Let’s begin by reading Jeremiah 29:12-13.
12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Experts say that if you want to know your net worth then you have to pay attention to your assets and liabilities. How much you’re bringing in versus how much of that is going out. It’s more in depth than that, but they say this is a basic model for understanding net worth. When it comes to our self-worth, which is a pretty popular phrase today, things get a lot more interesting.
According to PositivePsychology.com, the top five factors for determining your self-worth are:
- Net worth
- Who you know/your social circle
- What you do/your career
- What you achieve
The Greek word for “worthy”, which we’ll take a look at today, is defined as a “counterbalance” or to “weigh as much as”. What we’re talking about is value. It can also mean what is “deserving” or “proper”. Each and every one of us here today has worth. We have value, but I’m not here to talk about your worth or mine. I want to talk about our God and Savior who has no equal. Who’s worth is unparalleled.
Today, I want to continue our study of the book of Revelation by looking at chapter 5. In this chapter, we come upon a cosmic search for someone who is worthy to open and read the scroll.
Something to note here in case you were not aware of this, originally there were no chapter divisions at the time that John is recording this revelation. Chapters weren’t added until much later and verses were added even after that. This matters because chapter 5 is not a new revelation, but rather it is a continuation of what John sees in chapter 4. How do I know this?
In chapter 4 John is called up to see what “must take place after this” (v1). Immediately he is in the spirit and sees a throne set in the heavens and he notices One sitting on the throne (v2). Everything John describes in chapter 4 is in relation to the throne. The throne is the focal point. Really, it’s the One who is seated on the throne.
Well, if you look at Rev. 5:1, 6-7, 11, 13 you will see that John is still enamored by the One seated on the throne, but a New Character emerges and all eyes are on Him. So again, the object of the revelation shifts (as we’ll see), but the location of the revelation remains the same. We are still in the throne room of God!
The Scroll (Revelation 5:1)
Revelation 5:1 NKJV
1 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
As John observes the throne room he is witness to another epic event. This one however, leaves him with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. With his gaze fully set upon the One who is seated on the throne he notices a scroll in His right hand – the hand of power and authority, the hand of salvation and strength (Ps. 20:6; 138:7; Isaiah 41:10). This scroll has writing all over it. It is filled to the max and it is sealed 7x. The 7 seals means that it is complete. There is nothing more that needs to be added to it.
There has been a lot of debate about the significance of the scroll. What type was it? Much speculation has been made that it could be a title deed to the earth or a last will and testament. Daniel Akin lists 4 possible explanations for the scroll. This scroll is very similar to the one seen by the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 2:9–10 NKJV
9 Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.
Whatever the scroll is that John describes we cannot know at this point and for good reason. I want to caution you not to get ahead of the writer. If you rush to understand the meaning of the scroll you will most certainly miss the main objective in this chapter.
Contrary to what many have taught about this chapter, in my personal opinion, the scroll is not the focus! Finding someone who is worthy to open and read it is the crucial concern.
The Scroll (Revelation 5:2–4)
Revelation 5:2–4 NKJV
2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.
4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
Now can you imagine the scene? The mighty angel calls for any who might think themselves fit for the task. There is a sea of beings of all types standing ready to see who will answer the call. I can imagine Satan showing up with his chest puffed out, but he doesn’t come close.
In the crowd is Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, David and Solomon, but they don’t fit the bill. Also standing there is Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, but neither are they able to open the scroll. Not one of the patriarchs was worthy. Not a single judge or prophet or apostle or angel. In the crowd stands the widow who gave her two mites and the boy who gave up his fish and loaves. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is made up of those with child-like faith (Matt. 19:14), but not even a child could sneak a peek at the scroll. The same goes for your sweet little grandmother who never missed your birthday.
Humanity isn’t worthy because…The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
Humanity isn’t worthy because…Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil (Gen. 6:5).
Humanity isn’t worthy because…Through man sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12).
Angelic beings aren’t worthy because…they exist to serve at the behest of God (Ps. 103:20).
Angelic beings aren’t worthy because…Their tasks is to minister to the inheritors of salvation (Heb. 1:14).
Angelic beings aren’t worthy because…Many of them abandoned their posts and followed in the path of the deceiver (Jude 1:6).
In a nutshell, every created being lacks the capability, the authority, the worthiness to open, read or even to peek at the scroll because of inferiority and sin!
You see your good is garbage when it comes to salvation. Your works are worthless because you are dead in your trespasses and sins.
This situation presents a serious problem for John. He is overcome with a deep sense of hopelessness and he starts to wept. Leon Morris describes it as a “noisy grief”(Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 96.). He is wailing and moaning. He completely breaks down. We learn from Proverbs 13:12 that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
But here’s what else the word of God tells us about hope.
Romans 5:5 NKJV
5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Hebrews 10:23 NKJV
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
John’s hope is deferred (put off), but it’s not denied!
The Lion (Revelation 5:5)
Revelation 5:5 NKJV
5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
An elder (probably one of the 24) comforts John by alerting him to the One who is worthy to open and read the scroll. The elder uses two messianic references that undoubtedly are about Jesus.
The elder describes the Worthy One in two specific ways:
He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This description would have drawn John’s attention back to Gen. 49:9-10 where this title of lion is designated to Judah, the son of Israel. Listen to the blessing his father declares over him in those verses,
Genesis 49:9–10 NKJV
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Not only is this Worthy One a Lion, He is also the Root of David.
Isaiah 11:1 NKJV
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
Isaiah 11:10 NKJV
10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.”
Jesus the Messiah comes from the tribe of Judah. And as the word root indicates, He is also the source of David. In this one word we can see the humanity and deity of Christ. In terms of His humanity He is a king who comes from the line of David, but in terms of His deity David comes from Him.
The elder tells John to look at this Worthy Lion-Root because He has prevailed! He has won the victory! Every possible opponent that could ever stand against Him He has crushed! And the last enemy to be defeated is death (1 Cor. 15:26)!
Let’s take a look at the next verse, because what John actually sees would have stunned him.
The Lamb (Revelation 5:6-7)
Revelation 5:6–7 NKJV
6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Look at the seeming contradiction in these verses. When John turns around he doesn’t see a Lion, he sees a Lamb with the markings of sacrifice. He sees the Lion who has prevailed appearing as a Lamb that has been slain. This is so powerful!!
John is very partial to this image of a lamb! He is the only NT author to use this image for Jesus other than Peter’s one usage in 1 Pt. 1:19. The word that John uses for Lamb is arnion (Gk: ??????). It occurs 30 times in the NT and 29 of those are found in the book of Revelation. Robert Mounce points out that “[arnion] is used exclusively of the resurrected and victorious Christ” (Revelation, 132n18).
“It is Christ who died, and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34).
What is it that qualifies Jesus to open the scroll and read it? What does He have that no one else possesses? Victory!!
He has prevailed the elder says (v5)!
He prevailed over sin by never sinning (Heb. 4:15).
He prevailed over death by raising Himself to life again (John 10:17-18).
He is the Worthy One!!
Songs of Worthiness Revelation 5:8-14
Revelation 5:8–14 NKJV
8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
The search is called off once Jesus shows up and the natural response is to worship Him! The prophet Jeremiah says that it is the nature of God to be worshipped (Jeremiah 10:7)!
This portion of Revelation 5 is broken up into 3 sections divided by songs. The first song tells us why the Lamb is worthy to open the scroll. The reason that Jesus is deemed worthy is because:
- “You were slain…” According to 1 Pt. 1:20 and Rev. 13:8 He was slain before the foundation of the world. This means that before any of us ever set foot in this world God had secured for us a payment for our sin.
- 1 John 2:2 Jesus is the propitiation for every sin.
- “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood”
- According to 1 Pt. 1:18-19 “…you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
- The word “redeemed” means that He has purchased us for Himself. So when you say “It’s my life. I can do what I want with it!” You are fooling yourself!
- 1 Cor. 6:20 “20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
- “You have made us kings and priests to God”
- “We will reign on the earth”
- 1 Pt. 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim he praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”
At the end of chapter 4 they sing about the creation of God. In chapter 5 they sing about the redemption of God. In chapter 4 it’s about ownership. It chapter 5 it’s about relationship!! I’n chapter 4 it’s about what He first made! In chapter 5 it’s about what He has remade!! Everyone who is in Christ is a new creation! The old has passed away and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17)!
What Jesus has done on our behalf is impossible for anyone else to accomplish for us. Early church father Athanasius of Alexandria captures the essence of this reality,
“What else could He possibly do, begin God, but renew His Image in mankind, so that through it men might once more come to know Him? And how could this be done save by the coming of the very Image Himself, our Savior Jesus Christ? Men could not have done it, for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, for they do not bear the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the father Who could recreate man made after the Image” (On the Incarnation, p29).
The first song tells us why He is worthy. The second and third songs tell us what He is worthy of, and notice how we go from 28 beings singing His praises to an innumerable amount of angels and finally, every single created being is singing about His worthiness!
He is worthy, they sing, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing! The first four, according to Robert Mounce, “power, riches, wisdom and strength are not benefits that the Lamb is about to receive but qualities he [already] possesses and for which He is [intrinsically] worthy to be praised” (Revelation, p137).
We don’t give Him power. He is the omnipotent One!
We don’t give Him wealth. He was rich before we ever knew Him, yet He became poor so that we, through Him poverty, might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
We don’t give Him wisdom. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24).
We don’t give Him strength. He gives strength to us. Ps. 18:32.
Jesus doesn’t need us to give anything in exchange for Him to have worth. He is innately valuable!! His worthiness doesn’t depreciate! Whether you love Him or not, if you believe in Him or not He is still the Worthy One and some day, by choice or by force, we will all join in singing how great is our God!!
Call to Respond
Let me end with this. Chapter 5 opens up with a cosmic search for a Worthy One to open the scroll and read it. Someone worthy to even peek at the scroll. After turning over every rock. Not a single being could claim the title of Worthy One. That is, until Jesus steps forth. What this should tell us is this, we should only place our hope in Jesus! There is salvation in no other Name (Acts 4:12). The security you’re looking for in this life, the joy you’re trying to find, the pleasure, it’s found in Jesus and in Him alone! You won’t find it in your appearance or in your in your work and accomplishments. You won’t find what you’re looking for until you search for the One who is Worthy of it all.
I find it very interesting that in the beginning, in the Garden, God went looking for man, but in the end it is man who will have to search for God. I’m here today to tell you that you don’t have to wait until the end to find God. You don’t have to be in a hopeless situation to know that Jesus loves you. The prophet Isaiah tells us in chapter Isaiah 55:6 – 7
Isaiah 55:6–7 NKJV
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
If you want to know Him, He’s ready for you! Call on Him today.