Thursday, April 02, 2009


In Revelation 4, the apostle John was given a glimpse into the throne room of heaven itself. This revelation was given to remind John and his readers that God is still in control, that in His presence chaos is stilled and that their persecutors ultimately have no authority at all. In chapter 5, the revelation continues and deepens. John notices something else about the One sitting on the throne. He is holding a scroll with writing on both the inside and the outside and sealed to insure its security. It is a book containing God’s plan for and contract with the world. History is not out of control. The lives of God’s persecuted people are not unaccounted for and the persecution they endure is not something He did not anticipate. Nothing has come into their lives that did not first go through His hands. God has not lost control, even though life may seem that way, especially in the midst of suffering.

This truth needs to be revealed to the world and so the cry goes out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Who is worthy to reveal God’s plan, to show forth God’s perspective on reality? The cry goes out and echoes throughout heaven and earth. But no one answers. No one is worthy. God has not entrusted any earthly ruler or representative with the right to accomplish His purposes. For a moment all seems lost and John breaks into tears, overcome with the knowledge that no one is worthy to reveal God’s purposes. But then he is told to look and see the One who is worthy. "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 " (verse 5).

There is one who is worthy! The Lion of Judah! John looks for this Lion, this symbol of strength and power, confidence and might. He looks and there close to the throne John sees the Lion. Except that it is not a lion! It is a lamb, small, helpless, and wounded, looking like it had been slain. This cannot but have been a surprise to John. When one looks for lions, one does not expect to see lambs and bloody ones at that! There cannot have been a greater contrast in images. Lambs have no resemblance to lions. But it is the Lamb who is worthy in its weak and wounded state, not as a lion in his strength and majesty. The Lamb is a symbol of power, but it is a power that has been demonstrated in sacrifice.[1]

You see, this is how God wins His great victories. Not through strength and power, roaring as a lion and scattering His foes through fear and intimidation. But it is through weakness, woundedness, suffering, and death that God conquers. To the persecuted Christians who first read Revelation, this had to have been a source of tremendous encouragement. The purposes of God are accomplished through suffering and sacrifice, even to the point of death. This is how God works. It is His death (not His resurrection) that makes the Lamb worthy! “The greatest power in the universe is the ‘weakness’ of sacrificial love. The greatest wisdom in the universe is the ‘foolishness’ of sacrificial love.”[2]

With this understanding, the Church’s call is to do more than survive in the face of persecution; it is called to sacrificially witness to the salvation of God, of the worthiness of the slain Lamb, proclaiming the fact that God, through the death of the Lamb, has ransomed those held prisoner by sin from every tribe and nation (5:9) and inviting others to join this throng that sings His praises by accepting His death on their behalf and putting their trust in Him. Our God reigns and we reign with Him (5:6), even though, from a worldly perspective, we are despised, shamed, beaten, and weak. But we are on the winning side! God’s purposes will be accomplished because of the sacrifice of the Lamb. His death has bought our salvation both now and forever.

Our call is now to sacrificially take this message to a hostile and resistant world, to Canada and to the ends of the earth, even at the cost of our lives. After all, this is how God accomplishes all of His great victories. May I ask, how is God accomplishing His purposes of reconciling the world to Himself through you? Is your life marked like that of a slain lamb? Is marked by sacrificial love that accepts any cost?


[1] Martin Kiddle, 1940, The Revelation of St. John. London: Hodder and Stoughton:98

[2] Darrell W. Johnson, 2004. Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing: 150.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

excellent article
the truth of suffering before glory lies thru-out the whole of scripture
worthy is the Lamb that was slain