|THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB
Series: The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 13, 2019
This morning we are coming to Revelation 5. Would you stand with me as we come together before God and His word. Would you follow along as I read for us. Except - when we come to the text in red - which are expressions of worship that need more than one voice - and so you can join me and we’ll read those expressions of worship out loud together.
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. And I saw a strong 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. 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.”
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. 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 priest to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
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.
John begins “then” - meaning chapter 5 continues the vision of what we were seeing last Sunday in chapter 4. All of which is part of a longer section of Revelation focusing on what comes next in future history. Most of which we’re going to be moving through in the next few Sundays. The big picture of where God is going in history and how Jesus is central to all of that.
Chapter 4 brought us into the throne room of God and John trying to describe what is indescribable.
John uses a whole lot of symbolism and imagery that doesn’t even come close to describing what he saw and can be massively confusing and impossible to interpret with 100% certainty and in all honesty one reason why many of us hesitate to preach through this book.
But it is given to us because God wants us to understand where He’s going and how Jesus is central to all that and because there is enough here that we can understand what it is that God wants us to understand.
In chapter 4 - John uses precious stones as symbols to give us a glimpse of God’s transcendent glory. John writes about thunder and lighting to help us experience God’s awesome presence.
John tells us that before God’s Throne are 24 elders - most probably representatives of God’s people who are given positions of authority before the throne of God.
Around the throne are four living creatures - probably angels - heavenly creatures of the highest order - each of which reflects the awesomeness and character of their creator. Heavenly creatures that ceaselessly praise God.
And as these creatures praise the truth of God’s holiness - the 24 elders - representative of God’s people fall prostrate before God Who’s seated on His throne - and worship.
They cast their crowns - whatever authority God has given to them - their crowns are cast down before the throne of God - before God in worship - in utter devotion to Him.
This is all about God. His awesomeness. His majesty. His power. His authority. Nothing happens. Nothing exists - past, present, future - apart from God’s complete knowledge - God’s sovereign intention.
God alone is worthy of all glory - of all honor - of all power because He alone - no angel - no man - no emperor - no created thing or being - the Lord God Almighty in all of His holiness - He alone is the source and sustenance of every created thing. He alone is worthy of worship.
“then” - meaning John is continuing to unfold that scene - in the indescribable reality and worship of God’s Throne Room - John writes, “then” John sees that God holds in His right hand a scroll.
Notice the description of the scroll. The scroll is written how many sides? “Within and on the back” Two sides - inside and outside.
That God is holding this scroll makes it pretty significant. Right? But, having writing both inside and outside was unusual.
In John’s day most scrolls that were used for public documents were only written on the inside. They had successive columns of writing on the inside and as the scroll was unrolled people could read along.
A scroll with writing on both sides was something they call an “opisthograph.” Which tells us about the unique purpose of the scroll.
The Romans used double sided scrolls for last wills and testaments - final instructions at the end of life - at the end of one’s time on earth. Who gets the inheritance - the 57’ Chevy chariot and grandpa’s old sandals - and how all that gets distributed. A scroll that was only opened at the appropriate time - after the death of the owner - testifying of what the owner willed to happen after his death.
The scroll has how many seals? Seven.
Seals were generally blogs of wax dripped on the scroll with an impression was made in the wax with the signet ring of the owner.
Might have looked something like this. We don’t know. But it gives us a general idea. Each broken seal opens up more of the scroll revealing more of the contents.
That we can trust that the contents of the scroll actually represent the will of the owner is based on those seals being intact. If the seal is broken we know that the document has been opened.
Point being: The owner of the scroll - or the one authorized by the owner - the executor of the will - they were the only one’s authorized to break the seals and unroll the document.
If it’s opened by someone not authorized to open it then the whole document is worthless - possibly tampered with - not to be believed - not to be acted upon.
The Romans generally used 6 seals. God uses 7. In Scripture the number 7 is used to symbolize... completeness - perfection - fullness.
Putting all that together: Seals bind the scroll until the appropriate time - the fully completed - prefect time when the person authorized to break the seals - breaks the seals - opens the document - and executes God’s full and complete will for what He wills to take place.
Very briefly - because we’re going to come back to this next Sunday when we come to chapter 6. But - very briefly - in order for us to grab the huge significance of the scroll and what’ going on here...
What’s in the scroll is the when and how of when and how the sovereign God says history will end. The scroll contains God’s complete perfect final instructions for executing the final events of history according to the will of the sovereign God.
That’s the big picture of what’s in the scroll. God’s will for the consummation of all history. How all things will end. Judgment for the world and the final reward of God’s people. What leads through and beyond the misery and pain and death of our depravity and sin - to what is our great hope of eternity with God.
Revelation 5:1 - brings us to this profound - pivotal - moment in our history. There in the throne room of God - God - in all His holiness and splendor seated upon His throne - thunderous worship - the scroll in His right hand - the entire purpose and consummation of our history - judgment - eternity waits to be unrolled.
Verse 2: And I saw a strong 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 [John] began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
Can we feel John’s pain? Wouldn’t we weep? Standing in the throne room of God. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment. The crushing disappointment. History does not move forward. Our misery remains. There is no hope unless the scroll is opened.
Who is worthy? Who is deserving? Who has the qualifications to fulfill the task. To Whom can such authority be given? To execute the will of God?
Let’s be clear. To be found worthy means to be found worthy in God’s eyes. As before a judge in a courtroom. Before the holy sovereign God - all glorious - seated on His throne.
Before God there is no one. In heaven. On earth. Below the earth. In all of creation… no one.
And John weeps loudly.
Who is worthy? The Lion of the tribe of Judah. The Root of David. Those are Old Testament titles for the Messiah.
The Jews - when they used that title “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” - the Jews were looking for a messiah that was going to kick their enemies back to Rome and free Israel - a mighty warrior - a conquering hero.
“The Root of David” was understood to mean that the Messiah would be a descendant of David who would rule all peoples.
Verse 6: “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.
When John looks to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah - the Root of David - what John sees is not a mighty warrior or a great king standing with regal authority - triumphant - victorious. John sees a lamb.
Not a ram or lion or a bear. But a lamb. Not many schools have warrior lambs as mascots. Lambs are not known to be mighty warriors.
And it’s a slain lamb. Meaning a sliced and diced and Bar-B-Qued - bleeding carcass of a lamb - that’s already been sacrificed on an altar. As a mascot it represents the loosing team.
At the right hand of the throne of God - a position of power and authority - is the Lamb - Jesus. Jesus who has conquered over war and violence and evil and death itself.
Jesus the Lamb who possesses sevens horns and seven eyes which are seven spirits - which are symbolic of Jesus being the all powerful - all knowing God - who moves in the fullness of the Spirit’s wisdom and understanding - the Holy Spirit who is given because Jesus is crucified, risen, and ascended.
As the Lamb Jesus is meek - the incarnation of God’s grace - led to the slaughter without opening His mouth. As the Lamb Jesus is judged and gives Himself up as our sacrifice. And yet - Jesus wins - Jesus conquers because He is the Lamb who was slain.
And as the Root of David. Jesus is not only of the Tribe of Judah - with all that implies of Jacob’s blessing and the fulfilling God’s promise of Judah’s royal Davidic line and the Messiah coming to restore David’s dynasty. But, Jesus is the root - the very source of that eternal dynasty.
Resurrected - Jesus is the first born from the dead in whom is the hope of all of God’s people who will dwell in God’s kingdom forever. Jesus who is our hope. He wins. We win.
Jesus alone is worthy to open the scroll. The Lamb that was slain. Who stands. The Lamb is worthy.
God - on the throne - hands off the scroll to the Lamb - Jesus.
The verb “took” in Greek has the idea of completed action.
In other words Jesus - when He takes the scroll - Jesus takes over. There’s a giving over of authority - ownership - the right to possess the scroll and its contents and to execute the will of God.
Jesus has the authority. He is worthy. Jesus is now in control of what is taking place. Jesus who is central to all of what God has done - is doing - will do in history.
Verse 8: 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.
Let’s be careful. The elders hold the harps. They don’t play the harps. Thank God that when we get to heaven we don’t become angels who sit on clouds playing harps for eternity hoping somebody rings a bell and we can get our wings.
Harps are symbols of praise. Bowls of incense represent the prayers of God’s people. A calling upon God to execute His will - His justice. Open the scroll and do it.
When Jesus takes the scroll the elders fall down in worship. The Lamb with the scroll is worshipped. The focus on worship - of worthiness - is centered on the Lamb.
Verse 9: And they sang a new song - meaning never before has this song been sung. It couldn't have been sung.
We sing these words today. But not until that moment in future history can it be sung like this. Why? Because now the Lamb has the scroll.
“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.”
We need to slow down. These words can be so familiar to us that we can blow by them and miss the unfathomable depth of meaning and what’s being sung here that so powerfully applies to us.
We need to keep coming to the cross and what God has done for us through Christ’s work on the cross. How undeserved is God’s grace and mercy. How miraculous is our salvation.
Jesus - born in Bethlehem - laid in a manger - is the only begotten Son of God and the virgin born Son of Man. That means that Jesus - by a supernatural work of God - Jesus is both God and man - united in one person without the inheritance of sin.
Since Jesus is fully God He’s perfect. No sin. No blemish. Just like God required a perfect lamb for the Old Testament sacrifices - Jesus is perfect to be offered as God’s sacrificial Lamb on the cross. He meets the requirements.
And because Jesus if fully man - one of us - Jesus meets the requirements to represent us - humans - as our sacrifice. Jesus takes our place on the cross - taking on Himself the wrath of God which should have been leveled against us - to provide for us the means for our salvation from all that coming deserved coming judgment and wrath - to provide the whole basis for our restored relationship with God.
In order to - verse 10 - in order to ransom us back to God. Ransom means to purchase. To break - to cancel the debt - to purchase us in order to remove us from being subject to the penalty for our sin - God’s wrath.
So now - as the song is sung - now as ransomed people from every tribe and language and nation we can be citizens of God’s kingdom - priests - serving God. Not living subject to the tyranny and oppression of our Adversary Satan. But reigning under God’s authority on earth.
The sacrifice of Jesus - is a bloody offering to appease - to sooth - the holy wrath of the sin hating - sin punishing - holy God. The perfect sacrifice - worthy to be sacrificed - Jesus satisfies - appeases God’s legal requirement of punishment.
The Holy One sacrificed for the unholy ones and we are ransomed.
That’s why John can declare: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
Our sin. My sin. Your sin.
Someone say “Amen!”
Verse 11: 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!”
Joining the angels and the elders around the throne are countless numbers of angels. Proclaiming loudly - shouting in unison - the Lamb is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. The focus is the infinite honor and power of the One who is at the center of it all - the Lamb - Jesus.
Can we declare it together: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Verse 13: 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,
Together - loudly let’s declare it: “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.
We made mention of this last Sunday. In Revelation chapters 4 and 5 - there are 5 songs of praise. In chapter 4 - two of those songs focus on God on His throne. In chapter 5 - the first two songs focus on the Lamb - Jesus.
Those songs grow in crescendo - intensity - volume - focusing our attention on the great profound significance of the fifth song here in verse 13. The first is sung by four living creatures. The fifth is a song of worship is sung by all creation. From the farthest precincts of creation arises praise and worship - testimony to the worthiness of the Lamb.
The final song of worship focuses on God who sits on the throne and on the Lamb - Jesus. Both are placed on the same level. The Lamb shares the same prerogatives as God on the throne - to be worshiped, honored, glorified.
Theologians have some very precise vocabulary to describe the reality of what John is describing - explanations of the Trinity. But cutting through all that to the bottom line - God on the throne and Jesus - as the focus of the worship - each sharing the divine honors - the reality is clear. Jesus is God. Jesus is at the center - He is the focal point of worship.
All of creation is to bow before Him - Jesus. Who alone is holy. Who alone is the source and sustainer of every created thing. Who alone is worthy of all glory and honor and power - the executor of God’s will now and forever. Jesus alone is worthy.
And the four living creatures and all God’s people said... “AMEN!”
That is a lot to take in. Yes?
All of that is the set up for what comes next. Which is where we’re going next Sunday as the scroll is unrolled. The big picture of where God is going in history and how Jesus is central to all of that. The One who is worthy and is given authority to unroll and execute God’s will.
Processing all that… out of the myriads of truths we could focus on - three takeaway truths:
First: He is worthy.
Let’s say that together. “He is worthy.”
The people that John is writing to - the immediate historical receivers of this revelation - in the Roman Empire - are Christians in the midst of persecution - looking ahead to even more persecution. Their government and communities are harassing them - working against them. And in some places - slaughtering them.
The worthiness of Jesus is apart from all that. The victory that Jesus experiences and the victory that Jesus offers those who will trust and follow Him is as unexpected and yet as real as a lamb slain and standing at the right hand of God.
The basis of Jesus’s worthiness - to take the scroll - His authority to break the seven seals - to redeem the world - to execute judgment - even the victory that we ourselves look forward to - the basis of all that is not because of military or political might or any other power or ability found in creation.
The basis of Jesus victory is His perfect submission to the will of God the Father - following the will of God even in death - even His own sacrifice of crucifixion in our place.
The revelation of that truth was given to John’s readers to give them hope - courage - inspire faith - to move them deeper in their relationship with God. As should give us hope and move to greater trust in God.
Jesus’ worthiness is a statement of His uniqueness as the one who is infinitely greater and completely sovereign over all of creation - including the Roman Empire - and whatever drama is going on in Washington or even in the places where we live and do life.
Which brings us to our second take away truth - while Jesus is worthy, I’m not worthy.
Let’s say that together. “I’m not worthy.”
I was born into depravity and sin I’ve have spent a lifetime saying and thinking and doing things that are sin - that are against the holiness and will of God - that confirm the reality of my sin and prove my unworthiness to exist before Him - now and forever. Can anyone here say amen to that?
Which is one huge reason why I’m grateful that this revelation isn’t about symbols and creatures and thrones and us but about... Jesus Christ who is central to everything that God is doing in history. Because if Jesus had not died and risen, you and I would still be in our sins separated from God and without hope.
But Jesus is worthy. Jesus - because we know that Jesus is worthy to be the executor of God’s will we know that He is also the one worthy to ransom us from God’s wrath. He meets the requirements to be our sacrificial Lamb.
There is tremendous hope in that for us. What God by grace through faith gives to us who are in Christ.
Jesus who is infinitely worthy of our trust even in the midst of the drama of our lives. And especially in our own sin and depravity and need of His accomplished salvation.
Third takeaway: Worship. Which doesn’t make for a great outline. Sorry. But takeaways one and two are foundational - they require a response of worship.
The imagery here focuses on God the Creator and Jesus the Redeemer and the response of creation in worship. The thunderous forever and ever song of worship sung by every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea - every tribe, tongue, people, and nation - the unworthy worshipping He alone who is worthy of all honor and devotion and adoration.
For us - that’s those that are created in God’s image worshiping out creator. The redeemed worshiping our redeemer.
These days what is the like for you? I confess that I fall far short of what’s being show to us here.
Gathering her on Sundays is huge. Gathering together to join together to worship God together is crucial - appropriate.
But, maybe this is an encouragement - maybe a challenge - that coming together worship is a coming together of those who are to live daily worshiping.
Forever begins today. Someone said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” That’s true. Jesus our Savior is so worthy of our worship now and forever.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.