Throughout human history the questions have been raised over and over again, ?Is there any meaning to life? Why am I here? Does anybody care?? The questions have been framed in various ways. The questions have been asked by philosophers, plumbers, politicians, and preachers?people from every walk of life. There are different schools of thought which have tried to provide answers to the questions. If you were cataloging the answers you could roughly put them into two different files: Believers and unbelievers. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. This past week I was reading a website that offered answers to the questions based on the perspective of an unbeliever. These are the answers offered.
Why I am here? Well, if God doesn’t exist, that means that life must have come about through some natural impersonal, unintelligent, and ultimately purposeless process. That means we’re ultimately as purposeless as the very process which brought us into existence. Life’s just an accident and so are you. You can find short term reasons for living like you’re here because your parents wanted to have children, etc., but ultimately you’re just an accident and so are your parents. Life is one big accident. You serve no purpose, you’ll cause no lasting effect, and in the grand scheme of things your life is utterly meaningless. (www.allaboutphilosophy.org)
Life is utterly meaningless. ?Who am I?? I am nothing. ?What is my purpose?? I have no purpose. I am nothing more than an accident and now that I exist I am merely a victim of a random, chaotic cosmos that has no purpose whatsoever. If these are the answers that we accept to the most frequently asked questions of life then is it any wonder that so many are without hope in our day?
During the Enlightenment there were thinkers who were not nearly as morbid or fatalistic, but their hope was misplaced. They believed that humanity was basically good, that we could find meaning and purpose in life on our own. They had a much broader vision than simply the individual; they believed that human history would continue to evolve intellectually and socially and that we would see great progress in the generations to come. John Newport writes,
Since the enlightenment in Europe, many philosophers have rejected the Christian view of life and history. But, in so doing, history has become a problem for them. The view of man?s inevitable progress has not proven to be true. Indeed, some advocates of inevitable progress have become prophets of doom who see nothing but darkness ahead. The problem of the meaning, purpose, and goal of history has become one of the most disturbing and difficult questions of our time.
From time to time each of us has been stopped in our tracks and confronted with the questions of purpose and meaning: What?s going on, not just in my life, but in the world?
These perplexing questions must have been on the minds of those in the first century. We?ve discussed the persecution, problems, and poverty of the believers who were living under Roman rule in John?s day. You know they were asking the same questions that we?ve asked: ?Who am I? Why am I here? What does my future hold? Does anybody care?? As we turn another page in Revelation answers come. Read along with me from Revelation 5:1-14.
1 Then 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. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5Then one of the elders said to me, “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.” 6Then I saw 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. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. (Revelation 5:1-7 NIV)
In Revelation 4 John was invited to come up and see, to enter through the door opened into Heaven and to gaze upon the ultimate reality of what is taking place in history. In chapter 5 he sees even more than he saw in chapter 4. He sees a scroll in the right hand of God. Take a look at verse 1 with me.
1Then 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. (Revelation 5:1 NIV)
What kind of scroll was it that John saw? From the time of the Egyptians people used ?parchment,? the skin of sheep or goats to write on. People also wrote on papyrus, Papyrus was different from the parchment made from animal skins. It was made from reeds that grew by the water. The reeds were harvested, cut into strips, and pressed flat to make paper. Papyrus was widely used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The scroll consisted of several sheets sewn together and then rolled up and sealed. The scroll that John saw was sealed with seven seals, it was completely sealed, and yet the scroll was so full of writing that it was written on the front and the back.
What was written on the scroll that John saw in God?s hand? That?s a great question. Some Bible commentators point out that Roman wills, ?Praetorian Testaments,? were sealed with seven seals and so this scroll must be a will. Others believe that the scroll was a ?contract deed? like the ones used by those in the ancient Middle East. Still others say that the scroll contained an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. I believe that the great Bible commentator, William Hendricksen, offers us the best description of what was written on the scroll when he writes,
The seven sealed scroll symbolizes God?s eternal plan, His decree which is all-comprehensive. It stands for God?s purpose with respect to the entire universe throughout history. (Williams Hendricksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. pg. 89)
Our God is Sovereign. He holds the answers to every question. He knows every note, every stanza, and every movement in the symphony of human history. The scroll is so full because there is not one incident in the scheme of history that is not known by Him. There is not one accident, not one ?oops,? or ?utt oh? in history. He knows the full script, every page and syllable, and it is firmly planted in His right hand. Take a look with me at verses 2-4.
2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. (Revelation 5:2-4 NIV)
Who can break the seals? Who can reveal the meaning of our lives? Who knows what lies ahead in our future? Who knows the answers to the questions that every person is asking? The search is on. Who is worthy? It?s important that we understand the word ?worthy? so that we can understand the kind of person they were searching for to unlock the seals. The Greek word used here for ?worthy? is ?a;xioj? (ax’-ee-os), and it means, ?Having weight or one who has merited anything worthy.? The word is used 41 times in the Greek New Testament, but I want us to look at just a couple of occurrences so that we can better understand what kind of worthiness we are talking about.
In the story of the Prodigal Son we learn that the son chose to leave home and take his inheritance before his father?s death. Once the son arrived in the big city he squandered everything he had and ended up living in a pigsty. Not a good place for a young Jewish boy to find himself. The son finally came to his senses and decided to go home and ask for his dad?s forgiveness. When he got home he said,
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:21 NIV)
While John the Baptist was preaching the Good News and baptizing folks in the Jordan River some thought he might be the one that all of Israel was expecting?the Messiah. Paul told the story in Acts 13:25 where he said,
As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ (Acts 13:25 NIV)
John was just preparing the way. He wasn?t the Way. He wanted those who were wondering about him to wonder no longer. He said that he wasn?t worthy to even untie Jesus? sandals.
In chapter 5 the search is on. Who is worthy, who is able, to break the seals and reveal what is written on the scroll? John MacArthur writes in his commentary on this passage,
Who, he asked, has the innate, virtuous worthiness of character and the divine right that would qualify him to break the seals? And who has the power to defeat Satan and his demon hosts, to wipe out sin and its effects, and to reverse the curse on all of creation? But as the echoes of his cry recede there is only silence. The powerful archangels Michael and Gabriel do not answer. Uncounted thousands of other angels remain silent. All the righteous dead of all the ages, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter and the rest of the apostles, Paul, and all the others from the church age, say nothing. No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. A search of the entire universe, from hell to heaven and all points in between, turns up no one worthy to open the scroll. (John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, pg. 165.)
Nobody is found. Among the multiplied billions who have ever lived not one can be found. Will the answers remain hidden? Will the questions continue to be asked with no resolution? John begins to weep. John wasn?t just dabbing his eyes with Kleenex, he was wailing in sorrow and despair. The Greek word used here is used 40 times in the New Testament. The word is ?klai,w? (klah’-yo) and it means, ?to mourn, weep, or weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified.? You know one of the other places where the word is used. Do you remember how cocky and arrogant Simon Peter was when Jesus told the disciples that they were going to fall away from Him?
33Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.? 34″I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:33-35 NIV)
You know the story. Peter didn?t just deny the Lord that he loved, He denied Him three times. After the final denial we read in Matthew 26:75,
Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75 NIV)
You know the love Peter had for Jesus. When he realized what he had done he was broken to the depths of his soul. John?s sorrow was different than Peter?s sorrow, but he was weeping as a broken man. Broken because nobody could be found. Broken because he thought the contents of the scroll would remain a mystery. And yet, the final ?period? hadn?t been placed at the end of the sentence of history. In Revelation 5:5 we read,
5Then one of the elders said to me, “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.” (Revelation 5:5 NIV)
John need not weep any longer! You need not weep any longer! I don?t need to weep and wonder any longer! He has been found! The One, the only One who is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals has been found! Who is He? He is the ?Lion of the tribe of Judah.? He is the ?Root of David.? These are titles that are given to this One who is able, this One who is worthy. The title, ?Lion of the tribe of Judah? is rooted in Genesis 49:8-10 where Jacob blesses his son, Judah, and his descendants. Read along with me.
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness– who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. (Genesis 49:8-10 NIV)
The blessing is a prophecy of One who would come who would be a lion-like ruler?He has come and He is worthy!
The second title, ?Root of David? is rooted in Isaiah 11:1-10. We won?t read the entire passage but turn there with me and I?ll give you a glimpse.
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD– 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5 NIV)
Jesse was the father of King David. He was from the tribe of Judah and lived in Bethlehem. The angel says that the One found is the ?Root of David,? not the ?Root of Jesse,? but there is not really any difference since David is Jesse?s son. The prophet Jeremiah transitions us from Jesse to David when he writes in Jeremiah 33:14-16
14″‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15″‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16 NIV)
The ?Lion of the tribe of Judah,? the ?Root of David??He is able, He is worthy! Why? Because He has triumphed! ?Triumphed over what?? you may ask. He has triumphed over sin and death. Death couldn?t hold Him down?He is alive! He is the Victor and He is able to open the scroll. I want us to notice that this Scripture doesn?t say that Jesus will be victorious?it says He has triumphed! The battle is won! John wipes his eyes and he looks. What does he see? Look at verses 6-7 with me.
6Then I saw 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. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. (Revelation 5:6-7 NIV)
John didn?t see a ?Lion? or a ?Root??He looked up and saw a Lamb. The Lamb looked like it had been slain. It was bloody, beaten, and battered and yet it was standing in the center of the throne! Oh, He may look like He was defeated, but He was alive and He lives today! He not only lives, but He stands at the center of the throne, at the center of everything, He is the focal point of everything that ever was, or is, or will ever be!
The Lamb had ?seven horns? and ?seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God.? Now don?t try to draw a picture of Jesus based upon this description. You would have a pretty wild looking picture. This picture is rich with symbolism. The word for ?lamb? used in this verse is the ?diminutive? of the normal word used for lamb, it implies a ?little lamb.?
In the Bible the word ?horn? is used symbolically to describe power. The number seven is representative of fullness or completeness. This tells us that this little Lamb, though frail and looking like He had been slain, He holds absolute power. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said,
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18 NIV)
The ?seven eyes,? which are the ?seven spirits of God? tell us that the Lamb has the fullness of the Spirit of God present with Him. It tells us that He is omniscient, He has the ability to fully see everything that takes place at all times and in all places. We see a similar reference in Zechariah 4:10.
10 “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “(These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.)” (Zechariah 4:10 NIV)
This is no ordinary Lamb. The little Lamb that looked like it has been slain has absolute power and absolute understanding of all that has or will ever take place in history. Dr. David Darnell writes,
The contrast between describing Jesus as ?The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,? and ?The Little Lamb,? is striking, calling attention to the fact that the conquering, victorious, royal Son of David is none other than the one who has offered Himself up as a new ?Passover Sacrifice,? as a ?Little Lamb? who has been slaughtered.
John was told that the ?Lion of the Tribe of Judah,? and the ?Root of David? was able to open the scroll, but when he looked he didn?t see a lion, but a Lamb?an animal that is the epitome of helplessness, absolutely unable to defend Himself.
How can someone so seemingly weak and defenseless be the only one worthy to take the scroll from the hand of God? He is worthy because He has been able to do what no other could do?He has become the Passover Lamb, He has offered Himself for our sins, and has taken away the sins of the world. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he recognized Him immediately. In John 1:29 we read,
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NIV)
Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to leave Jerusalem and talk to an Ethiopian eunuch who was headed home when he was given an opportunity to explain some Scripture from the prophet Isaiah. Read along with me from Acts 8:29-35.
29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:29-35 NIV)
The Ethiopian eunuch learned the good news about Jesus, the Lamb of God. It wasn?t hard for Jews to understand about the ?Lamb of God? because they had watched as countless little lambs had been slaughtered during the Passover celebrations in Israel. Passover was the celebration of God?s deliverance of the slaves from Egypt when God ordered each Hebrew family to take a little lamb, kill it, and then smear the blood of the lamb over the doorframes of their house. When the Death Angel passed over Egypt only those homes with the blood of the lamb would be spared. 1 Corinthians 15:7 declares that ?Jesus is our Passover Lamb.? In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we are told that we have been redeemed with the blood of our Savior, the Lamb of God.
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)
Jesus is worthy because He is our Deliverer, He is our Passover Lamb, He is our Conquering King! The battle has been won my friend?the little Lamb is worthy! I hope that this morning you will realize that the meaning of life, the purpose of your life and mine, and the answer to our question of ?Why am I here?? is found only in relationship to Lamb of God. He is not only victorious over sin and death, but He holds the victory for every battle you will ever face in life. He has won the battle for you and for me and we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus!
Next week we will take a look at ?The Worship of the Lamb,? but you don?t need to wait until next week to bow before His throne. Won?t you accept the victory He has won on your behalf this morning?