Summary: The astonishing vision of the throneroom of heaven portrays Jesus as Lamb of God as also the Lion of Judah, giving the Description, the Identity, the Achievements and Worship of the Lamb.
A young undergraduate at Cambridge who had never read the Bible before was given a New Testament to read. When he had done so, he commented, ‘It was a bit repetitious at the beginning, but I did enjoy the science-fiction at the end!’ Well, I think most of us would say it’s rather more than that! It’s one of the vivid, but unexpected, pictures of the book of the Revelation that we’re to focus our attention, where we read of “The Lamb.”
The Lord Jesus is the key person in the history of the world. Hundreds of years before He was born into Planet Earth His coming had been predicted as having a great destiny. In the majestic words of Isaiah, ”For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (9:6). But perhaps the most precious name is that announced by John the Baptist when he caught sight of Jesus coming towards him at the River Jordan. He was inspired to exclaim, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Names in the Scriptures often have a greater significance than nowadays. When we choose a name for a child quite possibly it’s got a family connection, or more probable, because it’s contemporary or fashionable. But in Bible times, names had a deeper and more personal meaning. They would often give a hint of a person’s character, his or her nature, capability and destiny. This is certainly the case in the names given to Jesus, and no more so in the name, “The Lamb of God.”
To get the full splendour and meaning of the name we have to turn to the book of the Revelation. It’s an amazing, if baffling, record of visions seen by the apostle John. It’s been compared to a magnificent sound film. It’s a series of colourful pictures accompanied by sounds, voices and songs. It’s one of these vivid images that we’re to focus our attention on: “The Lamb.” It’s the title which dominates Revelation. The book is a sequence of scenes moving towards the final triumph of “the Lamb” in spite of the forces of violence unleashed against Him and His followers.
Chapter 5 is central to understanding the triumph of good over evil and what it means to God’s creation. Before going further it’s best to summarize what John saw in his vision. The scene is set in heaven, the centrepiece being the dazzling sight of God on His throne. This is the control room of everything that has ever existed, the ultimate authority over all. Around the throne are 24 elders to whom God has delegated authority and 4 living creatures signifying the life of His creation. It’s a picture of personality and life. The God we love isn’t a remote impersonal force, however great. No, He’s the Living God who has revealed Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ.
John then zooms in on the Person sitting on the throne and then focuses on what He’s holding in His right hand. It’s “a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” John writes: “I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” That’s the big question. In John’s day people used a seal to keep the contents of a document secret until some authoritative person broke the seal. At first it seems as if the angel was going to be disappointed: no-one in heaven or earth was found. The Old Testament prophets had given insights into what the scroll of God’s purposes were but there was no-one worthy to bring God’s judgements while upholding God’s moral reputation. It would take someone with adequate power not only to reveal the events foretold but to execute them as well.
John admits to weeping because there was no qualified candidate. He’s on the verge of despair and we can understand why. John was living in a world of injustice and cruelty. The misery would go on and on if there was no-one to bring it to an end, to bring hope of release and rescue. It was an awful prospect and it would be still the same in the 21st century because human nature hasn’t changed or improved over the years. But there is hope! John was told, “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.” This is God’s plan, foreshadowed in the Old Testament, by which He promised to provide a means of redemption for a sinful world and so achieve the purpose of His creation.