Revelation 5 is one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible. I still remember where I was when I first heard it. To my shame, I had been a Christian for almost a year and a half but I had never really read the book of Revelation. There we were, in Louisville, Kentucky, and Kevin DeYoung was preaching a message on how the God-exalting doctrines of grace fuel passionate missionary effort (listen here). He began his third point on Limited Atonement, or the idea of a definite and effective atonement. I was surprised when he invited us to flip our Bible to Revelation 5. He read the entire chapter (if I remember correctly) and I would like to invite you to do the same thing now.
 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.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,  and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  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.”
 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.  And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.  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.
 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,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”  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,
 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!”  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!”  And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5 ESV)
You may have heard it said that theological detail is the stuff of speculation and is better left unattended to. It seems, after all, that in Heaven (and the New Creation) none of that will matter. But to agree with this sentiment above is to radically depart from God’s picture of Heaven that He has revealed to us. Here we see several things that are meant to give us a specific picture of the King in His beauty (Isa. 33:17) and cause our hearts to flood with joy and worship upon the very seeing of it with spiritual eyes.
Only Christ is Worthy
Much work must be done in our hearts to clear out ideas and idols that threaten to cloud the worthiness of Christ from our vision. The reason that we, as Calvinists, constantly fight to defend against every lofty argument brought against the Biblical doctrine of salvation is because God alone is worthy of glory. We must be honest that at times our defense becomes a bit about our knowledge and glory. But overall the desire is noble and, to be sure, one that should be becoming a purer and purer desire to see Christ enjoyed as He really is. Perhaps the thickest thread of the gospel of God is the worthiness of God. The magnitude of our rebellion and the justice of God’s wrath towards us is only felt with appropriate weight when we see just how glorious God is. So much so, that God saved a people for Himself, by Himself. He did not ask. He did not force. Instead, He allowed us to see His truth worth. And we all inevitably came, unable to shake the glory before our eyes.
Heaven is a place of the worth of Christ. Indeed the soul’s delight will be pure there due to the fact that we shall see Him as He is. In Revelation 5 we have a picture of a worthy Christ. To amplify God’s worth, however, we must see our subsequent unworthiness. The Christian can never think Himself too low. In fact, I am sure none of us have that problem. No one in heaven or and the earth was found worthy to open the scrolls. There are no worthy participants in redemption. Even those blood-bought saints that we will get too soon are only worth the value of the one who redeemed them. The most sanctified saint, apart from the righteousness of Christ, is due the severest eternal in hell. In the hands of God are the scrolls. John Piper describes these scrolls as the ones that dictate the final consummation of the world. In other words, the final triumph of Christ and the judgement of the unrepentant lay in the hands of God. Piper makes an interesting point saying that God could not simply unroll the scroll on His own. God is immensely holy, and for Him to unleash this great redemption on sinning humans would be blasphemous to His very namesake. The futility of human effort in salvation is on full display as none are found worthy to take the scroll from the hand of God. Even those around the throne of God above are not worthy, sinless though the may be. Angels are no help either. Even they long to peer into such a gospel redemption.
In comes Christ. He is depicted by two seemingly contradictory terms. This very paradox is what Jonathan Edwards described as an “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” Christ appears as a Lion. Jesus is fully God. Christ is Lord and there is no other. Simply put, He is King and His Kingdom will have no end. Yet this King rules through a cross. This Lion is also a Lamb. Not only a Lamb but a slain Lamb. Christ, as the book of Hebrews tells us, has become Himself the perfect, spotless sacrifice for the atonement of our sins before God the Father. Also the Great High Priest, Jesus laid down His life for His sheep. From Heaven He came and sought her. Here in Christ we see transcendent holiness and relentless love. Grace and truth. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The earth was made to see this. We were created to enjoy and glory in this greatness.
Heaven is a God-centered place. That is why Asaph can say “whom have I in Heaven but you?,” in Psalm 73. Many are fine with going to a kind of pie-in-the-sky heaven but it takes the supernatural work of the spirit to desire Heaven for God Himself. We see the redeemed around the throne shouting just one chorus. “Worthy is the Lamb!” His worthiness becomes the theme of heavens praises. Do they ever see to tire of this gospel? Many ask why in the world would we want to focus all of our lives on one message about a bloody cross. It is because in the cross we have redemption, and that redemption’s great end is the seeing and savoring of Jesus Christ. He is worthy precisely because of His meditorial work. By His blood, Christ has ransomed a people from every tribe tongue and nation. Jesus took names to the cross. Not just white names, either. All tongues. All tribes. All nations. All gathered to the glory of God, enthused by all God is in Christ, vibrant with white-hot worship.
Are your thoughts consumed with God? With the atonement? Do these things bore you? Do they seem like secondary matters to you? My dear friend, if we lose this gospel we lose God. God will not be mocked. He will only be worshiped as He has revealed Himself to be worshipped. It matters little what you think about who God is. God has told us who He is and has shown us the glories of Christ that we might know them. So if you hate doctrine, if you have theological thought, you are not well-fit for heaven. Repent and turn to Christ as supreme joy. Christ is Lord and He is Savior. But as this passage shows us, He is also the end for which God created the world. His glory becomes our great passion. His value and worth our great good.
No one in heaven will have room to boast. What have we done? None of us are worthy. But Christ has given Himself up for us. His righteousness is ours by faith. Our redemption is secure. This reality must dominate our lives as we grow to love Him more and more because He has first loved us. Worthy is the Lamb!