A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on April 18, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Getting Ready to Take on the World… …with Songs of Praise on Our LipsRevelation 5:1-14Here’s a picture of the earth taken from the moon.  It looks so peaceful.  But looks can be deceiving.  We’re living here, and we know what’s going on, and sometimes it seems the more we know, the more out of control things feel.  At such times we need to step back and see the big picture and how everything fits together.  The Book of Revelation does that.  From the vantage point of eternity, Revelation shows us the future here and everything Jesus is doing to make that future happen.  The chapter before us even shows us a hymn the saints in heaven are singing, a hymn we can have in our hearts too, as we get ready to take on the world.  In verse one of this hymn, we praise Christ for what He has done.  In verse two we praise Him for who He is.   Often songs are more meaningful when we know the context.  In first century AD Christians were very nervous for the future.  Rome was doing everything she could to stamp out Christianity.  Also, already then there were plenty of false teachers who were subverting the Gospel from within the Church.  On top of all that, Christians also had to deal with wars and economic upheavals and diseases, just like everyone else.  Nevertheless, God didn’t want His people to be afraid, and so in our text He tells them about a book in heaven that the future written in it.  Wouldn’t that be interesting reading, especially when you’re picking out your stocks?   Beginning this morning throughout the rest of this sermon series, God is going to let us peek into future.      Please follow along at verses 1-5.  A couple of things here, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David are Old Testament names for the Savior.  No creature or angel or demon can know the future.  Only God knows the future and those to whom He reveals it.  Another point of interpretation has to do with the number seven.  Throughout the Bible God uses the number seven to symbolize His gracious dealing with man.  And so, here there are seven seals sealing up the future.  Or to put it another way, just as the past or the word history comes from two words – His Story, so the present and the future is all about God’s love for sinners.  But why do you suppose God choose the number 7 to symbolize this?  Well, God is Triune; three.  The number for the earth is always four because of north and south, east and west.  And so, 3 plus 4 equals 7.  The whole world is subject to the gracious rule of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Just one more thing – in Bible times if you wanted to really emphasize something, you’d say it three times.  If you wanted to really emphasize God’s grace in a symbolic way, the number you’d use is 777.  Satan pretends to be looking out for man’s welfare.  But his ways always come up short.  So, what’s the number for Satan and his trying to deceive people?  666.   Let’s read the next section, verses 6-9.  We know from the Book of Ezekiel that the four living creatures are a kind of angel called cherubim.  They and 24 elders surround the Lamb.  12 of these elders represent the 12 tribes of Israel, or Old Testament believers.  The other 12 represent the 12 apostles and New Testament believers.  In heaven, then, there are angels and all believers since the beginning of the world.  Now, this description of Jesus with seven horns and seven eyes at first may seem a little weird or even scary.  But horns were symbolic of power, and so 7 horns represent the Lamb’s omnipotent power.  The 7 eyes symbolize the Lamb’s omniscience, which He is using as He hears and answers our prayers.  Incidentally verse 8, where it says the elders are holding the golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints - that’s not suggesting we should be praying to Peter and Paul and so forth, who in turn carry our prayers to Jesus.  This would contradict the rest of the Bible.  Nevertheless the saints in heaven are still praying, and I suspect one of the prayers they’re praying is one we pray too – that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Also the saints in heaven are singing.   Let’s now read the lyrics of what the saints in heaven are singing.  We read verses 9-10.  For whom was Jesus slain?  Notice, the 4 words are used for describing the world – every tribe, language, people, and nation.  That includes us!  The Lamb was slain to make all of us priests, in the sense that we are worthy to stand in the presence of God, because by His death we are acquitted of our sins and covered with the robes of His own righteousness.   However, when do we start standing in God’s presence?  Not just when we die!  Even now we are priests.  Even now God is listening to our prayers, just as He’s listening to the prayers of the saints in heaven, and just as He’s listening to the prayers of our brother, Jesus.  May this truth encourage you day by day, as you take on the world! In addition to being made priests before God, the Lamb has also made us kings to rule with Him starting now.  For example, by speaking His Law we expose sin and guide others in what’s right or wrong.  We’re also ruling with Jesus when through our work and our prayers we take care of others or we chip away at the sinful direction that our society is going.  And finally we are ruling with Jesus when we tell people that their sins are forgiven, because of all that the Lamb has done for them.    I can’t emphasize this enough.  Sometimes we may feel that our life isn’t going anywhere or lacks purpose.  That’s not true!  Saints in heaven are praising the Lamb not only for saving them, and for all He accomplished through them during their lifetime.  Have faith that in heaven we’ll be singing that same song for the same reasons, except we don’t have to wait till we’re in heaven to start singing this song.  Let’s praise Him now, as we get ready to take on the world.  In fact, let’s take a little break from the Revelation and envision ourselves standing before the lamb and singing this hymn verse, that we many of us already know. All praise and thanks to God The Father now be given,The Son, and him who reigns With them in highest heaven,The one eternal God, Whom earth and heav'n adore!For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore.  CW #610 Singing about what Jesus has done for us and is accomplishing through us lifts us up.  The second verse of what we’ll be singing in heaven is even more uplifting.  We read verses 11 and 12.   In this heavenly song to Jesus, can you guess how many accolades we’ll give Him?  Seven, the number again for God’s gracious dealings with man.  Here they are.The Lamb had set aside all His divine attributes to become our true brother.  But now having saved us, He is worthy to receive back from the Father the full use of His divinity.  And so, Jesus now possesses all power or authority in heaven and on earth.  There is nothing that is not under His ruling!  All wealth belongs to Jesus too.  No matter what our bank balance may look like, Jesus is seeing to it that we always have all the resources we need to take care of our physical needs and do whatever work He has given us to do.  Also, Jesus has all wisdom as day by day He turns the future into the present.  In addition He has the strength to carry out all His plans for the sake of His Church, which is us.   The last three words are quite similar in meaning.  In exchange for the shame and dishonor He endured on the cross, He has received honor and glory.  If there is a difference between honor and glory, honor is about the reverence we all owe Him because of who He is, and glory refers to the credit He deserves because of what He did.  The last word praise can also be translated blessing.   In first century AD believers often began their prayers with the phrase, “Blessed are you, O Lord, King of the Universe…”  By ending this hymn with the Greek word for blessing, all the saints are proclaiming that Lamb is in fact the Creator, the King of the universe.     And now, what do you think it going to feel like when we sing this in heaven.  Let’s read the last section (verses 13-14).  Notice, here that now four words used to praised God.  We might be a little flock, we might belong to a little Synod.  But four words are used to praise God, because the day is coming when the four corners of the world will be filled with His glory, and when we see that, it’s going to be pure joy for us.  However, we don’t have to wait for the new earth in the new universe to begin experiencing that joy.  For example, suppose we’re having a Job kind of day.   Instead of focusing on the bad, or instead of saying that others have it worse, focus on Jesus.  That’s what Paul Gerhardt did.  Paul Gerhardt wrote our opening hymn this morning, Awake, My Heart, with Gladness. Actually, at the time Mr. Gerhardt didn’t have a lot to be glad about – humanly speaking.  Soldiers had burned down his home and his church.  Right after that an epidemic killed 300 in his little village.  Then his wife and four children died.  Yet looking at his life from the vantage point of heaven, here’s another hymn he wrote.  Let’s join him now in singing it.    No danger, thirst, or hunger, No pain or poverty,No earthly tyrant's anger Shall ever vanquish me.Though earth should break asunder, You are my Savior true;No fire or sword or thunder Shall sever me from you. My heart for joy is springing And can no more be sad,'Tis full of joy and singing, Sees only sunshine glad.The sun that cheers my spirit Is Jesus Christ, my King;The heav'n I shall inherit Makes me rejoice and sing. CW #419 Satan through the world did a very good job of taking on Mr. Gerhardt.  Mr. Gerhardt on the other hand through music did an even better job of taking of the world.  And who won?  Mr. Gerhardt did.  And so will we!  We will win, because as we heard last week, our Risen Savior is with us.  Only let’s hold in our hearts all that our Savior has done for us and who He is, until we will praise Him together will all saints and angels before His throne.  Amen.   

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