The Apocalypse Week 2:
The Lamb and the Scroll
Key Text: Rev 5
The “End is Nigh” – or is it? We seem obsessed about knowing and guessing when this will actually happen.
Now the thing is that this has been happening for quite some time. People and theories have come and gone, stating that such-and-such a date is definitely the end of the world. 2016 april was predicted 2015 and 2012. Before that we had y2k, and before that the Jehovah witnesses have predicted the end to be:1994, 1975, 1941, 1920, 1918, 1915, 1914. Can’t fault them on trying.
We have had predictions of 1850 by the Seventh Day Adventists.
1794 Charles Wesley thought that that year would be the end
1284 Pope Innocent III calculate that the end would be there by adding 666 to the date that Islam was founded.
The first millennia also was thought to be the end of the world by many people and in fact a few months in 1000AD where chosen.
500 was also chosen, for the sole reason that it was a round number.
Generation after generation has called itself the last generation.
Now they have all been kind of right, because the end has in fact come. And today we are going to look at why I say this.
We are continuing our series on Revelation, looking to some of the pictures that John gives the church to see God high and lifted up. These images teach us to appreciate who God is and speak to us in a way that blesses us.
Once again our understanding of Revelation comes from its opening statement
Revelation 1New International Version (NIV)
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
It is a revealing of Jesus Christ, and it is a blessing to those who hear it and take it to heart, and it is describing what must take place soon; because the time is near!
Today we are looking at the Lamb and the Scroll from Revelation 5.
This is continuing on from the previous picture John gives us of the exalted God upon His throne. John move to describe and encouraging image to the church an image that will give them hope and security in what they going through.
Before we read let us recap on how we interpret the images of Revelation:
1. Understanding the Old Testament is key to understanding Revelation
2. We have to take into account when the book was written
3. We have to understand that the book describes the end of days which describes the time that the letter was written as well as the time we live in now.
To those I wish to add another;
4. We have to interpret prophecy as biblical prophecy and not as predictions.
Let me explain; prediction is a particular event foretold. E.g. it is going to rain tomorrow. Either this will happen or it won’t. that is a prediction. Biblical prophecy is far more profound. Biblical prophecy has a building and expanding aspect to it before its final consummation. A good example of this is the prophecy about the exodus. It had its immediate fulfilment 400 years later when the people left Egypt, however, was further fulfilled when Israel came back out of captivity from Babylon. It has a spiritual fulfilment in the lives of us who believe, and are freed from the bondage of slavery to our sins, and it has its final fulfilment and consummation when Christ comes and finally frees us for all eternity.
I say this because that is the way that the Bible interprets its own prophecy. And it is the way that we understand it when we read Revelation which leans so much on the prophecies of the Old Testament.
So with this in mind let us read Revelation 5
Revelation 5New International Version (NIV)
The Scroll and the Lamb
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the thronea scroll with writing on both sidesand sealedwith seven seals.2 And I saw a mighty angelproclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lionof the tribe of Judah,the Root of David,has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw a Lamb,looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creaturesand the elders.The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes,which are the seven spirits[a]of God sent out into all the earth.7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.8 And when he had taken it, the four living creaturesand the twenty-four eldersfell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harpand they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayersof God’s people.9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthyto take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your bloodyou purchasedfor God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and prieststo serve our God,
and they will reign[b]on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.They encircled the throne and the living creaturesand the elders.12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb,who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earthand on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throneand to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creaturessaid, “Amen,”and the eldersfell down and worshiped.
Today’s passage is a great passage on the glorification of Christ and reminder to the church of the time that they live.
Today there are two great pictures given and each are intended to develop the church’s understanding of her role in the world, and to teach the church who her King truly is.
So let’s once again dive in:
The first image is that of…
1. The Scroll
A beautiful picture John gives, vivid in its explanation of what is happening. But the words used are chosen specifically to revoke a response in the reader to take him back to the Old Testament, so that the message of what he wants to say is delivered clearly and precisely.
Now scrolls are a picture used often in the Old Testament. We have references in Ezra 2:9, Jer 36:2 Zec 5:1, Isaiah.
So how do we interpret the picture from the Old Testament if it is not clear. Well John always gives a tell, a clue to where we are going. The clue in this passage is the fact that it is a sealed scroll. In verse 4 we read
.4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside
This is very good clue to where we find our Old Testament reference.
If we look at Daniel 12:4-9
Daniel 12:4-9New International Version (NIV)
4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time.[a] When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.
They Key here is that John is saying that it is the time of the end has come. Prophecy has been fulfilled.
Daniel’s scroll that had being sealed for the end has been open, there is one who is worthy to open it. Now this is significant, because the one who is worthy to open the seal is Christ.
Christ has ushered in the end of days, the time of the end because of his coming, because of his death and resurrection.
This scroll had been locked up for the announcement of the end of days, and there is only one who is worthy to open it and read it, and his name is Jesus Christ.
In Jesus the whole world has come into what is called the end of days.
Now this might be difficult to grasp because we think of it as climatic events that will precede a time like no other in all of history. But the message of the Old Testament, and New Testament and Revelation is this idea that the end is now. The kingdom of God has come. God’s has ushered in the end through Christ.
And we live in that end, and the church has lived in that end for the last 2000years. The writers of the New Testament were right in telling the church to watch and wait for they lived in just as much expectation of Christ’s glorious coming as we do today.
Now it must be said, Biblical Prophecy has a building aspect to it, so although the end is now, and we are living it out. There will come a time (which is very soon, as the whole of the New Testament teaches) that Christ will come on the clouds and completely destroy the world. That will be the final consummation of the prophecy of the Old and New Testament.
But what needs to be said is that Christ could come at any time. It is for our sakes and for the work of the gospel in the world that He delays at all we see this is.
We see this in 2 Peter 3:9 [READ]
2 Peter 3:9New International Version (NIV)
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,as some understand slowness. Instead he is patientwith you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The ushering in of the end is exactly why John weeps in verse 4 because no one was worthy to usher in the end. If that was so, if no one was worthy, men sins would not have been dealt with, we would still be under the Law and condemnation.
Forgiveness wound not have been won, and the final victory would be impossible, and all the suffering of the church would be for nothing.
But the good news for the churches of Asia minor and for us today is that the end has come, victory has been won and we are on a mission to spread the good news of victory to all the world!
Now the time has come because Christ has come, he is the central theme and the most important part, which is our next image, that is of the Lamb
2. The Lamb
This is the primary image of this passage, the focus of what John is saying.
The scroll only points to this image.
The Lamb is obviously Christ a simple reading of the text gives us this understanding. However, what I want to show is the profound theology that John places in the image of Christ in this passage.
Firstly, He is the lamb which has been slain, connecting us to the sacrificial lamb of God. Jesus bears the marks of his sacrifice and a point of His glory.
The Crucified Christ, in all the glories of heaven is still prominent. His death rings out for all eternity as a great work that God has done for His people.
It says in verse 6
This is the lamb that stands between the throne and the 24elders and the living creatures. Why does he stand there? Because He is their mediator; standing in the gap between God’s holiness and the people of God.
It is Christ who stand between our sin and God’s holiness. Christ bares your sin so that you can bare his holiness. This is the first part of the image of Christ in Chapter 5.
The next question that should come to us is why does he have 7eyes and 7horns and the seven spirits of God?
Well 7 once again in Revelation always has the Jewish significance of God, or perfection.
So when applied to the Seven Spirits of God, this means the Holy Spirit. John is saying that Christ sent the Holy Spirit out into the world. Which connects with the words of Christ when he says in John 14:16
“I will pray and the Father shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever.”
Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, which has been given to everyone who believes.
So that is the seven Spirit’s of God but what about the seven eyes and seven horns?
Well once again we are not to interpret this literally, Jesus is not some slain lamb in Heaven with 7eyes and 7horns. No He is in the form that he was when He appeared to His disciples. These are images that convey meaning to the churches to Asia Minor and to us today.
So what do they mean?
Well once again 7 means perfection, but what do eyes and what do horns mean?
Well Horns represent in Revelation; might; or authority. They have the significance of power. We can contrast this with the beast and his 10 horns, that can be understood as 10 seats of power, or the power of the beast.
So the Lamb is shown with 7horn which shows that the lamb is perfectly powerful, perfectly mighty. This is a display of Christ’s deity.
One thing that is so beautiful about the book of Revelation is the Deity of Christ, cannot be argued. John makes sure that his readers know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the same Christ who has saved them form their Sins is God Almighty! He is perfect in power and might!
The next aspect is that of His seven eyes.
7 is that of perfection of Deity. Eyes are connected with his omniscience. Or his ability to know everything. In other words, John is telling the church that Jesus, the lamb, who died for you and me, is God.
He is not less than God, Jesus is the second person of the God head, equally God.
He is perfect in power, and in knowledge and wisdom. Non can compare to Him.
This is the Jesus that we serve. So what does this mean to us? What was John emphasising to the church?
1. In Christ the end has come, we no longer live to victory we live from it.
And although we look forward to that day when Christ will come to welcome us home, we live in a victory that Christ secured for us 2000years ago. Christ was worthy to open the scroll.
2. Because Christ is worthy, because of what He has done, you and I stand redeemed, he has made us kings and priests as it says in this passage, and we can live out courageously in this time of the end because Christ has redeemed us.
I pray that we might continue to see Christ as Lord above every lord. That He would reign in our hearts, and that we would trust in Him for He is truly worthy, in this we would understand that living for Him is all that matters! Church we are living out the end, for the glory of the lamb.