Worthy is the Lamb (Part 1), Revelation 5:1-4

 

The Oroville Dam in California has threatened the lives of nearly 200,000 people.  Two weeks ago the alarm was sent out to towns downstream of the dam on the Feather River to evacuate.  In one massive exodus, roughly 188,000 people instantly gathered whatever was necessary and fled.  Bridges, highways, gas stations, and roads were clogged with panicked people trying to escape the looming danger of a dam about to break loose.  

The earthen dam, at 770 feet tall is the biggest in the US.  The high water levels due to heavy rainy season had engineers worried that the weir capping the dam would come loose and careen downstream causing a 30 foot tidal wave and destroying everything in the town.  

 

What’s amazing to me is the response of the people.  The alarm is sounded.  Their lives are in danger.  They heed the alarm and flee to save their lives.  

 

Yet there is another dam about to break loose.  Behind this dam is the righteous wrath of God, backed up until the Appointed Day when it will break out on a world downstream of it.  And the alarm goes out, as it has since the beginning, to flee this coming destruction.  

 

Peter said in Acts 2 to the masses of Jews in Jerusalem:  “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation”, which implies save yourself from God’s judgment that will fall on this corrupt generation.  The alarm goes out to you today.  Flee the corruption of this world and escape God’s judgment.  Come to Jesus Christ.  But people don’t.  Why?

 

Will you condemn me to justify yourself?”  Those were God’s words to Job.  They could be restated again today.  Why you might ask.  Because people today have made themselves the judge of God.

 

There is a moral shift taking place within our society.  It is a shift that I believe follows through 3 stages.  I believe we are in the 2nd stage, though throughout history many societies have gone to stage three.  I predict the 3rd phase of this moral shift is not far down the road for us, and actually we are seeing the beginning of the 3rd.  

 

Phase 1 of this moral shift is the rejection of God’s authority over self and the desire to be the determiner of your own morality.  People want to get out from under the moral authority of God so they can be morally autonomous.  These people spend their efforts to be the creators of their own code of right and wrong.  I’ll decide what’s right for me and no one is going to tell me what to do.  This kind of moral self-determination is the heart of man’s rebellion against God.  It attempts to take the place of God in one’s own life.  This, in my estimation, is actually what society looked like yesterday.

 

Phase 2 of this moral shift is what we see today.  Phase 2 is when man becomes God’s judge and condemns the morality of His Maker.  So Phase 1 is where a man just simply wants autonomy, to get away from God, to be liberated from any moral obligation to God.  But Phase 2 is when after running away from God like that, he then turns around to condemn God’s character and treat God as though God is accountable to him as a man.  This is where we are today.  You hear it from atheists, you hear it from false teachers within the church, you hear it on campuses, in classrooms, in conversations with friends, family and co-workers who don’t believe.  Everywhere God is on trial.  People act as God’s judge.

 

“I can’t imagine God would send anyone to Hell.”  If that’s the God of the Bible, I don’t want anything to do with Him.”  Former Anglican priest Desmund Tutu said if God is a “homophobic” god than he would rather go to hell than be with that kind of God.  Atheist speaker and author Christopher Hitchens said that the Christian doctrine – which is the core of all Christian doctrines – of the substitutionary, vicarious death of the Son of God as an atonement for our sins is the most heinous, vile, repugnant and immoral teachings in all the world.  Colleague of Hitchens, the famous Richard Dawkins condemns the God of the OT as criminally genocidal for wiping out the Canaanites.  

 

This will ultimately lead to Phase 3 of this moral shift:  punishing God for violating man’s ideas of morality.  If you are going to replace God with yourself, which is what the spirit of rebellion in man seeks, you will end up going all the way.  What I mean by that is that God as God not only makes the moral rules, but, God also enforces them.  He rewards and punishes people for how they live up to those rules.  So if you’re going to set yourself up as God and author your ideas of morality instead of subscribing to His, you will soon enough want to be totally like God and see to it your morality is enforced.

 

Of course, it is silly for man to think he can do this to God – he is down here and God is up there.  So, since it is impossible to do this directly to God (other than denying His existence), man as the self-appointed judge of God turns his condemnation to the next best thing:  people who worship God.  Thus the enemy of God wants to punish God by punishing those who belong to Him – those who still subscribe to His law – the law you have decreed unrighteous and in need of expunging.  

 

This is the way the world works now as it rebels against God.  They do this by forcing you to violate your faith and affirm what they determine is right; to renounce your religious beliefs and standards that they determine are wrong.  You must sign on or be punished.  You must distance yourself from a Biblical Jesus, a Biblical faith to avoid their backlash.  

 

This is the 3rd phase of the rebellion. This intense rebellion will climax during the Tribulation when the Antichrist appears, the consummate human rebel, who will set himself up as God in the temple of God and demand to be worshipped, killing the true worshippers of God who refuse to acknowledge him as God.  

What is God going to do about this?  Is Satan’s man, the Antichrist going to succeed?  Is Satan going to have his dream realized of dethroning God and inserting himself in God’s place.  Not a chance.  You can’t kill the Eternal One.  You can’t overtake the All-Powerful One.  You can’t form a plan to revolt against the All-Knowing One.  The wicked creature cannot withstand the Almighty Creator.  Like the Oroville Dam threatens to break loose and drown the town Revelation chapter 4 and 5 bring us into the pre-game show of the Tribulation, where we see the stage is being set to judge the earth.  These two chapters are the kindling of the fire our Lord spoke about in Luke 12 when He said, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled.” (v51, 49).  Chapter 5 can be divided into 4 sections:  the Scroll, the Search, the Slain-Savior, the Songs.

 

The Scroll (v1)

We see first the Scroll in verse 1 [Read].  Seven continues to be a recurring number in Revelation:  seven churches, seven lamps, seven spirits of God, seven eyes, seven horns, and now seven seals on this scroll.  Seven is said to be the number of perfection, and so something about this scroll is perfect.  What is perfect about this scroll?  Well, when you realize that the scroll has written on it the itemized and sequenced manner in which God’s wrath is going to come on the earth then we are talking about God’s perfect wrath.  But perfect in two ways:  His wrath will be perfectly just, and, and perfect in that it will be brought to completion.  That is the typical meaning of the word “perfection” in the Bible, something has been brought to its intended goal, or end.  

 

Now you see here that the scroll is in the right hand of God and that is important to notice as students of the Bible.  God’s right hand in Scripture often signifies His power and authority, and thus here implying that what is in the scroll is related to His power and authority.  By His authority we see His right to do what He will do as the Judge and by power we see He has the ability to do what He is going to do.

 

This scroll contains the judgments that must be unleashed on the earth during the Tribulation period of 7 years.  It is the written decrees of God’s wrath and how it will be expressed during the Tribulation.  Hebrews 10:31 says t is a dreadful, an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  

 

Will you fall into the hands of the living God.  Will your meeting with God be awful?  Do you despise Him today, still, and have no fear of His wrath?  The window is closing, the stage is being set, the days are getting shorter, the time is nearer this week than it was last week when I warned you, and still you have not taken seriously what God has in store for the unrighteous.  Hear then today that God puts off this terrible day of His wrath, He holds back this global Tribulation, for your sake.  He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, including you, but, he wants all people, including you, to repent and be saved.

 

Before we move on to the next point you should also see that what is on the scroll is sealed.  Obviously God as He is sitting on His throne knows what is in there, but, to everyone else this scroll’s contents are a mystery.  That is, until it is opened.  But as we are about to see, it can only be opened by one that God authorizes.

 

The Search (v2-4)

After the scroll we see next is a Search [Read v2-4].  

 

Immediately a mighty angel steps forward and proclaims a search is to be conducted.  In this search heaven is set out to find someone who is worthy to take the scroll and open its contents.  He announces that someone must be found.  What is it about this scroll that requires someone special?  Why doesn’t the one seated on the throne who is holding it open it Himself?  It seems that everyone there knew that the One upon the throne was not going to open it, and that His intention was for someone else to do it.  But who?  

 

No one is found, which means that no one is worthy.  But everyone knows that.  Frankly, I believe the angel’s proclamation and the search are all a grand, ceremonious display to emphasize the cosmic fact that Jesus and only Jesus is worthy to take the scroll.   The ceremony highlighted the importance of the person who was central to the situation.  

 

A great example of this concept is a wedding ceremony. A man and woman can achieve the task of becoming husband and wife very quickly and very simply – head down to the justice of the peace.  Boom – you’re married.  But people plan for months, sometimes more than a year to make an elaborate ceremony that is grand and beautiful.  You don’t need a huge bridal party, you don’t need a decorated church or scene, you don’t need tuxes and bridesmaids dresses, ring-bearers, flowergirls and flowers and cake and catered food and everything else to accomplish the task of joining a man and woman in the holy bond of marriage.  This is all meant to dress the event – but since it is an extremely important event all the dressings of ceremony reflect how important the event is – and how special the people at the center of the event are and how important what they are doing also is.  The ceremony doesn’t make the event important, it magnifies how important the event is.  

 

So,even though everyone (except John) knows only Jesus is qualified to take the scroll, the search party is far from pointless.  It heightens the anticipation to find someone and it magnifies how special this someone is by showing that NO ONE else in creation is qualified to take the scroll.

 

Thus with the news that no one was found in heaven, on the earth or under the earth, John weeps.  And weeps intensely.  This is not sniffling like a woman might do during a sad movie scene.  This is the loud, messy, sobbing-at-a-funeral kind of weeping.  John has broken down and is unable to control his emotions and they are flooding out.  We have to ask where is this powerful emotion coming from?  Disappointment we can relate to as anyone would certainly want to know the scroll’s contents, but, John is beyond disappointment.  He is in despair.  How is this kind of extreme reaction explained?  All I can offer is that the experience for John so far has been tremendously cosmic:  He’s just seen the Almighty on His Throne, being worshipped by beautifully bizarre creatures around His throne, and the straining anticipation he must have felt as now the focus of all heaven is on a scroll that apparently no one can open – why wouldn’t he get emotional?  This whole divine vision is causing a surge of overwhelming feelings to course through him.  Throughout this book John is going to faint (1:17), weep (5:4), be sick (10:10), and involuntarily fall down and worship the nearest being (19:10) not once but twice (22:8-9) as his eyes and soul are flooded with things you simply cannot imagine.  

 

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