“Who is worthy?”
The words of our text are a part of the proclamation represented as being made throughout heaven: “Who is worthy to open the book [the Scroll] and to loose the seals thereof?” The book in this case seems symbolically not to represent the Bible, but the Divine Plan, with its times and seasons. The Bible is indeed a record, but God had the plan before the Bible was written. He had this plan from the very beginning. He had not disclosed it to the angels - not even to the Logos. Nor did He disclose its time features fully to our Lord Jesus while He was in the flesh. And after His resurrection Jesus spoke of these times and seasons as things “which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7)
Is there any secret in connection with the Divine Plan? Are not all of God’s arrangements so plain that “a wayfaring man, though unlearned, need not err therein.” (Isa. 35:8) Are not all of the steps of the plan of salvation so simple that even a child may understand them?
Oh, no! very evidently not; for every-where we find the utmost diversity of opinion respecting the Divine Plan. There is now among Christian sects a great ecumenical movement, their goal being one universal Church. However, among the people them-selves there are still many theories being brought forward every day, so that sects, cults and groups are multiplying rapidly with people accepting any kind of nonsense, rather than the truth of the Divine Plan. Beside this, there are so many theologians, college professors and doctors of divinity who are in dispute that unlearned “wayfaring man” has many chances to err in his endeavor to grasp the Divine Plan. Also, there are a great variety of heathen theories, which are utterly false.
In harmony with this is the fact that all the prophets have spoken more or less obscurely and in parables, not excepting the Great Prophet, our Lord Jesus, of whom it is written, that “he taught the people in parables and darks sayings” - “and without a parable spake he not unto the people.” (Matt 13:14)
In Rev. 5:1 God’s Word is represented by a book (scroll), written on the inside and outside and sealed with seven seals. The things written on the outside represent the easy and simple things of the Bible, like histories, most of its precepts and exhortations and some of its doctrine, while those written on the inside sealed by seven seals represent the secret features of the Bible, none of which can be understood until in due time Jesus opens the secreting seals and expounds the thing therein to the elect people of God (Rev. 5:9).
The scroll is a forceful representation of the Divine Plan originally existing only in the mind of God, and which could not be made known to men until some one was found worthy to open the seals and display it to view. But “no one in heaven nor in earth was able to open the scroll, neither to look thereon,” until one came whom the Revelator describes as “The lion [strong one] of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David,” of whom the testimony is given - “Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and has redeemed to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made them unto our God a kingdom and priesthood; and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev.5:1-5,9,10)
The fact that God had a plan relating to the fallen race had been intimated to Abraham. God had declared to Abraham unconditionally that He would bless the world of mankind. He also pointed out later in the types and shadows of the Law certain features of the way by which He would bless the world. He declared that there would be a Redeemer; but who the Redeemer would be was kept a secret. Although both angels and men desired to know they were not permitted the knowledge. The prophets spoke by inspiration some things concerning this Redeemer, but they knew not the meaning thereof.
The mystery of the Divine Plan, hidden in parables, in figures and in symbols from the world, and from the nominal Christian - hidden from all except the fully consecrated children of God - is most beautifully symbolized in the Book of Revelation. As therein recounted, John was shown a vision a symbolic panorama, illustrative of the subject. The heavenly glories were symbolized and the Father shown seated upon the throne of His glory, holding in His right hand a scroll sealed with seven seals. This was the mystery, the secret of the Lord, unknown to any one but Himself - His plan for the salvation of the world. John in the symbol hears the proclamation, “Who is worthy to open the book and loose the seals!” - of the great Divine Plan, wonderful for its wisdom and love, and its lengths and breadths and depths and heights past human comprehension - that he may open and execute it! A silence follows, and John fearing that this signified that none would be found worthy, and that hence the Divine Plan would never be fully revealed, and therefore could not be fully executed, wept much. But in symbol the angel again touched him and said, “Weep not! For the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the ‘root of David,’ hath prevailed to open the Book, and loose the seven seals thereon.” (Rev. 5:5)
In due time the Logos was sent forth. He was a loyal Son before He was sent. He undertook to do the Father’s will, not yet knowing what it would cost to be the Messiah; for God had kept these things secret. He manifested His faith, His trust. He delighted to do the Father’s will, even to the taking of a lower nature. And so He humbled Himself from the glorious condition in which He was and took upon Himself the human nature, became a man - a perfect man, not a sinful man. Our Lord did this in order to carry out the great program which the Father had in His own mind and which He had not revealed to any other.
Great was the favor bestowed upon the Strong One of the Tribe of Judah, in being permitted to open the seals - to carry out and make manifest the grand designs of infinite love - and great is the privilege of those who are permitted to look thereon as the seals are opened.
When Jesus reached the age of thirty years, the earliest age at which He could present himself to God, under the Law, He went to Jordan and made a consecration of Himself with the determination to do everything that was in the Father’s plan - everything that typically and prophetically had been written in the Holy Scriptures concerning Himself. “Lo, I come [in the volume of the book it is written of me] to do thy will, O God.” “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, the law is within my heart,” was His expression as recorded (Heb 10:7,9; Psa.40: 6,8).
This was our Lord’s consecration. His human nature became His sacrifice. He laid down His life. He did not finish laying it down at Jordan; but so as His will was concerned, it was given there. He there became the Priest, the great High Priest, His flesh being typed by the bullock of sin-offering, sacrificed on Israel’s Day of Atonement. During the three and a half years of His ministry He carried out this sacrificing satisfactorily, and everything that the Father had given him to do was finished at the cross.
THE DEEP THINGS UNFOLDED AT JORDAN
Our Lord Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit when He came up out of the water at his baptism. Then the heavens were opened unto Him. The higher things, which He had not previously understood, became clear. The Scriptures were unfolded to His view. He knew he was going up to Jerusalem to be crucified. He knew that He would be betrayed by one of His chosen disciples, and he knew which of them would be the betrayer. He knew these things because He had been begotten of the Holy Spirit and accepted of God as a Son on the Divine plane.
During the three and a half years He was the Messiah, the Sent of God. He was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He had sacrificed His will, but this was not sufficient. God wished Him to sacrifice not only His will, but actually to lay down His human life. And God purposed to prove Him by certain crucial tests. So He was “tempted in all points like as we are; yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) When all His testings were completed at His death on the cross, God gave Him a name in which all should bow, both in heaven and in earth.
Here the words of our text find their answer. The inquiry compassed the period from before Jesus came into the world up to His resurrection from the grave. God had given the most honorable One of all the host of heaven the first opportunity to prove His worthiness to loose the scroll of God’s great plan, and to fulfill its provisions. He was given this opportunity because, as the First-born of Jehovah, He had the right to the first privilege of service, and He did not allow the privilege to go by. He accepted it. He was faithful, He humbled himself to human nature, and thus He became the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, of which tribe He was born as a man. He did not have the title in His position as Logos. It was as the son of Mary that He was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Rev. 5:5).
PROCLAIMED WORTHY BY THE ANGELS
Our Lord’s worthiness was not then proven. It was not until He cried with His dying breath, “It is finished!” that the demonstration was complete. All the way down from Adam to Jesus no one had been found worthy to open the great scroll. But Jesus was now represented as slain, John the Revelator says, “I beheld and lo, a freshly slain Lamb.” And myriads of Angels were heard proclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing.” (Rev 5:12)
Jesus had not proven Himself worthy of this great honor when He made His consecration, but when He had finished His course in death He was then worthy to receive glory, honor and power. After His resurrection and ascension the scroll was given into His hands to be opened. This means that the Divine Plan as a whole was here made known to Him - for He already had knowledge of much of this - but all things were given to Him to unloose. There had been some things that our Lord did not know. He had said, “Of that day and hour [of His second coming] knoweth no man; no, not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but my Father only.” (Mark 13:32) A part of the plan was written on the outside of the scroll, and a part was written on the inside. The things that were sealed were not proper to be understood by our Redeemer until He had received the all power, after His resurrection. The execution of God’s plan was then given into His hands.
When our Lord Jesus had proven His loyalty to the Heavenly Father by His obedience, not only in humbling Himself to take man’s estate for the suffering of death, but also in His obedience “even unto death” and still further, “even unto the [ignominious] death of the cross,” then and thereby He did prove Himself worthy of every confidence and trust. As the Apostle declares, “Wherefore him hath God highly exalted and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, both of things in heaven and thing on earth.” (Phil. 2:9-11) It is at this point that the picture we are considering (Rev. 5:9-13) shows our Lord Jesus as the Lamb that had been slain, before whom obeisance was made, and who was proclaimed, Worthy the Lamb: “Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof, because thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation.” Thus is pictured to us the high exaltation of the Heavenly Father’s representative, the “Messenger [servant] of the Covenant.” Because of His humility and complete submission and obedience to the Father’s will He is proclaimed thenceforth the sharer of the Father’s throne, and by the Father’s own arrangement, the proclamation was made throughout the heavenly hosts, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength and honor, and glory and blessing”; and finally “every creature” shall catch the thought that Jehovah has very highly exalted His Only Begotten Son, even to association with Himself in the Kingdom, and shout their approval, saying, “The blessing and the honor, and the glory, and the power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne [of the universe - Jehovah] and unto the Lamb, forever and ever!” No wonder, then that we are instructed that thenceforth all men shall honor the exalted Son even as they honor the Father who thus highly exalted Him (John 5:23).
GRADUAL OPENING OF THE SEALS
Then came the opening of the seals; disclosing of one after another of the various features connected with the Divine purpose. Each seal as it was loosed permitted the scroll as a whole to open a little wider, and a little wider, thus permitting “the mystery of God” to be a little more clearly discerned.
The opening of the seals has progressed during all the Gospel Age. The whole plan of God is represented in this book - the scroll. It has required all of the present age and will require all of the next age to complete the plan. The Plan of God includes the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken.” (Acts 3:21) We are now able to see these wonderful things and to tell about them, because each of the seals as it has been opened has made the plan a little clearer. We may suppose that the Lord Jesus was made aware of all its features after His ascension to the presence of Jehovah. We who are God’s people are seeking to know these things more and more fully. The Master declared that as the Father revealed them unto Him, so would He reveal them unto us; but this revelation has been gradual, as the successive seals have been broken.
But, we must remember, as stated above, that this scroll is not the literal book which we call the Bible. It is the Divine Plan which was formed long before the Bible existed as a written book. The opening of the seals is the revealing by Jesus; “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 13:35)
A final thought revelatory of the wisdom displayed in God’s plan, i.e., the gradual and long-drawn-out manner of its giving and of its becoming due. As Isaiah 28:10 puts it, so far as the faithful are concerned it is: “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” Every part of the seven parts of the Bible came so. Search its doctrines, ethics, promises, exhortations, prophecies, histories, and types, and every one of each one’s separate features, in the acts of their giving and acts of their clarifying, have been gradual and long-drawn-out. No feature of any of these seven parts is discussed completely in any one place - it is in every one of such features: “here a little, there a little.” First in its giving then in its clarification. As consummate skill and wisdom are displayed in putting the whole plan there, but in most disorderly, i.e., scattered, disconnected way, so consummate skill and wisdom are displayed in giving it all, with no part lacking, however, here a little, there a little. In its giving it is as if billions of letters, each on a separate piece of paper, were confusedly, disjointedly and at different times thrown together so as to form an immense incoherent pile, then blown by the wind into forming the most beautiful sublimely composed epic ever written. When we contemplate the manifold wisdom of God as displayed in His Plan, well may we cry out in the language of St. Paul, used as a certain feature of that Plan, Israel’s relation to it, in Romans 11:33-36: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out [by the non-elect]! For who [of the non-elect] hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hast first given to him, and it shall recompensed unto him again? For of him and through him, and to him, are all things [of the plan], to whom be glory for ever, Amen.”
Who will say that the pleasure of Jehovah is now being fulfilled in the world? Who will say that the present reign of Sin and Death is the good pleasure of the God of love and mercy, who declares that he has no pleasure in our dying? (Ezek. 18:32) Only in a very limited sense could it be said that any part of Jehovah’s pleasure has been accomplished by our Redeemer. It pleased the Father to put the Son to grief, to permit the dire troubles and calamities, which came upon Him in connection with our redemption. This does not signify that the Lord took pleasure in the suffering of the Redeemer, but that it was the Lord’s Plan that our Redeemer should be tried, tested and thus prepared for the glorious honors of His exaltation and for the great work which He is yet to accomplish for the uplift of mankind. It was the Father’s Plan rather than the Father’s pleasure that our Lord fulfilled in His obedience even unto death, even the death of the cross.
So far as the world is concerned the pleasure of Jehovah God has not in any sense of the word been accomplished in them. The Apostle reminds us that “the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together” - “waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19,22) This surely is not the pleasure of God - the sufferings of His creatures; for although He may be pleased that His consecrated, spirit-begotten ones should suffer for a time, this is because the sufferings in their case are working out for them a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:15). But in respect to the world this is different. The weight of sin, degradation and sorrow is upon the world, and Divine displeasure is still their portion. They have not yet heard of the only name given under Heaven and amongst men whereby they must be saved. As the Apostle declares, the whole world lieth in the Wicked One (1 John 5:19). God’s pleasure respecting them has not been accomplished.
As to what the Divine Plan or purpose or pleasure is on the world’s behalf we must note the prophetic declaration of the Oath-bound promise made to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” The blessing of all the families of the earth is still future.
Referring to that time when Jehovah’s pleasure shall prosper in the hands of the Messiah, The Christ, the Apostle tells us that He must reign until He shall have put all enemies under His feet. He also explains to us that all the power and authority of that Reign will be granted to The Christ by the Heavenly Father, and that at the close of that Millennial Reign The Christ shall deliver up the Kingdom to God even the Father, that He may be all in all - to Him who did put all things under Christ, whose was the Plan, whose was the Power, and to whom shall be glory forever. (1 Cor. 15:28)
SOME THINGS UNSEALED BY THE WORTHY ONE
We wish to enumerate some of the things that Our Lord has revealed to us from the Divine Scroll. We will not be able to relate them all, nor will we have them in any particular order.
The Apostle Paul refers to the Divine Plan - scroll - “To enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the ages…according to a plan of the ages, which He formed for the Anointed Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:9-11, Dia.)
The Bible reveals this secret plan of salvation for all mankind gradually in a number of steps throughout the ages. The secret is expertly kept until it should be made plain by giving “here a little, and there a little.” (Isa. 28:10) Each new disclosure is given in its exact “due time.”
However, the entire plan rested in the person of Jesus Christ, and He was chosen for that purpose before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20).
The Plan begins with creation. The secret was revealed that the six creative days were not 24-hour days, but are epochs of 7,000 years. In the sixth day man was created in God’s own image and likeness.
Another indication of a Plan was given in the Abrahamic Covenant. “In thee and thy seed shall all families be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) Then there was the Law Covenant. But there is a New Covenant to take the place of the Old (Law) Covenant.
Both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are styled “The Everlasting Covenant,” in contrast with the Law Covenant, which passed away, a failure because of unprofitableness (Heb 7:18). All nations, peoples are blessed under the New Covenant. Therefore, they shall be brought gradually to an appreciation and enlightenment of the Divine Plan.
We learned from the Worthy One of the Ransom, Resurrection, the elect classes and Restitution for the world.
He also brought to light that The Christ is many members, both Head and Body (1 Cor. 12:12).
These are only a few of the secrets revealed to us from the Scroll by the Worthy One, and there will be more to come. With the death of the apostles the cannon of the Scripture closed, because God had there given a full and complete revelation of His plan for man’s salvation, though some of it was in a condensed form which has since expanded and unfolded and will continue to expand and shine more until the perfect day (Prov. 4:18), the Millennial Day, has been fully ushered in. St. Paul expresses this thought clearly when he declares that the Holy Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation, and that they are sufficient.
Brethren, beloved in Christ, realizing that our God has hitherto counted us worthy to look upon the wondrous scroll of His great Plan, which has been unsealed for us by Jesus our Lord, let us continue to prove ourselves worthy to look therein and comprehend the glorious things of His Word, by faithfulness, obedience and loyalty to His plan in everything! Let our appreciation continually increase for our wondrous privilege in being permitted to share this blessed ministry of bearing Divine Truth to other hungry hearts, that they also may rejoice in the Lord and in the power of His might!
(Reprint No. 483, with additions)
GOD IN NATURE
THE spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue, ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim:
The unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator's power display;
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the
evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly, to the listening earth,
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that 'round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though, in solemn silence,
Move 'round this dark terrestrial ball,--
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found,--
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us is Divine."
QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST
QUESTION - Were the Ten Commandments a perpetual law or were they nailed to the cross?
ANSWER - The Ten Commandments were not nailed to the cross at all. They were given to the Jew, and they are still upon the Jew to this day. The covenant which God made with Israel He has not repudiated. Their Law Covenant will finally be merged into the New Covenant. Their blessings promised through the prophets will not come by them through their Law Covenant. The Lord said, “But not by thy covenant.” (Ezek. 16:61) Israel’s old covenant will cover them until they are brought under the new mediator of the new covenant, Christ Jesus the Head, and the Church His Body. In proportion to the Jews’ endeavor to keep the law of the Ten Commandments they have had, and will have, blessings from God.
Christians are not under the law of the Ten Commandments, given only to Israel at Sinai; but we have always been, and all of God’s creatures everywhere are, under the spirit of the Ten Commandments to the extent that they know them. This spirit of the law was expressed by the Lord Jesus when He said that the law is briefly comprehended in two commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength.” Every Christian is under that commandment. The angels are under that commandment. All of God’s creatures who live in harmony with Him must know and love God with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength. The second commandment, Jesus tells us, is that we shall love our neighbor as ourself. All Christians are under that commandment. Jesus and the apostles were under it and every angel is under it. The Divine will for all God’s creatures was the spirit of that law of Israel, which will never pass away.
But to the Church has been given a third commandment. Jesus said: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” This is applicable only to the Church. This command is not of universal application. It is given only to the Church and for this Gospel Age. We are not to love the world or the angels in this way, but merely one another. How much shall we love the brethren? To the extent of giving our life for them, as Jesus laid down His life for us. We must cultivate that love if we would have God’s highest, grandest blessings. Some may get into the Great Company without this degree of love, but all of those who get into the Body of Christ must love one another as Jesus loved them. The apostle, speaking of how Christ died for us, says: “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” All of the “more than conquerors” will keep this our third commandment. Thus only can we fulfill our “covenant by sacrifice.”
What was it that Jesus nailed to the cross? It was the Law Covenant. It was the covenant or agreement, that God made with the Jews, under which they had some hope of becoming a part of the elect Church. If they could keep God’s perfect law it would demonstrate that they were perfect beings. In that case they could have been transferred to the “covenant by sacrifice” without being redeemed. Of course, they could not keep the works of the Law Covenant - that covenant which required all the good work a perfect man could render. God knew this, but the Israelites did not. God’s covenant provided that if they could do those things they might have everlasting life, and not need to be redeemed. When Jesus came and kept all the Law Covenant’s requirements, he became heir to the promises of the Law Covenant. Thus all hopes by others under that covenant were at an end. Any blessings under that Law Covenant could only come through Christ - in no other way. It was that covenant that was nailed to the cross. Some of the Jews, the apostles and others, finally came to realize that their only way of getting these blessings which the Sinai Law offered would be by coming to Christ and becoming dead with Him - suffering with Him.
Those who were Gentiles become part of spiritual Israel, and participate in the blessings natural Israel had hoped to get; but this was received through Christ under the terms of His covenant of sacrifice; “Gather My saints together unto Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” (Psa. 50:5) (What Pastor Russell Said, page 134,135, 1916)