And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.Revelation 5:6The Lamb Slain in the Midst of the Throne.
I. The sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ is recognised in heaven. Think as men may of the theme of redemption through atoning blood, it is acknowledged in its reality and perceived in its glory by the dwellers in a higher and purer sphere than our own. There is, I imagine, a design in this representation to exhibit to us that glory of the Redeemer which is peculiar to Him only as a Lamb that had been slain. He has a glory independent of any of His achievements for man, a glory to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be withdrawn, whose shining can neither be brightened nor dimmed by the obedience or disobedience of His creatures, the glory of His essential Deity. But the peculiar glory of the Redeemer resulted from His work as Mediator. To accomplish this work, He assumed humanity. He obtained His victory by falling; and if the military chieftain, returning a conqueror from the conflict, manifests his energy, and prowess, and bravery by the wounds which he bears away with him from the battle-field, why can we not understand how the appearance of Jesus Christ on high, as a Lamb that had been slain, is the brightest illustration of His grandeur?
II. These considerations minister to our own personal comfort, security, and hope. Christ is now carrying on in heaven the very office and work which He commenced when on earth; and though there is no visible altar and no literal sacrifice, no endurance of anguish, and no shedding of blood, yet still He presents vividly and energetically the marks of His Passion, and the effect is the same as though He died daily and acted over again and again the scene of His tremendous conflict with the powers of darkness.
III. Look at the relations which Christ sustains as possessed of infinite wisdom and unlimited power to govern the world, symbolised by the seven eyes and the seven horns, which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. No doctrine is more plainly taught in the Bible than that Christ by His sufferings has been exalted to a throne of universal dominion, "given to be Head over all things to the Church," so that Providence has brought all its resources and all its instrumentalities and laid them down at the foot of the cross, to be used in subserviency to and in furtherance of its grand design. The Redeemer has a kingdom, and an end for which the kingdom exists, peculiarly His own, and He must reign until His rule is universally acknowledged, and all His enemies are put under His feet.
E. Mason, A Pastor's Legacy, p. 36.
I. Notice the description that is given of Christ: a Lamb. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." That was Jesus of Nazareth. You cannot read the Old Testament without understanding the same thing clearly: "He is led as a lamb to the slaughter." That also is Jesus of Nazareth. There is a fitness in His being presented as a Lamb in His own personal character. Morning sacrifices, passover lambs—these and kindred institutions of the Old Testament all point in the same direction.
II. This Lamb slain even yonder in heaven to the vision of the Apostle bears traces of having been slain. God deals with angels one by one. The angels are not a race. Like the trees of the forest, each one stands upon his own root. I feel thankful that we belong to a race. Christ took not on Him the nature of angels. We are a race, and are dealt with as a community. We stood in the first Adam, and he sinned; Christ is the second Adam, and we can stand in Him, and be saved; and there is the philosophy of the Lamb slain. He came that He might undo what the first representative did: He came that He might stand for His people, that He might be in their room. He is slain, for the wages of sin is death; He is slain, for the law was broken, and He magnifies it; He is slain, because there was a penalty, and before angels, and principalities, and powers God is to be seen as forgiving for a cause, and that cause is the atoning death of the Lamb of God: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have eternal life." That is a familiar text. Look into the meaning of it, and below the surface. The world is like a great house, with vessels to honour and vessels to dishonour; He loves it as His great house, but let it be our care that we be not the vessels to dishonour.
III. The Lamb slain is on the throne. In one breath the preacher tells us about Christ as a Victim, Christ as a Priest; in the next breath he tells us about this same Crucified One as on the throne. Yes, it is a strange combination. Man never could have made it; human intellect never could have originated it.
IV. The Lamb slain is standing in the midst of the throne. Fourteen or fifteen times in the Scriptures Christ is connected in this way with the throne; but this picture, standing, is peculiar. It is here and in one other place, here very fitly: standing is the attitude of activity. The man on duty, the man who has to do things, the man who has to put his strength into things, stands up. Christ is Mediator, He is High-priest still: He ever liveth to make intercession; He is Prophet still: He is teaching all His people; He is King: He is standing, and nothing escapes His vision.
J. Hall, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 117.
Christ and His Members United by the Holy Spirit.
The union of Christ with His people, and of them with Him, is a thing which may be described, in the light of the New Testament, as not only a great truth of spiritual life, but the truth of truths. It is related to all other kindred doctrines as that which combines, harmonises, and explains them; it appears as the end where they appear as means.
I. The sacred mediation of the heavenly Spirit, the conveyance through Him of every blessing of the vital union, appears everywhere in the subject. The Sevenfold One is sent forth into all the earth, as the eyes, as the presence, of the exalted Lamb of the sacrifice. It is by Him, and by Him alone, that that presence is in the Church and is in the Christian.
II. "Sent forth into all the earth" from the presence of the Blessed, from the heaven of heavens into all the earth, from the heart of God to the heart of man, from amidst the song of the heavenly elders to you and to me—to the circumstances of our life today; to the stones and dust, the thorns and mire, of our path; to the snares and the illusions, to the crowds and to the solitude, of earth. Yes, He is sent forth into the present, the visible, the temporal; He is intended, He intends Himself, to be no dreamy abstraction above our heads and hearts, but to be the inmost Friend, the living strength, the infinitely ready and versatile resource and expedient of the hour of your temptation and of mine. He is able to set us at liberty in Christ, and yet by the same act to bind us into the bondage of Him "whom to serve is to reign"; He is able to make all the flying hours of inestimable and never-returning time sacred to us, and yet to take out of them all anxiety, to fill the heart with the things eternal, and yet to open to it as no other touch can do all that is truly rich and beautiful in the things of this life; He is able, in a word, having united us to Christ, to make that union a living, bright reality, a possession that we use as well as have, in the whole of life.
H. C. G. Moule, Christ is All, p. 125.
References: Revelation 5:6.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 284. Revelation 5:6, Revelation 5:7.—E. W. Shalders, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 362. Revelation 5:7.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 295. Revelation 5:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1051.
Revelation 5:8-12The End of the Redeemed.
I. Such a vision as that of the text is intended, we cannot doubt, to form a ground of hope and of encouragement in the progressive advancement of our spiritual life. Our nature is possessed of an instinct ever looking forward to the end of our course, with power to brighten the scenes with imaginative pictures. It is the life of hope, and every faculty is stimulated and sustained by its influences. The Revelation is the one book of Scripture that specially feeds the yearnings of souls who live on the promised inheritance of the redeemed. When a man is returning home after long wanderings, he anticipates the scene, the old haunts, the faces, the voices, of early days; and his heart springs up and burns within him. The revelations of St. John were intended to tell us of this far home of faith and to quicken a similar spring cf exulting anticipation, to cause the same glow of hope to spring within every one who is disciplining himself patiently in the midst of these earthly trials, waiting for the fulness of the manifestation of Christ.
II. These visions, moreover, involve the existence in disembodied souls of active, living energies. There are those who tell us that souls separate from the body pass into an unconscious sleep; that the dead are consequently losers in comparison with those who remain on earth. But the saints are represented in the visions of St. John as no less actively engaged than the angels who appear in the same visions. This may in part explain the calling away of many whom we think we can ill spare, leaving us in their full strength and spiritual maturity. They have other service in higher worlds; they are needed where alone more blessed tasks of love can be accomplished.
III. These visions raise us to a higher view of human life. The outward scene around us deceives us; the thought of the faithful who are gone before us is calculated to counteract our fearful downward tendency. They trusted all to God, and they have found Him true. We may have many ends; they had one: we may have divided hearts; they had given all their heart. This unity and consistency distinguished their course; and as they lived, so they died, in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. The standard of our earthly life rises as we look on their present existence with God.
T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 31.
Reference: Revelation 5:9.—Talmage, Old Wells Dug Out, p. 277.
Revelation 5:9Wherein consists the value of man as man? The text calls our attention to two salient points which are to be found in that valuation, two capacities that belong to us all.
I. Man can think; man can pray; man can live; man can will. That power of thought, that power of will, above all that capacity for affection, leads you to a truth of your nature which is witnessed in the Passion of the Lord. The Passion of Jesus was never more majestic, although it may have been more moving, than at the moment when He stood before the insolent impudence of Herod or the miserable cowardice of Pilate, speechless in the one case, speaking in the other; and as He spoke in the majesty of His sorrow He witnessed to the capacity of sovereignty in man. Man was born a king: "He hath made us kings unto God."
II. But the Passion witnessed to one point more. The Passion, as the world would phrase it, was a failure; it was the witness of the tremendous failure apparently of a matchless mission. Why? Because it was the consummation of that most fruitful and eloquent act of which man is capable: the act of sacrifice. It is a commonplace to repeat that by sacrifice you are born, by sacrifice you are educated, by sacrifice you succeed; but remember that to limit your success to the horizon of time is to cramp that capacity. The Passion appeared to be a failure because the reach of its achievement went further than the horizon of time. Man, in full view of the Passion, is reading the lesson of his great humanity; he is expounding the principle of self-sacrifice; he is acting as a priest to God. Act as a king, conquering self, ruling your passions; act as a priest, sacrifice self rather than give way to what is wrong; and you will ever see before you the witnessing picture of your Divine Redeemer, strengthening you by example and grace.
W. J. Knox-Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 257.
References: Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons; vol. xxi., No. 1225; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 254; vol. v., p. 469. Revelation 6:2.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 409; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 152. Revelation 6:3.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 297.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
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.
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
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.
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;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
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;
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.
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.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.