“The Lamb That Was Slain”
This Book began with Christ giving messages to seven churches that existed at the time. Then came John’s transportation to heaven where he saw, in symbolic form, the nature of God, which he passed on to his readers in a magnificent, grand manner. We are left in no doubt that God in His fullness is supreme and beyond human perception, and we can see the all-embracing power of the Creator as His voice booms across the ages. One day every knee shall bow to Him, whether or not they wish to.
He is God and no-one can stand before Him and live, unless he is saved by grace, through Jesus Christ. I sometimes wonder at those people who used to be amongst us, but who have gone off on their own path in life, ignoring God. I am very aware of my own mortality, and the thought of reaching Judgement Day without Christ is something I do not wish to contemplate. Yet, others, who claim salvation, steadily ignore Him and care nothing about it!
To these I say, IF you are saved come back before it is too late! The symbols used in this Book are powerful, but the reality of God the Judge is even greater. Do not reach that Day without living in Christ! And do not think that because you are on this earth now, that life will remain in you for much longer; none of us knows when we will die. That is why we must all live as if we will not be here in the next second. As the text warns, read these words and live. You may reach Heaven, but with so much shame?
In this chapter John relates how he met with Jesus Christ as the only One Who is worthy (as was mentioned in the previous verses and is again mentioned here). The symbols are again very striking and full of power.
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book a written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.”
John looked at God Who sat on the throne: He held a book in His right hand, the hand symbolic of power and authority. He sat on the throne; sitting is a symbol of being established. The book or scroll was small (biblion and not biblos, which is a larger book or scroll), had writing on the inside, and was closed on the back with seven seals.
The book was ‘sealed’, katasphragizo. Taken from kata and sphragizo, here kata means to set against or ‘according to’ (God), and sphragizo is to ‘seal up’, both as a mark of ownership and as security against Satan. It means also to keep secret or silent, and it authenticates the content and the One Who has the seals. Sphragizo is rooted in sphragis, meaning a seal put upon books, but it can also refer to the stamp of the name of God or Christ on the forehead, as proof of ownership. The word ‘seals’ is sphragis, which is assumed to have its root in phrasso, meaning to fence in or to close up, itself probably rooted in phren – (to curb) the understanding.
Thus, God deliberately curbs what we can know for His own reasons and only He, or His designated Person, can open the secrets to His creation. Why seven seals? We are not told. The number may, or may not, on this occasion, be an indication of perfection, but we cannot tell at this juncture, because ‘seven’ is simply hepta, the numeral or primary number, seven. Obviously, then, unless we are told otherwise in the text, this just means there were seven seals!
John then saw a ‘strong angel’. That is, a spirit-being who was extremely strong and powerful, with attributes of excellence. The angel boomed out a question to everyone around the throne and in heaven, with a very loud voice: “Who is worthy to open this book?” From this we can infer that the book could not be opened by anyone other than One Who is axios (worthy).
To be ‘worthy’ is to have great weight (of value) by way of meriting honour. In this sense, ‘worth’ can refer to both what is good and what is bad. In this text, it refers to what is good. Only Christ is worthy. Those of us He saves are ‘worthy’ only in the sense that our worth is in Him, not in us. In ourselves we have no worth. Therefore, by definition, the question can be defined further, as “Who is pure and holy in His own right?… for this book can only be opened by such a One!” Clearly, then, the angel was making a point, a proclamation, not just asking a question.
We have noted that axios is not confined to what is good; one can be axios of what is bad. Thus, we are ‘worthy’ of death and Satan is worthy of condemnation (for he is condemned already, without reprieve). Christ is the exact opposite: He is axios of life and honour and praise. Only He has the qualities necessary to open the seals.
I have often noted how those who call themselves ‘Christian’ insist we must always speak well of all Believers and even of unbelievers, because of their ‘worth’. But, why? The ‘worth’ of the saved is in Christ, not in us. We have no worth of our own. The unsaved have no worth at all in terms of holiness or good, for their only worth is in what is bad, which is fixed in Satan’s bosom! We must knuckle down and see the truth! The unsaved have no worth to save them. They are without value and without hope, unless they have been elected in eternity to be ultimately saved in their lifetimes.
No-one in heaven or earth came forward, for they already knew they had no worth of their own. Nobody created could break the seals to reveal the contents of the book. When no-one went forward, John wept in sheer grief; no-one was worthy to either open or to read the book!
This is a stark fact we must all remember, for it keeps us in our true place of subjection to God through Christ. It is something to impress upon our minds and hearts: we have no worth except in and through Christ. He is the key to our salvation and heavenly residence. We can do nothing at all to gain these two prizes, for we are not worthy in ourselves.
There is a hard truth enmeshed with this fact – that without this pure and Holy One Whose worth is in Himself, we would all be lost, unable to bridge that divide between Heaven and hell. This is yet another proof of predestination and election.
“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.”
As John wept, one of the elders told him to stop crying, because the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, Jesus Christ, had stepped forward to open the book. Only He could break open the seals placed there by God the Father.
Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the brave and mighty hero. He is the Root of David, or, the origin of David, who was His ‘offspring’. That is, Christ is the One Who saves by His own strength, and He is the One in Whom all have their being. It is He Who conquered (prevailed) death and has the victory over sin. Not us, but Him. Because of Who He was and is, only Christ could break open the seals and read the contents of the book.
John wiped away his tears and looked up to the throne. There, in the middle of the throne, surrounded by the many-eyed beasts and the elders, was a Lamb… Jesus Christ. He was in the ‘midst’ of the throne, denoting His true rank and position as one of the triune Godhead.
The Lamb was full of blood and injuries, from being killed violently. It had seven horns and seven eyes. These symbolised the seven Spirits of God sent to all the earth as His witnesses to men, who thereby gain knowledge of salvation (or of their lost estate). The horns symbolised strength, courage and deliverance – the Messiah. What or who are the ‘seven Spirits’? Surely there is only one Holy Spirit? Yes, there is. Therefore, this must be a reference to the ‘Spirits of truth’, a term used three times in scripture.
Note that these Spirits were sent to all the earth, so silencing the claim that God is not good if He sends people to hell when they do not know of Him. In Romans 1, too, we are told that everyone knows God exists, if it is only from nature. Even human logic says there must be a God above all. But, they choose to ignore the fact and so remain guilty.
The Lamb, Christ, took the book from the hand of God, without ceremony or seeking favour. This is because the task was His by right, not only because He is God Himself, but because He earned the privilege by giving His life to save the elect. By taking the book from God’s right hand, Christ was showing He was equal to God, for how else could He remove the book from the right hand, the symbol of power and authority? He could only do it because His power and authority was the same: He is God. Only the same power can operate in exactly the same way as God.
“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
As soon as Christ removed the book, it heralded the praise of everyone in attendance. They lay prostrate on their faces, in reverence, an act that spoke of their recognition of His status in heaven and His authority over their existence. Each one had a harp and golden bottles full of sweet smelling perfumes, representing the prayers of the saved. (’Saints’ here does not have a Roman Catholic meaning! Every saved soul is a saint).
This shows that our prayers really do reach Heaven and are known by God. It also shows that prayers are not merely our requests to God for something, they are, at their most basic, signs of our obedience to Him. How? Because true prayer occurs when God prompts us to speak to Him about something and we obey by praying, returning to Him what He has given to us to pray about.
Always, the ‘power of prayer’ is not some kind of magic performed when we open our mouths. It is not a power we possess ourselves. The ‘power’ of prayer is found in obedience in praying for what God has given to us to pray about. Thus, the power is in Him, not in us, or in any ‘gift’ we imagine we might have.
The beasts and the elders then sang a brand new song, unheard of before. The meaning of ‘song’ in this text is an ode, or praise to someone. They sang praises to Christ because only He could break the seals and open the book to read it. They praised Him for dying on the cross and buying their souls, so they could be reconciled to God. They praised him for saving souls, from every descendant of Jacob (kindred), and from every nation (tongue), including the Gentiles/heathen (nation).
There is also a future glory to be shared by the saved: we are made to be kings (princes or leaders) and priests (lives devoted to Christ) in Heaven, to reign on earth. This means to control and to have delegated kingly power, on or over, the earth. This is not a reference to a supposed 1000 year reign. It merely states that Christians will be the lords of earth at some time.
In the strictest sense this need not be in the far future at all, for it could mean that saved people already have true spiritual power whilst they live on this earth. It might also mean having power over the new earth when it is built afresh by God following the great final destruction of the world. But, there is no reference here to a 1000 year reign, which is a fallacy.
It could even mean having power from on high, rather than on a physical earth, as the word ‘on’ can suggest: ‘on’ or epi can mean ‘on’, or ‘in’ or ‘upon’, or ‘over’. Thus the word can refer to a physical presence ‘on’ the earth, or a spiritual power ‘upon’ or ‘over’ it, from elsewhere, much as God the Father has the same power from Heaven epi, or over, the earth. What I am doing here is removing the text from its usual meanings given to it by those who have their own agendas to fulfil. As we can see, from a strict application of the words, there are several possible meanings for ‘we shall reign on the earth’, so it would be dishonest to force it to mean something that fits our favourite theory.
“And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
John looked again and was suddenly aware of the voices of angels - spirit beings -thousands upon thousands of them, so many they could not be counted. They were all saying with booming clarity and power, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”
What we are reading is the continual praise of Christ, wave after wave of praise, crashing on the shores of Heaven with a sound so loud as to reverberate around the entire universe and beyond. The angels were acknowledging Who Christ was/is, and His sole part in the salvation of many. Because of Who He is, He alone deserves the power of deity, all riches (not money or treasure, because He already owns it all; to God riches of this kind are without meaning. It means those things by which Christ is enriched, i.e. His own power and person, as well as full control and ownership of everything He created).
Christ also has all wisdom, the supreme intelligence owned by God, as shown in what He says and does. He has all power and strength and might, and all honour (value because of Who He is and what He has done); all glory (deserving of praise and worship), and all blessing (benefits and rewards of God).
Look at the expansive nature of all this praise; it is given by every creature in heaven (angels; holy spirit-beings that surround God continuously), and those alive on earth (whether they wish to or not), and under the earth and under the sea (those who have died). John heard them all saying ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, (be) unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever’.
This is an attestation. It is telling us that every creature that has ever lived, in every age, will praise God and Christ as One. The time is coming when everyone, whether they are saved or not, will bow the knee to God the Father and Christ, including those foul men and women who think they can do as they wish. Every one of us ought to view this with both wonder and fear, for God is supreme. He holds our future and present in His hands. He is the Potter Who can crush us or give us honour.
How can we ignore such a mighty, all-powerful Lord? Yet, in our sin and foolishness, that is what we all do! In days that are becoming ever darker, we must stand up and be counted, before the Lord burns up this earth and removes us all. Let us live up to our calling, NOW, before it is too late and we are presented to Him with many undealt-with sins in our wake!
The four beasts said ‘So be it’ and the elders fell on their faces in reverence, worshipping Him Who is alive eternally. This is His rightful homage from creatures He has made and sustained, even if they ignore and reject Him.
Let us pay this homage, in our minds, hearts and actions, whilst there is still time. The earth is presently going through a period of violence and evil unsurpassed in history. It is not confined to one nation or one people, but is engulfing us all. It will get worse, not better, for this is the testimony of scripture. Do not listen to those false prophets who teach an end-time worldwide revival, for it will never come. We are heading straight for eternity via dark clouds, war, and the repugnant evils of men. God requires us to praise Him now, not just when we reach Heaven. Let us do so with zeal, love and duty. Amen!
© December 2001 (Revised June 2013)