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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.

Lion or Lamb: Which Do You Need?

Have you ever considered reading the book of Revelation when you needed some encouragement? Most people avoid this book altogether due to the rich but confusing symbols. I confess, the symbolism can be confusing but once understood, Revelation becomes a very practical comfort in the midst of daily life.

One of the reasons John wrote Revelation was to comfort and encourage Christians throughout the ages that were undergoing hardship. Particularly, John had in mind his contemporaries who were experiencing persecution for claiming to be Christians. The book is relevant for all, both corporately and individually. Recently, I had the opportunity to preach on Revelation 4-5. The minister of the congregation matched this quote from Jonathan Edwards to compliment my sermon that morning.

If you…come to Christ, he will appear as a Lion, in his glorious power and dominion, to defend you. All those excellencies of his, in which he appears as a lion, shall be yours, and shall be employed for you in your defense, for your safety, and to promote your glory; he will be as a lion to fight against your enemies. He that touches you, or offends you, will provoke his wrath, as he that stirs up a lion. Unless your enemies can conquer this Lion, they shall not be able to destroy or hurt you. Unless they are stronger than he, they shall not be able to hinder your happiness.

Now this is encouraging! You can locate the image of a Lion in Revelation 4-5. As you begin reading chapter 4, John passes through a door into the very throne room where God is seated. The one sitting on the throne defies description because he is so awesome. You begin to get more detail as you read chapter 5, especially 5:5-7.

5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

At first, John weeps because there is no one worthy to open the scroll. At this point, one of the elders tells him there is one who is worthy. It is the Lion upon the throne who can open the scroll because he has the moral purity and right to do so. The scroll that John sees represents all of human history. Unless the scroll can be opened, the events of human history will not unfold with God’s plan to send a Savior. Then John’s eyes shift back to the throne, but it is not a lion that he sees.

6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…..7 He came and took the scroll…

So which is it? Is the one on the throne a Lion or a Lamb? Thankfully for us, he is both. The Lion became a Lamb to sacrifice his life for sinners and sufferers so that they might be rescued from themselves and ultimately from every bad thing in the universe.

The Lion is for you, but only if you bow before him as the Lamb of God who takes away your sins. If you admit your need of his saving mercies, you get both Lamb and Lion who love you and protect you even through death.

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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.