Jesus had called the Apostle John up into heaven in the spirit to reveal to him what would happen following the time of the church. In Revelation 5, we get a true picture of how heaven, and all of the creatures in heaven, whether they would be the angels, the elders around God’s throne, or otherwise, look upon Jesus.
First, let’s remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Here, we see John call Jesus the Lamb of God. Why a lamb? Because this lamb would be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But a sacrifice completed by whom? John says that it was God’s Lamb. It is God Himself who is offering this sacrifice. And in fact, it is always God who provides. Even if others are offering the sacrifice, God is the One who provides the sacrifice.
For example, let’s look back to Abraham. What did he do? God called Abraham to offer his very own son. God had now asked Abraham to offer Isaac, the one legitimate son that he had with his wife Sarah, back to God as a sacrifice. However, as we can read in Genesis 22, just as Abraham raises his knife to kill his son, God calls out to him through an angel and Isaac is spared.
However, a sacrifice is still offered. God provides a ram, whose horns are caught in a thicket, to be killed and sacrificed instead of Isaac. So we see that, even though Abraham would go on to kill the ram, God was the one who provided the sacrifice.
Or we can also think about the prophecy in Isaiah 53. There is a man, of whom a prophecy is spoken, that will come to take on the sins of the people. He will be beaten, bruised, and crushed, but will then return back to life. This is, of course, a prophecy that foretold the life of Jesus and we can easily trace back several parts of these 12 short verses to direct actions in Jesus’s life.
But if we focus on verse 7, we can see that this man is referred to as a lamb that is being led to the slaughter:
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
So again, we see this imagery of a lamb that would be a sacrifice. And if we continue on into verse 10, we can also see that it was God who offered the sacrifice so that instead of us receiving the punishment for our sins, Jesus would take that punishment upon himself.
Now, having understood the we can return back to the book of Revelation and we can see that there is, once again, the imagery of a lamb. This is, yet again, the Lamb of God and this Lamb receives honor and worship for what he has done:
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Jesus, in this revelatory image of a Lamb, is worshiped by the elders and the four living creatures. He is worthy to take and open the scroll, the scroll that would spell out, step by step, the coming judgment of the world.
So, why Jesus? Why can this Lamb open the scrolls that will judge the world? Because he is worthy. He is worthy because he is God Himself who came into the world and offered himself as a lamb, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, just as John the Baptist had proclaimed. With his blood, Jesus offered himself so that he could purchase for God people from every tribe, tongue, and nation those that would come into God’s Kingdom. And because he had done that, because he had offered himself as a sacrifice to make this purchase, this Lamb – Jesus himself – is deemed worthy to open the scroll and receive glory and honor and worship for what he has done.