Thursday, July 8, 2021

Worthy of It All: Heaven’s Praise for the Lamblike Lion

Worthy of It All

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

If you could peer right now into heaven itself, what would you see? Perhaps images of angels, precious jewels, and streets of gold spring to mind. But the biggest question, of course, is, What about God? Who would you see seated, at the center, on heaven’s throne? Remarkably, God has not left that to speculation.

The Bible contains several stunning visions in which a prophet looks into heaven or sees some portion of God himself. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending, with God standing above (Genesis 28:12–13). Moses asked to see God’s glory on the mountain, and was given a glimpse of his trailing afterglow, while hiding in the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33:23). Isaiah saw the Lord seated on his throne, with the hem of his garment filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1). So too Ezekiel caught a glimpse of God on his chariot throne as he departed from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1:26; 10:1, 18–19).

In the most revealing vision prior to the coming of Christ, the prophet Daniel, exiled in Babylon, saw the Ancient of Days on his throne, with an enigmatic figure called the “son of man” coming forward to receive power (Daniel 7:13–14). Then, in Acts, after Christ’s ascension, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, looked into heaven and saw the glory of God, he said, with Jesus standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55).

Still, the greatest sight of heaven’s throne in all of Scripture was kept for the final book of the canon, in Revelation 4 and 5.

Worthy Are You

Jesus’s beloved disciple John, exiled on the isle of Patmos, received a vision of “a door standing open in heaven” and heard the summons, “Come up here” (Revelation 4:1). There he saw “a throne . . . in heaven, with one seated on the throne” (Revelation 4:2), with twenty-four elders and four living creatures praising “the Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8). The four creatures declare God to be “Holy, holy, holy,” and the elders fall down in worship and “cast their crowns before the throne” (Revelation 4:10) and tell of God’s infinite value:

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
     to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
     and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

Who Is Worthy?

John then sees a sealed scroll in the right hand of God. Such a scroll represents God’s will and purposes for all of history, to be executed upon its opening.

A mighty angel, with a loud voice, asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” (Revelation 5:2). John’s commentary is striking: “No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it” (Revelation 5:3). None is worthy for this crucial task — not the four creatures, not the elders, not the angels, not any mere human. The apostle senses the drama, and tragedy, of the moment, and says, “I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it” (Revelation 5:4).

One of the elders then turns to John to announce the good news: “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” (Revelation 5:5).

Worthy Is the Lamb

John’s vision then unveils its single greatest detail, advancing the “son of man” prophecy in Daniel 7, and echoing Stephen’s shocking peek at heaven’s throne where Jesus stood. John writes, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” — but not in weakness, but with great power: “with seven horns and with seven eyes” (Revelation 5:6). Like the “son of man,” the Lamb approaches the throne of heaven. He takes the scroll from the hand of God Almighty.

The four creatures and twenty-four elders of heaven, who had declared the worth of God Almighty, now fall down, singing a new song, to declare the worth of the Lamb:

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
     from 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. (Revelation 5:9–10)

At this moment, John hears the voices of tens of thousands of angels, too many to count, in what must have been an overwhelming chorus, declaring with one loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

He Deserves the Glory

At first, the worship of heaven had declared the worth of God Almighty. Now heaven’s praises focus on this lamblike Lion of Judah, this lionlike Lamb who was slain.

Not only is Jesus the regal Lion, the long-anticipated ruler arising from the royal tribe of Judah, with the strength and power of heaven itself, but he is also the gentle, lowly, self-giving Lamb, who gladly lays down his own life that his people might live. This lionlike Lamb is worthy, like no other, to receive the wealth of the nations. He is worthy to receive wisdom, even greater than Solomon’s. He is worthy to receive honor and glory and blessing from the holy worshipers of heaven, all the saints and angels bowing before him.

As we peer into heaven itself, angels and jewels and streets of gold soon fade. At the center of it all, Jesus comes into focus. He deserves the glory. He deserves the honor. He deserves the praise. He deserves the very worship that God Almighty is due. He is worthy of it all.

from Desiring God
via DG