Sermon Manuscript . . .
Let the Worship Ring Forth
Good morning. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Shawn Farrell and I am the college pastor here at FBC and it is my privilege to open the Word of God with you this morning.
We are living in different times–troubled times, unprecedented times, and certainly difficult times. There are more questions than answers and the lack of certainty is prone to foster worry and anxiety in our hearts. We are not immune to “what if’s” any more than we are immune to the very virus that threatens us. And as we grapple with health concerns, financial concerns, family concerns–as we are cooped up in our homes, it is easy for us to fix our attention on our temporal circumstances and forget that God is on His throne.
We are so easily distracted, so quickly preoccupied, this morning I would like to leave the coronavirus behind and draw your attention to something other than the latest update on this pandemic. We have an opportunity to get our eyes off of our current situation, to set the economic, political, and health issues aside and for a brief moment, set them on the living and abiding Word of God.
Open your Bibles to Revelation 5. This morning we are going to examine one of the highpoints of all of the Bible. There are sections of Scripture that stand out as raised up and deserving of our attention, and certainly this chapter is one of them. In fact, from this mountaintop, we are able to survey all of redemptive history–from creation, to fall, to redemption, to restoration. The book of Revelation was given to the apostle John, who was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith.
An old man, he had seen every other apostle die a martyr’s death and he alone is left. And in the book of Revelation, he sees and records a series of visions that show what will take place at the end of days. But even more, the book of Revelation, according to 1:1, is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is not revelations, plural–it is revelation, singular, because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Throughout this book, we see different vignettes, different pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ. And of all of the pictures of Christ, none is more spectacular and helpful than Revelation 5. It shows us both the person and the work of the Son of Man. And let me just come to the conclusion and the point of the chapter and the point of Revelation and the point of the whole Bible–He alone is worthy.
What is He worthy of? All praise. Who is to praise Him? All of creation. Why are we to praise Him? Because of who He is. Who is He? He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and He is the Lamb who was slain. What has He done? He has vanquished the enemy–Satan, sin, and death. And He has taken His rightful place as the true King. And He will come again and bring His people home–and that is good news.
Are you dealing with hardship? Are you discouraged? Are you distracted? Are you distant? Have you lost focus? Will you allow the Word of God to cut through the malaise of your heart, the fogginess of your soul, and allow this picture of Christ to shake you from your lethargy and bring you back to nearness to God? May the Lord bless this time and the teaching of His Word. Let’s read the text together.
“I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ 3And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ 6And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’ 11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ 13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:1-14).
My friends, He alone is worthy. To give some structure to this message, our outline is just four words–sovereignty, failure, victory, and worship. Our outline for this morning is four singular words designed just to give us something to hang our thoughts on.
1. Sovereignty Verse 1
Verse 1 says, “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.” As this chapter begins, along with John, we are taken into the very throne room of Heaven, and John’s attention is fixed on the throne and more importantly on the one who is seated on the throne. Who sits on thrones? Kings do. And this is not just the throne of some earthly kingdom, but the throne of Heaven, the throne of the universe.
Notice that we never see a vision of God balancing his checkbook or filling up His gas tank, or running late to some engagement. He is not overwhelmed by too many things on His divine to-do list. No, we see Him on His throne in the position of authority and absolute control. In Job 42:2 Job said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Daniel said in Daniel 4:35, “no one can ward off His hand.”
Jeremiah said, “Nothing is too difficult for You,” in Jeremiah 32:17. And Isaiah said of God’s plan, “who can frustrate it?” in Isaiah 14:27. Every molecule in this universe is under His control and functions according to His plan. The psalmist said, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases,” Psalm 115:3.
Let’s allow Charles Spurgeon to apply this to our lives. He said, “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them.”–Spurgeon That means there is nothing in your life that is not a part of His plan for you–no sickness, no disease, no loss of a loved one, no loss of job, or broken heart, or anything else is outside of His plan. Every molecule in this universe is under His control and functions according to His plan.
Are you struggling to trust Him right now? Are you filled with anxiety and unease? Are you fearful of all that is going on around you? Psalm 46:10 gives us good instruction. “Cease striving, and know that I am God.” He is working all things out for our good and His glory.
Back in verse 1, John sees in God’s right hand a book, look there–“written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.” This is not a book like we know, with a binding and pages, but a scroll that is rolled up. And it has writing on the front and the back and it is sealed with seven seals. You could read only a portion of it with each seal, before having to break another seal. This was a common way in Jewish and Roman times that wills were written and business deals were done.
But what is this book? What does it represent? How are we to understand what is happening here? In its simplest form, this book is the title deed to the earth. And in 4:1, it is in the hand of sovereignty. It belongs in the hand of the true God who rules over all things–at least He once did. But He has for a time stepped aside. There is another who set himself on the throne. He is called the usurper, the destroyer, the prince of the power of the air–the one who raised himself up to be God and who led humanity into sin and plunged the entire human race into ruin.
You see–on page 3 of your Bible, Satan challenged the rule of God, deceiving mankind and causing them to go their own way. In theological circles, it is called the fall. That day, God cursed the very creation that He had declared to be good. Thorns and thistles it will grow. Man would work to eat and he would have an eventual end the Bible calls death. From dirt he came, to dirt he will go. The relationship with God was severed. A flaming sword held by a cherubim would guard the way to the presence of God, keeping man out.
From that day on, life became difficult. Survival became difficult, because a cursed earth pushes back. It is a broken world. There is sickness, and pain and suffering. There are wars and fears of wars. There are famines and natural disasters. There are viruses and there are plagues. There is poverty and inequality and hatred and strife. This world is filled with tension and sadness and misery. And the greatest enemy of all–death. Parents put their children in the grave. Cancers ravage the body. The effects of age that deplete the body’s ability to fight back and eventually succumb to that final call. Our world is bad, and it is getting worse. We have all experienced this–from our first zit to a broken heart to a funeral for a loved one.
In John 12, Jesus called Satan the ruler of this world, as he has set up a world system that exalts himself and denies the rule of God. But it will not always be this way. This is only for a time. The book that is held in the hand of almighty God is the title deed to the earth. It is a book that delineates God’s plan to buy back a cursed and broken universe. It is the description of His judgment on the devil and his angels and all who have rebelled against him. It is the final end of Satan, of sin, and of the grave. It is the end of the broken world, for here is God’s plan to restore His creation.
And the seven seals of this book represent the judgment of God. And in Revelation 6 and beyond, the breaking of each seal brings another level of the fury and wrath of God against His enemies. Revelation 6:16 says, “They said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?‘ ” But this is not just a book of judgment, it is a book of redemption which encompasses the entire consummation of the purpose and the will of God for His creation. And so here He is and He holds this book in His hand. And the unspoken word is that it is time–it is time to take this world back. It is time for God to make all things right.
2. Failure Verses 2 to 4
Verse 2, “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice.” This angel is strong and the proclamation is loud. It is an announcement that goes to all of creation, every creature in every corner of the universe can hear this. What does he say? “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” A universal invitation is made. “Who is worthy?”
It is a silly illustration, but in the movie Aladdin, Aladdin comes to the cave of wonders–and as he approaches, he is told only one who is worthy can enter here, whose worth lies far within, a diamond in the rough. “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (Verse 3). The call goes out. and there is no one–not even one. The call goes to Heaven–that would be angelic beings and the saints of old who are no longer living. The call goes to those on Earth–that would be to us, to men and women still living. The call goes to those under the earth–that would be demonic powers and men and women who have died and are separated from God in their sin.
This is a call. The sound has sounded, the bell has rung. All who have ever lived–any being, from any time, from all places are queried, and none are worthy. Think of all the people in the world. Adam failed, Cain failed. Noah failed. Abraham failed. The patriarchs failed. Moses failed. The judges failed. The kings failed. The prophets failed. The apostles failed. Throughout the ages, men and women have tried. They have died trying. They have starved themselves, whipped themselves, punished themselves in an effort to be worthy–but to no avail. They have taken up crusades and fought holy wars. They have denied themselves the pleasures of this life. They have devoted themselves to serving others. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mohammed, the best politicians such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill. The best war heroes, as Napoleon. Alexander. The greatest scientists, the greatest educators. The famous of Hollywood, the best athletes, business moguls, religious leaders–all fall short.
This is why the Scripture says there is none good. There is none who seeks for God. There is none worthy. No one can stand and take the book and open the scrolls. Look at the response in verse 4, “Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it.” John is overwhelmed. He is destitute. He is beside himself. “Weep greatly” is to wail loudly and continually, and was used of Judas after he betrayed Jesus. It is an earnest, loud, bitter emotion. It is also translated, cried and cried.
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? A search of the entire universe, from Hell to Heaven and all points in between, turns up no one worthy to open the scroll.
One author said, “The tears of John represent the tears of all God’s people through all the centuries. They are the tears of Adam and Eve, driven out of the Garden, and then as they bowed over the first grave, the still form of their son, Abel. Those are the tears of the children of Israel in bondage as they cried to God in their affliction. They are the tears that have been wrung from the heart of God’s people as they stand beside the graves of their beloved, as they experience the trials and sufferings of life, heartaches and disappointments. Such is the curse that sin has laid upon God’s creation.
“And his weeping comes because this failure to find a Redeemer meant that this earth is forever cursed, that death, sin, damnation and hell should reign forever and should remain forever in the hands of Satan.” (Criswell) And so he weeps.
3. Victory Verses 5 to 7
Verse 5, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping.’ ” This is so good–John, stop crying. Dude, you are causing a scene. “Behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
There is one who is worthy. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has overcome. That word is to prevail, to conquer, to be victorious. And look at how He is pictured in verse 6, “the lion from the tribe of Judah.” This is meant to paint a picture in your mind. A lion is the king of the jungle–above all other predators, regal in nature, fierce, strong, powerful, kingly. This is a reference back to Genesis 49:8 to 12, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. 9Judah is a lion’s whelp [cub]; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? 10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes [reference to the coming Messiah], and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. 12His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk.”
It is possible this is a reference to the millennial kingdom. This is the promise of a man who would come. While Genesis 3 says that He will come from the seed of the woman, this passage tells us that He would be a descendent of Judah–that Messiah would come from Judah. The picture here in Genesis 49 is of a conqueror, one who would come and bring the obedience of people.
The Old Testament picture of the Messiah was built off of this passage. Here comes a conquering king, a lion who will come and dominate and bring victory to His people. it also says in verse 6, “the Root of David,” that is He is from the kingly line–He is a descendent of David and will sit on David’s throne. Jeremiah 23:5 says, ” ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king.’ ” Yes, this lion will bring victory to His people.
But now look back at verse 6 and get what is happening. The first three words, “And I saw.” Up to this point through verse 5, he has only listened to what one of the elders told him. And now, he has been called to behold–to look up.
In high school, the week of the prom, I was dating Tracy and I went to her house each night and left a bouquet of flowers on her car with a note. So when she woke up on Monday through Thursday, there were flowers for her–but not on Friday. On Friday, during her last class before lunch, I borrowed my friend’s 3-year-old nephew, who was adorable. We dressed him in a little bow tie, gave him a dozen red roses, and showed him a picture of Tracy and then sent him into the classroom.
He walked in the back door and at first only the teacher saw him and stopped mid-sentence. At that point, everyone in the room turned around to see what she was looking at and saw this cute little guy holding a dozen roses. And he walked in, looking, scanning the room–trying to find the one person he knew. And all of a sudden he saw Tracy–he recognized her. And his face lit up and the fear he had was gone. He never took his eyes off her. He walked right up to her, handed her the roses, and then walked out. It was fantastic–and he did it all for one single piece of gum.
It is a little bit of what is happening here. John had his head down and is weeping. One of the elders comes to Him and tells him of the Lamb who has conquered in verse 5, and then John looks up. And verse 6 says, “and I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain.” The four living creatures with six wings are flying about, and there is a clearing. The 24 elders are gathered around and now John sees what all are gathered around–and instead of seeing a Lion, he sees a Lamb. The Greek refers to a young sheep. It is the picture of a lamb that has been laid on the altar and sacrificed.
This is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” The very first time John had met Jesus, it was at the side of the Jordan River when he heard John the Baptist say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
It is His work on the cross to defeat sin and death. It is the statement, “It is finished,” which He declared as He gave up His life. It is the curtain of the Temple torn in two as sinful man now has access to a holy God. It is payment of sin. And here in this vision, John joins the Old Testament royal Davidic Messiah with the suffering servant and both come together in the person and work of Jesus the Nazarene. But look back at verse 6–the Lamb is standing as if slain. A slaughtered lamb does not stand, but lies prostrate–neck slit, blood having run down. But even though this Lamb has been slain, He is no longer dead. He is alive. Revelation 1:17 and 18, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” The victory of Christ came as He conquered death, rising again to life defeating the grave.
First Corinthians 15:54 and 55 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 55but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is the worthy one. He is the one who has overcome. He is the Lamb that was slain and He is the Lion that conquers.
And I cannot give you the power of verse 7–but look at it. “And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” He approaches the eternal throne of the holy and sovereign God. He looks at the face that no man can see and live. He stands before the omniscient, omnipotent, eternal God and He takes the book. He alone is worthy. He will open the book and He will break its seals and He will deal out retribution to the devil and all His enemies. And He will bring redemption to His people and will restore our broken world.
All that is wrong with this world will be fixed. All of your hurt, all of your heartache, all of your pain–He will bring a new order as He takes His place as the rightful heir of this world. He will rule in peace and order and love. He will reverse the curse and cause the lion and the lamb to lay down together. He will bring Eden back. He will wipe away every tear. He will dwell with His people forever. He alone is worthy.
4. Worship Verses 8 to 14
There is only one response–it is worship. Look at verse 8, “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. This is the immediate picture. It is the four living creatures and the 24 elders and they respond with praise and with worship. Verse 9, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals“–and here is the reason why He is worthy. Continuing in verse 9, “for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood [–this is the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19)] men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
In tribe there is the idea of the same descent, in tongue that of the same language, in people that of the same interests, in nation that of the same political unity. This reminds me of communion at FBC, when we go to the tables around the room. People get up and go to the four corners of the room–they gather as families, as couples, with friends, as individuals. People from all walks of life, different ages and genders, people from all walks of life are in that one room offering praise, confessing sin, and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ–it is a microcosm of what is happening on a global level.
Jesus is redeeming people from all over the earth. He is no respecter of persons or of race or of language. The language of Heaven is not English. The socio-economic aspect of Heaven does not represent Murrieta/Temecula–this is global. People from every walk of life, from every time in history, from every place have been purchased by the Lamb. He has paid the price for their sin, and redeemed them. His redemption extends beyond the bounds of our community and explodes to the farthest reaches of the earth. In the most populated city and in the remotest jungle, in the most sophisticated first world country and in the tribal villages of the Amazon, from the youngest heart that professes Jesus as Lord to the eldest saint on their way to glory–every color of skin, they are all here united under the banner of our Redeemer, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (verse 10). These are priests who will worship Him. They are part of a kingdom that will serve Him. Somehow they will reign with Him. His work brings their reward. Crazy. But it’s not over. John now hears a thundering sound. There is a second level of worship happening.
In addition to the four creatures and the 24 elders is the sound in verse 11, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.”
This is hundreds of thousands–millions, perhaps billions of angels, beyond counting. Friends, He is an infinite God. He is worthy of infinite praise. There are a lot of angels. And every holy angel in Heaven joins in to say in verse 12, “with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ ” But this is not enough. There is one more level of praise coming in verse 13. “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ ”
This is the fulfillment of Philippians 2:8 to 11, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:14). They kept saying, “Amen.” It is as if blessing amen. and honor amen, and glory amen, and dominion amen–forever and ever. Amen. And the elders fell down and worshiped. This is the singular response–worship. Because He alone is worthy. And so we come to the end of John’s vision. And we have taken our eyes off of our circumstances, off of our daily routines, and we have placed them on the worthy One. We have seen Jesus clearly and the question comes to us–what will we do with this? There are only two options.
1. We fall at His feet in worship.
Celebrate the fact that He is the sovereign who controls all things, even a virus, and has redeemed us by His blood–and we praise Him. We look for ways to put Him on display, not because we are obligated to, but as the overflow of a transformed heart. We sing. We read His Word. We pray. We serve Him. We love Him. We lay our very lives on the altar as an act of worship.
2. We close our hearts and reject Him.
This is the case with many in the book of Revelation. Having seen the revelation of Jesus Christ, they choose to go their own way. What will you do? If you don’t embrace Him as Lamb, then you will face him as Lon. It is our prayer that you will come to Him to find salvation and the forgiveness of your sin. For those who know Him, we fall at His feet in worship, for He alone is worthy. Let’s pray.