I wept and wept because no-one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside it. Then 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. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain… (Revelation 5:5-6, NIV)
I had not realised until preaching it just how much the book of Revelation is full of the death of Jesus. Thirty-two times He is called the Lamb - the term echoing the Passover, when a lamb was sacrificed as a substitute. The book draws out the significance of His death for us, in striking and memorable ways. Here are three of them.
1. The Lamb and human history. In chapter 5, we see a scroll - in context, God’s plans for the world. But John weeps because no-one is worthy to open it, which means those plans cannot be carried out. But there is Someone Who’s worthy - the Lamb, who was slain. The song sung to Him explains: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ (5:9)
The point is this: The whole of history is about the accomplishment of God’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself. History could not reach this goal until One had come Who could deal with the essential problem of sin and guilt. But now, Someone has. By His death, Jesus is able to implement God’s whole plan for the world. There will one day be a new heaven and a new earth with redeemed people - because of the cross. Do we think of history as centred on the cross of Christ?
2. The Lamb and our forgiveness. In chapter 7, we meet a great multitude whom no-one could number, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (7:9) The white robes stand for purity. But how have sinful people been made pure? These people have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (7:14) What a startling metaphor: it’s as if His blood is detergent! He died in our place that we might be forgiven. If you are a Christian today, EVERY part of your guilt before God has been removed. Do we live as those who know the joy of sins forgiven?
3. The Lamb and the devil’s downfall. In chapter 12 we read some very good news: The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. (12:9) Twice in the Old Testament (in Job and Zechariah), we meet the devil in the heavenly court, accusing God’s people of wrong-doing. He knows our shortcomings, and he tells God: “They don’t deserve to be in your presence.” But now, the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (12:10) He has no place in the heavenly court now.
How come? They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (12:11). Our guilt has been removed by His blood. Jesus’ death means he can no longer wag his finger at us, for we have been acquitted. As we tell others about this (the word of their testimony), he can no longer be counsel for their prosecution, either. Do we recognise that because of the cross, the devil’s accusations have no currency with God?
God willing, we resume our series in Revelation on Sunday 24th May.