The power that unleashes God’s will! – Revelation 8:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 2, 2011 AM
John Franklin, in his book “And the Place Was Shaken”, recounts a time in 1990 when he joined about 250 people in a two-week evangelistic crusade in Mombasa, Kenya. They were divided into teams of three, each team going hut-to-hut and house-to-house, presenting the Gospel. Franklin said he was in awe. “A few times in my life I have been in a service or prayer meeting where the manifest presence of God could be felt but never before in a whole city. Wherever we walked, the presence of the Lord tangibly permeated the land, so much so that often people were saved by the dozens.”
His team was walking down a dirt road that led to the next village. Three Kenyan men were seated on stools by the roadside. One inquired, “Excuse me are you from America?” Franklin replied, “Yes.” “Are you one of the ones who has come here to tell us the word of God?” “Yes,” he answered. The man responded, “We’ve heard that you’ve come, and we’ve heard of Jesus and His great power. Tell me, how does one become His follower? My friends and I want to know.” John explained the plan of salvation and the man immediately replied, “Let’s pray.” This happened again and again, and in all, 30,000 people responded to the Gospel in 14 days! However, it took preparation. Three months earlier, several churches in Mombasa began fervently praying. During the crusade, a different church prayed all night each night. Franklin joined one of the all night prayer meetings. He felt the presence of God in his hotel room so strongly when awoke that he did not rise; he simply slid out of the sheets to his knees in prayer. Following the prayer meetings, every single adult they witnessed to trusted Christ! Franklin and the others discovered that the revival that came to this city happened because of the corporate prayers of God’s people.
Last week I introduced this neglected subject of praying together. I made several statements that God has sovereignly ordained the corporate praying of His people, such that His mighty workings increase exponentially and His purposes are accelerated when we pray together. One writer, after studying the New Testament pattern of corporate prayer wrote, “The Early Church didn’t have a prayer meeting. The Early Church was the prayer meeting. In fact, in the Early Church, every Christian was a prayer-meeting Christian.” (Fred Hartley’s “Everything by Prayer”, page 12.) We need a renewal of prayer in our church, because it is the power that unleashes God’s will!
In Revelation, the Apostle John tells us of the things that he experienced and in the midst of earth-shattering events, there is this astounding pause in heaven, and a lesson about prayer that is amazing. The prayers of God’s people are portrayed here as the instrument God uses to bring this world to its appointed end. Like a tremendous symphony, there are three major movements in this apocalyptic orchestral drama of the last days and they all come from the power that unleashes God’s will! Let’s discover what they are…
Movement #1: The seven-sealed scroll is opened!
1. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17 NIV)
1) These verses refer to the opening of the seventh seal of a scroll. This is the final seal of the seven seals described by John in chapter 5 that he cried over because they could not be opened. The enormous significance of the contents of this scroll is such that no one in heaven, not the cherubim that continually declare God’s glory; not the resplendent Gabriel, God’s special messenger; not even the mighty archangel Michael, God’s heavenly warrior could open the scroll! John declares that when, “He opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” What were the contents of the scroll? It contains the unfolding of human history. Its opening would enact the final chapter for this world and those who live in it. However, remember that when the call went out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John wept because, “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it!” The delay was intentional. The elders near the throne tell john, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5) Only Jesus the Lamb of God could open it! When the call goes out, no one stepped forward but Jesus! Jesus alone has the royal right to open the seals of history and oversee its final unfolding, because Jesus died, and in dying, he ransomed a great multitude of saints from all the nations, and he alone has made them priests and established them as rulers of the earth! The cross is the key to human history! What happened there, nearly 2000 years ago will unlock the future revelation of God’s plan. The seven-sealed scroll is now opened by the Lamb of God!
Chapter 6 records what happens as Jesus cracks open the seals of the scroll like a mighty timpani of a heavenly orchestra, one-by-one. The actions of Christ in heaven bring thunderous blows against the earth the likes of which have never been seen. Each opened seal creates global cataclysm. And with each successive seal that is broken by Christ in heaven, humanity is brought one frightening beat closer to the end of time and the brink of eternity. Let’s take a look at…
Movement #2: The silence in heaven!
1. “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” (Zephaniah 1:7 NIV)
1) In 8:1, the Lamb, Jesus, breaks the last remaining seal to the scroll. Once this scroll is opened, the wheels of God’s judgment will speed up, preparing the way for the Second Coming of Christ to earth and the end of all things. But before that occurs, something unusual takes place. Notice again, that when the Lamb “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The hosts of heaven stand in awe with what is about to transpire with the opening of the scroll! The very next sound heard is in v. 5 when “the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” Wow! The raw sovereign power of God is about to be released in ways that will cause the cosmos to convulse and everything to change forever! So the inhabitants of heaven share a stunned silence. However, do not miss what we are being shown here in this moment. Jesus deliberately pauses to show John and us the gathered power our prayers have and the effect they create in history! In the previous verse we are told, “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Do our prayers really matter? Does praying together truly accelerate the fulfillment of God’s purposes? The answer is, “YES!” Leon Morris wrote about this passage that the prayers of “saints appear insignificant to men at large. But in the sight of God they matter. Even great cosmic cataclysms are held back on their account. And the praises of the angels give way to silence so that the saints may be heard!” (Leon Morris, “The Revelation of John”, page 119.) In other words, after the opening of the seventh seal we have a dramatic presentation of the importance of the prayers of the saints and the silence in heaven ensues!
Before the scroll is opened God wants to make clear to John and to us that the unfolding of the end of the world will happen by the prayers of the saints. The words that we often could barely utter, have reached their destination, and been interpreted into one final stanza! Which, by the way, brings us now to the final movement…
Movement #3: The supplication of the saints of God!
1. “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15 NIV)
1) Again, look at verse 3, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.” Notice that John relates it is the prayers of “all the saints” that have been placed on the altar. If you wonder where your prayers go and what God does with them, here is one of the answers. They go onto the golden altar before God’s throne! How wonderful is that? In fact, we discover that incense throughout the Bible refers to people’s prayers and praise offered up to God! The Psalmist would pray, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:2 NIV) The author of Hebrews would conclude, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV) If mere human beings can invent a memory chip that holds countless millions of bytes of information, it is not difficult to imagine that the Creator of all things providing a way to preserve every prayer that has ever been prayed in the name of Jesus! We can only imagine the fragrance they offer in God’s throne room. Nevertheless, there will come a day when God will do something else with our prayers. Remember, verse 5 tells us that, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” These cataclysmic reactions of thunder, loud rumblings, flashes of lightening, and the earthquake simply represent the action of God from heaven on the world as the scroll of the end of the age begins to open and the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are poured out! However, in the midst of all the mighty power of God do not miss the instrument that brings this all about, namely, “the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne!” Your prayers, dear child of God, preserved, protected, and deposited before the throne of God on a golden altar! It is the beautiful supplication of the saints of God and the power that unleashes God’s will!
What these verses in Revelation teach us is that the prayers of the saints are the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world. Our prayers change the tempo of history in more ways than we realized before. Not one God-exalting prayer has ever been offered in vain. None of them is lost. None is a wasted measure or pointless. Not one heartfelt crescendo is forgotten. All are accumulated and heard at the very throne of God and placed on his golden altar until the final drumbeat!
The time will come when God will orchestrate his holy angel to take his mighty censer and fill it with fire from the altar where the prayers burn before the Lord, and pour it out on the world to bring all God’s plan to one final completion. And it will be because of your prayers dear saint in the Lord. Never forget that our prayers are the power that unleashes God’s will!
This sermon was drawn from John Franklin’s, “And the Place Was Shaken” and from notes by Lloyd Stilly, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores. Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.