- June 25, 2008
• Revelation 5:1-14
We begin a new series for July titled “Living with the End in Mind.” It is a four-part series that is a broad overview of Revelation and a bird’s-eye view of four major ideas found in this controversial and sometimes unsettling book.
This study is not about predicting the “end times” or “last days” because Jesus was clear only the Father knew those things (Mark 13:32-34). Jesus did say, however, there would be certain signs, and a careful reading of Revelation—even though it won’t give us a timetable—does help us to understand what we see around us. It also will help us to “live with the end in mind.”
For clarification, these lessons will distinguish between the use of the terms “end times” and “last days.” Scripture refers to the “last days” as the time between the resurrection of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. The term “end times” refers to those events immediately preceding and surround the second coming of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.
This week’s lesson is all about the power of Christ. By John asking the question “who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” we learn Christ indeed is worthy of title of Messiah, and that through Messiah, we see God’s plans for the cosmos are executed according to God’s will. Therefore, God really is “in charge.”
This is a message of hope for living in the world today, in times when it seems God is not in the midst of our world and that crises abound out of God’s control. But through the study of this passage, we can come to see that in the big picture, God is sovereign and the lordship of Jesus as the Christ is real.
Because Christ is victorious over death, he is in charge and believers will be victorious in him. We can trust God in the midst of what we are facing today.
Looking to Jesus (Revelation 5:1-7)
In this portion of his vision, John sees the scroll containing the events of God’s coming kingdom. He is dismayed, however, that no one is able to open the scroll because there is none who is worthy. His fears are allayed by the elder who speaks, “… the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
The elder is referring, of course, to Jesus. The One who is worthy was a lamb standing among the elders. He goes to the One seated on the throne and takes the scroll. Jesus is the Lamb who is able to take and open the scroll because he has been victorious over death.
• Read Ezekiel 2:9-10 aloud. Ask your learners what they believe the scroll contains. It is thought the scroll contains the purposes of God written upon it. Ask them to consider why Jesus’ holiness was required to open that scroll.
• Life’s biggest questions—the meaning of life and where we are going—are answered in the scroll. Because Jesus holds the scroll, he is the one to whom we should look for answers. Consider the words of Thomas in John 14:1-7 asking, “Lord, where are you going?”
Reigning with Jesus (Revelation 5:8-10)
This section of Scripture largely is the text of a new song sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders. The song is a statement of praise about why Jesus is indeed worthy to open the scrolls. The slaughtered lamb harkens us back to Isaiah 52 and 53, the messianic script Jesus read as the guide for his life, ministry, death and resurrection.
The praise is centered on what Christ’s death means for the world and specifically for his followers. Made into a priesthood, this “tribe” of followers would come from every nation, every tongue, every ethnic group to serve as a kingdom of priests serving God.
The great news is that God is including us in the victorious kingdom by making us God’s children. No matter how challenging life is today, we can be encouraged to know that ultimately we share in Jesus’ reign of the coming Kingdom. Ultimately, nothing will ever defeat God nor God’s followers.
• What does it mean in this time of “not yet” to see ourselves as ultimate co-heirs with Christ in his reign of the world? How can that change the way you live your life today, tomorrow or next week?
• What does it mean to live as a kingdom of priests? Can that happen in the here and now? Are believers called to live as if they are already citizens of God’s kingdom? How might that look?
Responding with worship (Revelation 5:11-14)
Don’t miss that the living creatures and elders were singing a song of praise to the Lamb, Jesus. They were joined by a host of angels in verse 11, living creatures numbering in the thousands, and then ultimately by all living creatures in heaven and on earth and under earth and in the sea. All of the elders fell down and worshipped.
It is our natural response to worship God when we recognize what God has done through Jesus the Christ. Our response of praise proclaims God is worthy and great.
• Ask your learners these questions:
• Should we wait until we are in heaven to worship God?
• How often should we worship God? Where?
• What does worship do for us? How are we transformed by being in God’s presence, by praising God, by petitioning God with our needs?