The Lamb on the Throne
We saw from Revelation 4 that there is a throne at the center of the universe. God is seated on that throne, and around His throne is a rainbow depicting God’s sovereign grace, faithful promises, and abiding covenant. But in Revelation 5, John sets this heavenly scene before us in a different way. Now we see something more: a book. In the right hand of the One who sits upon the throne, there is, literally, a scroll, ‘written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.’
Remember that John is speaking figuratively. God does not physically or literally sit upon a throne; nor does He literally have a right hand; nor does He literally hold a book. God is Spirit, and He does not have a body like ours. In addition, even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27), for He inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). So what does this figurative language mean?
It helps to think in terms of hieroglyphics or pictographs, the symbols or figures used to reduce some languages to writing. Instead of letters put together to spell out a word such as horse, a small picture of a horse is used to represent the word. To understand the book of Revelation, we need to interpret the hieroglyphics. We must understand the symbolism of these pictures.
In his commentary on the book of Revelation, Richard Phillips offers an introduction that summarizes for us the essential point of this grand chapter:
“The British philosopher Bertrand Russell is considered one of the leading atheistic thinkers of the twentieth century. Russell asserted that history is the chance product of a causeless series of events. He wrote that man’s ‘origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of random collocations of atoms.’ Realists must accept, he insisted, ‘that all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system.’ Russell concluded, ‘Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built’ (Why I Am Not a Christian, 1957).
“As we turn in our study to the fifth chapter of Revelation, we discover the apostle John as one who briefly feels the despair of which Russell wrote. Seeing the scroll of the divine will in the hand of God, John hears that no one is worthy to break the seals to open the scroll. In short, John contemplates a world without Christ, a history with no Mediator between God and man. Like Russell, John views this as a scene of deep despair. He writes: ‘I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it’ (Revelation 5:4).
“In this way, John felt how heartbreaking is the thought of a world without God and Jesus Christ. He saw what Bertrand Russell seems not to have realized, that a foundation of despair is no foundation at all. Revelation 5 shows both the necessity of Christ for hope and meaning and the good news of Christ’s coming as the Lamb who conquered by being slain. James Hamilton summarizes: ‘By his death and resurrection Jesus has taken control of history…. Jesus is the one who will right the wrongs and heal the hurts and wipe away the tears’ (Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, 2012). John saw the good news of a Savior in Jesus Christ as the only foundation not for despair but for hope, since the gospel bears a message not of cosmic extinction but of eternal life by the saving will of God” (Richard Phillips, Revelation, 2017).
Join us this Lord’s Day as we consider ‘The Lamb on the Throne’ from Revelation chapter 5. Now is a good time to reach out to your friends and family and invite them to join you at Redeemer. Perhaps you have already done so but they declined or neglected to attend. Let me encourage you to invite them again. And as you do, lift them up in prayer. In fact, remember to pray for our services as we prepare to gather. It is with eager anticipation that I am looking forward to worshiping the Lord with you this Sunday.