What is your worst nightmare? We all have those trivial nightmares. Falling into an endless pit. Being encircled by sharks. Waking up with a nest of spiders on you (which happened to me for real at beach mission one year!). But if I were to ask you to seriously consider your worst nightmare – what you fear most – what would you say?
I suspect many of us would share a fear of terminal illness, be it with ourselves or a loved one. Perhaps we fear the loss of a child, or never being able to have a child. Life-long singleness might be a great fear. Or those sudden incidents of life – the car accident, the sporting accident, the “wrong-place wrong-time” kind of accident. Really, if I asked you to consider your worst nightmare, there are a multitude of things we could all come up with. This world is a world infected by sin and under judgment. The sad reality is how easily this life can turn into those “worst nightmare” scenarios.
But if I could be so bold… as horrible as some of those things mentioned above can be, none of them come anywhere near the worst nightmare scenario. The Bible actually gives us that worst nightmare scenario in Revelation chapter 5 with the vision of the Apostle John…
Imagine no Jesus. Imagine that Jesus never came. That is the nightmare scenario that begins Revelation 5.
In verse 2 John saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”. And what do we read in verse 3? No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.
At this point in the book of Revelation, it’s game over. Without the scroll being opened, the victory of Jesus that Revelation goes on to speak of would never come about. All the words to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, and of them being victors in Jesus – none of that would come about either.
Now, of course we know what happens next! One of the elders comes to John and tells him, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
But! Before jumping to the elder – it is worth us sitting with the notion of there being no Jesus. If we stop and imagine a world without Jesus, even for a second, then we would be just like the Apostle John in verse 4 – we would weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. We would weep, for no Jesus means no hope. No forgiveness. No salvation. No eternal life. If there is no Jesus – then every single person, including all of us – would be destined for eternal hell. That place where the fire never goes out. Where we grind our teeth in anguish for age upon age. The winepress of God’s wrath (Rev 14:19) would be the destiny of all. You see, there is nothing more horrific to imagine than no Jesus.
However, it’s only as we imagine such a scenario that we can then truly appreciate the praise and worship that goes on in the rest of Revelation 5. John’s weeping rightly turns to exuberant joy when Jesus, the lamb who was slain, steps forward. We then get that most magnificent picture in verse 13… And I [John] heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”
Christmas is the time of year when we remember just how good it is that God sent his Son Jesus into the world. Dread the thought of no Jesus. There truly is no worse nightmare imaginable. This Christmas period, remember THE celebration that eclipses them all. Don’t get caught up only in our human busyness and festivities (as good as they can be). When it comes time for the new year’s celebrations, forget millions down on Sydney Harbour with elaborate, explosive fireworks. Because the praise and worship for Jesus the Lamb of God is THE greatest of all celebrations. The noise of the worship and praise from the living creatures, elders, and angels, and every creature is unimaginable. Remember this Christmas that Jesus is worthy. Remember this Christmas just how miserable our dark world would be without Jesus. This is why we celebrate!