Sunday School 03 23 2014

Worthy Is the Lamb”

Lesson Text: Matthew 9:35-10:1

Background Scripture: Revelation 3:7; 5:5-13; 6:12-7:17; 22:16

Devotional Reading: Revelation 5:5-13

 

Revelation 5:5-13 (KJV)

5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

 

 

OBJECTIVES

To understand and identify elements of the text that stress Christ's rule over the world.

To know and explain God's plan for the world as the saving work of Christ and the sharing of the message of Christ with the entire world.

To be encouraged to worship and praise God, even in the midst your adversity.


 

INTRODUCTION

Beyond Comic-book Images

Even if you are not a fan, you are probably familiar with the storytelling in superhero comic books. Comic books tell stories of intense conflict. The pictures have vivid colors and exaggerated proportion. The characters, usually having fantastic powers, are part of a story with a clear line between good and evil, between an arch-villain and a superhero, and with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Comic books are fantasy, but their appeal to a wide audience of decades past has been renewed in movies that mimic their formula.

Perhaps this formula is popular because humans have a strong desire to see the conflict between good and evil portrayed in a way that reflects their own pain and fears but supplies a decisive ending to the story. Comic-book storytelling gives us what we want to see: heroes who always manage to defeat evil and rescue the helpless.

Critics of the Bible may view the book of Revelation as no more than a comic book, given its vividly colorful word-pictures. These pictures draw clear lines between good and evil, with a superhero victorious in the end. As comic-book superheroes go into battle in issue after issue, so the superhero of Revelation appears in conflict with a supervillain in chapter after chapter.

Such a comparison, however, is quite superficial. The book of Revelation, unlike a comic book, is a God-inspired depiction of the essential conflict of every age: God and His people on the one hand against Satan and the powers of the world on the other. Also unlike comic books, with their stories portraying conflicts seemingly without end, Revelation assures us that the conflict between God and the devil will not go on forever. The book of Revelation is no fantasy. There will be a decisive end in which God is fully victorious. In fact, that end is near.

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

 

Time: about A.D. 96

Place: from Patmos

The book of Revelation is commonly thought to be the most difficult and mysterious in the Bible. But if we consider a few important facts about the book, Revelation's essential message can be very clear to us.

The book itself tells us that its contents were received by John while he was on the remote Mediterranean island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). For his preaching of the gospel, imperial authorities had sentenced him to exile on that island. Persecution was the lot of many Christians in that day. Faith in Jesus made Christians the object of scorn, ridicule, and even violence. To Christians under persecution, it could seem that all the powers of the world were aligned against them.

Where was God in all of this? Had He abandoned His people? Are the powers of the world really greater than God's power? Revelation answers these persistent questions. Unfolding as a series of visions, the book shows repeatedly that God delivers His people while bringing judgment on those who oppose Him. Of course, persecution of the faithful was nothing new in John's day. So Revelation often borrows images from other biblical books, showing that the experience in the present is very much like the experience of the past.

Our text comes early in Revelation. After introducing the book's themes (chapter 1), the book presents seven short letters to the persecuted churches of Asia Minor, offering encouragement, correction, and warning (chapters 2, 3). Then we are told of John's vision of God's throne (chapter 4). At the throne is presented a “book” or scroll, sealed with seven seals (5:1). John could see writing on both sides of the book, which meant that nothing more could be added. What was written was completed and final. A search is made for one who can open the book, and none is found (5:2, 3). John begins to weep, fearing that the book will not be opened (5:4). Then our text begins.

 

The Lamb Appears (Revelation 5:5-6)

1. What did the Apostle John see in his vision? Why was he weeping? (Revelation 5:5)

John saw a mighty angel issue a call for someone to come forward and break the seals, revealing the book’s contents (Revelation 5:2). In the present verse, the mighty angel did not ask who was able, influential, or powerful enough. He asked who was sufficiently worthy to perform the task. The Greek adjective rendered “worthy” refers to that which is “fit” or “deserving.” In this context, it denotes both the ability and the authorization to execute God’s plan for the consummation of the ages.

Only someone who was morally perfect could fulfill the divine will. Yet no one in all of God’s creation responded to the angel’s summons (v. 3). John was caught up in this drama that he wept repeatedly when no one came forward to open the book (v. 4). Apparently, John sensed the urgent significance of the document. In the midst of the apostle’s anguish, one of the 24 elders seated around the throne told him to stop weeping. Lamenting was unnecessary, for there was someone who had the virtue and authority to bring history to its final conclusion (v. 5).

2. What was the significance of the seven horns and seven eyes on the Lamb in John’s vision (Revelation 5:6)?

John next fixed his gaze on an unusual entity appearing in the throne area and surrounded by the “four beasts, and in the midst of the elders” (v. 6).

As John continued watching, he did not see a mighty lion who was just described as a victorious (v. 5), but instead a Lamb that looked as if it had once been slain (v. 6). How can both images apply to one being? If we know the good news of Jesus, we have the answer. Jesus is God's “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” who willingly submitted to death on the cross and rose again. He is the sacrificial lamb who took our sin on himself (Isaiah 53:7-9), becoming utterly victorious as He rose from the dead.

This victorious Lamb has unusual features: seven horns and seven eyes. The horns suggest power (Psalm 89:17), while the eyes suggest watchful protection (Zechariah 3:9; 4:10). John explained further that the seven eyes were “the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6). This reference brings to mind what John previously mentioned in 4:5. There he noted seven lamps with burning flames-which represented the “seven Spirits of God.” This describes the Holy Spirit in His fullness (Rev. 1:4; 4:5). “Eyes” symbolize His observation of all that occurs on the earth to which He has been sent (cf. Zech. 3:9; 4:10). This agrees with Jesus’ teaching that the Spirit would be sent forth to exalt Him, increase spiritual understanding, and convict the world (John 14:26; 16:7-15).

What Do You Think?

Which of John's descriptions of Jesus help you most to face daily challenges? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Jesus' absolute power (seven horns) | Jesus' absolute awareness (seven eyes) | Other

 

Revering the Lamb (Revelation 5:7-13)

3. What happened as John watched the Lamb take the book (Revelation 5:7-10)?

The Lamb's authority and worthiness to open the book are now demonstrated decisively. The Lamb approaches God's throne and takes the book directly from God's right hand.

The book represents Christ's "title deed" to all that the Father promised Him because of His sacrifice on the cross. “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen [nations] for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession” (Ps. 2:8). Jesus Christ is the "heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2). He is our beloved "Kinsman-Redeemer" who was willing to give His life to set us free from bondage and to restore out lost inheritance (see Lev. 25:23-46; the Book of Ruth; Jer. 32:6-15).

When the Lamb took the scroll, various dramatic events took place. Previously the four beasts and the 24 elders around the throne had fallen in worship before the Lord God (Revelation 4:9, 10). Now they worship the Lamb in the same way. The Lamb's authority is the authority of God himself, and He is worthy of worship in every way that God is. They played harps, the instruments used to accompany the singing of psalms. Their golden bowls full of incense were symbolic of the prayers of the Lord’s holy people (see Ps. 141:2), which probably were petitions for the full and final realization of the kingdom of God (Rev. 5:8).

The worshipers began to sing a new song, for the Lord was about to inaugurate the new redeemed order of His kingdom. The participants sang this hymn to the Lamb as Redeemer. They praised His worthiness to take the scroll and open its seals. The fact that the Messiah died for the sins of the whole world is reflected in the declaration that the redeemed will come from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (v. 9). The result of Jesus’ sacrificial death is that He made His people a kingdom of priests to serve their God. The Savior will be the rightful King, and His people will compose His kingdom. They will reign with Him forever (v. 10).

What Do You Think (v. 9)?

How can you increase your participation in your church's efforts to take the gospel to the wide diversity of the world's population?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

With regard to foreign evangelism | With regard to local cross-cultural evangelism

With regard to cross-cultural service projects | Other

 

What Do You Think (v. 10)?

What can you do in the week ahead to fulfill your role in Christ's holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9)?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Issues of self (personal holiness, devotional time, thought life, etc.)

Issues involving others (intercessory prayer, service, etc.)

Issues involving your church (teaching, etc.)

4. What did John say about the glory given to Jesus the Lamb (Revelation 5:11, 12)?

As the scene continues, the description is like a camera lens zooming out to widen its field of view. Around the throne are the beasts and the elders, but beyond them is a numberless crowd of angels. In the Greek language, the highest number-word commonly used is the word for ten thousand. So to say ten thousand times ten thousand is to offer a number as large as one can describe, and to add thousands to that enhances the description (compare Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22). We might compare our slang word zillions, by which we mean a number so large that no one can count it.

Our text began with the assertion that only the Lamb is worthy to open the book (Rev. 5:5). Now the heavenly assembly joins in proclaiming the full extent of that worthiness (v. 12). As before, His worthiness is a consequence of giving His life for the sake of the unworthy (v. 9). Because He is the Lamb that was slain, He is exalted to the highest position.

The worshippers offer a long list of the things that the Lamb receives, all indicating utter authority to rule (compare 1 Chronicles 29:11). Power suggests the ability to accomplish His will. The word riches indicates wealth, the possession of all the resources needed to rule. Wisdom is the attribute of the noble ruler who brings blessing to those ruled. Strength parallels power, suggesting not just abstract power but power at work. Honour, and glory, and blessing are what the great ruler receives back from his people, the acclaim that grateful subjects give to a just and powerful king.

5. What did John say about everything in creation (Revelation 5:13)?

To this point, the worshipping congregation has been in Heaven—that is, in God's very presence. First we saw those immediately around God's throne, then the throng of angels beyond them. Now the lens of the camera is at the widest possible angle, taking in all that exists. Again, John uses several expressions to emphasize that praise comes from every part of creation, without exception (Rev. 5:13). The worship service climaxed with all of the universe praising the Lamb of God and the Father seated on the throne!

Creation bears constant witness to the power, wisdom, and glory of God (Ps. 19). Acknowledging the Creator is the first step toward trusting the Redeemer (see Acts 14:8-18; 17:22-31). “All things were created by Him [Christ] and for Him ... and by Him all things consist [hold together]” (Col. 1:16-17).

 

POINT TO PONDER

The Book of Revelation begins and ends with the Savior. Though it is filled with magnificent visions and symbols that may be difficult to understand, first and foremost the book is about the Son-His character, His mission, and His final goal of bringing all things into subjection to His Father’s perfect will. Thus despite the mystery surrounding Revelation, this book is primarily characterized by hope. John declared that the Messiah will one day return to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked and unbelieving. The Father desires that all people would repent and trust in His Son for salvation. The Lord wants to work through us to encourage the lost to receive the truth.

 

CONCLUSION

The Our Part in God's Plan

Did you notice that you are part of the story that Revelation tells? When our acts of worship are sincere, when our lives are in submission to the one on the throne, we join the chorus that declares the greatness of God and the Lamb. When our lives and our words express the good news of Jesus, we extend God's rule further into the world, to every tribe, language, people, and nation. When we live in submission to the Lamb, we take part in the fulfillment of God's great plan for creation.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, may our lives glorify Your Son, joining the heavenly chorus forever. May Your kingdom come as Your will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.

 

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

“Preparing the soon-coming of the Messiah, Remember!!! HE IS COMING SOONER THAN WE CAN EXPECT!” — Rev. Paul van Beek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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