READ: Revelation 5-7
BACKGROUND: Again, a lot in Revelation that is rich but sometimes confusing without context. Remember that all of the images are John’s human description of a supernatural vision, that the entire vision is a symbolic way of God communicating truths about Jesus and his ultimate victory over sin and death so that Christians would be inspired to persevere and hope, and all the numbers symbolically represent things as well (like perfection, fullness, etc.). Ask any questions you have in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
THINK: These chapters focus on the worthiness and holiness of the Lamb. Pastor John Piper explains the big idea behind the Lamb this way:
I want you to think seriously today about what makes a person truly beautiful or excellent or admirable or praiseworthy. My goal is that you might come to see Jesus Christ as irresistibly admirable and excellent and praiseworthy, and that you would be drawn to love him and trust him and give your full allegiance to him. The principle that I am trying to illustrate and that makes Christ stand out as absolutely unique is this: beauty or excellence consists in the right proportion of diverse qualities. For example:
- we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility;
- we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because his transcendence is accompanied by condescension;
- we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy;
- we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness;
- we admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God’s equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God;
- we admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil;
- we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission;
- we love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wisdom, and we love it even more because he could be simple enough to like children and spend time with them;
- and we admire him because he could still the storm, but even more because he refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightning and he refused to use it to get himself down from the cross.
The list could go on and on. Do you see what I mean when I say that beauty and excellency in person is not a simple thing? It is complex. It is a coming together in one person of the perfect balance and proportion of extremely diverse qualities. And that’s what makes Jesus Christ so irresistibly admirable and excellent.
The human heart was made to stand in awe of ultimate excellence—you were made to admire Jesus Christ the Son of God—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords—and if your heart is not much taken up with him, then you don’t need to look any farther to know the deepest source of your frustration. A student once asked Bonaventure, the medieval Franciscan teacher, “Why don’t men love God more?” And he answered, “They don’t love him because they don’t know him.” That’s the way I feel about Christ this morning. Surely, if I can display for you just a flicker of the excellency of Christ today, you will love him and trust him and follow him, no matter what it costs. That’s my prayer for you.
I begin with the text by directing your attention to Revelation 5:5. John is receiving a vision of the throne room of heaven. “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.'” So Jesus here is described as a Lion, an animal who makes prey of others and who is strong and wild and majestic and dangerous. (See the prophecy in Genesis 49:9–10.)
But then in verse 6 John is allowed to see this Lion. But what he sees must have been a surprise after the words of the elder in verse 5. It says, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” So the Lion is a Lamb, an animal that is easily preyed upon and that is weak and harmless and lowly, sheared for our clothes and killed for our food.
So here is the point that I want to make this morning: Because Jesus is a Lion-like Lamb and a Lamb-like Lion, he has the right to bring the world to an end for the glory of his name and the good of his people.
There is one person who can open the scroll, namely, the Lion of Judah. And the reason that he is worthy to open the scroll is that he has conquered. But what does this conquering refer to? We can see that clearly in verse 9. Here the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the Lamb, and they sang a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast make them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on earth.
Now notice carefully the relationship between verse 5 and verse 9. In verse 5 the reason the Lion of Judah can open the scroll is that he has conquered. In verse 9 the reason he can open the scroll is because he was slain and by his blood ransomed men for God. In other words, his right to open the scroll is owing to the fact that he ransomed people for God by his death, and this ransoming was the victory referred to in verse 5.
What sort of Lion was he? He was a Lamb-like Lion. The Lion of Judah conquered because he was willing to act the part of a Lamb. He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday like a King on the way to a throne, and he went out of Jerusalem on Good Friday like a Lamb on the way to the slaughter. He drove out the robbers from the Temple like a Lion devouring its prey. And then at the end of the week he gave his majestic neck to the knife, and they slaughtered the Lion of Judah like a Lamb. So he conquered sin and death and Satan not just because he was a Lion, but because he was a Lamb-like Lion. It was one of those classic tactical defeats that results in a strategic victory….The Lion gets the victory through the tactics of the Lamb.
[But] this is no ordinary Lamb. He is a Lion-like Lamb. Look at 6:16 where men call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” And look at 17:14 where the final enemies of God fight against Christ: “they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings.”
In other words, he is a Lion-like Lamb.
So I conclude by stressing the main point: since Jesus is not merely a simple thing like a lion or like a lamb, but is a Lion-like Lamb and a Lamb-like Lion, therefore he is admirable and excellent and worthy to take the scroll and open its seals and bring this world to an end for the glory of his name and the good of his ransomed people. And you can be among that number if you trust him as your Lamb, and submit to him as your Lion, and join the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders and the millions of angels to worship the King of kings with all your heart.”
PRAY: Let this song be your prayer today.