All of creation suffers under the curse for man’s sin. In Romans 8:22 Paul tells us, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” Why does the creation groan? What is the creation longing for? For redemption – to be remade, to be new and free from the curse and stain of man’s sin.
If this fallen, cursed creation is going to be burned up and made anew, then there is no reason to believe that Zephaniah is exaggerating. To make this case even more clearly, let’s look at what the Bible has to tell us about the day of the Lord. This phrase, “The Day of the Lord” appears throughout the Scriptures referring to the coming of Christ at the end of the age. This is the second coming. For us, this will be a glorious day, the culmination of history and God’s plan of redemption. We eagerly await this day – or we should! But what does the Day of the Lord mean for the lost, for those in danger of judgment? It means wrath. Certain doom! It is the beginning of their end. It is a horrible, terrible day of God’s holy wrath and justice being poured out on the earth.
Here are just a few verses that describe for us the Day of the Lord:
Isa. 13:6, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.”
Verse 9 says, “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it.”
Joel 1:15 tells us, “Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.”
Joel 2:11, “The Lord gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” – only those in Christ will endure!
Obadiah 1:15 says, “For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head.”
In Acts 2:20 at the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
Peter also wrote in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
This is THE DAY when all that has been tainted by sin will be removed, destroyed, consumed, wiped from the face of the earth by the wrath of our Holy God. The Babylonian captivity is going to be a mere foretaste of the full wrath of God for sin.
Turn with me now to Revelation chapter 5. Here we see the details of the outworking of how God will accomplish the things He has said in Zephaniah 1:2-3. Those two verses, for them to be fulfilled, will take us through several chapters of the Book of Revelation. Revelation 5,6,7,8, 9, 11, and 16 are all here in these 2 verses!
Revelation 5 is the familiar passage of the Lamb taking the scroll and I want to explain this scene to you, to show you what is happening as Jesus takes and opens the scroll that no man could open. Within this scroll we find the details of how God accomplishes the destruction prophesied in Zephaniah 1:2-3, through the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.
In Revelation 5 we read, “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. 4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” 6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.”
This is what John sees and explains for us. Here is God the Father sitting on the Throne holding a scroll with seven seals on it. To understand the significance we will start with the seals sealing up this rolled up scroll. In the olden days, so to speak, when a king wanted to send a message to someone he would seal the message to secure and authenticate it by stamping his signet ring into a hot wax seal on the message. Those who received the message would know immediately who it had come from – and a message from the King was always important – it was from the King!
So we find here John describing God on the Throne holding a scroll that has been sealed seven times. The trouble is that there is no one they can find who has the authority or ability to take the scroll from God, open it, and read the message. Imagine if you had a scroll with the King’s seal and you opened it, but it was not addressed to you! That could carry the death penalty.
A message with seven seals is obviously an important document. It is secure. It’s message a secret. But with no one having the proper station or rank to take and open the scroll no one can know what this important message is. So they cry out for one who is worthy to take and open the scroll. Then suddenly someone from the body of believers surrounding the Throne of God in heaven proclaims, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Jesus has the authority, He has earned the right to take and open the scroll. How did He earn this right? To know that we have to understand what the scroll contains. This scroll is the title deed to the earth. God holds it. Creation is His to do with as He pleases. This is God’s claim of sovereign ownership and the penalty for those who have stained it with sin. And Jesus is going to take that scroll and break open each of these 7 seals by His authority as the Redeemer, as the One who suffered the judgments for sin described therein, standing as a substitute for His people.
God had given Adam and Eve dominion over creation and they by their sin plunged it into the curse. God is reversing the curse through the penalty of the pouring out of His wrath to destroy this tainted creation. This is how we understand what it means to say that Jesus died for the world, not every individual in the world, not just for sinners, but His death also has redeeming value for creation, for the cosmos. In giving Himself as a sacrifice for sin, He and He alone has earned the right to open and read the scroll.
In verse 8 it continues, “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.”
All of creation declares the glory of God! The simple act of taking the scroll demands worship and praise from around the Throne and throughout creation. Here is the moment for which all of creation has been expectantly waiting – the time of redemption.