Revelation 5:12 – “Worthy is the Lamb Who Was Slain”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

The slain Lamb receives adulation… even more than what’s mentioned as being ascribed to the Father at the end of chapter 4. At the end of chapter 4, to the Father is ascribed glory, honor, and power because of his creating and sustaining power. Now, in 5:12 to the Lamb is ascribed power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing. Why? Because he was slain. Then, in 5:13 to both the Father and the Son are ascribed blessing, honor, glory, and might. So the Father is praised for his creating and sustaining power, and the Son is praised for his sacrifice and what it means for the Church… justification, sanctification, glorification.

What are the collected creatures in heaven and earth doing? They’re ascribing these things to the Son. Ascription, according to Piper from a sermon on Jude 24-25, is acknowledging what is perceived as already being there. So, it’s not as though the creatures give might to the Father and the Son in speaking this way… instead, they recognize the fact that these things are true of the Father and the Son and publicly declare it. The whole of creation is saturated with the realization and praise of God.

This whole section is shot through with connections inside and outside of Revelation. Just consider a couple sets of attributes listed here:

Wisdom and might… tied in with Daniel 2:20. There, Daniel ascribes wisdom and might to God on account of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. That dream also has to do with future kingdoms and God’s unveiling of his purposes. Here, the wisdom is probably the same. The wise rule and action at the end of the age. He’s not just worthy to open the scroll, but he also has wisdom and might to execute the plans God has for the end. Daniel was granted the ability to see the future; Jesus is the one who brings the future to pass. Daniel ascribes to God these things, and Jesus is the one who gets these things ascribed to him. He has wisdom and power to carry this out, to reveal God’s final plans.

Takeaway: Jesus is the one who ends history as we know it. We worship the One who will bring all God’s promises to pass in real history.

Honor and glory… ascribed to the Father and the Son. The weightiness, greatness, that’s ascribed to God. To them belongs all the glory… here specifically to the Lamb. Glory and honor is the Lamb’s, like the Father’s. There is no greater sign that Jesus is God. Glory is his too, honor his, no less so than the Father. 21:26 has the nations bringing their honor and glory to Yahweh in the New Jerusalem; it already was his, but the fact that creation is ascribing it is proper given Jesus’ stature as equal with God the Father.

Takeaway: Jesus is so close to the Father that, although they are not the same, he receives equal worship with the Father.

Revelation 5:12 – “Worthy is the Lamb Who Was Slain”

Revelation 5:9-10 “And They Sang a New Song”

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.”

Having moved from the Father (on the throne) to the Son (the Lamb near the throne), the Son has the right and ability to open the scroll, and he receives worship from the elders. Their song of praise gives us great insight into the Lamb’s past, present, and future. Why is the Lamb worthy? In what way has he conquered? The two questions are intertwined, as the conquering and the worthiness are given as grounds for the Lamb’s right/ability to open the scroll.

The praise makes it clear: he has become worthy, he has conquered by being slain, and his blood ransoming a people for God (5:9b). The worthiness of the Lamb in opening the scroll and unleashing all of God’s purposes for the end of time is wrapped up in the ransom of the church.

We might say it this way: he has continued the plans of the Father through from eternity past up until his sacrifice, and he will continue the Father’s plans far into the future, including unleashing God’s purposes for the end. But, note something here: it goes further than the grounding in verse 10. Or perhaps we might say John lengthens the grounding in the details of Christ’s actions. Jesus has made a kingdom of priests, from every tribe, tongue, nation. Is this more grounding? It appears to be: lengthening the purpose for which Christ died, and thus his worthiness.

The sense of the text is an eager anticipation by all watching that the scroll be opened. The Lamb is worthy… and its the elders, who have been ransomed by Christ (and maybe represent the church) praise him, eagerly looking for him to finish what he began. For John, Jesus was “in the beginning.” He began (and in some measure finished) the victory at Calvary through his life, death, and resurrection… and now, he comes again to finally finish the victory. This is what the elders look towards. Jesus has done so much. Now, it’s the next step. The final step. Everything in the reader should be geared in with the elders… what will the finishing of God’s purposes mean? Surely, after chapter 2-3, it will mean salvation for the church. This encompasses both relief at the removal of sin and temptation, and joy at the presence of the living God.

Revelation 5:9-10 “And They Sang a New Song”

Waves + Seasons

Life comes in waves. Seasons. Some days I feel inclined to post things online. Other days not. Last year, around this time, I was intending on taking a break from blogging through Revelation for the summer. Last post happened on May 16th, and I was hoping to pick it up again in September.

Then the events of July 30th happened.

Alex Steddom died, our world wouldn’t be quite the same again. The effects of his death are legion, conscious and subconscious. God be praised for all his grace, it’s so needed each day. So, I haven’t posted in awhile, but am intending to again with some regularity. It’s part of the grace I feel anew these days. I’ve typed so much on Revelation that it’s easy to copy/paste and adapt… just having the willpower to do so is another thing altogether. But it rises within me, by grace.

So, here we go.

Waves + Seasons

Revelation 5:5 – “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David”

And one of the elders said to me, “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.”

There’s huge OT connections to both of these titles. “Lion of Judah” in Genesis 49:9, showing the fearsomeness of Judah. “Who will rouse him?” Jacob says to Judah. This is in the context of Judah standing over his enemies, crushing them. Conquering. “To him shall be the obedience of the peoples”… since he will rule with scepter/ruler’s staff. This is kingly language, but not just a king by right (which is true). This is a king who conquers. All the way back in Genesis! So in some very key ways in the subtext and background Revelation is connected to Genesis… not just the end of the book.

Similarly, the “lion” language is used in almost precisely the same way in Numbers 23:34, as Balaam tells Balak why the Almighty has set his love on Israel. Indeed, it’s an oracle about the whole of the people, not just Judah. So in a real sense Israel came as a conquering nation into Canaan, dispossessing the people there due to their sin. Some real echoes of what is taking place in Revelation… Jesus is coming, owning the land, and will kick out the wicked tenets and give it to those who are righteous. Indeed, this is already the case. Mark 12 is a good idea of what is taking place here, although there’s definite progression (Israel took the land, Jesus arrives to tell Israel that the land is no longer theirs, Jesus arrives to take the land). The world always belonged to God, and to his true people; the reality of it actually coming to pass is still coming in an already/not yet sense.

“The Root of David.” Isaiah 11 is the clearest background text to this. The background in Isaiah is manifold… this is kingly language for one of David’s line, both bringing peace and judgment. Or, we might say, making peace by destroying evil. This is new heavens and new earth language: the wolf dwelling with the lamb… child with cobra. “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” It goes on… verse 10: in that day the root of Jesse, a signal for the peoples (nations?)… of him the nations will inquire, and his resting place will be glorious. Talk about eschatological language!

There’s even more… this “Root of Jesse” / “Root of David” will assemble the banished of Israel from all the corners of the earth. A highway through Assyria for his people… bringing them back. Amos 9:11-12 is big connection here. This is restoring the torn down house of David by calling in the sons of Israel from the nations, And what’s apparent in the NT… the sons of Israel spoken of are “my people”… called out of the nations and grafted in (cf. Acts 15). Ephraim (standing in for the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) are united and will take part in God’s destruction of evil in the land.

It’s really interesting how this one kingly figure has so much revolving around him. The nations come to him, he destroys evil, he stands as one who restores Israel. He stands over a whole reversal of the created order… or, we might say, a recreated order. Righteousness and faithfulness will characterize him. His judgments will be all correct, never wrong. “Not by what his eyes see or his ears hear, but by righteousness he will judge.” There will be something beyond sensory experience that will lead his judgments. Yes, this all sounds like Jesus.

Back to Revelation… all the crushing weight of the OT context helps us see what’s up here: this King has conquered, and so he is worthy to open the scroll. This King who stands over a new creation, who does all of what is right… something seen in the NT that isn’t quite clear in the OT context is the obvious nature of his conquering. He has conquered. Past. And he will conquer in ways that will fill out the OT context. He stands as a banner for the nations, and Israel is reformed in a grafting of Israel and Gentile together.

Revelation 5:5 – “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David”

Revelation 5:2 – “Who is worthy?”

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “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.”

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.

The vision of the throne room zooms in on one feature: a scroll. God the Father, seated on the throne, holds a scroll. The same vision, but an advancement of the action. The movement from the declaration about the scroll (“no one able to open it”) to John’s weeping over the same could wash over the reader quickly. But there’s much here. The number seven: seven churches, seven lamp stands, seven spirits, seven torches, and now seven seals. This is the number of divine perfection, symbolizing God’s stamp upon something as his own, or sometimes symbolizing God himself. Here, in a scroll with seven seals, we don’t just have a way to unfold the structure, but a marker that this is clearly God’s plan to begin with.

In the image, God the Father isn’t the one opening the scroll… that right (apparently by eternal design) belongs to another. The search is in vain… God the Father’s design is that one would have the ability and right to open the scroll. Nothing in creation is found. This leads John to weep… why this is so important doesn’t show up until later in the chapter (and will be dealt with in another post).

The answer comes in verse 5… the Lion of Judah, the Root of David… he has conquered, and thus has the right to open the scroll with the seven seals. There is so much that comes to bear on this passage… thoughts about Jacob’s prophecy over Judah in Genesis 49. The Davidic promise in 2 Samuel 7. And of course the “conquering” in Revelation 2-3. The church is called to conquer… the Lion of Judah has already conquered. It has happened. The actual conquering will be further explicated in this chapter, but note the shift of scene and the subsequent title for Jesus in verse 6.

The Lion that John was just told about is a Lamb. Something here should be said, as the conquering Lion is shown to be a Lamb. The conquering Lion is actually a Lamb… a sacrifice. There’s no other appropriate image. This “sacrifice as victory” will become even clearer when the Lamb is considered in detail.

Revelation 5:2 – “Who is worthy?”

Revelation 4:8 – “Holy, Holy, Holy”

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

Four creatures, never ceasing to cry out “holy, holy, holy.” And 24 elders who, apparently, continuously live to praise God. The never-ending nature of this praise is apparent, awesome, wonderful. Let’s look at the dual praising that takes place.

“Holy, holy, holy” and “was, and is, and is to come.” A thrice holy God, often looked on as a trinitarian statement. Very much in line with Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6. The three-fold repetition heightens the reality of God’s holiness; it may be trinitarian in nature, but here it serves to signify God’s transcendent holiness. Coming after the mixed picture of Revelation 2-3, this makes clear in no uncertain terms that Jesus’ Father is a wholly other, wholly holy, unlike the Caesar who sat on the throne in Rome. Yahweh is in heaven, very holy.

The second phrase is apparently a title; it’s also found in 1:4. Apparently this is a title of the Father, and emphasizes a transcendent presence throughout time. The eschatological sense of the title is also clear; he’s coming again. From the vantage point of the vision, this is yet to come. God has not set up his throne on earth yet, but he will. His presence and rule stretches throughout time; it is eternal. In contrast with the fleeting circumstances of this present life, the eternal God, unchanging, sits on his throne.

At the end of the chapter, the elders fall down before Yahweh, casting their crowns at his feet. The sign of victory, before God, is nothing. Or, perhaps better, the crown of victory is seen here as from Yahweh and through Yahweh and to Yahweh. In its proper light, the Church’s victory over sin, the world, and Satan is due to God and leads us to worship God. Beale disconnects the action of the four creatures in verse 8 from what the elders do in verse 10; the action of the four creatures in verse 9 is different from verse 8. Thus the explanation between “never cease” and “whenever” is that they are two separate actions. I’m not sure they can be split into two; or probably the second is subsumed into the first.

Either way, the general sense is that angelic beings, representative of God’s creation, never cease to praise God around the throne, and the church (whether directly or via angelic representation) joins them. This is unseen as of yet in any visions of God’s throne room throughout the Scriptures.

Here, the people are with Him and praising Him in heaven. Whatever doesn’t quite “fit” or isn’t right on earth is right in heaven. His people see him, they praise him while in his presence. They can’t help but give him glory. The church here on earth too will see Yahweh and glorify him together with those who are already in his presence; this is an encouragement to those in Asia Minor, and to those who read Revelation today.

Revelation 4:8 – “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Revelation 4:7 – “Four living creatures”

The four creatures tie in with Ezekiel 1. What are these creatures? Apparently they are representatives of all of the created order, or at least the rabbis thought so. In Ezekiel, the creatures were holding up the throne of God… here they are “around it.” Why the four creatures? If they represent creation, and they act as representatives as God as well, then the creatures tell us something about God. We see the variety of God’s creation, including mankind, around the throne, praising God.

The six wings apparently gets borrowed from Isaiah – we’re very much in line with previous theophanies here. So, if the creatures act as all creation recognizing and worshiping God, unable to stand uncovered in his presence, then even in heaven there’s a recognition of God’s transcendence, majesty, and reign. Compare to the previous two chapters, where there is much “gap” between what is happening on earth and what we see here in heaven. The sea is tamed around the creatures… the sea and the abyss represent the abode of demons and demonic forces in Revelation. He in heaven, evil is at bay. All of the created order that’s in heaven worships God. But on earth, something is lacking. God’s will is done in heaven, but not yet on earth.

This heightens the truth of Revelation 22:4… the creatures in heaven must cover their face before him, but in the new heavens and the new earth redeemed mankind will see God’s face. God’s glory descending from heaven, apparently in/with the Church, banishes all the “gap” on the earth. And God gives eyes such that his creation can behold him physically.

Revelation 4:7 – “Four living creatures”