Uncertain Times…Christ-Centered Churches – Rev 5 – Lion and the Lamb
I want to begin by asking a question that we raised during the first week of this series. If you were stranded on a deserted island what 5 books and music albums would you bring? And this is an important question because I’m sure we’ve all had worries about being stranded on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere-what books and music albums would you bring-knowing you’re were limited to 5 of each? And in particular I want you to think about the music-what songs would you like to hear, knowing that these are the only songs you’re hearing for a long time. What would you go with-some worship songs to lift up your spirits, maybe some classical music to soothe your soul on your deserted island-like something instrumental? Or maybe you’d want some hard rocking songs or some country tunes or even jazz music-some Miles Davis might be really nice on a deserted island! Would you go with some old favorites-or would you choose some new songs? Now old favorites are old favorites-but they might get really old hearing them over and over again on your deserted island-not this old song again! But maybe you wouldn’t end up really liking the new songs you chose-should have went with the old classics. This is a very important issue to wrestle with-so talk about it over lunch. But the reason I bring this up is because as we examine the book of Revelation this morning the difference between old songs and new songs is going to emerge. As John is stranded on the deserted island of Patmos he’s going to encounter some new songs-but these aren’t some new songs some band is playing on the beach-these are new songs being sung in heaven.
If you remember, when we started this series we talked about the setting of where the book of Revelation took place. And that’s sort of an interesting question because while last week we had this amazing glimpse of the greatest place in all of the universe-that being the throne room of God-John was actually exiled on the deserted island of Patmos. There he was on this Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea-but he’s literally caught up, literally transported by the Spirit to this great vision of heaven that God reveals to him. Look at what it says in Rev 4:1-2. And that became the focal point from last week as we got to share in John’s vision of heaven as he not only encountered the greatest place in all the universe-but encountered the greatest being in all the universe-that being the one seated on the throne. That’s of course God Himself. John sees the glory and grandeur of God. He hears that endless chorus being sung by the 4 living creatures-Rev 4:8. So that’s on constant repeat in heaven-an old classic that never gets old as it describes both the holiness and infiniteness of God that we examined last week. But then there’s another old classic being sung by the 24 elders as they cast their crowns before the Lord-Rev 4:11. This is song directly telling us why God is worthy of all our praise-because He created all things. Everything that exists is from His will-having been thought up by God and then brought into existence by God who makes something from nothing. And I want you to think about that remarkable concept for a moment. Without God there is nothing-absolutely, completely nothing. And nothing is hard to picture in our minds-try it-sort of a blank void. But God has always and will always exist-so because of Him instead of a blank void, instead of nothing-there is something. And it’s not just one something like God made a rock or designed a tree. There is an entire universe filled with stars, planets, galaxies-and our little world filled with mountains and trees and oceans and lions and tigers and bears. Oh my-it is amazing-not to mention that God made us-you and me and everybody we know. There is lots and lots of somethings because Someone chose to make them all. And if you’ve ever read the book of Job-the last 4 chapters contain God describing to Job all of the amazing life and creativity and diversity that make up creation, all the different animals God designed and brought into existence so that Job is brought back to the very place heaven is at-recognizing the truth of this song in Rev 4 that by God’s will everything exists and is created. In fact, the very idea of this truth being a song is contained in God’s words to Job 38:4-7. There was music in heaven the moment creation sprang into being and the world began. So these songs in heaven are old, old songs-ancient songs from the dawn of time that never get old. And yet this morning we’re going to encounter a new song in heaven. And that new song is all because of the One who approaches the throne.
Take a look at where this picks up-Rev 5:1-2. So before we talk about songs-we’re talking about books-in particular the type of book John would have been familiar with in his day and that’s a scroll. And I think the closest thing we can imagine to a scroll might be blueprint plans. Can you picture that? They’re rolled up with a rubber band around them-so you unroll it on a big table, and put some paperweights on the corners to read it. That’s the idea of a scroll-but in this case the scroll is still rolled up and sealed and the question is who can open it-v. 2. And this is a very important question because of the nature of this scroll and who’s holding it-which of course is God. But what does the scroll contain? As always in the book of Revelation there’s a variety of opinions on this-some Bible scholars think it could be the title deed to earth. others think it’s more like the last will and testament of earth, others think that it’s literally the rest of the book of Revelation-and that’s most likely the case. That what the scroll describes is are the words of Revelation 6 and onward to the end-thereby describing all of the different judgments that will come upon the earth, but also of the salvation of God’s people and the restoration of earth into something new. As one author said-The scroll represents God’s eternal, all-comprehensive decree-His purpose with respect to the entire universe. It’s being sealed indicates that God’s plan is both unrevealed and unexecuted. Opening the scroll by breaking its seal means the revealing and carrying out of God’s plan. And I love that description because this scroll isn’t just a blueprint of the foundations and structure of planet earth-it’s not the building plans of how to make it-but the blueprints for the destiny of planet earth and where it’s going. The presence of this scroll tells us God already knows what He’s doing. So Pt1: The Scroll’s existence: God knows the ending, He isn’t making this up as he goes.
It’s already mapped out, it’s already written down. It’s already thought through and decided-and that brings us great comfort. If there was ever a time to wonder if God was making this up as He goes-the year 2020 would be it! That the planet’s gotten out of control, people have gotten out of control and God’s been playing catch up trying to figure out the best way to solve everything. That’s not the case at all. The existence of this scroll in God’s right hand tells us that everything is funneling towards its proper destiny, everything is funneling towards the ending that God has already written which is a great ending exactly as He’s intended all along from before the world began. And only our God can do that-because even when we have a plan, and maybe it’s a well-thought out plan-there are times when we’re making it up as we go. Deciding things on the fly or second-guessing the things we’ve done. Literally this week I read what I didn’t want to read but knew was the truth. It was an article from an interview where the lead actress from the new Star Wars movies who played Rey said there were multiple changes along the way about the identity of her character. That even during the filming of the last movie she didn’t know whether her character was going to be a descendant of Obi Wan Kenobi, whether she was just a nobody who could use the Force, or a descendant of Emperor Palpatine-as she turned out to be. So the producers of the new Star Wars films-JJ Abrams-was making this up as he goes. There wasn’t an ending in mind, they didn’t know who Rey was or her destiny as a Jedi-they were just hoping it would be a good ending. But that’s not the case with the story or the destiny of our world. God is holding the script, holding the scroll in His hand that has it all written out-and He knows that it’s a good ending. None of what’s taking place in our world-both now or in the future-is plan B. God’s not holding multiple scrolls, He doesn’t have a few different drafts typed up in case things get too crazy or out of hand. Everything is proceeding as He’s intended, your life is proceeding as He’s intended-and even if tough times and bad things have happened-that doesn’t mean God’s lost the plot somewhere. Remember those great words in Rom 11:33-36; 8:28. And the reality of the scroll in God’s hand declares that fact loudly! His good purposes for your life are written there, His good purposes for our world are written there-Pt1. That brings all of us comfort. We’re perfectly safe and secure in Him. The only trouble is who is worthy to open the scroll?
That was the issue troubling John-Rev 5:3-4. And this is really remarkable-because it’s saying that after looking across the planet and human history-no one is able to open the scroll. Not Abraham who was so faithful, not Moses who got the 10 commandments, not David the man after God’s own heart; not Peter who walked on water, not Paul who wrote half the NT, not even John who was the disciple Jesus loved-none of those guys were worthy to open the scroll. No one today is worthy to open the scroll. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And yet there is One who’s worthy. Look at-Rev 5:5. The One who is the Lion of Judah. And you have to think back to our series on Joseph. He was #11 of 12 boys-but boy #4 was Judah who like the other brothers started off as a scoundrel-but in the end showed faith offering up his life on behalf of Benjamin. So there’s this great transformation in Judah, he begins to display a Christlike character that becomes a foreshadowing of Jesus-and right near the end of Genesis their father Jacob was blessing all 12 of his sons-and he said of Judah-Gen 49:9-10a. And that’s a prophecy of Jesus-as Judah is a lion cub so Jesus is the Lion King who will one day come and the scepter, meaning His rule and reign will never end. So from the first book of the Bible to the last we see this continuity concerning Christ-it’s all one big story about Him! Back to Rev 5:5. And further down the line King David comes from the tribe of Judah and Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was from the house and lineage of King David-so as a result of Jesus’ heritage-being the Lion of Judah and the Root of David-and the fact that He’s conquered-He is able to take the scroll from God’s hand and open it. Now we’ll talk about how He’s conquered momentarily-but we need to get this imagery of a lion in our minds-as that’s the image Scripture is using. Other than the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, the Lion is the fiercest and strongest of all the animals. There’s not a more intimidating creature out there. I saw this clip on Instagram of a huge lion walking through cars-lion clip-look at that size and swagger. I remember one time being at the Lincoln Park zoo in downtown Chicago and it was around 5pm and we heard the deepest low roar resound across the zoo-What was that? It was one of the lions roaring before a giant piece of meat the zookeepers had put in front of him. There’s a reason we love lions-top of the food chain, key of the jungle. So the lion is the perfect image of our conquering, ruling Messiah who’s going to open this scroll of God’s judgement and destiny. So John is looking for a lion. Where is this great and mighty beast going to emerge in heaven? Imagine John’s surprise-Rev 5:6-7.
John didn’t see a giant Lion come up and take the scroll in it’s paw and let out a mighty roar, he saw a Lamb. Instead of seeing the fiercest of all animals, he saw what is arguably one of the meekest and most helpless. When you’re a little kid pretending to be an animal a lion is a top choice, maybe a tiger or a cheetah or a grizzly bear or wolf, what kids says-Sheep,I’m going with a lamb-that one’s tough. Not at all! That’s because we know the lamb is often attacked by the wolf. The lamb becomes a tasty diner, it’s the animal led to slaughter, it’s the animal that’s sacrificed. And that’s precisely the image that John is seeing-I saw a Lamb standing as though it had been slain. And this is where the truth of who Jesus is emerges. Yes He is the roaring Lion of the tribe of Judah-but He is also the Lamb who was slain. And why? Why take on the image of a Lamb when the image of a Lion is so much greater? That’s because Jesus was the Lamb who was sacrificed for us. This Lion was led to the slaughter, this Lion was slain so that we could be saved. Pt2: The Lion and The Lamb’s worthiness: Jesus has conquered because He was slaughtered. Those aren’t easy words to write but that’s the message of the gospel, that’s the chorus of heaven. The reason that Jesus can take the scroll and open it, the reason that He can approach God’s throne is because He’s the Lion who conquered-and the reason He’s conquered is because He’s the Lamb who was slaughtered-the Lamb who was slain. Look back at Rev 5:5. So then what happens-Rev 5:8-what a reminder that our prayers matter-they’re poured out before the Lord. But listen to the music of heaven-Rev 5:9. There’s the new song! The old song was Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. And it’s a classic, it will always be sung in heaven. But this new song is an instant #1, top of the charts, and it now resounds and reverberates across the halls of heaven and we hear its echo on earth-Rev 5:9. This is the song that praises and glorifies Jesus our Savior. This is the song that declares why He is our victorious and conquering King. This is the song that tells us why He’s worthy. Its the song that impacts our eternal destiny-Rev 5:9-and that includes all of us here in the nation of America nearly 2,000 years after John had this vision. This new song includes you, it speaks of you, this is your theme song in life because you were ransomed by the blood of the Lamb, you were ransomed by Jesus at the cost of His life if you’ve put your trust in Him. The big question is have you done that? Have you trusted in the Lion and the Lamb who was slain for you? Back to Pt2.
And this is something that Heaven isn’t embarrassed about or ashamed of-that Jesus had to take on the meek and humble qualities of a Lamb; that our great Lion had to lower his head and be led to the slaughter. This is something that Heaven rejoices in and sings of loudly! Look at how this scene unfolds-Rev 5:11-12. And that’s precisely what we sang this morning-Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! We have life because He was put to death. We have an eternal inheritance in Heaven and an unshakable hope on earth because His blood was spilled. And this has been the theme woven throughout God’s Word, it’s gone across the centuries and down through the ages of earth’s history, culminating in this incredible new song. We’ve written these references down so go through them in your quiet time this week-Gen 22:7-8. God provided a physical Lamb so that Abraham’s son Isaac wasn’t sacrificed-but that’s because God’s Son one day would be sacrificed as The Lamb. Look at Ex 12:5-6; 23. God’s people were saved because their houses were covered by the blood of the lamb; we are saved because our hearts are covered by the blood of The Lamb. Look at Isa 53:6-7-all the rebellious sheep that went astray jumped over the fence- you and me in our sins-are saved because of the lamb that was led to slaughter-Isa 53:5. This is one of the clearest OT prophecies about Jesus giving up His life and dying for us-and its fulfilled by John the Baptist’s words-John 1:29. That is precisely what Jesus has come to do-this is exactly what heaven is singing about. Have you put your faith in the Lamb of God who has come to take your sins away? Your salvation and forgiveness isn’t something you’ve earned by trying to be really really good and prove to God that you’re worthy. This isn’t because you’ve done lots of good deeds and random acts of kindness to tip the scales and outweigh all your mistakes. It’s nothing you’ve done or deserved or bought for yourself. It’s because the Lamb has purchased and ransomed you with the cost of His blood. Here’s one last reference-1 Pet 1:18-19. Before we can ever praise our King, the great Lion of Judah, we have to embrace the Lamb and put our faith in Him. I like what Piper says-Exposition, 127. And that is exactly the song that His people will sing forever and ever-Rev 5:13-14. Might that be the very posture of our hearts-worshipping the Lion and the Lamb who is worthy of all our praise because He’s saved us by His blood! Does that include you? Can your heart sing this new song to the Lord who is worthy?