One of the great themes of Revelation is the triumph of Christ over all His enemies. By way of extension, because Christ is victorious, His church will be victorious as well.
“The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!
’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the Border Mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!”
Samuel J. Stone, 1866
In Revelation 4, John is given a chance to look behind the veil of the heavenly sanctuary and to gaze into the glory of heaven.
1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
The images John saw, and the sounds the apostle heard were familiar to him for John beheld nothing less than what Ezekiel saw by the River Chebar. John saw the stage set for judgment. There was the throne of God surrounded by a sea of glass. There was thundering and lightening flashing forth from the throne. There were four living creatures nearby. The living creatures had eyes like the chariot of God in Ezekiel’s vision. They had the wings of the seraphim. And they cried out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”
Within Christian theology, the Seraphim occupy the highest rank of angels, and are the direct caretakers of God’s throne. Circling the heavenly seat, they are singing an eternal song referred to as the Trisagion song.
“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns
around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim
falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see.
Only Thou art holy;
there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name,
in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!”
Reginald Heber, 1826
The first mention of the Seraphim within the Christian New Testament, is in the Book of Revelation Chapter 4, verses 6 through 8. This verse goes on to describe them in more detail than the first mention of them in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 6:1-3. In Revelation 5, the heavenly drama continues.
1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
The scroll John saw contained the Word of God rolled up and sealed with seven seals. John noticed something unusual about the scroll. It was written on both sides. Usually, writing was done on only one side of a parchment, but this one was written on both sides. It contained a message of impending woes, lamentations, griefs, and mournings, much like the scroll Ezekiel the prophet had to eat.
Ezekiel 3:1 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
In Revelation 5:2 the drama intensifies as a strong angel appears with a haunting question:
“Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”
Such a question enhanced the dramatic anticipation in the conflict tension of the heavenly theater. John was anxious to see what is written in the sacred scroll, but that anticipation is, for the moment frustrated, because, v. 3,
“no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.”
When John realized that the scroll could not be opened and read, he began to cry, v. 4.
“And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.”
Like any great piece of literature, there is dramatic tension in the Revelation. A theater goer might be reminded of the tension found in the twelfth century story of King Arthur, written by Robert de Boron. According to legend, a sword had been placed in a stone with an inscription on its blade:
“Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone,…is right wise King born of all England.”
One day, when Arthur was fifteen, Merlin brought him to where a crowd had gathered at the place of the sword. The people were assembled, and were waiting anxiously. Arthur’s stepbrother, Sir Kay, was the first to try and pull the sword, but it would not budge. Then Arthur tried. The sword came loose. The crowd cheered, and Arthur was crowned King of England.
In the Revelation, John was in great despair, because no one was found worthy until Jesus came, v. 5.
“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”
John was instructed to stop crying because Someone had appeared to open the scroll, not because of His strength, but because of His worthiness. Who was this Worthy One? It was none other than the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David.
John immediately understood the reference to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, for He knew the Old Testament Scripture. The image of the Lion, represented the promise made by Jacob on his deathbed, of the kingdom that was to go to the tribe of Judah. And the Lion’s Whelp, the Root of David, was none other than David’s Greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, born of the virgin, Mary.
There was no need for John to weep. This was a time to rejoice. Do not despair. John, behold the Lion of Judah.
When John turned to behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he was astonished again, for he was not mentally prepared to see what he witnessed, v. 6.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”
John does not turn to see a lion, the symbol of power and exaltation. He sees a bleeding lamb. John sees Christ as the suffering servant of God. He sees the Lamb in its humiliation, passion, and sacrifice for the people of God. And that is as it should be, for the presence of the Lamb led to a new song, v. 9.
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
The theme of this new song, sung to the Lamb, is that He is worthy to receive honor, and glory, and majesty. So much so that many angels, and the living creatures, and the elders, and a great heavenly host begins to sing the praises of the Lord, v. 11.
“And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.”
The Lamb is worthy of such praise. He is worthy to receive His throne because of the mission He accomplished on earth. The Lamb has prevailed over sin and death. The Lamb has entered into His glory, and His people are welcomed into His presence. The Lamb has the Book of Life, written on both sides, meaning all the details of our destinies are in His hands, and sealed. This is the Revelation of the glory of the Lamb, which promises to be our glory as well. This was the message of hope the church needed in the first century, and it is the same message of hope we need today.
Any system of theology which arises to present the church as an apostate organization, living in the last days, and doomed for failure, is unworthy of being received.
The story of Revelation is the story of conquest and victory. It is the unveiling of the glory of Christ, His exaltation. And the final destiny of the church is glory. It can be nothing less for those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.