WORTHY IS THE LAMB Revelation 5:1-10
As we enter this fifth chapter, it would be a good time for a little review. In chapter 4, John is caught up into Heaven. When he arrives there, he sees God Himself sitting on a glorious throne. John sees Heaven arrayed as a courtroom. God is preparing to unleash His wrath on the inhabitants of the earth.
So, chapter four ends with God receiving the praise of His created ones and of His redeemed ones. Heaven throbs with the voices of those caught up in their love for Almighty God. Chapter five finds us in the same courtroom in Heaven. Now, praise has ceased for a moment and heavenly business is about to be transacted, and we are going to have front row seats as it is acted out.
We are about to find out that, in Heaven, Jesus is the central Figure. He is the center of attention. I believe that Heaven will be a glorious, wonderful place. I believe there will be streets of gold, walls of jasper, gates of pearl, and more glory than you and I can imagine. I believe it will be great to see Abraham, Moses, Paul, and the rest. But, the main attraction of Heaven will be Jesus Himself. In this passage, we are going to see Jesus Himself, in His rightful place; glorified and exalted in Heaven. This passage sets the stage for the judgments that will come during the Tribulation. It also reveals Jesus in His exalted glory.
I. A MYSTERIOUS SCROLL v. 1
This chapter begins, God is said to be holding a book. Now, this is not a book like you and I think of a book. It is actually a scroll. Paper was made in long sheets, and as it was written on, it would be rolled up. A portion would be written, and it would be rolled up and sealed. Another portion would be written and then that portion would be rolled up and sealed. This scroll God holds has seven seals on it. This is a mysterious scroll; let’s see if we can unravel the mystery of the scroll.
A. The Character Of This Scroll – As we read these verses, the character of this scroll becomes clear.
· First, it has something to do with “man”, v. 2-4.
· Second, it has something to do with the “earth”. In Revelation 6, the seals of this scroll began to be opened and the contents of the scroll are read. When they are, they reveal what will be happening on the earth during the Tribulation Period.
· Third, this scroll has something to do with “redemption”. When Jesus takes this scroll, He is praised for His redemptive work, Rev. 5:9-10.
This is a book of redemption. Redemption is something we talk about a lot. It is an important truth. Understanding redemption is vital to understanding God’s great plan for the ages. Everything He does and has ever done is related to His redemptive work.
To understand redemption, we need to look back to Old Testament times. In that time period, three things could be redeemed.
1. A Slave could be redeemed – If a master lost a servant, he could pay a redemption price and buy that servant back. (Ill. That is what Jesus did when He came to die on the cross for us, Rev. 5:9; Gal. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19. We have been “bought with a price”, 1 Cor. 6:19-20.)
2. A Wife could be redeemed – If a woman was left as a widow with no male children, a close kinsman of her dead husband could redeem her, and her husbands inheritance, by paying a redemption price. This is seen in the book of Ruth, when Boaz paid the price to redeem Ruth and her dead husband’s inheritance. (Ill. Jesus died on the cross to redeem a Bride unto Himself, Eph. 5:25-27.)
3. Land could be redeemed – If a man lost the land he had been given as an inheritance, he could buy his property back by paying a redemption price.
This truth is demonstrated in Jeremiah 32. Jeremiah’s uncle had lost a piece of property. Jeremiah’s cousin comes to him when he is in prison and he asks Jeremiah to buy back the property, v. 8. Jeremiah does this and records the transaction on a scroll and seals it up, v. 10.
They would record the information related to the redemption on both sides of a scroll. On the inside they would write the reason the land was forfeited. On the outside they would write the terms of the redemption.
Apparently, they kept two copies of this transaction; one was open to the public for all to read and another copy was kept sealed up, v. 10-11. These scrolls were laid up in the Temple, in earthen jars for safekeeping, v. 14. Jeremiah serves the function of a kinsman redeemer for the property that belonged to his uncle.
What we are witnessing in Rev. 5 is the heavenly version of what men did in Old Testament times. If you will notice, the book God holds is written on both sides. It is written up and sealed just like a deed.
When Jesus died on the cross, He did not just die for us, He also died for a ruined creation, Rom. 8:22-23.
B. The Contents Of This Scroll – I believe this scroll that we see here, is the title deed to the planet earth. When man sinned in Eden, sin entered this universe. Man fell that day, and God’s creation came under a tragic curse. We will never know the full extent to which sin has ruined creation; but we do know that when Adam fell; creation fell also.
Here is the problem, when God made man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, God gave man dominion over all of creation, Gen. 1:27-28. When man fell, he gave away his dominion and Satan became the god of this world, 2 Cor. 4:4. When God sent Jesus to redeem mankind on the cross, the blood of Jesus redeemed fallen sinners. But, it was and is also sufficient to break the bondage of sin over creation. The Second Adam bought back everything the first Adam gave away.
So, this scroll in the hand of God is written within and without. On the inside is the tragic story of sin, tragedy, death, failure and defeat. On the outside are the terms of redemption. If we could read these terms, we would find that the redeemer must be one who is willing to redeem and one who is worthy to redeem.
I. A Mysterious Scroll
II. A METICULOUS SEARCH v. 2-4
For the next few verses, this scroll is front and center in Heaven, as a search is made for one who is worthy to break the seals and read the contents of the scroll.
A. v. 2 The Requirements Of This Search – An angel asks the all important question, “Who is worthy to open the book?” The question is this: “Who is morally fit to read the text of this scroll and to carry out all that is necessary to redeem the earth?”
Notice that the angel did not say, “Who is willing to open the book?” There have been many men down through the ages that were more than willing, but they were not able. More than one ruler has determined that he would have dominion over the earth.
Alexander the Great conquered the known world by the time he was 33 and wept because there were no more lands to conquer. He did not redeem the world; he left it worse than he found it! Before him, Nebuchadnezzar saw himself as the greatest ruler ever. He was not worthy to take dominion either. Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlemagne, Adolph Hitler and scores of others were more than willing to have dominion over the earth, but they were not worthy.
Soon, the world will see the rise of a demonically charged madman called the Antichrist. He will come far closer than any mortal man to ruling the world; but in the end, he will merely ruin the world. He too will prove that he is unworthy to possess the title deed to this planet and to rule over all.
Thank God, there is One Who is worthy to take the book and to open its seals. We will discover why He is worthy in just a few minutes.
B. v. 3 The Reach Of This Search – A search is made throughout the universe for one man who is worthy to take the book and open it up. They searched Heaven above; Hell beneath and earth in between. They could find no one worthy to take the book!
There was no saint in Heaven, not Abraham, Moses, David, or Paul, found worthy. Gabriel, Michael and all the angelic host of Heaven were not worthy to take that book. No one living on the earth, no king, no president, no ruler, no billionaire, no politician, no scientist, no preacher, no one was worthy to take the book. No one in Hell, no demon, no doomed sinner, not even old Satan himself, was worthy to take that book.
They searched high and low, but no man was found who was even worthy to look upon the book that rested in the hand of Almighty God!
C. v. 4 The Results Of This Search – When the results of the search are made public, something happens in Heaven that had probably never happened before or since: John burst into tears!
There are two words used for weeping in the New Testament. One is used in John 11:35, where the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” That word refers to “silent weeping”. Jesus stood there at the tomb of His friend and He wept in silence.
The other word is used when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41. This word refers to “uncontrollable sobbing.” It is the kind of crying that a small child does when its little heart is broken. It is the kind of weeping you see when someone loses a loved one unexpectedly. It is open, unabashed weeping! It is the same word used of John’s weeping in this verse. John is in Heaven and he is weeping out loud because no one is worthy to open the book, or even to look upon it.
Why is John weeping? John knows what that book represents. He knows that if no one can open the book, creation is doomed to feel the effects of sin for eternity. John’s tears represent the tears of all humanity since man fell in Eden. John weeps for us all!
I. A Mysterious Scroll
II. A Meticulous Search
III. A MAGNIFICENT SAVIOR v. 5-7
In these verses, we are going to meet the One Who is worthy to take the book, to look on the book and to open the book. We are introduced in these verses to A Magnificent Savior!
John is weeping, but one of the elders comes to him and gives him some encouraging news. He tells John to wipe his eyes and stop his crying because, while no mere man is worthy, One has been discovered Who is! Let’s examine this worthy One together.
Notice the elder’s words, “Weep not, behold…” Then, he points John to Jesus! That is the message the church has been preaching for 2,000 years, “Weep not, behold…” Regardless of the problem, Jesus is the solution! Weep not, look to Jesus and He will meet the need! What a Savior!)
A. v. 5 A Conquering Lion – The elder tells John that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David hath prevailed…” When John hears the title “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, he immediately knows that the elder is referring to the Messiah. In Gen. 49:8-10, the Jews are promised that a great ruler will arise out of Judah. Like a lion, He will be powerful, strong, brave, majestic, and He will be a mighty conqueror. The Jews were looking for a Messiah Who would throw off the yoke of their oppressors and give them liberty. They were looking for a military leader to lead them to victory over their enemies.
This person is also called “the Root of David”. This title reflects both the humanity and the deity of the Messiah Who was to come. He would raise up the withered branch of the line of David and bring it to power once again. That is the human side of the Messiah. But, He was also the “power behind the throne”. The Messiah was the Root out of which David sprang! So, He was a King and He was the King of Kings!
When Jesus came to this world, claiming to be the Messiah, He did not fulfill the expectations of the Jewish people. Instead of delivering the Jews from their bondage in a great military victory, and establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, Jesus went around healing, preaching and performing miracles. As a result, the Jews rejected Him and their Messiah and crucified the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Root of David”.
When John hears of Jesus in Heaven, He is described as a mighty Lion and as a King and as the King of Kings. John is told that this Lion has prevailed. So, Jesus is described as a Conquering Lion.
B. v. 6 A Crucified Lamb – When John turns around to see this mighty, conquering Lion, he sees a “lamb as it had been slain.” The word “lamb” means “a little lamb; a pet lamb”. When John looked, he expected to see a great and powerful Lion; what he saw instead was a little, pet Lamb.
Of course, this scene is wrapped up in Jewish symbolism also. With this image of the “little Lamb”, we are reminded of the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12, the people of Israel were instructed to select a perfect lamb, one without blemish and without spot. They were to take that lamb into their home and nourish it and care for it for a number of days. During that time, you know what happened, that little lamb became like a pet lamb to that family. Then, on the prescribed day, they were take that lamb, kill it, apply its blood to the doorposts of their home, roast its little body and eat it. When the people did this, they were promised that they would be spared when the Lord came to judge the Egyptians. Don’t you know that it broke the hearts of that little family to kill that pet lamb?
In that little dead lamb, the Israelites were given a power picture of what the Lord was going to do someday through the Redeemer He was going to send into the world. Just as that family would kill their pet lamb; God would judge His darling Son on Calvary’s cross. Oh, how it must have broken the Father’s heart to send His Son into a world filled with people who would hate Him, reject Him and crucify Him. How it must have broken the heart of the Father to judge the Son in the place of sinners!
But, it was on the cross that Heaven won the greatest victory of all time and eternity! We are told that the Lion-Lamb has “prevailed”. This word means “to carry off the victory”. Just because Jesus is a Lamb does not mean that He is weak! Jesus carried off the victory at every possible turn.
· He carried off the victory on the Mount of Temptation, Matt. 4:1-11. (Satan thought Jesus would Fall!)
· He carried off the victory in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matt. 26:38-44. (Satan thought Jesus would Fail!)
· He carried off the victory on the cross, John 19:30. (Satan thought Jesus was a Fool!)
· He carried off the victory when He rose from the dead, Matt. 28:1-8! (Satan thought Jesus was Finished!)
Satan thought he had defeated Jesus when Jesus died on the cross. Hell must have celebrated as the broken, bleeding, body of Jesus was removed from that cross and placed in that borrowed tomb. For three days, the demons and devils of Hell must have cavorted in glee as they celebrated what they thought was Satan’s victory over the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Satan thought was his greatest victory was in fact his greatest defeat! The cross was God’s greatest accomplishment! In the cross, God displayed more power and glory than He did in creation. When Jesus cried “It is finished”; it was a far greater achievement than when He said, “Let there be!” Jesus is called “Lamb” 28 times in the book of Revelation. Satan, the Lamb’s enemy is described as “a great, red dragon”, Rev. 12. Satan’s power is described as massive. He masses a great human army and a great demonic army, all intend on defeating God. Heaven’s response to this vast display of infernal power is to send “a little Lamb”. When a nation chooses a symbol, they usually choose and animal that suggests power and authority. The Lion is the Symbol of Great Britain. The Bear is the symbol of Russia. The Eagle is the symbol of the United States of America. When Heaven looked for a symbol, it shoes a “slain Lamb”; a symbol of meekness, submission and gentleness. Jesus conquered Satan’s kingdom not by military might, but be meekness, compassion, love and submission!
So, a “little, pet Lamb” won the victory and because of that, He is worthy to take the book. Before we leave this thought, let’s take a moment to examine this Lamb in a little more detail.
· This Lamb is in Heaven – He is not in a dirty manger. He is not on a dusty road in Galilee. He is not on a ship in a storm. He is not sitting wearied and thirty on the rim of a well. He is not hanging in shame and agony on a cross. He is not lying in a cold, sealed tomb. He is where He deserves to be. He is in the throne. He is in Heaven! He is glorified and exalted.
· This Lamb had been there all along – This Lamb had been in the middle of the action all along. John had not see Him until now, but He had been there the while time. Let me just remind you that Jesus is always in the midst when we gather. We might not recognize Him, but He is always here, Matt. 18:20.
· This Lamb still bore the marks of having been slain – When we see Jesus in Heaven, we will see the marks of His suffering in His body. For all eternity, Jesus will bear the wounds of the cross as a constant reminder of what He did for us. There will be no room for pride in Heaven! No one will be able to brag about how he got there. When we see Him, we will see His love on permanent display. What a cause for continuous worship and praise!
· This Lamb was standing – When Jesus ascended back to Heaven, we are told that He sat down at the right hand of God, Heb. 1:3. He sat down because His work of redeeming sinners was complete. He stands in these verses because His work of delivering the earth is about to begin!
· This Lamb has seven eyes – He is all wise and all knowing. This Lamb is Omniscient. Nothing escapes His gaze.
C. v. 7 A Completing Lord – The Lamb takes the book out of the hand of God. When He does, Heaven breaks out in an anthem of praise. Heaven knows that Jesus is about to do the work of the Lion and deliver the earth and all of creation from the bondage of Satan and from the blight of sin. He is about to complete His redemptive work.
The Lamb is worthy to take the book and open the seals. If this scroll really is the title deed to the planet earth, what right does He have to open it? There are at least three reasons why He has this right.
· The world is His by right of Creation – He made it!
· The world is His by right of Calvary – He redeemed it!
· The world is His by right of Conquest – He will retake it!