Take Heart!

Reading in Revelation this morning. Of John . . . in heaven . . . by the transport of the Spirit . . . weeping aloud. You don’t equate heaven with crying very much. But John weeps because heaven comes to a stop as a mighty angel with a loud voice asks a question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” (Rev. 5:2) And heaven pauses . . . and looks around . . . and “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it” (5:3). And in that hush . . . in that moment of divine silence . . . panic sets in . . . John’s brain does not compute. No one worthy to bring the church to final victory? No one suitable or deserving of fulfilling the hope of the ages? John weeps.

And then He appears. A Lamb amidst the throne . . . as though it had been slain yet shining forth in glory and power . . . identified as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. Worthy to take the scroll . . . worthy of all heaven’s homage as those who had bowed and worshiped before the throne now fall before Him. Worthy, because He has “conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals” (5:5).

Before coming to this awe invoking scene I had been reading another of John’s writings, his gospel. Reading some of Jesus’ last words to His own before He would suffer on a cross . . . and be raised from the dead . . . and be taken back into heaven. And in those words was this promise . . .

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  —  Jesus     (John 16:33 ESV)

Take heart . . . I have overcome the world.

The promise echoes beyond the chaos His disciples would experience that next day. The promise reverberates long after they witnessed the empty tomb and encountered the risen Christ. Pulsing beyond His ascension . . . and the price they would eventually pay for their witness to a world at war with its Creator. The flow of the promise pouring into a vast congregation throughout history who have known the reality of tribulation in this world and yet, a peace that passes understanding. Having taken heart . . . having been of good cheer . . . having been strengthened by divine comfort . . . because He has conquered.

I’m thinking that sometimes we experience on earth what John, in his vision, experienced in heaven. An apparently unsolvable question . . . a momentary pause of panic as we think, “What now?” Hearing the silence, we don’t know what to think . . . or what to do . . . save weep. It is then (for how many has this been the experience?) . . . it is then that He emerges from the confusion . . . that He shows Himself anew as the Lion . . . reveals Himself afresh as the King . . . reminds us again that He is the Lamb who has conquered . . . and our souls are flooded with an inexplicable calm. Nothing’s changed, except our focus . . . nothing’s different, but the Conqueror in our midst.

Able to take the scroll and, with might, to wrap up the age . . . but willing also, as He sympathizes with our weakness, to bear us up through the next few minutes . . . to draw near through the next few days or weeks or months . . . to whisper in our ears through His Spirit, “Take heart! I have overcome!”

And because He has overcome . . . because He has conquered . . . because the One who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, is indeed is interceding for us . . . “in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:34-37).

To Him be all glory!

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:13-14 ESV)

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