Sermon: The Lamb is Worthy and Creation Sings Revelation 5

The Lamb is Worthy and Creation Sings

Revelation 5

Introduction

Last time we saw together part one of this, John’s second vision. Chapter four constitutes the setting of this vision. We learned of God’s throne room and how the entire cosmos waits God’s thunderous decree. We saw, as it were, with John the great glory of God. We also beheld the heavenly chorus proclaiming Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty…

We then learned that the throne room is the original place of worship with the OT tabernacle and temple as the shadows or copies of the original. Through the chapter, it was the throne of God that continued to come up over and over again.

Today, in Chapter Six, we’re not focused on the throne constituting God’s authority but on Christ as the One worthy to take the scroll and open it. Jesus alone is the One worthy to touch and break the seals of this scroll.

TT- Jesus Christ is worthy to take the scroll and loosen the seals bringing God’s plan of salvation to its decreed end.

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Revelation 5:1–14 (ESV)

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 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. 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,

10    and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

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, 12 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!”

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,

       “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

       be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

 

  1. God with a Scroll in His Right Hand

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.

If we are to understand the significance of this scroll then we must notice a few important facts that John mentions.
God has possession of the scroll and it remains in His right hand. In apocalyptic literature the right hand is the hand of power and authority. Think with me for a second…the scroll is in the right hand of God and He is seated on the throne. Infinite authority is in mind here.

Another important fact that John relays about this scroll is that it has writing on both sides. For the significance of this feature we must first understand what scrolls were and how they were made.

Scrolls differ from books…

Scrolls are made from papyrus which is a plant found in the delta of the Nile River. If you can picture celery and how you can pull it at the top and it tears along the grain of the stalk. Papyrus is much like that only when it is carefully torn it comes apart in flat sections about ½ inch or so wide by about 1/8 inch thick. They are then laid down parallel in pieces about a foot or so long. In order to connect them together other pieces and laid across them on the back and a type of glue made from various plants bind them together and then they were flattened more with a wooden mallet. SO you have these 12 inch squares which then are glued together end to end forming a scroll 30 feet long and 12 inches wide.

Normally, scrolls were only written on the front due to the way the grain of the papyrus was running. Because Hebrew and Greek are technically vertical letters they are written on the front side parallel with the grain. To write on the back would be writing across the grain and as a rule was not done.

The Gospel of Luke takes up an entire 30-foot long scroll and is probably why Luke-Acts is written on two different scrolls or as we have them today, two different books.

So why is this scroll written on the front and the back? To answer that question we must understand what the scroll is and what is written on it. This scroll is literally a copy of the divine decree of God specifically the divine plan of redemption spanning all of history from the beginning till the end and it is complete in one volume because it is one divine decree.

Then, finally, we are told that this scroll is sealed with seven seals. The seal represents security. The king in ancient times would sign a scroll which contain a law or a decree then roll it up and drip hot wax on it where the end touches the rest of the scroll and then imprint with his signet ring his personal imprint. The only one authorized to open it was the one intended to open it.

Here, we are told that this scroll is sealed with seven seals. Remember in apocalyptic literature the number seven is the number of completeness or entirety.

God’s decree is sealed and complete from beginning of time till the very end.

 

  1. The Lion of Judah is Worthy to Open the Scroll

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. 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.”

The heavenly chorus singing Holy Holy Holy and the sound reverberating throughout the corridors of the throne room become deathly silent as the angel proclaims with a strong penetrating voice… Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? Still there is silence. The search begins, through heaven, earth, and even under the earth and no one is found worthy to loose the seals.

For a brief time, it appears to John that there is no one who is worthy to open the scroll. Understand, if no one opens this scroll then God’s eternal purposes of salvation and redemption will not be carried out. I want to explain this very reverently…If God the Father opens the scroll without a worthy Savior interceding then all of humanity will suffer just judgment and wrath. So, God could open it but He does not desire to. His eternal purposes involve His Son, Jesus Christ the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Root of David.

Only Jesus has conquered and only Jesus is worthy to loosen the seven seals and bring redemption and judgment to its decreed end.

After a short intermission an elder (which we understand to be and angelic being) tells John that there is One who is worthy. God sent His angel to comfort John in his time of deepest despair. How does he comfort him? With truth…there is One!!

Listen church we do not need to be in despair we have a worthy Savior, He is the Lion who conquered and is worthy. He is the One who went after the devil hunting him down and literally devouring him.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

We must resist the devil our advisory…listen Jesus, the true lion went on the hunt for Satan and destroyed him. Our Lord has conquered and is worthy to bring about the continuation of God’s redemptive plan.

We have here two very different images of our Lord. He is a lion…of course a great picture of this image is found in C S Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles with the great lion Aslan. At the end the scene is of Aslan walking away and the comment that He is not a tame lion but a very good lion. Our Lord has triumphed over the devil and has conquered.

  1. The Lamb of God is Worthy to Take the Scroll

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.

John draws our attention to the One standing in the midst of the throne. Here he sees a Lamb standing near the throne. The Lamb looks to have been slain. This is the picture of how, in fact, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah conquered. Jesus conquered by being mortally wounded. The slain Lamb is symbolic of Christ’s victory on the cross. Various allusions to Jesus as the Lamb are present in the Bible…

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)

   He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

       like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

John 1:29 (ESV)

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus conquered through suffering. Literally, He conquered by remaining loyal to His Father.

Through Chapters 2-3 we have read various examples of Jesus encouraging the churches to be overcomers or conquerors. The same is true for them and for us. We will be included among the conquerors by remaining loyal to our heavenly Father as well. Most often, the true test comes as we remain true to God through suffering as well…

Here, John sees a different sort of Lamb. This Lamb is said to have seven eyes and seven Spirits. We already know the number seven is the number of completeness but to get a good picture of what John describes here, we need to look to Zechariah.

The seven eyes in Zechariah deal with God’s complete sovereignty and His relentless war against sin in His people. So to, Jesus made war on sin and death and the devil and won. The seven eyes are His all-seeing power coupled with the Spirit who empowers Him to war against His enemies and be victorious.

The Lamb was slain and completely triumphant.

Notice now because Jesus has taken redemptive history to another chapter, creation is singing a new song…

  1. Creation Sings a New Song

Notice the old song in Revelation 4…

   “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was and is and is to come!” [1]

11    “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.” [2]

They sang of holiness and worthiness based on the grandeur of creation. Remember creation is now cursed. They sing because even in a cursed world God is worthy of praise and glory. But something is about to happen…a sinless Lamb is slain and the scroll can be opened. God’s plan of redemption can continue because of our sinless Savior. That’s why they now can sing the second verse or a new song…

Also, notice how the new song is a divine interpretation of John’s vision.

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,

10    and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

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, 12 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!”

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,

       “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

       be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The Lamb of God who was slain is worthy to open the seals of the scroll. No one else in the entire universe is worthy…no one could be found…only Jesus Christ is worthy.

One important interpretive point here is that the first song was a result of God’s original creation. The universe of angelic beings have been singing this song since Genesis 1 and probably before. The New song started when Jesus died on the cross and was victorious over His enemies. Creation now sings a new song in anticipation of the new creation or creation being renewed. Christ’s death on the cross not only saves His people but also guarantees that the curse on creation will be lifted and all creation will be like it was in the Garden of Eden.

Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

What is the new song?

The new song is an angelic praise for Jesus’ faithfulness in accomplishing God’s divine decree. Where before, they praised God for their existence or literally being created, now they praise Jesus for lifting the curse and redeeming a people for God. He defeated the powers of darkness and the curse is lifting. Because there is such close parallelism between the original song 4:11 and this new song, most scholars believe that it is a song praise Jesus for His work, which literally is beginning to remake the universe.

The song also includes praise for Jesus receive all authority because of His cross work for us.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

       to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

       and honor and glory and blessing!”

Jesus has already received this power and authority. This took place in John’s day. When Christ died on the cross and then rose from the dead, defeating death for us, the effects of the curse began to dissolve.

That’s why when Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission, He could say, in past tense,

Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Additional Application

I believe we can now see how important this Book is to the church, especially the church living in times of struggle. As we live our lives there are times of trials, times of trouble. This vision in Chapters 4-5 shows us a behind the scene glimpse of heaven. Jesus wins! If you have been bought with the blood of the Lamb then you too will win. We must live with this vision in mind. Creation sang when God spoke the universe into existence and all creation groaned when God had to pass judgment in the form of a curse on all creation. Now, all creation is singing in anticipation of the day when the curse is lifted and sin will be no more.

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 4:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 4:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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