Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Volume 02, Number 44
church of Christ
1860 Mt. Baker HWY
P.O. Box 30821
Bellingham, WA 98228
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In this issue:
WORTHY IS THE LAMB
Revelation 5:1-7, John sees a vision of God upon His throne holding a scroll
in His hand. Scrolls were usually written on one side for ease of reading
while being unrolled, but this one was filled with writing on both sides.
This scroll is marked with seven seals to indicate God’s authority and
ownership of what is written on it. Whatever the scroll reads, it must
represent God’s will and plan for all things.
Who is worthy? John must have been curious what was contained in the scroll,
but it could not be read while it remained sealed. Suddenly a mighty angel
cried out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Only one
who is able to carry out God’s will in its fullness could open the scroll.
Even the mighty angel did not step forward to do so himself! Even though
that angel must have been particularly powerful to be distinguished in that
way, he still falls short of what is needed. Perfect power and holiness are
required to open the scroll.
The mighty angel has called for anyone to step forward, but still there is
no one—none of the cherubim, seraphim, angels, living creatures, elders, or
any man or woman on earth, alive or dead. John can only weep bitterly that
the scroll could not be opened.
The Lion-Lamb. One of the elders tells John that he has no reason to weep.
There is someone who is worthy—a conqueror named the Lion of Judah! He is
the Root of David and He alone is worthy to open the scroll.
The “Lion of Judah” is a reference to Genesis 49:9-10, a prophetic promise
given to Jacob’s son Judah. The tribe of Judah would have power and rule
“until Shiloh comes” (NKJV). This prophecy was understood by the Jews to be
messianic in nature. Shiloh is difficult to translate but likely means “he
for whom it is laid up” as in the LXX or “whose it is” as in the Syriac OT.
This interpretation is reinforced by later quotations of Genesis 49:10 in
Ezekiel 21:27 (“until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs”) and
Galatians 3:19 (“until the offspring should come to whom the promise had
been made”). In any case, the idea behind the “Lion of Judah” reference in
Revelation 5 is to identify Jesus as the one who takes over the eternal
scepter and rule from the tribe of Judah, which is then extended to the
kingdom of God throughout the world (Isaiah 2:2-4).
The ”Root of David” is another Old Testament reference from Isaiah 11. The
first verse of that chapter shows that the Messiah would be a descendent of
David’s family, but the tenth verse follows that up with a description of
Jesus as the source of David’s family. How can the Messiah be both? This is
a similar point to the one Peter made in Acts 2:25-35. The physical lineage
of Jesus can be traced to David, but Jesus also predates David because He is
without beginning. This affirms the duality of Jesus as God and man.
However, when John turns to look at the Lion of Judah, he actually sees a
Lamb as though it had been slain. That is a very different image than what
was previously described to him! Lambs are not powerful creatures, yet He is
the only one capable of breaking the seals? These mixed metaphors help us to
appreciate the complex nature of Jesus. He is Conqueror, but also the
sacrifice. He is King, but also the one who was rejected and killed.
Upon closer inspection, the Lamb was not a typical Lamb after all. The Lamb
had seven horns and seven eyes. Horns are a symbol of strength and authority
in Scripture, and Jesus has them sevenfold! The seven eyes are explained in
the text as the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. This is an
illustration used several times in Revelation up to this point.
The plan of God is fulfilled in Jesus. Only the Lion-Lamb is able to step
forward to take the scroll from the Father. The implication for us is
profound. Everything that the Father has planned from before the beginning
culminates in the work of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. The blood of
Jesus atones for our sins, His intercession mediates on our behalf, and His
grace fills us and changes us as we serve Him. The Holy Spirit goes forth at
Jesus’ word to seal us and instruct us in the word. And of course, Jesus
will defeat the forces of sin and death in the end. When no one else could
save us and reconcile us with God, the Lion of Judah and Sacrificial Lamb
won us a great victory.
GODHEAD IN REVELATION 1
beginning of the book of Revelation, we can find each member of the Godhead
described. Revelation is a book of signs and symbols so we must be careful
with our interpretation but there are important truths revealed here.
The Father. “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is
to come…” (Revelation 1:4). This is a description that technically applies
to the Father, Son, and Spirit alike. One of the defining characteristics of
deity is being without beginning or end. However, another key to
understanding Revelation is to respect its near-constant quotations of and
allusions to the Old Testament. To read Revelation without a working
knowledge of the Old Testament is an exercise in futility!
In this case, there are several passages in the Old Testament that this
passage is making reference to. When Moses asked God who he should tell
Israel sent him to them, God said, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of
Israel: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). Also compare Isaiah 57:15
where God is called the One who “inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy”.
The Spirit. “Grace to you and peace… from the seven spirits who are before
his throne” (Revelation 1:4). “Seven spirits” sounds incredibly mystical,
but remember that numbers in Revelation are almost never quantitative.
Revelation is apocalyptic literature, so it uses numbers to represent ideas
different than what we are used to. These symbols would not have been
unheard for the original audience, however. So in this passage, we should
not imagine seven Holy Spirits but a perfect and complete Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is often ignored and minimized due to our lack of
understanding of His work, but He embodies perfection all the same. Jesus
emphasized the sufficiency of the Spirit as the One who would reveal all
truth, which connects well with the revelation that is being given to John
(John 15:26; 16:13).
The Son. “…and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the
dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and
Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is
coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced
him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who
is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:5-8).
Jesus is the “faithful witness”. The prophets of old bore witness to a
message from God. Jesus did the same when He came to the earth to preach the
new kingdom that was fast approaching and the opportunity for true salvation
(cf. John 1:18, among others).
“Firstborn from the dead” might give us pause. Jesus was not the first
person to ever be raised from the dead—He even resurrected several people
while He was on the earth! However, what makes Jesus different is that He
was the first one to rise and never die again. Every other person who had
been resurrected would eventually succumb to death once more, but not Jesus.
In this way, He is the firstborn of the final resurrection (cf. Colossians
1;18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; Acts 13:34; Romans 6:9). This status as firstborn
from the dead was an important part of Jesus’ work as our high priest (cf.
Hebrews 9:23-28; 10:19-22).
Jesus’ authority is ultimate, here reflected in the phrase “ruler of kings
on earth”. It is by His power and authority that He freed us from our sins,
made us a kingdom of priests, and will one day return to judge those who
Finally, the same definition of deity that was applied to the Father in
verse 4 is applied to Jesus here. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is
no created being—not even the greatest of God’s creation. He is God Himself.
Conclusion. The book of Revelation features some of the most powerful works
of Satan and his servants, and these accounts terrify people to this day.
Yet, if we carefully read, we see the hand of the Godhead on the very first
page of the book, revealing His ultimate power and presence. The promises
that come in the rest of the book can be believed if we have faith in Him.
Created by John Bass, last updated.
The Mount Baker Beacon is a
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA.
Send all questions, comments to the editor, John Bass at (360) 325-5149