Sovereignty of God key to joy in turbulent times, minister says

Communications Staff — April 3, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky (BP) – The sovereignty of God as presented in the book of Revelation should remind Christians that God is in control of all the events of history, even those that such as warfare that result in suffering, Scottish minister Eric Alexander said recently at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Alexander, a noted Presbyterian minister, said chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation paint three pictures that should give believers assurance during uncertain times.

Rev. 4-5 unpacks God’s kingship, His guidance over the history of creation, and the central act of history—God’s redemption of sinners in Jesus Christ, he said.

“We are conscious that these are critical hours in which we live,” he said. “We are aware of the question, ‘Where is the hand controlling the events we are passing through?’

“The relevance of the Bible at such a time as this, and the relevance of Revelation is that it takes us to this throne of God. It (Revelation) is not there to satisfy our curiosity, but to give us a perspective on the world in which we live and the whole of history, so that we are able to see it (history) from a different vantage point from the rest of the world.”

The apostle John presents the throne as the central feature to his vision in Rev. 4. This is highly significant because the eternal kingship of God is evident by John’s pointing out that the throne is constantly occupied, he said.

John penned Revelation while suffering in exile on the island of Patmos, which Alexander described as “a kind of Alcatraz in the ancient world.” His audience – the seven churches in Asia – were also undergoing intense persecution. John shared his vision to encourage the churches and to remind them that God was still on the throne despite their suffering, he said.

Alexander recalled where he was when terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. He was in the clubhouse at St. Andrews golf course in Scotland when the news that America was under attack scrolled across a television screen.

Alexander remembered how a fellow golfer reacted to the news after discovering Alexander to be a minister. The man’s words echo the very thought that sometimes enters believer’s mind during seasons of suffering, he said.

“He said to me, ‘I guess your God has gone for a holiday,’” Alexander said. “And that is the deep fear that lies even in the hearts of some trembling, faithful souls: ‘Is God really on the throne?’ And John clearly gives us the answer in the outset of his vision.”

In Rev. 5, John’s vision includes an angel holding a scroll. This scroll is the record of human destiny and divine purpose for the world, Alexander said. The scroll is both complete – it contains no blank spaces – and is sealed or closed.

This points to the fact that, while every event in history is in God’s hands, it is sealed from the sphere of human speculation or knowledge, he said. It also shows that there is God-ordained purpose for every event in life and that all God’s purposes in the world are a closed book to human beings.

“John weeps. It has made him deeply sad and the mystery of life is beginning to engulf him,” he said.

Believers should note that John points to the climax of history in Rev. 5:6. The “Lamb looking as if it had been slain,” is Christ who is the key to history.

During times of war and suffering, Christians must look to the Lamb and take comfort in the fact that His purposes – even though mysterious from a human perspective – will not be thwarted, he said. This should lead Christians to worship God in awe and wonder, he said.

“That Lamb is the crucified, risen, exalted, and now reigning Lord Jesus Christ,” Alexander said. “He is the key to history, the key to life. Christ is the key to every mystery that life brings to us because He was slain and with His blood purchased a people for God.

“That is the central thing about the whole of history. It is the building of the church which is the central element in history. When that work is done and when the church of Jesus Christ is complete, that is when God will bring down the curtain on the affairs of this sad world. May God help us that we may have that special view of the world which comes from dwelling near the throne.”

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