Revelation 5:1-5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 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. 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne…”
Are you ever concerned about the future? Make a trip to the emergency room, spend a day in the hospital, or have the doctor order up a series of tests, and all of a sudden the future is a big deal. Lose your job, or receive news that your company is “down-sizing,” and the future starts demanding a bigger percentage of our attention.
If worry about the future weighs heavy on our hearts, it probably has to do with our survival or that of someone we care about. We don’t know what is going to happen to us. But we do know the day is coming when the doctor can’t heal us anymore, and our income won’t support us anymore. Death waits in everyone’s future, and nothing makes us more concerned than death.
The Apostle John was concerned about the future, too. In this vision God is holding the future in his hands in the form of a scroll. The whole future is there— the scroll is full of writing on both sides, but it is sealed shut with seven seals. No one can look into the future, no one can read it because God has hidden it from view.
Who can open this scroll and show us the future written on it? A mighty angel asks the question, because even he isn’t able to. John tells us in the next verse, “…no one in heaven, or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll, or even look inside it.” There are those who claim that they can open the scroll today, but they are all frauds. In your newspaper each day you will find a column with the title “horoscope.” It gives no insight into what God has planned for our future. I once drove past the home of “Doris the Palm-reader.” She cannot read what God has written on the scroll in his hand. Even more respectable people like the weatherman can’t tell you with certainty what tomorrow holds.
The Apostle John was deeply troubled that no one could open this scroll. “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” John, too, was concerned about death and survival. Of the twelve men Jesus chose as disciples, only John was left. Many other leaders of the church at this time were being gathered by the Roman authorities and executed. John’s concern extended to the survival of the Church he had helped to establish. He deeply wanted to see that everything would be alright.
Then he received this comfort. “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.” Do you recognize this Lion? The old patriarch Jacob spoke of him just before he died in Genesis chapter 49. “You are a lion’s cub, O Judah….The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” If we find it hard to identify him, John’s next description may make it easier: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…”
You couldn’t create two more seemingly contradictory descriptions than these: “…the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed” and “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…” Lions are aggressive and powerful. We call them “king of beasts.” A lamb is weak and defenseless. The Lion has triumphed. The Lamb has been slain. Aren’t these opposites? How could they be the same?
You couldn’t create two more seemingly contradictory days than Good Friday and Easter Sunday. On Good Friday Jesus looks absolutely helpless. He ends up tortured to death on a cross. On Easter Sunday, Jesus looks absolutely victorious. If death can’t hold him, if the grave can’t oppose him, what else can? In his death on the cross Jesus is the Lamb who was slain. By his resurrection from the dead Jesus is the Lion who has triumphed. By them both Jesus is worthy to open the scroll and show us the future. Do you see why?
When Jesus was slain, he didn’t merely die like a lamb. He died as a Lamb, the Lamb of sacrifice, giving his life in payment for our sins. When Jesus rose, his triumph over death was more than a personal triumph. It was a triumph for us all. Death itself was defeated, ours included.
By paying for our sins and defeating death, then, Jesus has written our futures. They may not look the same in all the details. You may die rich, or you may die poor. You may die old, or you may die young. You may die peacefully, or you may die violently. But in every case, your future is the same. You will rise from death to live and rule in heaven eternally, for Jesus is the Lamb who was slain, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed.
This is the future Jesus himself has written on the scroll for you. This is the future he reads to us at Easter and every Sunday. This is what makes him worthy. He not only shows us our future. He created it.