Worthy is the Lamb. Reading Revelation 5 Bro David Evans
配得的是羔羊 读经：启示录第5章 大卫弟兄
China Exhort December 17thd 2006
As we commence reading the book of Revelation later this week we will note that it opens with these words: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1). So we have these facts given right at the beginning:
It is very important as we read through Revelation to remember that these things were specifically given so that the saints from the days of AD96, when John was given this revelation, through to our day might know the significance of their times in relation to God’s great plan of the coming Kingdom, and so receive comfort and hope in troubled times.
Before we look at the vision of chapter 5, as the basis for our comments today, let us go back to a vision that Daniel was given in the 7th chapter of his prophecy where he saw the ascension of Jesus into heaven after his resurrection: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, as is portrayed in this vision of Daniel, God gave him “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him”. After his resurrection Jesus had told his disciples: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18), and Peter likewise said that Jesus was “gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Peter 3:22). So Jesus Christ now has this remarkable position of authority and power at the right hand of God in heaven. As we look briefly at this vision of chapter 5 we will see why God revealed to him His wonderful plan of events. How blessed we are to have these things also revealed to us!
We are introduced in the vision to one sitting on a throne in heaven with a scroll that is sealed in his right hand is (v1). The idea of the sealed book comes from the book of Daniel. The events of Revelation are based upon the initial visions that Daniel was given. At the end of the prophecy of Daniel he was told: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end”. He obeyed and was told, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 and 9).
Daniel was given certain prophetic visions that would lead up to the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom. However fuller details from the time of Christ through to now were not revealed in detail to him. When John saw the scroll he expected to receive this revelation of prophecy. But, alas, the book was still sealed. It was in the right hand of him on the throne but none could read it. The burning question was, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (v2). To have the privilege of opening the book one must be worthy to approach into the presence of God Himself. Who was worthy to do this?
The thought that there was no one worthy was a great distress to John. We read that John “wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (v4).
Can we try to understand why John was so distressed? While the book remained sealed, the plan of God and how it was to be fulfilled would never be known. It was essential that one should be counted worthy to open the book so its contents could be fulfilled. While John was weeping he was told: “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (v5). Who was this person who is introduced in this figurative language? If we are familiar with some of the Old Testament figures that foretold the coming of Jesus Christ, we will know that these figures speak of him. The expression “Lion of the tribe of Judah” is based on the prophecy that Jacob gave concerning his twelve sones and their future roles. It was from Judah that the ruler of Israel was to come and, as we know, that person was the Lord Jesus Christ. Further he is introduced here as “the Root of David”. Later in Revelation Jesus is identified as the one spoken of, as we see in Revelation 22:16: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the ecclesias. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star”.
So we are left in no doubt about who was to open the book – it was Jesus Christ. But we must ask, “Why was he the one who was worthy to open the book?” What does “worthy” mean? The word speaks of the “worth” of something - “its value or weight”. Why then was Jesus worthy to open the book? It was because he “hath prevailed”, we are told. Prevailed over what? The word “prevailed” is the same word as “overcame” throughout chapters 2 and 3. Let us look at 3:21 where we read: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne”.
What are we called upon to overcome and what did Jesus overcome or “prevail” over? There is a quotation in 1 John 5 that gives us the answer. Here we read: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (v4-5). So what Jesus overcame and what we are called upon to overcome is “the world”. John defines for us what he meant by “the world” in 1 John 2:15-17. There we are told: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The “world” that Jesus overcame and which we must strive to overcome is sin. The ruler or prince of the world is sin. It was Jesus, who said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:31-32). Jesus destroyed that power in his death: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). By his life of obedience and finally in his death he destroyed that power that has gained the victory over all other men - the power of sin.
Sin is first prompted by our desire to fulfil those sinful lusts that are contrary to the pure and holy ways of God. Jesus alone “did no sin”. Because of this he was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God. He is therefore “worthy” of this honour. Because of his perfect obedience to God, God “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
After John was told that it was “the lion of Judah, the Root of David” that had prevailed to open the plan of God and reveal it to us, he turned to see this one. However, instead of a lion he saw “a Lamb as it had been slain”. He was amazed to see that it was a Lamb that had gained the victory. But it was not an ordinary lamb – it was a Lamb that had been slain, but was now alive again. Here is the way to victory over sin. Of course, we know that both the Lion and the Lamb represent Jesus Christ. However, before the Lion stage of rulership, must come the lamb-like attitude of trust, obedience and sacrifice
At his first advent Jesus came as the “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Isaiah had foretold this lamb-like role of Jesus who would bear away our sins. In chapter 53 we read: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (v7), and yet in his death he “poured out his soul unto death… and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (v12). It was this lamb-like submission to his Father’s will that gained for Christ the victory over sin.
We have come here today to remember our Lord and his loving obedience to his Father in all things, finally laying down his life so that through him we might have our sins forgiven. How seriously do we think upon these things? Those who are accepted in that day will express their appreciation and love for him in these words: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (5:9-10).
Jesus told his disciples: “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In giving his life a “ransom” he “redeemed us to God by his blood” from the power of sin. Do we really value the work of our Lord on our behalf? Do we genuinely say of him, “Thou are worthy”? Will we be among that glorious throng who will exclaim with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Not only will the redeemed praise the Lord in that day, but all creation will render praise to their mighty King.
As we now partake of the bread and wine, let us meditate on what our Lord has done for us and try to appreciate the great value, the great worth, of his life and sacrifice. Let us realise that we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
If we do this and faithfully continue in service to God we will be counted worthy of that great honour of reigning with him as “kings and priests” on earth. Then we will be able to assist and instruct the mortal people of the earth and show them the true “worthiness” of our Lord who now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Notes for our Bibles