Good Friday--A Heavenly Perspective!
O Lord God, our Father in heaven, on this solemn day of remembrance we have come into Your presence for worship. We recognize our many sins and understand that they are the reason Your Son, Jesus Christ, had to die. We thank You, Jesus, for assuming our guilt and bearing our shame upon the cross. We rejoice, dear Father, that You have forgiven us our sins, as we are led by the Holy Spirit to confess those sins and place our faith in Jesus as our Savior. Instruct us this day and instill within our hearts a singular devotion to Your kingdom and Your saving name. Amen.
Text: Revelation 5:1-14
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and gold bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, dear fellow redeemed:
What was going on in heaven on Good Friday? Have you ever thought about that? From our perspective here on earth we most often approach Good Friday by looking back and up—back in time to that day so long ago and up to the cross upon which our dear Savior died. But what was heaven’s perspective upon what went on at Calvary? We certainly know that judgment came forth from the court of heaven on that day. The Bible tells us that God the Father “made Him who knew no sin (that is, the Lord Jesus) to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Creation itself grew dark as the wrath of God over sin was borne by our Savior as He hung upon the cross. But what was heaven’s perspective at the moment of Jesus’ death?
C.F.W. Walther, the spiritual leader of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod during its early years, speculated about hell’s perspective of that moment. He wrote in his Easter hymn: “The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree. In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.” But what was heaven’s perspective? I believe hell’s joy was short-lived, for I believe that at the moment Jesus commended His spirit to God the Father and died, the hosts in heaven began to sing! You heard what happened in our Scripture reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel. The darkness lifted and light once again fell upon the earth, the veil in the temple was torn in two, the earth quaked, the rocks split, and the graves of many saints were opened. Great things were happening. Jesus’ cry, “It is finished” (John 19:30), which Satan may have interpreted as an admission of defeat, was in fact a declaration of victory! The work God had given Jesus to redeem mankind had been accomplished! As the heavenly host gazed downward to that cross where the lifeless body of Christ now hung awaiting its temporary burial, all those in heaven were no longer looking back, but looking forward—even as God our heavenly Father would have us look forward today! Let us consider, dear friends, GOOD FRIDAY from A HEAVENLY PERSPECTIVE! Let us consider the facts that the Lamb who was slain controls the future, thatthe Lamb who was slain has redeemed us and all saints, and that the Lamb together with His Father are worthy of everlasting praise!
Jesus, in His Revelation to the apostle John, provides us with insight into heaven’s perspective on Good Friday, when He has John reveal a vision in which he saw God upon His throne with a scroll in His right hand—a scroll sealed with seven seals. John heard a mighty angel crying out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” The scroll together with its seals represents the future. With great anticipation John awaited someone to step forward to reveal the future with clarity. After all, John and his fellow Christians found themselves the objects of a bitter persecution one result of which was John’s own exile from Ephesus to the island of Patmos. To his great dismay, however, no one in heaven, or on earth, or even under the earth—absolutely no one could open the scroll and loose those seals. At that point John began to weep, for how can anyone live without fear if the future remains uncertain? But then one of the elders in heaven approached John and told him not to weep—not to fear, for “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals.” There is no fear in heaven—not even on Good Friday when to all appearances on earth Satan had won the day! The saints and angelic beings in heaven knew that Jesus Christ, who is that “Lion…of Judah” and who is “the Root of David,” had prevailed. In spite of His death on Good Friday and, in fact, in view of His death His work was finished and what alone remained was that He would arise and assume His rightful role as everlasting King!
As John searched the realm of heaven for this mighty “Lion,” however, he could not find Him. Instead his eyes came to rest upon “a Lamb” who looked “as though it had been slain” and at that moment John was given the same insight that no doubt sent terror through Satan’s entire being—it was God’s plan to overcome death by death, to remove sin with the blood of the Savior, to destroy hell and his own power by means of the humility, suffering, and self-sacrifice of the Son of God! Yes, Good Friday should move us to look to the future, for from heaven’s perspective the Lamb who was slain controls the future! It is because of this fact that the apostle Paul, for instance, can promise without hesitation, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) and state with absolute conviction that in spite of the troubles we face in our lives that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Yes, GOOD FRIDAY from A HEAVENLY PERSPECTIVE reveals the fact that the Lamb who was slain controls the future!
It also reveals the fact that the Lamb who was slain has redeemed us and all saints! Upon seeing the Lamb take the scroll with its seven seals out of the hands of God the Father, John saw all the hosts of heaven bow down before Him and heard them begin to sing a “new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” The result of Jesus’ suffering and death on Good Friday was nothing less than the redemption of all of mankind with believers arising out of every nation, people, and language on earth. Satan thought he was in a fight to the death and had overcome, but in reality it was a fight involving death by which he was overcome. The apostle Peter explains God’s plan and intention when he writes in his first epistle, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold,…but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18a,19).
The result of that redemption in turn was that we receive a new status before God. Instead of being his opponents and enemies, as we all were by nature, He has made us “kings and priests” before Him. God has not bought us back with the blood of His Son merely to make us servants to scrub the floors and sweep the porches of heaven. No, He declares us to be His very children, entrusted with the privilege of rule and the responsibility of representation. For you see as kings and queens before God we rule with Christ and will continue to do so throughout eternity. Remember, however, that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We rule here on this earth with Christ through His gospel message, which moves men’s hearts and changes their lives. We do not exercise power as earthly kings using force of arms, but the power of the keys to stand before kings, if necessary, both to condemn their actions as sinful, or to assure them in their penitence of God gracious forgiveness. In addition, God promises, “If we endure (in the faith), we shall also reign with Him (our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ)” once we join Him in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12a). As priests before God we have access to Him and can approach Him on our own behalf but also representing the needs of others, realizing at all times, as the apostle James, assures us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” before our God who promises to hear and answer us (cf. James 5:16b). Yes, GOOD FRIDAY from A HEAVENLY PERSPECTIVE assures of the fact that that Lamb who was slain has redeemed us and all saints!
It, finally, assures us that the Lamb together with His Father are worthy of everlasting praise!Where were Jesus’ disciples on earth on Good Friday? What were they doing? For the most part, with the exception of several of the women and two emboldened Pharisees by the name of Joseph and Nicodemus, Jesus’ disciples on earth were in hiding by the time Jesus died on Good Friday. Their minds were confused and their hearts filled with fear. Their hopes seemingly had been dashed and their futures seemed anything but secure. In heaven, however, the saints and angels approached Jesus’ death from an entirely different perspective. All the hosts of heaven—“ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” boldly and with joy proclaimed: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Then every creature “in heaven and on the earth and under the earth” joined them in saying, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and the Lamb, forever and ever!”
From heaven’s perspective Good Friday was anything but a defeat! Oh, yes, in any battle you may well have to let the smoke clear before the victor becomes apparent. Even so, the smoke of Good Friday cleared completely by Easter Sunday morning when our triumphant Lord and Savior arose from the dead to proclaim His victory! It is His victory that matters, my dear friends! We will endure many challenges and participate in many battles while we walk upon this sinful earth. There are times when we may well be wounded by the sinful words and actions of others. There are times when we may become a casualty due to our own sins and weaknesses. At such times, let us with humility come before our Lord, confess our sins, and then rejoice in the victory of Christ which assures us of the certainty of our forgiveness. Jesus, in this same Revelation, assures us, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b). Let us, therefore, join the hosts of heaven and share their perspective of Good Friday. Let us join them as they praise the Lamb together with His Father who are worthy of everlasting praise! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting