Text: Revelation 5:1–14
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. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 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.” 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. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 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. 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, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 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.
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Today, we begin (use began if class is before the service, use will begin if class is after the service) to study the book of Revelation – the last book of the Bible. We will be taking a journey together in the following weeks. You will marvel at John’s grand vision that transcends both time and space…It is full of images of strange creatures, odd people, and battle scenes. There are many numbers that seem interesting too. How do we interpret all these? For now, in short, there is more to the Book of Revelation than meets the eye. That’s because Revelation is a symbolic book. It’s not meant to be read literally. Did St. John really see all that he saw? Yes, but they all have symbolic and spiritual meanings too. The book of Revelation is meant to be read as multiple descriptions of Jesus and His Church, both on earth and in heaven, both now and on Judgement Day. First, Revelation is about the exalted Christ – Christology is the center of our theology. Second, it’s about Christ’s Church in the New Testament era, which also has everything to do with the old testament. So, whenever you read Revelation, you always have to go back to the life and words of Jesus, and to the Old Testament scriptures, and to the life of the church. Today’s text, the fifth chapter of Revelation is a typical example. We see four living creatures and 24 elders revolving around a Lamb. We hear countless saints singing a new song joined by myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels, and eventually, even with 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!” The lamb looks as though it had been slain. He takes the scroll that no one was initially able to open. The key word here is “worthy”. A mighty angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to open the scroll or to look into it, meaning no one is worthy to open it. So, everyone freaks out in a good way because only this slain Lamb is worthy to do it. That’s today’s text and the central theme of today’s sermon.
I like the hymn “This Is the Feast” that we sing almost every time we have Holy Communion in Chinese services and often in English Services. It’s one of the hymns that both the church on earth (Church Militant) and in heaven (Church Triumphant) sing. We sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” has begun His reign (v.12). The slain Lamb lives. In His hand is the fate of the world. That’s why John was crying when no one could open the scroll initially, because the scroll contains the will of God for the world, for humanity and for history. The Lamb is Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He alone is worthy.
Why? You may ask. Why is He alone worthy but no one else? There are two parts to this. Firstly, you are not worthy. I am not worthy, even John was not worthy because of the sins we have. How can a sinful person reveal the will of a Holy God? Secondly, Only Jesus has lived the praiseworthy life. He is the one who has no need to move on from past actions, no need of forgiveness, that is. For Jesus has lived perfectly under God’s law, having that blessed life that knows no shames or regret. And you have not. I have not. The world has not.
However, this is something people don’t like to hear. Because if you are not worthy, what does that say about all of your accomplishments? What does that say about the things you did in life that you were so proud of? Don’t these account for anything? What about the times you were selfless and giving, times you went out of your way to help others? What about the times you stood up for a good and noble cause instead of being silent? What about the times you gave helpful advice that pointed someone in a good direction? That doesn’t make you worthy?
No, it does not. Works do not make the person worthy. And that’s a problem, because all people have sinful nature, and “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). All people are tainted in their inmost being. Consider your own life. Are you also selfish at times, disobedient to God, unjustly angry, bitter, or lustful in heart, covetous, neglectful of God’s Word and prayer, self-idolizing? If you are any of this these, then all of this wickedness also spills over into your words and actions and contaminates them too. Even your good works are contaminated. Even if a sinner were to do something great and noble in the eyes of the world, like curing cancer or giving millions of dollars away in scholarships or charities, it would not make the person worthy before God! Because of your own personal unworthiness as a sinner, your works are unworthy. Because you are contaminated by sin in your nature, even the “good” works that come from this nature are likewise contaminated. By nature and actions, you cannot be made worthy before God.
Works do not make the person worthy. It is actually the other way around. The person makes the works worthy. If someone is righteous, pure, just, spiritually clean, wholesome, and good, then that person’s works will be the same. That person’s worthiness makes his works worthy, even if it’s something simple and mundane, like vacuuming the floor or buying groceries. For these works flow from a pure source, just like pure spring water comes from a pure source in the mountains. So, you see that where the person is good and pure, there his works are too.
Jesus alone is worthy. As true God and true man, Jesus is clean, good, and pure by nature. From birth, Jesus alone is innocent and sinless. Jesus alone lived a sinless life under God’s Ten Commandments. He alone is righteous. Therefore, because Jesus alone is worthy, he alone is the perfect sacrifice for sinners. He is the lamb slain on the cross to save sinners. Laying down His perfect life, he alone can pay the price for all sins for all sinners. Yet just as the Lamb is living, so too is Jesus living. Just as the lamb Who was slain, now comes back and lives, so too has Jesus risen from the dead and lives. He is the living Lamb who once was slain.
Because Jesus Himself is worthy, so His works also are worthy. His death is therefore worthy – worthy to reverse the curse of sin, purify those contaminated by sins, and to save sinners from eternal hell. His death is worthy to pay the price of the sins of the whole world so that we can be washed; our robes made white in the blood of the Lamb. And His resurrection is worthy to end death forever. Since Jesus is the righteous Son of God made man, all of His works are worthy. Even the ones that may not seem important or interesting. And the same thing spills out and applies to us too. Before a righteous God, the works do not make the person worthy, the person makes the works worthy. The good thing about Jesus is that this is all for you. This is all one big worthy gift for you, for the sinful and unworthy like you. You who were not worthy in yourself, now are declared worthy by the Word of the Lamb who is worthy. That official Word declares that you are righteous, that your sins, which are so inherent in you, are not charged against you. That Lamb’s Word declares that His blood covers you, cleanses and restores you, and makes you worthy to be called sons of God, because His worthiness is transferred to you through faith in Jesus, the Lamb.
Therefore, your works are made worthy as well. In Christ Jesus, you are a new creature. You have a new life. Now, you live, move, and have your being grounded in the forgiveness of sins and the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. So, your parenting is made worthy. Your job is made worthy when you are in Christ Jesus because the believer is sanctified , your working, nursing, doing family chores, changing diapers… is made worthy before God. Thanks be to God and the Lamb! Now, we can join with the church Triumphant, those who died in the saving faith, and with angels and archangels to sing the praises, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” Amen!
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!