August 23, 2015 | David Crosby
Scripture Text: Revelation 5:1-14
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center 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. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, 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. 9 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. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" 14 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
The four living creatures: Lion, Ox, Man, Eagle. They represent all living beings. They may represent the four quadrants of the visible sky above the earth connected to the four constellations visible in each quadrant. They may represent the four corners of the earth or the four winds. And these terms may help you remember the nature of the four gospels.
- In Matthew Jesus is the lion, King over his Kingdom
- In Mark Jesus is the ox, the servant of us all.
- In Luke Jesus is the Son of man who cares for outcasts
- In John Jesus is the eagle, the divine Son of God.
The encampment around the tabernacle featured the tribes of Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob; Ephraim, the second son of Joseph; Dan, the northern side of the constellation; and Judah on the east. They flew their banners. The bible does not say what these banners were, but Jewish tradition says that Judah had a lion on its banner, Reuben a man, Ephraim an ox, and Dan an eagle. (Jaimeson-Fauccet-Brown Commentary has the four living creatures as both the Gospels in my order and the Banners around the Tabernacle. The Gospels as represented by these living creatures was first proposed in the second century by Irenaeus but in a different order. This order was eventually widely embraced.)
God Has Something In His Hand:
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals” (v1).
- This scroll, written front and back, is in the hand of God. He holds it. He owns it. Everything is his, including this. Most certainly, the scroll contains divine decrees, promises and judgments that are already determined in the providence of God.
- The scroll is sealed with seven seals, the divine number. The seals are placed there to preserve the information, to keep it secret, until it is opened by the only one who has authority.
- These seals are the document security system, the passwords of the ancient world.
- We seal our envelopes. If we get a personal letter in the mail, and the flap is loose, we are concerned that someone may have read our mail. It looks like it has been opened. These seals are more sophisticated than that. They bear the impression of one who made the seal. If they are broken, it is obvious to all.
- This scroll cannot be hacked. The security is perfect. It is locked up in the mind and heart of God. No human being knows the combination, not even the 24 elders. No angel, no matter how mighty and wise, can open this scroll and unlock its secrets. No living creature, not even the four amazing beings that surround the throne, can open this scroll. It is locked up for all eternity without a password known to human or angel.
- No one knows the mind of God. No one can steal information about the future from him. No one is worthy to open this book that contains the destiny of humans and of this universe.
We Have Something In Our Hearts:
“I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (v4).
- This is a very sad, indeed, that the purpose and plan of God cannot be unlocked. It leaves us perplexed, confused, and sorrowful beyond explanation.
- We lived in the desert outside of El Paso. The sand and greasewood stretched from our front door for miles to the north, disappearing over the horizon, and east to the purple feet of the Franklin Mountains. I had a recurring dream that would visit me as I lay on my bed in my house made from the desert sand and stone. I saw myself in the desert, a tiny, diminishing speck on a great white sheet of sand. I would get smaller and smaller, and the desert would grow wider and wider. If I looked I could see myself crying out, mouth wide open, but I could hear no sound. It was a silent scream, a compounded terror because I was lost, and there was no one who could hear my cry.
- This is why John wept, I think, in his vision of the scroll. It was as if all truth was locked beyond the mind and heart. The future was therefore uncertain, unknown, and unknowable.
- John wept because his life on that rock in the middle of the sea could not be anchored in any eternal truth. He was just an old man, discarded by human authority, purposeless and meaningless in an ocean of sorrow and chaos.
- We have an unquenchable desire for meaning and purpose. The greatest sorrow is an empty way of life, as Peter described it, a life without true purpose or any certain future.
- We have the deepest need for forgiveness. Without access to divine purpose, we are trapped in our sin. This perpetual sorrow of the human race is so evident in our songs, our poetry, our painting, and our own inner turmoil. Condemned to a life without true purpose or meaning, we are all exiled alone on a rock in the sea.
Jesus Has Something Only He Can Do:
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (v5).
- One of the Elders who cannot open the scroll still knows something that can drive away the tears. He knows that there is One who is able.
- This is all we need and all we can have. We ourselves cannot fathom the purposes of God. We cannot discover them on our own. We are not smart enough or good enough, not the smartest or the best of us. But we do not need to be.
- All we need is someone who is able.
- And so, with this comment, the stage is set for the entrance of the promised one, the Messiah, who was to be of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. He is both the descendant of Judah (Praise of Yah) and of David (Beloved).
- He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The lion was the symbol of Judah. When the 12 flags were flown in the camp in the wilderness, the people rallied to their tribes. And the lion was whipping in the wind directly east of the Tabernacle.
- He is the Lamb. We raise about 100 lambs each year on our farm, and they all go to the slaughterhouse. Many of them are sold to Jews and Muslims for their religious holy days.
- John the Baptist introduced Jesus to his disciples, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin…” (John 1:29).
- Jesus is our “Passover,” meaning that he is the Lamb. “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (I Cor. 5:7).
- In Rev. 13:8 he is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” In Hebrews 9:26, “now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
- No creature stands in more contrast to the Lion than the Lamb. They come together in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Creation Has Something New To Sing:
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (v9).
- The Prayers Are Presented: “they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (Rev. 5:8). Have you ever wondered what happens to those prayers you breathe into the air? Do you suppose they disappear forever once they are uttered? Not so. They are preserved by the One who was, who is and who is to come. They are emblems of the grace and love of God just as your very presence in heaven will be a declaration of God’s love and grace.
- Every time you pray you are present in the Throne Room.
- In the golden bowls full of incense are all the prayers we have ever uttered, preserved and presented in God’s throne room.
- Every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). John has a vision of who God is to all humanity and who every person is to the Creator God. Think of the cultural diversity among us--our varied ethnicity, tribes and political identities. all boundaries are melted away. In heaven, finally, we are one.
- Every Creature Sings: “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea”(v13)
- Millions of angels lift their voices as at Bethlehem.
- Suddenly John hears the universe burst into song. Every bird in the sky, every fish in the sea, every creature that walks or crawls on every rock or plain, every soaring eagle, roaring lion, strong ox, and amazing human opens its mouth and begins to sing. John hears an ocean of created beings from the four corners of the earth, from the four winds, from below and above and on the earth—raising a thunderous chorus of praise to Him who sits on the Throne and the Lamb who was slain.