REVELATION 5: 1-7
THE WORTHY SEARCH
[Isaiah 11: 1-10]
Four chemistry majors at a university decided to take a road trip just prior to their senior finals. Due to their extended partying they were late in getting back to campus, and missed their main chemistry final exam for the semester. However, they decided to tell their professor that they had had a flat tire on the way back to campus and wanted to take a makeup. The professor graciously agreed. When the students came to take the exam they were placed in four corners of the room. Turning the test over, they were confronted with a single question: "Which tire?" Needless to say, they had just moved into crisis mode!
It’s possible that you have experienced some crisis, big or small, in the past few days. Perhaps your crisis has been a lost set of keys, a near-deficit at the bank, a child who has been disappointed at school, a relational conflict at work, a car accident, or one of a thousand other tension-building circumstances. Yet, most of these crises pale in light of acts of violence, economic downturns, or social decay in our broader communities; and these community crises fade before global crises, such as war in the Middle East.
However, the crisis that constitutes the focus of Revelation 5 is bigger still. In fact,
it is the greatest crisis of all time, and all other crises flow from it. It is the Cosmic Crisis, and we are introduced to it in the first verses of chapter five.
The scene in heaven has shifted a bit from chapter four where we see the God the Creator. In chapter five a new element in time and human history occurs as God the Redeemer enters the scene. John is now introduced to a scroll that will become central in the following chapters. [It most likely contains the impeding prophecies of the book of Revelations.]
I. THE SEVEN SEALED SCROLL, 1.
II. THE COSMIC CRISIS, 2-4.
III. THE LION-LAMB, 5-7.
(Verse 1 begins with and, kai, thus connecting it with the preceding.) 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.
John’s attention is now drawn back to the central throne where God Himself is seated. On (epi) His right hand is a book, or "scroll." [Most books at the time John wrote Revelation were scrolls made of papyrus, a paper -like material made from the reed of a plant. Sheets of papyrus were glued edge on edge until they reached as much as needed with thirty feet in length being the maximum, and then rolled up. A writer would unroll one end and roll up the other as he or she was writing a document. Most of the time writing was just on the inside of the scroll (the horizontal placed papyrus cut strips of the two ply sheet made a better writing surface than on the vertical striped back), but in certain important documents there could be a summary of the contents written on the outside, like a table of contents.] What John sees on the palm of the hand of God is a legal document that has been sealed legally with seven seals. With official documents, usually wax was dripped along the seam of a scroll as a way of guarding its contents. Official witnesses "stamped" the hot wax with a seal (somewhat like a notary public does today with ink), sealing the document until it could be opened legally. The number seven indicates it was completely closed and it’s contents inaccessible.
What is the content of this legal document? This scroll gives authority and power to its recipient to enact God’s final purpose. It contains the climax of God’s purposes to reward His people, to give them their inheritance, and on the flip side it condemns the wicked. It is the scroll of destiny, the world’s destiny.
II. THE COSMIC CRISES, 2-4.
And this is where the crisis comes in. In verses 2 & 3 a search is made to find someone worthy to open God’s seven sealed orders. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” (3) And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.
The mighty angel (10:1; 18:21) initiates an extensive search to find “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals." The search is for someone of supreme goodness, both of character and morality. The crisis ensued. What is this great crisis? No one was found who could bring about God’s purposes for His people. The search was every so extensive and exhaustive. “No one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book and to break its seals." In other words, no one was worthy to conclude existence as we know it and begin external existence.
Notice the comprehensive nature of this inability. The Greek (oudeis edynato) signifies complete impotence (Morris, 94). Region after region is searched yet no angel, no human, no creature whatsoever could open the book. Not Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Peter, nor Paul. Not Genghis Kahn, Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Napoleon nor Eisenhower. Not Confuses, Buddha, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Pope John Paul nor L. Ron Hubbard. Not J Paul Getty, H.D. Rockefeller nor Bill Gates. He search heaven. He searched the earth. He searched under the earth. No one in all creation throughout all the ages was found worthy. No one.
“We live in an age in which people want to be "self-made;" we want to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." We feel we can forge our own destiny, without God. John Dewey once wrote, "Man is capable, if he will but exercise the required courage, intelligence and effort, of shaping his own fate." Although much can be said for self-initiative and hard work, this brand of humanism is sorely out of touch with reality. Philosopher Simon Weil remarked that humanism "was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace." If we are going to find the purposes of God for us, the grand gift of all that he wants our lives to be, we are going to need help. We cannot "open the book" ourselves. [George Guthrie, From Cosmic Crisis to Crowning Praise, 6). The secrets of the world belong to one who is worthy since no man is found worthy, none can open and enact God’s plan to conclude the ages.
So, what is John’s response to this crisis? Verse 4 states Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;
John is left in utter despair (the word denotes continuous loud wailing) because now that he has the opportunity to see God’s purposes revealed, he is unable to do so. This same frustrating grief also happens to people who know there must be more to life but fail to look to God for help. This type of despair reaches down into the nitty gritty details of life. All of our little crises come back to this point-we are limited and need help.
Mankind senses itself caught up in evil and misery from which it has tried unsuccessfully to break free. At times it seems that breaking free is hopeless. Life with its bonds are represented in the seals which no man can break. We are incapable of changing the course of our existence. If one capable, if one worthy is not found to bring us victory, we are lost, for there is no hope or sufficient strength within the best, the wisest and the strongest to accomplish it on our own.
Thankfully, the passage does not end there! John now encounters the Christ!
III. THE LION-LAMB, 5-7.
In verse 5 John is shaken out grief. “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.”
John is told, "Stop weeping, behold!" A great deal of emphasis in Scripture is placed on seeing from the right perspective. At times we need to look up, or look at things from a different angle. Our complaint and downcastness keeps us from seeing what God is doing.
Here, someone comes into the picture, who changes everything! He is first designated, "the Lion from the Tribe of Judah." In Genesis 49:8-12 Judah receives the prophecy that He would be like a lion, a ruler who would overcome His enemies by His overwhelming power. So this image is one of power. Jesus is also called "the " Root of David," He is of the royal family chosen of God, chosen to rule, that had long ago fallen. The reference is based on Isaiah 11: 1-10, is an image of the strength of the Messiah but also speaks of His wisdom and justice.
[A large, gentle traffic, cop patrolled the corner near our elementary school. He was kind and friendly and we all thought he was a soft touch. So did some cocky junior high boys. One day they began to taunt a little girl. The policeman asked them to stop. When one of the boys mocked him, then pushed the girl, he suddenly found himself flat on the ground, in the iron grip of this "weakling," whose gentleness was strength restrained.
So too with Christ. He was loving, compassionate, and kind toward the poor, the disadvantaged, and sinners. He even described Himself as being "gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt. 11:29). But to think that Christ was weak is to make a terrible mistake. Beneath His gentleness was a tremendous power. His character kept in check His outrage at sin and His power to judge sinners. In the gospel accounts we see only glimpses of the righteous wrath of Jesus (Luke 19:45-48; John 2: 13- 17). But one day it will pour forth when He comes again to defeat Satan and the forces of evil.]
Note that the Lion has prevailed or overcame. The word points to His complete triumph or victory. Christ’s victory on the cross extends far beyond our comprehension. It is victory over all the enemies of God’s redeemed: spiritual, social, political and physical, both natural and supernatural, both in time and eternity. (Ladd, 85-86).
One of the characters in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Aslan the lion, who represents Christ. Says Lewis, "He is not a tame lion!" Let’s never forget that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is also the "Lion of the tribe of Judah." He will judge the world in righteousness. The One who came the first time with gentleness and love, will someday come with justice and judgment from above.
Apart from Jesus Christ and His work of redemption, life and history are enigmas. The meaning, purpose, and goal of history and life itself is a disturbing question. If it has no answer then history and life are meaningless. Unless life is going somewhere it has no real meaning. For the Christian, life and history has significant, real meaning. The world and life itself are in God’s hands. We as Christians can see all of life and its final unfolding as being in God’s right hand.
In verse 6 John looks up to see the Lion and saw a Lamb! 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.
Now, the Christ is shown to be a Lamb, which, of course is a picture of sacrifice and humility. Christ’s worthiness and ability to break the seals of the scroll of the destiny of mankind and human history are linked to the victory won on the cross.
So, He is a lion who is a lamb; the Lion of Judah conquers by His sacrificial suffering as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). Jesus overcame death and sin even while His enemies did their worst to Him on the cross. The cross is central. It is Christ crucified that is worthy.
A Lamb is a strikingly unexpected animal chosen to represent the Christ. It doesn’t conjure up the power imagery of wild beasts. [Lamb, arnion, is used 29 times in Revelations.] This is a strange lamb, however, with seven horns and seven eyes. The horns (Daniel 7:7-8:24) show the perfect fulness of His power (1 Kgs 22:11; Zech. 1:18) and the eyes (Zech. 4:2-10) show that He knows everything perfectly and fully. This lamb is the substitutionary sacrifice and vicarious sufferer, yet He is, at the same time, the all-powerful, all-knowing God. So the Lion who looks like a Lamb strikingly combines the thoughts of utmost in power with utmost in self-sacrifice (Morris, 97).
The Bible reveals that heaven will contain One who will bear scars throughout eternity: His name is Jesus. Here John, records seeing Him beside the throne as a Iamb with "the fresh marks of slaughter” still visible on His body. There is a curious fact about Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to His disciples. Although He was completely and miraculously healed of His wounds, the scars could still be seen. This seems curious because the body in which He appeared to them was a "glorified" body-that is, one that lives by spiritual energy instead of physical energy. It’s a representation of the body that He’ll have forever. When we stand before Him in our eternal bodies- without wound, scar, or any deficiency-His body will remain marked by Calvary’s wounds!
I have a scar on my hand where as a boy I was cut in an accident. I have another scar on my abdomen from surgery I experienced as an adult. These are but two of a dozen scars on my body, all of which will be absent when I receive an eternal body at the resurrection.
Verse 7 declares why all our grief and weeping can cease. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
The Lion, who looks like a lamb, worthiness or goodness is manifest in that He is able to take the book and open it. He, and He alone is able to bring about the purposes of God for His people! "He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne." This is the great news of the Gospel. In our hopelessness and despair, His sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, opens up true life for us. He is able to bring about an inheritance for the people of God, an inheritance that includes forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
IN CONCLUSION / INVITATION
Jesus is picture as the Lion, symbolizing His authority and power and a Lamb, symbolizing His submission to God’s plan. The lion who is a lamb proved Himself worthy to break the seals and open the scroll of man’s destiny by living the perfect life of obedience to God, dying of the cross for the sins of the world, and rising from the dead to show His victory and power over sin and death. Only Christ conquered sin, death, hell, and Satan, so only He can be trusted with the world’s future.
Only Jesus can save us from the tribulation events unleashed by the opening of the scroll. Only the Lamb of God who died for you on the cross has already won the greatest battle of all-time, of all mankind. You must participate in His victory. You are not worthy to bring God’s destiny. You must find your destiny in His victory. There is no one else worthy to bestow upon you the grace gift of eternal life.
Will you come forward right here, right now, and find hope and strength for the future. The way to face Christ as judge is to know Him now as your friend. You come.
Only Jesus is worthy of your life and trust. Come forward and come to Jesus.