Summary: A first-person narrative sermon. Let’s practice praising here because that’s what we’ll be doing there.
Rev. Brian Bill
When the word got out this week that I was only going to preach for ten minutes several people made fun of me. One dear woman said, “He can’t preach less than 45 minutes!” I’ve heard that others wanted to make bets on whether I can really do it. I can take it but that’s nothing like how I felt a week ago when I sent my sermon to our Office Manager for printing. When I went in to check on how she was doing, I found the sermon in the trash can. I guess for her ten minutes is even too long.
Since most of you won’t believe that I can do this, I’m going to change my name for this sermon. My name is John and I was a close companion of Jesus. I had the privilege of writing one of the gospels and three short letters. Later on, when I was exiled to an isolated island called Patmos because of my belief in Jesus, I had an experience that totally changed my life…and may change yours as well. I’m but the instrument that God used to give you the Book of Revelation.
I want to remind you that there’s a blessing upon those who read, hear, and take to heart what’s in this book (see 1:3). I want to share an eyewitness experience with you from Revelation 4-5. Actually, it wasn’t really an experience; it was an encounter. Incidentally, keep that focus in your own hearts when you come on Sundays. If you seek an experience, you’ll almost always be disappointed. If you seek to encounter the Almighty, you will never be disappointed. That won’t be easy to do in your entertainment and experience-driven culture.
After coming face-to-face with Christ in chapter one, I took some dictation from Christ and wrote letters to seven different churches in chapters 2-3 (I wonder what kind of letter Jesus would send to PBC?). When I felt like I couldn’t handle any more holy encounters I looked up and saw an open door heading into heaven. The same voice I had heard before, the one that sounded like a loud trumpet shouted, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
I don’t even remember going through the door but all of a sudden I was ushered into God’s throne room. I could tell God was on the throne but I couldn’t begin to describe Him to you because He’s utterly indescribable and incomprehensible. God’s greatness always exceeds our grasp. As I searched for the right words I thought of brightly colored jewels and precious stones. I was terrified but also greatly relieved when I saw a green rainbow encircling the throne because it brought me back to God’s covenant promise given to Noah. Whenever I see a rainbow it makes me think of God’s smile.
There were flashes of lightning coming from the throne and booming sounds of thunder. It reminded me of Exodus 20 when God shook the entire mountain after giving the 10 Commandments. I saw seven lamps blazing and what looked like a sea of glass before the throne. Then I saw 24 other thrones, with 24 elders seated on them and then strange-looking six-winged creatures with a bunch of eyes appeared. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Did you know that the first and last songs of the Bible exalt God’s holiness? (See Exodus 15:11 and Revelation 15:4). Every time they would repeat this phrase the 24 elders would fall down in worship and cast their crowns before the throne. I had never encountered this kind of worship before. They burst out in praise proclaiming: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
When I looked more closely I saw in God’s right hand a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And then I heard a mighty angel proclaim in a very loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” His thunderous voice reverberated everywhere in heaven and on earth and even under the earth. But I looked around and no one stepped forward. There was no one qualified to do so in the entire universe – no powerful angels, no presidents or politicians or prime ministers or philosophers or pastors. His search was met with silence. What a terrible feeling! I broke down and wept and wept. I’m usually pretty reserved – not like impetuous Peter who cried all the time. But I couldn’t stop the tears. In fact, I lamented loudly. My whole body was shaking because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.