Summary: The Throne and The Lamb, part 6 Revelation 5:1-14 Universal Challenge (vs. 1-2) Universal Inadequacy (vs. 3-4)
The Throne and The Lamb, part 6
Who is Worthy?
November 16, 2014
We are in the middle of our series, “The Throne & The Lamb,” based on Revelation, chapters four and five. We finished chapter four last week and are starting five today. In chapter four we saw the throne of God in the center of heaven, symbolizing God's absolute sovereignty. The one who sits on the throne is glorious, majestic, kingly, yet also terrifying, transcendent, and unapproachable. All of heaven is preoccupied with the one who sits on the throne. Then we spent three weeks drawing implications for worship by looking at the worship in heaven. We saw that worship is about God and the nature of God. We also saw that worship is overwhelmingly corporate in emphasis. And last week we saw that worship is passionate in expression and overflows toward mission. I have emphasized that chapter four is like the stage set up for the drama that is played out in chapter five. Or we could say that chapter four is the canvas prepared for the painting in chapter five. This week we will look at a universal challenge sent out to all creation with a frightening response, universal inadequacy. No one is found worthy to open the scroll and break the seals.
Universal Challenge (vs. 1-2)
John sees a book of great importance, one cannot over exaggerate the significance of this book. Yet this book is a scroll and John tells us three things about it. First, it is in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. Yet we know that God is Spirit and has no physical form. Remember, John is using metaphors and symbols to communicate concepts. The right hand symbolizes power and authority. So a scroll in God's right hand means that God wields unlimited power and authority. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords meaning, King over all other Kings and Lord over all other Lords. His point is that this scroll and its contents are controlled by God's sovereign purposes. This would be encouraging to the seven struggling at the end of the first century to remain faithful in the midst of suffering. And it is also encouraging to us when life does not go our way or worse we are struggling with our health or our children or our jobs. Life is not spinning out of control and God is always working things out for our good. Second, the scroll has writing on the front and the back. Scrolls were made of papyrus, which are long stemmed plants that you stripped and laid out flat side by side horizontally and smeared with glue. Then you placed strips vertically on top of these strips and pressed them together to dry to create a sheet to write on. If you needed more than one sheet you would glue sheets together to make a long scroll. It was unusual to have writing on both sides except for legal documents. It was thought that the information was important enough to put on one scroll so they wrote on both sides of one scroll. This symbol points to fullness and comprehensiveness of what is to take place specifically final salvation for God's people and eternal judgment for those who reject God. The scroll contains the full and complete purposes of God as it unfolds in chapters 6-22. Third, this scroll contains seven seals. When scrolls were completed the scribe would roll it around a dowel and secure it with string or rope. But official documents would be sealed with a wax seal. They would place a dab of wax on the end of the scroll and make an impression so that the scroll was officially sealed closed. This was done so that the contents were concealed and protected from viewing. We have seen that seven is the number of completeness or fullness. The seven seals means that the contents of the scroll are completely sealed and protected from view. Then when the seals on official documents were broken and the scroll opened, the contents of the scroll were executed or set in motion. So for instance, if the document was a will, when the seal was broken the will would be read and the persons belongings distributed according to the will. This symbol tells us that God's plans and purposes for the destiny of the world are concealed but also that when the seven seals are split open not only will the contents be revealed but the contents will also be activated and set in motion. But who can break the seals and open the scroll? John sees a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?' The challenge goes out to all creation, who is worthy? Who is able to pass through all creation around the throne, the myriad of angels, the twenty four thrones with the elders, and the four living creatures who cover their eyes they are so close to the throne? Who is able to cross the glassy sea, pass through the lightening and rumbling? Who is pure and holy enough to approach the unapproachable God and face his blinding glory to take the scroll from his hand and then break the seals and set in motion God's plans that are cosmic in proportion for both final salvation of his people and eternal judgment for those who reject him. No one is worthy or able to open the scroll and break the seals and that leads us to our next point, universal inadequacy.