Read Revelation 5. Here is where the drama really begins. We have seen enough already to excite us. We have seen the church (with all its tribulations, difficulties, triumphs, victories, hardships and persecutions) experiencing all the ordeals that have been common to the people of God from the beginning. But we have also seen a church that can easily become discouraged, a church that has seen persecution come so often.
And, I am sure, on the part of many readers there must be the question as to whether or not God is really in control of things. So we are lifted out of the worldly scene and taken into heaven in chapter 4. There we see the throne of God and we see One sitting on the throne who is described in all of His majesty. We see the living creatures about the throne having no rest, day or night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” We come to Revelation 5, and if were to pick as the theme of the chapter it would be the words that are found in verse five: “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion.”
Those five words suggest something very exciting, and I believe we will see it as we work our way through this fifth chapter. In 5:12, John said: “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” Of course, books in those days were not put together the same way books are today. This would have been a scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals.
It was an unusual scroll because usually scrolls had writing only on one side. But this one had writing on the front and back, suggesting it would seem to me, a book that is crammed with information and completely filled. As we move along, we see why. As the seals are removed one by one, we see unveiled the purpose and the plan of God for His people and for the destiny of of the universe. We see God acting in our world and we see the forces of Satan trying to defeat the purpose of God.
John had been promised to see things that were to happen. In Revelation 4:1, we read: “Come up here, and I will show you things which will take place after this.” So it seems John is
now about to see them as the book is about to be opened. But a problem arises, as John says in Revelation 5:2–3: “Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” In verse four, John said, “So I wept much, because no one was worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.”
John was at this point terribly disappointed because he had been promised that he was going to be able to see the things that were to come to pass hereafter, and now the book which was going to show him these things could not be opened. There was no one worthy to open the book. Now, apparently, the one who would be worthy to open the book would be one who had sufficient moral worth because what we are going to see revealed in this book are the moral judgments of God. And, apparently, the one who would be able to open the book and reveal the future would be one who could and would determine what the future would be.
So John was weeping much, but in verse five he said, “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose the seven seals.’ ” What a sense of relief and joy! Now we do find at last that there is one who is worthy to open the book, and this one who is worthy to open the book is revealed to us, first, as being “the Lion,” the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.
I believe that the expression originated in what occurred back in the beginning of the Bible, beginning in Genesis 49:9 where Jacob was blessing his sons. He was, in his blessing, prophesying what was going to happen in the case of each of his sons and he gives a description of the character of his sons.
In Genesis 49:9–10, Jacob finally comes to Judah and he says “Judah is a lion's whelp, from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Judah is identified in terms of a lion and then, in his prophecy, Jacob speaks in terms
of one who would rule: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet.” We are introduced now to the one who is the ultimate of what Judah is supposed to be. We see One who is described as the Lion that is the tribe of Judah.
“The root of David” is the second term to describe the one John sees. The prophecy of Isaiah seems to be the background for that expression because it is used nowhere else in the New Testament. But Isaiah 11:1 says, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall come out of his roots.” What we are seeing here is a description of Jesse's greater Son, and he is the one who is not only the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but one who is a Branch out of the root of David, a descendant of David. So we have one who is a descendant of Judah and one who is a descendant of David. An Old Testament expectation of the coming Messiah, as seen Psalm 2:9, was one who would rule with a rod of iron.
There was the Messianic expectation portrayed in the prophets and in the Psalms that the Messiah, who was to come would be someone like David, who would sit on David's throne. To the Jew, David was the greatest king. David was the mighty warrior. He was the one who extended the empire to its farthest limits on the earth. He was the great hero, king of Israel. Now we see who is going to be sitting on the throne of David and who is going to rule the nations with a rod of iron. This was the expectation the Jews had of their Messiah who was to come.
There was another expectation, however, that was found among the prophets. That was of a suffering servant as seen, for example, in Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Here is Isaiah's very graphic portrayal of the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, prophesied in the terms of a suffering saint of God. This, too, was the Messiah who was to come and, yet, the Jews had difficulty putting the two ideas together. How could He be the King who rules with the rod of iron and yet a suffering servant, one who is lead as a lamb to the slaughter?
The Jews of Jesus day could only see their Messiah as a great ruler, the one who would sit on David's throne and drive oppressive Roman armies out of that conquered land of Palestine. The Jewish mind simply could not harmonize that idea with the idea of a suffering servant, but Jesus in His Ministry and in His life blended the two together. In fact, God seems to have combined these two ideas of the kingship of David, on the one hand, and the suffering servant, on the other, when at the baptism of Jesus, God said from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In Psalm 2:7, God had said, “You are My Son.” That Psalm is is one that emphasized the concept of the Messiah as King, One with great power. But in Isaiah 42:1, God spoke of “My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!” And that particular passage in Isaiah 42, is speaking about the Servant of the Lord. So God speaks about Jesus at His baptism in terms seemingly drawn from the Psalm portraying the Messiah as King and for the prophet speaking of the Messiah as a Servant. Even at the beginning of Jesus ministry, God seems to be pulling together what would have been familiar passages in the Jewish mind showing that this Man Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah who fulfills both of the expectations of the prophets.
The one who is presented in this scene in the Revelation as being worthy to open the book was announced first of all as “the Lion,” but when John looked to see, he saw something entirely different. He saw, of all things, a Lamb! What a strange contrast: the Lion and the Lamb! But they are one and the same! Both are blended into one personality. Notice Revelation 5:6: “And I looked, and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though if had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
And, not only did he see a Lamb standing, but he says it was a Lamb “as though it had been slain.” What a strange contrast to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah when he looks and sees a Lamb that appeared to have been slain! But notice also, this is a Lamb “having seven horns.” The horns were a symbol of power and strength often associated with the horns of the ox
that would push and gore people as in Deuteronomy 33:17 and I Kings 22:11. The horns are used symbolically of power and strength.
This is an unusual Lamb. It had the appearance of having been slain for the simple reason that, as we learn in verse 9, “For You were slain.” This was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” as announced to the world by John the Baptist (John 1:29). This is the Lamb of God, the one who did go as a Lamb to the slaughter, who allowed the Roman soldiers to take Him into their possession and nail Him to the cross and place Him between heaven and earth for men to look at and ridicule. But the Lamb is now seen standing! This is not a Lamb whose having been slain is a permanent thing. John sees a Lamb that has returned to life, and the Lamb is standing. The Lamb is a Lamb that has seven horns.
This is a powerful Lamb and it has seven eyes. The seven eyes “are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” We have seen that expression, “the seven Spirits of God,” earlier in Revelation. The number “seven” is used 54 times in Revelation and is a number of completeness or fullness and to say “the seven Spirits of God” is a symbolic way of referring to the Holy Spirit of God. So, here we see Jesus sending the Holy Spirit into all the earth. The Lamb has power, but not power to be used to mobilize an army to drive out the armies of Rome. Instead, the power of the Lamb has overcome death. He is a conqueror, one who does rule with a rod of iron, but he rules spiritually. He rules in the hearts of men. He has sent His spirit into the hearts of all those who would submit to His reign and His Lordship and His Kingship.
Jesus Himself, when He rose from the dead, just before he ascended into heaven announced that all power, all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Revelation 5:7, speaking of the book which would reveal the exercise of that power, say, “Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” Here we see the Lamb coming to the throne of God. When did that happen? Back in Daniel 7:13–14 we are told that “One like the Son of Man ... He came to the Ancient of Days” and there was given to Him a Kingdom. When Jesus ascended to heaven and came to the Ancient of Days, to the Father, He
was given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom.” And I am convinced that what we have seen in Revelation 5, is John observing that very moment when the Son of God ascended to the throne, as a Lamb having been slain. He began to execute power and reveal the future and to show how He was going to carry out the purpose and plan of God for the destiny of the universe.
We are told in verse 8: “When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. The bowls of incense are identified for us as the prayers of the saints. The harps seem to be symbolic of the praises of God's people, just as the bowls of incense are the prayers of God's people. Here we see the living creatures and the elders who represent the redeemed of all the earth who are now bringing praises and prayers to the Lamb.
In chapter 4 we saw God receiving the glory, and the honor, and the worship of the four living creatures and all the elders, and now that very same glory and honor and praise and worship and prayers are directed to the Lamb. What does that say about the Lamb? It says He properly can be regarded as God. Jesus was God in the flesh. John said in the beginning of his gospel, in John 1:1; ”In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then, John explained in verse 14 who this Word was: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Here is the Word of God who became flesh, who was God.
Remember, in Matthew 4:8–10, the devil told Jesus to fall down and worship him and he would give him all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” God is the only one worthy of man's worship.
Later, in Revelation 19:10, when John fell down before an angel, the angel refused to accept his worship because God alone is to be worshiped. In Acts 10:26 when Cornelius fell down before Peter and worshiped him, Peter said, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Only God deserves worship. What are we seeing here? We are seeing Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God,
who is now receiving the worship that has been given to God. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus is one worthy of worship. We worship Him in the hymn, “Jesus, Thy Name I Love,” showing Him the honor and the glory which we see being given Him by the heavenly beings here is Revelation 5.
Now verses 9–10, “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth. Here is Jesus Christ who purchased by His blood men from every tribe and tongue and nation.
It reminds us of what Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 when he spoke of “the church of the Lord, which he purchased with His own blood.” This is the church. The church has been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ and the church reigns! God's people reign on earth now, today. You say, “It does not look like it.” So what? It does not even look like Jesus is reigning today from all the evil that we see in this world. It does not even look like God is reigning today. Appearances are deceiving, are they not?
We act and think like this world is going to be here forever. It is not. From all appearances it will be, but we know that it is not. It is going to be burned up (II Peter 3:10). That which is eternal is God and His people. We may look about us and see persecution, hardship, and struggles, but we need to see God and we need to lift our eyes to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Then, we can have hope and courage and live and reign and have dominion over our spirits. We can actually overcome the power of Satan himself. We can reign now because God made it possible for use through the power of His spirit in the inward man. God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,“ Paul said that in Ephesians 3:20. He is able to do it.
We now come to Revelation 5:11–14: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain
to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever, and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty–four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.”
The Lamb, Jesus Christ, is presented to us now as the One who sits on the right hand of God, who reigns and intercedes for us. He is the one who has been slain, and yet we see Him risen, even ascending to the throne of God. What then have we to fear if we should be persecuted, if we should be oppressed, if we should be slain? For what has happened to Him will happen to His people. Behold, I have overcome!
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus did, and ascended to the right hand of the throne of God and now He awaits you and He wants you to be His child, to enter into His kingdom to allow Him to become King of your life. He wants to be the Lord of your life and to have you to live and reign with Him until that time when finally He will receive you to Himself. God has great plans for you. He has a purpose for your life that we are going to see unfolded as we look into the chapters that are before us in the Revelation. He will show us a cosmic and awesome picture that is almost beyond comprehension, of the triumph and victory of God over Satan and of God's people over the Satanic forces that would seek to destroy us.
But we want you to see at the very beginning of Revelations that God is trying to show us that we need never despair. God is on His throne, the Lamb is on the throne and all will be well with God's people because He reigns and He is in charge and Satan can only go so far. Satan cannot destroy you if you stay in the hands of God.