In this month of lessons, we have learned that God is “acknowledged” by the resurrection of Jesus (first two lessons), by the obedience of his followers (lesson three), and by heavenly worship (lessons four and five). Everything else pales in comparison to worship. It is a sin to make little what God has made big, and God has made worship big. What is unusual is that he can call humankind to worship him and not be arrogant at all.
John was allowed a peek into the throne room of God in Heaven. Having this vision would sustain John and his fellow disciples through difficult days. Chapter four was all about God and his throne. Chapter five is all about the Lamb and the scroll. Christians believe in a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In chapter four the Father and the Spirit received the attention. In chapter five the attention will be given to the Son (see John 5:22, 23). Worship of the triune God in both chapters looks like the following:
John saw a scroll in the right hand of God. It had writing on both sides of it, which was unusual in John’s day. It must contain a complete message. He also noticed that the scroll was sealed with seven seals, which was also unusual for formal documents in John’s day. A mighty angel asked who was worthy to break the seals and reveal the message on the scroll. No one was found worthy to do this job. John wept because of this. He longed to know the message. But one of the elders comforted John by saying the Lion of the tribe of Judah had conquered and could open the scroll. This is the only time in Revelation where Lion is a reference to the Messiah. From this point forward the Messiah will be identified as a Lamb.
A lamb wouldn’t seem to be very threatening, especially a slain lamb (vv. 6, 9, 12). But God overcame evil in the world through sacrifice and resurrection. All that had to happen for worship to slip into high gear was for the Lamb to stand up and take hold of the scroll. When that happened all of Heaven broke loose. The lamb was standing at the center of the throne, which was where God himself was (Revelation 4:2, 3). Like God, the Lamb was encircled by the living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had total power (seven horns) and total knowledge (seven eyes). In fact, the Lamb had Holy Spirit power (seven spirits). When the Lamb took the scroll from the hand of God, the living creatures and the elders got their harps. Evidently they were tuning up for quite a number. The worship also consisted of prayers, symbolized by the golden bowls of incense. The Lamb does not have to do much to be worshiped—just stand up and prepare to give the message, and worship breaks out all over.
The elders (representing God’s people) grabbed their harps for a reason. They began to sing. Their song was a song of redemption. They ascribed to the Lamb his worth because of his salvific act. The Lamb’s worthiness to open the seals is based on his selfless sacrifice, which became a purchase (a market place term) of all people for God. These purchased people were made into a kingdom (thus royalty), were made priests (thus serving), and will reign on the earth some day (thus share in Christ’s reign as was intended in Eden). This new song had old roots (Exodus 19:6), but it was applied to a new people (1 Peter 2:9, 10).
Loud Angels and Creatures
Heaven will be a place of rest (Revelation 14:13), but it will also be a place of loud noise. John saw the Lamb and then heard the new song. Next John saw and heard angels and creatures praising God in full voice—nothing held back. The angels numbered into multiple thousands (that is, myriads). They encircled the elders and living creatures who encircled the throne. Everything centered around this throne. The angels started with the refrain, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain.” Then they ascribed to the Lamb seven qualities of God. All of these qualities ascribed to the Lamb were ascribed to God in the Old Testament.
The worship scene climaxed when every creature in the universe ascribed to God and the Lamb the four-fold qualities of praise, honor, glory, and power. What else could the four living creatures do but say, “Amen”? Dr. James Strauss from Lincoln Christian University used to teach a course entitled, “Biblical View of God as Creator and Redeemer.” Revelation 4-5 is a worshipful summary of God in both roles.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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