Lesson 4 *January 19-25
Read for This Week’s Study: Revelation 4, Ezek. 1:5-14, Revelation 5, Eph. 1:20-23, Heb. 10:12, Acts 2:32-36.
Memory Text: “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5, NKJV).
Last week, we looked at Christ’s messages to His people on earth. Now John’s vision shifts from earth to heaven and focuses on the “things which must take place after this” (Rev. 4:1, NKJV) - the future.
The vision of chapters 4 and 5 takes places in heaven’s throne room. The scene of chapters 4 and 5 symbolically portrays God’s control of history and of the plan of salvation. Before the future is revealed, however, we are shown the centrality of Christ’s high-priestly ministry in heaven to His sovereignty over the affairs of the earth and to His redemption of the human race. In such a way, chapters 4 and 5 provide Heaven’s perspective on the meaning of future events recorded in the rest of the book.
One also may notice that while the messages to the seven churches were written in somewhat straightforward language, from now on the book employs even more symbolic language that is not always easy to interpret. This language is taken from the history of God’s people, as recorded in the Old Testament. A correct interpretation of Revelation requires a proper understanding of its symbolic language in light of the Old Testament.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 26.
Sunday ↥ January 20
Starting in Revelation 4:1, Jesus invites John to come up to heaven to be shown a panoramic survey of history from his time until Christ’s return.
Revelation 4:1-8, Ezekiel 1:26-28, and Revelation 5:11-14 describe heaven’s throne room. What do these verses teach us about the nature of the heavenly throne room?
The apostle looked through the open door into the heavenly temple and at the throne of God. The throne symbolizes God’s rule and governing authority over creation, while the rainbow around the throne signifies God’s faithfulness to His promises (Gen. 9:13-16; Isa. 54:9-10). However, Satan, who usurped the dominion of this earth and is God’s adversary, has disputed divine authority. The central issue in the great controversy between God and Satan is about who has the right to rule. The purpose of the heavenly council that John saw gathered in the heavenly throne room was to affirm God’s rightful rule over the universe (Rev. 4:1-8, Rev. 5:11-14).
Read Revelation 4:8-11 and Revelation 5:9-14. What can you learn about true worship in these passages? In chapter 4, why is the Lord God worthy of being worshiped, and, in Revelation 5:9-14, why is the Lamb worthy?
Revelation 4 gives a general description of the throne room in the heavenly temple and of the worship that repeatedly takes place there. While the worship in chapter 4 praises God’s creative power, chapter 5 celebrates the redemption provided by the slain Lamb. These chapters show that true worship recounts and celebrates God’s mighty acts of Creation and Redemption. God, who created the world in six days, has the power and ability also to restore the world to its original condition and to turn it into the eternal home for His people, all of which He has promised to do.
Think about what the gospel teaches: the One who created not just us and our world, but the entire cosmos, also was the “Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12, NKJV) for us. What amazing hope does this teaching present amid a world full of pain and turmoil?
Monday ↥ January 21
The description of the elders in Revelation 4:4 shows that they are not angelic beings. The title “elders” in the Bible always is used for humans. In contrast to angels, who invariably stand in God’s presence, these elders sit on thrones. The white robes they wear are the attire of God’s faithful people (Rev. 3:4-5). The victory crowns (from Greek ‘qustephanos’, Rev, 4:4) on their heads are reserved exclusively for the victorious saints (James 1:12). All of these details suggest that the 24 elders are glorified saints.
The number 24 is symbolic: it consists of two sets of 12, the number 12 in the Bible being a symbol of God’s people. The 24 elders could represent God’s people in their totality, from both the Old and New Testament times. The number 24 also mirrors the chiefs of the 24 divisions of priests who took turns serving in the earthly temple services (1 Chron. 24:1-19).
The fact that the 24 elders were never mentioned before in the Bible implies that they are a new group in the heavenly throne room. They perhaps are the ones who were raised from the dead at the time of Jesus’ death (Matt. 27:51-53).
If so, these 24 elders who ascended to heaven with Jesus become representatives of humanity, to witness the fairness in God’s actions in the realization of the plan of salvation. In Revelation 5:9, the 24 elders, along with the four living creatures (vs. 8), fall down in worship before the Lamb who was slain and yet lives. Together, they sing a new song, extolling the Lamb as the One who is worthy, because: “You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:8-10, NKJV).
Revelation 4:6-8 also mentions the four living creatures, or beings. Compare their description with the four living beings in Ezekiel 1:5-14 and Ezekiel 10:20-22 and with the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2-3.
The four living creatures are symbolize the exalted beings who serve God as His agents and the guardians of His throne (Ps. 99:1). Their wings point symbolically to their swiftness in carrying out God’s orders, and their eyes point to their intelligence. Their presence, together with the 24 elders and the myriad of angels around the throne (Rev. 5:11), shows that both heaven and earth are represented in the throne room.
Tuesday ↥ January 22
Read Revelation 5:1-4. In light of Isaiah 29:11-12, what is the meaning of the sealed scroll, and why did John weep?
The Greek text indicates that the scroll was lying on the throne at the right hand of the Father. It waited for the One who was worthy to take it and “to loose its seals” (Rev. 5:2, NKJV).
In the words of Ellen G. White, the sealed scroll contains “the history of God’s providences, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Herein was contained the divine utterances, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the Eternal, and the history of all ruling powers in the nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue, and people from the beginning of earth’s history to its close”. - Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, p. 7.
In short, the sealed scroll contains the mystery of God regarding His plans to solve the sin problem and save fallen human beings. The full realization of that mystery will occur at the second coming of Christ (Rev. 10:7).
Read Revelation 5:5-7. Why is Christ the only One in the whole universe worthy to take the sealed scroll and unseal it?
The crisis in the throne room is related to Satan’s rebellion. This planet, although created by God, has been under the dominion of the usurper, Satan. John’s tears expressed the longing of God’s people, since Adam, for salvation from the bondage of sin. The sealed scroll comprised God’s plan for resolving the sin problem. No doubt with His immeasurable power God Himself could realize that plan. However, the redemption of the fallen human race required something special, and that was Jesus, who did “overcome” and thus was worthy to open the book, to assume the lordship over this earth, and become our Mediator in the heavenly sanctuary.
How do we learn to keep Jesus first and foremost in our Christian experience?
Wednesday ↥ January 23
Read Revelation 5:8-14 along with Ephesians 1:20-23 and Hebrews 10:12. Together, what are they saying that should give us great hope and comfort amid a world that, of itself, offers so little of either?
As Christ the Lamb approaches the throne, He takes the scroll. This act shows that all authority and sovereignty belong to Him (see Matt. 28:18, Eph. 1:20-22). At that moment, the whole universe acknowledges Christ’s rightful rule over earth. What was lost with Adam has been regained with Christ.
When Christ takes the scroll, it shows He holds the destiny of all humanity in His hands. The four living creatures and the 24 elders fall down before Him and worship, as they did in Revelation 5:9: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain” (NKJV). By this act of adoration, the exalted angels and the representatives of redeemed humanity affirm Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of humanity. With His blood, He has paid the ransom for fallen human beings and offers them all the hope of redemption and the promise of a future we barely can imagine.
The four living creatures and the elders are now joined by the countless number of the angelic host surrounding the throne and directing praises to the Lamb that had been slain and now “lives to make intercession” for the fallen race (Heb. 7:25, NKJV). In unison, the occupants of the throne room exclaim with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12, NKJV).
At this point all creation in heaven and on earth join together in offering royal adoration both to the Father and Christ: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13, NKJV). Their praise is met with an “Amen” by the four living creatures and the prostration of the 24 elders, thus concluding this rapturous veneration in the heavenly throne room.
Physicists speculate that one day the universe will burn out, collapse in on itself, or just rip apart. What a contrast to the future presented in the Word of God! How can we start rejoicing, even now, in the future that awaits us?
Thursday ↥ January 24
In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4 confirms one of the most decisive events in the history of the plan of salvation: the inauguration of Christ into His post-Calvary ministry as High Priest and King in the heavenly sanctuary (see also Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:33). Through His high-priestly ministry at the right hand of the Father (Rev. 5:6-7), Christ is able to carry out the plan of salvation to its ultimate realization. As our Mediator in the heavenly sanctuary, Jesus works to save us. Through Him, believers may have free access to God and receive forgiveness for their sins.
Read Acts 2:32-36 along with John 7:39. What hope and encouragement do you find in the fact that Jesus stands in heaven as our Priest and King?
The exaltation of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary was followed by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Revelation 5:6 mentions the seven Spirits that are “sent out into all the earth” (NKJV). As we saw in an earlier lesson, the seven Spirits denote the fullness of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world. At Christ’s enthronement the Spirit is sent to the church. This sending of the Holy Spirit is one of Christ’s first acts as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit meant that Jesus had appeared before the Father and that God had accepted His sacrifice on behalf of humanity.
“Christ’s ascension to heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised blessing. … When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise, He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people”. - Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 38, 39.
Read Hebrews 4:16 and Hebrews 8:1. What hope and encouragement do you find in the assurance that Jesus as Priest and King, has received all authority in heaven and on earth? How does believing this truth help you deal with everyday situations in your life and with the uncertainty of the future?
Friday ↥ January 25
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “To My Father, and Your Father,” pp. 829-835, in The Desire of Ages; “The Gift of the Spirit”, pp. 47-56, in The Acts of the Apostles.
The message of Revelation 4 and 5 is particularly important to the people of God living at the close of earth’s history. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marked the beginning of the preaching of the gospel to all the world; the central message was about Jesus, who had been exalted as Priest and King at the right hand of the Father. This truth about Jesus was the heart of the early Christians’ belief (Heb. 8:1) and the cornerstone of their preaching (Acts 2:32-33; Acts 5:30-31). It also was their motivation and the source of their faith and courage in the face of persecution and difficult life situations (Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34). As a result, many people responded to their preaching. From that time on, the kingdom of God manifested itself, and keeps on doing so, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We never must forget that it is only the good news of salvation in Christ that can reach and transform human hearts and lead people to respond to the call of the eternal gospel to fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him (Rev. 14:7). Our only hope is in our Savior, who is our Priest and King in the heavenly sanctuary. He is with His people, and He always will be with them until the very end (Matt. 28:20). He holds the future in His hands.
Let us, therefore, never forget that keeping the essence of the gospel in mind will bring full success in preaching the final message to lost and suffering humankind. Nothing else we preach is more important than the Cross and what it teaches us about God.
One of the most perplexing questions that people ask is how to choose the right spouse.
For Mario Brito, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, it was simple: He asked God two seemingly impossible things.
Mario remembered Maria while praying for a mission-minded wife as a third-year theology student at the Adventist University of France in Collonges, France. The two had met the previous year as students at the Spanish Adventist Seminary (now Spanish Adventist College) in Sagunto, Spain.
Mario had the strong impression that Maria might be the one. But he wasn’t completely certain, so he prayed, “God, if You see that Maria should be my wife, put it in her heart to write me a letter.”
This an impossible request at a time when women never took the initiative in a dating relationship.
To Mario’s surprise, he received a friendly letter about a week later. He wrote a warm letter to Maria and made the second impossible prayer request.
“Lord, the normal thing would be for Maria to answer”, he said. “But if she is to be my wife, make it happen in such a way that she doesn’t answer.”
Weeks passed, and no letter came. The two didn’t communicate again until the next school year when Maria moved to the Adventist University of France for her third year of studies. Soon, Mario and Maria were dating.
One day, Mario curiously asked Maria why she hadn’t replied.
“I felt it was a cold and very formal letter, so I decided not to answer”, she said.
Mario couldn’t believe her description and asked whether she still had the letter. Maria retrieved the letter from her room, and the couple read it together. It was as warm as Mario remembered.
“What was wrong with it so you didn’t answer?” Mario asked again.
Maria didn’t know what to say. Mario then told her about his two prayers.
Maria smiled. “Now you have the explanation!” she said.
The couple married the next year.
Thirty-nine years later, Mario remains confident that he chose the right wife. The couple served as frontline missionaries planting churches in unreached areas of Portugal for more than a decade. Mario went on to become president of the Adventist Church in Portugal and, in 2015, he was elected president of the Inter-European Division.
Mario and Maria’s home is also a mission field. They raised a daughter, who is married to an Adventist pastor, and are the adoptive parents of 12 teenagers.
“Maria has a heart for mission”, Mario said. “Yes, I believe it was the right match.”
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org
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