Well, do turn with me now to Revelation chapter 5, beginning to read at verse 1 - and trying to keep in mind, by the way, what we learned last Monday evening without reading chapter 4. You remember the vision of 'The Throne of God' that we were given, and so this chapter 5 is actually running on from chapter 4 - they really should be read together, but we'll not read it for the sake of time tonight.
Following on from we heard last week, John says: "And I saw", chapter 5 verse 1, "in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever".
Now of course, all the recordings of our previous studies are available tonight, and it might be helpful for you to get last week's study to glean the truths that we found in chapter 4 - but you will remember, if you were here last week, that chapters 4 and 5 together are a backdrop that the Holy Spirit through John gives us for the judgements that we are about to face from chapter 6 through to about 18 or chapter 19, judgements that are going to be unleashed upon the earth from God. Now we noted last week that this pattern - that is, being given a vision of deity before the pronouncement of judgement - it's something that we've seen already in holy Scripture. We cited Isaiah 6, where Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the throne room, His train filling the Temple, and he cried 'Holy, holy, holy' - what we saw last week from Revelation 4 in a similar vein. Isaiah saw that vision before he pronounced his judgements. Ezekiel was the same, in Ezekiel chapter 1 we have a great vision of the throne of God, very very similar to the graphic details that we have in Revelation 4 - and again, that vision was given to the prophet Ezekiel before he pronounces the judgements upon the nation.
Now in chapter 1 of Revelation we were given a vision of Christ as the ascended, exalted Priest-Judge of His people - that is, the church. There He is in the midst of the churches, weighing them and judging them - the reason? Judgement must begin in the house of God. So before He judges the seven churches, we see a vision of Christ. Now we move to chapter 4 and chapter 5, and just before the wrath of God is poured upon this world we are given, through John, a vision of the Almighty, and in chapter 5 of His Christ. Now we're going to come in these next weeks to what we know in prophetic truth as 'the tribulation period', the greatest judgements that this world has ever known - and we have the word of our Lord Jesus on that in Matthew 24:21: 'For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be'. It is without precedent, and there will be nothing like it ever again.
So John is given this vision of the throne room of God in chapter 4, and of the Lamb and the scroll in chapter 5, to prepare us for the judgements that are going to fall upon this planet. Of course, as you see from the diagram on your screen, and of course from prophetic scripture, we know that it will be a little time after the church is translated - 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, John 14 - it will be a little bit after the time that the church is raptured that the seven-year tribulation period will begin in which God will deal with the Jewish people, and all unbelieving Gentile nations. Now I didn't mention this last week, I did mention it in the past, but we must always remember that God's prophetic plan of history involves three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church. It's important, if we're not to confound and confuse prophetic Scriptures, to differentiate and distinguish between these three groups we have seen in 1 Corinthians 10:32: 'Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God'.
In Jeremiah 30 this seven-year tribulation period is called 'the time of Jacob's trouble', it's specific to Israel in a particular way. In Daniel the prophet it is spoken of as his '70th week' - now we haven't got time to go into this in great detail, because we're trying to expound the book of Revelation in particular, but if you want to look at it more: a few years ago I did a six-week series entitled 'Crucial Questions on Christ's Return', and there was one whole week I took on the subject of the tribulation period and several other important topical issues regarding prophecy. Now in chapter 3 and verse 21 we saw a reference to Christ's current position in heaven. There was a promise given to the overcomer in Laodicea, chapter 3:21: 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne'. So Christ, presently, has risen and ascended to the right hand of God, and He is seated on the Father's throne - there is joint occupancy of the throne in heaven. So that is His position now. Psalm 110:1 puts it: 'The LORD said unto my Lord', Jehovah said unto my Lord, 'Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool'. He will make His enemies the footstool of His feet when He comes again - but this has not transpired yet, and so we are still in this waiting period where the Lord Jesus is seated on His Father's throne.
But in chapter 5 of Revelation we see that something seems to have changed. We noted last week in verse 6 of chapter 5 that Christ, the Lamb, is in the midst of the throne. Now the New American Standard Version renders this verse 6 that the Lamb was 'between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing'. The Lamb is before the throne, it would seem. We have noted already as we have gone through this prophecy that to be before the throne, whether it's these four living creatures that we looked at last week, or whether it's the seven lamps that signify the seven Spirits of God, to be before the throne speaks of God's administration on the earth - doing something for God. So Christ now, look at it, is before the throne - and He's not sitting, no longer sitting, He's standing. Now that suggests that the church age has passed, of course, obviously it has passed - we see that at the end of chapter 3 where the seventh church has been addressed.
Chapter 5 shows us that our Lord Jesus, standing before the throne of God as the Lamb, is about to usher in the tribulation period by taking this book from the hand of God the Father seated on the throne, and opening the seven sealed book of the Lamb. Now we read of John's unspeakable joy to see this vision, having seen the vision of Almighty God over all creation as sovereign, to now see God's Spirit putting the Lamb of God at the centre stage of all of prophetic history. It's a bit like the spirit of the hymn:
'Our Lord is now rejected,
And by the world disowned,
By the many still neglected,
And by the few enthroned,
But soon He’ll come in glory,
The hour is drawing nigh,
For the crowning day is coming by and by'.
This is the vision that John is getting, remember he's a persecuted man on Patmos because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He's writing to persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, but God's Spirit is giving him a vision of something that is yet to be. The great late Bible teacher, Dr Henry Jowett, attended the Coronation of Edward VII in Westminster Abbey. He records that on that occasion he observed with interest all the congregation assembling, the seating of princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, and others of lesser nobility; and how homage was paid to each of them as they entered the great Abbey. 'But then the king arrived', Jowett said, 'and all eyes turned away from those of lower rank, and were fixed upon him'. That's what's happening to John: the Lamb steps from the shadows into the spotlight in chapter 5 of this vision, and every eye is focused on Him. The Lamb, we see, is the theme of their song in heaven. The Lamb is the centre of their thought in heaven. The Lamb is the object of their adoration in heaven. Why? Because the Lamb is all the glory in Emmanuel's land.
Now I want us to get a glimpse of this vision of the Lamb exalted in heaven tonight under four figures that are given to us in this chapter. First of all I want us to look at this scroll that we find in verses 1 to 4. Then secondly I want us to see the Lion and the Lamb, two figures of our Lord, in verses 5 and 6. Then thirdly we need to see, if we've time, the incense in verses 7 and 8. Then the larger portion of the chapter, the worship in heaven, verses 9 to 14. Let's start with the scroll, verses 1 to 4. Now, of course, in subsequent weeks we will see that this scroll will be opened and the seven seals speak of seven specific judgements that are going to come upon the earth. Now when you read in the Authorised Version that this is a book, please do not have in your conception the idea of a modern bound book - that will completely mislead you. What is being spoken of is a scroll, the ancient papyrus scroll that they had in ancient times. Verse 1 tells us that it was written within and on the backside - the information on this scroll was on the front and on the back. The implication is that there was nothing more could be written on it - that's interesting. The complete record of what God is going to do is there, and no one needs to add to it. So we don't need the cults' addendums and appendices to the New Testament - do we? This is it! God's final revelation given to us in this last book of the Bible.
There are seven seals on this scroll. Now that means that no one knows the content of this book, up to this point at least, in the book of Revelation. Now it's interesting to note that in John's day a Roman will had seven seals, a will and testament. Those seven seals spoke of seven witnesses to that will, and each put their own personal individual seal on each of the seven seals. Now what that meant was: if that will was to be opened and read, each of those seven witnesses had to loose their own seal before the will could be executed.
Now, what is this scroll? Well, some scholars say it's the Old Testament prophets. I don't believe it is. Some think it's the book of Revelation itself. I don't think so, because neither the Old Testament prophets nor the book of Revelation require worthiness in order to open them. I think the Roman will gives us a clue. What we have here - remember, it's in the hand of the One who sits on the throne, that is God the Father - it must be God's will, God's Testament for this planet. Now that's a biblical idea, because in Jeremiah 32 we get a glimpse into the Jewish law regarding the redemption of a piece of land. Let me explain it to you: if you owned a piece of land, and because you couldn't repay your debts you forfeited it, you had eventually the right to buy back that piece of land in the future, at some stage anyway. Even if you never ever repaid your debts, after a prescribed period of time your heir, or your next of kin, could buy it. The idea was that it would keep the land in the family, even if you hadn't paid your debts.
Now there's an example of that in the prophet Isaiah, because Jeremiah's cousin, Hanamel, came to Jeremiah the prophet and asked him to redeem his field in Anathoth. Now when Jeremiah's cousin lost the field, the land, there were two scrolls - if you like, contracts - that were written up, and both of them contained the terms of redemption. One scroll was used as a public record of the events, and the other - interestingly - was sealed with seven seals, placed in a clay jar, and put in the Temple; and it would only be brought out when someone showed proof of their right to redeem the land. So this idea of a seven-sealed scroll speaks of a title deed, if you like.
Now I don't think it's hard to think of the analogy that is before us tonight, because right at the very beginning of creation God created all this universe, and He gave man a certain sovereignty over it, a jurisdiction. He made man king of all that we see round about us in nature and creation. So earth was given to man, but we know that Adam sinned, and in effect he gave the jurisdiction of this earth, in a sense, over to the evil one, Satan. He lost it to the devil. The Lord Jesus came, as we know from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to be the Redeemer of mankind, and indeed this whole universe - but before He went to the cross to do that great work of redemption, please remember, in Matthew chapter 4, what did Satan do? He requested that the Lord Jesus, by one act of worship, should acknowledge his sovereignty over this planet as the god of this world, and the Lord Jesus would receive the whole of the world back in return. But that would have been the easy way, it wouldn't have been the right way either - but the Lord Jesus went God's way, to Calvary, and He won the right to receive this scroll in Revelation 5 when He gave Himself on the cross of Calvary. That's why he's the Lamb here in this chapter, that's why this scroll is rightfully His: this scroll is the title deed of the creation of the universe, but Christ has the right to have it not because of creation, but because of redemption.
He is the rightful heir of everything. He created it all, but He has the right to take it back because He has redeemed it by His precious blood. Now that fulfils prophecy - Psalm 2 verse 8: 'Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession'; Hebrews 1 verse 2 says that God has appointed Christ heir of all things. So - isn't it wonderful? - He is our blessed kinsman-redeemer, He is the one who is worthy, qualified to claim the scroll, to open it. This scroll, therefore, must represent God's plan for history that is fulfilled in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, of course, as we will see, it's the record of judgements that must fall upon the earth before our Lord comes and fulfils God's word and plan, and sets up His earthly kingdom, and eventually the eternal state. But this scroll speaks of all that the Father promised the Son when He would die at Calvary on our behalf.
Now, we could spend a bit of time on this, and we haven't got it, but that should colour our view of world events, shouldn't it? That the control of the fulfilment of human history is in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, He's going to bring it all to a conclusion, to a God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, and saint-satisfying end! You see, that's what helped John face Patmos a bit easier, and it must have helped these persecuted Christians that would have been reading this letter - remember, Revelation is a letter to suffering saints - to see that Christ is in control. Around that throne in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 5, a strong angel stands forth and proclaims with a loud voice: 'Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?'. 'And no man in heaven, verse 3, 'nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon'. This strong angel stands forth and appeals: 'Who is worthy, someone worthy to take the scroll, to open it, to break the seals one by one?'. Now please note: the angel didn't ask 'Who is willing to open the book?', he said 'Who is worthy?'. You see, history has seen many figures who dreamt of world domination, and they were very willing to take over the earth by their own human empires. You can take whoever you like: Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; Alexander the Great of Greece who wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer; Julius Caesar led his legions across Europe to impose Pax Romana by force upon those nations; Charlemagne; Napoleon of France; more recently Adolf Hitler of Germany envisaged a worldwide Reich that would reign for a thousand years - a millennium! But they all failed, do you know why? Because none of them was worthy, none of them! They were willing, but not worthy.
You see John had to face this, and it was traumatic for him. No one in heaven, verse 3, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. No one in heaven, that's any celestial beings, angelic creatures. No one on earth, human beings or animal life; or under the earth, that's subterranean beings, perhaps demonic personalities - none anywhere, no one was found qualified to unroll this scroll and to read it, to break the seven seals. It wasn't because of failure of power - there's many a one had great power in those three realms, heaven, earth, and under the earth - none of them had worth! This was heartbreaking for the apostle John. In verse 4 he said: 'I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon'. He wept, and the word for 'wept' there speaks of a noisy grief, it speaks of a wailing. It's interesting, isn't it? Here's crying in heaven! The Bible only says there's no tears in the eternal state, here John is weeping because no one was found worthy.
Now, why is he taking it so much to heart? Well, you have to remember, in the previous chapter, in chapter 4 verse 1 John was promised that he was going to see things to come, and now it seemed that because no one was worthy to open this book that none of the wrongs upon earth would ever be righted, that the righteous who were suffering - like John - would never be vindicated, that the wicked would forever go unpunished, that God's kingdom would never come because there was none worthy to open this book. Ah, but come with me and see the glorious sight, for in verse 5 one of the elders said unto John: 'Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof'. The Lion of Judah, He is worthy!
Now let's take our time with this, because it's important. These titles are very informative that are given to our Lord Jesus here. First He is called the Lion of Judah by this elder. Now that takes us way back to the book of beginnings, Genesis chapter 49. There we see in verses 8 to 10 that Jacob, before he died, prophetically gave certain pronouncements upon his own children, the patriarchs of the twelve tribes. He spoke of how this sceptre would be given to Judah, that means they would become the tribe of the Kings. Now let me just say in passing that Saul was the first king, but God never meant Saul to establish a dynasty before him, because he was of the tribe of Benjamin, not of Judah. God used Saul to discipline Israel because the people asked for a King - but when He gave them His king, it was David, and David was of the tribe of Judah. But the point being made here, calling our Lord 'the Lion of the tribe of Judah', is that the great Messiah Saviour-King would be of the tribe of Judah. He would fulfil that prophetic pronunciation in Genesis 49.
Not only is He called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but He's spoken of as the Root of David. Now 'Root' speaks of the fact that He existed before David, He brought existence to David, He was the Root of David - but also it infers that He brought David's kingly line into being as well. So here we have in this title 'Root of David' two things: we have the humanity of Christ, because we know from Matthew's gospel and Luke's gospel that in His lineage, His genealogy, that He was in the line of David the King - it speaks of His humanity through His mother Mary. But He was before David, and He brought existence to David by His deity - that's how the Lord Jesus is both David's Lord, and David's Son. Is it not the question that He gave to those religious boys in Matthew 22 and verse 45: 'If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?'. The reason why David could call Him Lord was, He was God. The reason why he could call Him Son was, He was in the line of David according to the flesh.
Now both of these titles are important for many reasons, as we have just stated, but there's one thing that you need to see. Both of them refer to the nation of Israel, and you can't spiritualise this out of the chapter - they clearly indicate that Israel is coming back to the centre stage at the end of history. As the second coming of Christ approaches, Israel will have the promises of God fulfilled to them - and we'll find out, as we go through later chapters in this book, that the prophetic key to the Scriptures is the nation of Israel. If you want to really open up the scriptures regarding the future, you need to understand the place that Israel takes in it all. We have already said that chapter 6 right through to the end of the book really features on God dealing with His ancient people.
Now, look at verse 6 again, the elder said in verse 5 that there is one that is worthy: 'Weep not: the Lion of the tribe of Juda' - so John turns to see a lion, but what does he see? He sees a lamb. The lion speaks of Christ as the Judge, coming to judge those who oppose Him; but the lamb speaks of Him as Saviour, the one who saves those who believe in Him. You could nearly see in those two descriptions His first advent and His second advent - coming to the world to be Saviour, and coming again to be Sovereign and Judge. The remarkable thing about this name of our Lord Jesus and designation as a lamb is the Greek word that is used. The Greek word for 'lamb' here means 'a little pet lamb', that's what it means. It's slightly different from John 1:29 where the Baptist declared: 'Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world', it's not identical. It means 'a little pet, harmless lamb'. I want you to grasp the importance of this. As we will travel through this book, we will see Satan represented as a great red dragon, we will see nations depicted as monstrous beasts, we will see the emissaries of Satan as wild beastly creatures - and that follows the trend of humankind, doesn't it? When nations want symbols of power, they conjure up mighty beasts and birds of prey. Russia took the image of the bear, Britain the lion, the USA the spread eagle - and they're all ravenous animals and birds of prey - but right away John turns to see a lion, and he sees a little pet lamb.
Now you'd be forgiven, as I'm sure John was at first glance, for thinking: 'This is a disastrous mismatch to pit a lamb, a little pet lamb, against colossal oppositions of red dragons, and all sorts of beasts and monstrous creatures'. That's what this book is all about: 29 times you find this word 'lamb', 'a little pet lamb'. Now grasp the import of this to these persecuted believers in Asia Minor. They're surrounded by the great beasts of the Roman Empire and other persecutors in religion, and they felt just like little lambs - but they needed to see that the Lamb of God, that was slain for them in His earthly life down here on earth, was in control. It was the Lamb of God that was in charge, not the mighty beasts of world empires. It was the One who suffered on the cross who had the sovereignty - that's what He's teaching these folk, you know. I'll tell you, He's teaching it to us if we would only listen: the path to sovereignty before God, the route to reigning with God, is not the path of power and popularity, but it is the road of pain, suffering, rejection, and humiliation. The cross before the crown, always!
The cross, as we see now, and this Lamb, is central to God's plan of history. The cross is there, the Lamb, and He's telling us and telling them that the cross needs to be central to our lives. If we're going to get through, we're going to have to concentrate on the cross, be beneath the cross, take up our cross and follow the Man carrying the cross - do you see it? It is as Christ crucified that the Lord Jesus is worthy to take this scroll and to open the seals thereof. Do you see what He's saying? John's readers could say, just as Paul wrote to the Romans: 'As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us'. Am I communicating to you what this vision meant? John looks for a lion and sees a lamb, and Christ is saying: 'John, Christians of Asia Minor, I overcame as a Lamb, and you can overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of your testimony' - chapter 12 and verse 11.
This Lamb is described more for us in verse 6. It was as if it had been freshly slain. Now the Greek verb there is in the perfect tense, and that indicates that this was a past event, it had already been slain. So the import is: it had died, but it's very much alive as John sees it. The implication is: the freshness of the slaying speaks of the fact that the atonement is still efficacious, and there is power, wonder working power - still! - in the blood of the Lamb. But the point is that the cross is the fulcrum of all human history, as one has put it: 'Eternity in the past knew no other future than Calvary, and eternity in the future knows no other past than Calvary'. Here is this freshly slain Lamb alive, He will always - our Lord Jesus in His glorified flesh - bear the wounds of His suffering and humiliation. There He is, standing - Isaiah 3:13 says: 'The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people'. Here is this Lamb, standing to judge.
Verse 6 says He has seven horns. Horns speak of strength in the Bible, that is His omnipotence, His all-power. This Lamb has seven eyes, it is all-seeing - seven being a complete number - that is omniscience. It possesses, look at verse 6, seven Spirits of God. The Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry was endued with a full and complete measure of the Holy Spirit, and these seven Spirits are sent out into all the earth - that suggests His omnipotence again - this is none other than the incarnate Son of God. The point that John is getting here is that the reins of the universe's government has been passed into the nail-scarred hands and palm of Jesus Christ! Therefore it was right for the Moravians to have as their motto: 'The Lamb has conquered' - He has conquered! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world.
I don't know whether we have time to consider the incense, I feel we don't, verses 7 to 8 - but these are prayers, and it's interesting to note that it might be in chapter 6:10, as we will see, that these are prayers of persecuted Christians and the martyrs. They're going to be vindicated at last as Christ reigns in righteousness, and puts down His own enemies - but they might be your prayers as well. Have you ever prayed this prayer: 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven', that's what's happening now! Christ is standing to execute God's will with a judgement that will bring His kingdom to the earth - don't ever say your prayers won't avail much! You might be unanswered yet, but some time, somewhere, you will see the answers to your prayer.
Let's move on quickly to fourth point - we've seen the scroll, we've seen the Lion and the Lamb, the incense - but fourthly: the worship, the greater part of the chapter, verses 9 to 14. Now the word 'worship' means 'to ascribe worth'. 'Who is worthy?', the angel said, and they worshipped the One who alone has worth-ship. The statement goes out: 'Thou art worthy'! Now please note this new song they sing in verse 9. They don't say what was said in chapter 4 verse 11: 'Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created...' - creation is not the grounds of the worth for the worship here, but it is redemption. 'Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation'.
Whether these are angels speaking or, as many believe, redeemed men - the fact of the matter is: their praise is undiluted. The redeemed, eventually in this portion, say that the Lord has made them kings and priests - that's what you are, kings and priests unto God. As priests we worship God, as holy priests offering up holy sacrifices. As royal priests we can witness for God, and be His ambassadors and representatives in this day and age. But one day we will have the joy, if we will be rewarded such, of not only being priests but kings, and reigning with Him for a thousand years on the earth. Then verse 11: 'And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands'. What we're seeing here is that there is a circle of praise in those verses, and there's three cycles from verse 9 right through to the end of verse 13, until every creature in all of the universe worships the Lamb that has the scroll. That number that is mentioned in verse 11 is just trying to grasp an innumerable company of all creation in the whole universe worshipping the Lamb that was slain, who alone is worthy - what a sight!
I know it's a bit of an aside, but I think it's very instructive: Warren Weirsbe speaks of how this shows us how to write good songs of praise. Look at these points in it: this was a worship song, for it tells us 'He is worthy', Christ was central to this song and doxology. Now many of our modern songs today - some of them are very very good - but many of them are self-centred, man-centred, 'I' and 'me'. This was Christ-centred. It was also, secondly, evangelistic - because it reminds us that Christ has paid the price for our salvation. Isn't it wonderful to think that heaven resounds with songs about the cross and Calvary, songs that extol the precious blood of Christ. Weirsbe said he once heard, and I've heard it as well, about a denomination that went through its hymn book and removed all references to the blood. Weirsbe said: 'Well, you couldn't use that hymn book in heaven!'. The blood is extolled in glory, because that is what has redeemed us to God.
Not only is it worshipful and evangelistic, it had a missionary emphasis because it shows how this redemption has reached to the ends of the earth and embraces all men. It's also devotional, please look at this in verse 12, they said with a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power' - do you know what that means? Power over your life, power over my life, power over the church, power over the whole universe. He's worthy to receive power, He's worthy to receive riches - that means, as the hymn said: 'All my silver and my gold, not a mite will I withhold'. Don't sing that He's worthy of your riches, and then be tight-fisted. He is worthy of power, He is worthy of riches, he's worthy of wisdom - the finest of your intellectual powers and use that God can use. 'Strength', your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energies - He's worthy of it all! 'And honour', a single and a pure desire to magnify Him in all your ways. 'Glory', your entire life should be devoted to glorify Him. 'And blessing', all power to praise should be lavished upon Him.
How devotional this song is, but finally it's also prophetic. Worshipful, evangelistic, missionary, devotional, and prophetic because it tells of the coming day when He will reign here on earth, and we will reign with Him if we're found worthy. Now, maybe you don't know this - I'm being a bit facetious - but heaven is a place of worship. If you can't handle worship down here, what are you going to do up there? Some people have never understood what it is to praise and worship God on a regular basis in their own personal life, and I would advise you to get started now! John Owen said, in his book 'The Glory of Christ': 'No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven, who does not in some measure behold it by faith in this world'.
Well, verses 13 and 14: 'Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever'. Do you know what that parallels? Philippians 2 verses 10 and 11: 'That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'. Written by a persecuted Christian to persecuted Christians, chapter 4 and chapter 5 proclaims that this world's destiny is not under the control of some blind fate or despotic regime, but we are in the hands of a loving heavenly Father, and a Saviour who bled and died for us. God in Jesus Christ controls the course of the climax of history - that's why we can have strength for today, because there's bright hope for tomorrow; and it will only be if you get a revelation of God's eternal purposes in His Son, that you will get strength to live the here and now.
Those who weather the storms of life best are those who have the clearest view of Christ now. How is your view of Him? Hanging in a Berlin Gallery is a most unusual picture by the artist Menzies, it's called 'The Unfinished Painting'. The artist was portraying the King and his generals, but took so long painting the details of the generals that he died before he ever got round to painting the central figure. So this unfinished painting, in its centre, has a blank where the King should be portrayed. An empty space where the King should have been central - is He central to your life? He mightn't seem central to history now, but God's purpose is that He will be! One day He will stand before the throne, and take the scroll, and do God's will - and He will become the centrepiece of all time and all space. Is He the centrepiece of your life now? He needs to be. Only then will you be able to say, and will I:
'Throughout the universe of bliss,
The center Thou, and sun;
The eternal theme of praise of this,
To Heaven's beloved one:
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow,
That every knee to Thee should bow'.
Now let us have a word of prayer, and ask God's blessing upon the word and our leaving tonight: Father, we would see Him, and we have seen Him, high and lifted up - where we ought to see Him always. We thank You that He's not on a cross any more, He's not humiliated any more, He's not suffering any more, He's not in the cold grave any more, but He's at Your right hand. He's waiting for that moment when He will stand before You and take the scroll, and come and do Your will. Oh Lord, we thank You we've already bowed the knee by grace through faith. If there's any here tonight haven't, may they do it before it's too late, before they're forced to bow the knee. We thank You that one day this whole universe will be synchronised and in harmony with the eternal Son of God, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Lord, we need a vision of Him to get through this life here, nothing else will do. May we see Him as we've never seen Him before, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Lamb And The Scroll" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.