Below is a preaching outline/manuscript (with explanatory comments) for Revelation 5. I recently preached on this passage in a couple different churches, and this outline served as the framework for each sermon. Even though I don’t read my sermons, I prefer an outline that is more like a full manuscript. For me, the process of writing it out solidifies the best way to say it, making it easier to remember.
Notes on the outline: * I put the sermon texts (ESV) in italics because it makes it easier to glance down and find my place in the outline as I work through the text. * For the same reason, section headings are in bold, as well as important points. * I often underline lists of examples/points/thoughts. * Things in parentheses are not in my original outline but are explanatory notes for the benefit of people reading this blog.
*INTRODUCTION: (Tailor to each church.)
*CONTEXT: Revelation chs. 1-3 contain messages to 7 churches of the apostle John’s day. But in Revelation 4:1, the message turns to a vision about things in the future. Revelation 4:1: After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” John is brought into the heavenly throne room of God and is shown a vision of the last days of human history!
Revelation 5:1-4 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
God is seated on the heavenly throne and holds a scroll (if the church uses a translation with “book” instead of “scroll,” say “book”) in his hand. This is the scroll of the final days – these are the last chapters of God’s plan for salvation history.
But who can open it? Who is worthy to hold and unfold human history? No person on earth or heaven could be found, no angel-who later have authority to unleash angelic armies and destroy a third of the earth-is worthy to take the scroll.
So John weeps. Why would he weep when opening the scroll will kick off some massive tribulation? John wants God’s plan to be fulfilled, the persecuted church longs to be vindicated and for things fully and finally to be made right. If the scroll can’t be opened, the final chapters can’t be read.
Revelation 5:5-7 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
An elder says, “Don’t weep, see the Lion of Judah, the root of Kind David– He has conquered and can open the scroll!” Only the one who conquered sin, death, and the Devil-the great enemies of humanity-is worthy to bring them to their final end.
As John turns to see this big, powerful, lion, this conquering king – he sees a lamb as if it has been slain. Why is this? Because sin, death, and the Devil were conquered by Jesus giving his life! The sacrificial lambs that covered the sins of worshipers in the Old Testament temple pointed to the eternal lamb, Jesus, who was slain to cover all sins for all time. On the cross, Jesus took on the sins of the world and the death that justice required for these sins. Then Jesus rose in victory over sin and death so that this scene of the end times was simply the wrapping up of the victory that Jesus won when he gave his life centuries ago.
This eternal redemption took place centuries ago because this Jesus actually stepped into human history. The Son of God took on human flesh only to have that flesh torn apart as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Jesus is the savior of humanity so only he is worthy to take the scroll of human history. In the heavenly realm only Jesus lived in human flesh, only Jesus took on the sins of humanity. He is the only one worthy to hold human history in his hand, he is the only one worthy to open the final chapters of human history.
Revelation 5:8-10 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Jesus takes the scroll, the 4 super angels and the 24 elders fall down in worship as they present the prayers of the saints (including our prayers). In their song of worship, they proclaim that Jesus is worthy to open the scroll of human history because he died for them. He died for humanity so that their last chapter is not one of being thrown into the lake of fire prepared for Satan and those who follow him in rebellion against God, rather the last chapter of human history includes people from every tribe, language, people, and nation enjoying eternity with God.
Not only does Christ hold all of human history in his hand, but he holds all the peoples of the world in his hand. God’s plan has always been to call and establish a people for himself from all over the world. Revelation 5:9 Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. The heavenly multitude will be so diverse—people of every ethnicity, language group, and cultural background unified in their worship of the Lord and the Lamb.
That heavenly reality is actually breaking into our world now. In the world today, there are more Christians who are non-westerners. At this moment people in Asia, Africa, South America are praying to and praising Jesus. (Give example of world wide reach. In my last sermon I talked about teaching students from all over the world at Tyndale Seminary in Europe).
After it is proclaimed that Jesus is worthy to take the scroll, how does heaven respond? Worship.
Revelation 5:11-14 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
All of creation finally and fully will rejoice because of who Christ is, what he has done, and that he is worthy!
In this passage we have a biblical picture of true worship. Worship is tied to worth. You only worship what your heart says is truly worthy.
True worship is not just singing songs or bowing down. True worship starts with believing that he is so worthy that he deserves EVERYTHING. Note verse 12: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” The Lamb is worthy to receive everything on earth because the earth owes its existence and its restoration to him.
*APPLICATION: Do you believe what Revelation 5 says about the Lamb? Revelation 5 is about all human history—but don’t you think that includes your history? Doesn’t the Lamb hold your life history in his hand as well?
I often wonder about what is next in my life, I wonder about my plans and my dreams. But am I really worthy to hold those things in my hand? I didn’t give myself life—it was a gift. Moreover, I ruined my life with sin and selfishness—but Christ rescued my life with God. So only Christ is worthy to hold my history, I am not. Whether I realize this worthiness or not, it is true, it is an eternal truth that applies to all of human history so it certainly applies to my life history. What about you? Into whose hands have you placed your life history?
True worship is handing over the thing that is most precious to you – your life. True worship means handing over your history from this day forward to the one who is worthy. Of course, God has your life in his hands anyway. Instead of fighting against him and trying to grasp the scroll of your life and in frustration not being able to open it, give your life to him joyfully in worship. In so doing you are allowing the reality of heaven to penetrate your life now.
Giving your life means making choices, living your day-to-day life in a way that reflects Jesus is worthy. The Apostle Paul says it in this way: Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. In view of what Christ has done, present your body – alive, as a holistic offering that proclaims God is worthy of it all.
You will be faced with a decision today, another tomorrow – is Jesus worthy enough to put those decisions into his hand? How you treat your spouse, your co-workers, even people who don’t like you— is Jesus worthy to put your attitudes and actions toward them into his hand? Is Jesus worthy to put your finances, your parenting, you sexuality, your career, your plans – all things that make up your life history- is he worthy to place these things into his hand? Subjectively you need to decide that, but objectively the truth is that he is worthy and every tribe, language, people, and nation will join the heavenly multitude in proclaiming: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!“
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By the way, Logos software’s free downloadable book for October is a commentary on Revelation.