“Jesus” – a word most feared.
Francis Schaeffer writes, “I have come to the point where, when I hear the word Jesus – which means so much to me because of the Person of the historic Jesus and His work – I listen carefully because I have with sorrow become more afraid of the word Jesus than almost any other word in the modern world. The word is used as a content-less banner, and our generation is invited to follow it. But there is no rational, scriptural content by which to test it, and thus the word is being used to teach the very opposite things from those which Jesus taught.” (Escape from Reason, p259)
Schaeffer is saying that “Jesus” has become the word He is most afraid of because it is used today without any reference to the historical Jesus of the Bible. This is “another Jesus” as Paul warned (2 Cor. 11:4). This other Jesus today is a cultural development necessary as a prerequisite to the arrival of the Antichrist. Man must be conditioned in two ways: he must admire the name of Jesus while at the same time he must gut the name Jesus of all biblical and historical meaning. Then the Antichrist can move in, present himself as the Christ, unchallenged by any biblical criteria.
In coming to Revelation 5 we see the real Jesus. The Jesus of eternity and history as presented in Biblical revelation is now central to all heavenly worship. The world may have another Jesus, but, here we see heaven has the real Jesus.
The Slain Savior (v5-7)
Here we, along with John are presented with the One – the Slain Savior [Read v5-7]
John is the only one weeping though, because unlike the rest of those heavenly creatures in this scene, John does not realize that Jesus is the One. So one of the 24 elders comes alongside of Him and points him to look at Jesus. Savor that a moment: he points him to look at Jesus. My how appropriate a word, isn’t it? To be turned to Jesus? How grateful we are for those who turned us to Jesus for salvation aren’t we? And shouldn’t we turn one another to Jesus as fellow Christians? Ah what burdens you? Turn to Him. What stresses you? Turn to Him. What worries you? Turn to Him. What scares you? Turn to Him. What is happening to you? Turn to Him. To always be turned to the Lord Jesus – what a kindness to receive from another person who knows Him. “Where could I go, but to the Lord?”
Now, does it strike you that Jesus doesn’t appear as a Lion, even though He is the Lion of Judah? Or are you struck that in this hour of global Judgment He does not appear as a Judge, even though He is the Judge of the living and the dead? Or are you impressed that He doesn’t appear glorious like back in chapter 1? No, He is seen first as a Lamb. I want to point out 4 features of this Lamb.
First of all, He is seen as a Lamb killed. That’s the point when John says in verse 6, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…” He is slain, He has been killed – signifying His atoning sacrifice for sins (v9)
Oh the more you ponder this the more appropriate the image is. God’s order for Jesus is that He is a Lamb first and Lord last. Here Jesus is as a Lamb before the Tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation, in chapter 19, He is seen as a conquering warrior coming to the earth and ending the Tribulation in the apocalyptic climax of armageddon. It’s the same with His Advents as well: He came first as a sacrificial Lamb to carry away our sins, but, at His 2nd coming He will be the Sovereign Lord carrying out judgment. The Lamb is the Lord and the Lord is the Lamb. His humiliation precedes His glorification.
Application: This order is also true in the Christian life: You must see Him as your Lamb, who took away your sins when He was sacrificed on the cross, and henceforth follow Him as your Lord throughout life. Humility characterizes the Christian life with an eye to our future glorification.
Secondly, John sees the Lamb standing. He looks as though He has been killed, but, He is standing. This is pressing home the fact that He has been resurrected. This is what the elder meant when he said to John in verse 5 that Jesus “has triumphed”. This is what Peter said to the Jews in the first historical Church sermon in Acts 2:23-24, “you had Him killed but God raised him up. This is what is meant in Revelation 1:5 when speaking of Jesus John calls Him the “firstborn from among the dead (Rev. 1:5) and what Jesus meant of Himself in 1:18 when He said that He “was dead but now is alive for ever”. He is the conqueror of Death. He is the Author of Life. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He was crucified by the world in shame but raised by God to glory. This Lamb stands
And we see where He is standing: not among the myriads of angels, not outside the 24 elders, not outside the 4 living creatures, not even next to the throne. Not somehow “outside looking in” as in Laodicea (3:20). No, He is standing at the center of the throne. He is equal with the One on the throne, one in divine essence. He is the sacrifice offered by the One on the throne; He has access to the throne, He has been seated at the right hand of the one on the throne. All that the One on the throne is so too is the Lamb. All that is due to the One on the throne is due to the Lamb
Third, this Lamb has 7 horns. Throughout Scripture a horn conveys someone’s authority, power, strength and honor. Daniel 7 describes the prophecy of a coming “horn”, one who will rule, referring to the antichrist. Speaking of strength and honor, Psalm 89:17 says “For you, God, are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.” Or speaking of the honor of a righteous man, Psalm 112:9, “His righteousness endures forever, his horn will be lifted high in honor.” Or speaking of the One in her womb Mary declares in Luke 1:69, “God has raised up a horn of salvation for us…” Now remember too from last week that the number 7 when used in Scripture represents perfection, and here we have 7 horns. Seven horns we can infer the perfection of the power, strength, honor and authority of the Lamb. This is after all the lyrical content of the songs in this chapter (read verse 12-13).
Fourth we see the Lamb with 7 eyes. These seven eyes are the seven Spirits of God, which we have understood to be the Holy Spirit. I have to bring your attention to the Trinity. Here we have God the Father on the throne, God the Son pictured as the slain Lamb, and the Holy Spirit, pictured as the 7 eyes. We saw the Trinity in chapter 4 too, for it was The Son of God who called John up to heaven, He was “in the Spirit” – the Holy Spirit – when he came up to heaven, and when he got there John saw God the Father on the throne. We saw the Trinity immediately in chapter 1, verses 4-5. We see the Trinity throughout chapters 2-3 in the letters to the 7 churches. The beginning of each letter starts with Jesus identifying Himself as the One speaking to them, but then at the close of each letter we learn it’s not just Jesus speaking because we read these words: “let him who hears what the Spirit says to the churches…”.
But what are we to make of the fact that the Spirit is not seen as 7 candles, but, as seven eyes? Eyes are for seeing, so we can say that the Lamb, the Spirit are omniscient. God, the Triune God has perfect perception. He sees all things, knows all things, understands all things. This is important to realize in light of the coming Judgment for divine retribution is about to be executed in light of the perfect knowledge of man’s sin. God’s judgment and God’s omniscience is connected often throughout Scripture. For instance, Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Justice will not be missed due to some ignorance on the Judge’s part. The Judge sees all, knows all, understands all. His knowledge is perfect, so His judgment will be perfect.
So the Lamb is killed, but standing But does the Lamb imagery press further? Yes. In connection with the scroll, which are the judgments of God on the earth, we learn that His death on the cross qualifies Him for judging the world (v9). The world that judged Him will now be judged by Him. God has entrusted all judgment to Jesus.
The Bible repeatedly tells us that a delegation of authority happens in the Godhead where the Father gives the Son the power to judge. The ultimate Judgment of this earth and of mankind will be performed by Jesus Christ. John 5:22, “Moreover the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son”. In verse 27 “And he [The Father] has given him [Jesus] authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.” In Matthew 28:18 He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Acts 10:42 says, “He [Jesus] is the One whom God appointed Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 17:31, “He [God] has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead…” (2 Tim. 4:1)
Thus, the One on the throne releases the scroll to the Lamb. The Father hands the scroll to His Son.
The Songs (v8-14)
Our next section is titled simply the Songs. Read verses 8-14.
What happens when the Lamb takes the scroll? Instant, mass worship. By the way, do you see the contrast in how Jesus was treated on earth compared to how He is treated in heaven? Heaven knows who this Lamb is. So heaven knows exactly what to do: worship. Surrounded by all of heaven the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders fall down before the Lamb, prostrate, crowns cast, harps in hand, bowls of incense in total surrendered worship to the Lamb.
We ought to learn what singing is as an expression of worship.
First, singing springs from seeing. They sang in worship because they saw Him who is worthy. How can we sing of Jesus if we don’t see Him? Do we sing because in our heart and soul we see He is worthy? Or, do we sing to get a feeling? Do we sing while our mind is elsewhere? Do we sing without our heart? Do we sing because it’s just part of our routine? Or do we sing because we see Jesus? Do you see Him?
Second, singing is preaching. Do you know what they are doing here? They’re preaching. Look at their words (v13-14). That’s what true worship songs are – they’re sermons that we sing. They’re sermons put to music. They preach and teach Biblical truth. Singing allows us to musically express our praise to God – expression that is based on the truth we know of Him from His Word. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and with all your strength (and with all your voice!). With our emotions and our minds and our spirits we express our faith musically.
Third, singing requires your emotions. Look at how they bow down prostrate before the Lamb (v8). Not holy roller emotions, not showy emotions that are pretentious, but, emotions that are stirred by holiness and truth. Now there can be two ends of a spectrum which I think are both errors.
The first is to be all emotion and no mind – meaning all feeling with little care for the truth-worthiness of the song’s lyrics. “It feels good”. Keep this in mind: songs are governed by truth, not emotion. Emotional, sensational songs are not the goal. Emotions are part of our makeup as creatures and we ought to engage our emotions in worship, but not for emotions’ sake. Our emotions should be stirred by truth, led by truth, and submitted to truth.
The other error though is to be all truth and never any emotion. Again, I’m not talking sensational showy emotionalism, but, I’m talking about the mistaken notion that stoicism is inherently spiritual and feelings are never allowed to be stirred by the truth. For goodness sake don’t leave your emotions at the door when you worship, you should be stirred up. Stirred up by truth. But if you are stirred up by the sound of the song and not by the substance, and if you’re mind is checked out you are not worshipping God, but a feeling. When we sing we ought to have our mind stimulated first by the truth in the song. We try to bring a variety of songs, old and new, but variety in itself is not what determines our song selection. Truth does. Does the substance of what the song is saying reflect sound teaching? Does it edify our minds and our understanding of God? Can we praise God accurately? Does the song lead us to worship God in spirit and truth?
This is not an apology for raising hands in worship. If you want to raise your hands go for for it. If you don’t, then don’t. But don’t judge others who either do or don’t. If someone’s hands are up how do you know they’re pretentious? If they’re down how do you know they’re not “into it”? You don’t because you don’t know their heart. And that’s just it – it’s not where someone’s hands are, it’s where their heart is.
Fourthly, singing focuses on God, not man. Notice verses 13-14 again. Too many songs focus on self. Thank God for the one’s that don’t. Praise God for great praise songs that major on the greatness of God and what He is and what He has done. The songs praise the worthiness of the Lamb.
Do you learn about God from the lyrics? Do you have great Biblical truths affirmed to you from the songs? Are your emotions stirred by the wonderful words that speak of God? Now you’re worshipping!