Monday, August 10, 2015

The Worthy Lamb

My Sunday School lesson for August 9, 2015 ...

So far there are approximately 144 candidates for president for the 2016 election.

Actually, 21, 17 Republicans and 4 Democrats. So far.

The first Republican debates were last Thursday, with 17 candidates comparing their views and experience to woo our votes.

With all these candidates, how will you decide who is worthy to be President?

Experience? Values? Name recognition? Do you vote on someone because they are a good communicator, or because they have integrity, or because they can get things done?

We elect leaders we think are worthy enough to move us towards a shared goal of a better future for our families and our country.

No pressure, right? Today we'll look at how the apostle John wept because he didn't find see anyone worthy to open God's scrolls. He quickly saw that there is One who is worthy.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Revelation 5 continues the vision of God’s heavenly throne that John began in chapter 4.

--- In chapter 4 John was taken through a door standing open in heaven and into the throne room. God's glory shines in bright colors, lightning and thunder rumbles, the cherubim and 24 elders surround and worship Him, the Holy Spirit shines from seven lampstands.

*** This chapter is the opening scene for the first cycle of judgments that lead up to the Second Coming of Christ.

THE SEARCH (Rev. 5:1-4)

1 Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. 4 And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.

*** Who is worthy?

--- God holds a scroll that no one in heaven or on earth can look in, let alone open any of it seven seals.

This was typical of a contract in the ancient world. Marriage contracts, leases, slaves, bills, all kinds of legal documents were done like this.

Roman wills were sealed seven times, so this scroll might represent a number of things—God’s covenant, His law, His promises, His plans, or perhaps a legal will.

Two Biblical references from prophetic scrolls in the Old Testament point to God’s plan for the end times:

Ezekiel 2:9-10 - Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Daniel 12:4 - But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.

--- In chapters 6 and 7 the first six seals are broken, then after the seventh seal is broken (8:1), John described the final judgments and the ultimate salvation of the faithful.

*** No one in heaven or under the earth could open the scroll. Not angels, not the elders from chapter 4, not men, not evil spirits, deserved this honor.

--- Think of those assembled. The angels Michael and Gabriel couldn’t speak up. None of the Old Testament saints could open it. All of the Apostles are there, not a one is worthy.

--- Think about if you went to a store and started opening cans of soup or jelly or those Gerber puffs? You’d get in trouble. Why? Because purchasing an item gives you the right to open it. Only Jesus purchased the right to open the sealed scroll through his death, burial and resurrection.

*** John wept.

--- He didn’t just cry. He “cried and cried.”

--- QUESTION – So why do you think John was so upset?

John wanted God’s will to be accomplished, in earth as in heaven (Matthew 6:10), but if no one can open the scroll then it can’t happen.

John shed the same tears of anyone who thought that God wasn't moving as they though He should so that good would defeat evil. Think of Adam and Even being driven from Eden. Think of the Israelites who made the exodus only to die before reaching the Promised Lane. Think of John, seeing the church persecuted, of all the apostles dying before Jesus returned.

THE DISCOVERY (Rev. 5:5-7)

5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne.

*** There's no crying in heaven!

--- John's grief is short-lived when one of the 24 tells him to watch.

--- Though these verses never say the name "Jesus Christ," we know that there's only one Lamb qualified to open the scroll and execute God's plan.

Since the beginning of time, many have desired to be the ultimate ruler of the world. There were figures such as Nebuchadnezzar. There was Xerxes. Alexander the Great. Genghis Khan. Napoleon. Hitler. Stalin. One day there will be the Antichrist. All have them ultimately failed to conquer the world for all time. Only one has the power to take back the world from sin and Satan. Not even the religious leaders sucha s Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, no evil man and no good man is capable. (John MacArthur)

*** The Lion, the Root of David.

--- Prophecy said that the Messiah would descend from the tribe of Jacob's son Judah. (Gen. 49:9-10 - "You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.")

--- The idea of the Messiah as a lion provokes images of strong and powerful, even menacing. That's why so many Jews didn't belive in Jesus. They expected someone who would come with ferocity and destroy the ungodly invaders. They didn't realize that his work as a lion is yet to come.

--- Prophecy also said that the Messiah would come from the line of David. (Isaiah 11:1 - "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.")

*** The Lamb.

--- The imagery here is striking. Even though the elder refers to a lion, John sees a lamb that had been slain that stands alive in the center of heaven's throne room. The lamb is the lion. It is an eternal reminder of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

--- Think of the symbolism of lambs in the Bible. For the ancient Israelities, sheep were an important part of the sacrificial system. In Exodus it was lamb's blood that was smeared over doorposts on Passover. (Ex. 12:21-23) For the New Covenant, the Lamb of God would take away all sin.

--- Two features stand out:

(1) The seven horns represent power, as horns suggest an animal's strength.

Psalm 18:2 - The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 89:17 - For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.

Psalm 92:10 - You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured on me.

Daniel 7:8 - While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Daniel 8:3 - I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later.

(2) Notice the use of seven again. Seven is the number of perfection or completion. Seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, represent vision and knowledge. It's also a connection to the Holy Spirit, which as we saw in Revelation chapter 4 was represented in the throne room by seven lampstands.

*** QUESTION - What difference does it make to us as Christians whether we think of Jesus more as a lion? Or as a lamb?

(Both taken together bring a vision of Jesus' triumph, His worthiness to open the scroll.)

THE HONORING (Rev. 5:8-14)

8 When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth. 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. 12 They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! 13 I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

*** Every creature will bow and worship Jesus one day.

--- In these verses the scene in the throne room turns to worship of the Lamb.

What an image! Remember, this scene takes place in the future, and now the end is in sight.

Think of it like a movie, focused on Jesus, pulling out to see the four living creatures and elders falling down in worship, then the camera pulls out even more to see angels, thousands upon thousands of thousands – which adds up to the tens of millions, then every creature in the universe proclaiming Jesus is Lord.

--- It’s a similar scene to what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

--- If everyone in heaven is worshiping Jesus, we should be following suit.

*** QUESTION - What does it mean to you that every creature will bow and worship Jesus one day? How should we respond to this?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

To start the lesson we talked about qualities that make for a qualified president.

Isaiah 11:2 may have a better method of picking someone worthy, listing traits of the Spirit: "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord."

While important, a president will still only serve two terms, or eight years, at the most.

Jesus will reign forever. Over every tribe and nation. Only Jesus is worthy, no matter what happens in the next election. And as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:14, His followers will be redeemed to the praise of His glory.

*** The central truth to these verses is that Jesus is the Lamb of God who redeems the earth from sin.

*** Only He is worthy of our worship. And all will eventually worship Him as Lord.

*** Think of those you know who won't be a part of the kingdom of Jesus. What can you do to help get them there?

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