Worthy is the Lamb

In Chapter 5, John saw the “Sealed Scroll” held tightly in the right hand of the “One Who Sits on the Throne.” A search was made of the entire creation for someone who was “worthy” to open the scroll. Alas, no one was found, and this caused John to begin to weep profusely. If the scroll remained sealed, its contents could not be implemented. However, one of the twenty-four “elders” tells John to cease weeping, for the “lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David overcame.”

And because the “Lamb” did successfully “conquer,” he alone out of the entire creation is “worthy” to take the “Sealed Scroll,” and to break open its seals and thereby reveal and implement its contents.

  • (Revelation 5:5-7) – “And one of the elders said to me: Do not weep! Behold, the lion that from the tribe of Judah, the root of David has overcome to open the scroll and its seven seals. And I saw in the midst of the Throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a Lamb, standing, showing that 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 it out of the right hand of him that was sitting upon the Throne.


The Greek term rendered “overcame” translates the verb nikaō, the same word rendered “overcome” numerous times in the letters to the “seven churches” (“to the one who overcomes…”). And especially relevant in this context is the final promise made at the conclusion of the Seven Letters:

  • He that overcomes, I will give to him to take his seat with me in my Throne, AS I ALSO OVERCAME and took my seat with my Father in his Throne” - (Revelation 3:21).

Jesus “overcame” through his sacrificial death (“slain”), and that victory qualified him to stand before the “Throne.” And ever since then, he has been summoning his saints to “overcome” in the same manner that he did.

He is called the “Lion of Judah” and the “Root of David.” Both terms are messianic designations. In the Book of Genesis, the tribe of Judah is called “a lion's whelp” that will hold the scepter until the arrival of the one to whom it belongs (“to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”).

Likewise, the Book of Isaiah prophesies of the time when “the root of Jesse will stand as an ensign to the peoples” – (Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 11:1-10).

John HEARD the elder declare, “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” but when he looked, he SAW a “Lamb” rather than the “lion,” and one that has been “slain.” What he saw interprets what he first heard.


The “Lamb” is the promised Messiah of Israel, but he fulfills that role in a paradoxical manner. Not as a royal or military figure who uses violence to suppress his enemies, but as a SACRIFICIAL VICTIM. The vision is anchored in the historical events of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Nazarene.

Here, “Lamb” translates the Greek word arnion, the diminutive form of the more common term for “lamb” or arnén. It refers to a juvenile animal and becomes the primary designation for Jesus in the remainder of the Book.

Lamb” is applied to Jesus a total of twenty-eight times (4 x 7). In contrast, ‘Jesus’ occurs fourteen times, and ‘Christ’ seven times, respectively.

The Greek term rendered “slain” translates the verb sphazō which is used often in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament for the Hebrew verb shachat. And this word is applied to the “slaying” of sacrificial animals (Strong’s - #G4969).

The usage in Revelation echoes the passage in Isaiah where the Suffering Servant is compared to “a lamb led to the slaughter” (sphagé, from sphazō) - (Isaiah 53:7).


The “Lamb” has “seven horns and seven eyes.” Horns symbolize power. The “seven eyes” were identified previously as “the Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth,” an allusion to the vision in Zechariah where a stone with “seven eyes” was set before Joshua to remove sin from the land.

And in Zechariah, the “seven lamps” are the “eyes of Yahweh that run to and fro through the whole earth.” They symbolized His spirit (“Not by might but by My Spirit, says Yahweh” - Zechariah 3:9, 4:10).

Thus, the “Lamb” now sits on the “Throne” and possesses the authority of God, including the “seven eyes” that see all things. Nothing is hidden from his sight.

Upon his arrival, the “Lamb” approaches the “Throne” and takes the “Sealed Scroll.” The image parallels the vision in the Book of Daniel when one “like a Son of Man” approaches the Throne of the “Ancient of Days” and receives the authority to reign over “all peoples, races and tongues” - (Daniel 7:13-14).


In John’s vision, the authority of the “Lamb” is proclaimed by heaven and earth, and his sovereignty is the result of his sacrificial death. His submission to an unjust death has made him “worthy” to open the scroll and to begin his reign over all creation.

Each of the twenty-four “elders” had a bowl of “incense,” symbolizing the “prayers of saints.” Thus, they performed priestly functions and represented the redeemed people of God before the “Throne.”

The understanding that his sovereignty is the result of his death is confirmed by the “new song” sung by the four “living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” - (Revelation 5:9-12).

Heavenly voices are heard singing the “new song.” In Chapter 4, all creatures sang praises to the “One Who Sits on the Throne” for His creative acts. Now, the “new song” rings out in praise of the “Lamb” for his sacrificial act.

The song is “new” because his death has inaugurated the redemption that will culminate in the “new heavens and new earth” (“Behold, I make all thing NEW” - Revelation 4:8-11, 21:1-5).

The “Lamb” is the Messiah of Israel, but his victory achieved the redemption of men and women from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Traditional social and ethnic boundaries have no place in his kingdom. Note well the verbal parallel to the passage in Daniel 7:13-14 - “That all peoples, races and tongues should render service to him.”

By his death, he made men from every nation a “kingdom of priests.” Collectively, they are a kingdom; individually, they perform priestly acts - (Exodus 19:5-6, Revelation 1:6, 20:6).


The redeemed participate in his reign in their priestly capacities. Jesus promises that believers who overcome will have authority over nations. But this reign is implemented through priestly acts of witness, martyrdom, prayer, and worship.

There is a textual variant in verse 10. Some ancient Greek manuscripts read, “They will reign on the earth” (future tense), while others have, “They are reigning” (present tense). The manuscript evidence is rather evenly divided.

Whichever reading is original, the message remains the same. If the redeemed reign now, it is because of the death of Christ. If they are to begin their reign in the future, it also will be due to his death.

The heavenly choir adores the “Lamb” for his act of redemption and proclaims him “worthy” to receive all “power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” This is followed by praise from “every created thing that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea.” How this redemption will be achieved will be unveiled as the “Lamb” begins to open the “Sealed Scroll.”



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He Nullified Death