The veil of heaven was pulled back for a moment and in Revelation 4, John recounts his vision as glorious worship is directed to the One who is seated on the universe’s throne. Angelic beings gathered around him crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” The Elders of the company of the redeemed encircled the throne and lifted their praise to the Father who was worthy to receive all praise.
But as we enter chapter 5, drama arises. The Father holds a scroll in his right hand, a scroll which will reveal his plan for the future of the world; his awesome plan to judge the sin of the world and culminate all things in victory and glory. The seals of the scroll are to be opened, revealing trumpets which when blown will reveal bowls of judgment which will signal the end of all things and the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth. The Father holds the scroll in his hand and extends it. Someone must execute his plan, but that is the problem.
A mighty angel asks a question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?” Not just anyone can direct the story which God has written. A search commenced and no one in heaven or on earth was found worthy to take this scroll from the hand of God. Not a single person was worthy to execute God’s plan, to judge the world, or to stand in glory at the end of all things. No man. No woman. No angel. No one was worthy. No great king ruling over a vast nation was worthy. No politician could scheme, manipulate, or manage the plan. No preening heir’s blood was blue enough to be worthy. No businessman had accumulated enough wealth to buy the right to take the scroll from the hand of God. No one. No, not one. John broke down into tears and wept uncontrollably because God had a plan to display his glory on earth but there was no one who was worthy to execute the plan.
But the angel said to John, “Stop your crying.” This world may look hopeless. It may look like war and poverty and racism and violence and crime and perversion and unbelief and abortion and hate have won the day. It may look like the world has turned away from God and there is no way to make things right. You may despair because of the wickedness in this world or in your own experience. You may feel like crying because of the onslaught of evil in your world. But this feeling means you are looking for help in all the wrong places.
“Look,” the angel said. “The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” A balm exists. This world has a fix and it works. There is one who has conquered all and is worthy to take God’s scroll, so stop your despair, let the moaning and groaning cease. There is no place for despair because there is hope. The Lion of Judah has conquered and he is able.
John looked, as he was told, but what he saw was nothing like what he expected. The one who was worthy was no mighty warrior, no tall soldier in glorious armor. This world always looks for conquerors to solve its problems. It looks for winners; for victors. God had a different plan. John saw something stranger than strange. He saw a lamb. It was the most sublime mixed metaphor is history.
The Lion was a lamb!
Standing before the throne of God was a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. A slaughtered lamb! God’s solution was a sacrificial lamb. A helpless sheep sacrificed on an altar, but helpless no more. If any picture ever illustrated how different things are done in the kingdom of God, it is this. Jesus did not come to establish a political movement to control governments. He did not gather an army to conquer his enemies. He amassed no wealth. He came as a lamb and was slaughtered for the sins of the world. But by his death, he had accomplished more than any politician, any soldier, or any billionaire ever has. This Lamb, slain for our sins, rose from the dead and defeated death itself. By his sacrifice, he paid for the sins of the world. By handing himself over and enduring the shame inflicted on him by the enemy, he triumphed over Satan and all the forces of darkness infinitely and eternally. By humbling himself to walk the Way of the Cross he was exalted to the highest place and given the name that is above every name.
He is worthy. Oh, yes, he is worthy.
And the Lamb who was slain stood before the Father and took the scroll. Yes, he was worthy to receive it and execute the Father’s eternal plan to consummate the world. Yes, he was worthy to stand in the end as King of kings and Lord of lords. Yes, he is worthy. The Lion of Judah became the Lamb of God and by dying for our sins he roared so loudly that evil quivered and Satan quaked, death died and sin’s power to enslave was broken.
There was a shift in the mood of heaven. John had been grieved that no one was worthy to fix the broken world and consummate it in God’s glory, but that evaporated, replaced by an eternal celebration. The Lamb received the scroll and the celebration began.
The Twenty-four elders, representing the leaders of God’s redeemed, sang a new song. Jesus puts a new song on our lips.
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and you purchased people
for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)
Jesus is not just worthy and powerful, he is successful. Think of how many people have tried to rule the world and failed, how many have gathered great armies and conquered great territories only to meet their limits. How many rich people have accumulated wealth beyond our wildest imaginings and then discovered the truth of old adage, “You can’t take it with you.” How many famous and powerful people have fallen hard, showing Solomon wasn’t kidding when he said, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” But Jesus came a Lamb. He humbled himself and he served. He gave and he died. He never sought the things others do and then, having died for our sins, he rose to a place no other person ever has. When the end comes, there will only be One worthy – the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God. Why? Because he invested his life in purchasing a people for God through his death. He shed his blood so that we could have forgiveness and new life.
And he calls us to “take up our crosses” and walk that way. We must trust in Jesus as our only hope of salvation then follow him on the Way of the Cross. Humility instead of pride. Service instead of aggression and riches and self-advancement. As he laid down his life for the salvation of others we must invest ours in that same cause. He sought people of every tribe and language on earth and we must do the same.
That was only the beginning of the praise. It continued as the angels and living creatures joined with the elders to praise the Lamb.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing!
Once we come to understand this concept, that the Lion of Judah is the Lamb of God, that God conquered by the humble sacrifice of his Son, we realize three things. First, Jesus is worthy. He is worthy of our love and our lives and our worship and our time and our money and everything we have. He is worthy. Second, our lives are not about getting rich or gaining political triumph or military conquest – about anything this world offers. Our lives are about denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus on the way of the Cross. As Jesus did, so must we. As he laid down his life so that others might have eternal life, we must invest ours so that others might know. As he sought people from every tribe and language on earth, we must break down human walls and seek that heavenly vision. The way of Jesus must be our way. Finally, you realize that once the praise starts, you never want it to stop. We long for that day when we gather with all of heaven to praise the Lamb who was slain, the Lion of Judah, in the words of Revelation 5:13.
Blessing and honor and glory and power
be to the one seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!
We join the four living creatures to say, “Amen.” That is how life should be. We were meant to worship the Lamb who was slain, to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him. Good Friday is not a holiday to celebrate and move on. It demands a response.
When I participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March, a marathon in White Sands, NM, the path to the starting line would be lined with old men in wheelchairs. These were men who had been in the actual Bataan Death March, who had served our country sacrificially and painfully. We stopped on the way to say, “Thank you for your service.” You could not ignore men who had given so much. With tears, we passed them and said thank you.
You cannot ignore the Lamb of God who is the Lion of Judah. You either join the heavenly throng or you reject it. The angel said “He is worthy” and God gave Jesus the scroll. That means that Jesus owns this world and is writing its story. It ends with him and he is the one before whom each of us must stand. To him, every knee will bow. Before him, every tongue will confess.
Today, there is one question that has been settled and one that has not. The cosmic question is not at issue anymore.
- Is he worthy? He is!
- Did he pay for the sins of the world? He did.
- Has he conquered Satan and death and hell? He has.
- Does he hold the scroll? He does.
- Is the future of this world in his hands? It is.
- Will the world end in his glory? It will.
- Is Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords? He is.
The only question left to be answered is the one you must answer. Our hearts often remain pockets of resistance against the cosmic reality. Jesus is Lord of all, but we resist that Lordship in our lives. He is King of kings, but we fight his dominion over us. So, there are some questions to be asked. The answers are simple and obvious. But the question is…are they yours?
- Is he worthy? He is.
- Did he pay the price as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world, and for yours? He did.
- Did he rise up as the Lion of Judah to conquer sin and death and hell? He did.
- Is he worthy of your love, your life, your service? He is.
- Will you deny yourself to serve him? I will.
- Will you take up your cross and follow him whatever it costs? I will.
- Are you willing to live for him and die for him? I am.
- Will you live your life to hear the Savior’s words, well done? I will.
- Do you long for that glorious day that you see Jesus face to face and you can join the praise of heaven? I do.