How can a lion also be a lamb? - Revelation 5:1-14

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 18th October 2015.

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What makes you cry? Apart from chopping onions and stubbing your toe, what circumstances get your tear ducts working? You may be someone who finds it very easy to cry or you may be   someone who rarely, if ever, turns on the waterworks, but this morning I want to ask if you have ever shed kingdom tears?



What are kingdom tears?


Jesus was the promised King who came to gather around himself people who would surrender to his loving rule. This rule continues to be heard about as those who subjects of King Jesus speak about him to other people. As people follow Jesus his kingdom grows.


Kingdom tears are those caused by kingdom disappointments. Perhaps someone we know still refuses to embrace Jesus as King. Perhaps someone we know dies without knowing Jesus. Perhaps we don’t experience that many people become Christians. Perhaps we hear of an area of the world that is particularly hostile to the advance of the gospel. A sign of increasing Christian maturity is that such news cuts us to the heart. It moves us emotionally, sometimes literally to tears, sometimes. But always to a point of distress.


The first person we meet in Revelation chapter 5 is someone who can be described as experiencing deep kingdom distress.



A person in great distress (Vs 1-4)


Look at verse 1. Read verses 1-4.


John’s uncontrollable tears are caused by the inability to find anyone to open up the contents of a particular scroll.


What is this scroll?


Not much information about it in these verses.


  • Writing on both sides - lots of information
  • Sealed with seven seals.


What is this information? What is the significance of the seals?


It would be very easy to speculate at this point but the good news is that we don’t have to. We simply have to read on. Because in the next two chapters, the scroll is opened up, seal by seal, and we get to see what happens next.


In summary, we are presented with a description of what life will be like before Jesus returns for both Christians and non-Christians, and then what life will be like for Christians and non-Christians when Jesus does return.


Or put another way, we are presented with God’s plan for the final judgement of non-Christians, for the final salvation of Christians, and what God has willed for the time period before the end.


And this is the information contained on the scroll.


Can you imagine living in a world where evil always triumphs, where justice will never be done and where Gods people had no certain future?


Those are the thoughts going hough John’s mind as he looks at this scroll before him. Wonderfully, it contains God’s perfect plan to remove evil and bring full salvation to his people but in John’s vision there is a great problem. The plan is written, the scroll exists, but it is sealed up and no one can be found who is worthy to open it. Which means, that at this point in the vision, no one can be found who can execute God the Father’s plan. And that means the future would be deeply distressing. Evil would continue and God’s people would never be safe.


I think it’s right for us to feel more kingdom distress in our lives. It’s easy to be delighted and distressed by worldly things. Let’s pray that we would care more about the advance of the gospel both in the lives of people we know and in the country we live.


The attitude of the apostle Paul when he was in Athens. He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.


But the great news is that we don’t have to feel the same kingdom distress that John did in Revelation chapter 5, that the future plan of God will never be accomplished.


And the reason for that is described in the next part of Revelation chapter 5.


A person who caused great delight (Vs 5-14)


Look at verse 5. Read verse 5.


John is told not to cry. Why not? It appears that someone has been found who can execute this plan of God.


What do we know about him?


First, he is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. By the 1st century AD these were different titles for the long promised Jewish Messiah, the expected King predicted in the Old Testament.


Lion of the Tribe of Judah has its origin in Genesis chapter 49 when Jacob was blessing his sons just before his death. He said about Judah in Genesis 49:9-10, “You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him?  10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”


Root of David has its origins from Isaiah chapter 11, which speaks about a special ‘shoot’ emerging from the roots of David’s father Jesse.


Second, he has triumphed.


This is past tense. A great battle has already been fought and won. The great battle in Revelation is not in the future but in the past.


Over what? It doesn’t say precisely. This is because his victory has implications for many areas of life.


At this point John the writer has not seen this person, he has only heard about him. But from what he has just been told, you can imagine what kind of image he is expecting to see next. Someone strong and powerful, a victorious hero.


What did he see? Look at verse 6. Read verses 6 and 7.


He is expecting a lion and he instead he sees a lamb. Not just any lamb but one that looks as if it has been killed, but which is now standing in the centre of the throne.


John is not looking in the wrong place. No, he has his eyes fixed on the right person.


But in order to communicate some profound truths about the identity of this individual, John sees something that at first seems to be at odds with what he has heard. Look out for this in other parts of Revelation, it is a very deliberate teaching technique.


And what it does here is confirm that this victorious King won his great battle by dying on a cross and then being raised to new life.


There is no doubt this is a beautiful description of the Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah who sacrificed his life to win the great battle against sin.


Seven horns - completely powerful.


Seven eyes - full of the Holy Spirit. The perfect relationship with the Holy Spirit.


These point us towards his complete divinity.


Why is Jesus worthy to take the scroll and open it?


Listen to what we’re told in verse 9. Read verses 9-10.


Notice the connecting word ‘because’. Jesus is now worthy to do this because he has done this.


Three reasons for this.


First, because Jesus has already perfectly carried out the Father’s plan by going to the cross. He can now be expected to carry out the final parts.


Second, because Jesus has already felt in himself the righteous penalty of sin, he is the perfect one to carry out the final judgement. It will be done justly.


Third, because Jesus died to purchase the salvation of his people, it is appropriate for him to execute the plan that will lead to their complete liberation from all the effects of this broken world.


How do you feel when you analyse the world around you? How can we speak to our kingdom distresses? We can reflect on Revelation chapters 4 and 5. God the Father sits on his throne and God the Son is executing the Father’s perfect plan of final judgement and final salvation.


We are supposed to enjoy kingdom confidence.

One last thing I want to say this morning, and that is to point out that the presence of Jesus completely changes the mood. Remember how the chapter started? Lots of tears and lots of distress. But as Jesus enters the Kleenex is gone and it is replaced by joyful singing from a huge number of creatures. First it’s the four living creatures and the 24 elders, and then, in verse 11, they are joined by ten thousand times ten thousand angels and they sing out in praise of Jesus. And then in verse 13, every creature joins in this enthusiastic praise session.


Jesus is still transforming mourning into joy.


In many areas.


What is the focus in this chapter?


We should praise Jesus for his kingdom victory.


We should sing this with enthusiastic joy.



In conclusion


  • Do we shed kingdom tears?
  • Do we enjoy kingdom confidence?
  • Do we experience kingdom joy?
  • Do we sing kingdom praise?

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