Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 13 (“The Emergence of the Lamb”)
Last week we’ve seen the desperate need of John and the rest of the heavenly and earthly creatures, for someone to open the sealed scroll and John was weeping about the fact that there was no-one worthy to open this scroll. But then, in 5:5, one of the elders told John that there is indeed someone who can open the scroll.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.5:1-14 ~ “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. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 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.” 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. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 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. 9 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, 10and 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 honour 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 honour and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
3. THE WORTHY ONE (vss.5-6):
There is only One who is worthy of opening the scroll (or book) – the elder calls Him “the Worthy One,” the Lion of the tribe of Judah, that is, the mighty conqueror over His enemies – Satan, sin and death. We see this in Gen.49:8-12 ~ “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. 9Judah 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? 10 The sceptre 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. 11Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” Here we have a picture of divine judgment – judgment over Satan, sin and death. Jesus is the only One who is able to judge the world, because He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
Many people feel that it is almost blasphemy to talk about Christ as a Judge; one who hates sin; one who will determine the eternal destiny of both believer and unbeliever. Voddie Baucham once said: “If you don’t like speaking about Jesus as the Judge, then we are missing one of the most important aspects of who He is, because what does redemption then mean, if there is no justice? What are you saved from, if there is no wrath of God? What are you rescued from if there is not a day that is going to come when He actually does exact vengeance upon the wicked? What have you been transferred from if not from darkness and judgement to light and redemption? You cannot appreciate the redemption that you have in Christ unless you understand the justice and judgment of God’s will – that must come against the wicked. You will never turn to Christ unless you understand this, because you don’t have anything to flee from if there is no justice or judgment of the wicked. You don’t believe that you need a Saviour if you don’t believe that there is justice against the wicked.”
This is the Gospel message – we are all sinners – everybody on earth are sinners ~ “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) and you can only be saved if you believe and honour and follow Jesus Christ ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The elder also calls the Worthy One, “the root of David.” He was of the household of David, of his family tree, of his blood. Who then is worthy to open the book? The prophesied Son of David, the Messiah and King of the world, Jesus the Christ. He and He alone is worthy to take the book and carry out the events of the end time ~ “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Is.11:1 – Jesse, or “Yishai” is a figure described in the Bible as the father of David and ancestor of Christ). Jesus is also the slain Lamb, that is, one that was once before slain as the spotless Sin-bearer ~ “…as though it had been slain” (vs.6).
After the elder spoke to John, he saw a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. The seven horns denote His absolute strength, the seven eyes His omniscience and fullness with the Spirit, by whom He perfects His ministry among the inhabitants of the earth. Indeed, Christ alone conquered sin and Satan. In so doing, He was both fulfilling and revealing a pivotal part (Afrikaans: “deurslaggewende/sleutelrol”) of God’s decree or eternal purpose. His conquest (Afrikaans: “oorwinning”) earned Him this right.
We see in vs.6, that the Lamb stood “between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders” (“the throne” – i.e. the seat of universal control and power; “the four living creatures” i.e. the Cherubim and “the elders” – i.e. the universal Church). This reminds us of Paul’s words in Col.1:17 ~ “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Because all things were created through Him and for Him, all things revolve around Him. And all things can only revolve around One who is on the throne. Christ, like the Father, is on the throne. The two are one.
Another meaning for the Lamb centrally placed surrounded by the living creatures and elders, is because He is no ordinary angelic servant of God, but the unique Mediator of both creation and redemption (Col.1:13-20). He is the focal point for all of God’s plan (Eph.1:10). He has “seven horns and seven eyes,” symbolic of His worthiness and ability. As mentioned before, horns frequently represent means of power ~ “And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed’” (1 Kings 22:11). Eyes symbolise wisdom. In this case the power of Christ’s Spirit-filled eternal life is depicted by the image of the horns and His wisdom by the image of eyes.
The “seven spirits of God” are the sevenfold fullness of the Holy Spirit, as in Rev.4:5 ~ “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” We also read in Is.11:2-4 the following with regard to “the seven spirits of God” ~ “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. 3And 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, 4but 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.” (Is.11:2-4).
4. THE SCROLL (vss.7-10):
Last week I explained that the scroll is the key element in this part of the vision given to John. John wept because he knew that God’s plan of judgment and redemption will not be fully completed, if the plan that is written in the scroll, is not revealed. If the scroll is not opened, there will not be ultimate judgment for a sinning world and no ultimate salvation for the believers – no hell, no heaven and no future inheritance for God’s people. And the only One that can open this scroll is the Worthy One who fulfilled God’s plan of judgment and salvation, namely Jesus Christ.
Christ, now takes the scroll from God’s hand. What is written in the scroll? The fullness of God’s plan of judgment, redemption and inheritance. The message of this scroll is now prophesied as the seals are broken and the events of the last days are seen. Note the size and thickness of this particular scroll. It takes seven seals to seal and bind it and it has words and sentences on both sides of the scroll. All that is in the rest of Revelation is contained therein.
Note also, that the book is in God’s hand. History is in God’s hand. He is in charge. He has a plan, a purpose for the universe. Who is worthy to carry out this plan, this purpose? Who can rule and reign over these events? The idea is that Christ and Christ alone, is worthy and therefore, by taking the scroll from God’s hand, Christ is claiming that He now exercises His rule. And the heavenly realm recognised this claim as true, because the 4 beasts and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb in worship.
We see in vs.8 that each elder had “a harp and golden bowls full of incense,” which was interpreted as the prayers of the saints ~ “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Ps.141:2).
After the glorious song in Rev.4:8 where the four living creatures sang ~ “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come,” we now hear a new song, sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders – vss.9-10 ~ “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, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
When looking at these words it is clear that the theme of this song is one of redemption. The Lamb had been slain and had purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Those He purchased with His blood were made a kingdom and priests to serve our God (Rev.1:6), and to reign on the earth. Because of this, Warren Wiersbe says that this song is a Gospel song, but it is also a devotional hymn, for it announced our unique position in Christ as “a kingdom of priests.” Like Melchizedek of old, believers are kings and priests ~ “We shall reign on the earth” (Gen.14:17; Hebr.7; 1 Pet.2:5–10).
After this glorious song, John hears how the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders are joined by the entire created order, all proclaiming Christ’s worthiness. What is even more astonishing is the fact that even the unsaved – those “under the earth” – are praising the worthy Lamb (vs.13).
This doxology (Afrikaans: “lofsang”) has reference to the power and blessings of Christ at the commencement of his reign ~ “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign” (Rev.11:17). It is also closely similar to that sung to God in Rev.7:12 ~ “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” These doxologies also remind of the hymn of Phil.2:9-11 ~ “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
After this series of heavenly visions, the scene shifts to the devastation on earth. Before that happened, it is significant that all of creation is seen as willed by God, made by God, ruled by God, and praised by God. This is John’s way of telling us that the ideal world, the world as it really is and will yet be, should never be forgotten, though our visions of glory fade and earthly chaos threatens to overwhelm us. God is still on His throne, and His created order, though now in rebellion against Him, is still subject to Him and in some inexplicable way doing His will, and thus offering praise to Him.
We see how the heaven and earth join in the concert and closes with their Amen, and end as they began, with a low prostration before the eternal and everlasting God. Thus, we have seen this sealed book passing with great solemnity (Afrikaans: “plegtigheid/eerbied”) from the hand of the Creator into the hand of the Redeemer.
5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The fear of a criminal society, “landgrabs,” bombs, an unstable economy, the environment, the drugs, and the other massive problems of our country and the rest of the world seem to have no answer. But God does: He is going to bring history to a climax and establish righteousness throughout all the earth.
We should all bow in utter humility and dependency upon God, for He is higher above us than even the outer reaches of space.
We should pay close attention to the book of Revelation, study and live in its message. It is the revelation of God’s will for the end time, the events that are yet to take place throughout the universe.
Those of you who are not sure of your salvation must also take cognisance of the fact that Christ will, on the last day, judge all the unrighteous and the life-important question that you must answer for yourself today, is whether you are standing on the assurance of Christ’s redemption and acquittal – will you receive judgment and condemnation or will you hear the words from the Lamb ~ “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt.25:21).