Why has Christ not yet returned? What is God waiting for?

Purpose of this article

About 2000 years ago, Christ redeemed humanity at the Cross. We must assume that God will not allow evil to exist for a second longer than required. So, why has God allowed sin and suffering to continue for another 2000 years? Why does God delay Christ’s return? What else does God need, in addition to Christ’s death, to make an end of evil?

To an extent, this article is the end result of the series of articles on the seven seals (4:1-8:1).


Summary

The answer lies in the sealed book.

The vision of the sealed book (cf. Rev 5:1) provides the answer. In this vision, God is delaying Christ’s return until Jesus has broken all seven seals:

    • The sealed book is the book of life, which contains God’s judgments as to who will receive eternal life (cf. Rev 3:5).
    • Satan is the accuser of God’s elect (Rev 12:10). The seven seals of the book are Satan’s accusations against God’s elect.
    • That the book is sealed up so that no one “was able to open the book” (Rev 5:3) means that the heavenly beings did not and still do not understand God’s judgments!
    • Breaking the seals means providing the evidence required to refute Satan’s accusations of unfair judgment.
    • Jesus has overcome to open the book (Rev 5:5-6). He is “worthy” to break the seals because He was “slain” (Rev 5:9).
    • Since He received the book while appearing as a slain lamb (Rev 5:5-7), He received the book at His ascension.
    • Since the sixth and seventh seals describe the final events of the earth’s history (cf. Rev 6:12-14), the seals are broken over the entire church age.

Why Jesus Had to Die

The CrossWhy was the Son not “worthy” to break the seals before He died? How did His death make Him “worthy?” The article – Why Jesus had to die – explains:

    • Before Christ was born, Satan said that the Son, given the right circumstances, would also sin.
    • In response, the Son of God, by becoming a human being, submitted himself to a test. Satan tempted Him to the fullest extent possible, but Jesus overcame by remaining obedient to God to the end. In this way, He demonstrated Himself to be “worthy” to break the seals.
    • Christ’s victory over sin did not resolve the crisis. The book remained sealed, meaning that Christ’s death did NOT provide the evidence required to refute Satan’s objections to God’s judgments.

How will Satan be refuted?

The question then is, WHAT evidence is required to finally refute Satan’s charges and HOW will that evidence be obtained? 

Each time that Jesus breaks a seal, a catastrophic event occurs on earth (Rev 6). By implication, Jesus breaks the seals through events on earth.

When the seals are broken, the focus is on God’s people. For example, the first five seals describe the church age. They say that God’s people will preach the gospel but they will be “slain because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9). By implication, Jesus obtains the evidence through God’s people.

Specifically, the seals show that God’s people remain faithful to God despite their suffering (Rev 6:9, 11; 7:3, 14). This is the evidence that will validate God’s judgments and refute Satan. Job illustrates this principle. God gave Satan permission to test Job (Job 2:6). “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).

God’s people are sealed with God’s seal for when “the four winds” will be released (Rev 7:1-3). These “winds” are the seven last plagues. God’s people will receive His seal (Rev 7:3) to protect them DURING those plagues. Therefore, the seven last plagues will be the final and ultimate test of God’s people.

The seal of God will equip God’s people with every spiritual power available to humans (cf. Eph 6:10-11) but God will also allow Satan the full use of his satanic powers (Rev 16:14) to persecute and deceive. The seven last plagues will be intense spiritual warfare.

The obedience of God’s people will be tested by the most severe temptations and circumstances. By choosing death rather than disobeying God, God’s end-time people, as a representative sample of God’s elect of all time, must show that the people identified in the Book of Life will never disobey God. In this way, they must refute Satan’s accusations against God’s elect and validate God’s decision to grant eternal life to these sinners.

Satan’s followers will also be tested and revealed by the seven last plagues. The purpose of the plagues is ALSO to show that the people with the mark of the beast will not repent under any circumstances; that they have become haters of God, solidly confirmed in their ways and irreversibly committed to evil.

In this way, the deeds of people during the seven last plagues will reveal to the heavenly beings what the Almighty is already able to see in the hearts of people, and on which He based His judgments. This will be the final evidence required to assure the heavenly beings that God’s judgments are perfect. Then Christ will return and implement God’s judgments.

These tests of God’s judgments must not be confused with how God redeems people. People do not earn salvation.

These seal-events will serve as tests of the perfection of God’s judgments of ALL people that lived EVER since Adam. God’s end-time people, therefore, will not suffer and die for themselves but for God’s people in all generations.

God delays because His people are not ready.

But the question remains, why does it take such a long time? As discussed, the sealing of God’s end-time people (Rev 7:1-3) is equivalent to the ‘completion’ of God’s people in the fifth seal. Both describe the preparation of God’s people for the seven last plagues. Both show that God has not yet brought the seven last plagues on the world because His people are not ready. He is waiting for a people who will remain faithful to Him throughout the tremendous suffering and temptations of that time (Rev 7:1-3; 6:11).

God’s people made ready through persecution

But will God ever have a people who will be able to stand? As discussed, God’s people will be sealed through the end-time persecution (Rev 13:15-17). God will allow the beast to be resurrected (Rev 13:3), followed by that severe end-time persecution of His people. Through that persecution, they will be refined, as “gold refined by fire” (Rev 3:18). Through persecution, God will give to them the seal of the living God (Rev 7:2). Once they are all sealed, the seven last plagues will be poured out.

– End of Summary – 


The answer lies in the sealed book.

Preachers seldom explain why Christ has not returned yet but it probably is the main message of the vision of the sealed book (cf. Rev 5:1). In this vision, God is delaying Christ’s return until Jesus has broken all seven seals.

To understand what this means, we must note what happens when Jesus breaks the seals:

What is the sealed book?

The sealed book has been interpreted as the book of life, which contains God’s judgments as to who will receive eternal life (cf. Rev 3:5). As it excludes all other people, we may refer to it as the book of God’s judgments.

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10). In other words, he specifically accuses God’s elect. He claims that they do NOT deserve eternal life. The seven seals with which the book is sealed up, therefore, are interpreted as Satan’s informed and well-articulated accusations against the people identified in the book of life.

By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan actually accuses God of unfair judgment. To defend himself against God’s condemnation, Satan wants to show that God’s judgments are flawed.

Breaking the seals means providing the evidence required to refute Satan’s accusations of unfair judgment; particularly his objections to God’s selective mercy for only some sinners.

In Revelation 5:1-4, no one “was able to open the book or to look into it” (Rev 5:3), meaning that nobody was able to refute Satan’s accusations fully and show that God’s judgments are perfect. This, therefore, is a crisis IN HEAVEN: The heavenly beings do not understand!

When are the seals broken?

But the next verse announces that Jesus has overcome to open the book (Rev 5:5-6). And the beings in heaven declared Him “worthy” to break the seals because He was “slain” (Rev 5:9).

Since He receives the book while appearing as a slain lamb (Rev 5:5-7), another article concluded that He received the book as a consequence of AND SOON after His death, namely, at His ascension.

Since the sixth and seventh seals describe the final events of the earth’s history (cf. Rev 6:12-14), the seals are broken over the ENTIRE church age.

Why Jesus Had to Die

So, why was the Son not “worthy” to break the seals before He died? And how did His death make Him “worthy?” The article – Why Jesus had to die – explains:

Before He became a human being, the Son of God defended God’s people and God’s judgments. However, Satan also accused the Son of God personally, saying that the Son, given the right circumstances, would also sin (disobey God). Consequently, Satan argued that the Son is not “worthy” to defend the sinners God elected to eternal life.

In response, the unique Son of God, by becoming a human being, submitted himself to a test. Satan tortured Him to death and tempted Him to the fullest extent possible, but Jesus overcame by remaining obedient to God to the end. He never used His powers to save Himself from pain or to glorify Himself contrary to God’s will. In this way, He demonstrated Himself to be “worthy” to break the seals, meaning, to provide evidence to refute Satan’s accusations.

As a result, the sorrow in heaven turned to joy (Rev 5:4-5) and Christ received the book with the authority to open it (Rev 5:7, 9).

However, Christ’s victory over sin was not the final solution of the crisis, for the book remained sealed, meaning that Christ’s death did NOT provide the evidence required to refute Satan’s objections to God’s judgments.

How will Satan be refuted?

 The questions then are:

      • WHAT evidence is required to finally refute Satan’s charges and to convince the heavenly beings that God’s judgments are perfect?
      • HOW will that evidence be obtained?

We gain answers to these questions when we note what happens when Jesus breaks the seals:

1) Through Events on Earth

Each time that Jesus breaks a seal, a catastrophic event occurs on earth (Rev 6). By implication, that Jesus breaks the seals symbolizes that He directs events on earth to obtain the required evidence to refute Satan’s objections THROUGH events on earth.

2) Over the Church Age

Since He began to break the seals after His ascension and since the sixth and seventh seals describe the final events of the earth’s history (cf. Rev 6:12-14), the evidence will be obtained over the ENTIRE church age.

Christ’s return and the implementation of God’s judgments (Rev 19:21; 20:4) are delayed until ALL seven seals have been broken, meaning that the intelligent beings have FULL assurance of the perfection of God’s judgments – why eternal life is granted to the people identified in the book of life and why all other people are “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

In other words, Jesus did not return yet because there is some evidence outstanding to fully validate God’s judgments!

3) Through God’s People

The seals divide the history after Christ into three phases and, in each of them, the focus is on God’s people:

During THE CHURCH AGE, as described by the first five seals, God’s people will preach the gospel but they will be “slain because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9).

During THE PREPARATION FOR THE END-TIME, God’s people will be sealed with the seal of God (Rev 7:1-3) to empower them to remain faithful during the end-time destructions of the seven last plagues. This sealing is also described by the second part of the fifth seal.

THE FINAL EVENTS, as described by the last two seals, divide the people of the world between the people with the mark of the beast, hiding in the mountains (Rev 6:15-17), and God’s people, standing before His throne (Rev 7:9-17).

In conclusion, when the seals are broken, we essentially see God’s people, struggling to overcome under much oppression. This implies that Jesus obtains the evidence to bring an end to the crisis THROUGH GOD’S PEOPLE.

4) Through their Faithfulness

Specifically, when the seals are broken, the point is not merely to say that God’s people will suffer but, much more important, that THEY WILL REMAIN FAITHFUL to God, just like Jesus did. This is indicated, for example:

    • In the first four seals, by the slaying of God’s people “because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev 6:9),
    • In the fifth seal, by the ‘completion’ of God’s people (Rev 6:11), 
    • In the preparation for the seven last plagues, by the seal which ALL God’s people must receive (Rev 7:3), and
    • At the return of Christ, by the comment of the elder, that these people “come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).

As Jesus said:

Be faithful until death,
and I will give you
the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).

The evidence required to refute Satan, therefore, is that God’s people will TESTIFY for Him in the face of danger, “even when faced with death” (Rev 12:11; cf. 2:10). To believe in your heart is good, but what is required is that God’s people will testify for Him (Rev 6:9).

Job may serve as an illustration of how God’s people will validate God’s judgments. God gave Satan permission to test Job (Job 2:6). Satan killed Job’s children, destroyed his property, and afflicted Job with horrible sores. “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).

Revelation 12 confirms

The vision of the war in heaven (Rev 12:7) in Revelation 12 supports this conclusion. As discussed, that vision describes the same crisis and the same solution as the vision of the sealed book. And, as another article shows, that war was brought to an end by Christ’s death. However, AFTER His death, the war continued on earth (Rev 12:12). Eventually, according to Revelation 12:11, the dragon (Satan – Rev 12:9) was finally defeated through two methods:

“And they overcame him (the dragon)
(1) because of the blood of the Lamb
(2) and because of the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their life
even when faced with death.” (Rev 12:11)

Since the second is the willingness of God’s people to die for their testimony, this supports the conclusion that God will finally refute Satan’s accusations against God’s people through their faithful testimony.

Rick Joyner confirms

Rick Joyner gave a similar reason for why Christ’s return is being delayed. He quotes Jesus as saying:

“I could have judged the world after My resurrection, but the course of the world was allowed to continue so that My righteous ones could be proven and the power of what I did on the cross would be seen in mankind.” (The Call, chapter 5)

This quote confirms that:

      • God is delaying His judgments
      • So that His righteous ones could be proven.
      • God will implement His judgments immediately AFTER they have been proven.

The Example of Job

Job may serve as an illustration of how God’s people will validate God’s judgments:

Job had no idea why he suffered.

In the courts of heaven, God described Job as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). But Satan challenged God, saying, “touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:11). Then God permitted Satan to test Job. God said: “He is in your power, only spare his life” (Job 2:6).

Satan killed Job’s children, destroyed his property, and afflicted Job with horrible sores. “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).

When Satan tested Job, he actually tested God’s ability to judge. However, Job’s faithfulness proved God right. The suffering of God’s people has the same purpose. For a further discussion, see the article on Job.

5) Through the Seven Last Plagues

God’s people are sealed with God’s seal for when “the four winds” will be released (Rev 7:1-3). These “winds” have been interpreted as the seven last plagues. Another article concluded that God’s people will receive God’s seal (Rev 7:3) to protect them DURING THOSE PLAGUES. Therefore, the seven last plagues will be the final and ultimate test of God’s people.

God’s people will receive every spiritual power.

The seal of God, which only end-time believers will receive, but which ALL end-time believers must receive, will equip them with every spiritual power available to humans (cf. Eph 6:10-11). As Rick Joyner stated:

“The last-day church will not be greater than Paul’s generation, even if she does greater works … All that is done is done by My grace. However, I will make more of My grace and power available to the last-day church, because she must accomplish more than the church in any age has yet accomplished.” (The Quest)

They will reach a level of spiritual maturity that was previously perhaps visible in individuals such as Job but never before in all of God’s people. Also elsewhere in Revelation, we see evidence that God’s end-time people will be spiritually mature. For example, in the end-time context:

      • “His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7-8).
      • While “the vine of the earth,” symbolizing the lost, will be trodden in the winepress (Rev 14:18-20), “the harvest of the earth,” symbolizing God’s people, will be harvested when it “is ripe” (Rev 14:15).

Satan will be allowed full power.

Generally, God limits Satan with respect to what he is allowed to do to God’s people (e.g., Job 1:12). But, during the plagues, “spirits of demons, performing signs” will “go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev 13:14). This is understood as meaning that, in this final crisis before Christ returns, God will allow Satan THE FULL USE of his demonic powers to persecute and deceive.

The plagues will test God’s people.

The sixth plague, in verses 14 to 16, describes the gathering of the people of the world at Armageddon (Rev 16:14-16). Verse 14 says HOW they will be gathered and verse 16 says WHERE they will be gathered. It is critically important to take note of the call in the verse between these two verses:

“Blessed is the one who stays awake
and keeps his clothes,
so that he will not walk about naked
and men will not see his shame” (Rev 16:15; cf. 3:18).

This indicates what God’s people must do when the demon spirits gather the people of the world at Armageddon. To keep your clothes and “not walk about naked” (Rev 16:15) means to remain faithful to God (cf. Rev 3:18; 6:11; 7:14). The seven last plagues, therefore, will be intense spiritual warfare.

During the darkest hour of this world’s history, the experience of Job and particularly Christ will be the experience of the entire church. During the seven last plagues, the obedience of God’s people will be tested with the most severe temptations and circumstances, just like Jesus’ faithfulness was tested to the fullest possible extent. Through their faithfulness, “even when faced with death,” God’s end-time people, as a representative sample of all of God’s people of all time, must win the final victory over Satan. Their faithfulness must refute Satan’s accusations against God’s elect and demonstrate that the people listed in the book of life will not surrender God’s principles under any circumstances, thereby justifying God’s decision to grant these sinners eternal life.

They will be scared and fully aware of their sins. They really want to believe in the God of the Bible. But they also will be tempted by the temptation of the time, which is to accept the mark of the beast (cf. Rev 13:16-17). It must be shown that they are willing to suffer all possible loss – even their lives – rather than disobey God; just like Jesus did. That which the Creator alone is able to see in their hearts (cf. Rev 2:23), and on which He based His judgments, must become visible through the faithful testimony of His people.

Rick Joyner describes this end-time war as follows:

“By choosing death rather than to go against God’s laws they will REVEAL the glory of God in such a way that it would be a witness to every power and authority, created or yet to be created, for all of eternity. During this battle the glory of the cross would be REVEALED, and the wisdom of God would BE KNOWN in a special way.” (The Call)

One important point from this quote is that the temptation of the time (the mark of the beast) will be to “go against God’s laws.” The mark of the beast, therefore, is some sin. To know what it is, we must first understand what the beast is. Then we must ask what its major identifying mark is. When the time comes, God’s messengers will let the whole earth know exactly what the mark of the beast is (Rev 14:6).

Another important point is from this quote is that this final battle will be A DEMONSTRATION; firstly of God’s people but, through them, of the glory and wisdom of God.

The plagues will also test Satan’s people.

Satan’s followers will also be tested and revealed by the seven last plagues.

Another article concludes that the seven last plagues begin at a point in history during the end-time persecution (Rev 13:15-17) when EVERY person on earth will have either the mark of the beast or the seal of God. See the discussion of Revelation 15.

The frequent mention of God’s righteousness (Rev 15:3, 4; 16:5, 7; 19:2) implies that the plagues will reveal the perfectness of God’s judgments.

In particular, the frequent mention in the plagues that the worshipers of the beast DO NOT REPENT (Rev 16:9, 11, 21), even when confronted with clear evidence that they are wrong (Rev 16:10) (See – Fifth Plague), implies that the purpose of the plagues is ALSO to show that the people with the mark of the beast will not repent under any circumstances; that they have become haters of God—solidly confirmed in their ways—irreversibly committed to evil.

They will see that the plagues do not fall on that hated minority (Rev 16:2, 10) who tormented them so much (Rev 11:10) by their testimony to the truth (cf. Rev 14:6). They will see that the plagues only fall on the followers of the beast. They must realize that this minority is God’s real people. But they will not repent. On the contrary; they prepare to war against God (Rev 16:14-16).

Their refusal to repent will validate God’s judgment of them. It will show that God has no other option but to give “them over” (Rom 1:24, 26, 28). (For a further discussion, see – Fifth Plague),

Conclusion

In other words, the deeds of people during the seven last plagues will reveal BOTH God’s people and the people with the mark of the beast THROUGH THEIR DEEDS. That which the Almighty is already able to see in the hearts of people, and on which He based His judgments, will become visible to created beings. In this way, the seven last plagues will provide the final evidence required to assure the heavenly beings that God’s judgments are perfect. Then Christ will return and implement God’s judgments.

This must not be confused with Redemption.

These tests of God’s judgments must not be confused with how God redeems people. These chapters of Revelation do not explain how man is saved. They explain how Satan is defeated.

Jesus did not die for Himself. By remaining faithful to God under the most severe circumstances, He won the right to open the book of life. Consequently, He died for God’s people.

IN THE SAME WAY, God’s end-time people will not die for themselves. These seal-events will serve as tests of the perfection of God’s judgments of ALL people that lived EVER since Adam. They must show, as a witness to all intelligent beings in the universe, for all eternity, that God’s grace to His people IN ALL AGES is perfectly justified. God’s end-time people, therefore, will suffer and die for God’s people in all generations.

This is very different from how God redeems individuals.

Why does God Delay?

But we must also ask: Why does it take such a long time?

Another article argues that the sealing of God’s end-time people (Rev 7:1-3) is another description of the ‘completion’ of God’s people as described in the fifth seal. Both describe the preparation of God’s people for the seven last plagues. Both give the reason for the delay as that God’s people are not ready:

In the fifth seal, the souls under the altar are told to wait “UNTIL … their fellow … brethren … would be completed also” (Rev 6:11). This was interpreted as “completion” in CHARACTER; not in literal number.

We see the same principle in the sealing. The angel who brings the seal cries out with a loud voice to the four angels who are holding back the four winds not to harm the earth “UNTIL we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads” (Rev 7:1-3).

God, therefore, has not yet brought the seven last plagues on the world because His people are not ready. God is delaying the seven last plagues until He has a people who will remain faithful to Him throughout the tremendous suffering and temptations of that time (Rev 7:1-3; 6:11).

God’s people will be prepared through persecution.

But will God EVER have a people who will be able to stand?

As another article concludes, God’s people will be sealed THROUGH the end-time persecution (Rev 13:15-17). In other words, eventually, to have a people who will be able to remain faithful throughout the seven last plagues, God will have to allow the beast to be resurrected (Rev 13:3), followed by that severe end-time persecution of His people. THROUGH that persecution, they will be refined, as “gold refined by fire” (Rev 3:18). THROUGH PERSECUTION, God will give to them the seal of the living God (Rev 7:2). Once they are all sealed, the seven last plagues will be poured out.


Other Articles

In the book of Revelation, why did Jesus have to die?

This is an article in the series on the vision of the book with the seven seals (Rev 4:1-8:1).


Purpose

This article discusses the significance of Christ’s death as explained by Revelation’s vision of the sealed book. Jesus receives a book that is sealed up with seven seals (Rev 5:7, 1). Before His death, nobody was able to open the book (Rev 5:3) but, after He appeared as a slain lamb, Jesus Christ was declared “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:5, 9). So, the purpose of this article is to explain why He was not “worthy” to break the seals before His death and how did His death make Him “worthy?

The church has been debating this question – why Jesus had to die – for the last 2000 years. (See – Theories of the Atonement) In my view, the vision of the sealed book provides the answer but, to my knowledge, my website is the only one that uses this vision to explain the atonement.


Summary

Previous Conclusions

Previous articles have concluded as follows:

1) Christ received the sealed book after He ascended to heaven; about 2000 years ago.

2) The sealed book is the book of life, containing God’s judgments, indicating who will inherit eternal life (Rev 20:15; 21:27).

3) The seals of the book symbolize Satan’s accusations against God’s elect (as identified in the book). Effectively, Satan accuses God of unfair and arbitrary judgment.

4) To break the seals of the book means to provide evidence to refute Satan’s objections.

5) Jesus’ death did not open the book immediately. He BEGAN to break the seals after His ascension.

6) Christ will return as soon as all seven seals are broken, meaning, as soon as God’s judgments have been shown to be perfect.

Christ’s Saving Death

In Revelation 5, Jesus is worthy to break the seals BOTH because He “overcame” and because He died (Rev 5:5, 9-10). To “overcome” means TO REMAIN FAITHFUL to God despite temptations (e.g., Rev 2:7, 11, 17; 3:21). So, what made Him worthy – the fact that He died or the fact that He overcame?

To ask the same question in more general terms: What does it mean when the Bible says that we are saved by Christ’s death or by His blood? What about His death is able to save people?

Firstly, we are not saved by His literal blood, but by His death. His blood is simply a symbol of His violent death.

Secondly, we are not saved merely because Jesus died but because He died without sin. That is what Revelation means when it says that He “has overcome” (Rev 5:5; 3:21). If He sinned anywhere during His life, His death would NOT have had any saving power.

Thirdly, His death does not refer merely to the moment of death or to the fact that He died, but to His FINAL HOURS. Those hours were Satan’s final and best opportunity to tempt Jesus to sin.

Jesus could have spoken a word and His tormenters would have died but He allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter because He knew that that was God’s will.

What Satan attempted to achieve is that the Son of God would disobey God and glorify Himself before the people by using His powers to save Himself from his agony (cf. Luke 22:42; Matt 27:40; 4:3, 6).

But Jesus overcame. He remained “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). His death, understood as his final hours, was His highest and final test but also His greatest victory.

Fourthly, His final hours reflect how He overcame THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE. If He disobeyed God AT ANY TIME during His life, His mission would have failed.

Lastly, the significance of the MOMENT of His death was that it was THE END of the test He had to endure. Until He died, the heavenly beings watched the battle between Christ and Satan with bated breath. Since He died without ever disobeying God, the moment of His death was the moment of His final victory.

In conclusion, when the Bible refers to His blood or His death, it really refers to the fact that He remained “faithful until death.” That is what gave His death the power to save.

How did His death make Him Worthy?

The Cross

Why was the Son of God not “worthy” to break the seals before His death (cf. Rev 5:3, 5)? And how did His death make Him “worthy” to open the book (Rev 5:9)?

Firstly, we should agree that the Son of God was not somehow improved by becoming a human being or by overcoming Satan’s temptations.

Neither did Christ’s death make God more willing or able to forgive, as church tradition claims. The opposite is true: God, the Father, is the driving force behind redemption (e.g., John 3:16; Col 1: 12-14, 1:19-20; 1 Tim 1:1; 2:3-5).

In summary, this article argues as follows:

Satan is the accuser of God’s people (Rev 12:10). He shows that they are sinners. Effectively, Satan accuses God of unfair and arbitrary judgment. It seems as if Satan argues that if he (Satan) is condemned, then God’s people must also be condemned, and vice versa.

Since the Son is the One who breaks the seals of the book (e.g., Rev 6:1), meaning to refute Satan’s accusations, He ALWAYS was Satan’s opponent.

Since Satan’s nature is that of an accuser (cf. Gen 3:3-5; Rev 12:10), we can assume that he also accused the Son. In other words, the Son was un-”worthy” before His victory in the sense that Satan brought accusations against Him.

Since the heavenly beings declared Jesus to be “worthy” BECAUSE HE OVERCAME BY REMAINING FAITHFUL TO DEATH, we may assume that Satan claimed that, given the right circumstances, the Son would also sin, and that, for that reason, He is unworthy for the task of defending God’s grace to sinners.

To be trusted to defend God’s judgments, the Son had to refute Satan’s charges against Himself. For that reason, by becoming a human being, He subjected Himself to a test.

Although tempted in every conceivable way (Heb 4:15), Jesus remained “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). His death made Him worthy in the sense that His death (understood as His final hours) reflected how He overcame His entire life, refuted Satan’s allegations against Him, and DEMONSTRATED Him as worthy.

So, what changed at the moment of death is that that was the end of the test. He passed the test, demonstrating something about Him that was ALWAYS true.

Now, the universe is fully convinced that Jesus is “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14), meaning that they trust Him to reveal the truth about God’s judgments.

God wants us to understand. The Son’s life on earth was a test, but it was not for God’s benefit. God knew that His unique Son would remain faithful under all temptations. The test was a demonstration for the benefit of the created beings. (E.g., Rom 3:25-26; Col 2:15). (See – The Cross disarmed the rulers and authorities.)

However, even after the Cross, the book remains sealed. This is explained as follows: Satan brought accusations against both the Son of God and the people of God. Christ’s victory over sin refuted Satan’s accusations against the Son of God. However, while Jesus never sinned, God’s people are all sinners. Christ’s victory, therefore, did not refute Satan’s objections against God’s people – symbolized as the seals with which the book is sealed. The purpose of the article – Why did Christ not yet return? – is to explain this.

– End of Summary –


Previous Conclusions

One previous article has concluded that Christ received the sealed book after He ascended to heaven; about 2000 years ago.

A sealed book symbolizes things that are not understood. Another previous article has concluded as follows:

1) This sealed book is the book of life, containing God’s judgments, indicating who will inherit eternal life (Rev 20:15; 21:27).

2) The seals of the book symbolize Satan’s accusations against God’s elect (as identified in the book).

3) The book is sealed in the sense that nobody is able to fully refute Satan’s accusations.

4) To break the seals of the book means to remove the things that prevent understanding. Since the seals symbolize Satan’s objections to God’s judgments, to break the seals means to provide evidence to refute Satan’s objections.

Jesus received the book after His ascension but His death did not open the book immediately. He begins to break the seals of the book in Revelation 6. That chapter ends with “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17), which is the Day of Judgment. (See – Sixth Seal.) Further conclusions, therefore, are:

5) All seven seals will only be broken when He returns. Even today, all the seals have not yet been broken, meaning that Satan’s objections to God’s judgments and his claims of unfair judgments have not yet been fully refuted.

6) Christ will return as soon as God’s judgments have been shown to be perfect.

Christ’s Saving Death

What made Him worthy?

According to Revelation 5:5, Christ is able to break the seals and open the book because He “has OVERCOME.” But a few verses later, it is stated that He is worthy to break the seals because He was “SLAIN” and purchased people with His “BLOOD” (Rev 5:9-10).

In these verses, we find three related concepts:

      • He overcame,
      • His was slain (His death), and
      • His blood.

To “overcome” means to remain faithful to God “until death” despite temptations (e.g., Rev 2:7, 10-11, 17; 3:21). So, what made Him worthy; the fact that He died or the fact that He overcame?

Asking the same question in more general terms: What does it mean when the Bible says that we are saved by Christ’s death or by His blood? What about His death is able to save people?

Not His literal blood

Firstly, we must agree that we are not saved by His literal blood, but by His death. There is no magical power in His literal blood. His blood is simply a symbol of His death.

Because He died without sin.

Secondly, we are not saved merely because Jesus died but because He died without sin. That is what Revelation means when it says that He “has overcome” (Rev 5:5; 3:21). Jesus never submitted to Satan’s temptations to disobey God. If He sinned anywhere during His life, His death would NOT have had any saving power.

God allowed Satan to continually tempt Jesus; to do everything possible to cause Jesus’ mission to this world to fail. Satan followed Him everywhere and every day and used every possible opportunity to tempt Jesus to sin.

Satan obtained permission from God to test Job, but Job remained faithful (Job 1:11-12, 22). Then Satan asked for a second time that Job be tested but with an even more severe test, which God allowed, but God did not give Satan the authority to kill Job (Job 2:4-5). Based on this example, we can assume that God permitted Satan to tempt Jesus with every test which Satan’s brilliant but evil mind could devise. But Jesus never sinned and it is for that reason that we are saved by His death.

His Final Hours

Thirdly, His death does not simply refer to the moment of death or to the fact that He died. Rather, His death refers to His FINAL HOURS. Satan’s final and best opportunity to tempt Jesus to sin was during the 24 hours before Jesus’ death:

Already in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed bitterly and asked His Father not to subject Him to the cruel torment and horrible death He knew was coming (Matt 26:39, 42), but the Father explained to Him why it was necessary (Luke 22:43). The Son had to be tested to the fullest.

Jesus could simply have gone away. Or He could have spoken a word and His tormenters would have died. He had enormous powers. He could calm the winds and the waves (Matt 8:26), command “twelve legions of angels” (Matt 26:53), and raise people from death (e.g., John 11:43-44). However, when sinful men nailed Him to the cross, He did not use His powers to save Himself from this most severe torment. He allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter because He knew that that was God’s will.

During His last few hours, Satan slowly strangled life out of Him, tormented Him with the most severe physical and emotional pain torment so that He even became disorientated and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me” (Matt 27:46)? 

What Satan attempted to achieve is that the Son of God would disobey God and glorify Himself before the people by using His powers to save Himself from his agony and to come down from the cross (cf. Luke 22:42). For that reason, Satan tempted Jesus with the thought, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt 27:40; cf. Matt 4:3, 6).

But Jesus overcame. He remained faithful to God. He “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). His death, therefore, UNDERSTOOD AS HIS FINAL HOURS, was His highest and final test but also His greatest victory.

His Entire Life

However, fourthly, His final hours reflect how He overcame THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE.

As stated, His entire life was a test. The tempter was always looking for ways to get Jesus to sin. For example, He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1). If He disobeyed God AT ANY TIME during His life, His mission would have failed.

The Moment of His Death

Lastly, the significance of the MOMENT of His death was that it was THE END of the test He had to endure. He entered Satan’s kingdom as a human being, emptying Himself of the form and equality with God (Phil 2:6-7), allowing Satan to tempt Him “in all things as we are” (Heb 4:15).

Until He died, the heavenly beings watched the battle between Christ and Satan with bated breath. But when He died, that test came to an end. And, knowing that He died without ever disobeying God, the heavens erupted in jubilation, as recorded in Revelation 5.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when the Bible refers to His blood or His death, it really refers to the fact that He remained “faithful until death.” That is what gave His death the power to save. His “blood” describes HOW He overcame.

How His death made him Worthy

Before His death (Rev 5:5), nobody – not even the Son – was able to break the seals (Rev 5:3) but, because of His death, Jesus Christ is declared “worthy” to open the book (Rev 5:9). Therefore, since the seals symbolize Satan’s objections to God’s judgments, not even the Son, before His death, was “worthy” to refute Satan’s claims of unfair judgment.

So, we ask:

      1. Why was the Son of God not “worthy” to break the seals before His death?
      2. And how did His death make Him “worthy?” What changed as a result of Christ’s life and death?

Since, as argued above, his “blood” and His death symbolize how He OVERCAME Satan’s ultimate temptations during His final hours, the question may be phrased as follows:

How did OVERCOMING make Him “worthy” to break the seals?

He was not improved.

To become a human being, He emptied Himself of equality with God (Phil 2:5-7). It is impossible to understand but He remained the same ‘person’ as before. And He was NOT somehow improved by becoming a human being or by overcoming. 

God did not change.

Many people claim that God changed, namely that, because of Christ’s death, God became willing or able to forgive. Some even say that Jesus died to pacify God’s wrath. That is a horrible distortion of the truth. The opposite is true: God, the Father, is the driving force behind redemption. For example:

He so loved the world that HE GAVE His Only Son (John 3:16).

It was the Father’s good pleasure
through Him
(Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace through the blood of His cross
” (Col 1:19-20).

God is our Savior (1 Tim 1:1; 2:3-5). Jesus is also our Savior because God so loved the world that He GAVE His Only Son to be our Savior (John 3:16; cf. Col 1:12-14).

Christ’s death, therefore, did not make God more willing to forgive.

Some readers might be disturbed by the strict distinction I make between God and Christ. However, in doing that, I am simply echoing the Book of Revelation (e.g., Rev 1:1-2, 6; 5:9; 7:10). For further discussion, see – Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God Almighty?

What problem did Jesus solve?

Different theories of the atonement propose different ‘problems’ that were solved by Christ’s death. In one theory, for example, the problem is that God was angry. In another, Satan, due to our sin, has a legal right to this world. (See, theories of the atonement.) So, according to the vision of the sealed book, what ‘problem’ did Jesus solve?

Since the Son is the One who breaks the seals of the book (e.g., Rev 6:1), meaning to refute Satan’s accusations and thereby providing evidence of the perfection of God’s judgments, we may assume that that was also His role BEFORE He became a human being. In other words, before His incarnation, the Son of God was Satan’s opponent.

Satan is the accuser of God’s people (Rev 12:10), showing that they are sinners; effectively, accusing God of unfair judgment. It seems as if Satan argues that if he (Satan) is condemned, then God’s people must also be condemned, and vice versa.

Since his nature is that of an accuser (cf. Gen 3:3-5), we may assume that Satan also accused the Son of God personally. In other words, the Son was un”worthy” before His victory in the sense that Satan brought accusations against Him. But what could he accuse the Son of?

Since, after His victory on earth, the heavenly beings declared the Son to be “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:5, 9), it seems as if Satan accused the Son of not being “worthy” for that specific task, namely, to provide evidence of the perfection of God’s judgments.

But what reason did Satan offer for his claim that Jesus is not “worthy” for that task? The only way in which the Son could refute those allegations was to submit Himself to a test. Since Jesus is declared to be “worthy” because He overcame by remaining faithful to death, even after Satan tempted Him in every conceivable way, we may assume that Satan claimed that, given the right circumstances, the Son would also sin, and, for that reason, He is unworthy for the task of defending God’s grace to sinners. (Sin is understood here as doing something contrary to God’s will.)

In conclusion:

The Son was not “worthy” before He died in the sense that Satan claimed that the Son would sin if appropriately tempted.

His death made Him worthy in the sense that through His death, understood as His final hours, which also reflected His entire life, He overcame, thereby refuting Satan’s allegations against Him.

Is God fair?

But why? Why would the Son of God be un”worthy” to defend God’s elective grace for sinners if He would also sin when appropriately tempted? I, certainly, do not know.

Since the heavenly beings declared Jesus to be “worthy” after His victory, one possibility is that Satan found fault with God’s Son PERSONALLY. 

Another possibility is that Satan found fault with God’s Law, saying that NOBODY is able to comply with God’s norms under all circumstances. Therefore, perhaps Satan claimed that God is unjust when He forgives some sinners but condemns others. To speculate further on this option:

Since Satan was (is?) exalted above all other created things in power and beauty, perhaps he argued that it was his supreme powers that caused him to sin. (Power corrupts?) Perhaps he argued that self-glorification, which was his sin (Ezek 28:14, 17) is the NATURAL RESULT of being exalted above others.

If that was his argument, then Satan argued that it is not his fault that he used his powers to glorify himself; it is simply how creation functions. And if it is anybody’s fault, then it is God’s fault because He made all things as they are and He gave Satan his brilliance.

Furthermore, since the unique Son of God IS EXALTED above all created things, perhaps Satan also argued that it is inevitable that the Son, given the right circumstances, would do the same as he (Satan) did, namely, to use His power to glorify Himself.

Then, to address this accusation, Jesus submitted Himself to a test. He became a vulnerable human being and subjected Himself to Satan’s every temptation and persecution. But He showed that it is possible to remain true to God under the most adverse circumstances. In other words, there is no fault in God’s expectations and norms.

I need to repeat that I regard this section as speculation. The real explanation must be much more complex. We cannot hope to understand debates that have raged in heaven for thousands of years between intelligences much greater than ours. At least, this section shows that logical explanations are possible, in contrast to some other theories of the atonement.

Satan had some success.

Since the Son became a human being, there must have been a need to prove His “worthy”-ness, implying that Satan, with the enormous talents God gave him, had some success in creating a level of doubt in the minds of the heavenly beings concerning the Son; just like Satan was able to create doubt in the minds of the created universe about the perfection of God’s judgments.

Satan’s Purpose

But why would Satan use this argument? Why would Satan claim that the Son would sin if appropriately tempted?

Satan is perhaps the most talented and the most beautiful of all of God’s creatures and, in time past, he was without sin (Ezek 28:12, 14-15). But he sinned (Ezek 28:16-17) and God condemned him:

You will cease to be forever” (Ezek 28:19).

It seems logical that Satan’s purpose is to defend himself against God’s condemnation.

The Son subjected Himself to a test.

To be trusted to defend God’s judgments and God’s mercy to His people, the Son had to refute Satan’s charges against Himself. For that reason, while this war of accusations was still raging in heaven, the only begotten Son of God subjected Himself to a test by becoming a human being. “He existed in the form of God” but came “in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7).

As discussed above, His entire life was a test. Satan tempted Jesus in every conceivable way but He overcame throughout His life. He remained “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10; cf. Heb 4:15), meaning that He never used His powers contrary to God’s will. Christ’s willingness to be tested and His faithfulness to God under the most excruciating torment refuted Satan’s accusations against Christ and demonstrated something about Him that was ALWAYS true but that was disputed by Satan. This confirmed Him to be “worthy” to reveal the contents of the book. Now, the universe is fully convinced that Jesus is “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14), meaning that they trust Him to reveal the truth about God’s judgments.

God wants us to understand.

The Son’s life on earth was a test, but it was not for God’s benefit. God knew that His unique Son would remain faithful under all temptations. The test was a demonstration for the benefit of the created beings. For example:

It was not God who declared the Son “worthy” but the beings in heaven (Rev 5:8-9), implying that His worthiness was something that the universe observed.

The New Testament also elsewhere describes Christ’s death as a demonstration. For example, God displayed Jesus publicly “to demonstrate His righteousness” (Rom 3:25-26). And, God “triumphed over” “the rulers and authorities” by making “a public display of” them THROUGH CHRIST (Col 2:15). (See – The Cross disarmed the rulers and authorities.)

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road the Emmaus and “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27) but He did not reveal Himself to them until AFTER He has completed His explanation. This illustrates how God works. He does not want His created beings to merely accept His personal say-so. God wants His created beings to evaluate the evidence and be convinced that His judgments of the people they love are perfect.

But the book remains sealed.

However, even after the Cross, the book remains sealed. This is explained as follows: Satan brought accusations against both the Son of God and the people of God. Christ’s victory over sin refuted Satan’s accusations against the Son of God. However, while Jesus never sinned, God’s people are all sinners. Christ’s victory, therefore, did not refute Satan’s objections against God’s people – symbolized as the seals with which the book is sealed. The purpose of the article – Why did Christ not yet return? – is to explain this.

Incarnation

This argument is based on a controversial assumption, namely that, when the Son became a human being, His entire eternal character was contained in that human being. Therefore, when the man Jesus was tested, it was the character of the eternal Son of God that was tested. These concepts are also beyond human understanding but assumed to be true.

Overview

Before Christ

The sealed book in Revelation 5 and the “war in heaven” in Revelation 12 point to the same crisis, namely a dispute between the angels of heaven over whether God’s judgments are perfect. This dispute was caused by Satan, accusing God of unfair and arbitrary judgment.

The sealed book symbolizes God’s judgments – also known as “the book of life.” The seven seals are Satan’s accusations against God’s elect. To break the seals means to refute Satan’s objections to God’s judgments. That the book is sealed up signifies that God’s created intelligent beings were unable to fully refute Satan’s allegations of arbitrary judgment.

The Son of God defended God’s judgments but, before His death, the Son of God was not “worthy” in the sense that Satan was able to create doubt in the minds of the created universe of the truthfulness of the Son’s defense of God’s people and judgments.

John’s weeping symbolizes the distress caused by the dispute over God’s judgments for, as long as Satan’s accusations remain unrefuted, evil must continue and God’s people cannot be resurrected.

Christ’s Victory

The Cross of ChristChrist’s blood symbolizes His death. His death does not only refer to the moment when He breathed His last but to His final hours when tempter inflicted the most severe torment and temptation possible on Him.

The hours of His death were His highest and final test but also His greatest victory, for He overcame by remaining “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). In this way, He refuted Satan’s accusations against Him and became “worthy” to break the seals.

The main change, that was brought about by the Christ-event, is how the universe views Christ and Satan. The characters of both have been demonstrated. The Son of God is now accepted as trust-“worthy” but Satan was demonstrated to be a liar.

After Christ

Christ’s victory did not immediately open the book. The book remains sealed because He, by overcoming, did not refute Satan’s objections against God’s elect. In other words, He has not yet shown that God judges perfectly.

Christ will refute Satan’s accusation during the time between His death and His return. Another article shows that, during the end-time crisis, the lives (deeds) of people will prove that God’s judgments are perfect.

Since His concern is the happiness of His creatures, God delays Christ’s return and the implementation of His judgments until all understand that His judgments are perfect.


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