Reading: Revelation 5
Advent Theme: Steadfastness
You did it! You read one of the most complicated chapters in the Bible, the pivotal chapter of Revelation, and you survived! Good work, friend. This is quite the roller coaster ride- a Lamb who bears the marks of slaughter who is also the Lion of Judah and the Root of David. Don’t try to picture a lamb/lion/root hybrid- you’ll get a headache.
What’s happening here? John, who is writing a book, is in the midst of a vision of heaven. In this heaven, there is a book (the scroll). This heavenly book is neither for John to write or to read. Instead, Christ has written this book and only he (Christ) is qualified to read it.
Even the heavenly elders, typically an exalted social position, and the powerful creatures that surround the throne cannot read the book. Instead, they carry the prayers of faithful people to the throne, where the aroma of the prayers, like incense, and the shape of prayers, like smoke, fills the air.
John’s vision includes a huge number of people, “ten thousand times ten thousand”, surrounding the throne as well. Every single one of these people, as far as John’s dreaming eyes can perceive, are praising the One who sits on the throne. Along with the elders, they sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
There’s so much here and it is also acceptable to get very little out of it. This chapter contains details pieced from Daniel and Isaiah, plus what came through the Spirit and imagination to John as he wrote. It’s complex and concerted effort to explain it would dilute the powerful image that is intended to direct believers into correct worship.
Those who are trying to travel the Way of Christ must ponder what it means to believe in the worthiness of the Lamb Who Was Slain. Christian discipleship is not the lifestyle of the persecutor, but the lifestyle of the one who would lay down his life for his friend. It is a way of being that does not give honor to the emperor on the throne or the one who offers the most money, but the lamb who bears the mark of having been sacrificed. It is a humble and humbling way of life.
Potential takeaway: It is later in Revelation that we learn that inclusion in the heavenly scroll comes through Christ’s work, not our own. We will also learn that, while salvation is a separate issue, we will still have to account for our time and our talents. We often assume that orthodoxy(right belief) will get us into the heavenly crowd around the throne. The truth, though, seems to be that orthopraxy(right practice) and orthopathy(right emotions/feelings) are equally, if not more, important. Those gathered around the throne are not there because they imitated Christ in believing correctly. They are there because imitating Him led to worshiping the one true God, which led to changes in behavior, which led to sometimes being at odds with culture and community, which led to a connection with fellow believers, which led back to worship.
Holy God, it is easy to follow Jesus when I believe doing so will save me from hell. It is harder, at times, to follow Jesus because doing so will guide me in saving others from hell on earth. I can only be strengthened for this kind of living through regular worship and connection with you. Help me to desire that and then to follow through on that desire. In Christ’s name, Amen.