as the saints of God must needs be those who truly acknowledge our need to humble ourselves in the sight of the living God and worship Him with absolute and reckless abandon. Oh that we would be those who would seek after the worship of heaven being manifested among us in our midst and the sounds of heaven permeating our houses of worship and sanctuaries. Oh that we would indeed be those who would seek after and pursue the One who is seated upon the throne and allow the same declaration of the holiness of the living God echoed in heaven to be manifested unto and among us. Oh that we would be those who worship the one true and living God in Spirit and in truth and would be such who would prostrate ourselves before Him without at all being concerned about anything or anyone else around us.