Revelation 5:9

Sermon preached on August 5, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

About a year ago I read a blog on CNN's web site that was entitled, "My Take: Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing" by Carl Medearis, a supposed international expert in Muslim-Christian relations. I was shocked by some of the things he said. For example, he said,

"What if evangelicals today, instead of focusing on 'evangelizing' and 'converting' people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?Funny thing is, Jesus never said, 'Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.' What he said was, 'Go and make disciples of all nations.'"

From the article I gathered that Medearis had started out as a Christian missionary, trying to convert people to Christianity, but has since decided that people can be followers of Jesus and yet remain Muslim, Hindu or whatever. He said,

"When I lived in Lebanon I saw firsthand how destructive an obsession with religious identity could be.""Encouraging anyone and everyone to become an apprentice of Jesus, without manipulation, is a more open, dynamic and relational way of helping people who want to become more like Jesus — regardless of their religious identity." "Based on my experiences of living and traveling around the world, I know that religion is often an identity marker that determines people's access to jobs, resources, civil liberties and political power.

So it seems that he believes that we should tell people about Jesus and encourage them to become followers of Jesus—and yet they can remain within the pale of Islam.

That was the first I heard of what is called the "Insider Movement". It's a movement that seeks to make people disciples of Jesus in a unique way. They do not invite Muslims to become Christians, to come out of Islam. Rather, they ask Muslims to follow Jesus while remaining Muslim. They tell them that they can be a follower of Jesus and still participate in Islamic religious practices such as prayer in mosques, reading the Qur'an, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. They think that if someone lives in a Muslim culture they can and should adapt their following of Jesus to that culture. They say that you don't have to be a Christian to be a follower of Jesus. Indeed, you don't have to adopt certain practices of worship. You can go to the Mosque, call Allah God, affirm that Mohammed is his prophet, and pray facing Mecca several times a day and still be a follower of Jesus.

To this end, the Insider Movement has told us that we need to translate the Bible differently for Muslims. They want to translate the Bible so that it doesn't refer to Jesus as the 'Son of God'. They tell us that that would be offensive to Muslims and unnecessarily hinder them from following Jesus.

Is that a good approach? Can one be a follower of Jesus and yet remain a member of whatever religion they currently follow involved in its practices and customs?

The scenes of heavenly worship in Revelation 4 & 5 can help us here, for they not only show us what true worship is like, they show us what true worship must be like.

The first thing we should notice about the heavenly worship here is that

it is Trinitarian worship.

In chapter 5 the focus of worship is on the Lamb. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sang a new song and said, (verses 9-10)

"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased
men for God from every tribe
and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

When they sing that song a great host of angels reply and say, (verse 12)

"Worthy is the Lamb,
who was slain,
to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength and
honor and glory and praise!"

In response every creature in heaven and on earth say, (verse 13)

"To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb be praise
and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"

So Jesus, the Lamb, is worshiped in chapter 5. God the Father is also worshiped.

The worship in chapter 4 is focused on God in general, for His attributes and His work of creation. Although the Spirit is not specifically singled out in any of the worship passages, it is noteworthy that the Spirit is present. In 4:2 we see that John was 'in the Spirit' when he had this vision. In verse 5 of chapter 4 John said that before the throne were seven lamps blazing and that those lamps were the seven spirits of God. In the New Testament He is referred to the 'Holy Spirit' 91 times. In verse 8 of chapter 4 God is praised for His holiness. It is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit would be excluded as a recipient of that praise.

But even more importantly—some other passages of Scripture makes it obvious that He is included in the worship in chapter 4. He was (and is) involved in the works that God is praised for. For example, in verse 11 of chapter 4 God is praised as being worthy to receive glory and honor and power because,

"you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

We know from Genesis 1:2 that the Spirit was involved in creation, in that He hovered over the waters. Wayne Grudem says that this indicates, (Systematic Theology, p. 267)

"a preserving, sustaining, governing function."

In Job 33:4 Job said,

"The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life."

Psalm 104:30 attributes creation to the Spirit. It says,

"When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth."

So the worship of verse 11, praising God for His creation—involves worshiping the Spirit.

In 5:9 Jesus is worshipped because He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people. The song continues with these words, (verse 10)

"You have made them to be
a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

Jesus redeemed us by His work on our behalf. Yet it is the Spirit who applies that work to us. The Spirit opens our eyes to Christ. (John 16:14) The Spirit gives us life. (2 Corinthians 3:6) The Spirit gives us faith. (John 3:5-6) Jesus said to Nicodemus,

"I tell you the truth,
no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Flesh gives birth to flesh,
but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

The Spirit sanctifies us. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the apostle Paul wrote,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

Indeed, here and in the verse before it, (verse 17) Jesus and the Spirit are equated—in terms of their work. The Lord is Spirit. They are so closely aligned that their work that informed praise for the works necessarily involves praising both. So when the four living creatures and 24 elders are praising Christ in Revelation 5:10—they are also praising the Spirit.

What this means for you is that

your worship should be Trinitarian.

Creation and redemption come from the triune God. The Father sent the Son. The Son took our nature upon Himself. He kept the law perfectly and suffered and died for our sins. But we must remember that at Jesus' baptism the Spirit came upon Him. The Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted. He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. By the Spirit He cast out demons. Hebrews 9:14 says that Christ,

"who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself unblemished to God…"

In addition to that the Spirit applies God's salvation to us.

So when we gather for worship, it's important that we worship all three persons of the Trinity. All three must be the object of our praise.

The second thing we see from our text is that

our worship of God is to be exclusive.

Only the true God is worshiped. The 24 elders don't worship the four living creatures. They are focused on God and Him alone. Later in Revelation we see that John twice bowed down to worship the angel who was showing him these glorious things. But the angel refused to let him.

John bowed down to worship the angel later in Revelation, the angel said, (Revelation 19:10)

"Do not do it!
I am a fellow servant with you
and with your brothers
who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Worship God!
For the testimony of Jesus
is the spirit of prophecy."

So you can't worship God and Allah too.

But someone will say,

"But they're just different names for the same God. They call God Allah and we call God Yahweh. It's just a different name for the same God."

No, it's not. The God we worship is Trinitarian. There is one God but there are 3 persons in the God-head—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The God we worship is a personal God.

The god that Muslims refer to as Allah isn't three in one. The Koran denies the Trinity. It denies the deity of Jesus. Muslim teaching holds that the worship of Jesus is blasphemy.

If someone is going to remain a Muslim, he has to deny the deity of Jesus. He has to deny the Trinity. He has to refuse to worship Jesus, at least openly.

Allah is a different God. It's not another name for the true God. One of the five pillars of Islam is that,

"There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is the messenger of Allah."

Now what about you?

Of course you're not involved in the Insider Movement. But are you mixing your affections? In Matthew 6:24 Jesus told us that no one can serve two masters. He said, (Matthew 6:24)

"Either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and Money."

No other love is allowed to compete with your love for Him. As Jesus said in Luke 14:26

"If anyone comes to me
and does not hate his father and mother,
his wife and children,
his brothers and sisters—yes,
even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

What are you loving about this world that you are putting ahead of, or alongside of your devotion to Christ? Is it your family, your job, your pleasures?

The third thing we see from our text is that

our worship of God consists of total devotion to Him.

The heavenly host was totally devoted to God. God is everything to them. Their whole existence is devoted to giving God glory, honor and praise—for who He is, for what He has done, and what He will do.

Can one be a follower of Jesus and yet remain a member of whatever religion they currently follow involved in its practices and customs? Or to put it another way, can people remain involved in idolatry and still be considered a follower of Jesus?

No. There is one place in the book of John that says that certain people believed in Jesus and yet they would not confess Him. In John 12:42–43 we read,

"Yet at the same time many
even among the leaders believed in him.
But because of the Pharisees
they would not confess their faith
for fear they would be
put out of the synagogue;
for they loved praise from men
more than praise from God."

It's questionable whether they had true faith—many commentators doubt it. These could have been like the seed in the Parable of the Sower that fell on rocky soil.

How much are you to love Jesus? Jesus demands our total devotion. You can't be friends with the world and friends with Christ. (James 4:4) We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to love Him so much that we would be willing to give up our lives for Him. Jesus said, (Matthew 10:39)

"Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life
for my sake will find it."

In Luke 12:4–5 Jesus said,

"I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those
who kill the body and after that
can do no more.
But I will show you whom you should fear:
Fear him who,
after the killing of the body,
has power to throw you into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear him."

What this means for you is that

you are to live your faith openly, unashamedly—worshiping and praising God in everything you do.

In a certain sense all of life is worship. Of course we are not to confuse this with the public worship of God—but the point is that to a certain extent your whole life is to reflect the activity of those praising God in heaven. Your faith is not to be secret.

When Daniel's enemies wanted to destroy him, they had the king make a law that anyone who prayed to anyone other than the king for 30 days would be thrown into a lion's den. When Daniel heard about it, what did he do? We read, (Daniel 6:10)

"Now when Daniel learned
that the decree had been published,
he went home to his upstairs room
where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.
Three times a day he got down
on his knees and prayed,
giving thanks to his God,
just as he had done before."

He did not hide his faith.

Yes, the gospel is offensive to the world.

In 1 Corinthians 1:23 the apostle Paul wrote,

"but we preach Christ crucified:
a stumbling block to Jews
and foolishness to Gentiles,"

But that's the nature of the gospel. The world doesn't want to accept it. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14

"The man without the Spirit
does not accept the things that come
from the Spirit of God,
for they are foolishness to him,
and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned."

We don't change the gospel to make it more pleasing to the world. What we do is hold on to the truth of the gospel, put it into practice in our lives—living lives of love and holiness—and pray that God would open the eyes and hearts of those who do not know Him.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this means for you is that

Jesus demands your all.

He doesn't want 99 per cent of you. He doesn't want your money. He wants your heart, your total devotion.

You're doomed as you are. If human beings could be saved any other way Jesus would not have died on the cross. You need Him. You'll never meet such love any where else. The 4 living creatures, the 24 elders and the host of angels have it exactly right—Jesus is worthy. There is no one like Him.

You need Him. Go to Him today. May God give you grace to do so.