The Worthy One
August 23, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
In chapter 4 we had a glimpse of the real heaven as described to us by John who was privileged to go there in the spirit. In contrast to the strange accounts of many who claim to have gone there, the scene in heaven includes the indescribable God sitting on His throne in all His glorious splendor. Dazzling brightness, variegated colors, thunderous sounds, and the seven-fold Spirit surround Him, while heavenly beings representing the angelic and human world adore and worship Him.
What immediately follow the events of chapter 4 are the activities in chapter 5, which all still happen within the throne room of God. Chapters 4 and 5 are very much connected and are crucial to our understanding and appreciation of the events that will transpire from chapters 6 to 19 of Revelation.
As I mentioned in our last study, chapters 4 and 5 teach that “the terrifying things that must take place in the future on earth are all predetermined by God and part of His divine plan.”
These chapters also teach that in spite of all the evil of Satan and his minions, and although the earth is filled with turmoil and tumult, natural catastrophe of flood and earthquake, human suffering in terms of famine and disease, wars and conflicts, God is sitting on his throne and His rule is supreme and He governs his entire creation through the Lamb. Nothing happens apart from His will.
What great comfort these two chapters must have brought to the persecuted believers in Asia Minor when they first heard these words. What great comfort and encouragement these words will also bring to believers throughout all ages who are going through trouble and persecution as they await for Christ’s coming to judge His enemies and take back what is rightfully His.
Today we will turn our attention to chapter 5 where our focus moves from the One who sat on the throne to the Lamb who alone is worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll. In this chapter we will also see “the worship of God for his role in creation give way to the worship of the Lamb for his work of redemption” (Robert Mounce).
To guide us in our study, we will follow this outline, which is based on the four scenes of the heavenly drama that we see in chapter 5.
Scene 1: The Seven-sealed Scroll in the Hand of God (5:1)
Scene 2: The Search for the Worthy One (5:2-5)
Scene 3: The Taking of the Scroll from the Hand of God (5:6-7)
Scene 4: The Praises to the Worthy One (5:8-14)
Scene 1: The Seven-sealed Scroll in the Hand of God (5:1)
The opening phrase “Then I saw”
introduces the various scenes described in this chapter and stresses John’s status as an eyewitness.
In his vision, John saw a scroll and gives three descriptions of it.
- The first description of the scroll is that it was in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. The position of the scroll was in God’s right hand. This shows the divine source and the supreme authority of the contents of the scroll.
- A second description of the scroll is that it had writing both within and on the back. Writing on a scroll was usually limited to one side of the writing material, the inner side of the scroll. For the writing to be found also on the back of the scroll symbolizes “fullness of the contents and how extensive and comprehensive are the decrees of God” (Mounce).
- The third description of the scroll is that it is sealed with seven seals. The “seven seals” conveys the impression that the scroll was completely sealed and it emphasizes the fact that none but the Lamb is worthy to open the scroll.
In Daniel 12:1-4, the prophet Daniel is told that there will be a time of trouble and anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But Daniel is told to keep the prophecy a secret; he is told to seal up the book until the time of the end (12:4,9). When the time has fully come, the seals will be removed and history will move swiftly to its consummation.
What is the message contained in the scroll?
The scroll contains the full account of what God in His sovereign will has determined as the destiny of the world. This is reflected in such passages as Ps 139:16, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” More specifically, Robert Thomas, in his commentary writes:
The scroll contains the counsels of God as revealed in the vision beginning at chapter 6. Viewed from God’s perspective, these are the judgments that will fall upon the earth during a relatively brief period, eventually at their conclusion issuing in the coming of the promised Messiah and His kingdom. … Later discussions will show that the 7th
seal contains the seven trumpet judgments (cf. Rev 8:6-11-11:15) and that the 7th
trumpet contains the 7 bowls of wrath (Rev 16-19), so here in this scroll is a comprehensive account of the future wrath of the Lamb.
Scene 2: The Search for the Worthy One (5:2-6)
The second scene of chapter 5 focuses on the search for the One who is worthy to break the seals of the scroll so that its contents can be implemented. At first, no one qualified can be found, causing John deep grief. Then comes good news of the discovery of such a person, bringing an end to John’s weeping.
2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
We do not know who this strong angel is because he is not named. Some identify him as Gabriel or Michael, but it is best to leave him unnamed because John does not identify him.
The mighty angel spoke with a loud voice
so that his proclamation could reach the remotest part of the universe. The angel sought for someone who is a worthy
person to open and break the seals
of the scroll. God himself could have opened and broken the seals but He does not perform this task; instead, He calls for a mediator to do it. To open
includes not only the telling of the prophecies contained in the scroll but also the ability to make them come true.
The angel sought for someone who is worthy, someone who is morally suitable, to open the scroll and perform the supreme service of bringing history to its foreordained consummation.
The challenge has gone out and no one in the entire universe was coming forward to answer the angel’s call and open the scroll by the breaking of its seals. John writes in v. 3: And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.
No one in the entire universe is able or worthy to open the scroll because all are either touched by sin or not worthy enough. Consequently, if the scroll remained closed, God’s plan for the universe will be frustrated.
Because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it, John is overcome with grief and he begins to weep loudly.
The reason for this strong unrestrained emotion is because he feared that if the scroll would remain closed the message contained in the scroll would remain unfulfilled and thus God’s plan for the universe will be thwarted.
But John’s weeping was unnecessary. One of the elders
told John to “weep no more”
because there was One who was worthy to open the seals of the scroll.
The elder draws the attention of John to the worthy One by introducing his great announcement with the word “behold.
In the Greek, this expression is immediate followed by the verb “has conquered,”
although we do not see this in our English translation. This position of this verb in this clause emphasizes the victory of Christ. This victory was accomplished when Jesus conquered Satan and death by the sacrifice of His life on the cross.
The elder gives two titles for Jesus: He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”
and “the Root of David.”
Both of these titles ascribed to Jesus are taken from the OT passages that are understood by Jews to be Messianic.
- The first title of Jesus, “the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah,” comes from Gen 49:9 where Jacob blesses Judah and his descendants and compares them to a lion. What this implies is that out of the tribe of Judah would come a strong, bold, and mighty ruler like a lion.
Robert Thomas: Here is one whose strength, majesty, courage, and menace as well as His intellectual excellence resemble qualities of the “king of the jungle.”
MacArthur: The Jews of Jesus’ day expected the messiah to be powerful and to liberate them from the heavy hand of their Roman oppressors. It was partly because Jesus failed to live up to those expectations that they rejected Him. Tragically, the Jews completely misjudged their Messiah. He is a lion, and will tear up and destroy their enemies. But He will do so according to His timetable not theirs. His lionlike judgment of His enemies awaits the yet-future day that He has chosen.
- The second title that the elder uses for Jesus is “the Root of David.”
MacArthur: This title comes from Isa 11:1,10. As Matthew 1 and Luke 3 reveal, Jesus was a descendant of David both on His father’s and mother’s side. In Romans 1:3 the apostle Paul said that Jesus was “born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.”
The elder declares that Jesus is the One worthy to take the scroll and open the seals because of three things:
- Jesus has conquered sin, death, and Satan by His own death on the cross;
- He is the Lion from Judah's tribe with the power to destroy His enemies; and
- He is the descendant of David who had the right to rule the kingdom of God.
Scene 3: The Taking of the Scroll from the Hand of God (5:6-7)
The third scene of chapter 5 introduces the main character of the heavenly drama. First John describes the position
of Jesus and then, His appearance
First, His position
. “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders.”
The Lord Jesus is standing in the center of all the heavenly beings composed of both the four living beings and the 24 elders, who surround the throne.
Next John describes His appearance
. Instead of seeing a mighty Lion, John said, “I saw a Lamb standing as though it has been slain.”
“The Lord Jesus could not be the Lion of judgment, or the King of glory, unless He was first the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (MacArthur).
- In Revelation the title “Lamb” is used of Jesus 28 times, almost as a technical term to describe the crucified Messiah. The concept behind the Lamb is taken from the lamb slain during the Passover feast of the Israelites. The blood of the lamb had to be put on the sides and top of the doorframes of their homes, so that the angel of death would pass over the Israelites and spare the lives of their firstborn (Exod. 12:1–13). Another source of the picture of the lamb is Isaiah 53:7 where the lamb was led to the slaughter and stricken for the transgression of God’s people. In John 1:29 the John the Baptist declares, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”. And last, Peter refers to the redeemed who were set free “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pet. 1:19).
- Next, John describes the Lamb as standing, which means that Jesus is not dead but triumphantly lives forevermore. “Though demons and wicked men conspired again Him and killed Him, He rose from the dead, defeating and triumphing over His enemies” (MacArthur).
- John quickly adds that the Lamb looks as though it had been slain. This could mean that the scars from the deadly wounds that Jesus received were clearly visible (i.e., the nail marks and the scar from wound at his side that Thomas saw after the resurrection were still visible).
- Another feature about this Lamb that John noted was that it had seven horns. “In imagery drawn from the animal world, horns in Scripture symbolize strength and power. Seven, the number of perfection, symbolizes the Lamb’s complete, absolute power” (MacArthur). The Lamb with seven horns is, then, omnipotent.
- The Lamb in John’s vision also had seven eyes. The seven eyes indicate the omniscience of the Lord Jesus. He is able to observe everything that happens in the universe; nothing escapes his notice. Because of full vision he has perfect knowledge, discernment, and understanding.
John provides an explanation of the significance of seven eyes; they are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
This could mean that the Holy Spirit is Christ's agent for assimilating what is going on throughout the whole world. The Holy Spirit is the “eyes” of the Lord that roam throughout the earth (2 Chron. 16:9 - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.
Prov. 15:3 - The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good
After describing the Lamb’s position and appearance, John records the taking of the scroll from the hand of God by Jesus.
Verse 7, And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
Thomas: By permitting the Lamb to take the scroll, the One sitting upon the throne authorizes Him in a symbolic way to execute His plan for the redemption of the world. The Lamb and only the Lamb is qualified to do this because of His victorious death on the cross and the redemption He secured as a result. … What occurs here is a dramatic description of a transaction that will affect the future course of the world including all mankind.
Scene 4: The Praises to the Worthy One (5:8–14)
The appearance of the Lamb as He moves to take the scroll from the hand of the One who is seated on the throne causes an overwhelming response of praise from everywhere in the universe. His taking of the scroll marks the beginning of proceedings to convert its contents into reality and eventually usher in the promised kingdom. MacArthur explains:
The spontaneous outburst of worship results from the realization that the long-anticipated defeat of sin, death and Satan is about to be accomplished. Christ will return to earth in triumph and establish His glorious millennial kingdom. The curse will be reversed, the believing remnant of Israel will be saved, and the church will be granted the privilege of reigning with Christ.
With the handing of the scroll to the Lamb we enter into one of the greatest scenes of universal adoration anywhere recorded. From vv. 8-14 we see three majestic praises which are added to the two majestic praises of chapter 4.
In vv. 9 and 10 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders raised their voices in praise of the redemptive work of the Lamb. This is followed by an innumerable host of angels in vv. 11 and 12 who add their voices of praise. The climax of the scene is reached in v. 13, where all creation gives praise, honor, glory, and power to God and to the Lamb.
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.”
- The first majestic praise comes from the four living beings together with the 24 elders (vv. 8-10).
As they began their song of praise and worship, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb.
Notice that they are offering the same worship to Christ as they did to the Father in 4:10. This is a proof that Jesus is God, since only God is to be worshiped. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he said to Jesus, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
As the 28 heavenly persons surrounding God’s throne prostrated themselves before the Lamb in worship, John noticed that the 24 elders was each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
was the traditional instrument used in the singing of the Psalms. Perhaps it was a lyre. “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre”
In addition to the harps, the elders were also holding golden bowls full of incense.
The bowls were flat objects in the form of a pan or saucer to hold incense and they were used in the OT altar in the Tabernacle and Temple. These symbolized the priestly work of intercession for the saints. "The fragrant smoke of incense ascending from a worshiper or an altar was cited widely in ancient times as a natural picture of prayer ascending from earth to heaven" (Moffatt). The prayers that are in view here may be the specific prayers of the saints. These are the age-long prayer of the church, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer that God may send forth His judgment to His enemies, vindicate God’s persecuted saints, and establish Christ’s kingdom on earth. All these are about to fulfilled as the following chapters of Revelation will show.
As the elders brought before God the desires and prayers of the saints, “they sang a new song.”
“The song to the Lamb is a new song not in reference to time. This is the description of a song that is new in nature, different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, and superior in value” (Thomas). This new song is a song of redemption.
The song opens with an affirmation that Christ is “worthy … to take the scroll and to open its seals.”
Thomas: It is significant that here Christ is addressed as worthy in the same manner as the One upon the throne was in 4:11. This indicates that Jesus He who takes the scroll and puts its contents into effect exercises the divine function of judgment and sovereignty. He too is God.
The Lamb is worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because He was “slain.”
This refers to Christ's once-for-all death at Calvary. Jesus willingly sacrificed His own life on the cross. His death was not an accident or an unavoidable tragedy. He voluntarily gave up His life to pay the penalty for sin, to satisfy God’s justice, to remove the curse, to reconcile the world to God, and to restore His people to true fellowship with God. Because of His sacrificial death, the Lamb is worthy to take the scroll out of God’s hand, to break its seals, and to make its contents reality.
The song of the singers reveals two benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death:
- The first benefit of His sacrificial death was that it was the means whereby he “ransomed people for God.”
At the cross, Jesus Christ paid the purchase price—His own blood—to redeem people from the slave market of sin and set them free. He did not pay Satan to redeem them, but with his death on the cross He satisfied the justice of God.
Mounce: Those who are purchased are from every tribe, language, people, and nation. This may indicate that those who will enjoy the benefits of the death of Christ include all who have trusted in Christ representing all nations, without distinction of race, geographical location, or political persuasions.
“They shall reign”
- The second benefit of Christ's sacrificial death was that it made all of those who trust in Him “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” As a kingdom “they will reign,” and as priests they “serve.”
does not refer to a present spiritual reign of believers. The promise is that the redeemed will share God’s rule in the coming millennial kingdom (1Co 4:8; 6:3; Rev 2:26–27; 20:4; 22:5).
the redeemed have full and immediate access into God’s presence for the purpose of praise and worship. It also includes priestly service to God.
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!”
- The second majestic praise comes from innumerable angels. (vv. 11-12)
In verse 11 John saw and heard innumerable angels add their voices to those of the four living beings and 24 elders.
The phrase, “numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,”
is a symbol for an immense number that no one can count. The background is Dan 7:10, which speaks of “a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand” stood before the Ancient of Days to minister to him.
There is no mention of harps or other musical instruments here but we may assume that this innumerable heavenly host sang as they said the words with a loud voice (compare 5:12 (saying with a loud voice
), with v.9, “they sang a new song, saying
Once again this vast host emphasize Christ’s worthiness because He was slain
. Angels stand in awe at the wonder of God’s redeeming love in the death of Christ Jesus for sinners. Although the angels do not need redemption, they have learned from the church about the mystery of salvation.
Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
1Pe 1:12 says that the sufferings of Jesus and the glories that followed are things into which angels long to look
Angels rejoice in heaven when one sinner on earth repents (Luke 15:7, 10). They are sent out as God’s messengers (Heb. 1:7), and they are servants of the saints who are to inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). They sing loudest praises to the Lamb, for they themselves have an important part in the process of salvation by delivering divine messages to God’s people.
Angels give additional reasons why Jesus is worthy recognition. Not only because His death provided perfect redemption but also because of a complex of qualities composed of seven parts: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"
Some Bible teachers take note of the repetition of “and
” between each member of the series gives a kind of solemn dignity to each word. It requires each of the seven features of the Lamb’s worthiness to be reflected upon separately.
- Power – depicts Christ’s omnipotent ability to create, to perform or to use force to destroy.
- Wealth – this includes all spiritual and material riches
- Wisdom – this refers to supreme intelligence of God as demonstrated in His creation of the world and governing it, the execution of His counsels and decrees, as well as His inspiration Scriptures.
- Might – this includes His possession of unlimited strength whether actively exerted or not.
- Honor – this refers to the respect, value, and high esteem that God deserves
- Glory – this refers to the manifestation of God’s excellent power.
- Blessing – this is that quality of Christ that creates in man a thankful response for benefits received.
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 on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
- The third majestic praise comes from the rest of creation. (vv. 13-14)
Thomas: The gathering is no longer just representative; it is exhaustive, not one creature being omitted. It clearly refers to ... intelligent beings who have an intellectual appreciation of God and the Lamb. This may include fallen angels imprisoned “under the earth” (cf. 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6) and unredeemed humanity who must someday join in recognizing the preeminent qualities of God and the Lamb (Phil 2:9-11).
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Fittingly, in verse 14, the four living beings close the doxology of every creature:
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
“Amen” means that they completely agree with what they along with the rest had just spoken. They do not say it just once, but as the verb tense indicates, they keep repeating it over and over.
The stage for God’s ultimate plan has been set in the throne room of God. Soon this mighty host of angels would march out of heaven to execute God’s judgment on His enemies, gather God’s people, and return with Christ when He sets up His earthly kingdom.
Mounce: Chapter 5 has revealed a central truth that governs the entire book of Revelation. By his sacrificial death He alone was worthy to break the seals and open the scroll of destiny.
Everything that will come to pass in the future at his coming again depends absolutely
on what happens here in the throne. All of future history as revealed in chapters 6 till the end of Revelation is the will of God and all of it, down to the smallest detail, existed first in God’s mind before it ever happens in the world. And Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb who was slain, alone has the power and the authority to rule that history and to bring it to its appointed end. Without him
there is no meaning, no goal, no purpose [for history.] With him
there is a certain fulfillment, a glorious conclusion, a triumph, a moral, just, and right consummation for every human being that has ever lived in the world and for the entire world as a whole. (Using the words of Robert Rayburn)