“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. Amen!’” (Rev. 5:11-13)
This passage gives us a glimpse of heavenly glory, and it paints a great scene of celestial celebration where angels and elders and living creatures sing their praise to God at an amazing Ascension Day service on high.
It all sounds so great and so glorious and yet seems so far out of reach. Especially right now amid the current pandemic, when we can barely get ten people together, let alone ten thousand times ten thousand.
We feel more like the apostle John, as he saw the sad state of things and began to weep. “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll? No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (Rev. 5:3-4).
The scroll symbolizes the plans and purposes of God, which were ready to be revealed. John knew the scroll needed to be opened in order for God’s kingdom of grace to be established upon the earth. But when no one was found to open it, he broke down and began to weep.
We who are solitary and secluded right now feel much the same way. We know God has a plan to bring forgiveness and salvation and healing to people, but we can’t see how it’s all going to work out. Our faith and hope are shrouded in a fog of uncertainty and isolation. We are in desperate need of a word from above. Thanks be to God, that’s exactly what we have.
“Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).
We know God has a plan to bring forgiveness and salvation and healing to people, but we can’t see how it’s all going to work out.
The Anointed One, the Messiah, the Promised One of God finally appears upon the scene. He is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Holy One of Israel, the Desire of the Nations. He alone is worthy to open the scroll and reveal God’s plan, purpose, and program for all people.
But when John looks up to see this great Lion of God, what he actually sees is a lamb. A Lamb, standing at the center of the throne, looking as if it had been slain. This is the beating heart of the biblical witness, the very core of the Christian faith, the revelation of the mystery of the ages. The almighty and all-powerful creator God of heaven and earth also turns out to be gentle, tender, loving, and kind. A God of grace and mercy, loving-kindness, and compassion. How do we know this? How can we be so certain of his love?
“God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). He demonstrated his love most fully at the cross, where he went and did the unthinkable. The Lion of Judah became a sacrificial Lamb. By humbling himself to death, even death on a cross, Yahweh proved to be precisely what he had promised. A Shepherd King, a Tender Warrior, a Suffering Servant who would give up his life for the sake of his people. That’s Jesus - the Lion and the Lamb.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33)
Oh, how deep the everlasting love and kindness of God, who looked down upon our fallen race and sent forth His one and only Son, the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, a lamb without spot, flaw, blemish, or defect. He came down from heaven to earth to ransom and redeem us from the futility inherited from our forefathers, not with perishable things like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ. He was the One foreknown before the foundation of the world, who has been revealed in these last days for our sake, who through him have become believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him all the glory, honor, and praise, that our faith and our hope may be in him (1 Peter 1).
Even when the world is changing all around us, God’s word and His will always remain the same. Verbum Dei Manet Aeternum: the word of the Lord endures forever. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And we have his promise never to leave us nor forsake us. He will be with us always, to the very end of the age.
Our Ascension Day services may look a bit different this year, but that’s okay. Our risen, living, and ascended Lord still sits upon the throne, for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign.
“Worthy is the Lamb on the throne to receive honor and blessing and riches and wisdom and power and might and glory and praise, forever and ever. Amen!”