Revelation 5:1-14 Throughout the Bible—Old Testament and New--there is a connection between God’s will for how we are to live our lives and his saving work on our behalf. In other words: our obedience flows from his salvation. Let me give you some examples:
When God gave the Ten Commandments he began this way: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” and then he goes on to write his will for how we are to live on tablets of stone.
We find the same connection between God’s salvation and our obedience in the New Testament. Paul says in Ephesians that we are saved by God’s grace through faith so that we might do those good works God has prepared in advance for us to do.
Our life of faith and obedience and good works as Christian people BEGINS with God’s saving work for us. That biblical principle is especially true when it comes to our life of worship. Our worship flows from God’s saving work in Jesus Christ.
In our Easter series on Revelation we see a glorious vision of all of creation: angels and archangels, the saints who have gone before us and the saints on earth, and every living thing—worshiping the resurrected Christ. Jesus is worthy of that worship because of his great work of salvation. John writes that he:
…saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
The rest of the Book of Revelation is the story of the breaking of these seven seals and the opening of this scroll and what is revealed by the words written upon it. That there are seven seals indicate that it is the unveiling of God’s work (symbolized by the number “3”) among men (symbolized by the number “4”) when added together give “7”. In other words, written on this scroll is the future of the world. And a mighty angel asks the question:
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it…
If you remember our sermon from last week you know that at this point in history the church was “back on her heels” and “up against the ropes”. They were undergoing fierce persecution from the Roman Empire and many of them were facing execution and exile. They had no ability to look into the future and see how it would all turn out.
So it is for us. The future is hidden from us. We do not what the future holds for us. We do not know what will happen in North Korea or the direction of our economy or what our health will like in the days to come or how the lives of our children will unfold. We just don’t know!
That kind of uncertainty can make us anxious and afraid like it did for John who began to: weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. You see, it wasn’t just that John didn’t know what the next few years in the future would hold, he wondered and worried about the final outcome of the whole world.
Was there any meaning or purpose to history at all? The unbelieving world still asks the same question and because they do not know the outcome—they have no hope. This is one of the big reasons why the world is full of depression and despair.
If there is no ultimate meaning to life (or at least one that can be known) --if there is no purpose to our existence on this earth—if there is no final fulfillment but the same cycle of life and death until the sun runs out of energy and life on earth comes to an end-- why shouldn’t we live for the moment—if this brief life is all there is?
We need to know that there is a purpose to our lives and a meaning to our existence and a fulfillment to the future. We need to know that there is One who is guiding history in general- and our lives in particular- who has a purpose and plan that will give eternal meaning and lasting value to our few short years on earth. And there is! One of the elders told John:
“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,
There was no need for John to weep about the future and there is no need for us to worry about it either! Where before the future was literally a closed book, now there is someone who guides it and directs for our good.
That person is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the root of David and the Lamb of God. That person who holds history in his almighty hands and guides it to its glorious fulfillment is the resurrected Christ who has conquered our enemies of sin and death and the devil.
Try to picture that scene in your mind’s eye as it appeared to John: told by one of the elders to look at the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David you can imagine what he expected to see: a majestic golden lion who strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies or the ancient of days and King of kings who laid the foundation for David’s throne.
But as he turns to look at the One who guides the future of the world, what does he see but a Lamb who still bore the marks of being slain.
You see dear friends in Christ, at the very center of human history—reaching back before the foundation of the world and stretching forth into eternity and influencing every moment in between --stands the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.
He is the One who guides history because history is HIS story—the story of God’s love for the world and his desire the reconcile us to himself—a story that will go forth into the world until that moment that the full of number of the elect have been brought safely into his fold through the work of the Spirit. And that explains the lamb’s unusual appearance which had:
seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
The Holy Spirit--portrayed as the seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb-- has but one purpose and that is to bear witness to Jesus Christ so that we can be saved from our sins and sanctified in God’s sight. That’s it!
That is the purpose of every sermon and every baptism and every celebration of the Lord’s Supper and every Word of Holy Scripture—that the Holy Spirit would work to bring us to faith in Jesus and increase our faith in Jesus and keep us in faith towards Jesus—for he is the way to life with God both now and in the future. John writes that the Lamb took the scroll and…
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. 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, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
The One who holds history in his Almighty hands—the One who guides all of human history—the One who wisely incorporates our own story into his story-- is not some cold, uncaring celestial bureaucrat or cosmic technician.
Instead, the One who directs history and guides our lives is the Savior who shed his life’s blood for us on the cross—and knowing this makes all the difference in the world in how we view our lives and how we view the direction of the world.
Even the quickest glance at the newspaper or evening news is enough to make us almost despair of the world we live in. There is war and injustice and hunger and poverty and ugliness and evil everywhere we look. In our own lives it seems as if some kind of setback or difficulty is always just around the bend, casting a pall over the good times. That said…
We are not caught up in some unending cycle of sorrow and suffering, always resulting in despair and death. There is a loving purpose full of life at the end for us and the world.
That is what is seen as the scroll containing the future is opened by the Lamb who was slain—that is why the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb in worship as he took the scroll in hand!
How could they keep from worshiping the resurrected Christ! He changed the entire direction of creation away from death and damnation back towards life with God. He paid the ransom price to set men in every time and place free from sin and death. He took slaves and made them into a kingdom of priests who would one day rule a new creation. Jesus is worthy of our worship! John writes that around the throne of the Lamb he heard the voices of thousands of angels:
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!” 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!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
We can compel our children to attend Lord’s Day services and we can guilt our spouse into doing the same. Over the course of history Christian monarchs have enacted laws requiring people to observe the Sabbath. But no one can make another person worship God—not even at the point of a sword. True worship—not just going through the motions of sitting and standing and bowing—true worship is a matter of the heart which stands in awe of God’s salvation.
The angels who saw man fall and creation destroyed in the beginning rejoiced to see Jesus’ victory over the devil and they worshiped. All of creation (which also fell victim to man’s sin) looks forward in hope to the day when death is destroyed because of Jesus’ resurrection and it worships. The saints in heaven worship before God and the Lamb day and night because Jesus kept his promise to bring them safely home.
Angels and archangels and all the company of heaven join their voices in an unending song of praise and thanksgiving on account of what Jesus Christ has done in his life, death, and resurrection. What about us? Is our voice heard among theirs as they worship God? God grant that it is so for the resurrected Christ is worthy of worship! Amen.