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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 5


The Lamb is Worthy

Chapter 5

1.  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.”

The depictions in the book of Revelation are not written for our imagination. That of Christ in the first chapter, the one we will see in this chapter, that of the four living creatures and the One upon the throne, were revelations given to John and he alone actually saw them. He alone knows exactly what he saw. It is not for us to depict them in our minds or, as some have done, try to draw pictures from John’s words and descriptions. They are written so that we can learn the character and attributes of the One on the throne and of Christ. We learn something of the part that the living creatures play in the Kingdom of God. There will be much more to follow and we do well to remember this principle as we study.

In chapter four we observed the honor and worship given to God the King. In chapter five we will see the equal honor and worship given to the Lamb. This scene will show us the heavenly fulfillment of the principle that Jesus laid before us in John 5:23: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” This is absolute proof of His divinity; if He were less than true God, we would be witnessing idolatry.

Our first concern is the scroll that is in the right hand of Him, who sits on the throne. When this scroll is opened in the next chapter, we will see its contents and know that it has to do with the events of the last days. The scroll has seven seals; that is, it is perfectly sealed by God and kept in His right hand. The scroll is full of writing on both sides, front and back, so that nothing may be added. The contents are complete and that, which will take place, is already determined (1). Someone has called this scroll the “title deed of the universe”.

I quote from “The Christ of the Apocalypse: “No madman will scribble on its pages. No egomaniac can get hold of it. No well-meaning person can add a line to its perfect and complete story. Heaven’s seals bind the unfolding of all its events and no earthly authority has the power to break them. God is withholding the rights and privileges of ownership, until the right Man comes along, who can worthily and justly orchestrate the events that are to take place.”

Angels are the heralds and the spokesmen, who announce heaven’s concerns and the details that originate in its throne room. This time it comes in the form of a question, put forth by a mighty angel. In effect, he asks: Who is worthy to inherit all of God’s estate and, having them in his power, can orchestrate the developments that will bring this age to a close (v.2)? Who has the authority to usher in judgments of such magnitude, as to effect (as we will learn) one-fourth of earth’s inhabitants?

According to divine justice, the one that takes on this responsibility must be a man, because all that is involved in the contents of the scroll has to do with humankind. Only a man can rightfully determine the fate of man. In order to take on this huge responsibility, the one who directs perfect arrangements, must be one who can open and no man can shut (3:7).

We have already determined, because of perfect justice, that no angelic being or any creature outside the human race can be involved. The whole creation is divided three ways: Heaven, earth and under the earth – or Hades, the realm of the dead. No one in the universe dared to take center stage in this dramatic scene (v.3).

Again from “Christ of the Apocalypse”: “Page through the list of candidates. Adam, first of all, fell miserably short. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, but later his sons found him in bed, shamefully naked and drunken, not the one to direct heaven’s affairs. Then, Abraham was called the friend of God. However, he ran ahead of the promise of God and took steps to fulfill it in his own power. Moses was a great, godly leader, but on one occasion, he became angry and struck, when God ordered him to speak. Such a mistake could bring disaster to plans that are perfect and eternal. How would David do – a man after God’s own heart? No, we all know how he lowered his guard in a time of relaxation and succumbed to temptation. One by one, all are eliminated from consideration.”

Anyone, who loves God will weep at man’s impotency to fulfill His will, so John weeps (v.4). The entire human race is one composite failure, as far as heaven is concerned. It stands condemned, not only unable to satisfy divine purpose, but also is in need of a redeemer, who will pay the cost of pardon. He will need to carry out justice upon the world of unbelieving, rebellious sinners.

Men, who are of the same nature and experience, can sympathize with one another. A human being, one of the elders, consoles John, assuring him that heaven has always had the answer to the dilemma (v.5). Scripture continues to rule in heaven and for eternity, and the elder takes John back to the book of Genesis.

From “Christ of the Apocalypse”: “Jacob, the third patriarch of the Hebrew race, brought forth a ‘lion’s whelp’. His name was Judah, the fourth son of Jacob’s wife, Leah. In the beginning, he was wild and destructive, leading a treacherous plot against his godly, younger brother, Joseph. With starvation staring Judah in the face, the lion, along with his father and brothers, is forced to look to Egypt for sustenance. Joseph became a lion tamer, breaking his spirit, after which he surrendered his will. In so doing, he found true freedom and becomes the head of the ‘pride’ of Israel. Throughout their history, Judah led the way and from his line came a succession of kings.”

“As Jacob lay dying, he called all his sons into his presence. One last time the old patriarch strengthened himself and arose on his bed to speak as the anointed oracle of God; ‘Judah,’ he said, ‘is a lion’s whelp… Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies… 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’ (Ge.49:9-10). The whelp matured over the generations. In the fullness of time, when no one could be found among men to take hold of the neck of God’s enemies, suddenly, in perfect development and strength, the Lion of the tribe of Judah came roaring onto the scene as Lord and Christ!”

The high purpose of the Omniscient God was the last Adam, the God/Man. He fulfilled all the prerequisites necessary to open the seven seals of the scroll. He is God, the mighty Champion, with all the infinite capabilities to carry out the plan to perfection. He is Man, therefore He is qualified to deal with the affairs of the human race and has been appointed of the Father to be judge: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son… and He has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Jn.5:22,27).

For the same reason that He has become Judge of the human race, He is also its High Priest… because He is the Son of Man. The writer of Hebrews explains that position perfectly: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (He.2:17). In Revelation, we see fulfillment of the doctrines taught by Christ and the apostles.

6.  And between the throne and 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,
10. and 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 honor 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 of the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14. And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The Lamb is worshiped

I will continue to cite “The Christ of the Apocalypse”, in order to show the ways of God, which are higher than man’s ways, in providing a Redeemer, who is to be worshiped, along with the Father, throughout eternity: “Let us suppose that you opened the book of Revelation for the first time and came to chapter five, verse five. You read about the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who has overcome all obstacles and is now able to open the scroll in the right hand of the one on the throne. What do you expect to read in the next verses? Of course, you await the entrance of a mighty, kingly beast. It is not to be. In fact, the Lion of Judah is not mentioned again in this book. God’s ways never cease to surprise and amaze us. It makes the Bible such a fascinating book and goes a long way in convincing us of its divine origin.”

“In the very next verse, instead of a lion, a lamb appears to open the book. If it surprises us to read of a conquering lamb, then it is dumbfounding to see next that it has been slain! It is a sacrificial lamb. Jesus gained victory over the enemies of God and man, not as a roaring lion, but as a helpless lamb (v.6).

“John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets and a wonderful theologian, introduced a new term to Israel: ‘Behold the Lamb of God!” He saw that the aggregate sacrificial animals of the Old Testament, millions in number, found their fulfillment in the one Lamb that could take away sin. Adam’s son Abel, was the first prophet of the Lamb of God. Because of his blood sacrifice, God accepted him, while his brother Cain was rejected.”

“Isaac asked his father, Abraham, the question of the ages on the way to sacrifice on Mount Moriah: ‘Where is the Lamb?’ Abraham, great prophet that he was, answered with insight that can only come from God’s Spirit. ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ By the blood of the lamb, each family among the children of Israel was saved from the passing death angel, while the eldest son in each family of Egypt perished. God told them, ‘When I see the blood I will pass over you’ (Ex.12:13). Again and again, a lamb comes between God’s people and destruction.”

“The Lamb that was slain now becomes prominent in the book of Revelation. He is ever before the Father in heavenly places. It is his presence there that saves those who have been tainted with the awful stain of sin. The Lion, with all his might and authority, cannot save. An unblemished, innocent, submissive Lamb overcame for us at the awful judgment seat of a holy God, who will not tolerate sin.”

“Heavenly authority is bestowed on those who are humble and submissive. Jesus sought only the approval of his Father and for that reason he could say, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’ (Mt.28:18). A Roman centurion came to know this principle and Jesus said of him, ‘Not even in Israel have I found such great faith’ (Lk.7:9). Faith is not the result of an arrogant boldness or of presumptuous claims. It is a trusting conformity to the mightiest government on earth. He saw in Jesus that same submission to heavenly authority and thereby he knew Jesus could move spiritual forces by his word alone.”

“The Lamb is worthy to open the book by reason of his power to redeem. Governments have attempted every sort of social reform to rehabilitate fallen men. Great effort and money civilizes, educates and sophisticates. The United Nations was formed in order that the world’s society could negotiate, communicate and work out their differences. Yet, this planet’s problems grow from bad to worse. Therefore, no earthly source can break the seals of God’s book. Heaven sent the answer down to earth in human form and upon a cross

‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free,
His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood avails for me.

The Lamb was slain

The Lamb manifests the marks of His crucifixion… “standing, as though it had been slain.”. Later in this book we will see more of Jesus, as the root of David. It means that, being more than the Son of David, He is his Lord, particularly in the fact that He was sovereignly behind His ancestry. Jesus taught, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son (Mt.22:45)?” The Jewish leaders had no answer for that riddle. He is David’s Son by His humanity and David’s Lord because of His divinity.

In the Bible and especially in this book, horns represent authority to rule. The Lamb has seven horns, which tell us that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I said that the Holy Spirit is symbolized by water throughout the Bible and He is symbolized by seven flames before the throne in Revelation. In verse 6, the Holy Spirit is represented by the seven eyes of the Lamb, which show omnipresence and omniscience.

The Lamb proceeds boldly to the throne and claims what is His. His person and His work perfectly satisfied the Father, to the point that He can with all confidence take the awesome book, guarded in the Father’s right hand, to which no other dare lay claim (v.7). The fact that the One seated on the throne gave up the book, brought forth heaven’s highest praise and worship. Instruments and utensils of heaven are brought into the throne room and placed in the hands of the worshiping elders… harps and golden bowls of incense. They, along with the living creatures, are prostrate before the Lamb. In the bowls of the heavenly representatives are the prayers of all the saints (v.8). How significant are the prayers of God’s people! They outlive us and continue to be effective in heaven, as we will see in chapter 8.

A song can be sung, which could never be sung previously, because the fruit of the sacrifice of the Lamb has come to fruition. It is the gospel song. In this book of Revelation, heaven’s inhabitants utter the third and last of the three most significant sentences ever spoken: 1) God will provide for Himself a Lamb (Ge.22:8), 2) Behold, the Lamb of God! (Jn.1:29), and now 3) Worthy is the Lamb! (v.9).

What is the reason behind this worthiness to take the book and to evoke praise? It is because the Lamb is the redeemer, who paid the blood debt that we owed to God because of our sinful nature and deeds. People, who profess to be Christians, but do not like to hear of blood sacrifice, should they appear in heaven, which I doubt, would be very uncomfortable there. They have a forerunner in the book of Exodus... Zipporah, who said that Moses was a bloody man (Ex.4:25). Christianity is a bloody religion, adorned with the precious blood of Christ (1 P.1:19). The redeemed stem from every tribe, language, people and nation; they are from the four quarters of the earth. The redeemed will not only come from every nation, but from the smaller divisions of people… from every language group, ethnic group and from every tribe within each nation.

The redeemed minister to both God and people; they are both priests and kings. They are priests unto God and they will be the meek, which will inherit the earth during the millennial reign of Christ (v.10). The fruits of the gospel have multiplied the praises of heaven. Countless angels join in, because they love and serve the purposes of God and are totally involved in His plan (v.11). They have served as envoys between heaven and earth, between God and man. John Wesley makes an attempt at numbering them and comes up with at least 200,000,000. He hastens to say that this is not the total number of heaven’s angels, because the total do not join in until chapter 7:11.   

The Lamb that was slain… the Greek denotes violently slain… is worthy of the praise of all these heavenly multitudes. In this final book, we see things as they should be, with clear evidence that the Lamb is God, the Son, very God of very God, conceived in eternity and not created, coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is worshiped with all the honor given to the Father. To Him is attributed power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing (v.12).

Now, Holy Spirit-evoked praise springs forth from the entire universe to the Father and the Son, not only in the throne room of heaven, but in the starry sky, upon the earth and sea. Every star and galaxy, every man and animal, every bird in the sky and even in cages, and fish in the ocean, lakes, streams and aquariums, sing His praises. They all exist for His pleasure and glory (v.13). To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb belong all praise, now and throughout eternity. The four living creatures add their “Amen!” in a confirming witness to all that is taking place, as they did to the events in Ezekiel and in the four Gospels. The elders demonstrate to us the correct posture for worship. They are prostrate before the Lamb (v.14).    


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