Part 9 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
The center of the book of Revelation is the testimony of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, and His command to love one another as He loved us.
The testimony: "The faith we profess... We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb.4:14-16)
The command: "I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Mt.25:35-40)
THE CENTER OF ALL
Although there seem to be many topics in the book of Revelation, each part of the book has the testimony and command at its heart. One picture of this is the "four living creatures" which surround the throne:
"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures... The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle." (Rev.4:6-7)
Each creature reflects something about Christ:
The Lion shows that He is the "Lion of Judah"—the King, the ruler, powerful and mighty, worthy of all praise and obedience, the only One to whom the scepter belongs (Gen.49:8-12).
The Ox (or Calf) shows that He is the Righteous One who has honored God's name perfectly, who alone was able to bear the yoke of perfect works that we could not (Jer.33:15-16, Act.15:10, Mt.11:28-30, Mal.4:2).
The Man shows that He is the "Man of Sorrows"—the only One who truly knows humanity, who is acquainted with our griefs, and who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Isa.53:3, Heb.4:15).
The Flying Eagle shows that He is the Prophet, the One who leads His people out of the wilderness, instructs them, protects and carries them (Dt.32:10-11); He builds, uproots, plants, tears down, exalts, declares, blesses and curses (Ezk.17, Rev.8:13).
Each of these reflects an important part of Christ. Yet just as a "creature" is something that is created, in the same way these four aspects of Christ are "created" things—they are positions He commands and fulfills as the Son of Man.
But in the center, in the very heart of the throne, He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world because God loves the world so much. Jesus is the heart of God, the sacrificial agape love of God who came from the bosom of the Father (Jn.1:18).
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures." (Rev.5:6)
More than any other aspect of who He is, the Lamb shows the divinity of Jesus—because God is love [agape]. The Lamb is the center of who He is, and is the heart which is behind each part of Him—His kingly might, His perfect righteousness and works, His humanity, and His prophetic guidance. Just as the imagery of Revelation shows the Lamb in the center of the throne and the four living creatures bowing to and serving the Lamb (Rev.5:8-14), in the same way each aspect of Christ serves and bows to the Lamb—the agape love of God—as Lord of all.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Revelation testifies to Christ and His love, and in turn Revelation also shows how we have departed from Christ and His love. We may grasp aspects of the truth of Christ, but when we remove the Lamb and His love from the center and use what we have taken "of Him", it brings much sorrow.
This is portrayed by the "four horsemen of the apocalypse." Each rider carries and wields four things apart from the agape love of the Lamb—a crown, a sword, a pair of scales, and authority. At four stages in history, the church believes that it receives these and that it has been given a divine call to use them.
But all are meant to point to the Lamb alone, and just as only He is able to unseal the prophecies of Revelation, these four things only bring life when they are in His hands. The Lamb is at the center of the throne surrounded by the four living creatures (the God who is love as the Lord of all His other facets). Only when the Lamb is at the center—only then do the other facets of Christ "speak", testifying to Him and His love. And they testify to our departure from Him and His love.
The First Creature, with a face like a lion, testifies that when the church received the crown, it began to change from the position of the persecuted to take the position of the persecutor, preparing to conquer to spread the kingdom of God as if it were a kingdom of the world.
The Second Creature, with a face like an ox, testifies that when the church strongly believed in its righteousness and that it alone honored God's name, it took up the sword to destroy what it believed were the works of the devil in the nations; it used the weapons of the world to fight against flesh and blood in the name of Christ.
THE SCALES OF CHRIST
"When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand..." (Rev.6:5)
The Third Creature has the face of a man, telling us that Jesus is the Son of Man who sympathizes with our weaknesses, the One who truly understands us. And because He alone among men is righteous, the Son of Man is the One to whom the authority to judge man has been given (Jn.5:22,27). Only His judgment is righteous because He alone among men has not sought His own will, but the will of the Father (Jn.5:30).
"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
but a just stone is His delight." (Prov.11:1)
Christ is the "just stone", the only righteous one, the only one perfect in works and in judgment. And astoundingly, He judged that all sinners were worth dying for! Therefore He commanded that we love one another as He loved us—even our enemies—because He died for us all. He has weighed our worth in His heart, and decided that we are so valuable to Him that He wants to keep us for all eternity! He has valued us as treasures, worth the price of His own death on the Cross!
OUR SCALES AND VALUES
Christ prizes us above all things. But our scales are different:
"There before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius [a day’s wages], and three quarts of barley for a denarius [a day’s wages], and do not damage the oil and the wine!'" (Rev.6:5-6)
The Third Creature testifies that when the church believed it had the most "just" scales of economic judgment, it established a system that values hard work (a day's wages), profit and prosperity (oil and wine), but which devalues those it believes are undeserving.
When the church received the crown, it believed its earthly kingdom was God's kingdom. When the church believed it worked His righteousness, it took up the sword, taking away peace and lives. So also when the church rides forth to establish economy, believing it has God's "just" scales—His way, His economy—it only preaches the greedy values of the world in His name.
A CLASH OF VALUES
A voice seems to come from the center where the Lamb is, but the values that the voice speaks are not the values of the Lamb. Instead the voice sells a small amount of food to people in exchange for a whole day's wages, a 'denarius', while valuing and protecting products—its right and its means to make profit.
However, when Christ told a parable with a denarius in it, He illustrated the 'economy' of a kingdom based on very different values:
"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'" (Mt.20:8-12)
The true scales of God are generous, rejoicing in paying more than is deserved! The true scales of God are unfair in the eyes of the world. They are not based on our work, but are based Christ—the "just stone", the righteous One who took the weight of our sins on Himself and gave His righteousness to us as a free gift.
This offends us! When our sense of value and worth is based on our work, and when we value others based on how much and how well they work, God's grace seems unfair. We are especially offended when it is given to others whom we feel are undeserving. Our way seems more fair in its values and rewards, but the dark truth of it is that subtly we begin to value the work itself more than the person doing the work, just like the Third Horseman prizes the oil and wine more than the laborers whose wages can't buy them enough wheat and barley.
THE HEART OF THE CONFUSION
The system of the Third Horseman equates material prosperity with God's favor. The heart of the system is the belief that God has given us "His scales" so that if we follow His principles, we will be prosperous.
Those who follow the spirit of the Third Horseman strongly believe in the fairness of the "scales", and attribute its principles to God. Those who agree with the system and work hard in it are seen as deserving of His rewards (prosperity). But those who disagree with the system are disagreeing with God's ideals; they are undeserving and are simply against doing a day's work.
Subtly their attention is concentrated on work and economy as the measure of whether or not we are following God's ways. When believers speak the values of the landowner in Christ's parable (the heart of the Lamb), followers of the Third Horseman are offended. Saying that the kingdom of God is not of this world is viewed as a cop-out. Stressing the mercy of God is seen as irresponsible and impractical. Saying that there is something spiritually wrong with the values of these "scales" is heard as criticizing hard work and advocating laziness. Talking about the testimony of Christ Jesus is something just for the church pew. The main thing is "the here and the now", the practical, the material.
It is a confusion between the economy of the world and the economy of heaven. When Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar, He used a denarius to show the difference between the two—"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Mt.22:15-22). But the scales of the Third Horseman are brought forth if they are God's system, essentially putting God's face and name on the coin instead of Caesar's.
This treats God like an idol, using Him as a way to earn profit just as the Ephesians used the goddess Artemis (Act.19:27) and just as Balaam used prophecy for profit (Jude 11). It takes advantage of people who do not know any better—honest people who just want to work hard and feed their families—and produces experts in greed who in turn continue the exploitation (2 Pet.2:14). And God is praised for giving prosperity.
THE WORKS HE REQUIRES
When Christ's landowner paid a denarius, it was more than most of the workers deserved. However, the scales of the Third Horseman, valuing profit and product, ultimately leave people hungry—not only physically, but more importantly they leave people hungry spiritually. The scales appear fair, promising life, liberty, and happiness as the most "Christian" system, but because they use Christ as a means to pursuing things, they leave people in spiritual famine.
In contrast, Christ promised us that we would have trouble but that we could have peace in Him through it (Jn.16:33). Our amount of prosperity or poverty does not reflect the amount of His love and favor for us. And while He does call us to work, He does not value us more or less because of how much work we do. The "work" He calls us to flows out of the heart of the Lamb.
Firstly Christ calls us to believe in Him, and secondly He calls us to love one another as He loves us. And so the commands of the apostles in the New Testament regarding hard work are tied to His love for others:
"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Eph.4:28)
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" (Act.20:35)
Christ has commanded us to love with agape love, to give as He gave to us regardless of whether or not it seems deserved. It is unfair. But that is the economy He has commanded us to—a kingdom of sacrificial love and mercy, in which people are valued more than possessions.
DIFFERENT SCALES, DIFFERENT SPIRITS
God's "scales" are weighed by Christ, the "just stone" He gave for all of us while we were His enemies. We were undeserving, but He loved us and then called us to share the same love with those who seem undeserving to us: the weak, the poor, our enemies, and more.
The Lamb opens the third seal, revealing a time when believers established a system that appeared fair, but which ultimately was driven by greed underneath. A new era of valuing material things began, credited to Him and stamped with His name.
Among the followers of the system, the testimony of the godliness of the system gradually overtook the testimony of Christ, who Himself is the only "fair" and righteous judge. Before the nations hear the testimony of Jesus, they hear that "our economic system is the best because it's Christ's way; we trust in God and so we are prosperous."
The spirit at the root of the system is conditional love—you receive favor if you earn it and deserve it—and plain greed that values our prosperity more than we value one another. The spirit behind the system is so powerful that those who believe in its values live in constant fear of perceived threats to their prosperity, and fight to keep from losing it.
WHAT ARE WE DEFENDING?
What is our good news? Our justness or His? Is our testimony that Christ is just and fair, or is our testimony that our economic system is His way? Are we offended by the mercy of Christ? Does His command of agape love seem unfair?
Do we value the poor, the weak, the guilty and the undeserving just as He does? Or do we value only those who seem to earn their worth in our eyes? Have we "hoarded wealth in the last days"? (Jas.5:3)
Do we defend the weak, the poor, the guilty and the undeserving? Or do we only defend our own right to prosperity and those who seem worth defending?
Part 10: Rebellion In The Temple