In Revelation 5, John’s attention moves away from the powerful imagery in chapter 4 of God seated on the throne surrounded by living creatures and elders, to a detail- a single scroll in the hand of God, firmly closed with seven seals.In ancient times important documents like contracts were written on papyrus or parchment and sealed with seven seals; a will, for instance, was sealed by seven witnesses. Therefore we know that this scroll is important. In fact, in the hand of God we know it is of the utmost importance to the whole of human history. Like a will, this document needs to be opened in order for its purposes to be fulfilled.
But John weeps. He weeps loudly; we might assume the sort of sobs that shake your whole body, that cannot be stifled. He weeps because there is no one in all of heaven and earth who is worthy to open this scroll belonging to God. His mind is now so completely occupied with the vision of this awesome God, who by His power created all things, that John is desperate to see the fullness of His plans and purposes. He is filled with longing for a glimpse of the exquisite detail that fills both sides of this manuscript in a way that only the Author and Architect of the whole of the heavens and the earth could possibly be capable. He aches for the outworking of a plan that must surely hold the answers to humanity's deepest pain and torment. Can no-one open this scroll?
'Weep no more', says one of the elders. There is indeed one who is worthy of opening the scroll; the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the promised Messiah descended from David- He alone is able. John looks for this roaring lion, lord above all others, powerful, majestic, unchallengeable, mighty, fierce, frightening, authoritative, a warrior king. This conqueror can surely deal with this messy world, fraught with murder, famine, wars, disease, and corruption; for nothing can be too much for him.
He looks and between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders he sees something that perhaps was not so noticeable before; a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. He has seen this image before, a burnt offering on a Jewish altar, charred and broken. A lamb; gentle, small, vulnerable, looking as though it has been slaughtered, massacred, butchered, murdered- served up as a piece of meat. A different king.The power of God lies in this paradox. That Jesus is neither Lion, nor Lamb, but both. He is both the almighty, everlasting God who sits on the throne and the suffering servant who came into our world to experience it as we do, to undergo the painful effects of our sin, to know the horror of rejection and death. He is a different king. He is the slain Lamb, undefeated, still standing. He has conquered evil, not with showy displays of military prowess or political argument, but with unfathomably deep love.
The ability to open the scroll is His alone. Revelation reminds us that it is only because He is worthy that we may be found worthy. It is only because He has first conquered that we are more than conquerors. And it is only because He suffered that we can make sense of and have hope in a world filled with pain. (Romans 8:31-39)
As your response, why not ponder one or more of these questions this week:
- a. Spend some time silently in the presence of God. Mediate on the vision of God in Revelation Chapters 4-5. b. God is neither the wrathful God of pagan deities nor the soft, compromising god of comfort our culture promotes. Do you have a tendency to view Christ more as Lion or Lamb? Ask God to reveal to you more of His fullness.
- Do you long for God’s purposes to be accomplished like John? Ask God to increase your hunger to see God’s will be done. Consider who you could invite to church over the next few weeks as we continue to journey through Revelation.
- Vern Pothyress writes, ‘Christ’s achievement is unique, but it also sets the pattern for Christians. We are to fight our spiritual battles, not with military or political strength, but with endurance, purity and faithfulness to Christ, even to the point of death.’ Do you agree with this statement? How does Revelation support this? Read 1 Cor. 1:18-24 and ask for God’s power to be made perfect in your weakness (2 Cor 12:9).