June 12: Revelation 5:1-10

We’re two weeks into our Revelation mini-series on worship, and picking up where we left off last week we’re met with a dramatic moment in John’s vision in Revelation 5. God, sitting on his throne, hands forth a scroll, and Jesus alone is worthy to open it and fulfill God’s plan. This centers all of our attention on Jesus and what makes him worthy both to carry out God’s plan and to receive our unending worship.
There are various thoughts as to what the scroll in verse 1 represents. It could be a royal decree handed down by God, or God’s whole big plan for redemption, or a plan for the End of Time meant to be carried out. We really can’t say for certain which it is, though given the song that’s sung to Jesus in v.9-10 and the acts of judgment that come with the opening of the scroll’s seals (Rev. 6:1-8:5), it’s likely something related to God’s work in both redemption and judgment. However, in a sense the exact content of the scroll doesn’t matter (and if it did, in his sovereignty God wouldn’t have neglected to tell us). The essential role of the scroll, a will, desire, or plan of God which is offered to be executed by another, is quite clear. And a second thing is just as clear: no being in the universe is worthy to execute it.

At least, at first glance. This is that dramatic moment in John’s vision I mentioned above, where the need for One who is worthy is deafening. The elders and the creatures around the throne can’t do it, the angels or John himself can’t do it, no one living or dead or yet to come can do it. But then comes the dramatic reveal—an elder points to the one who is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the slain Lamb. Only God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, can fulfill God’s plan for his people and his creation.

John says he turned to see “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes.”(5:6) That might sound like the stuff of nightmares, but like I said last week, we need to keep in mind that prophetic and apocalyptic literature has a dreamlike quality to it, with layers of meaning that would be strange or disturbing in real life. Which is to say, it’s meant to catch your attention, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from the intended meaning. As a refresher, seven was the ancient number of perfection, and a horn represented power and authority in the ancient world, as in Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is…my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” So, seven horns represents perfect power and authority. Then John himself explains the seven eyes as being the “seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Check out the Revelation Resources post for more on the seven spirits.

Now, to back up, those three titles given to Jesus, Lion, Root, and Lamb, are jam-packed with significance, which we don’t have room to delve into here. Check out Genesis 49 for more on the Lion of Judah and Isaiah 11 for more on the Root of David (though there you’ll see “branch” instead of root; here we’re told he’s the root because he’s both the descendent of David, i.e. “branch”, and source of David, i.e. “root”). For more on the Lamb of God, consult the Exodus account of Passover (Exo. 12) and the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:7. This web of connections to Old Testament prophesy and expectation shows how Jesus fulfills all of God’s plans throughout history, both past, present, and future.

And how does he fulfill these plans? In his upside-down kingdom, Jesus is victorious by being slain. That’s the logic of the new song in verse 9, “Worthy are you to take the scroll…for you were slain.” Here on earth, we naturally think that victory only comes through power, regardless of whether that power is physical, political, intellectual, economic, or cultural. But in the heavens the true value of things is revealed, and Jesus exemplifies true victory not by triumph but by death, not by power but by dependence upon God. And Jesus doesn’t keep the victory to himself, “…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”(5:9b)

As we ask each week what it means to be a citizen in Jesus’ kingdom, this passage is key. Here we see that Jesus is worthy of being king, but we also see what kind of king he is and, by extension, what kind of kingdom he leads. Further, we see that the response of a citizen is to fall down before the king and to worship (5:14). This sort of worship is a full-orbed affair, involving body, mind, heart, and soul. Worship involves singing, certainly, but it also involves so much more. In our discussion we’ll close with how this passage can help us grow in our trust of Jesus. A significant portion of worship involves not just giving Jesus our songs, our money, or our time, but placing our very selves in his hands, knowing that he, and he alone, is worthy.

Questions for Discussion

Revelation Resources →

• Could someone read Revelation 5:1-14 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• What do you think is going on with this scroll here?

• How is Jesus described here? (don’t get distracted by the weirdness of the seven horns and eyes stuff; see intro above)

• What reasons does the passage give for why Jesus is worthy of worship?

• What about this passage stirs up your heart to worship Jesus?

• Jesus alone is worthy to carry out God’s plan—how can this passage help you grow in trusting Jesus?