The Worthiness of the Lamb
March 4th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-4-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning sermon entitled The Worthiness of the Lamb. In our preaching through the Bible and in our preaching through the Revelation, the last book in the Bible, we have come to chapter 5. And if you will turn in your Holy Scriptures to chapter 5 of the Book of the Revelation, you can easily follow the message. Revelation chapter 5:
And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book, a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who, 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, to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, 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 cherubim, 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.
This sermon is divided into three parts. And as I said last Sunday morning, if we could listen to all three of them together, it would be so much more and better. But there is not time, so it is divided into three parts. Last Sunday morning, The Seven-Sealed Book; and next Sunday morning, The Song of Praise and Redemption, going to talk about the singing in heaven and the glorious praises of the saints and of the angels and of all creation, what they sing and how they sing; and this morning, The Worthiness of the Lamb.
Now to sum up briefly: the sermon last Sunday morning on The Seven-Sealed Book, “I saw lying upon,” epi, I saw upon, “lying upon the palm of the hand of God a scroll, written on the inside and on the outside, sealed with seven seals” [Revelation 5:1]. The scroll rolled up to a certain place and then sealed, and then rolled and then sealed again, and then rolled and then sealed again, then rolled and so on; and finally, the seventh seal completely sealed the entire book [Revelation 5:1].
Then when the seals were opened—one seal broken and so much of it opened, and the second seal broken and so much opened, and so on, until, in the breaking of the last seal, the entire scroll was opened—now that book is a symbol of and represents a forfeited inheritance. This is the book of redemption. It is sealed as the Jewish habit and custom was in old times. And we haven’t opportunity this morning in this summary to speak of these things at length, but as in Jeremiah 32, his uncle asked Jeremiah to redeem his inheritance at Anathoth, the city of the priests: “For the right of redemption is thine. So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open” [Jeremiah 32:8-16]. But as time passed, that which was sealed and that which was open were placed in one book. And the story of the forfeiture, which maybe the family did not want the eyes of a curious world to know, the story of the sorrow and the reason for the forfeiture was written on the inside and sealed. Then on the outside of the book there were the terms of redemption and the signatures of the witnesses. So a sealed book came to represent a forfeited inheritance.
And our inheritance was forfeited, and lost, and sold under sin. The ground was cursed for Adam’s sake [Genesis 3:17]. And the vegetable world was cursed for sin’s sake; briers and thorns and thistles [Genesis 3:18]. And the animal kingdom, the animate life of the world was cursed for sin’s sake, and out of all of the curses that fell upon the cattle and fell upon the herds and upon the creeping things, the serpent was the most cursed [Genesis 3:14]. And all God’s beautiful creation fell into ruin in Adam’s sin [Genesis 3:1-6]. We lost our inheritance and a usurper took it, an interloper, and he possesses it. Death seems to reign supreme over all God’s creation, and sin and death and the grave all have come and taken away from us, Adam’s seed, our inheritance that God gave to bless us [Romans 5:12]. And the sign and the symbol of that forfeiture, a lost inheritance, a destroyed and cursed creation [Romans 8:22-24], the sign of that lost inheritance is that book.
And the weight of the encumbrance upon it is found in those seven seals [Revelation 5:1]. And the story of that redemption and the casting out of that interloper, and that enemy, and that alien, and that stranger that now possesses our inheritance—the story of the casting out of that interloper is the story of the Revelation. As the seals are broken [Revelation 6:1-8], as God in His program, and in His purpose, and in His elective grace, and in His mighty power, as God casts it out—sin, and there’ll be no more sin; and death, and there’ll be no more death [Revelation 21:4]; and Satan, and there’ll be no more archenemy; as they are cast out [Revelation 20:10], and God’s creation is redeemed back [Ephesians 1:14], given back to Adam’s seed who lost it in sin and transgression. That book, lying on the right hand of God [Revelation 5:1], is a book representing the forfeiture, the title deeds of a lost and ruined and cursed creation.
And that was the sermon last Sunday morning. Now to follow: “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who, who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” [Revelation 5:2] That strong angel with his mighty voice announces to all God’s creation above, and in the earth, and in Hades, the time has come for the gaal, the kinsman-redeemer; the time has come for the gaal to come forward, if there be one qualified, to lift these title deeds and mortgages of forfeiture and to buy back this inheritance [Revelation 5:2]. And if no one could be found, it stays in the hands of the interloper, and the intruder, and the alien, and the stranger forever! And death reigns forever, and Satan reigns forever, and sin reigns forever, and we’re cast out forever. “The time has come,” says this strong angel [Revelation 5:2], and the strength of his voice penetrates to the last corners of heaven. And the strength of his voice covers the entire earth. And the strength of his voice searches the netherworld, whither the spirits of those who have died have gone. “Where, where, where,” says that strong angel, “is there one who is qualified, and who is worthy, and who is able to take these deeds of forfeiture and to lift them, and to cast out the interloper and the enemy and that dragon?”
“And,” you have it translated here, “And no man” [Revelation 5:3]—the Greek word is oudeis, and you know, that’s an interesting thing, how those Greeks will build up words. They do it like the Germans do. Oudeis, that’s made up of three words. Ou is the Greek word “not,” negative, no, ou; de is a little particle meaning “even”; and heis is the Greek word for “one,” the numeral one: oudeis. Now, oudeis, “not even one,” a very emphatic word: “Not even one in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth was able to open the book, neither to loose those seals and to look thereon” [Revelation 5:3-4].
All of the angels in glory shrank back in inability and in unworthiness; powers and principalities in all God’s created hosts in heaven, “not even one!” And under the earth, all of that vast netherworld into which these who have died have gone, “not even one!” Neither Moses, nor Elijah, nor Enoch; “not even one,” not one, “And no one in the earth.” As the voice and the challenge of the angel rang out, “not even one in the earth” [Revelation 5:3].
You know, the way that thing is framed—“Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” [Revelation 5:2]—the way the question is framed, it kind of supports the persuasion that it had been tried. Others and many had come seeking to do it, to buy back the redemption we lost as Adam’s fallen race. And when I look at that thing, and the sounding of his voice searched the earth [Revelation 5:2], it reminds me of the attempts through these centuries, the attempts to find that ultimate and final good, and to buy back Adam’s fallen race, and to make this lost and cursed earth a utopia.
They have tried it through the centuries in the arch of civilization. They have sought it in the realms of political philosophy; the rearrangement of governments, the revolution, the turmoil, the changing of political life. They have sought it through all of the means of philosophy and teaching that a man’s mind could conceive of. And they have sought it through all sorts and ways of man-made religions, trying to get back this inheritance, this lost world, this creation that was cursed in Adam’s sin [Genesis 3:1-6].
The latest attempt, and the most gigantic, and the most bewitching is the vast perpetration of the philosophy of communism, promising to the men, and families, and races, and peoples of the earth this glorious utopia! Through the centuries, that one has been sought for who could redeem back that creation and bring it to its pristine glory and its incomparable beauty. “Who is worthy?” And oudeis: “not even one” [Revelation 5:2-3].
However the fine philosopher may philosophize, and however the splendid genius of the political scientist may offer programs of reform, and however man-made religions may seek to change, there is always present that damnation and that drop of sin and iniquity and villainy; that wretchedness in the human life-stream and the tears and the sorrow that go with death and judgment. No one, no one, no one; “And I wept much” [Revelation 5:4]
You know, this English so many times cannot contain the weight of a descriptive word, and there is a typical example of it. “And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open”—you’ve got it, “and to read”; that’s not, a scribe put it in there—“No one was found worthy to open the book, neither to look thereon” [Revelation 5:3] Now, the way he writes that, “And I, I,” it emphasizes the indescribable grief and sorrow of the seer. It is repeated: “And I, egō, and I,” and then repeated in the word eklaion: “And I wept much, and I, I burst into tears, I wept audibly, out loud” [Revelation 5:4]. He could not contain himself. The sorrow of his soul overflowed and came in unbidden tears and audible sobs. You have that same expressive word, the imperfect verb, you have it in Luke 19:41: “And when Jesus was come near, He beheld the city, and eklaion.” Same, same verb, same tense: “and He lamented over it audibly; He burst into tears looking upon it and cried out loud.”
“And I, I wept audibly, burst into tears” [Revelation 5:4]. There is no more melancholy, there is no sadder contemplation that soul could think of, than to look upon the prospect that forever and forever and forever this inheritance is to be cursed, and lives are to be damned, and death is to reign supreme, and Satan is to be king over all God’s handiwork, and that’s why he weeps [Revelation 5:4].
The weeping of that sainted apostle is but representative of the weeping of God’s children through all of the ages. That is the weeping of Adam and Eve outside of the garden of Eden as they knelt down over the first mound, the first dust that covered the grave of the first son that was slain [Genesis 4:8]. Adam and Eve, watering the earth with their tears as they cried over the fallen and silent form of Abel: that’s the tears of John [Revelation 5:4]. The groaning and the crying unto God of the children of Israel in the land of Egyptian bondage [Romans 8:22-24]: that is the weeping of the apostle John. The crying of God’s elect unto Him day and night [Luke 18:7]; that is the weeping of the apostle John. And the tears, and the sorrows, and the sobs, and the heartaches, and the agonies, and the cries of all God’s children through all of the centuries are the tears and the sobs and the cries of the apostle John here, “O God, O God!” Death, and the grave, and sin, and judgment, and God’s cursed world: that’s why John wept [Revelation 5:4].
“And one of the elders,” well, I would have thought it would have been that strong angel with a great resounding, reverberating, challenging voice [Revelation 5:2]—no. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold” [Revelation 5:5]. Isn’t that a marvelous thing? An elder is chosen, that is, one who himself had been redeemed, his soul washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 5:9], and his body raised by the power of the triumphant Christ out of the dust of the ground [John 5:25]. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Cry not, weep not: behold, behold, behold” [Revelation 5:5].
And that is the cry of the church and the cry of the people of the Lord for these centuries since: “Weep not: behold!” [Revelation 5:5]. That was the message of the prophets as they envisioned, saw His day, and they saw it and were glad [John 8:56]. That is the announcement of the first Christian preachers. And that’s been the great heralding of God’s ministers and God’s people for these years and centuries since: “Weep not: behold, behold!” [Revelation 5:5].
Then, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” [Revelation 5:5], to lift the mortgage, to buy back the forfeited inheritance, to cast Satan out, to destroy sin and death and the grave, “Behold, behold!” And look how He is described, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” [Revelation 5:5]. Why, I know where that came from. In the prophecy of Israel as he spake to his twelve sons, “Judah, Judah,” whose name means “praise,”
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? Who dares?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh—
until the Lord Jesus come—
and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.
“The Lion of the tribe of Judah, He hath prevailed,” [Revelation 5:5]. He is qualified. He is worthy. He is able to lift the mortgages and the title deeds of our lost inheritance. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David”: isn’t that strange? Isn’t that strange? Every one of these words, every one of them is so filled with significance and meaning; “the Root of David, the Root of David.” In the sixteenth verse of the last chapter of the Revelation, “I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and the Morning Star” [Revelation 22:16], the Root and the Offspring of David. Well, why David? Why not Moses? Why not Abraham? Why not Elijah? Why the Root of David?
Well, Abraham is of promise [Galatians 3:16], Moses is of law [John 1:17], Elijah is of the prophets [Malachi 4:5], but David is a king! [2 Samuel 5:3]. And when you think of David, you think of royalty and of kingship, and that is in the mind of God and in the purposes of God for His Son. He is to be a King [Matthew 2:2], and He is purposed of heaven that He shall reign [Luke 1:33; Revelation 11:15]; Jesus, the Root and the Offspring of David here, “the Root of David” [Revelation 22:16]
Now what do you mean by “the Root of David”? He was before David [John 8:58]. David came of Him. And if we had lots of time this morning, we would just go into that. That appears so often in the Bible and is so frequently discussed and mentioned. John the Baptist, for example, will say, “He that cometh after me is preferred before me: because He was before me” [John 1:15]
Now isn’t that a funny thing, and a strange thing? Here John the Baptist is preaching and announcing that after him is to come the Lord God’s Messiah. “But,” says John, “He that follows me is preferred before me: because He was before me!” [John 1:15].
Well, the same thing—we just look at it for a moment—same thing is found in Matthew. “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” They say unto Him, “He is the Son of David” [Matthew 22:42-43]. “Well,” says the Lord Jesus, “Is that not amazing? He is the Son of David [Jeremiah 23:5-6]. Yet in the one hundred tenth Psalm, in the first verse: ‘The Lord God said unto my Lord Christ, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool’ [Psalm 110:1]. How doth David then in the Spirit call Him Lord? [Matthew 22:43]. David the father, David calls his Son ‘Lord.’ Well, isn’t that a strange thing?” says the Lord Jesus. “How do you explain that?” That is explained because the only significance and the only meaning of the kingship and the kingdom of David lies in his greater Son and in the greater kingdom of Jesus Christ [Luke 1:32]. Other than that, the kingship of David and the kingdom of David would have been one little insignificant principality, lost in the tribal history of a hundred thousand million just like him who lived thousands of years ago, and buried in the sands of the deserts, and wiped away in the erosion of time.
But the reason we know King David is because, is because he prefigured the glorious kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, Jesus, is the Root of David [Revelation 22:16]. And He is the descendent of David, the Offspring of David [Revelation 22:16], before him and after him:
The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to lift those seals of forfeiture…
And I beheld, I looked, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and in the midst of the four cherubim, and in the midst of the four and twenty elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.
Oh what a vision! Now you look at it with John. And when he turned to look, and when he turned to look at the Lion of the tribe of Judah, at the Root and the Offspring of David the king, when he looked, what he saw was an arnios, an arnios [Revelation 5:6]. The Greek word for “lamb” is arnios, and the Greek word for a little pet lamb, a little pet one, is an arnios, little lamb, little pet.
Do you remember when the Passover lamb was slain? You just didn’t go out and find you a lamb and slay the lamb—no. Do you remember? The Lord said you go out and in the firstlings of the flock, the finest that you can find, and keep him in your bosom for four days until he is identified with the family and in the house [Exodus 12:3-6]. A little pet lamb, identified with you and your children, and your home, and your family.
The word is used here in the New Testament only twice: one time in the twenty-first chapter of John, when Jesus says to Simon Peter to take care of His “little lambs” [John 21:15-17], and here [Revelation5:6]: a little pet lamb, emphasizing its meekness, and its domesticity, and its yieldedness, and its unresistingness; a little lamb. And it stood “as it had been slain,” sphazó [Revelation 5:6]. That’s the word that means the sacrificial knife is to die by violence, is to die by sacrifice [Exodus 12:3-5], “the Lamb slain” [Revelation 5:6].
He still has the marks of His passion upon Him; the nail prints in His hands, and the scar is in His side [John 20:27], and around His brow you can see where the crown of thorns were pressed down [Matthew 27:29]. A little lamb as it had been sacrificially offered up, slain! [Exodus 12:3-5]. But He is standing in the midst of the throne, estēkos, standing [Revelation 5:6]. John had seen Him die on Calvary [John 20:26-30], but John here sees Him alive, and He is standing! [Revelation 5:6]. “The Lamb stood in the midst,” a Lamb, standing! Oh, what that means, “standing”!
He is getting ready. He is about to take in His hands the authority and the power and the sovereignty of this universe [1 Corinthians 15:27], and to give it back to us who rightfully inherit it [Colossians 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4]; to redeem it to us who have lost it in sin and transgression [Revelation 20:6], standing! [Revelation 5:6]. You have the meekness of the lamb [Isaiah 53:7; Revelation 5:6], and you have the majesty of the lion [Genesis 49:9-10; Revelation 5:5]: the first coming of our Lord as a sacrificial offering, and the second coming of our Lord in glory and in power [Hebrews 9:26-28]. And we are redeemed by blood and by power! [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. Redemption rests upon the great foundation of the sacrifice of our Lord! [Ephesians 1:7]. But Satan is cast out, and our inheritance is given back to us by the authority and by the sovereignty of the living God! [Revelation 5:10].
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He that sat upon it True and Faithful …
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns . . .
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood, and His name is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and The Word of God,
And the host that follow Him in heaven, dressed in white, go forth to possess this earth.
[Revelation 19:11-14, 16]
The Lamb and the Lion [Revelation 5:5-6].
Just one little word and I have to stop. Standing: one time He stood in the presence of a ribald band. They covered Him with spittle, and they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6], and they mocked and ridiculed [Matthew 27:29-30]; and no word of remonstrance, no gesture of resistance [Isaiah 53:7], and He died [Matthew 27:32-50]. Now He stands, ah, in how different a day, in how changed a purpose! Our sins atoned for [Romans 4:11], our lives bought, blood-bought back to God [1 Peter 1:18-19], and now the day and time has come for God to cast out the interloper and the alien and the stranger [John 12:31].
And when He takes that book, and when He opens those seals [Revelation 6:1-8, 8:1], and when He lifts those mortgages, then follows God’s—oh, “And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne” [Revelation 5:7]. That is the greatest and most significant and most triumphant and dramatic single act in all of the Apocalypse and in the whole story of humanity. That is the act by which the Lord God sets Himself to give us back our lost inheritance. That is the act by which the judgments of God fall upon evil, and upon sin, and upon Satan, and upon death, and upon hell. That is the act by which God destroys the Antichrist, and thrusts into eternal perdition these the enemies of our souls [Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15]. And that is the act by which God gives to us our new heaven and our new earth [Revelation 21:1-3]—the redemption of our bodies, this new creation [Romans 8:23].
And that is why—in next Sunday morning’s message—that’s why they sing in heaven and rejoice in glory. And all creation shares in the marvelous paean of praise and tribute to Jesus. “Thou art worthy…for Thou hast redeemed us,” [Revelation 5:9] bought us back to God and given us our everlasting and eternal inheritance.
Now on the first note of this first stanza, while we sing our song, somebody you give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of the church. While we make the appeal, while we sing the song, would you come this morning? On the first note of the first stanza: “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.” Is there a family to come, a couple to come? On the first note of this stanza, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.