by Roger McCay
18 July 2021
Sermon Passage: Revelation 4:1-6
Link to Audio Version
A recent Gallup Poll indicates that only 12% of Americans have confidence in the U.S. Congress. Twelve-percent. And from what I’ve seen and read, such low confidence when it comes to politicians is generally consistent in America, these days.
It doesn’t help their case, and it is a simple thing to dig around for examples on the internet, when the political rulers in America blatantly lie about things, calling lies truth, spinning things in deceitful ways in order to prop up their own agendas, power, and positions rather than own-up and acknowledge the actual truth of reality, while working towards the good of American citizens. And it doesn’t help their case when they do stupid political stunts, like shirk their duties and seek to undermine the very system they are sworn to serve, like those elected representatives who recently fled Texas in order to halt the workings of democracy in their state.
Rulers or politicians who are terrible, in a bad way, are not a new thing, by any means. But we should always keep in mind that not all politicians are self-serving liars. There are certainly some honorable politicians, who work for the benefit of the people diligently, and with integrity. There are Christian politicians who work for the glory of God, knowingly under the authority of God. We should not overlook these faithful men and women who serve in the government sphere.
A number of years ago, a retired general officer reminded me of this fact, while I was attending an ethics training conference, at West-Point. The West Point code of conduct states that “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” And this code carries its way through the services, generally held by soldiers and officers. In the course of the ethics discussions we were having, I posed the question as to why we in the military are held to such a high standard, when the politicians are not—evidenced by their regular lies, seemingly without consequence. Well, this retired general, who was leading the discussion at the time, reminded me that not all of them are that way, giving some anecdotals of honest politicians she knew. Her point was well made.
But my point was not wrong, only brushed aside, unanswered. And, apparently, most Americans agree. The same Gallup poll, which reports that only 12% of Americans have confidence in the U.S. Congress, also reports they have a 69% confidence rate in the American military.
As it is, and the Bible and history support this observation, human rulers are often terrible, in a bad way. In the mid-60s AD, when Revelation was written, the Christians of the seven churches in Asia were painfully feeling the truth of this reality in a rather extreme sense. The emperor, at the time, was Nero, the madman known as a “beast,” and he was vigorously persecuting Christians in the empire. The Romans held power with an iron grip and were ruthless in maintaining it. The apostle John, himself, had been banished to a prison island—Patmos. And this was around the time that the emperor had both Peter and Paul executed. From a human point of view, in contrast, it might have seemed like the fledgling church, insignificant in power, was to soon be crushed.
But, as we launch into ch. 4 of Revelation, and as the book continues, we are shown that such was not the case at all. Indeed, we are immediately faced with the very throne and throne-room of the Lord God, in heaven. It is an extremely powerful image, which, by contrast, makes all the glory of Caesar seem less than an insignificant shadow. John paints a picture of the eternal throne of the Creator, Sustainer and Ruler over all creation, the entire universe, over all that is visible and invisible, over earth and heaven, over all nations and peoples, over all who inhabit the heavenly realities, and over all events of history (past, present and future). It is the throne of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the King of the Kingdom of God, who is the Lord and Savior of the Christians. And while Caesar is long dust, his throne rubble, and his kingdom gone, the Lord God Almighty continues to reign with all power in perfect glory. Earthly rulers take note.
In v. 1 John tells us:
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
Rev. 4:1 marks the beginning of a new aspect of the Lord’s revelation to John, but what follows is not separate from what has already been revealed. As we see, themes and structures set in place in chs. 1-3 of this epistle continue and are repeated, expounded upon, and illustrated with Apocalyptic imagery, as the prophecy cycles on.