In the book of Revelation, we find John, its author, banished to the small island of Patmos because of his faithfulness to the Gospel. As he addresses his readers in the book’s opening verses, he refers to himself as “your brother and partner in the tribulation” (1:9)—an acknowledgment that the people he was writing to were believers who, much like him, were trying to make sense of their troubled lives.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar place: as we look at the turmoil of our world and lives, we find ourselves wondering, “Is there any way we can go behind the scenes of all this? Is there anyone who can give us an inkling of where we’re going and what we’re doing?”
“Who Is Worthy?”
This is exactly what happened to John one Lord’s Day on Patmos: he was taken behind the scenes of time and history. “I was in the Spirit,” he writes, “and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” (1:10). By chapter 4, he is standing before a throne higher than any known in the world—a throne occupied by God Himself. In the palm of His right hand, God holds a scroll with writing on both sides, but it is sealed with seven seals. John relates,
I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able … and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy.” (5:2–4)
For a moment, John feels a keen sense of despair. But then, something wondrous happens:
One of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain …. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb …. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll,
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
for every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (vv. 5–10)
From this point onward, Revelation strikes this wonderful, triumphant, encouraging note: the Lamb has triumphed; He is able to unlock the seals and unfold the mystery.
Slain, but Still Standing
We cannot be absolutely certain how well John’s first readers knew the Old Testament, but some of them must have been quite familiar with much of its teaching. When this picture of the Lamb was placed front and center, then, their minds would have quickly gone to the events of the Passover, recorded in Exodus 12. They knew that God’s exodus deliverance came through the sacrificed Passover Lamb. They must also have thought of Isaiah 53, with its description of the Suffering Servant who was “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7).
This is the Lamb whom John sees—the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain.” Here, however, He is no longer slain. He is standing. He is alive with resurrection life and power.
But notice something else: it is still obvious that He once had been slain; His wounds are still visible. The wounds remind us of the costly death by which our redemption has been achieved; the fact that this Lamb stands reminds us of the triumph of His resurrection.
Who can wipe away every tear from our eyes? Who can enter into the depths of our circumstances and deal with them? Who can supply living water so that we will never thirst again? Only Jesus. Only the Lamb of God.
No wonder, then, that the response of heaven is “Worthy are you”! This is the cry of the redeemed. John is identifying its cost: the price was the blood of the Lamb being shed. On Calvary, Christ once and for all purchased our redemption. Now, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is enthroned at the very center of this picture. As people are drawn around this scene, they recognize that we have our Redeemer.
God’s Final Answer
But how, you may ask, does this vision answer our concerns about our own broken world and troubled lives?
The answer comes just two chapters later, in Revelation 7. There, John witnesses a great multitude singing God’s praises and serving God’s purposes (vv. 12–15). The saints in glory are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple. They are under the spreading protection of His wonderful care: “He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (v. 15).
And who else do we find there?
The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (v. 17)
Here it is, then—God’s final answer to the angst of our generation, and of every generation. Who else can wipe away every tear from our eyes? Who else can enter into the depths of our circumstances and deal with them? Who else can supply living water so that we will never thirst again? Only Jesus. Only the one who is the Lamb of God.
The Eternal Lamb
If, at one sitting, you read Revelation 5–7, you will notice that this tapestry, which has the Lord Jesus at its center, surrounds Him with an ever-expanding circle of praise. But there is more to come:
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:13)
One day the shadows will flee away. The days of preparation will all come to an end. The final day will dawn. Already we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. But then we will know Him in a new way—in face-to-face fellowship. Then we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
Truth For Life, The Bible-Teaching Ministry of Alistair Begg has adapted this content with permission from Name above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair B. Ferguson (Crossway, 2013).
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