Tonight will be discussing Revelation 4-5. This is our entryway into John’s fantastic and dramatic vision of God’s war against the world rulers of this present darkness and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. If you have time, please also read Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1. Our reading this week is a reworking of these two visions.
Who is Worthy:
Revelation 5 opens with a question: Who is Worthy? John sees a scroll in the hand of the one seated on the throne (i.e. God) containing the fixed purpose of God for the future. The scroll is sealed with seven wax seals. A sealed correspondence can only be opened by the one to whom it is intended, i.e the one who is to carry out God’s plan. No one described in Revelation 4 nor in heaven, nor on the earth, nor under the earth is worthy to open the scroll and to carry out its instructions. The only one worthy is the Lion of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12) from the Stump of Jesse (Isa. 11:1-10) who has conquered death itself (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Only the Messiah who has died and rose again has the power to break the seals and to carry the plan.
Although he who is worthy is described as a Lion and a descendant of David, John does not have a vision of the king of beasts who rules the jungle nor of King David who conquered the Philistines, established the earthly Jerusalem, and united the tribes of Israel. Rather, John sees a Lamb, the most docile of animals (Isa. 11:6). And the Lamb is not a strong healthy Lamb, but appears to have been slaughtered. The one who is worthy to open the seals and to carry out God’s will is a slaughtered docile young animal – the very opposite of what would be expected to lead God’s people into battle against the forces of evil. It is not military might that will overcome evil, but only the One who has been (self-)sacrificed. (Ex. 12; Isa. 52:13-53:12).
This Lamb has seven horns, representing the perfection or totality of power (Ps. 92:10). It has seven eyes which are the seven spirits that are sent out into the world – the angelic hosts who will appear throughout Revelation are under the Lamb’s jurisdiction and control. The Lamb steps forward towards the throne and takes the scroll. The slaughtered Lamb has the same power and authority as does God.
The Hymn to the Lamb:
The hymn that the heavenly court sings to the Lamb is key. The Lamb is worthy because it was slain and died, not because it is strong and powerful. Its power derives from its humility and obedience unto death.
The Lamb is important because it ransomed all human beings for God. (See, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim. 2:6). The Lamb is handed over to those who hold us hostage and in slavery – death, sin, the law, and hell. The song of praise is not that the Lamb took on our punishment from God or was somehow handed over to God so that God could mete out punishment or justice on the Lamb. Rather, the praise is that the Lamb was ransomed over to the evil powers of this world to be sacrificed, and, as John will see later, it is through this sacrifice that the Lamb prevails against them.
John hears in the hymn that the Lamb is ransomed not only for the Jews – the descendants of Judah or of David – but for everyone. Every tribe, every tongue, every people, and every nation obtain the benefits of the ransom and sacrifice of the Lamb.
Finally, John hears that the Lamb brings about a new kingdom. This Kingdom is not based upon genealogical lineage, or religious affiliation, or military power. Rather, this kingdom is composed of a priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5), not just those with a special lineage. All are priests and all shall reign.
Worship of the Lamb:
Even more disconcerting than the idea that true power and authority derive from being sacrificed, is the idea that the sacrificed one should be worshiped. The first two Commandments that Moses brings down from the mountain, is that only God can be worshipped. Ex. 20:2-3. The most basic statement of faith in the Old Testament is the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One.” Deut. 6:4.
In Revelation 4 we see that the one on the throne (God) is worshipped. That same worship, however, is carried over to the Lamb. The twenty-four elders surrounding God’s throne, worship the Lamb with bowls of incense. The four angelic creatures who sing the Santus to God, sing the Amen to the Lamb. The very structure of Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 shows us that the worship due to God is now being transferred to the Lamb. (Gorman has a good parallel reading of these two chapters on pages 104-05.)
The Lamb is more than something extraordinary and worthy of this world. The Lamb is more than the descendant of Judah or of David. The Lamb is, in some way, God as well. Although the one seated on the throne and the Lamb are two different beings, they are both nonetheless God. (The Church will spend the next 200+ years figuring this mystery out.) And it is this God that all creation in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea joyfully give honor and worship.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is turkey meatballs and polenta. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,Philippians 2:5-11
who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross.
Therefore God exalted him even more highly
and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.