Lion-Lamb

Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
Text: Revelation 5:1-14
19 March 2017

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Series on Revelation.

Last week we followed John up through a door in the sky into the universe next door. There we saw a glorious and majestic scene of creatures and presbyters gathered around the throne of the Lord God Almighty for worship.

We saw a vision of the ideal presbytery meeting:

All the presbyters who rule the Church of Christ are gathered before the Lord God Almighty. Not to lord it over God’s people, but to lead them in the Lord’s service.

In response to the Majestic Glory of God, they step off their thrones and fall on their faces in reverence and awe. They offer up their honor and glory and power to the One enthroned. They declare the praises of God, not their own. They confess the faith revealed by God, not their opinions or doubts. They humble themselves in the sight of the Lord. They center their life and ministry on the Lord God Almighty.

The ministry of our elders on earth should resemble their ministry in heaven. (notes on Revelation 4:10-11)

Today, we are going “further up and further in” to the vision of the universe next door. Not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, on the Lord’s day.

Our sermon text for today is Revelation 5:1-14. If you are willing and able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The word of God reads:

[1] Then I 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. [2] And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” [3] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, [4] and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. [5] And one of the elders said to me, “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.”

[6] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. [8] And when he had taken the scroll, 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. [9] 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,
[10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

[11] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, [12] 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!”

[13] 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!”

[14] And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (ESV)

The word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God!) May God add his blessings to the reading, the hearing, and the preaching of his word.

All the church says: Amen!

As we go further up and further in we see that all creatures of our God and King are centered on the throne of God and lifting up their voices and with praises sing.

As we draw near to God in this gathering of worshipers we see and hear what John did. Jesus has called us up and in for the ultimate day of show and tell in the Spirit.

What do we see? We see sacred book in the right hand of the Lord God Almighty. It is covered with words, yet it is sealed. It has much to reveal, yet it is concealed.

Not just anyone and everyone is authorized to break the seals and reveal its message.

A mighty angel asks,

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

[3] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.

None of the Old Testament prophets. None of the New Testament apostles. None of the pastors or priests. None of the Reformers. None of us.

No one was able to open that book.

This should tell us something about the way God sees his sacred book, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. While it is a privilege to have our own personal copy of the Bible, it is a dangerous privilege.

Why? No one can unlock its secrets on their own power or unveil its mysteries on their own wisdom.

Like so many who have come before us, we cannot understand the things revealed by the Spirit unless the Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts and gives us understanding.

The scriptures tell us that man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and that where there is no revelation the people perish (Pro. 29:18). The scriptures also warn us that when judgment comes to a nation, there will be a time of famine, not of bread and water but of God’s word.

The point is this: If no one is able to unlock and unveil the message of the scroll, the world will perish in its sin.

From the beginning of the world until now, gospel preaching has always been the ordained means of revealing God’s grace and truth to the world. Here in America people moan and groan when preaching is too long or too boring or too loud or too hard.

John wept loudly because no one was able to take the scroll and preach God’s word. This is the same word used to describe Mary and Martha weeping at the funeral of Lazarus. John was grief stricken and wept aloud.

In the midst of his weeping and wailing one of the presbyters speaks to him and offers this pastoral counsel:

“Weep no more; look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Like a good elder, he points his brother to Jesus as revealed in the word of God — in the OT Law and Prophets!

Messianic Prophecies

Images of Militaristic Power

Lion — Genesis 49:9-10

[9] Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
[10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (ESV)

Root — Isaiah 11:1-3

[1] There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
[2] And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
[3] And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. (ESV)

And so with all that in mind John turned and looked and saw a Lamb standing at the center of the throne and the four living creatures and among the presbyters.

Images of Liturgical-Ritual Weakness

Lamb — Passover Exodus 12:3-7

[3] Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household…[5] Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, [6] and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. [7] Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. (ESV)

This was shocking to John — just as it is shocking to us.

This vision shows us that our Sovereign God, our Creator and Redeemer, is a cross-shaped servant, not an iron-fisted tyrant. He is not a ferocious and ravenous monster, but a gracious lion and merciful lamb.

Richard Hays put it: The shock of this reversal discloses the central mystery of the Apocalypse: God overcomes the world not through show of force but through the suffering and death of Jesus, “the faithful witness / martyr. (Gorman, RRR, p 108)

Richard Bauckham puts it: this vision shows us that the new symbol of world conquest is sacrificial death — a symbol of the way God rules the world.

The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world looks as though he has been slaughtered. This is the same word John used to describe what Cain did to his brother Abel — which indicates how he killed him (1 John 3:12).

The Lamb looks as like he has been slaughtered,

yet he is not gasping for breath — he is not leaning on a crutch or limping or staggering towards the Throne.

This slaughtered lamb lives and moves with perfect strength in the power of the Spirit.

He was dead, but now he is alive forever and ever.

[7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

He took the scroll so that he could reveal its message. He is going to open the scroll and preach God’s word.

(Yes! There is preaching and teaching in the universe next door!)

If you don’t like gospel preaching or musical instruments in worship, then you will be terribly disappointed at the liturgical service taking place around the throne in the universe next door.

In his book Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson says this about about preaching as an act of worship:

Scripture read and preached discovers that Christ the Lamb reveals the meaning of my life and fulfills my destiny. Without preaching, no matter how splendid the throne and how numerous the elders and creatures, there is no assurance that I am included and so the consequence is despair, enough to make a person weep. It is not enough to see the glorious throne, hear the wondrous songs, and realize the vast inclusions. If I do not discover that they include me, I will not praise but weep.

So true. That’s why the elder pointed John back to Jesus in the scriptures. The Lamb’s story shapes our life stories. As we will see, the person and work of Jesus includes people just like us.

Over the next few weeks we are going to see and hear sermons that the Lamb of God proclaims from this sacred book.

As it was at the beginning when he preached the world into existence, so it is now and will be at the end. He will preach the grace and truth of the gospel and the world will conform to his word and things will change.

Suffice it to say for now that all the angels and presbyters in heaven erupted in songs of praise — and all the saints on earth offered up prayers — when they saw that the Lamb, the Word made Flesh for the Life of the world, was going to crack open the holy scriptures and read and preach the word of God to them.

And we should do likewise.

As I mentioned last week, our worship service is a covenant renewal service, not because we want to do something old school, traditional or liturgical, but because we believe that God’s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, our worship on earth attempts to reflect the worship in heaven.

There is a call to worship — come up here.

There is a consecration by the word and sacrament.

There is a communion of saints — a gathering of God’s servants around his throne, in his presence.

There is a confession of sin and of faith — we are unworthy; God alone is worthy. God the Father is the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth. The Lamb is the Lord and Savior of all his people.

This vision of the Lamb is a continuation of that worship service. In addition to all the songs and prayers there must be preaching. So, the Scroll, the sacred book, is held out from the throne of God, but who can open it, read it, and preach it?

Answer: Only the Lamb of God who was slain is worthy to do it. Why is he alone worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals?

Because he is the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world for all kinds of people throughout the world.

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,

He shed his blood for the sins of all his people. He purchased salvation for many-many-many people from all over the world.

In this way, through his sacrificial death, the Lamb conquered the world. Unlike worldly conquerors, the result of his conquest is redemption for all his people.

Those he ransomed and redeemed are not degraded but elevated, not shamed but honored.

you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.

All those who were ransomed by his blood will be mercifully saved. None who were not ransomed by his blood will be unjustly condemned.

The Lamb did not over-spend his blood on those who will never turn and trust him; nor did he under-spend his blood on those who would have turned and trusted him but never had the chance. No, his blood was not shed in vain. His blood will never go wasted or return empty. It will accomplish the purpose for which it was shed. Jesus ransomed as many sinners as he intended to ransom with his blood.

All who were ransomed by his blood will come to him by faith. He will lose none of those for whom he died; he will save them all.

The new song of the presbyters is all about the particular redemptive accomplishments of the Lamb.

The doctrine of particular redemption shakes up lots of people on earth; but in heaven it stirs all the living creatures, presbyters, and angels to praise the Lamb.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 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. (ESV)

Continuous, never-ceasing worship of the Lamb in spirit and in truth is the proper response to his particular redemptive accomplishments.

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