Monday, January 28, 2019

Something to Sing About-Revelation 5:11-14

In life there are things to smile about, other things to laugh about, and still others for which to be thankful. However, have you ever experienced something or came to some realization that was so especially noteworthy or awe-inducing that you found it worthy to commemorate in song? Have you ever said “Now that is something to sing about!”? These occasions are rare and it might even be the case that you have never encountered something to induce that kind of response.  However, this cannot be said of the characters we witness in the next passage we encounter in Revelation. In light of what was celebrated in Revelation 4, interrupted in chapter 5:1-5, and introduced in the emergence of Lamb in 5:6-10, two demonstrations break out in the remaining verses of chapter 5 (particularly in verses 11-14). So over-the-top are the revelations that lead up to this moment, that everyone in the halls of heaven and beyond find themselves with something to sing about and we are the audience blessed to hear the recording of their tunes. In these songs, both God the Father and God the Son are commemorated for acts past and present and it is my prayer that the lines of these doxologies inspire praise in our own lives for the same members of the same Godhead today.  

1. DEMONSTRATION #1: The Worship Offered by the Heavenly Beings-5:11-12

“Then I looked” marks the fourth time in Revelation 4-5 that this introductory phrase is used. This repetition along with the addition of “and I heard” highlight the highly visual and auditory nature of this entire section. In fact, the entire book is sensory to the nth degree. What John sees and hears in this first demonstration includes “all levels of heavenly angelic beings” (Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 402). The directory of such beings reads as follows—“many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders” (5:11a). Added to the four living creatures and the elders that were introduced in the first part of chapter 4 are “many angels.” This is the first time more general angelic beings are identified in the heavens in John’s apocalypse. Included among these are those angels that did not fall along with Satan following his rebellion (see Revelation 12). These righteous heralds are those who join in the worship service that has been ongoing in this passage.

“and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (5:11b). A more literal translation reads “ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands.” These phrases appear to suggest and extremely high number of heavenly beings that join in on the worship that is present in this passage. Some have offered that the structure of the number as it appears in the original language serves as “an apocalyptic symbol for countless thousands of angels who lift their voices in this great doxology” (Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 403-4). Such language is similar to what is found in Daniel 7:10.

Daniel 7:10-“A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.”

Like distinct sections of a massive choir, the creatures, the elders, and the angels join together in one voice to offer their song in verse 12. The song’s opening line identifies the destination of their worship—“Worthy is the Lamb” (5:12a). The same word used for “Lamb” used in 5:6 (arnion) is employed here with the definite article (the) of previous reference. With this in mind, one might decide to translate this “worthy is that Lamb”—i.e. the humble and glorious one previously revealed with seven horns (omnipotent) and seven eyes (omniscient).

This doxology begins with the exclamation “worthy” (axioV). Worship began in this section of the book all the way back in 4:8 with the thrice-repeated “agioV” –“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty…”(4:8).  There, worship was directed to God the Father on the throne. Praises continued with the echo of adoration that rang out in verse 11—“Worthy (axioV) are You, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power,….”. This is the first of three exclamations of “worthy” that parallel the three “holies” of Revelation 4:8. The second comes in 5:9 after worship is temporarily interrupted and then re-instigated following the emergence of the Lamb—“Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals…”. Now, in verse 12, the third “worthy” is sounded, satisfying the parallelism this passage has with the previous worthies that all parallel the three holies of 4:8. Who is worshiped? The One who is holy! Who is Holy? The one who is worthy! Who is worthy? Both the Father who is said to have created the world (4:8) AND the Son who is revealed to judge the world and bring about a new one (5:6-12).

In heaven’s worship of the Lamb, the theme of humility in glory first introduced in 5:6-10 is reiterated. First, the reason for their worship highlights the Lamb’s most humble act—“what was slain” (5:12c). This references the cross of Christ and predicates any and all future activities the Son performs on completed acts already executed. In fact, the perfect participle used here implies this idea of past act with ongoing implications. In other words, what Christ accomplished in his first coming (salvation past through substitutionary atonement on the cross) renders Him uniquely capable of bring about the end (complete with salvation future following the judgment of the world and coming glorification).

After reflecting on Christ’s unique humility, the chorus of heaven ascribes to the Lamb all of the glory that is due him—“to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12c). Such doxological language appears to be based in passages like 1 Chronicles 29:11-12.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12-“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”

Revelation adds to the list of superlatives found in 1 Chronicles 29 “wisdom” and probably borrows this from Daniel 2:20, 23.

Daniel 2:23-“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king’s matter.”

In 1 Chronicles and Daniel 2, the accolades are made to the Father. However, in Revelation the same accolades are extended to the Son (the Lamb). This is because like the Father, the Son is just as worthy and, by proxy, just as holy—they are co-equal members of the same Godhead!

So ends the first demonstration in this passage. In it, the heavenly hosts worship the Lamb with a nod to the past and an affirmation of his equality with the Father.

2. DEMONSTRATION #2: A Proclamation Offered by the Created Things-5:13-14

The second worship service describes is found inverses 13-14. Those included in this second worship service include “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” (5:13a). This scene anticipates the universal acclamation to be offered at the final end. If it represents universal praise, then it issues not only from God’s willing subjects but also from his opponents who will be forced into submission later (see Revelation 19) (Beale, Revelation, 365).

Philippians 2:10-11-“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Colossians 1:20-“and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

In Revelation 5:13-14 we have an example of an already, not yet situation (Beale, Revelation, 365; Thomas, Revelation, 408). Because John is in the heavens and looking at things from that perspective, he is able to witness phenomena that are not yet realized on the earth but are as good as done in heaven’s mind.

In Revelation 5:13 John witnesses the end in which all created things in an existential sense will be placed under the Lamb’s reign and will cry out in one voice in praise of the one who is worthy of worship. This is confirmed by the list of recognized domains (recognized, that is, in the ancient world) that are said to extend their praise: heaven, earth, under the earth, and the sea. This demonstrate the all-inclusive nature of this observation John makes.

The praise offered here is extended “to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (5:13b). The posture of the one on the throne is not to be ignored. He is seated, demonstrating both his supremacy and his completed activity. Potentates of the ancient world would sit on a throne and subjects would approach them with requests and issues. Their stationary presence juxtaposed alongside those around him who would come and go, demonstrated their superiority and sovereignty over the realm they ruled and the people therein. Interestingly, the seated position is also something used elsewhere of Christ’s activity in providing a superior sacrifice.

Hebrews 10:12-“but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,”

In the Book of Hebrews, a comparison is drawn between the sacrifices made under the old covenant and the sacrifice of Jesus. In the Old Testament priests would make a temporary sacrifice before God, only to leave and return to make another sometime later. The quality of Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice is far greater than these old covenant types. The text of Hebrews implies that Jesus’ sacrifice is so satisfactory to the recipient (the Lord God) that his job is finished. This is indicated in Jesus’ being seated at God’s right hand. Drawing this comparison between the Father’s being seated in Revelation 5 and the Son’s being seated elsewhere is not without contextual merit given the direction of the praise that is offered in the remainder of the verse.

If the high Christological comment being made was not already clear enough in what was revealed in 11-12, Jesus is depicted in verse 13 as occupying the same throne space and receiving the same worship as the Father—“to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” “The throne of both is one and the same, and worship offered to one is offered to the other” (Thomas, Revelation, 408). “The emphasis on glorifying Christ is enhanced by the fact that God also is to be glorified, no doubt because it was through God’s sovereign arm that redemption was wrought through Christ. But even more so, God is mentioned as being glorified together with Christ to highlight that Christ is in the same divine position as God and likewise to be glorified. The glory of God and the Lamb, which is grounded in their sovereignty, is the main point of the chapter 5 vision, as well as the vision of chapter 4” (Beale, Revelation, 365).

To the One on the throne and to the Lamb the worshipers declare “be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (5:13c). Each of these exaltations are to persist, according to those voicing them, forever and ever, especially since the ones being worshiped will always be worthy of such.

In response to the declaration made in verse 13 “the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped” (5:14). In an inclusio of sorts, the same worshipers who began the worship of the One on the throne in chapter 4 (specifically 4:8) close the worship service out here with a statement of their approval for what has been exclaimed—“Amen.”  Thereafter the twenty-four elders, much as before (in 4:10), fall down in worship. In 4:10 this reverent posture was extended toward the Father and now it is extended both to the Father and the Son. Symbolically, this prostrate position acknowledges the complete subjection of the elders to God and the Lamb and their desire to see them exalted above all others.  

So What?

Is the posture of our lives the same as those we witness here? Do our voices pour fourth praises to the Father and the Son? This text demonstrates that in the end, earth and everyone in it will match heaven’s refrain of worship for the Lord God and the Lamb. As citizens of heaven that live on the earth, the way we live our lives and what we say ought to reflect that future reality today. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come…Worthy are You, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and praise; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created…Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth…Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” God is creator; God is forever; God is sustainer. The Lamb Judge; the Lamb is Savior; the Lamb is King of kings! God and the Lamb are Holy and Worthy! Worship of any other transforms our greatest ability (worship) into our greatest embarrassment (praising that which is futile, fake, or fallible).

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