He Is Worthy
The world is all in chaos this morning.
Colleges are closed, schools are closed, the economic industries of the nations are shutting down. Quarantines are being set up. Multiple states are requesting or demanding that large gatherings be canceled. I considered our church gathering this morning, but as there are no cases of Covid-19 in our area, it seems safe enough.
All of that aside, the world is all in chaos. Who is in charge here? Once again in Revelation 5 the overwhelming answer is that God is in charge, but it gets more specific in this chapter now to point out that Jesus is in charge.
Take a read if you will please in Revelation 5:1-14
I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Who is In Charge Here?
Who is In Charge Here?
We’re introduced to the problem in the first four verses as the worship scene in heaven continues. Once again, let me encourage you not to let the chapter and verse numbers get in the way of how you think about chapters 4&5 belonging together.
We are not told what is written inside the scroll, only that it is written on both sides and sealed with seven seals which would assure that it was not opened before its rightful owner received it.
Again, we’re not told what is in the book. Isaiah 29:11-12 indicates a scroll which nobody can access. Another is Deuteronomy 17:18 which demanded that each king when he sat upon his throne must write out his own copy of the law on a scroll in the presence of the priests. Yet again in Jeremiah 36, The prophet writes out a record of his prophecies which the wicked king of Judah burns up. But most likely is the vision of Ezekiel which also includes a scroll written on front and back (Ezekiel 2:9-10).
“Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.
Ezekiel in particular describes his scroll as written on both sides, but also filled with lamentations, mourning, and woe. This is an apt description of what will be revealed as the seven seals are broken. Since John so frequently sees and records imagery that is taken from the prophet Ezekiel it seems reasonable to recognize this too as a link for our understanding.
Finally, one of the most compelling theories based upon Roman law is a will, or a title deed - such as the title deed to earth. In Leviticus 25:25, land that had been lost due to poverty can only be redeemed by a kinsman redeemer, another man in the extended family who had the funds to purchase the land back and thus keep it according to the decree of God in the family it was designated for. Adam’s Rebellion plunged mankind into irrevocable poverty and lost the capacity to rule the earth they had been given, who but another man named Jesus would be able to pay the eternal price of sin in order to reclaim the planet?
In light of the courtroom scene of Daniel 7:13-14 it does seem at least reasonable to consider that the seven sealed scroll is at least connected to the right to rule. And finally at the end of Daniel in chapter 12:9 we read how Daniel was instructed by God to move on since “these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.”
It would seem - in the end that this scroll contains those words. The end is upon us (in the book of Revelation) and we need to turn our attention to someone who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. But that’s the problem.
Ultimately, while every imaginable identification has been given to the scroll, once again I must say that since we are not pointed with clarity to its contents - the contents are not the point. Very rapidly we discover that the seals themselves are the issue. More than that, the identity of someone qualified to open it is in view. As with the rest of Revelation we can understand the intent of the number 7 to indicate perfection meaning that this scroll is completely sealed and its contents 100% inaccessible.
In his vision, John sees this scroll held in the right hand - the place of honor and power of the One Who sits upon the throne of heaven reigning over all things.
Who CAN be in charge here?
Who CAN be in charge here?
We see in verse 2 that a strong angel calls out the quest for a worthy person to open the scroll and to break its seals. He happens to be one of three strong angels mentioned in Revelation. They come along at pivotal moments in the unfolding events. Here he calls out for someone worthy to open the scroll. But nobody can be found. There is neither a candidate in heaven at all nor upon the earth, nor yet among the deceased who are buried within the earth. Nobody is able to open it or to look at it.
A worthy candidate does not exist.
Of course one does exist – but the tension is meant to bring us back to other moments in scripture that might match.
We should remember Isaiah 63 which is a messianic vision of Jesus Christ coming clothed in majestic apparel. He also sought for someone who was able to execute God’s vengeance, but nobody could be found so he himself brought salvation.
Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? “I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment. “For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come. “I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me, And My wrath upheld Me. “I trod down the peoples in My anger And made them drunk in My wrath, And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
Revelation 5:4 very much mirrors Isaiah 63. When nobody worthy is found John begins to mourn. For years I’ve had a question mark in my Bible at this point as I ponder what it is that John understood about that scroll. But finally I have realized that it is not about the scroll - once again, it is the lack of worthiness that has John in tears. Nobody is worthy, nobody at all. And he is emotionally destroyed over it.
Can you imagine if that scroll was about our salvation and none could open it?
Can you imagine if that scroll was the explanation of all things and none could open it?
Can you imagine if that scroll was the title deed to the planet, indeed the universe and nobody had the right to it?
Can you imagine if that scroll was the one thing that all of us most need and nobody at all could open it?
In every case the unclaimed, unopened, unexamined scroll may contain hope but what does it matter? John’s distress is meant to point us to realizing that without Jesus, there is no hope.
But look around you at all of the people terrified of a virus! Let us not mock and make fun. Let us not succumb to the same fear as if we have no hope. Let us neither ignore, nor embrace the hysteria but seek instead to understand the underlying fear which everyone has: The fear of death.
Can you imagine if that scroll was the answer to the fear of death and no one would open it?
My friends you know the one who is worthy, and yet so many right near to us do not. Can we not understand that their fear of death is rational? But also understand that they do not need to be afraid?
Jesus Is In Charge Here!
Jesus Is In Charge Here!
The worthy lamb steps forward. In verses 5-7 John is consoled amid his tears however as one of the elders speaks to him with new imagery: the lion that is from the tribe of Judah has overcome… as a result he is able to crack the seals, open the book, and read its contents!
The image of the lion comes from one of the earliest Messianic Prophecies in scripture:
“Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
The lion is another title emphasizing that Jesus is king.
The root is a reference to Isaiah 11 which gives us a vivid description of Jesus reigning as the triumphant, conquering king.
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea.
John is told not to weep because the Lion has overcome.
The language of overcoming is the same word used in all of the letters to the seven Churches.
The ones who overcome in those letters are those who are in Christ - who himself now is displayed as the one who has overcome. As a result of his conquering of death and the grave he is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seven seals. The Book of Revelation is given so that you will know that the right to reign belongs to Jesus Christ.
In the light of all the promises alluded to here in the Old Testament passages it is important to understand as George Elden Ladd points out that the reign of Christ involves far more than only our Spiritual Salvation. It involves a restoration of all things.
“The important thing to emphasize is that the biblical hope is not one of spiritual salvation alone, of the salvation of the individual from his guilt and his sin. While individualistic salvation is included, the primary emphasis is upon the salvation of the people of God as a society dwelling on the earth and their deliverance from all evils—spiritual, social, political, and physical.[Ladd, Revelation, 84.]
The entrance of Jesus into the throne room of eternity is our introduction to Jesus as the Divine Hero of Revelation. The gospel message that he is the crucified, buried, and resurrected savior is embedded in his identity as the standing lamb, looking as if he had been slave. But this lamb is no longer gentle and lowly. As a lion he is coming with great power - as the branch he fulfills all of the Messianic prophecies.
We are meant to see Jesus here as the king who is about to conquer.
Let all those who have ears to hear now bow down before Him in adoration, and in humble submission to His reign.
May the lamb of God comfort you and cleanse you, and may the Lion of the tribe of Judah rule your hearts from this day and forever.