Posted by: Terry | February 18, 2014

A scroll, a lion, and a lamb

John sees a scroll and a lamb in the midst of all the wonder of the throne of heaven. (Revelation 6) As we read the account we vainly struggle to put it all in neat boxes, an exercise that continues to frustrate today as it has through the centuries.

So what is in the scroll in Revelation 5 and 6? As with the rest of the book there is no shortage of speculation. Some would suggest the Old Testament, some a will, some the judgments of God, or that it included the names of the faithful, or it is the title deed to earth. It is interesting that we never have any clear statement that it is ever read, we just are told what happens when the seals are opened.

It always makes sense to start by considering context. God has frequently had messages for his creation, and a few times the messengers were told to seal up the message for a later time. Isaiah was shown that the Messiah would be a stumbling block, but he was told to not make it public, it was for a later time, in fact that message would be one of the most quoted in all of the New Testament, as if the apostles we’re unsealing the message for us all.

In Ephesians, Paul is humbled by the knowledge that he was allowed to reveal the “mystery” that God had a plan from before eternity that would include non-Israelites in the family of God. He reminds us that the prophets did not see it, but that now it has been revealed.

John and the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus was the unveiling of the message and plan of God. He is called the light, the express image of God, and the culmination of all of the prophets’ preaching and writing.

Then in the Revelation, John is promised that God would, “show his servants what must soon take place.” This is promised in the first line, and repeated in the 4th chapter, then finally in the last chapter of the book. So it makes the most sense that when John saw the scroll he would expect that it contained the message that he was promised, “what was and what would be.” It would also be reasonable to expect that at least part of that message dealt with “soon.”

Yet his anticipation turned to tears when he realized it was no common message, for it required a special person to open and read the scroll. The character and accomplishments of the one who was able and worthy to open the scroll only enhanced the content of the scroll, and contributes to our understanding of the message.

John was comforted with the assurance that there was one who could open the scroll. This one was “The lion, of the tribe of Judah, the root of David.” If we look at the lineage in Matthew, we find that he makes three things clear, Jesus was a Jew in that he was descended from Abraham, he was from the tribe of Judah, and he was from the lineage of David. These were three of the critical tests that would be applied to the Messiah, Jesus passed.

The elder is making it clear to John that it is the Messiah, the promised hope of Israel, the one who would bring all things together, who could open the scroll. And for emphasis he proclaims that this Messiah had triumphed – overcome, victorious, conquered. Jesus had the credentials of the Messiah, and he had completed the work of the Messiah, thus he was able.

Yet when John looks he sees, not a lion, but a lamb, and a strange looking lamb at that. This lamb looked as if it had been slain, it had the marks of sacrifice. The Passover lamb was slain by slitting the throat, gruesome to our sensibilities, yet quick and humane. John saw a lamb with a scar across its throat, evidence that it had died as a paschal lamb, yet it was alive, it had triumphed over death.

This living, scarred lamb had seven horns and seven eyes; what a sight, yet what a wonderful vision. The lion was victorious, not because of its military might, but because as a lamb it was slain. Slain as a propitiation for all the wrongs in the world. Yet he was not dead but alive, alive as the perfect complete ruler, signified by the seven horns, and alive reaching out into the world through the seven (perfection) eyes.

As John looked on, we cannot help but wonder if he recognized something familiar about this one, this person he knew as Jesus, who he tells us he saw with his own eyes. (1 John 1) As he looked on the elders and living creatures fell down in worship and began to sing a song of worship.

The Lion/Lamb was not only able but also worthy to take and to open. This was the one whose blood purchased people from every tribe, nation, and people to serve God. His death took people, who try as they might to find some god, and made them into a kingdom of priests to serve THE God.

The Messiah was the culmination of all of history, of all the First Testament scriptures, and he held in his hand a scroll. John was promised an uncovering of what was to happen; now he had been brought specifically to this place. It makes sense that in that scroll he would learn all that he had been waiting to see; and because of that we get a glimpse into what and why the world is, and what it will become.

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