The Worthy Lamb - Revelation 5

Frodo Baggins was the only one worthy to carry the one ring to fires of Mordor. Anakin Skywalker was said to be the only one worthy to bring balance to the force. The quest has now begun for the only worthy football coach can bring their team a championship. Only the worthy true king could pull the sword from the stone and deliver the people from tyranny. Only the worthy candidate can deliver us a political victory. Only the worthy Katniss Everdeen was able to dethrone President Snow. Only the worthy boy with the lightning scar could defeat the one who must not be named. Our world loves worthy heroes that bring deliverance out of hopelessness. Why? Is it just that we love a good story? Or is it something more?

            There are certain themes that are retold time after time from generation to generation because they reflect woven into the very fabric of our world. The worthy one who brings hope from hopelessness is at the core of our world. If you are not a Christian, I want to introduce you to the story above all other stories that all stories of redemption only dimly reflect. I want you to consider the only one truly worthy of our praise and adoration. And beloved, let us turn our hearts again to God’s glorious story of redemption so our hearts may give glory, honor and praise to the only One who is worthy.

            We continue with John’s vision of the throne in heaven. Chapters 4 and 5 are one scene. Revelation 4 gloriously pictures God sitting on his throne in all his glorious splendor surrounded by glorious heavenly beings who worship him by casting down their crowns saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) As the scene continues, Johns moves us through the vision by telling the reader what he sees. He uses the word, saw or looked 4 times in this chapter to draw our attention to key aspects of the vision.

No One Worthy

            John begins by introducing a scroll that was held in God’s right hand. Revelation 5:1, “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” First, notice that the scroll is sealed with seven seals. The number seven is used throughout revelation to communicate wholeness and completeness. The scroll being sealed with seven seals shows how completely and totally secure the scroll was from all who desired to see its contents. Second, we notice that this scroll was in the right hand of God. It was secure with seals as it was secure in the right hand of God’s strong hand. Lastly, we must consider what is written on this scroll. There have been several ideas put forward on what are the scrolls contents: the book of life, the last will and testament containing the inheritance of the saints, a contract deed or a book containing God’s redemptive plan. Based on the context of Revelation and the prophetic material (Isaiah 29:11, Daniel 8:26, Ezekiel 2:9-10), it is most logically a divine contract that details God’s redemptive plan. Remember in the beginning of chapter 4, John is told that he will be shown what must take place after this (Rev. 4:1).

            The sealed scroll that holds the details of all history is a theme in key prophetic books of Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel. The audience would have understood the significance of that scroll. It is also written on the front and back to show the comprehensiveness and extensive nature of the decrees of God. This is an extremely important scroll. After introducing the scroll, there is movement in the vision. Revelation 5:2-3, “And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” The key word in Revelation 4 & 5 is worthy. Only one who is worthy can open the scroll and break its seals. And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is found worthy. The three-fold description covers everywhere. There is no one worthy anywhere in all of creation. God does not open the scroll himself, but needs a mediator. Who is the worthy mediator?

            We all know where this is going as we have read the text, but let us camp in the feeling of the Apostle John. John said, “I began to weep loudly, because no one was found worthy.” The unfolding of history and the God ordained future is shut up and no one will know. There is a hopelessness here. Imagine you have a little boy who you love with all your heart. He is your only son and the delight of your life. One day he is diagnosed with leukemia. He needs a bone marrow transplant. After a search of everyone in the family no one is a worthy match. Think of the pain of a mother and father in that moment when they realize that no one is worthy. They would weep loudly because no one was found worthy. Hopeless. Desperate. Helpless. John weeps, no for himself, but for the future events of God to go unrealized, “namely the coming of the final kingdom of God.[1]

            Have you ever been hopeless? Desperate? Helpless? Have you ever experienced the tears and agony of hope unrealized? The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ will only be truly good news if you first understand the hopelessness of your own sin. The lie of too many of our churches is that people can be worthy of salvation by their works. If people serve the poor, feed the hungry, care for the least of these, or are just good people, then they are worthy of God’s salvation. Friend, no one is worthy in heaven, on earth or under the earth. We are sinners. The wages of sin is death. John weeps because God’s redemptive plan is left unrealized. He knows that he and the rest of humanity need a Savior. And those tears symbolize the hopelessness we have without redeemer. True joy can only come after you realize that you are hopeless in yourself. We are sinners to the core.

            Many churches do not preach about sin because its uncomfortable, but friend, without hearing of our sin and our hopelessness, how can truly appreciate salvation? Take yourself back to the hospital waiting room. Mother and father are on their knees weeping because there is no one worthy to save their son. Hopeless. Desperate. Helpless. Then, all of the sudden they hear footsteps of a doctor running down the hall. They look up from their knees and they hear the doctor screaming down the hall, “We found a match! We found a match! Weep, no more.”

No One Weeping

            It is hard to capture the magnitude of the reversal between verses 4 and 5. It is a glorious declaration that there is salvation. There is help. There is hope. “And one of the elders said to me, “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.” Friend, weep no more. Let your tears turn to laughing. Let your weeping turn to shouts of praise. It is a glorious sentence. The Redeemer has conquered. Remember how each of the letters to the seven churches ends, “To the one who conquers.” Jesus has conquered for you to eat of the tree of life, to not be hurt by the second death, to receive a new name on a white stone, to give you authority over all nations, to clothe you in white garments, to make you a pillar in the temple of God, and to grant you to set on the throne with him. Jesus has conquered the grave for you who believe.

            Jesus is identified as the lion of the tribe of Judah and the root of David. These are both messianic terms. The first, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is taken from Genesis 49:8-10,

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The Jewish people were expected the messianic warrior king to come from the tribe of Judah. Notice the military prowess in the description. The lion itself is known for power and ferocity in battle is a good picture how Judah will have its hand on the neck of its enemies. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered, just not in the way the Jewish people were expecting.

            The second term, the Root of David, is taken from Isaiah 11. Here again we see the Messiah as one who will reign in power.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

These verses may not be as familiar to us, but to the audience who John’s prophecy, they would have been precious. As they were longing and waiting for the vindication of their messianic warrior King. However, the King they were expecting did not come in power, but as a lamb who was led to the slaughter.

Only One Worthy

            Christianity is a paradox. We conquer, not by sword, but sacrifice. We win through defeat. We have peace through the blood of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 5:6-8,

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a Lamb that was slain. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes. The number seven is used symbolically throughout Revelations. These seven horns were to symbolize the complete power or omnipotence of the lamb. The seven eyes symbolize the omniscience or complete knowledge that God has throughout the earth. The eyes are further identified as the seven spirits of God referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father and God the Son to bring about his salvation through the earth. The Spirit, first poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2, is unleashed throughout the world to bring salvation from people from every tribe, language and nation.

            The Lamb is worshipped. He is worthy. He is worthy not merely because of virtue but because of authority. Only God is worthy. The Lamb is one with the Father. And as we shall see, he praised along with the Father as being worthy. The 24 elders and the 4 living creatures fall before the lamb and sing a song of praise. This song reveals to us the worthiness of the Lamb. Revelation 5:9-10,

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

Worthy to Reward

            The Lamb is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. The next several chapters reveal the effect of opening the seals upon the earth, but it is important for us is that the Lamb is the one who will reward people for their works. We know throughout Scripture that God will reward every man according to his works. God will reward humanity for their labors. As Romans 2:6-11 states,

 He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

We will be rewarded for how we live. Beloved, let us live for God’s glory.

Worthy to Redeem

            The reason the Lamb is worthy is because he was slain and by his blood, he ransomed people for God.

Hebrews 9:2 says that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” We are all sinners. We all have wronged God by rebelling against his good word. As in the garden, when God shed an animal’s blood to clothe Adam and Eve, so to God shed the blood of his own Son to clothe us with the righteous robes of Christ. Jesus died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring to God. Ransom is a term used in the slave market to buy someone’s freedom. Jesus bought our freedom from sin by bleeding for us. His blood has brought us peace.

            There is only redemption through the blood of Christ. If you have not yet trusted in Christ, there is hope for you today. Today you can weep no more because God has paid for your sins with his blood. He died for you. And we know his sacrifice was accepted because of his resurrection from the dead. Jesus was a perfect sacrifice. He was innocent and paid the penalty for all that would trust in him. For our sake, he became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. God does not merely want to save you from Hell but wants to save you unto eternal life. He wants you to live the new life of the Spirit. Trust in the redemption of the Lamb. Repent and Believe. T and T… Turn and Trust. Turn from your sin and Trust in Christ. He has made a way. Will you walk in it?

Worthy to Reconcile

            The beauty of God’s salvation is that it is never merely individual. God saves us individually to be part of his ransomed people. The Bible is God’s plan to make a people for himself who are zealous for good works. The reconciliation that God brings it far more than a personal reconciliation. We are reconciled to God and we are reconciled to brothers and sisters from every tribe and language and people and nation. We are a multi-ethnic, multi-generational family. God will save people from every nation, every language, and every tribe for his namesake. God is on a worldwide mission of redemption and He invites us to join. We are called to go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded.

            Every year we give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering because there are people who have never heard the name of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said he made it his aim to go to where the gospel has not yet been preached and believed. In giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, we can participate in a small way of sending the gospel to the most unreached places through thousands of missionaries. And our missions giving does not have with Lottie Moon, but we can give to those within our congregation who are going to the ends of the earth on short and long-term assignments. Maybe God is calling you to go to the nations. Maybe God wants you to leave the comfort of your home to go a remote village in Africa or to the mountains or Nepal or a secular city in Australia. Maybe God wants you to stay here and hold the rope for someone else to go like Andrew Fuller to William Carey. Maybe God wants you to engage with people who do not look like you for the sake of the glorious name of the Lord Jesus.

            Over this past year, my heart has been saddened on how Christians have not been leading the way in reconciliation. The racial divide in our country has been so pronounced over the last couple of years. I see a lot of anger and frustration among Christians but not enough reconciliation. During a recent bible study, we were studying Ephesians 2 where Paul speaks how the gospel breaks down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile taking the two and making them one people of God. We asked why churches do not often reflect the multi-ethnic reality. One brother said that our Sundays don’t reflect a multi-ethnic reality, because our Monday through Saturday do not reflect a multi-ethnic reality. Beloved, the church is God’s plan to reach the world. We want to display the manifold wisdom of God in sending forth the Lamb to redeem people from every tribe, language and people and nation. The more we reflect a multi-ethnic, multi-generational family the greater the reflection of our heavenly citizenship. 

            Jesus is worthy to redeem and to reconcile. Let our redemption be reflected in how we are reconciled to all people. Let us never look at people according to the flesh, but through the eyes of Lamb.

Worthy to Reign

            The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, has made us a kingdom and priest to God. We shall reign on the earth and rule as coheirs with Christ. The kingdom means the church will reign and the priests means the church will serve. We will serve God and reign with Him for all eternity. Christians have been transformed. We are no longer in the old Adam, but in Christ. We belong to Him. We were bought at a price. We have been made a kingdom and priests unto God. We are holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

            Remember our victory is not by the sword, but sacrifice. Friends, we must lay our lives down for others. Jesus showed us the way of the kingdom by giving himself of us. We must give ourselves to each other and our lost and hurting world. If we want to reign, we must follow in the way of the lamb and suffer for the sake of others. The triumphalism that I see in the American church sickens me. It is not the way of the kingdom. The way of the kingdom is the cross. The cross of Christ conquers. The Lamb is worthy. And if the lamb is worthy, isn’t the way of the lamb worthy as well? The Lamb was slain for the sins of others so that they may be brought to God. Is not God asking us to bear with the sins of others so that they may be brought to God? The Lamb is worthy to reign because he was willing to suffer. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs with God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

            The American church needs to be rebuked for our lack of willingness to suffer for Christ, but the seven churches of Asia would have rejoiced that they were counted worthy to walk with the Lamb.

            The heavenly scene closes a seven-fold doxological hymn to the Lamb followed by a four-fold hymn connecting the Father who sits on the throne to the lamb. The One who is on the throne and the lamb are one. Revelation 5:11–14,

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I 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 honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

            There is in our hearts a deep desire to see one worthy. Let us train our hearts and minds that every time we see our world longer for a worthy one to bring hope amidst despair to turn in praise to the only One who is worthy. Let us forever rejoice that we shall weep no more for, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power, and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

 

[1] Osborne, Grant. Baker. 252-253.