Part 1 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
The foundation of understanding the book of Revelation and all prophecies of the end times is twofold:
1) The testimony of Jesus
2) The commands of God
These are stated over and over throughout the New Testament:
1) "The testimony of God, which He has given about His Son... this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 Jn.5:9-11, see also Jn.3:16, etc.)
2) "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (Jn.15:12, see also Jn.13:34, etc.)
The most concise verse is 1st John 3:23 - "This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us."
The greatest point of revelation here is the Cross. On the Cross we see revealed God's heart which was not made known to humanity in other ages:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature." (Heb. 1:1-3)
"The law was given through Moses; [but] grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son—who is in the bosom of the Father—has made Him known." (Jn.1:17-18)
And the Cross is also the foundation of the love He has commanded us to—"as I have loved you." This is why "Christ's law" is defined as, "Carry one another's burdens" (Gal.6:2). As He loved us and carried our burdens, He commands us to love one another and bear one another's burdens—forgiving one another, bearing with one another, being patient with one another, mourning with one another, and more.
Most explicitly, God's agape love means that "God first loved us" (1 Jn.4:19), "not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 Jn.4:10).
THE MOST DIFFICULT COMMAND OF ALL
The most difficult part of this command of His is how it creeps into the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us." Forgiveness is not what we naturally want to give! But it is what He has called us to, because just as He has loved us, He has also loved those who have hurt and offended us. This is why He commanded us to love our enemies (Mt.5:44, Lk.6:27, etc.), because He loved *us* while we were still His enemies:
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the UNGODLY... God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still SINNERS, Christ died for us... when we were God’s ENEMIES, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son." (Rom.5:6-10, emphasis added)
This is how He has the gall to ask us to love our enemies—because that's exactly what He did for us! Like it or not (naturally "not", of course!), this is part of His command. He didn't say it would be easy, but forgiveness does set us free if we try it in Him. (As with all things, He didn't say we had to be perfect at this—this love is a gift! We can ask Him for it, and He will give us grace as we step into it!)
THE TWO GREATEST COMMANDS
Looking at these two things, the testimony of Jesus and His law of agape love, you can see that they are a restatement of the two greatest commandments AFTER the Cross, in the light of the revelation of Christ and His agape love:
"‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt.22:38-40)
THE FIRST AND GREATEST
Before the Cross, the greatest command in the Law was to love God with everything. But after the Cross, as Hebrews 1 and John 1 say (see above), God has revealed the exact representation of His being, His very nature; He has brought forth from His bosom (His heart!) His Son! And so the 'way' to love God with everything is to believe on His Son and love Him. This is why John wrote that the one who has
the Son has the Father as well (1 Jn.2:23), and it is why Jesus said that whoever believes in Him and loves Him is loved by Father (Jn 16:27, etc.).
The "first and greatest commandment" of the Law is good, wonderful and beautiful, but it is still veiled to the revelation of Jesus Christ. By taking His Son out from His bosom and sending Him to us, God has opened His very heart to us and asked us to receive it. It's little good to try and love God with all your heart, soul and mind if you don't acknowledge and love the heart (His Son!) that He's held out and offered to you!
His Son is His heart, His gift to us—the free gift of His righteousness given to us! The work God requires is that we believe in the Sent One (Jn.6:28-29). Believing the testimony God has given about His Son—that He is our life, He is our righteousness—is first in God's book! In fact, you could say that it is "first and last" in God's book, because His Son is named, "The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." The beginning is that the Son is our life, and the end is that the Son is our life.
The command to accept and love the revelation of Jesus—the revelation of God's exact nature—is superior to the command to try to love God with everything, because God has revealed and opened His heart to us. Before we even attempt to try to love Him, He wants us to know, "I have first loved you!" The first and greatest command is enhanced by infinity here! He loves our love, but wants us to know that His love is greater, and He has loved us first! He has given His Son as the Lamb to take away our sins so that we can be with Him forever!
THE SECOND WHICH IS LIKE THE FIRST
In the same way, the second-greatest command ("love your neighbor as yourself") is also enhanced by the power of infinity because of the revelation of the Cross. The command to love your neighbor is based on "as you love yourself." It's the golden rule:
"In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Mt.7:12)
The second-greatest command of the Law, like the first, is good, wonderful and beautiful. But the Law of Moses falls short of the awesomeness of the law of Christ (and the far-greater power of Christ's command to penetrate and convict, as well). The Law of Moses based the command of love on how we would imagine we ourselves wanted to be loved, but the law of Christ is not based on our idea, but based instead on *His* idea, based on *His* love for us!
In all our wildest dreams we would never ask for what Christ has done for us. He healed us, He raised us up, He touched us when we were leprous, the Holy came to the unholy and made us holy. The Lover took in a prostitute, washed her with His words of love and made her radiant in His joy. He carried our griefs, sorrows, burdens, sicknesses and diseases, and more. And then He died for us while we were still His enemies! He forgave us as we crucified Him.
Obviously He's not calling us to atone for others' sins, but He is calling us to love them like He loved us. His command is based on His love, not on ours. The Cross of Christ resets our whole definition of what "love" means, and what it means when He commands us to "love":
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 Jn.3:16)
THE HEART OF REVELATION
These two commands are the heart of the book of Revelation and everything God has to tell us about the end times. If we do not have these as our center, then we will not rightly understand Revelation or the end times, because these are the center of God's book.
The Lamb of God is at the center of God's throne!
Yes, He is the King who is strong & mighty like a lion;
Yes, He is the One perfect in works like a yoke-bearing ox;
Yes, He is the Son of Man who sympathizes with our humanity;
Yes, He is the Prophet who sees all and cries out like a flying eagle;
but at the center of the throne He is the Lamb who was slain!
God is agape love. The Lamb is the beginning and end of God's testimony to us and His commands to us. Any looking at end-time 'events' or trying to 'identify' things is going to go awry if we do not have the Cornerstone and Capstone in place: the Lamb and His agape love. And if we have Him in place, then we know that as Paul said, God's grace to us in Christ is "the full gospel of God" (Rom.15:19).
Therefore, any understanding that He gives in Revelation and about the end times is going to lead straight back to the Lamb and His love. As it is only the Lamb who is able to open the seals of the scroll, so also it is only by knowing and looking at Revelation through the Lamb and His love that what is sealed will become unsealed to us.
Part 2: The Foundation Pierces All