What is Christmas? Is it anything important at all? There is certainly nothing important to begin with about December 25th, the date, because you see, December 25th came from a pagan observance of the birthday of the unconquered sun, S-U-N. It certainly isn’t biblical. During that period time the pagans held two weeks of feasts, parades, special music, gift giving, lighted candles, and green trees. And some ambitious church members living in that pagan culture decided to Christianize the holiday, and in 336 Emperor Constantine declared Christ’s birthday an official Roman holiday.
Oh, there were some protesters such as Chrysostom, who rebuked Christians for adopting this pagan thing, but it stuck. You see, we really don’t know when Jesus was born. Some say January 6th, others say March 29th; some, April 20th; others, May 20th; and some even say September 29th, but nobody really knows. And December 25th is strictly a grab bag date, really belonged to a pagan celebration, has nothing to do with Scripture. So it isn’t the date. It’s not like the 4th of July or something that has historical significance.
Well, what about the name? Maybe there’s something significant about the name if not the date. Well, it’s a short form of Christ Mass, M-A-S-S, a Catholic Mass, a Roman Catholic Mass, which grew out of a specific feast day called Cristes Maesse, which was established in 1038. So it certainly has nothing to do with Scripture.
No, Christmas is not a holy day. Christmas is not a divinely prescribed day. And in fact, it was in 1224 that St. Francis of Assisi really started the baby manger thing when he started a new cult of the worship of Mary, surrounding her in the manger with the baby.
You say, “Well, if it isn’t the date and it isn’t the name, maybe it’s Santa Claus.” No, I don’t think so. You see, it can’t be all about Santa Claus because he never existed. The idea of Santa Claus is the result of a 4th century bishop’s activity. This particular 4th century bishop gave his possessions to poor people, and supposedly he brought back to life two children who had been cut into pieces. His name was Saint Nicholas . And so it became kind of a tradition for people to look at Saint Nicholas as a giver of gifts and a one who was particularly important to children.
Well, Saint Nicholas became very popular in Holland and he got imported to America by way of Holland. Dutch children expected the friendly saint to visit them on December 5th; and the custom grew that on December 5th they placed their wooden shoes by the fireplace to be filled with goodies. Of course, we very capable and fast-thinking Americans know you can get a lot more in a sock than you can in a wooden shoe, so we made some adaptation.
A man by the name of Clement Moore really perpetuated the idea of this Santa Claus and he really made it a thing in America, because you see, it’s Clement Moore who wrote the poem, “The Night Before Christmas.” It was published in 1823 in the Troy New York Sentinel, and it became kind of the format for Christmas. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody that in recent years Pope Paul defrocked Saint Nicholas.
You say, “Well, if it isn’t Santa Claus and it isn’t the name and it isn’t the date, maybe it’s the cards, Christmas cards.” No, no. Christmas isn’t Christmas cards, because you see, that started less than a hundred years ago. It can’t be that. And it’s only really burgeoned when we’ve been able to print. And this year America’s fifty million families will spend eight hundred million dollars on Christmas cards, and we’ll spend two hundred million to mail them.
You say, “Well, if it isn’t the cards, then maybe Christmas is the spirit of giving.” Well, I’m afraid it isn’t the spirit of giving anymore, it’s the spirit of indulgence. Have you been to Toys R Us lately? Ten billion dollars will be spent on one billion five hundred million gifts – ten billion dollars. Incidentally, it’ll all be wrapped in a hundred and fifty million dollars worth of paper.
You say, “Well, maybe it’s the tree.” No, the tree didn’t arrive till the 16th Century, and the first person to have a lighted tree was Martin Luther.
You say, “Well, what about Christmas is Christian?” None of it. None of it’s Christian. None of it’s biblical, not a bit of it’s commanded by the Lord. None of it is scriptural, none of it is apostolic, and none of it was ever observed by the early church.
In fact, the Puritans even in early America called Christmas “Romish rags.” They deliberately worked on the first December 25th in order to show disdain for the pagan holiday. And in 1644 – and this is an interesting note – in 1644 English Puritans passed a law making Christmas Day a working day; and it became illegal to cook plum pudding and mince pie.
You say, “John, that’s a little much.” Sure, it’s a little much. But what is Christmas? Strip off the date, the name, Santa Claus, the cards, the presents, the tree, and the food; what do you got? Nothing. And that’s precisely what Christmas, it’s nothing. It is absolutely nothing. It isn’t historical, it isn’t biblical, it isn’t Christian; it isn’t anything. Worse than that, it turns out to be sort of bedlam, doesn’t it?
You know, it’s an interesting thing; the very word “bedlam” comes from the word “Bethlehem.” In 1247 the priory of St. Mary of Bethlehem was founded in London, and by 1330 had become had become a hospital, and by 1401 was a hospital for the insane. The noise and confusion of that insane asylum was known throughout England, and it became a byword. St. Mary of Bethlehem was shortened to Bethlehem, and then by contraction and corruption it became known as bedlam. Bethlehem and bedlam, historically and semantically are related.
You say, “Well, John, what about the birth of Christ? That’s something.” Sure, that’s something. Yeah, but that’s not something to be celebrated once, that’s something to be celebrated every day, every day.
Well, you say, “If Christmas is nothing, then are we wrong to recognize it?” Not necessarily, if we recognize that it is nothing. Secondly, if we enjoy the time with family and friends, and sharing our love, and being together.
But mostly I think Christmas is important, because it gives Christians the opportunity to catch the world at least aware of Jesus, and give them the truth. That’s really what we want to do today. Christmas isn’t anything to me, it isn’t anything at all. It isn’t anything to you if you know Jesus Christ any different than any other day, because every day is a celebration for us who know and love Him.
In fact, Christmas is a depressing time, did you know that, for most people. I read an article, and this is what it says. It was written by J. M. Stubblebine who is the Director of the California Department of Mental Hygiene. This is a quote: “The Christmas season is marked by greater emotional stress and more acts of violence than any other time of the year.”
Christmas is an excuse to get drunk, have a party, get something, and give a little, leave work, get out of school, spend money, overeat. And I’ll buy it, Christmas is an excuse for us the exalt Jesus Christ in the face of a world that is at least tuned into His name, and I am ready to take advantage of it. Spurgeon said, “Look, Christmas is here. We might as well live with it and take the opportunity to exalt Christ.” Our prayer is the same as it is for every time we met, that our Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up.
I’ve entitled the message this morning which departs from our continuing study in the book of Acts, which we are normally involved in on Sunday mornings, “An Apocalyptic View of Christmas.” And I don’t know whether you’ve ever had a Christmas message taken from the book of Revelation, but you’re about to have one. And the reason that I desire to do that is because I think that we’re a lot closer to the second coming of Jesus Christ than we are to the first one. He came two thousand years ago; I’m quite confident it’ll not be another two thousand before He returns. And I’m confident also that the world is happy to let Jesus Christ be a baby in a manger, but not willing to let Him be the sovereign King and Lord that He is. And so my approach this morning is to see Jesus Christ as He shall be and as He is and will be revealed in His second coming in contrast to the first time He came.
At the end of the book of Revelation – and you need not turn to it – we read the words of Jesus as He summarizes the book of Revelation: “I, Jesus, have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David.”
The question is always asked, “Who is Jesus Christ?” And here at the end of Revelation He says, “If you’re wondering who that offspring is, that one born in Bethlehem of the lineage and the house of David, I am the offspring of David.” But He also adds, “I am the root of David,” which is an astounding statement. For in it He is saying, “Not only am I the one born of the seed of David, but I am the one who made David in the first place”.
Now, if the book of Revelation is then to be a presentation of this child, this root, and this offspring of David, then we need to back up into the book of Revelation and see clearly who He is; and that’s what we want to do. The Lord Jesus Christ whom we exalt today is not just a baby in a manger. He is not a children’s story, He is far more. The first time He came He came veiled in the form of a child, and not too many really knew it. The world didn’t take much notice. Some did; but most did not. But the second time He comes, the next time He comes, and soon we believe it will be, He comes unveiled. He comes without the robe of human flesh in terms of an infant. And when He comes it will be abundantly clear and immediately clear to all the world just who He really is.
The first time He came, a star marked His arrival; the next time He comes, the whole Heaven will roll up like a scroll, and all the stars will fall out of the sky, and He Himself will light it. The first time He came, wise men and shepherds brought Him gifts; the next time He comes, He will bring gifts, rewards for His own. The first time He came there was no room for Him; the next time He comes the whole world won’t be able to contain His glory. The first time He came, a few attended His arrival – some shepherds and some wise men; the next time He comes, every eye shall see Him. The first time He came as a baby; soon He comes as sovereign King and Lord.
Now, in Scripture there are many portraits of Christ. And we could approach Christmas perhaps as we did in years past, from the Old Testament, seeing Him presented in Isaiah as the Messiah, the Child, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God – all of those things – the Prince of Peace, the Father of Eternity. We could look at all the Old Testament pictures. We could study Him as the theophany Angel of the Lord, as the one coequal with God in the Old Testament. Or we could go into the Gospels and we could study Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and we could see Him there as a gentle baby, as a unique child, as a humble man, as a loving friend, as a powerful miracle worker, as a suffering Savior, as a risen Lord, as an ascending Lord. We could study the Gospels and see the Christ whom we exalt.
Or we could study the Epistles, and we could read about all of those marvelous things about Him as a sustainer, as the strength of His saints, as the Mediator, as the Great High Priest, as the kind Shepherd, all of those things that He is to us, the head of His church. But for this morning we’ve chosen to go to the book of Revelation and see Him as we see Him there. And I’m convinced that there are no more powerful and no more vivid portraits of Jesus Christ than those found in the book of Revelation, meant, meant by the word of our Lord Himself, so stated, to show us who is this child, this offspring of David.
Now I want to share with you five things from the book of Revelation about Him: His person, His preeminence, His praise, His promise, and finally, His plea, as the book closes there is an invitation. Notice, first of all, His person, chapter 1. Revelation chapter 1. And time does not permit us to go into great detail, but just to pick out those things directly in reference to Christ, verse 5, Revelation 1, beginning with the words “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, the faithful witness.” The first of three titles in verse 5: “The faithful witness.”
Who is this babe? Who was this one born of the seed of David? First of all, the Revelation says “the faithful witness.” In Isaiah 55:4, God predicted that there would come a witness to the peoples. In Psalm 89 God said of Him, “I will make Him a faithful witness.” That means reliable, trustworthy, able to be believed, always speaking truth.
And Jesus spoke truth, you know that. He came into this world not to learn truth, but to deliver truth. He is no baby who must be taught, He is no cooing child; He is the Son of God who speaks the mind of God. Jesus Himself said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” That’s why He came, John 18:37.
And then He is, secondly, called the first begotten of the dead, the first among those resurrected. Now, the term “first begotten” does not mean of all people resurrected He was the first one in line. No. He was not the first raised from the dead, was He. Some in the Old Testament were raised from the dead. Jesus Himself raised some from the dead before He ever died. What it means is that of all those ever raised, He is the chief.
You say, “Well, who was raised?” Listen, before it’s all over, every person who ever lived in the history of the world will be raised from the dead, everyone – some to the resurrection of life, John 5:29; some to the resurrection of damnation. But all who ever lived in the history of the world shall be raised from the dead. And among all of those, the chief one is Christ, the Exalted One. And for the sake of truth which He spoke, He was willing to die and rise again. And so, this is not just a born baby. This Jesus is not just a born baby, but a resurrected God-man.
And then, thirdly, He has another title: the Prince of the kings of the earth. He is the supreme monarch in the world. Oh, yes. Some wise men, assumed to be kings in their own right, bowed to him as a baby. Every king and every man in the earth and under the earth shall ultimately bow to Him as they did. He ranks over all.
In Daniel 4:37 He’s called the King of heaven. In Matthew 2:2 He’s called the King of the Jews. In John 1:49 He’s called the King of Israel. In 1 Timothy 1:17 He’s called the King of the ages. In Psalm 24:7 He’s called the King of glory. In Revelation 15:3 He’s called the King of the saints. And in Revelation 19 He is called in summary fashion King of kings and Lord of lords. And so His kingdom is a superior kingdom to any other. Listen, this is no helpless infant, this is the sovereign Ruler of the universe.
Now notice, having given three titles, it then goes on to speak of His work, verse 5: “Unto him that loveth us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” I love that. You know, Jesus could have come into this world and been all of those things; but if He had never paid the penalty for sin it would have done none of us any good. And so He washed us with the only detergent that gets sin out – His own blood, His own blood.
And I like one little thought, and I could spend a lot of time on just that one phrase, but I won’t. I like one thought: “Unto Him that loves us.” Present tense. You know, I think when we think about the love of God we think of it in a past sense. We kind of think God’s love peaked out at Calvary. And we always say, “He loved us” – past tense – “so much that He died.”
Listen, He doesn’t love us any less now. He loves us and washed us. Yes. He washed us, past; He loves us, present. If He loved us when we hated Him, could He love us any less now that we love Him? No. And that’s why being saved is one thing, and dying on the cross is one thing in point of history; but living the Christian life is ever and always the same expression of His love, as was the point of our salvation or the point of His crucifixion.
Now notice verse 6. Beyond His redemptive work is His transforming work: “He made us a kingdom of priests unto God and His Father.” You know, in the Old Testament the only people who could get into God’s presence were the priests; and Jesus Christ changed us into priests, threw open the Holy of Holies, and invited us into the presence of God.
Oh, no, this was no baby. This was no baby subject to the religious structure. This was no baby structured by the ceremonies of Judaism. This is the one who had the access to God Himself, and who could tear the veil from top to bottom and open the way for everybody. He was no one subject to a religion, He was the one who framed truth.
Look at Verse 8. Of Him, He says, “I am Alpha and Omega.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, Omega is the last. “I am the beginning and the ending.” In other words, He is the eternal God. “Before there was anything, I was.” That’s what He’s saying. Eternity belongs to Him. Listen, that life didn’t begin in Bethlehem. That wasn’t the beginning of the life of Christ. He was alive for all eternity prior, and shall live forever. “I am the one” – He says – “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” And if you can even imagine the power that it takes to be eternal, and to create and destroy as He is able, you understand something of the term “Almighty.”
Now look at Verse 10: “I” – said John – “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet.” It’s interesting that God sounds like a trumpet in many places in the Bible because of that piercing, brilliant, loud, clear cry that a trumpet gives, and God is likened to a trumpet.
For example, at Mount Sinai the thunders and the lightenings, and then he heard the voice as of a loud trumpet. And what is the thing that is going to be picturing the voice of the Lord at the rapture but a trumpet? And so here John hears this blast of a trumpet. It’s the voice of God saying, and it’s really Christ speaking, “I am Alpha” – verse 11 – “and Omega, the first and the last.” And here comes this dramatic statement that He is eternal God. Anyone who ascribes to Jesus less than absolute deity blasphemes His character. This is no baby, this is God incarnate.
Well, John heard this voice, and he naturally turned to see where it came from in his vision – and that’s verse 12: “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned I saw seven golden lampstands.” And these represent the church. You can check that in Verse 20: “The seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
And so he sees in his vision the seven lampstands representing the church, seven being the number of completeness. This is the picture of the total church; and he sees the church. “And in the midst of the seven lampstands” – verse 13 – “one like the Son of Man.” Here is Christ ministering to His church. As the priest went through the lampstand trimming the oil and making sure it was lit and going, so Jesus Christ moves in and out among the believers in the church. He sees Christ in the church.
Now, this is not just as I said earlier. This is not a man subject to a religion, this is the head of the church. This is not just one presented at the temple to be blessed by the priest, as in the case when Jesus was brought and Simeon was there; but this is the one who dominates, who rules, who controls, and who gives life to the church through all the ages. He is not a subject, He rules.
Now, look at verse 13 and let’s see what He had on. “He was clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girded around the breast with a golden girdle.” Now, He has on a floor-length robe and a girdle of gold about Him. That’s a pretty glorious attire.
And I want to show you something interesting. The word “garment” there, podērēs, is the word for “robe,” and it was a floor-length robe. That word podērēs appears in the Old Testament several times, the same word in the Greek form of the Old Testament which is called the Septuagint.
Now I want to show you what this means. You say, “What’s so significant about that?” I’ll show you something exciting.
Clothed with a garment down to the foot and with a golden girdle or golden belt symbolizes three things. One: that is exactly the garb of an Old Testament priest and the high priests. And so what you see here is Jesus Christ as priest. And you see, He is mediating. He is moving in among those in the church in the priestly work, caring for the lamps, lighting and trimming; you see Him as a priest. He is our Great High Priest. Oh, what a high priest He is. He can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, because He’s hurt where we’ve hurt. He can be a sympathetic mediator.
But there’s more to it than that. The same word podērēs, the same kind of robe, and the same indications of costume appear in the Old Testament in the case of Saul. And Saul was not a priest, he was what? He was a king, King Saul. And so, it not only is the robe of a priest, but it’s the robe of a king. And so Jesus is not only seen in priestly character, but He’s seen in the robe of royalty.
Now, I found an interesting passage: Daniel chapter 10. Daniel has a messenger, and the messenger comes from God, verse 5; and it describes what the messenger was wearing, and it says, “He was wearing a podērēs,” – in the Septuagint, the same robe – “and he was wearing a belt of gold from Uphaz.” That’s the same robe worn by a messenger. God’s messengers are prophets. And so we see Jesus here as a prophet, King, and a priest. That’s His character, isn’t it?
Listen, beloved, when you look at Jesus, this is not a baby to be presented to a priest, this is a high priest. This is not an infant to be hunted by a wicked king, this is the King of all kings. And this is not just a child to be prophesied by prophets, but this is the greatest Prophet who ever lived. Prophet, Priest, and King without equal; and all of it seen in the simplicity of just the fact that He wore a robe and a gold belt.
Then John begins to describe the vision of Jesus detail by detail. Look at Verse 14: “His head and His hair were white like wool and as white as snow.” Let’s stop there. He sees, first of all, His head and His hair, and it’s just white.
You know, back in Daniel chapter 7, verse 9, it describes God as having that white like wool hair. He’s called the Ancient of Days. To the Jew, white hair was a symbol of wisdom. But it also is a symbol of purity because it’s so highly emphasized. It’s not only His hair was white – wisdom – but His head. In other words, He’s absolutely purity personified, as well as wisdom.
Now listen, this is not a baby to be taught to obey; He is absolute righteous, He cannot obey. This is not a baby to be taught facts and truths, this is God who is wisdom personified. And so, it’s far more than the manger; this is God.
Verse 14 at the end says, “His eyes were like a flame of fire.” What does that mean? Searching, penetrating, nothing hidden.
In Hebrews chapter 4 there’s a very interesting verse, verse 13. We usually quit with verse 12; we shouldn’t. Thirteen says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifested in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” And who is it? Seeing then that we have a great high priest, it’s Jesus Christ.
Listen, do you know that nothing in your life escapes His gaze? Absolutely nothing. His eyes penetrate, and they are the eves of judgment. They penetrate to the deepest recesses of your heart and He reads you like a billboard. He’ God. In John’s gospel it was said that no man needed to tell Him anything, for He knew what was in the heart of a man. He reads you. Like a book held in your hand, He reads you.
You say, “That bothers me.” It bothers you? Then it’s two reasons. One, you don’t know Jesus Christ. Two, you’re a Christian living in sin.
Look at Verse 15: “His feet like fine bronze as if they burned in a furnace.” You know, there’s something about little babies that I like, a lot of things. But one thing that I think is really cute are the feet of little babies. Now my wife strictly goes for hands, but I like feet. You know, you see those little pink, tender, soft, chubby feet. And I know that when Jesus was born it was so with Him.
But, beloved, that’s a far cry from what you just read, isn’t it? “His feet were like fine bronze” – or brass – “as if they were burned in a furnace.” You ever seen a blacksmith with a piece of steel or a piece of metal in a furnace pull it out, and it’s white hot? That’s the way His feet are.
You say, “What is that?” That’s the feet of judgement. The feet of a ruler or monarch represent a judgment, because kings are always elevated; and when a subject was brought beneath his feet, it was the symbol of authority over him. And so feet held the position of judgment. Even the Bible talks about the footstool, the enemies of Christ being His footstool. And so here are feet of flaming fired brass, or bronze, ready to stamp out judgment – a far distance from those little feet wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem.
Verse 1 of chapter 10 of Revelation: “I saw a mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow upon his head, and his face was as though it were the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” That’s Christ. “And he had in his hand a little scroll open. He set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth; and he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.” And there’s Christ with His burning feet, stamping one on the land and one on the sea, as He takes back control of earth from Satan. Feet of judgment.
Look at Verse 15, second part: “And His voice like the sound of many waters.” When He spoke, He spoke with authority and majesty and dominance.
Listen, that little voice that whimpered and cried in the stable was the same voice that settled the sea, was the same voice that called the dead out of the graves, and it’s the same voice that someday is going to speak and the universe will go out of existence just as fast as it came into existence when He spoke the first time.
Look at verse 16: “And He had in His right hand seven stars,” – and those represent the ministers of the churches, that’s in verse 20. He controls the pastors; He controls His church – “and out of His mouth went a sharp, two-edged sword.”
Now, the word “sword” here is rhomphaia, and it refers to a great, huge, broad sword that was wielded with two hands, and it was used to just chop heads off or split people. And here He is seen with this sword going out of His mouth. This is judgment, my friend, this is judgement.
There’s another sword, the machaira, which is a little dagger, and that’s used in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.” You see, in that verse it means it convicts. But here it judges. Jesus Christ can use the word to convict; but He can open His mouth, and another sword comes out, and that’s the sword of judgment. Listen, this is not just a baby subject to His mother and father; this is the Sovereign, and the whole universe is subject to His judgment.
John reacted to this vision. How could he not? The end of Verse 16: “His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength.” He saw His face. “Countenance” means face. “And it was glowing like the sun.” He saw Him in the blaze of glory. “And he fell down at His feet as though he were dead,” verse 17 says. If it hadn’t been that he was in the spirit, verse 10, he probably would have died. He couldn’t handle it, he fell down as dead.
And then the Lord tapped him. It says, “He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not. Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore. So let it be, and have the key to hades and death,’” the grave and death. This is the one who conquered death. This is the one who can be victorious, as He always has been. I like the statement, “have the key to hades and death.”
Listen, this is no baby. This is no little child susceptible to childhood diseases. This is no child that needs to be fed and wrapped and kept warm lest it die. This is the Sovereign who rules death and calls death to His own summons. So we see His person; and what a person.
Secondly, we see His preeminence, verse 5 of chapter 5, His preeminence That’s who He is, and there is none like Him, secondly. Before we come to verse 5, let me just set the stage. God is on the throne. The church has been raptured. It’s time for the tribulation to begin. And the seven-year is the time when Christ takes back the earth from Satan. And the scene is heaven, God is on the throne, and God’s holding in His hand a scroll; and the scroll is the title deed to the earth, and God is waiting for the rightful heir who will take the scroll and take back the earth.
Verse 1, just as a background: “I saw on the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a scroll written within and on back, sealed with seven seals.” The Roman law said you had to seal a will seven times. “I saw a strong angel proclaim with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals? Who is going to take back the earth from Satan? Who is going to bring it back and get the kingdom on the way?’ No man in heaven,” – verse 3 – “nor in earth, neither under the earth was able to open the scroll and even look on it.” Nobody can. “Who’s going to take back the earth?
And John got all upset, in verse 4, and he started crying. “I wept much because no man was found worthy to open and read the book, neither to even look on it. Is there anyone worthy,” – verse 5 – “anybody who possibly is so righteous, so powerful, that he has the right and the power to take back the earth from Satan? Is there one?” verse 5.
“One of the elders” – and the elders represent the church – “said, ‘Weep not. John, don’t cry. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals.’”
There is one. Yes, a preeminent one, a one above all others who can take back the earth. He has the right to the earth; He has the power to do it. And who is it? Well, first of all, he calls Him a lion: “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Judah was the lion tribe, and Jesus is the Lion of the lion tribe. This is Messiah.
Notice He’s called the Root of David. In other words, He wasn’t only born of the seed and lineage of David, he was the one who created David. I don’t see how people can get away from the deity of Jesus Christ and His absolute nature as God just from phrases like this: the root and offspring of David. Here is the Root of David. He created David.
No, this is a lion. We think of the manger, and there’s a little baby all warm and cuddled up in there, and we see a whole lot of gentle little animals. Throw that scene out and imagine Him not as a baby amid some gentle animals, but as a lion amid some men, and you see the apocalyptic Christ.
John turns around to see this lion. And you know what he sees? Fantastic, verse 6: “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures,” – those are special angels; not just ordinary ones, but special ones – “and in the midst of the elders stood a” – what? It wasn’t a lion when he turned to look, it was a lamb – “a lamb as though it had been slain,” – and the word in the Greek “slain” there is “violently slain,” a lamb that was all violently slain and bleeding – “and had seven horns and seven eyes.” And the horns most likely represent power. The horn of an animal was its power. And the seven eyes are representative of the seven-fold Holy Spirit. You can compare Isaiah 11 with that if you want to get into it deeper. But he turns and he sees this lamb. That’s interesting.
Let me give you just a little footnote. There’s – a Greek word for lamb is amnos, and that’s just a regular word for “lamb” as opposed to “sheep,” lamb. But there was another word, and that’s the word arnios, and arnios was used only twice in the New Testament, and it refers to a little, tiny baby lamb. It refers to a pet lamb. The difference between an amnos – an amnos would be running around in a herd, an arnios would be in the house with the kids, part of the family.
And you remember if you studied the Passover – incidentally, arnios is used here, the little pet lamb. But you remember in the directions for the Passover what the family was to do? They were to go out, and they were not to slay just any lamb, right? They were to find a little pet lamb, and they were to find one that was without spot and without blemish – perfect, little pet lamb – and they were to bring it in the house and leave it there for four days. And for four days they were to fall in love with that little lamb; and that little lamb was to become a part of their live, to be cherished and adored and given over to the hearts of the household. And then at the Passover they were to take that little beloved pet lamb and slay it. You say, “What in the world was that for?” Because that was a perfect picture of Jesus Christ.
Do you remember what it was like for those disciples when they gathered around and saw their master slain “whom they had grown to love”? What a picture of Jesus, the violently slain pet lamb who came into the world to offer His love; and men slew Him. No. No, no. This is not a cared for baby, this is a slain lamb. This is not a baby cherished and kept from injury, this is a little pet lamb that was violently bloodied in death.
But you see, it wouldn’t have been any good to just be the lion if you weren’t the lamb, right? Because the only was Jesus could activate His power in our behalf was when He gave sacrifice for our sin, right? So He had to be a lion; that’s His strength. But He had to be a lamb; that’s the sacrifice for sin. So He has the right because He was a lamb, and He has the power because He’ is a lion. Oh, the preeminence.
Now in Verse 7, “He came, and He took the scroll out of the right hand of God that sat on the throne, and He got ready to take back the earth. Well, that fantastic scene of the preeminence of Christ leads, thirdly, to His praise. Look at it, verse 8. How could you comment on this? I mean, it’s overwhelming. I mean, I can’t even imagine it myself.
Verse 8: “And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and four and twenty elders” – that would be those super angels who are around God, those four; and the four and twenty elders who represent the church – “and they all fell down before the Lamb.” John sees this whole bunch fall down before the Lamb. “And every one of them had harps and golden bowls full of incense,” which represents prayer. They were all praying and they’re there with their harps, and all of a sudden they start to sing. Verse 9: “They sang a new song.”
Listen, friends, something new has happened. Something new has happened. You say, “What’s so new?” Well, those four angels are singing. You say, “What’s so new about that? Angels always sing.” No, they don’t. You can’t find anywhere in Scripture, really, where angels sing, except here and one other place.
You say, “What about when the angels singing when Jesus was born?” It doesn’t say they sang, it says, “They said.” “What do you mean by that?” Two times you find the angels singing. One is way back in the book of Job, I think it’s chapter 38 and verse 7, and it says this: “The morning stars sang together.” You know when that was? Before the curse. Before the fall.
Now, watch. Here the angels start to pick up a song again. Ah, they don’t get into it too heavy, just these four super angels begin to do it. When the rest of the angels join, look at verse 12. Does it say “singing with a loud voice”? What does it say? “Saying with a loud voice.” But there’s a little bit of an opening here; least these four inside angels are singing again. You say, “What’s happening?”
Listen, it was before the curse that they sang, and it’ll be after the curse that they’ll sing again when Jesus comes and takes back His earth, removes the curse, conquers sin. And the angels are starting to leak a little bit right here and begin to sing. In the meantime, they’ve just been saying and chanting.
Well, I like to think they’re going to be singing a song. You could just apply the new song to the four and twenty elders; but I think the angels would just really like to sneak in a note or two, because they know what’s coming.
And the song says, “Thou art worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for Thou was slain, and was redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, and made us unto our God a kingdom of priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” They’re singing because the kingdom is coming; and they glorify Christ, because He was slain and redeemed us to God by His blood. He made us a kingdom of priests and kings to reign on the earth. What a song.
Well, that’s twenty-four elders and the four living creatures singing. The church is singing, they get joined by these four angels. And then verse 11 – oh, that wasn’t the song’s end: “I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. John doesn’t have one of those little handy dandy pocket adding machines, so he just threw in a whole bunch of thousands there.
Verse 12: “And they were all saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’” I’m going to be in that choir, boy, and singing. Those are gorgeous words.
“And every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them heard I saying, ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen. So let it be.’ And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth forever and ever.” Boy, that’s a scene of praise, isn’t it?
What are they praising Him about? Because He conquered sin as a lamb, and He will conquer Satan as a lion. And so Jesus Christ is no helpless baby, He is a lion. And He is no child to be doted on, He is a lamb who was executed for us, and all of heaven sang.
And it’s amazing to me that there was such a large choir. Why even bother to come down and redeem us just to add us to the chorus? But that’s what He wants. He wants the praise of all His creatures. And so He came and redeemed us, that we might sing with the rest His praises.
“So let it be, and let it be forever,” verse 14. So we see His person, His preeminence, and His praise. Look at His promise in chapter 22, His promise.
You say, “Well John, that’s all fine about who He is, but what does that do for me?. I mean, if I approach Jesus Christ, what am I going to get out of it? How do I get involved?” Look at this, verse 7: “Behold, I come” – what? – “quickly.” Verse 12: “Behold, I come quickly.” Verse 20: “Surely, I come quickly,” and the word means “suddenly.”
Now, watch. Jesus is coming again, and we believe it’s soon don’t we? He’s coming again. And He’s coming suddenly when you don’t think about it and when you’re not ready, in a twinkling of an eye, and He’s going to take those who are His own. That’s right.
You say, “Well, what’s in it for those who know Him?” Look at verse 7. First of all, blessing. “Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.” The word “keep” means “to obey.”
If we’re obedient to this word, this book does one thing. Watch, this book does one thing: it exalts Christ. If we join that exaltation and make Him the Savior and Lord of our lives, we’ve kept the words of this book, right? This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we believe that and we accept Him as revealed in this book, and imply His death in our behalf by faith, then we have kept the words of this book; and blessed is he.
Secondly, not only blessing, but reward. Verse 12: “My reward is with Me to give every man according as his work shall be.” God is not only going to bless us for coming to Jesus Christ, but He’s going to reward us for serving Jesus Christ.
So blessing and reward. But, thirdly – and I love this. The third thing that we as Christians have is not only the promise of blessing and reward, but the third thing is hope. How could we live without hope?
Look at Verse 20: “He who testifies these things saith, ‘Surely I come quickly.’” Here’s our hope, “Amen. Even so,” – what? – “come, Lord Jesus.” The only person who can say that is a person who has hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.
I’m not ashamed at His coming. No, no, this isn’t a baby. No, this isn’t an infant, this is King, King of kings and Lord of lords. Oh, what a promise: blessing, reward, and hope.
Lastly, His plea. Not only His person, and preeminence, and praise, and promise, but His plea. And you know, with all the majesty of revelation, He closes this out with a plea to everyone who reads.
Listen, verse 13: “I am Alpha” – chapter 22 – “and Omega, the beginning and the end, first and the last. Blessed are they that wash their robes,” – and what did I say is the only detergent? The blood of Christ – “that they may have right to the tree of life,” – where’s that? Heaven – “and enter into the gates into the city.” That’s the heavenly Jerusalem.
“Oh, you mean if we wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb we’ll be in heaven?” That’s what it says. “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers, idolaters, whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” His plea is, “Look, there’s blessing if you wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb; but outside, outside,” – what a word – “outside God’s presence forever.”
Then in verse 16, He says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David,” – and I love this – “and the bright and morning star.” One of the promises to the church in the early chapters of Revelation is that the Lord says, “If you’re really an overcomer I’ll give you the morning star.” Christ is ours.
That day in Bethlehem a star announced His coming; that was a star announcing the birth of a star. Jesus Christ is the dawn star before the kingdom. But He says, “I am the root and the offspring.”
But you’re looking at a manger, you’re saying, “Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?” “It is I who have been presented through these twenty-two chapters. It is I.”
You say, “Well, that’s fine Jesus. I appreciate your person; I see your preeminence; I understand the praise of all those in heaven. I even hear your promise about blessing, reward, and hope; and I can even hear Your plea, that you need to wash your robes and all this. But what do I do? What do I do?” And He comes with the closing invitation, the last one God ever gave in Revelation, verse 17. He says this – I love this: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Keep the Ten Commandments.’” Is that what it said? “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Do your best.’ The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Be religious.’”
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come. Come.’ Now let him that heareth say, ‘Come.’” We want to repeat that. “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life” – what’s that last word? – “freely.” Don’t you like that?
Listen, there are some things there you need to see. First, you’ve got to be thirsty, then you’ve got to come, and then you take, right? First, you’re thirsty, then you come, then you take.
Jesus is available if you’re thirsty. All He says is, “Come and take.” Nothing to do, nothing to earn; it’s free. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Father, we thank You for the revelation of Christ. Thank You for what we’ve seen this morning hour. And even though we recognize that Christmas in itself is nothing, Thou art everything. Father, protect us from seasonal occupation with You. Help us to be occupied with You every waking moment of every day. Father, we thank You for the unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ. Thank You for all that He means to us, for all that He is in Himself.
And, Lord, we would recognize that there are some friends and dear ones gathered in our auditorium this morning who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. They do not know the promise of blessing and reward and hope, and they have not come and taken of the water of life. We pray that this might be that hour when they do, that Jesus may not be some historical baby, but that He may be the living Christ reigning within them. Lord, we pray to this end, in Christ’s name, and alone for His glory, Amen.
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