Worthy is the Lamb

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Revelation

Revelation 5:1-14, “Worthy is the Lamb”

Have you ever burst into song?  Not in the Rogers & Hammerstein musical sort of way when people in classic movies start singing at the weirdest times…  But have you ever been so overwhelmed by the goodness & majesty & grace & work of God that you broke into song during your prayer times?  That seems to be what John witnessed here.  As Christ Jesus is presented in His sacrifice & victory & worth, everything that has breath simply breaks out into song – starting with the Church & building up to a crescendo of all Creation.

As with other sections of Scriptures, there are many ways we could break it up in divisions.  For today, we’re going to look at 3 major sections of Rev 5: the presentation of the scroll – the presentation of the Lamb – the proclamations of praise (3 songs).  In it all, we’re going to see one major overriding theme: Jesus is worthy.  In Ch 4, heaven proclaimed God was worthy of praise & glory because of who He is.  In Ch 5, the song is expanded to proclaim Jesus worthy of praise & glory because of what He has done.

Revelation 5:1-14 (NKJV)
– the presentation of the Scroll…
1 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.

  1. Before we get to the scroll, notice who has it: God.  The glorious One who sits on the throne from Ch 4 is the one who holds the scroll in His right hand.  Earlier, we didn’t get any physical description of God, other than the light of His glory that shone forth from the throne in the middle of the sea of glass/crystal.  This One to whom the cherubim constantly proclaim praises & the 24 elders constantly cast their crowns to is the One that holds the scroll. …  Bottom line: this underscores the scroll’s importance.  It’s held by the very hand of God Himself…
    1. Ever watch the Antiques TV shows? Quite often an obscure painting that seems worthless jumps in worth to several thousand dollars simply because of a famous signature that was on it, or the particular painter was determined.  The more renown the painter, the greater the worth.  Imagine a scroll possessed by Almighty God.  How valuable & important are the contents of that scroll – simply based upon who possesses it!
    2. By the same logic, we can say something similar about ourselves.  Outside of Christ, we are but wretched sinners – but after we’ve been redeemed (bought by His blood), our value in the sight of God rises to that of the price of Jesus’ blood.  You have value to God the Father, if for no other reason simply because of who owns you.
  2. Depending on your translation, this either reads “scroll” or “book.”  The word is (~bible), and assuredly refers to a scroll of some sort.  Books as we know them today were called “codex/codices” & were rare in the 1st century…John’s readers would have been much more familiar with scrolls.  The fact that it was written on the “inside & on the back” also indicates that it was a scroll.  Typically, formal contracts & other extremely detailed documents were summarized on the back of the scroll, when it was sealed.  That way, someone could look on the back for the general information, but would have to have the authority to break open the seals to actually get to the details of what was written.
  3. Much has been made of the written contents of this scroll – which to a large extent, are never really told to us in Revelation.  A popular view among many Bible teachers today is that this scroll is the title-deed to the earth, handed by God the Father to Jesus the Son.  The idea is that due to the Fall of mankind, the rule of the earth has been usurped by Satan (the prince of the power of the air – Eph 2:2; the ruler of this world – Jn 16:11).  Through Jesus’ work on the cross & resurrection, Satan is defeated, and Jesus obtains the right of purchase (redemption) to buy back that which was already rightfully His by ownership (creation). []  It’s noted by scholars who hold this view that the type of transaction that takes place in Ch 5 is very typical of what would normally take place with the transaction of real estate, as a deed is passed by one person to another (who has a scroll written on the inside & out & sealed with several seals).
    1. With all due respect to the many scholars that hold this viewpoint…it seems that there is more going on here than a mere transfer of ownership right.  Sometimes we hear the term “title deed to the earth” so often, we just assume that it’s part of Scripture.  In reality, the idea of a “title deed” is assumed upon the Scripture with a (legitimate) historical context. … We need to read the Bible for what it actually says & tread extremely carefully when the Bible is silent on a particular issue.  Historical context plays a crucial part in Biblical interpretation, but it must come AFTER the step of observation; not prior to it.
  4. So it could be a title-deed – but there’s likely more to it than that.  Historically, all sorts of formal documents could be written on the inside & out & sealed on the outside: wills, contracts, deeds, and more.  To get an idea, we need to peek ahead a bit in Revelation to see what’s actually contained.  Rev 6 speaks of the 1st 6 seals being opened, each of which begin ushering in the Tribulation time on earth.  Rev 8 shows the 7th seal opened, which contains the 7 trumpet judgments of God.  Rev 8-9 show the 1st 6 trumpet judgments.  The 7th trumpet sounds in Rev 11, and seems to prepare the way for the 7 bowl judgments that begin in Rev 15-16.  Finally, after the last of the bowl judgments, the fall of Babylon takes place, & Christ comes back in His glorious 2nd coming. … ALL of this can be traced back to this one scroll as it’s being handed over to the Lord Jesus.  So more than a title-deed of authority, this scroll seems to contain the judgments of God & the righteous declaration of His wrath upon the world.  Like a judge that hands over a written judgment, so God hands over His declaration of judgment over to Christ (which would include the title-deed of authority among other things as a declaration of all of Jesus’ inheritance).
    1. Keep in mind that thus far in Revelation, John has been greatly alluding to the opening visions that Ezekiel had, with which the original readers would have been very familiar.  The description of Heaven & the angelic creatures in Rev 4 could have almost been written word-for-word with what Ezekiel saw (with only minor differences between the accounts).  Ezekiel also sees a scroll in his original vision: Ezekiel 2:9-10 (9) Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. (10) Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. []  Sound familiar?  The scroll in Revelation seems to be very similar.  How else could the seals & trumpets & bowls be described, than as lamentations & mourning & woe?
  5. With all of this in mind, let’s not miss the forest for the trees here.  The scroll plays an important part in the events in Heaven, but to John the focus isn’t so much on the scroll itself; it’s on the One Who holds the scroll & the One Who is worthy to read it.

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.

  1. Can you imagine the scene?  This scroll is presented at the right hand of God Almighty – obviously an extremely important document sealed with seven seals, awaiting to be opened.  All of Heaven has its eyes upon God waiting to know what the scroll says – but yet no one in heaven (or in all of creation) is worthy to open it. []  Think on that for a minute. No one in all of heaven – no one in all the earth is worthy to read the scroll held by the right hand of God.  Out of all the famous saints that passed through history, no one is worthy.  None of the apostles; not David (who was a man after God’s own heart); not Moses (who talked with God as a man talks to his friend); not even Abraham (who was called the friend of God).  Not a single one of them was worthy.  No one even in all of heaven.  Out of all of the incredible glorious beings that surrounded the throne of God – out of all the angels & archangel – not a single being was worthy of reading it.  No one even comes close…and as a result, John wept in despair.
  2. Only God is even worthy to hold it!  No one is worthy to read it…  If this seems like a dramatic pause, it certainly has the intended effect.  If God is the only one worthy of knowing the contents of the scroll, then who in Heaven or on earth is equal to the task?  Only God.  Thus God the Father can hand the scroll to God the Son. 

– the presentation of the Lamb…
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.”

  1. We just have to love the elder’s words to John: “Don’t weep!  Look to Jesus!”  Amen!  We don’t have to weep & worry about the universe spinning out of control – we don’t have to mourn as if the Devil is going to win his rebellious war against God – we need not cry because the injustice of sin will never be answered.  Look to Jesus!  Jesus has the right to rule the world – Jesus has already won the war – Jesus has already provided the response to sin.  Adam & Eve surely wept the day they were cast out of the garden, but when we look to Christ, there’s no more need for tears!
  2. Jesus is the Lion of Judah.  Jesus will be described visually as a lamb by John, but first He is declared to be the Lion by the elder.  The reference is to the Messianic prophecy from Jacob upon his son, Judah… Genesis 49:9-10 (9) Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? (10) The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. [] What’s interesting about this particular prophecy/blessing is that outside of the direction of God, there’s no reason Judah should have received it.  Judah wasn’t the 1st born (that was Reuben, who forfeited the birthright through sinning with his father’s concubine), nor was Judah the favorite (that was Joseph).  Instead, Judah was the one who interceded for his brother Benjamin by offering his own life in place of Benjamin’s during Joseph’s test (Gen 44)…  God sovereignly directs Jacob to bless Judah as bringing forth the Messianic line showing that the One who will come from Judah will reign forever (the scepter never departing), will usher in peace (Shiloh), and the people will obey Him continually.  Jesus (the lamb of God) is that Lion of Judah.
  3. Jesus is the Root of David. Another reference to Messianic prophecy: Isaiah 11:1-2 (1) There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (2) 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 of the fear of the Lord. []  Speaking specifically of His genealogy.  Israel knew to expect the Messiah from the tribe of Judah; later it was narrowed down to the lineage of David.  Question: why would a branch grow from the roots?  If the rest of the tree was cut down.  After the captivity of Judah (the southern kingdom), the royal dynasty of David was interrupted.  Not a single king from David’s descent sat upon the throne in Jerusalem from that time forward.  None had the right until Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Jesus comes forth as the King of Israel with the birthright to rule, confirmed by the right of victory at the resurrection.
  4. Jesus is the Victor.  The 1st two descriptions of Christ refer to Messianic prophecy & title.  The 3rd is a description of His work.  Jesus is the Victor because Jesus has “prevailed/conquered.”  Recall that all the letters to the 7 churches (Rev 2-3) gave promises to the overcomers; here we see that Christ Jesus has already overcome (same exact word in Greek).  We are called to stand fast & be faithful; Jesus has already given us an example of what it looks like because He did it.  Every temptation He faced, He stood firm.  Every attack from the enemy, He endured.  Every sin He had to bear, He bore for our sakes & took the judgment of God we deserved upon Himself.  Better than anyone in history, truly Jesus can be called a “conqueror!”
    1. Why does Jesus get the scroll of judgments?  Because all authority in heaven & on earth has been given to Him (Mt 28:18).  Because God the Father has committed judgment to the Son (Jn 5:22).  Sometimes we tend to forget this aspect of Christ.  We think of Him in His love & His grace – how in His earthly ministry He was so gentle, He wouldn’t break a bruised reed (Mt 12:20).  But we need to remember that’s not His ONLY description.  In His 1st coming, Jesus did not come to condemn the world (we were already condemned in our sin); but in His 2nd coming, Jesus IS coming to judge the world.  He has the right – He has the authority – and this is vividly demonstrated when the scroll is handed to Him by God the Father.

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.

  1. Jesus is the Lamb of sacrifice. (“slain”)  The reference is that of Passover, where a lamb without spot or blemish was slain & the blood covered the doorposts of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt.  This was (and is) an annual feast among the Jews & until the Temple was destroyed in 70AD, lambs were slaughtered every year for the feast (one per family) as they remembered God’s saving deliverance.  That’s exactly the work of the cross (and what the original Passover looked forward to) as the spotless lamb of God was slain for us, covering our sins with His blood in order to give us God’s saving deliverance.  As John the Baptist declared of Christ: “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)
    1. The verb tense is interesting here.  The word “slain” is the idea of “slaughtering/ to be violently put to death” & it’s in the perfect tense. Perfect = past action with continuing results…  John is describing Christ here as though He had JUST been slain & continued to look that way.  That’s not to say the vision was necessarily gory (after all, Jesus had already appeared in victory with hair as white, feet as brass, etc…), or that Jesus was weak & near death (He obviously had the strength to appear in the midst of Heaven), but at the very least He still bore the wounds that were given Him at the cross. [Thomas – John 20:24-29]  Even in all of His glory, He still bears the wound.  For all of eternity, we will never forget the price of our salvation…
  2. Jesus is the Lamb of majesty/power. (“horns”)  Horns throughout Scripture tend to speak of the authority to rule or of power.  Obviously Jesus has both.  As the Root of David, He has the right to rule as the Messianic King; as God the Son He has no limit to His power (omnipotent).
    1. This is an amazing thing to consider when you combine Jesus’ omnipotence with the fact that He was slain.  The One person in the entire universe of whom no one had ANY power over willingly laid His life down for the glory of God & for love for you & me. …
  3. Jesus is the Lamb of God. (“the seven Spirits of God”)  We’ve already seen several times how the “7 Spirits of God” is a reference to the 7-fold work of the Holy Spirit.  What is described here with Christ is not only His omniscience (the fact that He sees everything & there is nothing He does not know), but that He is completely endued with the Holy Spirit…exactly according to the prophecy of Isaiah 11:2.  Scripture makes it clear that the Spirit is sent by both the Father & the Son – demonstrated here as the Spirit rests upon Christ Jesus.

7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

  1. Jesus is worthy!  He sits this very hour at the right hand of God & He alone is worthy to take the scroll from the right hand of God because He Himself IS God!
  2. If John wept because no one was worthy, look at the difference when someone was found who IS worthy: all of heaven erupts in praise!

–          The songs of praise. #1: The song of the redeemed…
8 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.

  1. There’s a bit of difficulty here in the text because it would seem on one hand that the living creatures & the elders join together in song, but when we read the words of the song itself, it’s really only a song that redeemed humans could sing.  It’s probably best to think of what’s happening is that both the creatures & the elders fall on their face in worship, but the 24 elders lift up their voices first in song.  It’s the Church that has the harps of praise – the saints lift up their prayers to God as incense.
  2. The lyrics of the song also indicate this is a song of the Church.  Christ has “redeemed us”…He has “made us kings & priests”…because of His work “we shall reign” with Him.  This may or may not be clear depending on your translation.  The vast majority of manuscripts make it clear the chorus is singing “us.”  This is a song all who are redeemed will be able to sing out with passion; we’ll be able to proclaim these lyrics with all our heart because we are the one who will have experienced it.

 

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.”

  1. Jesus is worthy because of His work at the Cross!  As God the Son, Jesus is worthy of praise simply because of who He is (like God the Father is worthy of praise, per Ch 4).  Yet as our Savior – as the Suffering Messiah who died for our sins & rose from the grave, Jesus is worthy of praise (specifically here, worthy to open the scroll) because of what He has done.  We can praise the Lord Jesus for His work.  Obviously we are not saved by OUR works, but we are saved by HIS work; and that’s something in which we will glorify Christ for in all eternity.  The saints sing of 3 results from the Cross…
  2. The cross gives us redemption.  “Redeeming” has the idea of payment.  ESV, “ransomed”; NASB/NIV/AMP “purchased.”  To redeem someone was to purchase them out of slavery – to pay the ransom note that was required.  That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus did for us.  When He hung on the cross, the last words He proclaimed were “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30)  In His death for us, the price of sin had been paid – our salvation was purchased & secured.  We, who once were children of the devil & belonged to an eternal destiny in Hell suffering the righteous wrath of God have been purchased away from that.  We’ve been bought at a price & have been saved by the blood of the Lamb!
  3. The cross gives us a calling. We once were not a people, but now we are the people of God (1 Pet 2:10).  In Christ, there’s neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal 3:28).  No matter what our background WAS; we’ve been called out of that & called to God by the wonderful work of Christ Jesus!
  4. The cross gives us an inheritance.  As if salvation from eternal Hell wasn’t enough.  As if calling/identity as the people of God weren’t enough.  Through Christ Jesus we’ve been given so much more.  We’re not merely redeemed slaves; we’re children of God – given the right/inheritance as His very sons & daughters.  We’ve been made a kingdom of priests & we will rule side-by-side with our Lord Jesus!
    1. This whole song sums up what Peter was writing about: 1 Peter 2:9-10 (9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. []  I think that’s reason enough to sing the praises of Christ…what about you?

–          #2: The song of heaven…
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!”

  1. Once the 24 elders (and presumably the rest of the Church) finishes their song of redemption, the angels break forth in their own hymn of praise.  Some popular Bible teachers note that the Scripture does not specifically state that the angels sing here (or elsewhere) – but the context is definitely that of song!  …
  2. How big is the choir?  Huge!  Myriads upon myriads (literally, in the Greek) – thousands upon thousands.  We have no idea how many angels populate the universe, but apparently they all broke out in song at this point.
    1. Interestingly enough, the last time Scripture spoke of a massive chorus of angels, it was in Bethlehem, at Jesus’ birth.  Luke 2:13-14 (13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: (14) “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” []  The angels sang at the presentation of Jesus as the Suffering Savior, and they will sing again at the presentation of Jesus as the Worthy King.
  3. The angels also sing of Jesus’ worth because of His work at the cross.  They proclaim He is worthy because He was “slain.”  That had to have been an utterly incomprehensible thought from the perspective of the angels.  After all, they had absolutely no barrier between them & their Creator since the beginning of time.  They had always known God the Son as being God the Son because He created them.  Even the demons saw Jesus for who He is & they trembled as a result!  And then the angels witness the most curious event: their own Creator wraps Himself in flesh & becomes a human (a lower creature than even the angels themselves!) & lives among men, eats, sleeps, suffers, is betrayed, suffers & dies.  The angelic host who would have prevented Jesus from falling off a cliff had to restrain themselves & stand by doing nothing as their Lord & God was whipped, brutalized, and nailed to a wooden cross to die.  It’s no wonder they were the 1st at His tomb to see Him risen from the grave! J  So could the angels proclaim the worth of Jesus Christ because He was slain?  Absolutely!
  4. What is Jesus worthy to receive?  Everything.  Power…  Riches… Wisdom… Strength… Honor… Glory… Blessing…  Nothing’s left out!  Whatever honor & privilege there is in the world to bestow upon someone, Jesus is worthy to receive it!  He’s worthy of it all!
    1. Do we give Him our all?

–          #3: The song of creation…
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.

  1. After the angels erupt in praise, so does the rest of Creation.  Question: Does this take place literally at this time, or does it look forward in history?  After all, contextually speaking the Tribulation hadn’t yet taken place & multitudes of non-believers still exist.  Some scholars think this possibly could be a jump in history (remember that God is outside of time); others think that the choir is made up of representatives from every single creature throughout the universe; or perhaps this simply refers to the song ringing out from every corner of the universe.  Whether literally true in Rev 5 or not, we know it WILL be literally true in eternity. (Phil 2:9-11)
  2. Note that the song of creation is sung both to God the Father AND God the Son.  Note also that worship is given to both God the Father AND God the Son.  There ought to be no doubt at this point that the Bible proclaims Jesus to be God.  Only God is worthy to read the scroll.  Only God is worthy to receive all blessing & glory & power.  Only God is worthy to receive worship (even the most glorious angel would turn it away).  When all of Heaven worships Christ Jesus as God, we can be certain that we can do so as well.

Conclusion:

Jesus is worthy.  Have you joined in the worship & praise?

We can praise Him as Redeemer…
We can praise Him as Messiah…
We can praise Him as Conqueror…
He is worthy of praise because of His Person…
He is worthy of praise because of His work…
Our Lord Jesus is worthy of praise!

As a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, you have every reason to erupt in song – to sing the glories of your Lord & King.  So don’t hold back!  Give Him your all – give Him your praise – love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength, worshipping Him with everything that you are & everything that you have.  He is worthy of the praise!

If you don’t yet know Christ as Redeemer, you can.  Today can be the day you partake of His redemption…  When Jesus went to cross, it was for a reason: He was slain (slaughtered) there because of your sin…because of you & because of me.  We sometimes think that our sin isn’t a big deal; it IS!  It certainly was a big deal to Jesus as He hung there in your place & in my place.  He died the death on the cross to take the punishment that you & I deserved.  But it didn’t stop with His death, He rose in victory, and offers His grace, forgiveness, & redemption to anyone who humbles themselves & calls upon Him by faith.

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