The second half of the throne room scene begins in Revelation chapter 5. If chapter 4 reminded us that God was in control of his world, chapter 5 answers the next logical question: if he is in control, what’s he going to do about all the injustice in the world? And the answer is – he’s already doing something about it. Let’s take a look.
Rev 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals;
A seven-sealed document was usually a testament; a will. It’s written on both sides, which was un-usual as scrolls were mostly designed to be written on one side only. It means it’s a very full scroll; but full of what? As we’ll see in chapter 6 next week, it’s full of judgement; judgement on a world that has rejected its creator. It’s a scroll that brings justice to the world & vindication for God’s people.
That’s the big picture that John wants to bring to us: justice is coming. God hasn’t been sitting on his throne like Emperor Nero, fiddling while his world burns. God has been doing something about it.
And God’s will – God’s testament – is about to be enacted. Justice is about to be carried out. But like a will, it requires a death for it to come into force. Which is one reason only Jesus – the slain lamb – is able to open it:Rev 5:3-6 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4 And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered…
Now as was the case with chapter 4, we could spend weeks going through all of the individual images and allusions; there’s so much here. But for the remainder of this week we’ll focus on three lessons we can learn from the image of Jesus as a slain lamb.
The slain lamb now victorious: justice for God’s people
Firstly, Jesus, the slain lamb is described as victorious. In fact, he’s described first using the OT image of a Lion. ‘See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has triumphed.’ Very quickly, though, the image of a lion gives way to a lamb. A lamb that has been slain. Yet despite that, it’s somehow very much alive. It has survived death; it has defeated death. And the picture is one of a returning hero against the odds; standing defiant, tall and all-conquering.
Although it used the lion image, I think the movie Narnia captured this mood well. (Just need to watch from 1’12” to 1’30”.)
What does this triumphant image tell us? Again, it reminds the readers of Revelation to take in the bigger picture; to see history from God’s point of view. By his resurrection, Jesus has won the victory. He’s able to open the scroll that contains God’s judgement; God’s justice. He stands triumphant: poised to bring closure to the evil in the world; to bring judgement to the perpetrators of evil; and to bring vindication for those who are victims. The victorious lamb brings justice for God’s people. For us.
The lamb slain for a purpose: the redemption of God’s people
And yet, how did he achieve this? Not by coming like the Lion of the tribe of Judah; the warrior-king that most Jews were expecting. A political messiah who brought in a political kingdom through military success. No. He brought justice, he brought redemption through sacrifice. Through suffering.Rev 5:9 They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;”
That’s why the lamb was slain. With his blood he bought us back from slavery to sin; he bought us for God. His suffering had a purpose: the salvation of the nations.
It’s not hard to see how this would have been a powerful word to those among John’s readers who were suffering for the sake of the gospel. It reframes their suffering in terms of Jesus’ own suffering. Jesus had to suffer for a brief while; don’t be surprised, then, when you suffer for being one of his followers. Jesus suffered for a purpose, to bring salvation to the nations. Again, be reminded that your suffering has a purpose – to stand as a testimony to that message of salvation for the nations.
So if, in the midst of the injustices of this world, you’re wondering where is God? The answer is – right here with us, having suffered the greatest injustice of all! If you’re wondering why are God’s people suffering injustice? The answer is – because Jesus himself suffered injustice. And if you’re wondering what’s God going to do about it? The answer is – well, let’s take a closer look at the image of the lamb. Tomorrow…