In my last year of coaching hockey at Widdifield Secondary School in 2004-2005 we had a great hockey team and a very successful season. Our team excelled on and off the ice. The culminating achievement that year was to represent the city at the NOSSA ‘AAA’ playoffs at season’s end. We did very well and traveled home from those playoffs with silver medals around our necks. The joyful exhilaration I felt and the pride I had for the team was something I had not ever before experienced in sports. What a feeling! We arrived home at about 1 a.m. and I welcomed my bed and a chance to sleep.
The next morning, I awoke and got ready for work still riding that high. I arrived shortly after 8 a.m. and the morning was shaping up to be a very productive one. Then just like that… it all evaporated… it all vanished. At about 10 a.m. my daughter Tracey called and stated very directly, “The house is on fire!” I immediately dropped everything and raced home to a scene of chaos and smoke. In the hours that followed, the reality of what was going on right in front of Brenda and I set in. The joy I had experienced just hours before seemed like a very distant memory and the pain I now felt was real.
This memory came back to me as I read about the Apostle John’s experience in Revelation 4 and 5. John also experienced these extremes of emotion in a very short span. It tells us that while he was in the Spirit, he was ushered into that heavenly throne room. He observed the Father sitting on the throne yet words failed him as he tried to describe Him in all His majestic, glorious radiance. Around the throne he saw a rainbow and 24 other thrones occupied by elders. There was lightning and thunder, a myriad of voices and 7 lamps of fire depicting the Spirit of God. He saw a sea of glass, like crystal. He also noticed 4 living creatures who did not cease praising God day or night and when they did praise, the 24 elders gladly joined right in. John was entirely captivated with wonder and amazement. I can imagine that his heart was pounding inside him. What a scene, and what euphoric expressions of praise he must have heard, similar to what Isaiah saw and heard in the year that King Uzziah died (Isa.6).
As John was taking this in, the Father stretched out His right hand of power holding a scroll with 7 seals (ch.5:1). With a loud voice a strong angel proclaimed, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” (ch.5:2) Silence immediately gripped the expanse of heaven. This moment was why John had been brought here. With expectation and heightened anticipation, he scanned the myriad of created beings straining to get a glimpse of the one who would rise and answer the call. At first the seconds passed and then the minutes and before long John’s optimism and joy began to fade. With each passing moment anticipation and hope vaporized until it reached the depths of despair. Overwhelmed by the deafening silence, he concluded that, “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” (ch.5:3) John broke down. He collapsed in uncontrolled sorrow. He “wept much”. He was crushed. Such a range of emotion in such a short span. From jubilation to despair. Optimism and joy were lost. No one answered the call. Hopelessness reigned supreme. John was beside himself with grief. Why was he there?
In that moment of gloom, an elder drew near. “Do not weep”, he said. “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose the seven seals.” (ch.5:5) John wiped away his tears. He collected himself and stood up. He now watched for this mighty one, this majestic and regal “Lion” to come forward. He scanned the vastness again but saw no movement. Then looking back towards the throne John noticed not a Lion but “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (ch.5:6). As he wondered, the Lamb took one step, then another, moving closer and closer in the direction of the Father. John’s anticipation returned. Then the Lamb took the scroll and the Father relinquished control thus validating and vindicating the Lamb, even His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, who alone is worthy indeed.
When the Lord Jesus took possession of the scroll, an explosion of praise and worship erupted with a ripple effect throughout the vastness of heaven. All of creation celebrated the worthiness of the Lamb. The 4 living creatures and the elders began in song and soon after angelic beings, without number, joined in. Then “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them” (ch.5:8-14) joined the chorus singing the resounding praises of the Lamb… including John. John had been lifted from the pit of hopelessness and despair and was now rejoicing triumphantly and victoriously in the Lamb of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am reminded that when everything and everyone else fails to meet the righteous requirement of God against our sin, the Lord Jesus, as the sacrificial Lamb, is the One who stepped forward in time to address the cavernous void of sin on our behalf. He bridged the gap that was fixed between ourselves and God and did so on a Roman instrument of death at Calvary. He shed His blood and died on our behalf. It is no wonder, then, that such an occasion of praise erupted in the throne room of heaven.
Once the final crescendo was heard, the 4 living creatures said “Amen” and the elders did the same. John had journeyed from exhilaration to despair and back again. Once more he reveled in what he saw unfold before him. He was adoring His Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals for He was slain and has redeemed us to God by His own blood.
So what broke the crushing silence in heaven? It’s simple. The Lord Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He stepped forward legitimately and appropriately to take the scroll from His Father’s hand. He is entirely, eternally worthy. He broke our chains of sin. He forever destroyed the grip of death on us and since He has, does praise erupt in our own hearts and from our own lips as we contemplate the salvation we now enjoy? It should… because the silence in heaven was shattered!