The Worship of the Lamb
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|Dr Lee Fook Sin
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|Moh Ee Lin
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|Ng Cho Hoo
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 7
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
There is something unusual about this scroll as John takes time to describe it as there was writing on the front and back of the scroll. This is unusual because papyrus scrolls are made of strips of the reeds that are glued together to make up the scroll. On the front is the horizontal strips and on the back is the vertical strips of reeds and they are glued together. Therefore one would usually write on the front from right to left for Greek and left to right in Hebrew because it is in the direction of the horizontal strips. One would not normally write on the back of the scroll as your pen would be writing across all the bumps made by the vertical strips of reed at the back unless one was using Mandarin which writes in an up to down fashion instead of left to right. There were only two instances where one would write on both front and back which would be if one was very poor and could not afford to write just on the front or if it was a legal document which was a will or a title deed to a property or a prophetic document because one would want to get all the details of the assets on one papyrus. Hence this scroll is a legal document because it is not possible to say God was too poor and stingy and had to write on both sides. It was a legal document.
Here is an example of a prophetic document by Ezekiel 2: 9
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
This last will and testament of Emperor Vespasian had 7 seals just as the one described in this chapter. The seals were used to authenticate the document and ensure they were not tampered with.
Title deeds to land were also written on both sides of the scrolls and the most famous one was the one Jeremiah got when he bought land near Jerusalem at the height of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians which was an insane financial venture but it was instructed by God as a gesture of confidence that even though Jerusalem would fall the exiles would return in time and settle the land.
Jeremiah 32: 8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
Jeremiah 32: 14 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.
There was an open copy for all to read and a sealed copy to be stored in an earthen pot for next time when his relatives were to come back to Jerusalem they would retrieve the title deed in break the seals and enact the contents of the deed they would use the title deed to reclaim the land.
This scroll was a legal document and symbolised the title deed to the earth and all its inhabitants. The opening of the scroll and slitting its seals would symbolise the setting into motion God’s eternal plan for judgment and blessings and salvation for the people of the world. Once the seals were opened in heaven then a set piece of history would be triggered.
Take for example Revelations 6 : 1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
The Lamb opens the seal to the scroll and then the living creature commands the emergence of the white horseman of the apocalypse who brings about war and conquering in the earth below..history is enacted.
The qualifications of the person having the right to take the scroll is of utmost importance as evidenced by the fact that there was no single living creature in all the universe that would have the credentials to take the scroll from Gods right hand. The person who ultimately took the scroll was identified as the Lion of Judah and Root of Davids from two Old Testament references to the coming Messiah who will rule an eternal kingdom. It is the Lion of Judah and the Lamb which has its Old Testament background.
Genesis 49:9-10 (ESV) Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
This is the prophecy that the Messiah shall come from the tribe of Judah because it is written, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,”. The septre is the symbol of a Kings power and authority and this confirmed by and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Then there is the other Old testament messianic prophecy
Isaiah 11:1-2 (ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.
Jesse is the father of David and the Messiah comes from the lineage of David where it was promised to him by God that there will be an eternal Davidic king one day.
Hence Jesus is that Davidic King, Jesus is that Lion of Judah ..he fits the lineage and the prophecy directly . He has total eternal legitimacy to inherit the eternal kingdom of God. The prophecies prove that the coming of Jesus was not a our of the moment unplanned event but one on God’s mind from the beginning of time hinted at by the prophecies and fulfilled by Jesus.
The person who took the scroll was also a Lamb that was slain indicated that this person was slaughtered and the fact that he is a Lamb would naturally indicate that this was not a casualty of war or accidental death but a deliberate sacrifice and offering for sin in the Jewish history and faith.
The horns are symbolic for strength and authority over others and if there are 7 horns means the Lamb has complete authority over everything and is omnipotent. As in the description of the 4 living creatures who were full of eyes here the Lamb has 7 eyes which means he has complete knowledge , wisdom and understanding ..omniscience and complete measure of the Spirit as symbolised by the seven Spirts of God sent out into all the earth. Hence John is telling us this is no ordinary Lamb who was sacrificed for sin , he is all powerful and omniscient.
This is an example of mixed metaphors which is a unique feature of Apocalyptic prophecy. This allows the author to tell us several things about the object at the same time. Hence the one who takes the scroll or is qualified to take it. In a title deed the person who redeems the property like in the case of Jeremiahs title deed would need to be a relative as in Israel all land was carved up between the 12 tribes and the land could not be sold outside the family hence the redeemer of the land would have to be a relative. The person must be willing to redeem the land and able to redeem it which means he must have the financial resources to do so.
In this case Jesus fulfills all the criteria. He must be related. If you would remember the prophecy of Daniel 7 in the last days there will be one “like the son of man” which means human a person sharing our nature as humans related to us.
Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV) I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;
In Revelation 1:12-13 (ESV) Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
Jesus is described as “ one like the son of man”
The next criteria would be that the Redeemer must be willing and Jesus said in John.
John 10:11 (ESV) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus lays down His life voluntarily. The description of Jesus as the Lion of Judah and the Root of David clearly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah who would rule over the eternal kingdom of God. He comes willingly and specifically to redeem Gods people.
The third criteria is that Redeemer must be able to pay the price. The better translation from the NIV in verse 6 is “ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the 4 living creatures and the elders.
To come from the center of the throne means he has the status equal to that of the one on the throne God Himself. John expresses this in the same way in the gospel.
John 1:1-3 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 Jesus paid the price by being the sacrificial Lamb who was slain.
Jesus fulfilled all the criteria and He is the only one in the whole universe that is able to take the scroll because He paid the price..the Lamb who was slain not just an ordinary Lamb the Word of God
The bowls of incense symbolised the prayer of the saints and they are offered only after the Lamb that was slain had taken the scroll which means the redeeming sacrifice for sin by the Lamb has not enabled God to answer the prayers of believers of all history. If God were to react human sinners before it must only be with condemnation and judgement because that is what we deserve but now because the Lamb was slain for us the prayers are like sweet smelling incense to God who will enjoy the prayers and love to answer them.
We learn 4 things from the song which is about the nature of the Atonement of the Lamb:
1. It is a bloody atonement
2. It is a broad atonement
3. It is a directed atonement
4. It is triumphant atonement
1. It is a bloody atonement
The lamb is “slain” better translated slaughtered indicating a violent death and by “blood”. Blood signifies life as in Genesis 9 the prohibition of eating blood is that it symbolises life Genesis 9:4 (ESV) But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. The blood for redemption symbolises a life violently taken …blood spilt emphasising the costly nature of our redemption. If the picture of the Lamb that is violent slaughtered upsets our usual sensitivities it is supposed to because it points us towards the awfulness of our sin
2. It is a broad atonement
The bloody atonement of Christ redeems people “from every tribe and language and people and nation”. It is a redemption without distinction but not a redemption without exception which means not everyone is redeemed but the redeemed comes from every ethnic group which is why Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations. In every city, every nation there are people who God has chosen and who will respond to the news of this atonement.
In Acts 18 Paul is told by God despite the persecution to remain in Corinth to preach the gospel because there are many in the city who belong to Him who will respond to the gospel.
Acts 18:9-11 (ESV) And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
3. It is a directed atonement
Note the verse says “your blood you ransomed people for God”. We have sometimes miscast the whole issue as that it is just about how we should get into heaven and Jesus becomes the means to that end. This is why you will often hear people say that “ I have received Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour”.
It is individualistic and Christ is the means not the goal. It empowers egocentric goals in life ..we can be anything we want to be and Jesus will get us there . After the initial conversion experience there is little mention of sin and repentance anymore because we want to focus on positive things, confess positive things and people are not taught to admit weakness and failure and pain are not part of the process because it is not fulfilling. The atonement by the lamb was to redeem a people –to God where knowing and enjoying and glorifying God is the goal not a means to a goal of our own self fulfilment. We are redeemed to be a people for God and the whole point is the process of becoming a people for God.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
We are redeemed as a people for God and this involves a process where we keep our eyes on God where we are excited, enthralled and in the process become more and more like Him and this is done by His Spirit. It is a process, it is like climbing up the glacier, foot by foot a gradual process and in the process we are transformed
4. It is triumphant atonement
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
The atonement make us a people for God and we are to be a kingdom, a people, priests. We are described not as individuals but our destiny is to be a people Gods own people a kingdom where God’s Spirit rules in our hearts and priests. NT Wright describes a situation when he was a child and sick in bed. His mother used to keep the door to his bed room slightly a jar and placed a mirror at the side of the door. When he looked at the mirror he could see his mother in the kitchen working and feel reassured that she was still in the house and he was never alone. On the other hand with the same mirror his mother could see NT Wright in bed because of the way the mirror was angled at the edge of the door so she could feel reassured that her child was alright.
This is the best description of us as priests. God has put us as His people His priests like angled mirrors in the world . As mirrors we reflect God to world and world to God. Our God can project His love, care to the world through us so that the rest of the world can praise the Creator when they can see His hands through our lives.
Every time we look after creation and bring God’s restorative healing and justice to creation we are reflecting God to the world. On the other hand we represent the world to God when we present to God the praise and the worship of the world to God. As priests we reflect the needs, worries and requests of the world to God in intercession for the people we love. What we do in part now we shall do fully in new heavens and new earth. This is not a future calling it is a current reality which we must recognise and exercise our authority as we are God’s kingdom we have His authority even though the world cannot see it but we must believe it an act on it because in heaven it is celebrated as a reality.
The new song in revelations 5 is a summary of the gospel, it is the proclamation in heaven that the victory is already won and the crux or basis of the victory is the sacrifice of the Lamb who has now set into motion God’s eternal plan to redeem a people for Himself, of priests and kings from every tribe and language and nation. This is the overwhelming agenda of heaven in fact for all of creation as the physical creation can do nothing but metaphorically groan until the saints are glorified in the last day. Hence the role of this song is the role of the gospel in our lives. We worship God for who He is (Rev 4) and we worship God for what He has done for us in the Lamb in Revelations 5. These two are to be our purpose and this gospel should fuel our endeavours and be on every waking moment of our lives just as the song is sung over and over again in heaven. How can we sit still and not proclaim His victory to every corner of the world how can we keep silent.
Answers will be available on 12th November 2020.