The Throne Where God is Sitting, Part 3 - Jesus Christ Is Among Us
Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
The author of this article first delivered its content to a large conference of house church leaders. He is the head pastor of a large church in a major city and is heavily involved in theological training initiatives in China. He received his M.Div. in Singapore and is currently completing a D.Min. from an American seminary that provides training in China. Make sure to check out the first two parts of this series: The Throne Where God Is Sitting, Part 1 – The Lion and the Lamb and The Throne Where God Is Sitting, Part 2 – Grace Is the Personal God.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
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
We need to beg the Lord to help us go back to the Bible again. When we go back to the beginning of verse 8, we see a triple worship happen, the triple worship that happens in chapter 5 of Revelation. The first worship consists of twenty-four elders holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; then after they finish singing, millions of angels come to worship and every creature in heaven and on earth comes to worship. When Jesus Christ is manifested on the throne and becomes the slain Lamb, worship seems to extend outward in waves like an atomic bomb. This is the heavenly worship, which no one can escape, and even the stones cheer and worship him. The entire redeemed race, everything in the universe.
At that time the Jewish Christians were in a world of idolatry and being persecuted by the Roman emperor, and they had to bend their knees. But John told them that those things were not worthy of worship, that the ultimate and worthy one of worship is the Lord. He died for you and he redeemed you with his blood from all nations, all families, and all people. And one day he will make you priests and kings, because he wants to bring you into a renewed country. Only he deserves your worship, and other things do not deserve your worship. At the time when the Jews saw it, they understood what the book said: that Jesus Christ is the original one, that the entire universe should worship the Lord, and that he is the ultimate Lord.
We can see something very interesting in this chapter – it was difficult for the Jews to break the idea of one God, and they didn't understand the Trinity. But you can see in this chapter that the lamb is worshiped just like the one sitting on the throne. The elders are holding the incense of the saints’ prayers, and the saints are praying towards him. In the last verse, it also very clearly tells us that the twenty four elders and living creatures serving God are worshiping him. The Lord is God himself, and the Christ is God himself. The Christ is the one he worships with his life.
You should put everything down, and put all hardships down, because you should come to worship him. You should take him as your lord and your king, and place him as the center of worship. All the things becoming your idols – money, fame, wealth, status, love, material, high technology – should be put down. On a deeper lever there is your wish of control, your capabilities, your influence, your seeking of praise, your value, significance, and security – all these should be put down, and you should worship only him. Finally you should put down yourself. I often hear the elders say that all external idols are really just to serve you and the ultimate idol is yourself. Our biggest problem is that we don't believe in God, and we don’t see him as the most ultimate and worthy of worship, the ultimate Lord of grace. We always think a lot of other things will give us joy, hope, meaning, and value, but the Bible says "No, he is the ultimate, and the others don’t count." He will be first place in everything and becomes the greatest one; he should be in first place in our church and become the greatest one.
Bonhoeffer mentions in his fellowship that if Christ redeemed us then we should look at our brothers through Christ. Christ in our brothers’ lives is more convincing than Christ in our own lives, and their testimony of Christ can be helpful to me and make me let go of myself. That is what he means. He says you should look at your brother through Jesus Christ as the mediator, who is not only the mediator between God and men, but also the mediator between you and your brother.
Brothers and sisters, without Christ, we cannot accept even the closest co-workers. It's hard, because we see their mistakes, so we give up on them. But when you look at yourself through Christ, you see your own sin is deep, and you are not better than them. We can see the glory Christ will manifest in them in the future, and we can say that God is training them and the mistakes are common as long as we are human beings. Then we can accept them as we see the deep inside of each other through Christ. We share our weakness, and we share deeply.
The deepest fellowship in the world is only in the gospel. All relationships between people in the world are either based on hobbies, common vocations, or even some ministry things so that we become brothers and sisters or become friends. Only in Christ do we dare speak out our weakest side, because Jesus Christ gives us the deepest sense of security. Through Jesus Christ we can see the glory of God, and in Christ you can enter the weakest point of your brother where you can support him and help him because you know that God is working on him and changing him to make him gradually have the glory of the Lord.
Without the gospel, I have to say that our relationships are superficial. Maybe it’s just a basketball club so we have a common hobby, or maybe we focus on the economy since we just want to have benefits. We cannot share our weakness or share Christ's kingdom. We want to realize our dreams, and we may fight with them if they are not willing to cooperate with us. Without Christ, I can say that our relationship has always been superficial, and we cannot go to the deep inside.
In our church some coworkers have given me great help and have touched me, because they have experienced fights and disagreement and even a lost sense of direction. But they know we are learning evangelical theology, and they practice the evangelical theology in our group. The three core brothers share their experience of rebirth and their weakness, they share Christ's call to them, and they share with each other and point out where God is making use of their gifts. After a period of time, they can talk about everything with each other, and they find that they can reach the deep inside of the other. When the one who has a strong desire for control, or the one who is a perfectionist, realizes his own problems or that he is self-centered, he will begin to put things down and take rest. So they bring the issue to their coworker meeting and they renew their life.
Once again they look at each individual through Christ. Once again they look at their marriage through Christ, as well as their families. You can look at everything through the Christ. Only through Christ, when he takes the lead in all things, can they have such an experience: they used to discuss ministry for a long time, and it took much time, but now they are always talking about life cultivation and their commitment to each other in Christ. Now they work very fast because they can easily trust each other, and it's easy to know the problems in each other. You can point out the problems without hurting each other. Your life is changed, and the practice and operation of church are indeed changed.
Thanks to God, we believe that Jesus Christ is among us. We should bow to him and worship, and through him we can look at ourselves and our lives. Two weeks ago I presided over an elder’s funeral, and I was so moved while I was there. Because he is a very low-key elder, he would not preach, and what he did preach was the simplest message of the gospel. But when he passed, a lot of people came to send him on. Why? He took Bibles and booklets to many remote places. During the Cultural Revolution, he was the first one to tell locals, "You should come out to get together and worship God. Your spirit needs revival." He also cared about people far away, even brothers and sisters on Hainan Island. He also invited some of his former classmates, good preachers from other places. He was doing what John the Baptist did, just introducing others to serve, and he was doing silently.
His low profile touched me so much that I could not understand. Why do I say so? He was caught and beaten, kept in prison for a week. He always contacted brothers and sisters and introduced them to churches. He did nothing special, but he was caught, probably in the early 1990s. When he was caught and beaten, he was asked, "Who have you contacted? What did you do?" He said nothing but his own faith that he was a Christian and why he believed in God. So they beat him for one week and sent him back. No one knew this – only two adopted kids of his younger brothers, who had died earlier. According to the Bible, he took care of them and did not implicate the church. Someone asked him, “Where did you go the whole week?” He said, “Nothing.” Afterwards they finally found the reason.
Another time, he went to visit a schoolmate, a preacher in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. However, in the early 90s, his letter to the pastor that said, “I will come to visit you,” was intercepted. So when he arrived, he was caught and kept in prison for two months, and then was sent back. Later on the police told that preacher, the house church pastor, “You had a relative to visit you, but now he has left.” The preacher didn’t know who he was, and he never told him. If it were me, I would have told the preacher, “You know, I have been kept in prison for two months.” Our lives are just like this – highlighting myself and definitely telling everyone if I’m persecuted for God’s sake. But he didn’t. He put everything in his heart. He was a man of prayer with a pure heart.
Others looked down on him, but he said it didn't matter and it was enough that God respected him. Others misunderstood him, but he said it was enough that God knew him. Someone asked, “Why if you are a preacher don’t you preach?” It doesn't matter, God knows! I was really shocked by such a God-centered person. He lay down everything, and he was not married during his whole life, and he did these things silently. But I see the glory of Jesus Christ, the image of the slain Lamb, because he who worships God has the same character as God. He has the Lord’s image. It is beautiful.
I hope that each of us can go back to God. It is never too much to talk about Christ, and it is never too much to study Christ. If we talk about other things, they are antichrist. If he is not raised up, others are antichrists. May the Lord get the glory due his name.
Let us pray.
Our dear Heavenly Father God, we thank you.
When we meditate on you, the Lion and the Lamb, when we meditate on your glory, holiness and purity, and righteousness, when we meditate on your love, grace, and compassion, dear Lord, we know that you are the Lord worthy of our worship. Nothing deserves our low and humble attitudes except you, and nothing deserves our whole life except you. Only you are the gracious Lord, in whom our livese can be really safe, our lives can be truly meaningful, and our lives have direction, in whom inter-personal relationships can be good.
Dear Lord, please open our eyes inside, and let us see you.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!