What do you suppose is the climax of the Bible?
Every elegant story has a climax, does it not? The part of the story where all suspense and tension is resolved in a single apex, a single moment when things turn toward resolution and begin to unwind? Is there such a biblical text that captures the climax of the eternal plan of God? The single text that envelopes all of the splendor and wisdom of the Eternal God in the most significant and spectacular event of all time … What do you suppose it is?
Would it be the incarnation of God in humanity, a babe in the womb of Mary? or His birth in the stable? Would it be the defeat of the devil in the temptation in the wilderness, or the beginning of Christ’s public ministry at the baptism of John? The whole purpose in His coming was to die, not merely the incarnation. The whole course of His ministry pointed to the ransom work of the cross. Perhaps that is where one would find a rich climax of all things.
Perhaps it is the moment in the garden of Gethsemane where it is claimed that Jesus Christ turned from the cross before Him and wanted to get out of it. Is there something here that Jesus overcame so that He could die for us? Was there something in Him that was out of line with the Father’s plan that had to be purged from Him during this time? Or something that He had to give up to the Father in order to submit to the Father’s plan for Him to die for us? Was this really His “humanity coming out?” pressing through to cloud His divinity? under the stress of the infernal cross? Was this the groaning of the divine Spirit as He contemplated having the sin of the world laid in His bosom? Why did Jesus ask that the cup pass from Him? Why did He say, “Not my will, but thine be done?” Perhaps this was the darkest hour of our Lord, when He finally accepted the Father’s will for Him and became willing to die for us. Perhaps His overcoming of the garden struggle might be seen by some to be the climax of all time. Anyone who really knows Him and what He is like… no, they cannot stomach the theological mauling of our Lord so commonly done here. No, this is not our Lord, flopping about in the garden trying to avoid the cross. Those who know what really happened here, find perhaps that it does indeed relate to the greatest moment of all time… only because it is so oft misunderstood. (He Learned Obedience)
Might it be the moment on the cross when our Lord Jesus Christ cried, “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” This is the instant that captures the mystery of our Lord becoming our sin, crying out in confusion and disarray before His Father… as the Father punished Him for our rebellion. Doubtless, this is the blackest of hours for our Lord Jesus Christ, when the Father “made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Is this our climax?
As much as our Lord Jesus Christ loathed sin, He took it into His bosom as the very essence of His Being in order to deliver us from its sting. The physical torment was but a pale shadow of the intensity of the spiritual pain He endured during this crushing. No mortal will ever fathom the passion of a holy God becoming sin. This was the ultimate in brokenness and pain for Him, the ultimate love sacrifice for us. Yet a crucifixion without a resurrection seems hardly a climax. How could the cross be the climax of God’s plan?
Perhaps the glorious resurrection morning would then be the climax of all time. The brilliant appearing of the Son of Man victorious over sin, death, and the grave, as He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the twelve… perhaps these are the greatest moments in all of time. But this is just the beginning, the first fruits. So much of God’s revelation and working is yet to come, so many more battles are yet to be fought… and won! The glorious age of the Gentiles is just beginning, the unfolding of the mystery kept secret from the foundations of the world, the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and the spread of God’s salvation plan about the nations and the building of the Gentile bride. The glorious return and the final ruin of the devil are still distantly seen in the horizon. Certainly the seeds of the ultimate victory were laid in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but is there a greater time to come?
Perhaps the triumphant return and the destruction of wickedness is the climax of all time. The Great White Throne and the final judgment of the nations bring the justice and glory of the Godhead into all its glorious brilliance.
Perhaps it is the instant when the devil is cast into the lake of fire, when he first begins to suffer and writhe for all of his dismal fury against the purity and holiness of God and His children. Could this be the ultimate climax?
It seems rather like the conclusion than the climax, the outworking of something that has already been completed. Somewhere, in between the Ascension and the Return, there is something profound that turns the plan of God from preparation to resolution. Up until the glorious, triumphant return there is preparation, there is suffering, there is longsuffering, there is waiting… there is — in some sense — anticipation. After this time there is closing, there is judging, there is fury, there is resolving, there is victory, there is a completion of all things… there is final resolution.
This single event, taking place in the eternals at the close of this present age, in between the Ascension and the Return, is, in my humble opinion, the most climactic event of all time. What do you suppose it is?
In the text of Revelation, as one begins to walk with God through the initial startling of John, through the letters of rebuke and encouragement to the churches, through the entering of the heavenly door, up to the very throne of heaven, into the presence of the Almighty, to study the four beasts, the four and twenty elders, to ponder the seven lamps of fire, the crystal sea… one is finally struck at the end of chapter four with the worship of the beasts and the elders: they focus on the One sitting on the throne.
Mary, once virgin, whom Catholicism reveres as the queen of heaven, is nowhere to be seen. The loved ones of the Baptists and Methodists are out of view and insignificant. The angels are distant, the sea of glass and the streets of gold are incidental. Rewards and crowns and harps of gold, yes they are all there… but they are very, very small.
God is large and grand in our eyes and in our hearts… as very well He should be. He is the center of all things, the center of every heart that beholds Him. All eyes are upon Him at the end of chapter four as He sits upon the throne… with regal poise… waiting motionless in our gaze. What we are observing has been His poise for millennia it seems, as He has beheld the outworking of His eternal plan. His unfolding purpose is yet building to its climax; we are yet to behold its highest hour.
Suddenly we notice, along with John, at the start of chapter five, a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. It is in the right hand of the God of heaven, as He sits upon the throne. Where has this strange little book come from? What does it contain? Why is He – the eternal God — holding it like that? How long has He been holding this little book… waiting? He is waiting for someone to open it and no one has done so. It has never been opened, by anyone, ever.
A strong angel appears before us, rupturing the holy chorus of the four beasts, openly seeking with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” He cries, and he searches heaven with a fervent intensity, for one worthy to open this little book. John, standing beside us, turns to us and smiles. “I know Someone Who is worthy!”, he mumbles confidently under his breath. All of heaven is searched… no one is found worthy… John’s smile fades a tiny bit. “Perhaps he has stepped back to the earth where He overcame, and will be found there.”
All along the earth the angel treads, and cries… down into the sea… under the earth… no one is found worthy… NO ONE! The angel returns… exhausted… and empty.
John begins to sag. His arms weaken beside us. He crumples next to us onto the glassy pavement. The pure eyes of the Father find no one that is worthy… yea the stars are not pure in His sight. Something is wrong, dreadfully wrong. Jesus Christ is supposed to be worthy: He is the Man!! He was utterly perfect… Wasn’t He? John is breaking.
John begins to weep and tremble at our feet. We look again at the book, solidly closed. This is the book of endings, the book of resolution, the book of the revelations of the judgment of God. The Father is looking for something… someone from the created realm that has come through it in perfection… something of His own Being born in the creation and overcoming it. Apparently He has placed all His work in Jesus Christ to this end, and Jesus Christ does not come forth in victory as the angel calls. There is no compromise in the Father’s eye.
This has always been the hope of Satan, that there will be no justice, no resolution, no vengeance. The Father must overcome the created realm in sterling perfection before He will judge it and bring it to its end. It appears that He has failed. It seems that Jesus Christ was not good enough. The book cannot be opened … John is undone.
The four beasts cease their praise and begin to droop. The four and twenty elders begin to cringe. John begins to groan and wail. It is a weeping more bitter than when John beheld his Master … naked, impaled, mutilated … dying before him on that brutal wooden cross. It is a gripping weeping pouring forth from John that strikes terror into our minds. John, the beloved apostle, beloved of our Lord, has never been moved like this before. It is a weeping deeper and darker than that experienced for those three days before the resurrection, when John was so confounded that the Messiah was dead and gone.
This is a weeping that reeks of bewilderment and confounding beyond description. It echoes in the hearts of the beasts, and the elders, and the angels, and the saints, out into the vast distances of heaven. There is no comfort, there is no explanation. Jesus Christ has not come forth to take the book! He apparently failed in some intricate thing, some small, minute thing. Something went wrong, profoundly wrong … the book will not be opened.
John will not be comforted. He is crushed. All is lost. He is insane; he is destroyed. Evil has triumphed at last! God will continue to suffer, Satan will continue to thrash about and mar the heart of God. Heaven is John’s to enjoy, the streets of gold glisten and invite, the harps, the flowers, the glorious city… it is all trash to him. He could care less. The heart of his God is in pain! He is suffering, waiting… John sees his Father a captive to His own holiness because of some blemish in His beloved Son. John is prostrate and broken. This is the end of him. He weeps uncontrollably.
What could possibly have gone wrong? John gathers himself one last time to think.Was it the garden? That mysterious wrenching in the garden? When Jesus supposedly balked at the cross? Was this His failure? Surely, had He not rebuked Peter just hours before … for suggesting that He not go to the cross? Had the Son fallen into the same trap as well, when He was directly faced with the immensity and passion of His Father’s call to Him? It is the only thing that comes to mind as a possible blemish in the Lamb. But … what of the resurrection? Had that not been the final stamp of approval of the Father upon the work of the Son? Was it somehow good enough to redeem the Church … but NOT good enough for … THE BOOK? How could this be happening??
John sinks again into eternal despair, never to recover from the rupture of the eternal plan.
Wait! Wait!! Wait!!! … an elder moves toward us, wiping the tears from his own glistening eyes. He lays a warm, trembling hand upon the shoulder of the despairing John. Gently rocking him, the elder says, “Weep not. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book… and to loose the seven seals thereof!” The words succor and caress the mind of the broken apostle like so much balm and life. He finally tastes the victory of his Savior and is comforted. His mind and heart mend from the premature conclusions drawn… from the emptiness of the stage before the throne. The Lamb, that beautiful Lamb, had waited before coming forth in glory, as if to emphasize His own unique worthiness to take that book. He isworthy… no one else has even come close!
John rises slowly, wiping his face in the brilliant whiteness of his sleeve. He blinks to clear his vision and beholds a Lamb, as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes. It is Him! Glory to God!! … it is HIM!
The Lamb approaches the throne and steps up into the Father’s presence. All of heaven is breathless, awed at such beautiful perfection outside the immediate compass of the throne. The eyes of the Son meet the eyes of the Father. Love glistens between them. No compromise, no lenience, no lowering of the divine standard. Utter and complete perfection was demanded… and achieved. The divine nature has conquered death, the grave… He has broken the powers of darkness in fantastic excellence! The Lamb! — the Son of God!! — He could not be more perfect, more glorious! The Son beholds and reverences the Father. They are victorious together. The Father is pleased… and motions to the book.
The Son moves forward at the direction of the Father to take the book from His mighty Hand — as all of heaven beholds in breathless awe. This is the moment that all have anticipated and prepared for. This is the culmination of all things. The Father has overcome in righteousness through His own Son, His own fullness embodied in humanity. The hand of the Son, of the Lamb, that mighty nail-pierced hand… finally touches the Book, and lifts it gently in the heavenly light for all to see. The Father’s hand is finally empty; the hand of the Son is full!
The silence shatters as the heavens burst forth in wild, triumphant praise!! The four beasts and the four and twenty elders break out in ecstatic worship. They sing a new song, one so special, so splendid, one never heard by any created thing — a song prepared for the Son. They know the song instantly as it springs in them from the Father, a song of praise and worship to the Son. He is worthy to take the book and to open the seals, for He has redeemed the saved from every kindred and tongue and people and nation. The angels follow with another song … “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Ahh! Every created thing in heaven, on the earth, in the sea, and under the earth — all that is in and with the Father — joins in resonant singing to His Son!
For the first time… universal focus is upon the Son, not upon the Father. In this, God is well pleased.
The Lamb has overcome! It is done! It is complete. The first seal begins to weaken under the prying of His regal hands. The end of all things is before us! The battle is won!
The details of the plagues, the folding up of the cosmos — as of an old tattered shirt, the mystery of the whore, the carnage of Armageddon… Satan’s smoky torment … what of it? Doesn’t it all pale and fade in the light of that glorious countenance? in the warmth and beauty of the matchless heart of the Son of God? He is approved! He is WORTHY! He has the BOOK now! Glory in Him!!
The climax, Beloved? Hmm … Yes. I think so.