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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:Who is Worthy?
Text:Revelation 5 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Welcome & Silent Prayer
* Call to Worship
* Declaration of our Dependence upon God
* God’s Greeting

Service of Praise & Confession

* Song of Praise: “Another Year is Dawning!” # 555
God’s Holy Law: With Response from the Epistles (responsive reading, see insert)
Assurance of Pardon
Song of Response: “O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord” # 103E:1-3
Congregational Prayer
* Song of Preparation: “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim” # 284

Service of God’s Holy Word

Scripture Reading: Revelation 5
Sermon: “Who is Worthy?”
Prayer of Application
* Song of Response: “Lamb, Precious Lamb” # 353
* Benediction
* Doxology: “O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord” # 103E:5
“High in the heav’ns his throne is fixed forever, his kingdom rules o’er all from pole to
pole; bless ye the Lord through all his wide dominion, bless his most holy name, O thou
my soul. Bless him, ye angels, wondrous in might, bless him, his servants, who in his
will delight.”
* Reverent Reflection
* Postlude

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Worthy is the Lamb


Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, before we get into the details of our passage, I want to first ask you the question: what does it mean to be worthy? The online dictionary defines the word worthy as: having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way.


By way of illustration, think of the Medal of Honor. That medal is the highest military decoration attainable in the United States Armed forces. It is awarded to any soldier, sailor, marine, or airmen who has distinguished himself or herself by their act of bravery or heroism in battle. So giving someone that medal is a way of saying you are a worthy solider! You stand out above the rest by reason of our act of valor. You have proven your worthiness!


Here in Revelation 5, the heavenly hosts are singing about the worth and worthiness of the Lamb. They are singing of the unsurpassed greatness, the incomparable excellence, the matchless glory and merit of the Lamb of God.


This passage before us reveals the reason He is worthy! This is what we will consider today: God’s Word Reveals the Lamb who was Worthy to Open the Scroll.    

  1. The Desperate Search for the Lamb (1-4); 
  2. The Triumphant Appearance of the Lamb (5-14).


1)  The Desperate Search for the Lamb

I want to provide some context to the scene before us, so let’s start in chapter 4. In verse 2, John said he was “in the Spirit”, which is the same thing he said back in chapter 1:10. This indicates that he was receiving a prophetic vision from the Lord. In this vision in chapter 4:2, he sees a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Vs. 3, the one on the throne had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and encircling the throne was a rainbow resembling an emerald. 


All of this is intended to describe the indescribable, to somehow capture in human words the beauty and glory of God’s holiness and radiance. It’s like trying to describe the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset. Words fail to do it justice.  


Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones, and seated on them were the 24 elders. Although we can’t know for a certainty what this represents, some suggest that they represent the 12 tribes of Old Testament Israel and the 12 Apostles of the New Testament Church. This could mean that this is a representation of all the saints of God, of the whole company of believers before the throne of God. They are dressed in white, adorned with crowns of gold, symbolizing purity and royalty.


In the center, closest to the throne were the four living creatures, with 6 wings and covered with eyes. They are similar to the angelic beings described in Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1. And it would seem that their job was to fly about the throne and sing praises to the One who sits on the throne: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.


We’re told that whenever the 4 living creatures gave glory honor and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, then the 24 elders would fall down before him as well, casting their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…

What an amazing, marvelous, beautiful vision this is – of the glory and worship of heaven.


That glorious heavenly scene spills over into chapter 5. John’s attention is still focused on the one who sits on the throne, but now, in this scene, his focus zeroes in on what he is holding in his hand. Verse 1 says, I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  


A scroll was essentially a book (in John’s day). It would be words written on parchment (similar to paper) and then rolled up tightly. The fact that the scroll was sealed with seven wax seals indicates the fulness and completeness of what was written within it, and it also indicated that only someone with the proper credentials, with the proper authorization could break the seals and reveal the contents of the scroll.

And what exactly was contained in the scroll? What was it about? The fact that the one sitting on the throne was holding the scroll in his right hand gives us our first clue. The right hand is ordinarily associated with dispensing judgment and justice. And sure enough, as we look ahead in the coming chapters of the book of Revelation we see that this is indeed the case.


This scroll, this book, contains God’s will, God’s sovereign plan concerning what must soon take place before Christ’s second coming. It concerns the judgments as well as the deliverance and redemption that God would bring about on the earth.


Notice that this scroll, this book has already been written. In fact, it has writing on both sides – both front and back. This communicates to us the idea of fullness and completeness. In other words, there’s nothing left to write. All has been decreed and all has been decided.


Everything that is going to happen in the last days, between Christ’s ascension and his second coming, is already known by God. It has been pre-determined and foreordained by God. Nothing is left to chance.  Not one detail has been overlooked.  


Even without knowing the exact contents of this scroll, this already brings us immeasurable comfort! Yes, it can be a little alarming and disconcerting to discuss the end times and the judgment that God is bringing upon this world; but it is so reassuring and comforting to know that God’s plan is decreed in full. 


All the things that have happened in our world - and in our own lives - this past year, the things that are happening right now, and all that will transpire in the New Year – they are all known by God, all foreordained by God. It is just another page, another chapter in his book.


This is a comfort to us for at least two reasons. First, it is a great comfort to know that nothing ever surprises God! God knows the end from the beginning. He has it all written down in his book.  God is never in a position where he has to react to something unplanned or unexpected. God never has to reconsider his plans or move to plan “B”.

No. God’s plans have been decreed from before the foundation of the world. And throughout the book of Revelation, we see a God who is not subject to change or indecision, who is all-powerful, who is all wise and all knowing, who brings his perfect plan to its glorious end.  


This means that even in the midst of war, injustice, persecution, pestilence and also great evil – we can trust that God remains in control. Even though we may not be able to see or explain the reason or rhyme of what happens in our world, we can have complete trust and faith and hope that God’s ways are better and higher and wiser than our ways.    


A second source of comfort here is simply knowing that with each passing day, with each passing year, the pages of the scroll are turning. Today we are closer to the end than yesterday; this New Year is closer to the end that last New Year. The end of all things is drawing near. Are you prepared for that? Are you comforted by that? Or does that trouble you? Are you praying for that day to come, or are you dreading that day?     


As we look at vv. 2-3, we’re told that John sees a mighty angel (perhaps Michael or Gabriel). He comes forth and asks in a loud voice: Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside.


So here is a conundrum, a great puzzle, a great dilemma. Here’s the scroll containing God’s perfect plan, God’s decree for all creation, the future of my life, your life, of God’s judgment concerning not only the world, but also Christ’s church in the world and the saints in heaven above who anxiously awaiting all these things to take place – yet no one can open it.


To be most precise, it means that no one was found who was worthy, who was able, to carry out, to put God’s plan into action, to bring it to fruition. No one in heaven, or on earth or under the earth – no man or angel or any other creature. Not Gabriel, or the powerful Michael, nor the heavenly creatures. No one is found.


For this reason, and for that moment, John is overcome with inconsolable grief and sorrow. He weeps and weeps because he senses the hopelessness. In his commentary Wm. Hendriksen explains why no one volunteers, why no one steps forward to open the scroll.  Why not?  Because that would be to accept the commission to bring to pass what is written therein (p. 111).  He compares this to an admiral of a great fleet who receives his orders, but is not permitted to open his orders until the fleet has already set out to sea. 


So the fleet sets sail, to what destination and for what purpose—no one knows, not one sailor, perhaps not even the admiral himself. That won’t be known until the moment the admiral breaks the seal, (opens the safe) and reads the orders for his fleet. Then it becomes his responsibility, his duty, his calling to see to it that the orders are carried out.


But imagine the chaos, the despair of having an entire fleet set out to sea, all fueled and supplied, the crew ready for duty, ready to carry out their orders, but then no admiral can be found anywhere to open the orders and carry them out. That’s the despair John is feeling! 


I believe that what John felt in his soul at that moment was the awful, soul-terrifying hopelessness of what this world would be like without a Savior, without a Redeemer, without a Lord and King like Jesus to save us from our sins, to rule at God’s right hand, to bring to fruition all that God had planned and decreed from before the beginning.


How hopeless this world would be, how hopelessly lost we would be, without Christ! Without a Savior to save from our sin, to give us peace and comfort, to rescue us from the dungeon of our sin and depravity and from hell itself! How awful, how miserable we would be (this world would be) without Christ!    


Now, it might help us to understand that the scene revealed here in chapter 5 is what Hendriksen calls pure pageantry. It’s not like such a moment ever happened in history.  It’s not like God had to search heaven and earth, high and low, for someone like Jesus to open the seal. We know that much. We know that Christ is the One who is worthy. 


So why this pageantry? God is deepening John’s (and our) appreciation and understanding of the worth of Christ! He’s deepening John’s love for Christ, showing him his desperate need for Christ. And this morning, may God impress that same appreciation and love and need upon our hearts and minds—that we too might see the immeasurable worth, and greatness of Jesus Christ.

2)  The Triumphant Appearance of Christ (5-14)

Those tears are quickly wiped away – as we turn to verse 5. Here we consider the Triumphant Appearance of Christ. Verse 5 tells us that one of the elders came to John and consoled him saying, Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. 


When we think of Jesus as the Lion of Judah, the image that comes to mind is that of a ferocious beast, a strong and mighty lion who devoured all his enemies. We think of C.S. Lewis and his depiction of Aslan as the mighty Lion and protector of Narnia.


Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah – linking his earthly heritage with that of royalty – of king David. It calls to mind the promises God made to David that his throne would be established for ever and ever. Even though, at times, the lineage of David looked more like a stump than a tree, yet from that stump sprang forth a fruitful branch. Jesus was David’s true son, the Lion of Judah.    


And boys and girls, what is so surprising and remarkable about this passage is that while John is told not to weep, not to worry for the Lion has triumphed, what does John sees in verse 6. To our surprise, it’s not a lion that John sees, is it?  No. What does he see?   


John looks and sees not a lion, but a Lamb! It was a lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  The Lion has become a Lamb


Why this sudden change of imagery?  What accounts for this? It’s quite simple to understand. The Lord is revealing to us the reason this One, this Lion of Judah, the root of David is worthy to open the scroll. It’s because He came into this world to be the sacrificial Lamb. He laid down his life for His people. He suffered and died on Calvary’s cross to make atonement for sinners and to seal the victory over his enemies -- over the powers and principalities of Satan and death and hell and the grave!

You see, it was the very nature of His sacrificial death that made the Lamb triumphant! That is why He is worthy and now stands at the center of the throne, worthy to open the seal and worthy of all glory honor and praise!


Notice as well the Lamb who stands in the center of the throne is no ordinary Lamb.  He has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. The seven horns symbolize Christ’s power, the honor that belongs to Him as the Almighty King.   The seven eyes symbolize that he is all seeing and all knowing.


He is the King whose power extends to the ends of the earth, who’s keenly aware of the plight of His people amidst the tumult of the nations. And he sees the needs of his people; he has compassion for their pain and suffering. He is able to help them persevere in the face of their trials, tribulations, and temptations.


This Lamb is to be feared and worshipped by all the nations. This Lamb brings judgment on the earth. And he will bring severe judgment on all those who fail to bow down to Him and worship Him as King and Lord.


So, this is the One who is worthy by reason and by rite of conquest --  by laying down His life, and rising from the grace, and ascending into heaven and sitting on the throne – where He now receives all power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! 


That is the reason for the three songs we find in the rest of this chapter. They are all sung in celebration of the lamb’s victory and his worthiness. The first doxology is also the longest -- found in verse 9: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tongue tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on earth.    


That song sings the praises of Christ’s atonement: the power and efficacy of his shed blood, also the all-encompassing scope of his grace and mercy and love as the Lamb has purchased people from every tongue, tribe and language on earth. It also sings of the Lamb’s inclusion of them into his kingdom and giving them their calling and vocation to live as prophets, priests and kings in service to God.


This is what the Lamb does. From the time of his sitting on the throne until He comes back again, this is the plan that he and he alone will carry out. I believe this revelation would have brought John and the church in his day the same immeasurable joy and hope and comfort and confidence as it does to us here today – and to God’s people in any age.


As we stand at the threshold of another New Year, we have no way of knowing what this New Year may hold for us. Yes, we probably have made many plans for this New Year. But while we plan and we propose, we confess that God is ultimately the one who decides. Man proposes but God disposes, and sometimes (as we have recently experienced with COVID) all our plans can come to nothing. But that’s the amazing thing about God’s plans. They are all written down. They will surely come to pass.


And no matter what difficulties we encounter, no matter what trials we may face, no matter what heartache, sorrow, loss or tragedy we may be made to endure, the comfort we have is knowing that He is worthy!


Christ has come to bring all things to their perfect God ordained and glorious end. And because Christ has come, because he has paid the price, because he has removed God's judgment from me, it means that everything God brings into my life is intended for my spiritual good.


This is what we believe. This is what we confess. This is what we know to be true. Through the trials, through the heartache, through suffering and loss God intends to sanctify me, to purify my faith, had to draw me closer and closer to him each day until but final day when he returns. For these reasons and many more we sing: He is worthy! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 1-1-, Pastor Keith Davis

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