YE ARE LIVING EPISTLES

by Lucinda Evans

Ye are our EPISTLE WRITTEN in our hearts, KNOWN and READ OF ALL MEN: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly DECLARED to be THE EPISTLE OF CHRIST ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. 2Cor. 3:2-3

Some of us are the only book that others will ever read. Our lives are sometimes the only books that others will ever read. Like perfume on a page of living words, the testimony of Christ has been given to all to be partaken of by those who are around us. This alabaster box that we are contains contains the beauty of HIs love and so wondrous it is.....

"I saw in the RIGHT HAND of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with SEVEN seals." (Rev. 5:1) Father is on the throne and you are right there in the palm of His hand. In the sovereignty of His grace Adam advocated his throne, but God remained on His!

Even under an old covenant, David knew he could come before the throne of grace and he was pretty bold about it. He knew how to humble himself.

John now sees Him who is on the throne!

Then why is Satan spoken of as "the god of this world" and the "prince of the power of the air"? "This world" does not refer to the world of righteousness. It is the world that is governed by the carnal mind; which operates by logic and reason and through that it makes choices instead of leaning not to our own understanding and walking in simple obedience. Satan's rule is not a rightful dominion; he has usurped God's place in people's minds; he is a god without divinity, a prince without right. He can only rule those who are blind to the truth.

And in His right hand is a book. Let's remember that all these things are symbols. This book is in God's right hand, and the right hand is symbolic of His sovereign power! Therefore we know that He is able to keep His covenant and bring about His purpose, namely, to change us into His image!

In those days a book was not like our books - it was a scroll. It was generally made of skins or parchment rolled together. One could write on the inside and outside of the scroll. As living epistles, we are not only to have His word hidden in our hearts, but it also has to become flesh in us - that is, Christ is to be manifested in our everyday life. This scroll had writing on the inside and outside. On the inside, He has written the nature that is ours in Christ. When submitted to Christ, this nature will glorify Him. On the outside, when it is not submitted, it will unmask the beast, the Adamic man. OUTSIDE – CARNAL MAN. WE ARE LIVING EPISTLES………WILL MAN SEE WHAT IS INSIDE? WILL WE ALLOW THE CARNALITY OF OUR MINDS TO BIND US.

This scroll was sealed with seven seals. A seal indicated ownership, protection and authenticity. The importance of this scroll is in its symbolism!

The message it conveys is tremendous! John was brought into a place where he could see God's intention of releasing His people from everything that sin and death had robbed them of. This release would bring them into the totality of God's character and the complete revelation of His will and purpose. As these seals are loosed within God's people they will begin to experience and express the fullness of all that God is.

Our search for the symbolism of this scroll takes us to Jer. 32 where Hanamel, Jeremiah's cousin, came to Jeremiah and asked him to buy his field, for Jeremiah had the right to redeem it. God's plan for Israel was that the inheritance could never be lost permanently. There was a plan of redemption in the law which secured this fact. A legal transaction for redemption had to take place, and this involved two scrolls.

Jeremiah was very careful that all was done legally. He signed and sealed the deed, called in witnesses, paid the silver (silver symbolizes redemption), then "took the deeds of purchase, both the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions and the open copy." (v.11) The open scroll was a public record of the right of the purchaser to buy the property, and the sealed scroll was for future use. It contained the details of the sale, the cause or specifics of why it was sold, and the terms or cost of redemption.

Jeremiah's prayer at the close of this transaction shows that he realized that the redemption of one small parcel of land symbolized what God purposes for the whole of His creation! Read the whole chapter! Nothing is too difficult for the Lord! "They shall be My people, and I will be their God." (v.38) The Israelites were sold into slavery, but the lovingkindness of the Lord would redeem them!

This sealed scroll was very important because it contained the conditions of redemption. After Adam sinned, he could no longer remain in the garden. Instead of resting in God's provision, he was forced to live on the lower level of self-effort - to eke out a living through hard work. To be released from our slavery to self, we need a redeemer who will return our inheritance to us! No wonder a search was made for someone who could open the seven seals! As long as the scroll was sealed, it was a sign that someone had lost his inheritance; it still needed to be redeemed. Seven is not a literal number; it is the number of divine perfection or completeness. As the seven seals are opened, we will see what it takes to perfect us and to take us out of our slavery to self experientially.

The seven seals symbolize the strongholds, the spirits that keep us bound to our human nature. These strongholds have to be torn down so that we can be loosed. In Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of truth. Only truth can break the seals of lies that bind us to our earthy thinking!

"And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, `Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?'" (v.2) There is only one worthy to open your book. Only one who paid the price to release the covenant which has been written in your heart. Who is this strong angel or strong messenger? No being is stronger than Jesus Christ! All power has been given to Him!

"And no one (man) in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it." (vv.3-4)

A search was made for a man who could open the scroll. This had to be someone who was identified with humanity. Humanity thinks it can redeem itself by making right choices - that if given enough time and enough lifetimes, it will be successful. In the deceptiveness of man's imagination, he has a wrong image of himself. He does not realize that he is a slave to sin and Satan because Adam sold himself and all his progeny into death! Therefore, according to the law, it has to be a man, a relative of Adam, who is worthy, willing and able, to redeem man. Only someone who is identified with humanity can open the scroll of God's purposes; this someone must also be worthy to meet the requirements needed to bring redemption; it must be a man who can take us out of death!

In the garden of Eden, when Adam obeyed Satan instead of God, he sealed up the purposes that God had for man. Man was made for the purpose of walking with God, but he effectively sealed up that will and purpose by his disobedience. Instead of enjoying Him, Adam now feared Him. Ever since Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for a covering, man has tried to work out his own redemption, and failed. Can you see the great dilemma? Whoever can take away sin and its bondage and bring humanity into life, must himself be without sin and be victorious over death.

The search for someone who was worthy included every conceivable place - heaven, earth and under the earth! In heaven, the angels were of no use; although they were sinless, they were not of human descent. Since the search was for a man, and I say this reverently, God Himself could not do it because He is not a man either. So there was nobody in heaven.

Then the divine searchlight focused on the earth. There are plenty of men there, but they are not worthy. No man was found worthy to perform this task! Man cannot pull himself up by his bootstraps. Man does not have the right lineage; his connection with, and fascination for the earth, invalidate him. Those who have died are not worthy either, because the fact that they are still in death proves that their life could not resurrect them. So He said there is no man in heaven, there is no man on earth and no man under the earth who is worthy.

This is the only time in this book that John wept - and he saw some pretty incredible things. He just looked at them and wrote down what he saw. When no one was found worthy to open this book, he recognized that he himself was not worthy. Even though he had walked with Jesus and laid his head on Christ's breast, and suffered persecution and had been boiled in oil, he was not worthy. Neither was anyone else! He was so overwhelmed and involved in what he saw, that he wept greatly.

The contents of this book are extremely important to everyone everywhere; they were vital to all the Christians on the mainland, and they remain vital to all Christians everywhere throughout the ages, for this book contains the promise and details of redemption!

It was at this point that he heard a voice behind him. "And one of the elders said to me, `Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.'" (v.5)

This is wonderful news! There is One who is worthy! The word overcome is translated from the Greek nikao, meaning to conquer, to gain the victory. The Lion from the tribe of Judah has overcome death! Who is He? When Jacob blessed his sons, and he came to his son, Judah, he called him a lion's whelp. He said, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Gen. 49:10) The word Shiloh means to whom it belongs or whose right it is. That is, until He who alone has the right to reign shall come.

What does "of the Root of David" mean? The Lion of the tribe of Judah has His roots in David. In 2 Samuel 7:12-13 God said to David that he would have a descendant whose kingdom would be established forever. That is, David would be a root; out of his flesh and blood would come One who would rule forever. This prophecy does not refer to Solomon, for he lost the kingdom. David was the first young lion of Judah; he was the first king of Judah's tribe. In Matthew 1, the "begat" chapter, it clearly shows that Jesus is a descendant of David, and David was of the tribe of Judah. So Jesus is the Lion that was spoken of to Judah.

In Jesus Christ, God joined Himself to our humanity. Jesus Christ was of heaven; He was a man from heaven. But He was also joined to humanity; He was born of a woman. He alone filled all the requirements of worthiness to open the seals, for He was united with humanity, yet without sin; He had died, yet He was alive; He had overcome death!

"And I saw between" (actually, "in the midst of") "the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth." (v.6)

In the midst of the throne, with the four living creatures and the elders was a Lamb! What glorious unity, what glorious oneness with the One who sits on the throne! On the throne, in the perfect expression of life, and with the Lamb, are the elders - the royal priesthood!

We don't need to interpret what the Lamb means. Everyone immediately says, "Of course that is Jesus." If we use that same logic for every other part of Revelation, it will help our understanding of the book! Didn't John the Baptist describe Jesus as the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world? A lamb summed up all the bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament. They had rams, bulls, goats, pigeons - but in the mind of a Jew, the one animal that summed up all animals offered to God, was a lamb. Someone described it as "the theological shorthand for all the sacrifices of the Old Testament."

It says, "a Lamb, as if slain." Incidentally, the word lamb, as used here, is "little lamb". Our attention is drawn to a little white lamb, as if freshly slain. Lambs for sacrifice were killed by slitting their throats. This lamb showed the evidence of having been killed, yet it was alive! Here is Jesus, the One spoken of in prophecy; He is God and He is man; He has been crucified and has been resurrected! Death could not hold Him! He is worthy to break the seals, and shower blessings upon the human race by redeeming it.

The Lamb has seven horns. Have you ever seen a lamb with seven horns? Obviously we are not looking at a natural reality but at a symbol. In the scriptures and universally, horns speak of power. Seven is the number of God - God in perfect power! God's perfect power expressed in the crucified and resurrected Lamb of God and in the Lion of the tribe of Judah! A lamb is the epitome of weakness and a lion is the epitome of strength. As the Lamb of God He portrayed perfect weakness - He did nothing in His own power; He remained on the cross and died for His enemies! As the Lion He overcame every temptation and even death itself!

His seven eyes are the seven Spirits of God. The divine completeness of the Holy Spirit was resident in Jesus Christ! He is the Spirit of the Lord! He is complete wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord! Therefore He can loose us from every bondage that binds us to our wrong thinking!

He has been "sent out into all the earth." Not into all parts of the earth, but into all the earth. He has been sent into all our earth, to deliver us from all our earthiness!

"And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne." (v.7) We have to see this spiritually - not as a four-footed lamb going to the throne and taking a book in its mouth. This book contained all the instructions for the complete redemption of all humanity. The Lamb, Jesus Christ, went to Him who has all authority, and received His commendation that He had successfully completed His assignment. He had overcome death, and therefore could impart His life to humanity!

In the symbolism of this act, we see a high priest of a higher dimension, of a higher order than the Levitical high priesthood. To make atonement for Israel, Aaron had to first offer a sacrifice for his own sins before he could take the blood of animals into the holiest, the throne room. In this chapter the high priest and the sacrifice have become one. The Lamb has shed His own blood, but death could not keep Him! In life, He now brings His own blood right up to the throne.

In Lev. 17:11 the correct translation says, "The soul of the flesh is in the blood." The soul is our sense of being. The Israelites were not to drink the blood of animals because they were not to receive the sense of being of an animal. Christ's blood is the only blood we are to drink! We are not to receive the nature of an animal, but we are to receive the nature of Christ! His sense of being was perfect! He knew that submission to the Father's will was best for Him. In submission, He would never sin. As we receive Christ's sense of being, we too will only desire to do the Father's will. His sense of being will keep us from sinning. It brings cleansing from the wrong thinking of the Adamic man! Therefore His blood is accepted as the atonement for all of humanity throughout the ages!

"And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (v.8)

This scene is a victory celebration! The Lamb's accomplishment is so great that it immediately induces worship! Christ, the Son of Man, is the beginning of a new creation! He is proclaimed worthy to take the book of humanity that is locked into self, and redeem us! He has full power and authority to fulfill the requirements of redemption! The requisites for redemption have been fulfilled, but they still have to be worked into humanity.

The prostration of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders symbolizes submission, adoration and worship. The harps symbolize praise, and the golden bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints - not the selfish petitions of "give me," nor the prayers of rote and recitation, but the earnest prayers for the redemption of humanity! These are prayers for those who do not have understanding; they are for the hurting and the lost! were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. I think it is very significant that at this moment a new song of praise erupted in the throne room!

"And they sang a new song, saying, `Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.'" (vv.9-10)

As He took the book out of the hand of Him who sat on the throne, the whole government of God, that is, all who are on and around the throne, immediately burst forth into a new song. We shall be dealing with some of these songs as we go through the book. The word for new in Greek is new in kind; it is a kind of song that has never been sung before. Never before had there been someone worthy to bring redemption to humanity! This new kind of song is entitled, "Worthy is the Lamb".

This Lamb, this Shiloh, is worthy to break the seals! What do the seals signify? They symbolize the bonds or spirits that keep us bound and in slavery to self. When carnal thinking tries to break these bonds, it brings total disaster. Only the Lamb whose very life has overcome death is worthy to redeem humanity. The perfection of this life is revealed by His character and actions. This redemption is so complete that the new humanity will not only be made citizens of heaven, but it will be a kingdom that is ruled by a royal priesthood! This priesthood will reign on the earth.

"Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands." (v.11) This is an INNUMERABLE company of people. The exact number is not important. The important thing is that they were all gathered around the throne of God! The government of God was central in their lives!

If we just picture this scene in a far-away heaven, it won't change us. We need to see the throne of God within us! The Holy Spirit rules us from within! The royal priesthood together with God's angels (messengers) were around the throne. They were in awe of God's wonderful government and His great purpose for humanity! An anthem of praise filled the heavens!

"Saying with a loud voice, `Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'" (v.12) There is a crescendo in the praise of Christ's worthiness! Here we see His worthiness to receive power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory and blessing! This worthiness is based on His submission to the highest degree of suffering - His complete obedience to the will of the Father! What an inspiration for us to bow in total submission to the will of the Father! The cost is eclipsed by the blessings, glory and honor!

"And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, `To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'" (v.13) The actual translation is not "forever and ever", but "into the ages of the ages".

This is very impressive! No created thing is left out of this universal praise! It includes every created thing! To make sure that this is fully understood it lists all known locations - in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea and in them. This means that there is nothing within us that does not praise Him. Bitterness and unforgiveness would not praise Him. Take time to meditate on the inclusiveness of this praise! Colossians 1 tells us that all things, visible and invisible, have been created by Him and for Him! All glorify the Lamb! There are no exceptions!

"And the four living creatures kept saying, `Amen'. And the elders fell down and worshiped." (v.14) The living creatures, representing the life of God, say "Amen" to all the redemptive disciplines of God. They do not fight and fume against the God who loves them, just because the way is rough. They say, "Amen"! They are in agreement with everything God does!

The elders fell down and worshiped! Worship cannot take place without the surrender of one's will to the God who is worshiped! Salvation entails so much more than a ticket to heaven. It brings us into a vital union with Christ; it takes us out of the Adamic man and puts us into the Christ man; it takes us out of death and darkness and gives us life and light; it takes us out of self-love and gives us Christ's love; it takes us out of self-righteousness and gives us Christ's righteousness; it takes us out of carnal thinking and gives us the mind of Christ! What a glorious salvation is ours! Let's worship Him who is worthy of our worship!