“And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four and twenty elders stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which aye 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.”
God’s pedagogy is principally always the same.
First we weep, then we sing. Dried tears evoke a fervent refrain.
The Apostle’s heart bled in agonizing cries. Try j as he might, he could not hold back the convulsive throb of his broken heart.
Heaven was silent, silent in one of the most critical moments.
No he did not weep because he was banished to the lonely confines of barren Patmos. He did not scream hysterically because he was persecuted for the sake of the gospel and brought to this captive land.
It was much worse.
He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. He cried in the middle of a sermon. Enraptured in visionary wonder, John was the recipient of the gospel brought down from heaven to earth. He saw heaven! There before his very eyes was the throne of God and round about that throne the representatives of the whole re deemed creation. There were the 24 elders, round about the throne sat the 4 beasts, together they were encircled with the heavenly choir of angels. Every thread in the tapestry of that vision was knotted to the central figure, the throne, God’s dwelling place.
In chapter 5 of the book of Revelation, God through the Holy Spirit, takes as it were a magnifying glass and focuses it upon the throne. In the resultant enlargement, our attention is drawn to the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne. In that Hand is a book.
A rhetorical question echoes throughout the chambers of heaven. A strong angel shouted out, “Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof?”
No one volunteers. There is a long silence.
The apostle John couldn’t contain himself. He wept at the prospect that there was no ascension of Christ into heaven. A closed book could mean only one thing, all he saw so far in the vision was only a vapor, it could never be realized. He saw heaven, but the gates were shut. He was most miserable.
John understood the significance of the book. As far as its physical appearance was concerned it assumed the form of a scroll. On the edges of the roll there were 7 seals that prevented it from unrolling; these seals were at various depths within the roll. Writing could be seen on all sides, so that it was apparent that it was filled up and contained no blank space. This scroll was in the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne. Quite obviously this was God’s book. He owned it and it was His writing. This indicates that the book represented the counsel of God. It was God’s secrets. This book had to do with the realization of all that John had seen thus far in the vision. The book contained God’s plan for history that had yet to transpire and through which God would surely bring forth heaven with all its glory. The question, “Who is worthy to open the book” was pregnant with meaning. In the first place, the question is more than an inquiry as to who will be able to reveal its contents. This is involved, who is able to unroll the scroll so that John and the church of all ages may become familiar with God’s plan for things that must yet come to pass. There is however, much more. In the second place, unrolling the scroll includes a working out of the contents. This is the most important element.
The question is, who is not only able to reveal God’s counsel concerning future things, but emphatically, who is able to realize them.
Who is worthy to do such a thing?
Who has the authority to stand before the Holy God and take from His right hand the book, His own secrets, and unfold them before the eyes of men and accomplish them as God’s agent? Who has such power? Who is able to secure the victory of the church over the world and to gather all the elect safely within the fold of the innumerable throng?
No man was able. Not a man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth. What a commentary on man! John saw that a gospel dependent upon man was no gospel. Heaven confirmed that man in himself can never reach the pearly gates. Fallen man, entombed under the shroud of death, is hopeless in himself.
John wept much!
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
In heaven all tears are dried from our eyes, there is no more sorrow, for the former things have passed away.
So it is for all who with rapt attention will scrutinize God’s heaven.
There appeared a Worthy Lamb.
He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne.
He did that on Ascension Day.
We have an advantage over the disciples who stood gazing into heaven. A heavenly messenger told them, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye here gazing into heaven?” From their vantage point they could not see what John was given to see years later. Blocking their vision was the cloud of God’s presence. One moment Jesus had walked with them out of Jerusalem on the road to the Mount of Olives. He talked with them, He had instructed them concerning the gathering of the church, He lifted up His hands to bless them, and while they watched Him, He was taken up out of their sight and a cloud, the visible arms of God, gently lifted Christ up into heaven. What happened in heaven however, the disciples could not see. We get a glimpse in the vision that John received. While the disciples stood there looking up into the cloud, Jesus went to the, right hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne, He took the book from His hand, and began to break the seals and realize its contents.
Jesus ascended in order that He might open the book.
That this is correct is clearly seen by the form in which Christ appeared in the vision. There stood as it were a Lamb that had been slain. He had already been on earth, He had offered Himself upon the altar of the cross, His blood had been shed.
Christ the Lamb of God had earned the right to take God’s book and open it. He could do something that no mere man could ever, do. All men lay under the curse of death. There was a great gulf that separated the earthly from the heavenly. The Holy God looked down from heaven upon the sons of men and beheld that they had all gone astray, there was none that doeth good, no not one. Man in sin has no interest in the glory of God in heaven. He is a rebel, he gnashes his teeth against God’s heaven and proudly dreams of a heaven on earth. His aim is to banish God from all his thoughts, sometimes openly through flagrant atheism, sometimes subtly by fashioning a god of his own imagination. In any event, fallen man does not want the true God of Scripture. God is, however, not mocked. In righteous indignation, the Holy One of Israel crushes the bold effrontery of hypocrisy and subjects man to His curse. No man can sin with impunity against God. The soul that sinneth shall die!
So it is for every man.
There is only one hope of escape.
That hope is that God will build a bridge that will span the chasm of death.
God did just that. He laid the foundation of that bridge when He sacrificed His Lamb on the cross.
God’s good pleasure rested in the glorification of His name through the salvation of His people. Already before the dawn of creation, He had sovereignly willed to redeem His people, to reveal His just mercy by atoning for their sins. He willed that against the background of sin and death, the light of His holiness would shine upon sinful man. Though all men deserved the judgment of hell, He determined to send a substitute to descend into hell for His elect. His Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ, was sent to sink the piles of the bridge into the rock-bed of God’s justice. Upon such a firm foundation, God willed to build the superstructure of the bridge, the means of grace, as the passage way through which the children of God could tread on their way to glory.
The Lamb as it were slain appeared in the midst of the throne. There was proof that He had finished His work. He had drunk the cup of God’s wrath which was upon His people because of their sins. He had silenced Satan who had persisted in charging that the saints had no right to enter into heaven. Christ paid the ransom. At the cross it became apparent that the world was worthy of God’s judgment; He was despised and rejected of men. Now as the conquering Lord He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be crowned with glory and honor. Through the work of atonement, Christ earned the right to take the book and open it.
This Lamb was qualified.
His power is two-fold. This power is described in the double figure of horns and eyes. The Lamb stood as it had been slain having 7 horns and 7 eyes. A horn is the symbol of royal power. At the blast of the horn, Israel was called to battle. This means that our exalted Christ received from God the power to govern all people. Essentially this government is over His church, for its number is 7, the product of 3 plus 4, God and man united in friendship. Christ is King of His church. As King, He has the power to subject all nations under Him, to cause the powers of this world to serve Him, so that even anti-Christ must receive his power from Christ and can do only what Christ the King of Kings allows him to do. There is another power, that of the “eyes.” The 7 eyes represent Christ’s spiritual power over His church. God crowned Christ with the gift of the Holy Spirit and through Him Christ calls His elect, for whom He died, unto Himself. He awakens them from the dead, He breathes in them a new life, He strengthens them in the battle of faith, He finally crowns them with glory and honor.
Such a Lamb received the book and now opens it.
All that which transpires in the world of today is directed by the exalted Christ. The book of God’s counsel is being opened. God’s plan for His church militant is being realized. Nothing can oppose it; no power is greater than that which Almighty God has given unto Christ. The forces of evil receive their strength from Him in order that they can do what He will have them do. He restrains them from dealing a fatal blow upon His church. At the same time, He efficaciously draws His own unto Himself, renews them with spiritual vitality day by day, preserves them in the midst of the world, bathes them in the sunlight of His favor, and crowns them with victory.
Christ ascended to be the Lord of history.
Slowly the scroll is unwinding.
The full counsel of God is being realized.
Jesus, our Lord is bringing it to pass.
Doesn’t that thrill you? In general we know the contents of that book. The particulars are known to God. Yet, everything in that book is good. God’s secrets concern the well-being of His church on earth.
We may see a bloody battle.
We may groan in anguish and pain.
Look up, beloved.
Turn your eyes away from yourself. If all we discern in God’s sermon is the silence of heaven, we would join John in weeping much. Heaven however is full of music, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” Worthy to open the book!
The book is good; it is the road map to heaven. It will lead us in crossing the bridge from death unto life.
There is no doubt about it. Christ, our Lord is opening it.