Blessing, Glory, Honor Forever Revelation 5:6-14
The Bible present God as sovereign; he declares, “My purpose will stand, and I do all that I please” (). God’s plans are not to be thwarted, for he has the power to carry out his will in all things (). Yet God allows humans to devise and carry out their own plans for life, reserving for himself the final say on the outcomes (). Unlike the capricious and unpredictable actions of the goddesses of fate or Fortuna, the Lord’s will works with human wills for God’s desired outcomes. These outcomes are always and utterly consistent with God’s unchanging nature.
Today’s lesson considers the ultimate outcome that God ensures will happen. In chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, John sees the Lord seated on his heavenly throne. In God’s hand is a scroll reveals the future, the events that “must take place after this” (, last week’s lesson).
begins John’s vision of the throne room of Heaven. John describes its majestic features and residents, including the living creatures who lead worship and the elders who bow in worship. The chapter ends with a a song praising the worthiness of the Lord God to receive worship.
Chapter 5 begins with John’s observation of a new detail: in the hand of the one seated on the throne (God) is an unusual scroll, unusual for two reasons. First, it has writing on both sides, which is not the standard practice. The scroll is likely made of treated animal skins. With such scrolls it was much easier to write on the “flesh” side than the “hair” side. Writing on both sides gives the impression of the scroll overflowing with important information.
Second, the scroll has seven seals instead of the usual one seal. These are wax seals affixed by God himself. They can be broken only by one who has proper authority. Consequently, a search throughout Heaven attempt to find one worthy to open this scroll. Initially, no one with suitable authority is found. This disappoints John, and we are told that his disappointment moves him to tears (). John wants, even needs, to know what the words of the scroll reveal. He understands that this is why he has been granted access to Heaven, for the scroll will reveal what will take place on earth (4:1).
But all is not lost. One of the elders from the group near the throne tells John not to weep. The one who can break the seals, open the scroll, and reveal its secrets is arriving. This is the conquering Lion of Judah (), Jesus, but he is also the Lamb; and his appearance begins our lesson for this week.
Seeing the Lamb -
Seeing the Lamb -
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having 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 the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Here in verse 6, the four living creatures and the elders are nothing new to John; but the figure standing at the center of the throne is new. This newcomer is at the center of everything, the focus of Heaven and its residents. John’s description of this figure contains important symbolic truth.
First, the figure is that of a Lamb, a favored sacrificial animal in biblical teaching. Readers are reminded of the words of John the Baptist: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (, ). Second, John includes the puzzling detail that the Lamb looks as if it had been slain. This does not mean that the Lamb exhibits a deathly pallor, but that it has evidence of a horrendous wound. It is the kind of wound that no living creature should have survived. The Lamb is not dead, though, or else the entire episode would make no sense. This is John’s way of saying that the Lamb had been dead but is now alive again - a reference to the resurrected Christ.
The description of the Lamb combines the number seven (the symbol of perfection or completeness) with horns (the symbol of power) and eyes (the symbol of divine knowledge). The Lamb has perfect and undisputed power. This is not a meek baby sheep, but the mighty, conquering Lamb of God.
Like multi-eyed creatures near the throne who serve as God’s witnesses of everything on the earth, the seven-eyed Lamb also has personal knowledge of everything. This is because of the Lamb’s close ties to the seven spirits of God, which is this book’s way of presenting the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Spirit is sent out into all the earth calls to mind Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit.
What would life be like if Jesus were the touchstone of all your thoughts? In business contexts; in family contexts; in your entertainment choices.
In verse 7, all present watch in amazement as the Lamb does an audacious thing: he takes the scroll from the right hand of God! This is not an act of thievery or usurpation, however, for God has been waiting for the Lamb. The scroll and its decrees are prepared for the Lamb, and only he can break the seals and open the scroll.
In verse 8 the transfer of the scroll allows the worship of Heaven to resume, but now the living creatures and the elders are bowing before the Lamb. This is not recognize a transfer of power that somehow diminishes the authority of the one on the throne. Rather, it is a recognition of the Lamb’s authority and his unity with the one on the throne. Following the transfer of the scroll, new details unfold before John’s eyes. The elders, who previously had laid down their crowns when they fell in worship before the throne, now have a harp that they presumably us for playing worship music.
Further, they hold bowls full of incense, which is symbolic of the prayers of God’s people. This is one of the few places in Revelation where symbolic language is explained - and for that we are grateful. The incense gives off an aroma and is later linked with prayer when the seventh seal is opened. Because smoke from incense rises and creates a pleasing aroma, incense has come to symbolize prayers rising to God.
Singing a New Song -
Singing a New Song -
They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.”
Worship of the Lamb includes singing. What the elders sing is not an old favorite but a new song. The song John hears acknowledges the worthiness of the Lamb and therefore the appropriateness of offering him worship. The fact that the Lamb is eligible to be worshipped goes hand in hand with the fact that the eligible to take the scroll and to open its seals. Because he was slain, people are purchased for God, sin’s price having been paid by the Lamb’s shed blood. Yet he is the living Lamb, the one who has conquered death. This is a great victory indeed.
The elder’s song recognizes those who have been redeemed as being a marvelously diverse lot. The diversity is fourfold in nature, as the redeemed come from every family group (tribe), every language group, every cultural group (people), and every ethnic group (nation). This heavenly mix encompasses all the people of the world, symbolically represented by the number four.
What steps can a church take to achieve the diversity seen in ? Steps for ministers and elders to take; steps for leaders of midsize groups to take; steps for leaders of small groups to take.
Another consequence of Christ’s redeeming sacrificial death is the elevated status of this purchased people. They have no become a kingdom and priests, which hearkens back to the Old Testament designation of Israel as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (). Believers are given an astonishing and humbling responsibility: to reign on the earth. Entrusted to deliver the saving message of the gospel, Christians are appointed by God to extend his rule to every nation. In that way we have become priestly representatives who assist the great King and invite others to become part of the kingdom that is “not of this world” (;36).
Worshipping with Hosts -
Worshipping with Hosts -
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated 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.
The chorus is taken up by another group that surrounds the throne, as many angels join the living creatures and the elders. John does not attempt to count them; there are far too many. This majestic choir proclaims what we might call the second stanza of the new song. It too acknowledges the worthiness of the Lamb, who was slain, and therefore the appropriateness of worshipping him.
New in this stanza’s recognition of the Lamb’s worthiness to receive the sevenfold listing of power (ability), wealth (riches), wisdom (knowledge and how to use it), strength (might), honor (esteem), glory (splendor), and praise.
How can you help your church proclaim Jesus “in a loud voice” in a figurative sense? When opposition is strong; when opposition is low or nonexistent.
John’s view includes creatures in every conceivable location. This includes all creatures in heaven, all creatures on earth, all creatures under the earth, and all creatures on the sea. This is a magnificent moment, a picture of all the universe joined in praise. There are no holdouts, no protesters. Later, presents us some who are excluded from the presence of God, but for now there is a unanimous voice of praise.
What safeguards can we put in place to keep our worship Christ-centered? Regarding safeguards that lead up to worship; regarding safeguards to enact during worship.
In verse 14 John’s attention is drawn back to the four living creatures. The Amen voiced by the creatures is derived from a Hebrew work that means “It is true” or “It is correct.” Nothing is out of place in the scene. The Amen of the four living creatures is followed by a physical act from the 24 elders as they repeat their posture of worship. He is truly the worthy one, and we cannot worship him enough.
What steps can you take to ensure that what others see in you affirms the truths of what you sing and pray? When in presence of unbelievers; when in the presence of believers.
A primary lesson of Revelation is that God alone is worthy of receiving worship. God alone must be glorified. Revelation shows us that Christ, the Lamb of God, is also worthy of worshipful praise and glory. We may not understand fully the relationship within the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three are important in Revelation, but there is no essential division between the three. They are one God. Worship in Heaven is given to the one on the throne and to the Lamb, and this is the same worship.
When God established his covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, he called them to be “a kingdom of priests” (). Now, under the new covenant, Christians carry out that role as “a royal priesthood” (). Unlike under the old covenant, however, our priestly sacrifices do not consist of animals. Rather, our sacrifices are spiritual in nature (); and our priesthood involves being living sacrifices (). In that light, we are to “offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (). Worship must never be about us. Worship, whether corporate or individual, should have an audience of one; the Lord himself.
Lord God, may we give our worship to no other. May all glory and honor be given to you. May we join our voices with your worshippers from all over the world to sing your praises forever. In the name your Son, Amen.