Worthy Over All – Revelation 5:1-14

by Roger McCay
26 September 2021
Sermon Passage: Revelation 5:1-14
Link to Audio Version

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This is basic—the answer to question number one of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Many of you memorized it as a kid. For some this is the only catechism answer they know. It could even be that you are unfamiliar with it. Whatever the case, the statement “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” sums up the design of our existence, according to God’s Word.

But do we? Do we live up to this concise statement of the very purpose of our life? Do we glorify God with our entire being? Do we enjoy God now? Or are we waiting for some later time or just enjoying him sometimes? If we are honest, we know we fall short. We do. Of course, those who are not in Christ, cannot live up to this standard at all. But those who are in Christ, are a new creation, the old having passed away with the new having come (2 Cor. 5:17). Our chief end is an expression of our very being in action. We are the redeemed in Christ, inheritors of the Covenant of Grace, living in the freedom of the New Covenant under the gospel, enabled by God himself to actually and truly live for his glory, while enjoying him both now (as the sanctified people of God) and into eternity (as the glorified people of God).

Considering this reality, what is another way to say “glorifying God and enjoying him?” Worship. It’s worship. We are all designed for worship. Created beings can only find enduring life fulfillment, with peace and satisfaction, in our creator. This is a universal need, which we see represented in our passage today (Rev. 5). Yet, even for Christians, though we yearn to glorify the Lord with our lives, our indwelling sin seeks to latch onto anything other than the one worthy of worship (Rom. 7). So, like I said, we know we fall short, finding ourselves, at times, distracted from the fulness of our reality in Jesus Christ, settling for empty satisfactions and glories that come to nothing.

Hence, while it is our nature to worship, we sometimes misplace our worship. Tim Keller gives a familiar example: football.

Here’s a football fan. The football fan, all week, studies the object of his adoration. He reads about it. He studies it. He studies the statistics. He talks about it. Then on Sunday he spends a great deal of time and effort to actually get in the presence of the object of his adoration. When the object of his adoration is actually presented to his senses, his whole posture changes. He praises them. He shouts. His face is aglow. What is that? That’s worship.[1]

It is not that enjoying football is a bad thing, in fact when kept in its proper place it can be a wonderful gift to us, a gift from God. Rather, the issue is that when football, or anything for that matter (family, work, hobbies, whatever) when anything becomes “the thing” (over and above the only one who is worthy), then that thing has become an idol. And this is no small offense. Idolatry is a perversion of our very being, our very createdness. It is out of harmony with reality, an empty delusion. It is theft, stealing from our Lord what is his alone. And for God’s people, it is unfaithfulness—the bride of Christ cheating on the bridegroom. Nothing good comes from idolatry.

In our passage today, in the throne room of heaven with the court in session, the Father extends his hand with the scroll upon it in v. 1. The scene has the sense of constant worship, as an undertone then bursting forth. Worship is swirling around.

Then, with a sense of dramatic anticipation, the mighty angel’s voice booms forth, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Reacting to the search of all creation, which finds none worthy to open the scroll or to look into it, John weeps. Even though John knew Jesus intimately and his status as Lord (Rev. 1-3, with Jesus having just opened the door to heaven for him) … even so, John weeps.

Why did he weep? Well, John knew Jesus. It’s not that, all of a sudden, he was bereft of his knowledge of the gospel and Jesus’ ministry and status. And put yourself in his shoes. John knew that due to mankind’s failure (our sin), if the elect were to be redeemed, it required Jesus (who alone was worthy) to become the sacrifice. John was there at the cross. He saw Jesus tortured and his horrible death, the perfectly righteous man, who was God, murdered at the instigation of the Jews, his own people, who should have known better. Jesus was John’s best friend. And their people had gone totally apostate, killing their Messiah and fornicating with Rome. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests cried, rejecting their true king (John 19:15).

Yet all mankind was lost without Jesus submitting to the will of the Father to be sacrificed, which he willingly undertook as the ultimate expression of love. Jesus was the only hope to save both Jew and Gentile, and John knew it. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” Jesus said (Luke 22:20).

John was emotionally invested, and his weeping was wholly appropriate. John (knowing Jesus, being his witness, having undergone his own torture and imprisonment, witnessing the tribulations of the persecuted church, having the resurrected Lord appear to him at Patmos, and now being overwhelmed in the throne room of heaven) … well, John was having an understandably emotional experience. He was weeping over his people. He was weeping over the need, due to mankind’s sin, for the ultimate sacrifice of his beloved friend and Lord. And he was anticipating the proclamation of the glorious hero who conquered, in his death. The search for one worthy to unleash the decrees of the scroll could only come down to one person, and no one else—the Son of God—Jesus. Who else could possibly be worthy?

Snapping John out of his emotional revery, one of the elders approached John and said, “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.” Hearkening to the Messianic prophecies of Gen. 49:9-10 and Isa. 11:10, the elder points out the King, the promised Messiah, the son of David, who sits on the eternal throne of David (2 Sam. 7:16-17)—the Lord Jesus Christ, whose dominion is absolute, eternal, and over all people and all creation (Dan. 7:13-14; Col. 1:15-20; Rev. 1:5).

But it is not by might and conquest that the Almighty Lord Jesus conquered, that he might be worthy to open the scroll. Rather, it is because he is the Lamb who was slain. Verses 6-7:

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.

There before the throne, Jesus stepped up, and took what he alone was worthy to take—the scroll (which we identified over the past two weeks). In his description, the horns likely symbolize his power. The eyes symbolize the seven Spirits of God, which (as we’ve discussed before) is the Holy Spirit, perfect in his work, all-seeing and all-knowing—the Spirit of God, whom we confess in the Nicene Creed, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:19) … Jesus had fulfilled the Old Covenant under the Law, in his perfect obedience and on the cross with his sacrifice, atoning for the sins of all who believe in him (Luke 24:44-45). Thus he was worthy.

With the Lion that is the Lamb having taken the scroll, the heavenly court bursts forth in praise. Rev. 5:9-10:

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, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Jesus conquered in his sacrifice, vindicated by the Father in his resurrection and exaltation. He conquered, redeeming his people with his body broken and his blood shed on the cross. In his victory, he secured our forgiveness, our righteousness, our eternal relationship with him, and our status as sons and daughters of God. He established the New Covenant under the gospel in his blood (Heb. 9:12). And so, at the right time, he took the scroll from the hand of the Father in order to wrap up old business, to bring the definitive end to the Old Covenant in judgment, and to usher his church into the future, secure in his grace. The time of transition was coming to a close (Heb. 8:13; Rev. 1:5-7).

Thus, he is worthy to open the seals and unleash the judgments of the scroll because his blood set the conditions for opening the scroll, his blood of the New Covenant (Luke 20:22; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 8:6; Jer. 31:31-34). Jesus is intrinsically worthy in his infinite value as the Son of God, the Lion and the Lamb—the Messiah King who gave it all (Phil. 2:5-11). He is worthy because he redeemed his chosen people from the tribes of Israel and from all the nations of the earth (Jew and Gentile), redeeming all who follow him (as his disciples, trusting in him for salvation), making us a kingdom and priests to our God, who shall reign upon the earth.

This last part of the song (the redeemed being a kingdom and priests to God), John has previously mentioned in Rev. 1:6, and echoes Dan. 7:18, 22 & 27. The nation of Israel, under the Old Covenant, had once held the position as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). But that title and role was now the rightful possession of the inheritors of the Covenant of Grace in the New Covenant under the gospel—all Christians (true Israel), no matter their ethnicity or nation (1 Pet. 2:9; Gal. 3:29). We are a kingdom, priests to God the Father, where Christ is King and the great High Priest. As a kingdom of priests, the mantle of God’s people—worship, witness, and faithful living—has been placed upon us.

Further, like the new song in Rev. 5:10 exclaims, “they [the redeemed] shall reign on the earth,” stated in the future tense. Such is in line with 2 Tim. 2:12 (“if we endure, we will reign”)—a promise that the royal household shall reign with Christ in some way, if they overcome, conquering in the Lord. Also, Jesus promised to those who conquer, that they will sit on his throne with him (Rev. 3:21). We see a fulfillment of this in Rev. 20:6, with the saints who conquered (reigning with Christ through the millennium), then again in Rev. 22:5 where God’s people (“the servants of God”) “reign forever and ever.” Too, the Scriptures teach that united with Christ (Rom. 6), we will reign in life through him, with the sense that we reign even now (Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:4-6). It’s a multi-dimensional reign—with a sense of near and far, in Christ.

My friends, we live in the reality that God established with this step in the Covenant of Grace—Jesus taking the scroll from the hand of the Father. The divorce with the apostate Jews, ending Old Covenant Judaism, is long past. We live in the church age, as the bride of Christ. We are a free people, inheritors of God’s covenant. The burden of the law is not upon us. Jesus took that upon himself. We don’t live in fear of God’s wrath for our sin. Jesus took that upon himself. He reigns as King, and we are his people living in the freedom of his rule. This is reality. It is the way things are, with Jesus sitting on the throne at the center of all things.

So, how do we reign in life, in Christ, as a kingdom of priests? The text gives us a clue in Rev. 5:9, with the prayers of the saints rising up to God. Think of that. We pray. God hears our prayers and answers them in the most perfect way possible. That is an expression of power beyond what any earthly authority possesses in their own might, and it is tied-in with our worship. Further, we are a people of the Lion who is a Lamb. Our reign now, on earth, is thus so. We follow Jesus, in his authority (Mark 8:34), our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). United with Christ, our reign in life through Jesus is an expression of his reign, consisting of our living according to his will, in whatever sphere of life we find ourselves. It is not a reign of might, but a reign of meekness modeled after Christ, the Lion Lamb—“strong yet gentle, unselfish, and kind.”[2] We express that reign when it comes to our interactions with people, loving our neighbor, when we (on the Lord’s authority) share the gospel in both word and deed. And we express it in our care for God’s creation (Gen. 1:28). Our lives are lives of worship, and in that worship, we reign in Christ.

Every day, remind yourself of the truth of who you are in Christ. Remember, and take it to heart! There is so much the world throws at you. There are so many temptations and sins and troubles and trials and tribulations we have to struggle through. It is easy to get distracted by idols that pull your eyes off Jesus, only to leave you empty. It is easy to get distracted from who you are in Jesus and the fulness of blessing he bestows on you. Remember who you are, in Christ. Surrender to this reality, following Jesus in faith. “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Let the reality of your life in Christ give you hope, hope in Jesus, the Lord, the Lamb, the King. Celebrate your life in him, despite the world’s oppressions. Find your encouragement, confidence, and joy in Jesus, who is your big brother, your best friend, and eternal love. Because Jesus is worthy, Christians should live in the reality of a redeemed people.

Now, not only is Jesus worthy to open the scroll and seals, he is worthy to receive all things, the focus of worship. Chapters 4-5 are saturated with worship, and there is a movement to it. The court gives praise to the Father in ch. 4, then they flow into praise to the Son with the new song in ch. 5. The song swells as innumerable angels join in, then worship expands in scope to the praise of both the Father and the Son by the whole of creation! Chapter 5 then ends with the court prostrate before the Lord with “Amen” and further worship. And in the midst of it all, the Spirit of God is present with the Father and the Son. What we see is Trinitarian worship at the highest level of reality.

And it is interesting, as Keller highlights, the elements involved in this worship. He says, “They are all here,” touching on praise, thanksgiving, “confession when John weeps because he’s not worthy to open the scroll,” music and singing, the use of harps, and prayer. [3]

And it’s fascinating how, not only does the court worship (with the prayers of the saints participating, along with innumerable angels), but all creation joins in worshipping the Lord. Verse 13:

13 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!”

This hearkens to Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” There is a sense that the beauty of creation reflects the creator, glorifying the creator, worship by existence and reflection of the Lord’s glory.

I was watching a freshly hatched butterfly stretch its wings the other day. The beauty of its colors and the elegance of its form cried out to the glory of the creator. Sunsets, mountains, fields of flowers, that great old oak, the saplings, the beauty of ocean life, the songs of the birds of the air, the wonders of microbes, and on and on, all declare the glory of God. They are, in a sense, by their created beauty, worshipping.

So, what are the dynamics of Jesus being worthy to receive? The chorus in v. 12 is pretty comprehensive. He is “worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Why? What we saw concerning his worthiness to open the scrolls is surely an answer. And it goes even further, as Paul proclaims in the Colossians hymn of Col. 1:15-18:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Jesus is preeminent—the creator, redeemer, and sustainer. All things come from him and he is worthy of all things flowing back to him. All we possess, all that we are, any power or honor, wisdom, blessings, whatever it might be, all is from of him. It is ours as a gift, but by design it is all from him and flows back to him—to his glory. Even more, the redemption paid for in his blood is not only our hope but the hope of creation, which has suffered due to our sin (Rom. 8:19-20). Our redemption, our being set free, impacts all of creation, as it eagerly awaits its own redemption. As Rom. 8:21 says, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Thus the very nature of creation, everything and every creature, is to worship the creator, redeemer, and sustainer by its very being and in the hope of its redemption.

My friends, you and I were made for worship. Everybody worships something. But we were made to worship the Lord. Which is why idolatry of any kind and false religions are such a perversion, a debasement of our very nature as created beings, created in the image of God.

Accordingly, worship of the Lord is an integral part of the blessings of Christ for his people. It is only when our lives are lived in worship, our very lives an expression of our worship of the Lord, that we can fully experience the blessings of Christ. When our lives are expressions of worship of the Lord, worship coming from our very souls, we live in harmony with our createdness and our creator. As a redeemed people, this is communing with God at the deepest level—soul communion. And in such a way, following Jesus, we live in a state of realized blessedness. This is true and ongoing even when the world buffets us unceasingly, with tribulations of whatever kind, even to the point of death (Matt. 5:3-12; Rom. 5:1-5; Phil. 2:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-9).

So, are you all in? Can it be said of you that your very life is a picture of worship of the living and true God? Of course, none of us is perfect in this. But repentance is a part of worship. Indeed, in our repentance we worship the Lord in his overcoming of our sin! Even so, are you deliberate about worship? Do you examine yourself, realistically evaluating your walk with Christ? Such is an important spiritual discipline. 2 Cor. 13:5:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Let us live for Jesus. He is our life. He is that right and true way among the crazy of the world. Let us live to his glory, as his redeemed people, worshipping him, free in him, reigning in life through him. Because Jesus is worthy, Christians should live to the glory of our redeemer.

In many ways (and I hope you see it), Rev. 5 answers the question, “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” May that truth grip you at the very core of your soul and guide you as you follow Jesus.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Because Jesus is worthy, Christians should unreservedly worship him with our lives.


[1] Timothy J. Keller, “Heavenly Worship: Revelation 4:8-5:10” The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013), preached June 20, 1993.

[2] InTouch Ministries, “Sunday Reflection: The Meekness of Christ,” pub. 12 Apr. 2020,


[3] Timothy J. Keller, “Heavenly Worship: Revelation 4:8-5:10.”