God is Sovereign: Comforting or Terrifying?

Have you ever felt confused while reading a passage that was meant to be comforting? You are not alone! This is often the case with the book of Revelation.

In Revelation 4-5, there are two challenges that emerge. The first potentially confusing piece is who is on the throne. In chapter 4, it is clearly God who is seated on the throne. Yet in chapter 5, the Lamb is on the throne. So which is it? It is both and this can only mean one thing. The Lamb is God.

A second challenge in the passage is that the Lamb is in the center of the throne and in the midst of the elders. Again, he is fully identified with both because he is both God and man! He has come as a man to defeat sin, evil, and the beast through his own suffering and death so that he might lead his people through the cherubim into the presence of God. So why does this matter? Here are two comforting truths that begin to emerge.

The Lamb is Sovereign

The Lamb is in absolute control (vv. 4:2, 5:1), yet his control is unique. It is not the control of a detached, dispassionate deity. Christians are not Deists who view God as an impersonal clockmaker that winds the clock and leaves it to run on its own. This is exactly the opposite of what the passage teaches. The Lamb is on the throne as both God and human. He understands our plight because he has experienced it. Take comfort in this! The God of Scripture is not an impersonal, detached force that mechanically governs your life. He is a God of love who is with you in the midst of your struggles.

The Lamb has Suffered

As if identifying himself was not enough, it gets even better in verses 6, 9 and 12. Each of these verses describes a Lamb who was slain. One of the primal screams of humanity has to do with the existence of suffering and evil in the world. “Why doesn’t God do something?” Revelation 5 informs us he has! We see a mighty Lion who became a lamb. One who at his own expense, came to do battle with evil and suffering. You find nothing like this in other world religions - a God who suffers! Because of this, we do not suffer alone, nor do we suffer without hope because we know that one day it will be over. Isaiah 53 says, “…he was despised and rejected and acquainted with suffering.” Our suffering is swallowed up and made bearable in his suffering and his promised healing.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (5:12)

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.