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WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Revelation 5:6-14
27th April 2003

Recently the television show ER took advantage of a guest appearance by film actor Don Cheadle to propagandize in favour of embryonic stem cell research. That wasn't the only time that ER viewers have been treated to a liberal sermon on controversial social issues. Both abortion and gay rights have received similar attention.

Pointing this out often brings denials from the producers. Once more ER handled the most important religious question of all makes it clear where the producers stand. One actor recently told of his appearance on ER. He was hired to play the minister officiating at the funeral for a character's grandmother. The first script he was given appeared to be copied straight from a prayer book. It included the traditional, Trinitarian ending for a prayer: "through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever." When he got to the set, however, an edited script omitted the words "and reigns." Thinking it must have been an oversight, he added "and reigns" back into the prayer when he delivered the lines. The director stopped shooting and showed him a copy of the script in which the words "and reigns" were "circled in red and crossed out" and told him, "We cut those two words out. You won't be saying them." That is the entertainment industry's mindset: "Christ doesn't get to reign there. Even if the show is depicting a family where He probably does reign, it doesn't matter." Chuck Colson says, Television is a writer-driven medium. That means that even a handful of Christians who are willing to pay the price that excellence, artistry, and professionalism demand can make a difference in what we see on the screen."

That is one reason why fifteen years ago we founded the Wesley Institute of Ministry and Arts, to train young Christians for professional careers in all areas of ministry and the arts. We believe that Jesus must reign in every area of life. If Jesus cannot be Lord of all, He cannot be Lord at all. The Bible ends in a thrilling account of the triumph of the Lamb of God. The Sacrifice who became Saviour is now reigning as King. In heaven the saved sing: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" For the past six weeks we've been studying various aspects of atonement brought about by the Lamb of God. In this final week we examine a passage where we see victory, joy, and finality. The suffering and pain are past and the Lamb that was slain now stands -- He has been raised to reign.

1. THE HEAVENLY VISION.

The Book of Revelation is a different literary style than the rest of the Bible, except parts of the Book of Daniel. It was written in what was a rare style of apocalyptic writing. It was written in a code of symbols. Those who understood the code could read it easily. It is full of symbols - beasts, elders, angels, horses, a great serpent and so on. One example of that kind of presentation is in the film, "The Lord of the Rings." To understand the film you must know who are the Hobbits, what is Middle Earth, who are the Ringwraiths, the Elves of Rivendell, the great evil one, Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, and who are Frodo, Samwise, Gandalf the Wizard and Bilbo Baggins. There are violent and extremely bloody battles with dark forces.

You can be knowledgeable of all the characters in the films and books, but still not understand its real meaning. The author, J.R.R.Tolkein was Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford from 1925 to 1959. He was a devout Christian. With his friends C.S.Lewis, Charles Williams and Dorothy.L. Sayers they formed The Inklings. They were devoted to all kinds of writing including science fiction, detective novels, the King Arthur legends and many kinds of imaginary prose designed largely to expand the Christian message and promote the Christian faith. Hence the "Lord of the Rings" series has a deeply Christian message similar to that of the Book of Revelation. Many people who love the films see only the surface story, and miss the deep meaning. So with the Book of Revelation.

In Chapter 5 we see the end of God's great act of redemption, the culmination of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Day and the Ascension. The Book of Revelation was written by The Apostle John while in persecuted exile on the Island of Patmos off the west coast of modern-day Turkey. It was written in the reign of the persecuting Emperor Domitian about 95 AD. John writes of what the end of all time will be like. John uses symbols to communicate his vision of heaven and the exalted Christ, a vision that was, at best, inexpressible in human language. The first three chapters picture the exalted Christ and give His encouragement and warnings to the seven churches of Asia. In chapter 4, John is summoned up to heaven, where he sees the throne of God surrounded by 24 elders and four living creatures. We pick up the narrative of John's vision in Chapter 5.

2. THE SCROLL WITH SEVEN SEALS.

God holds a scroll sealed with seven seals, but no one is found worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. In ancient days some legal documents, such as wills, were witnessed by seven different witnesses and each would attach his own personal seal in sealing wax, each attached to one of the seven cords wrapped around the testament. This scroll conveys the promise of the kingdom of God being bequeathed to mankind. But no one is found "worthy" to open the seals, since whoever opens the scroll must have the power to do what is written in it.

Suddenly, one of the elders says: "See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed...." Just whom is he talking about? "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" refers to Jacob's ancient prophecy to his son Judah's tribe Genesis 49:8-12 from which would come the Messiah. "The Root of David" is a reference to Isaiah's prophecy that from the family of Jesse Isaiah 11:1,10 the father of King David, would come the Messiah. This "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed." The Greek verb is similar to nike, "victory!" That is why Nike shoes are to be associated with victory. When Jesus said on the cross "It is finished!" John 19:30 and was then raised from the dead, the victory over sin and death was complete. This victorious worthy One is able to break the seals and open heaven to us all.

3. THE LION BECOMES THE LAMB.

The glorious "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David," is announced, but John sees a lamb instead. The Lion is the Lamb!

This is an amazing and deliberate juxtaposition of might and meekness: "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Revelation 5:6 The Lamb is a symbol for Jesus Christ himself, whom John the Baptist had proclaimed, "The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" John 1:29 But this is no ordinary lamb. It was a lamb slain, his wounds visible. It reminds me of the line, "those wounds, yet visible above in beauty glorified." This slain Lamb has triumphed! He is now living, raised from the dead. The Lamb has seven horns, the symbols of power. Seven is a number that often expresses the idea of perfection. Seven horns indicate complete might and strength. The Lamb has seven eyes, again the idea that the Lamb sees fully, completely. The slain Lamb is all-powerful and all-knowing -- omnipotent and omniscient. Surrounding the Lamb are worshippers.

4. THE WORSHIP OF THE LAMB.

"The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Revelation 5:8 You and I may not be there in this heavenly enthronement ceremony, but our prayers are, gathered in golden bowls. Our petitions to the Lord are not forgotten, but heard by Almighty God! We are called saints not because we are perfect, but because we have been made holy by Christ. We are sanctified, set apart for God's own service and use. You and I are these holy ones, dedicated to God himself.

"And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.'" Revelation 5:9-10 "You purchased men for God" meaning "to pay a price, buy, acquire as property." By the blood of the Lamb He redeemed us from slavery and now owns us as His servants, His saints. So the Lamb is worshipped. And who are the redeemed? People from every tribe, language, people, and nation -- throngs from around the globe.

5. THE NEW PURPOSE OF THE REDEEMED.

"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are a kingdom, part of the Realm of the King in a new way. The Kingdom that was "at hand" Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15 is now realized, and we are part of it, subjects of the King who has purchased and freed us. We are priests. God willed all His people would be priests, Exodus 19:6 in the sense that we can approach God directly and do not need to go through a human intermediary as the Jews had to in their worship in the temple. Martin Luther explained that as "the priesthood of believers". All believers now have right of access to God through Jesus Christ. For centuries the main theme of Christians has been "getting to heaven," as if heaven were our final goal. But God's ultimate goal is "a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwell" 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1 Like Jesus' resurrection body, we will be able to live in both physical and spiritual realms.

So we praise the Lamb: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Revelation 5:12 As Paul writes: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death --even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:6-11

Jesus, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" -- and your sin as well as mine -- this Jesus is worthy of our worship and praise. All heaven breaks out in songs of praises to the Lamb again and again. As we come to know and appreciate Jesus the Lamb of God, we too will desire to praise him more and more.

"Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne, Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own. Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee, and hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity. Crown Him the Lord of love! behold His hands and side, those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. All hail, Redeemer, hail! For thou hast died for me; thy praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity."

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!"

REFERENCES.

  • The Triumphant Lamb We Worship by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
  • BreakPoint with Charles Colson April 21, 2003
Wesley Mission, Sydney.