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WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Revelation 5:1-5:14
Key Verse: 5:9-10

Revelation chapter 4 is glorious: it reveals God’s throne in heaven encircled by rainbow resembling emerald, and his appearance of jasper and Carnelian. The four living creatures praise God day and night for his perfect holiness, and the twenty-four elders representing the redeemed people of the church praise God for his wonderful creation, and lay their crowns of gold before the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. This is truly a glorious scene. However, in chapter 5 there is a deep sorrow of man, and then with the appearing of the Lamb there is the praise of the living creature and the elders and numerous angels and the whole of creation to God and the Lamb. This is a stunning transition from the deep sorrow to the praise and glory. It is due to the Lamb who was slain. On this Thanksgiving Sunday may we go deep into the marvelous grace of our Lord Christ Jesus so as to be full of thanks and praise to him.

First, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (1-5) Look at verse 1. “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” “A scroll”, in Greek, biblion, is also rendered “a book” (Rev 1:11; 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:7, 9-10, 18-19). A scroll written in both sides is typical of various kinds of contracts in the ancient world, including deeds, marriage contracts, rental and lease agreements, and wills. The inside of the scroll contained all the details of the contract, and the outside—or back—contained a summary of the document. In this case it almost certainly is the title deed to the earth. We will see this. Here a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals, meaning complete sealing, was in the right hand of him who sat on the throne. So this scroll was not only completely sealed but also completely kept in the right hand of the Lord God Almighty. In the book of Daniel, God showed Daniel the coming future world in a vision that the king of Babylon of that time would be followed by the kingdom of Medo-Persia, the kingdom of Greece and the kingdom of Rome. Yet regarding the distant future Daniel was told, “…close up and seal the words of the scroll…Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” (Da 8:26; 12:4,9).

Then in verse 2 John wrote, “And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’” A mighty angel shouts out a challenge for anyone to come forth who is ‘worthy’ to open the great scroll and its seals. Then verse 3 says, “But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.”

All creation in heaven and earth and under the earth stood motionless and speechless…no one had the authority and virtue for such a task,” It seemed that as the echoes of his cry receded there was only silence. The powerful archangels Michael and Gabriel did not answer. Uncounted thousands of other angels remained silent. All the righteous dead of all the ages, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter and the rest of the apostles, Paul, and all the others from the church age, said nothing.

Look at verse 4. “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” John, involved in this tremendously important event, showed his emotional response. Why did John weep and weep? For what did he weep? Yes, he wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then why was not being able to open the scroll a great sorrow to him? What does opening the scroll mean?

Opening the scroll not only means to read the words, the secret in the scroll, and let the mystery of God be known to his people, but also the accomplishment of it (Rev. 10:7). In Revelation chapters 6 through 18, when each seal is opened, dreadful judgment comes upon the earth, and the seventh seal contains the seven-trumpet- and seven-bowl-judgments. So opening the scroll means to carry out God’s judge upon the earth so that the kingdom of this world ruled by Satan will be completely restored to the original state as written in Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” So not being able to open the scroll means Satan’s continuous rule. John, who was in the Spirit, must have known this. So he wept and wept. While on earth Jesus taught his disciple to pray with this prayer topic: “…Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10; Lk 11:12). According to Romans 8:22, this is the groaning of the whole creation: to be liberated from Satan’s rule and bondage to decay, into the glorious freedom along with the children of God.

When God created the world, he made male and female, and blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Ge 1:28). In this blessing God appointed men the rulers of the world. God gave them right to rule the world. But when Adam failed, sinning against God by disobeying God’s command, he lost the right and authority to rule. And so did all Adam’s race. Adam must have wept and wept in great bitterness and helplessness and misery. Actually this is related to the weeping and crying of all mankind, as Apostle Paul confessed, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Ro 7:24). And this weeping of John is also related to Jesus’ weeping. Jesus wept when he saw his beloved ones, Mary and Martha crying under the power of Satan and death in front of the graveyards of their dead brother, although Jesus who is the resurrection and the life was there (Jn 11:35). Jesus wept also when he entered Jerusalem, because the peace and salvation Jesus was bringing were hidden from their eyes and as a result they would face the impending judgment of God (Lk 19:41).

Then who is worthy to open the scroll? What are the qualifications for this? The one who can open the scroll is to be a kinsman of human beings, for because of man’s sin the world became the kingdom of Satan. So all the angles are dropped from the qualification. Next, the one who is able to open the scroll is to be sinless to take the scroll from the hand of the holy God. And the one is to be the person who has paid the price for the legal right of transaction to regain the kingdom from Satan; the price was holy blood without contamination of sin. So all human beings also dropped from qualification. While John wept and wept, one of the elders who must have been redeemed by the blood of Christ Jesus said, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” At this the whole atmosphere of heaven must have changed from unbearable grief to unspeakable joy. Here what one of the elders needs our attention: “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” It is because Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, whom Jacob had blessed in his prophetic vision as the lion to rule the nations with the scepter (Ge 49:9-10). And it is because not only Jesus as to his human nature was a descendant of David in the line of Judah, but also God promised David that his kingdom would endure forever and his throne would be established forever through his off spring (2 Sam 7:13-16). Jesus the promised Messiah indeed had triumphed over sin and Satan through his death and resurrection, establishing the eternal kingdom and overthrowing Satan’s kingdom according God’s Davidic promise. In this triumph Christ Jesus would be able to open the scroll and its seven seals, which is retaking that which he purchased at Calvary. Through the victory he won at Calvary, Christ will evict Satan and his forces and take permanent possession of the earth. This victory and triumph of Jesus Christ is for you and for me and for all of his people.

Second, “You are worthy because you were slain” (6-14). Look at verse 6. “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…” One of the elders said to John, “See/behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah…” But John did not see a Lion roaring and victorious, but a Lamb terribly wounded. This stresses that victory came through his sacrifice. And it is notable that John did not write, “I saw a Lamb who was slain”, but “I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain.” It was most probably because after hearing of the Lion, the appearing of a Lamb was quite sudden and unexpected to him, such that at first he could not associate the Lamb as the Lamb of God who was killed on the cross. Then, soon after seeing the Lamb looking as it had been slain, John could remember Jesus who was crucified on the cross, and particularly whose side was pierced by a spear—as John himself testified in the gospel of John. And also in his gospel John described that even the risen Jesus had nail marks in his hands and had his side pierced (Jn 20:25-27). And here furthermore, although Jesus was ascended and gloried in heaven, his wound marks remain there and are never to be erased as the eternal marks of his sacrifice and redemptive love for us sinners. In Revelation, here is the first appearance of the Lamb related to Jesus, amid the 32 times of Jesus’ description as the Lamb in the book, more than any other name or title of Christ. The Lamb is to be contrasted with the beast throughout this book. The Lamb slain is the epitome of revelation.

The Lamb was standing in the centre of the throne encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. This shows that the time for Christ to sit on the right hand of God and intercede for his people (Ro 8:34) will be over. This is in accordance with what Jesus said to the people while on earth, to show who he really is, quoting the words of Psalm 110:1, the Psalm of David, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Mt 22:46; Lk 20:42-43). The Lamb who was standing in the centre of the throne had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Lambs are defenseless with no horn to protect themselves. But here the Lamb had seven horns. The horn is a biblical symbol denoting power or government (1 Sa 2:10; 2 Sa 22:3; Ps 132:13-17). So seven horns stand for complete power and authority (omnipotence), and the seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God for complete wisdom or perfect intelligence (omniscience) from the indwelling Spirit of God in all its fullness, and the seven spirits of God (the Holy Spirit) sent out into all the earth for ever-presence (omnipresence). He is all powerful and all wise and all present. No one can challenge his power, his wisdom and his presence. So his dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Da 7:14).

Then what did he do? Look at verse 7. “He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.” As we had thought of until now, he had all right to take the scroll from the right hand of the Lord God Almighty. As he took the scroll, what a significant moment! Now he had the authority in his hand to execute the judgment upon the earth. Since he took the scroll from the right hand of God, the events of opening the seals one by one would follow consequently. So when he had taken the scroll, the living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, surely in deep adoration. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which the prayers of the saints. Notably, at this time of anticipation of the opening of the seals, the golden bowls were full of incense. All our prayers related to “your kingdom come” will never fall to the ground, but go up to heaven like incense to be gathered in the golden bowls to be filled for God to act. Our prayers are fragrant incense to God. We remember what Jesus said in Luke 18:7, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?”

Then after falling down before the Lamb, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’” In this song, the words are directly spoken to the Lamb who is standing there. This is a new song, for no one ever sang such a song.

We can think of this song in three parts. The part “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you are slain”, we have been thinking of all along. Then at this moment, the elders in particular were reminded of the wonderful grace of the Lamb, saying, “and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God.” In KJV, this song is written in the first person plural noun “us”, not third person noun “men.” Then the song is, “with your blood you purchased us for God…You have made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” This can be our song and we can say, “with your blood you purchased us for God.” This is the core of the gospel message we have learned in the Bible. The Greek word for “purchased” can also be translated into “ransomed” or “redeemed.” According to 1 Peter 1:19, he redeemed us not with perishable things such as silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The 2015 Canadian federal budget was about 300 billion dollars. But even this immense sum of money would be not be enough to purchase us. But he purchased us with his blood. We can think of three kinds of blood. In the Old Testament so many animals were sacrificed and their blood was shed for men’s sins so that they might be ceremonially clean. After the flood judgment, God established capital punishment so that people might respect other human beings. He said, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Ge 9:6). The life of human beings though sinful was to be respected, for the image of God was still there in each man. According to Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God.” And Hebrews 1:2 says, “The Son is the exact representation of his being.” Yet God let him be killed and shed his sinless holy blood so that sinful human beings like us might be purchased to be his own. Revelation 1:5b says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…” By his blood he purchased us and freed us from our sin and from Satan and made us his own, his own children, who call God “Abba, Father.” By his precious blood we were purchased and have become God’s dearly loved children. We know that when we purchase something, particularly if it costs a lot of money, the thing we purchased becomes so precious to us. Who am I that he purchased me with his blood? The truth is that he purchased me with his blood and I have become his own, his treasured possession. As we studied, the high priest of the Israelites wore a breastplate, on which were twelve stones including carnelian (or ruby the first stone on the list) and jasper (last stone). On each stone was engraved like a seal the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, representing God’s chosen people (Ex 28:17-21). The Israelites were to be in the heart of the high priest, as he entered the temple of God. In Revelation 4 the only description of God himself sitting on the throne in heaven is that he had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, which symbolize his precious people redeemed through his Son Jesus Christ. This implies how much God loves them. He loves them so much as his adopted children so that he cannot be separated from them, his treasured possession. That’s why Apostle Paul confessed in Romans 8:39, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In this love nothing really can matter. It is all because of the Lamb who through his blood purchased us for God. We are forever thankful for this marvelous grace of the Lamb.

And in verse 10, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” In KJV, “You have made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” This is also written in 1:6-7, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father...” We are made a kingdom because now God’s rule is in our hearts, where once Satan’s rule was. God’s people are also collectively made his kingdom, whereas once we were all under Satan’s kingdom. Indeed, the Lamb has made us a kingdom and also priests to serve our God. This kingdom has been battling with the kingdom of this world, namely, the kingdom of Satan. Yet, how to battle is to come to God on behalf of the people of this world as priests so that they may also become God’s children in his kingdom under his rule. “He has made us a kingdom and priests to serve our God”: this is our identity and our clear purpose of life in this world.

And then it says, ‘They will reign on the earth”, in KJV, “We shall reign on the earth.” The victory in the battle against Satan’s kingdom is guaranteed to his people as the Lamb took the scroll from the right hand of God sitting on the throne. We shall reign on the earth along with him. We should hold on to this promise of God.

Then there is praise of numerous angels and of every creature. In verses 11 and 12, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’” And in verse 13 and 14, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’” At this the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

We also thank and praise God for his bountiful grace poured out upon us through the Lamb this year. We are assured that by his blood he purchased us for God and he enabled us to live as a kingdom and priests to serve our God. Through him we could come to the throne of God calling him, “Abba, Father” and pray for ourselves and for his flock of sheep. Also in him, God gave us his words abundantly, especially each week so that we could worship God in spirit and truth. I really thank God for the words of Luke’s gospel, Galatians, Psalm 119, Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13 and Hebrews 4, and gospel key verses, and 1 Samuel. Through his words and prayer we could engage in a spiritual battle for ourselves and for God’s ministry, and God gave us victories over the evil one personally and ministry-wise, despite our sins and weaknesses and groaning. I am very thankful to God that we could have a very graceful EBC and a victorious SBC, and he sent his precious flock of sheep who have a strong desire for the word of God through the club day in the fall. I also thank God that he is going to establish a family of God, a disciples’ family, a house church in Christ, between Ian and Jemmie in this ministry. In his grace of this first house church we pray for 12 house churches to be established in U of T campus pioneering work in the hope of Toronto to be a holy city and Canada to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, for victory belongs to the Lamb and his followers. Most importantly each one of us may keep the grace of the Lamb and his kingdom ever increasing in our heart with thanks and praise to him.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Praise him for with his blood he purchased us for God and has made us a kingdom and priests to serve our God and we shall reign on the earth.

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