This article first appeared in the Standard Bearer (vol.84, no.3), November 1, 2007.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 record a vision that the apostle John had of the throne of God in heaven. Gathered around that throne to adore the living God were twenty-four elders and four beasts or living creatures. In the right hand of the living God, who sat upon the throne, was a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. A search was made to find someone who was worthy to loose the seals on this book and to read it. There was found no man who was worthy. But then John sees in the midst of the throne 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. He took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne.
In response, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sang a new song: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
The Lamb that was slain is Jesus Christ. By His death He has redeemed us to God.
Being the Lamb that was slain, Jesus is worthy to take the book and open its seals. That is very significant for our salvation. The new song that the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sang in praise of the Lamb must also be our song.
Jesus Christ is the Lamb that was slain.
There were many lambs that were slain in the Old Testament for the sins of the people. They were slain as sin offerings and trespass offerings. All the lambs that were sacrificed, however, were not sufficient to pay for and cover the sins of the people. They were merely types or pictures that looked ahead to the Lamb of God that would with one sacrifice completely atone for the sins of the people.
The great Lamb of God to which all the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament pointed is Jesus Christ. John the Baptist identified Jesus as such at the Jordan River, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
As the Lamb of God, Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin. He did this at the cross, where He shed His blood. This constituted the perfect sacrifice for sin because at the cross Jesus endured all the punishment of God for sin and did so in humble submission and obedience to God.
By His perfect sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ has redeemed us unto God by His blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation.
To redeem is to free one from slavery by the payment of a price. Scripture applies this to our spiritual slavery to the Devil and to sin. We are by nature enslaved to the Devil. On account of the fall he has a legal claim to us, so that we are bound to serve him in sin. This is a terrible slavery, which results in our destruction. But with the payment of a price (ransom), we can be freed from this bondage. The price necessary to redeem us is not silver and gold but the enduring of the punishment for sin. This price Jesus paid as the Lamb of God by the shedding of His blood. By paying the price of sin, Jesus has purchased us unto God, so that now we belong to the living God.
Who is this "us" that the Lamb has redeemed?
This "us" is not limited by nationality, language, or ethnic origin. For the Lamb of God has redeemed us out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation.
This "us" is limited, however, by the election of God. Some would place no limitation at all on the redemption of the Lamb of God. But God has chosen a people out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation. These the Lamb of God has redeemed.
The redemption makes the Lamb worthy to open the book.
John sees in his vision a book that is sealed shut with seven seals. This book represents the living decrees of God for the future. God has eternally determined all things necessary for the establishment of His kingdom. God will establish a glorious kingdom into which He will bring His people—a people taken from all the nations of the world. In this kingdom God will rule His people in His grace so that they prosper under His care and enjoy Him forever. But for that kingdom to come and be complete many things must happen. These events do not simply happen but are all eternally predetermined by God in His council. That council is represented by the book that John sees in the vision of this chapter.
This book is sealed with seven seals. A seal on a book was to safeguard it so that it will be opened and read only by those for whom it is intended. That this book of the counsel of God is sealed with seven seals indicates that the decrees of God are secret, known only to God and to those to whom God will reveal it.
Whoever receives this book and opens the seals thereof will receive the power and authority to execute the council of God and thus bring to pass the events that will lead to the establishment and completion of God's kingdom. John sees in his vision that a search is made to find one who is worthy to receive the book and open the seals. To be worthy means to be of equal weight and value. And no man was found worthy to receive the book and open the seals.
Then the Lamb that was slain came forward to claim the book. He alone is worthy. He is worthy exactly because He is the Lamb that was slain and that has redeemed to God those out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation. This makes Him worthy because the kingdom that is to be established by the execution of God's counsel is based on His work of redemption. His work of redeeming the people of God is what makes the kingdom possible and secures the kingdom.
The rest of the book of Revelation deals with the opening of the seven seals of this book and the events that lead to the completion of the kingdom of God.
Because He is worthy to open the book, the Lamb of God is praised with a new song.
This song is sung by the twenty-four elders and the four beasts (creatures) that are gathered around the throne of God. The twenty-four elders represent the church of the Old Testament and New Testament. The four creatures represent angels (cherubim).
They sing a new song.
Their song is a new song in that it is a new kind of song. It is a new kind of song in that it celebrates something new and different from anything that has ever happened before. One has now been found worthy to take the book of the counsel of God and open it so that He executes the decrees of God that will bring about the kingdom of God. And such a development calls for a new song. The old songs anticipate this, but do not adequately praise it.
This song is a song of praise that acknowledges the worthiness of the Lamb and ultimately glorifies the God who sent Him. This song is sung in heaven from the time that Jesus received the book and continues throughout all eternity. The whole realm of angels (10,000 times 10,000) joins in song to acknowledge the worthiness of the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.
And every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea also join in with song to acknowledge His worthiness. Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.
And the four beasts (living creatures) said, Amen. And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth forever and ever.
As the redeemed, we too must acknowledge the worthiness of the Lamb. Being part of the redeemed we belong to the kingdom that Jesus Christ has established and that will soon be completed as He executes the counsel of God.
We too must acknowledge the greatness and worthiness of the Lamb in prayer and song.
Rev. James Slopsema (Wife: Joan)
Ordained: September 1974
Pastorates: First, Edgerton, MN - 1974; Randolph, WI - 1982; Hope, Walker, MI - 1986; First, Grand Rapids, MI - 1995; Emeritus, July 2014Website: www.firstprchurch.org/
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