Worthy is the Lamb: Jesus Christ Unlocks History – Revelation 5:1-14


The text for the sermon today is Revelation 5:1-14. Our text can be found on page 1030. These are the words of God:

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,
10         and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 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, 12 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!”
13 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!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


What makes you celebrate? This coming Thursday our nation will sit down to tables spread with turkey, dressing, a variety of vegetables that all the children will pass over, and pumpkin pies. As a nation, we’ll celebrate all the many blessings we enjoy, giving thanks and enjoying family and friends.

But there are many other occasions for celebrations that we observe. Our entire year is full of celebrations. We celebrate national holidays such as Independence Day or Memorial Day. We celebrate religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. We even celebrate holidays that we don’t understand.

Originally St. Patrick’s Day was called the Feast of St. Patrick, in which the church celebrated the conversion of Ireland from paganism to Christianity. But what about today? What are we celebrating? Ireland? The color green? Shamrocks and leprechauns?

Once a year we celebrate birthdays, which mark off another year of God’s sustaining our physical life. We throw showers and receptions for weddings and babies, celebrating the beginning of a new family or a new generation. You might celebrate a personal milestone, like the graduation of high school or college, or a promotion at work.

Celebrations set human beings apart from every other living creature. Dogs don’t celebrate wedding anniversaries. Cats don’t celebrate a month of weight loss with a cheat meal. Chimpanzees don’t throw parties when their children graduate from Ape School.


But why? Why do we celebrate? If you think about it, from an evolutionary perspective, celebrations are terribly wasteful; they are an unnecessary expenditure of resources that could be saved up for the survival of the species. So, why do we celebrate?

Friend, you might say that celebrations are part of what make humans human. Because we are made in the image of the Creator, we have an internal knowledge that our lives are significant. The events of history have real and lasting meaning, be they the founding of a nation in 1776, or the evangelization of Ireland. In fact, historical events are so imbued and charged with meaning precisely because God works within history.

That’s why we celebrate Christmas. We recognize that the Son of God, as a fact of history, took unto himself a human nature, and had a birthday. That same Son of God, as a fact of history, was crucified outside of Jerusalem bearing the sins of his people, and was raised again three days later.

You see, the Christian view of history is not like the evolutionary view, which requires blind chance to determine what happens next. Nor is the Christian view of history like the Marxist view, that the material world is all there is, and therefore history is determined by economic relationships.

Rather, we believe that God who spoke both time and space into existence; who created all things by the Word of his power, is the same God who in Christ Jesus is redeeming all things in heaven and earth. The end of history isn’t the frozen, dead universe of the evolutionist, nor is it some utopia brought about by the proletariat’s rebellion against the bourgeoisie.

No, the end of history is a cosmic celebration, and as we will see in our passage today, it is brought about through the person of Jesus Christ. As we consider the unlocking of history, and the celebration that awaits those who are in Christ, let’s work through this passage in 4 parts:

  1. The Scroll He Saw (5:1)
  2. The Tears He Shed (5:2-4)
  3. The Comfort He Received (5:5-7)
  4. The Song He Heard (5:8-14)

Church, as we examine this passage, I pray you will know that Christ alone unlocks all of history. And if you are not a Christian, I pray that even today you will see that your life fits into God’s plan to redeem all things in Christ, and therefore you will turn to him in faith.

  1. THE SCROLL HE SAW (5:1)

In order to set the stage, consider what we studied last week in Revelation 4. The Apostle John, exiled on the Aegean island of Patmos for preaching Christ, received a vision from Jesus Christ in which he was invited up into heaven and there he saw, at the center of all things: a throne. God, seated on his throne is the ultimate center of all reality, and John relayed to us the worship that eternally occurs there.

Now, in Revelation 5:1 we read the following:

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.

Our attention is drawn from the one on the throne to a scroll or book in his right hand, the hand of God’s power.

If you were a first-century Roman citizen, you would instantly recognize the significance of a seven-sealed scroll. That’s because, in ancient Rome, the last will of a person’s estate and inheritance was written front and back on a scroll and sealed by seven witnesses. Only upon the death of a testator could the seals be broken and the legal inheritance be executed. So, this scroll is a deed of inheritance.

On the other hand, Jews reading this knew that centuries earlier, God had worked powerfully in the life of the prophet Daniel. Daniel gave many prophecies of the kingdoms of Babylon, the Medes & Persians, of even Greece and Rome.

Daniel was also told of the last days when God would judge sin and evil. In Daniel 7:13 we read these words:

13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.

14 And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

In the final chapter of the book, Daniel inquired of the Lord when these last days would take place. But instead of giving Daniel an answer, the Lord told Daniel to “shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4, 9)

Amazingly, the Lord Jesus, in Mark 14:62, foretelling his resurrection form the dead and ascension to the Father, quotes this very passage.

62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

You see, Daniel’s prophecy had been sealed up because the saints of the Old Testament could not have understood the full meaning of the Messianic age without direct knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, and what he came to do. But now that Christ has been revealed in the flesh, history has entered its final phase.

Church, you are living in the last days. The prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, foresaw a future age in which God’s Messiah would rule and reign, it would be a time of peace when the nations would come to Christ, they would learn to obey God’s commands, and God’s glory would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

But, when you turn to the New Testament, you realize that this reign of Christ, which the prophets saw as taking place at the end of the age, actually overlaps our current age. In other words, the kingdom reign of Christ is inaugurated not at the end of history, but right in the middle.

If we take both of those together we begin to form an understanding of what this scroll represents. This scroll represents the title deed to the earth, the plans, purposes, and judgments of God. It is written on both front and back, therefore nothing can be added to this plan.And, this scroll represents the unfolding of all history between Christ’s first and second advent. And John desperately wants to see what is in this scroll. How will God unfold the end of history and bring it to its consummation?

  1. THE TEARS HE SHED (5:2-4)

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.

The only way to unlock all of God’s redemptive plan and judgment is to break the seals and open the scroll. And the question is, as Joel Beeke says, “Who is equal to the task of executing God’s plan, realizing his decrees, and carrying out his purposes in the universe? If it were left to us, there would be no kingdom of God, no salvation for mankind, no spread of the gospel, and no final righteous judgment.” And therefore, John weeps.

Friend, what do you weep about? What brings tears to your eyes? Do you weep over your own need for forgiveness? Do you weep for those who have not heard the gospel? When you see hostages taken in Israel, cities bombed in Ukraine, and abortion legalized in our own nation, do you weep; longing for the day when God will set things to right? Church, apart from Jesus Christ opening this scroll, there is no hope for us, for the nations, for good.

Friends, notice that the question asked is not whether someone is strong enough to open the book. Rather, the question is, “Who is worthy?” Is there anyone who has the character, the righteousness, the quality of life to receive this title deed to the earth? And John weeps, for no one in heaven was worthy.

Consider who was in heaven when John received this vision. The Apostle Paul had already been beheaded by Nero nearly two decades earlier, as had Peter within a few years of Paul. But neither of these men, hand-selected by Jesus himself were worthy.

What about David, Israel’s greatest king, the man after God’s own heart? Or what about Moses, the great prophet and deliverer of the children of Israel; the man who split the Red Sea and saw the glory of God on Sinai and delivered God’s law to the people. What about Abraham, the father of the faith, who believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness?

Friend, no one in heaven, not even the holiest saint was found worthy to receive this book.

The search expanded to earth. Surely there were great and powerful leaders of men, kings and emperors who might be able to enact and bring about God’s plans of redemption and judgment. But no. No man or woman on earth could be found. Not the Emperor Domitian, or any of the early church fathers.

Church this is a reminder that even the best of men, are men at best. As important as it is that we elect godly men and women to public office, and it is, none of them are able to enact God’s eternal plans of redemption. No politician, no pastor, no spouse, no child. If we place the hope of our immortal souls in any of these, not only will our hearts be broken, but we’ll become idolaters; looking to men for what only the Son of Man can do.

We have seen:

  1. The Scroll He Saw
  2. The Tears He Shed



As John weeps and no one can be found who is worthy, one of the 24 elders notices his tears and speaks words of tremendous comfort:

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.”

Who is this Lion of Judah and Root of David? Well, those are two Old Testament references to Jesus Christ. The first comes from Genesis 49:


Judah is a lion’s cub;

from the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He stooped down; he crouched as a lion

and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until tribute comes to him;

and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

And the second is from Isaiah 11:9

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

These were prophecies that would help Israel properly identify the Messiah of God. He would descend from the tribe of Judah, and more specifically, from the lineage of Jesse and King David.

Of course, Jesus perfectly meets these two prophetic requirements. He is the Lion of Judah. As the Root of Jesse, he is the rightful heir to David’s throne. And, as John turns to see this conquering Lion he is utterly shocked because when he turns around, instead of a Lion he sees a Lamb. And not just a Lamb, but who somehow appears to have been offered as a blood sacrifice. Yet this Lamb is standing and alive.

What is happening? Who is this one who is both a Lion and a Lamb? And what makes him worthy of taking the scroll? Church this is Jesus Christ, and what qualifies him is his victory: he conquered. But unlike every other human conqueror, Jesus victory is greater and his means of victory are more surprising. What did he conquer? While other warriors conquered nations, Jesus conquered the power of sin and the plans of the devil. In his perfectly obedient life Jesus conquered sin. He did what the first Adam did not do; where we failed to obey God, Christ the Son perfectly obeyed the Father on our behalf and received our punishment. And, in his resurrection, he conquered the plan of the devil to destroy him. Church, who could possibly execute the contents of this scroll if he could not first be master over sin? Who could bring about God’s redemptive plan and judgments if he was not able to first triumph over Satan? This is what makes Jesus, and Jesus alone, worthy to unlock all of God’s plans for history. And this is what brought John comfort.

Friend, this is what will bring you comfort in your distress, in your disappointments: Christ has conquered. Has your life not worked out the way you had planned: Christ has conquered. Have you received a diagnosis that has shaken you: Christ died in your place and was raised. Are you daily weighed down with concerns for your future? Friend, not one of God’s redemptive purposes will fail because Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, the Root of Jesse, the Lamb who was slain has taken the scroll and he will execute every line of God’s eternal plans not just for the cosmos—but for you personally.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.

The Scroll he saw, the tears he shed, the comfort he received…

  1. THE SONG HE HEARD (5:8-14)


When Christ takes the scroll from the one seated on the throne all of heaven and all of earth break out in song. John says “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” acknowledges the kingly rule of Jesus Christ. And as they sing about the worthiness of the Lamb, I want to draw your attention to two details in their song.

First, I want you to notice that the Lamb possesses the same power and authority as the one who is seated on the throne. When heaven worships the Lamb, they are worshipping God. When heaven worships the one on the throne in chapter 4, they are worshiping God. Just as the elders fell before the throne in chapter 4, they now fall down at the feet of the Lamb. This is because the Lamb is the Second Person in the Holy Trinity. Though the Son of God is distinct from the Father in his person, he is equal in essence or nature. One of the greatest statements on the deity of Christ comes from the Nicene Creed, written in A.D. 325. Of the son it says:

[I believe in] one Lord Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      begotten from the Father before all ages,
           God from God,
           Light from Light,
           true God from true God,
      begotten, not made;
      of the same essence as the Father.

I don’t know if you realize this, but the Christian view of Jesus is different from the Islamic, Jehovah’s Witness, or Mormon view of Jesus. The Islamic view of Christ is that he was a mere human prophet. The view of Jehovah’s Witness is that Jesus Christ was a created by Jehovah as the archangel Michael and is a lesser God. The Mormon view is that Jesus is the offspring of a “heavenly father” and “heavenly mother,” who became exalted to godhood and, even more strangely, that Jesus and Lucifer (who were brothers) both offered to be the Messiah. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus a created being. Church, we may have family, friends, or neighbors who are Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormon, and we have a responsibility to love them by explaining to them, from passages like Revelation 5, that Jesus Christ is clearly the eternally existent Son of God.

The second detail I want you to note in their song is this: Jesus Christ ransomed a people.

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,

When Jesus Christ went to the cross, he was not dying for the possibility that some might be saved. No, he ransomed actual people. He didn’t die for the prospect that sinners in general might be saved. Rather, he took a list of names to the cross. He died for the sins of his people. But notice where his people come from: every tribe, every language, every people, every nation. The death of Christ embraces all sorts of men and women: all ethnic groups, and linguistic groups. There is no favoritism or partiality. He did not save us because we were beautiful, but to make us beautiful. He did not ransom us because we were righteous but to give us his perfect righteousness. Friend, though God chooses to save, “that choice is not elitist, or snobbish. There is no preference or bias.” (Beeke) He welcomes the weakest, the vilest the poor.

So, if you hear his voice today, if you believe he has died to redeem you from your sins today, then trust him. Confess your need of him. If you have more questions about what that means, after the service come talk to me, or even talk to one of the people sitting near you. This church is full of people who love Jesus and can help explain the gospel to you.

That soul who on Jesus has leaned for repose,

I will not I will not desert to its foes

That soul though all hell should endeavor to shake

I’ll never no never no never forsake.

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