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THE LAMB WHO HAS PREVAILED – Revelation 5:1-14

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 24, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; February 24, 2016 from Revelation 5:1-14

Theme: In John’s vision of a future scene in heaven, Jesus receives glory as the one who alone has the right to open the scroll and release its seals.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

This morning’s passage continues the vision that was begun in chapter 4. But while the focus in chapter 4 was the One who sat upon the throne, the focus in chapter 5 is the Lamb (Jesus) who receives glory as the One who has “prevailed”. He is the One who has the right to open the scroll and begin the events that will lead to His reception of the kingdoms of this world, and of His bodily reign on earth. His act of breaking the seals of the scroll is what releases the events that follow.

The details of this remarkable chapter can be summarized in its three main elements:

I. THE SCROLL (vv 1-4).

A. John saw that the One who sat on the throne (God the Father; see 4:2-3, 9-11) held a scroll. A similar scroll was once held out by God to the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 2:9-10). In that Old Testament occasion, the scroll was written inside and outside “with lamentations and mourning and woe”. This one also has lamentations and woe. But in that case, it was a prophetic message of loss. In this case, it’s the prophet promise of a resolution and a victory that follows the message of woe. The fact that God holds this scroll in His right hand as He sits on the throne speaks of His authority in the possession of it.

1. This particular scroll seems to be in the form of a forfeited deed of inheritance (see Jeremiah 32:1-12). I was written on the inside (where the directions of forfeiture would have been recorded); and after sealed, was written on the outside (where witnesses to the forfeiture would have signed their names). The deed was the inheritance of this earth—given to man at his creation, but lost because of sin; and its seven seals represents the perfection of its authority and the finality of its purpose.

2. Note that God the Father holds the deed to the forfeited inheritance in His right hand as if it had been reverted to Him. Man had been given dominion over God’s created realm; but his work of dominion had been spoiled because of sin. “Cursed is the ground for your sake”, God told Adam (Genesis 3:17); and now, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope” (Romans 8:20). God had a plan for the redemption of mankind—and of the created realm over which he held dominion. And the fact that He holds that deed in His hand shows that He is now ready to bring that plan to completion.

B. A strong angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals (which is an act of reclaiming the forfeited inheritance). We can almost imagine this angel’s mighty voice echoing throughout the heavens. But no created being was found worthy. No one could even look into it. Just think! No human being—not in heaven above, nor on the earth below, nor under the earth beneath—indeed no creature at all was found untainted by the fall and thus worthy to take and open the scroll. At this, John weeps; not because he was disappointed at not getting to know the scrolls contents, but because all creation has longed for that forfeited deed to be reclaimed since man’s fall—and seems to wait still. As Paul put it, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22). The scroll in the right hand of God, the search for someone from among humanity to take it, the discovery that no one could be found worthy—this all underscores the glory of what happens next! How grateful we should be for our Redeemer!

II. THE LAMB (vv. 5-7).

A. At this point, one of the elders (see 4:4) comforts John by declaring that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals”. We would then expect John to look and see a mighty, roaring lion; but instead, John looks and sees (literally) a “little lamb”—the type of lamb that a family would keep as a harmless pet. This is no ordinary lamb, though. It stood, but as though it had first been slain as an offering. Imagine! A slain lamb standing alive; and now called a lion! What a picture of Jesus—the Messiah come forth from Judah through David; mighty in His rule, but meek as a lamb in His manner. He was slain as our atoning sacrifice; and yet lives! “I am He who lives,” He told John; “and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).

B. Note some other unusual features of this Lamb. He is described as having seven horns. Horns are a symbol in the Bible of power and might; and seven indicates perfection. This may speak of His perfection of authority; but it may also speak of His reign as the last Ruler to come, and permanently reign, after all the world rulers over all the previous world empires that reigned before Him and failed (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome; including the revived Roman empire of the last days; see Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14). He also has seven eyes, which are symbolic of the seven Spirits (or the seven-fold Spirit) of God which go out into the world, and are a picture of His perfect knowledge with respect to His churches in the world (see Revelation 1:20; 4:5).

C. He steps forward to take the scroll out of the right hand of God the Father, as the Redeemer of fallen humanity who has “prevailed” by dying and being raised again; and who alone has the right to the inheritance. His act of taking this scroll leads inevitably to the announcement made in Revelation 11:15 at the blowing of the seventh trumpet; “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

III. THE WORSHIP (vv. 8-14).

A. In response, first the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures—each having harps (for worship); and golden bowls containing incense, which we’re told are the prayers of the saints (for remembrance)—sing a new song of praise to Him. It was suggested earlier that these elders represent the whole of redeemed humanity. If so, then note how, in their praise—aided as they are by the four living creatures who protect the worship of God—they give their assent and declare Jesus worthy because of His great act of redemption (vv. 9-10).

B. Then, a multitude of angles, who surround the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, all break forth into praise. John says that they are, in number, “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands”. If we were to take that literally, they would be 101,000,000 in number. But it seems clear that the idea is that their number was beyond counting! What a loud praise it will be! In it, they declare what the previous search (see verses 2-4) could reveal to be true of no one else: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” By His incarnation and crucifixion, He—as a member of humanity—has redeemed humanity! The angels are separate from those who receive the benefits of redemption; but they look eagerly upon humankind’s redemption through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:12). Mankind’s redemption through the Son of God in human flesh causes “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” to know God’s manifold wisdom—and to praise Him forever (Ephesians 3:10).

C. Then creation itself—having been cursed by mankind’s fall in Adam—now rejoices as the Lamb, the second Adam, takes the scroll. We’re told that every created thing responds in worship to Him who now redeems creation itself. As Paul puts it; “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).

D. As a final act, the four living creatures—these angelic beings that protect the worship of God around the throne—give their approval and say, “Amen”. And the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the God who sits upon the throne.

* * * * * * * * * *

The value of Chapter 4 was that it showed us how—even in the midst of the most difficult times the world will ever know—heaven still rules. And in this chapter, we see how that rule is eventually perfected in the full victory of Jesus Christ—realized on earth on the day of His glorious return.

May that day come soon!

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  • Jennifer Bynum

    Amen! May that day come soon! But who are the twenty four elders?

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