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).

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Humble and Glorious Lamb-Rev. 5:6-10

A familiar way to introduce a protagonist or hero in either a movie, show, or commercial is for a voice-over professional to say something (using their best low raspy tone) to the effect of “In a world in need of saving, he/she answered the call.” Thereafter, more often that not, someone with incredible powers or unique means is plastered onto the screen complete with scenes of physical or intellectual dominance over his/her foes. We grow excited and, if the trailer proves effective, we purchase the movie ticket or rent the film. Something similar happens on a literary level in today’s passage—Revelation 5:6-10. In this passage the hero of the Book of Revelation is witnessed for the first time (that is in the major prophetic section). One might begin the trailer that we are going to witness today of the end times with “In a world in need of judging and in desperate need of being made new, only one was found worthy and able to bring about a glorious end.” However, if we were to observe this passage play out visually, we might be surprised by what we see in the trailer provided us by John. That said, I’m convinced that what we witness in this passage will only increase our excitement and expectations for what we will continue to learn as we continue our exciting journey in this amazing book. Therefore, without any more delay, let us turn to this pivotal passage and examine two important activities that highlight the unique character of the protagonist/hero of Revelation.

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1. The Emergence of the Lamb-5:6-7

When John turns to see the regal Lion that the elder calls his attention to in verse 5, the apostle beholds something surprising—“A Lamb standing, as if slain” (5:6a). The spectacle is equal parts unexpected and profound for several reasons. First, the term used for lamb (arnion) is employed nowhere else in the New Testament to speak of Jesus. It is NOT the same word that John the Baptist uses when he says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). There, the word is amnoV and it appears to allude to the Old Testament sacrifices that were used to temporarily cover the sins of God’s people. The Baptist’s point in John’s gospel appears to be that the “lamb” that stood before him and the one that he baptized would be the one sacrificed once for all sin forever. The word in Revelation 5:6 is also NOT the same word that the apostle Paul employs in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when he says, “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover (Lamb) also has been sacrificed.” There, the word is pasca and Paul is making a direct connection to the original Passover lamb whose blood was spread on the lintels of the Hebrew doorways in Egypt before the angel of death and the wrath of God visited the land. Just as the blood of the Lamb saved God’s people from the wrath of God in ancient Egypt, those who apply (in a figurative way) the blood of Jesus to their lives today will be saved from the wrath of God forever. So from where does John get arnion? As best as can be determined the word simply means (etymologically) an infant sheep and its use in the Old Testament and in extra-biblical literature is relatively unremarkable. Perhaps what John is doing by implementing this term is introducing a new and more complete description of the figure he beholds—a description that no previously assigned term could possibly encapsulate. For John, the Lamb that he now sees is more than just the greatest ever sacrifice and the most complete Passover, and this realization, given what he saw, deserves a new term that can be imbued with broader connotations.

Context clues might help us ascertain what John is trying to accomplish with this term. For instance, the infant Lamb that John sees stands in stark contrast to the Lion of the tribe of Judah that was introduced earlier. Perhaps there is some sort of juxtaposition being made. After all, the Lion is a glorious image of strength and victory, a lamb hardly betrays the same. In fact, a lamb is a humble and lowly creature. Even further, the lowliness of the lamb in Revelation 5 is brought lower by means of the first descriptive phrase that is attached to it—“standing as if slain” (5:6a). This, no doubt, is an allusion to the crucifixion. The verb “slain” means “slaughtered mercilessly” and no other event in Jesus’ history, save his Passion, could satisfy this reference. The marks of Jesus’ death appear to be visible even in this glorious throne room of heaven, testifying to Jesus’ most humble act—giving up his life. With these clues in mind, John seems to be establishing a paradox. Jesus is both the most glorious and most humble being in all of history. He is BOTH the Lion and the Lamb.

However, this Lamb is not just any humble ewe. John is not nearly finished loading this term with profound literary and theological connotations. This Lamb, though humble in death, is “standing.” In other words, Though the marks of death are visible (“as if slain”) they are not debilitating as this Lamb is alive and well. Where he is standing is also significant—“between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders” (5:6a). If, as was argued earlier in this study, the elders represent the people of God and, as was determined in chapter 4, the One on the throne is God the Father, this Lamb standing in between these two parties appears to serve as a mediating presence.

1 Timothy 2:5-“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus betrays his office as mediator between God and man even here in this throne room as he takes his place between the 24 elders and the throne.

In addition to his placement and posture, John also describes several peculiarities of the Lamb that reveal even more concerning his character and purpose. Verse 6 continues by saying, “having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, send out into all the earth” (5:6b). Horns are often used in the OT as symbols of strength, power, and violence (Deut. 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11; 2 Chr. 18:10; Ps. 22:1). The number of horns (7) seems to demonstrate the totality of the Lamb’s power and authority. Something similar may be said about the seven eyes which indicate the inescapable view by which the Lamb discerns the world and all that happens within it. Because the eyes are also referred to as the “seven Spirits of God” one can see a clear connection Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Christ’s omniscience and omnipresence is afforded him by his partnership with the Holy Spirit who is sent out into all the earth. Robert L. Thomas and others have concluded concerning this Lamb—that “not only is he omnipotent, as indicated by his seven horns, he is also omniscient” (Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 392).

Like a wild roller coaster, this passage takes us from the peak of the Lion of the tribe of Judah (regal, glorious, victorious) to the depths of humility (a Lamb standing as if slain) to the heights of omnipotence and omnipresence (the seven horns and seven eyes) and associates the entire theological thrill ride to one character who stands in the center of the throne room and in the center of this book and in the center of the end—Jesus Christ. A similar ride is witnessed in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5-11-“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 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.”

Because Jesus is the humblest and therefore most glorious character, he alone is worthy to do what he does in verse 7—“and He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who say on the throne” (5:7). Remember, this “book” or “scroll” is the title deed to the universe, the opening of which will set in motion those events that will bring about the new heavens and the new earth in the end. Therefore, the interpretation of this passage and its most central term (Lamb), especially given the context in which it is found, involves Jesus’ unique ability to set in motion the end and thereby the ultimate salvation (glorification) of his people. This ability is afforded him because he (the Lion of the Tribe of Judah) humiliated himself to the point of death (a Lamb standing as if slain) and as such has been given all power (seven horns) and perception (seven eyes), to continue to perform God’s will. The christological statement made here (accentuated by the image of the ἀρνίον) successfully portrays Jesus in his humblest and therefore most glorious light.

Interestingly, this term for Lamb will appear 28 more times in the book of Revelation (more than double any other label/title used for Christ). Every occurrence of “Lamb” from this point on also possesses a definite article (“the”) that seems to reference this first occurrence here in Revelation 5:6. In other words, John enjoys using this term more than any other for Christ and this he does because this term, as presented here, involves a paradox of humility and glory that is capable of housing all of the activities and revelations that Jesus will perform as the book of Revelation moves forward.

2. The Restoration of the Worship-5:8-10

What happens next is a response to the introduction of the Lamb in verses 6-7—worship in heaven is restored. This worship is re-instigated “when He had taken the book” (5:8). Now that things are no longer stalled and can move forward (see 5:1-5), now that this scroll can be received and opened, the worship that was interrupted can once again ring forth.

Participants in this worship include “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders”—i.e. those same characters introduced in chapter 4 who were seen worshiping the one who sits on the throne. “This momentous transfer of the scroll” evokes a response from the people of God and other heavenly creatures.

However, the worship that began in chapter 4 and was interrupted in chapter 5 and has restarted here in verse 8 suffers one important change—it is extended to the Lamb—“fell down before the Lamb,…” (5:8c). This demonstrates that like the One who sits on the throne, the humble and glorious Lamb is just as worthy to receive glory and honor and praise. This is because the Lamb is equal to the One on the throne. In other words, Jesus and God are co-equal members of the same Godhead and as such are both worthy of worship.

Their worship takes the following form—they “fell down, … each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints,…” (5:8c). The “falling down” of those present depicts the “awful solemnity of the occasion” (Smith, Revelation, 114) and is consistent with the responses of those before God the Father in 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; and 19:4. This reverent posture is coupled with “a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8), perhaps indicating that in prayer and in song, praises and adoration are offered to the horned Lamb here.

This is confirmed in verse 9-10--“And they sang a new song…” (5:9a). The song in chapter 4 was offered to the Father on the throne and praised God for his holiness, permanence, and creative and sustaining power.

Revelation 4:8b, 11-“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 power; for you created all things and because of Your will they existed and were created”

This song was sung unceasingly in the heavenly halls up to this point. However, once the Lamb enters the spectacle, a new song is sung and in celebration of him.

“Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals…” (5:9b). While the Father was worshiped in chapter 4 for his role in creating and sustaining the universe, Christ is worshiped here for his role in recreating the universe—something afforded him by taking and breaking open the seven sealed scroll. Again, this ability is afforded him because he is, at the same time, the humblest and, by proxy, the most glorious figure there ever was/will be.

In fact, this theme of glory in humility is confirmed in the rest of the song that is sung. First, Christ’s unique humility is celebrated—“for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9c). Christ’s greatest act of humility provided salvation for humankind and for this he is celebrated and praised in the heavens. The Lamb is a humble Savior.

However, that is not all He is and that is not all that he is praised for in this song. The stanza continues by saying “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God and they will reign upon the earth” (5:10). The Lamb is depicted here as not merely a king, but a king who appoints other priestly rulers (the “King of kings”). Those same beneficiaries of salvation that the Lamb saved in his humble death will be reigning rulers over a new heaven and new earth because of the same Lamb’s glorious victory!

In this song and in so many coming passages in Revelation, the Lamb is revered and worshiped because he is BOTH the humble savior who sacrificed it all as witnessed in his first coming AND the glorious victor who leads his people to a new heavens and new earth in his second coming. This paradoxical connotation is literarily fixed to the unique term John employs here (“Lamb”) and is referenced every other time “Lamb” will be used from this point on.

So What?

In reflecting on this passage and how Christ is described therein, Augustine once said “Who is this, both Lamb and lion? He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion. Who is this, both lamb and lion? Gentle and strong, lovable and terrifying, innocent and mighty silent when he was being judged, roaring when he comes to judge” (Sermon 375). In his humility he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; in his glory he is worshiped as God in the heavenly throne room. In his humility he came as a baby boy; in his glory he will return as a victorious King. In his humility he purchased your salvation by dying on the cross; in his glory he offers new life and hope for a glorious future. In his humility he sympathizes and understands our struggles; in his glory he directs us to perfect hope and ultimate satisfaction. Because of this He alone is capable of bringing an end to the world as we know it and ushering in a new world for those who follow him. This is a major revelation that is given to us in John’s apocalypse—the humility and glory of the Lamb.

Such a presentation is not just given to help us advance a more robust Christology; it is also offered to inform the way that we live as followers of Christ as we endure the tribulations of this world. If our greatest ambition as Christians is to be like Jesus, what must be sought in the Christian life is our own humiliation. Like John the Baptist (a man that Jesus refers to as “the greatest man who ever lived”—Luke 7:28) we must say with the way that we live “he must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30) When we do this, we follow the example of the Lamb. When we do this, we persevere in the way that God intends. When we do this, we glorify the One who is worthy of worship.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Divine Interruption-Revelation 5:1-5

One of my biggest pet peeves is being interrupted. Whether while in a conversation, lecturing, or watching a movie, interruptions are often a source of great frustration as they take my focus away from what is in front of me to something that, more often than not, is of little interest. The only time interruptions are not a nuisance is when whatever interrupts me is greater than whatever may be receiving my full attention in that moment. Rare though this may be, when this occurs, a presumed annoyance is transformed into a cause for joy and excitement.

But what of divine interruptions? As we continue in our study of the book of Revelation, the worship scene we witnessed in chapter 4 is interrupted by something that, at first glance, poses a real problem. However, when all is revealed in Revelation 5:1-5, our frustration and grief is overwhelmed by great delight and expectation as a powerful introduction of a most prominent character in the book of Revelation is introduced. Turn with me there and let us examine four elements of this unfolding divine interruption.

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1. ELEMENT #1: A Sealed Scroll-5:1

In the middle of the worship service that John stumbled upon in chapter four, the apostle notices something that temporarily interrupts the stanzas of praise coming from the four living creatures and the twenty four elders. There in the center of the throne space John says “I saw (something) in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (5:1a). While John found it difficult earlier (see chapter 4) to describe the occupant of the throne, he is able to make out that the figure is holding something and this he is doing in his right hand (the place of authority and power).

As John looks closer he beholds “a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals” (5:1b). This double-sided document appears to allude to Ezekiel 2:9b-10 and also Daniel 12:4/Isaiah 29:11 (Beale, Revelation NIGTC, 337).

Ezekiel 2:9b-10-“Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.”

In Revelation 5, the book is described by means of two descriptive participles—“written” and “sealed up.” Both descriptive phrases are followed by peculiarities. First, it is “written” on the inside and the outside. Writing on a scroll was typically limited to one side of the medium. However, when the contents were especially full or lengthy, the writing would “spill over” onto the back (Thomas, Revelation, 380). Therefore, whatever is contained in this unusual document is a complete volume and/or the whole counsel of the one who presumably produced it (the one sitting on the throne).
Second, it is “sealed up” (katasfragizw-a more emphatic verb for sealing), demonstrating the security and mystery of the contents inside. “Such a seal was an impression usually made on clay, wax, or some other soft material that restricted an unauthorized person from access to the contents” (Thomas, Revelation, 380). The emphasis on the hiddenness and protection of the contents inside this double-sided volume is accentuated by the number of seals—seven. In other words, the contents of the book is completely/totally locked up. This is reminiscent of Isaiah 29:11-12 and Daniel 12:4.

Isaiah 29:11-“The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, ‘Please read this,’ he will say, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’”

Daniel 12:4-“But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”

So what is this seven-sealed scroll/book? Commentator G. K. Beale surveys several options. First, some believe it is the “lamb’s book of life” that contains the names of all true believers (see 3:5; 13:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). Those who hold this view consider that perhaps there is writing on both the inside and out because the names of the redeemed are so numerous. However, once these seals are broken, so much more than names are revealed. Second, there are those who hold that this book is a copy of the Old Testament and that Christ is the only one who is able to unlock the true meaning of this covenant since its prophesies are fulfilled in him (see 2 Cor. 1:2-; Matt. 5:17). However, this book seems to have more in common with the books that are discussed in Daniel 7, 12, and Ezekiel 2-3 than the entire Old Testament. Third, it is a book that contains events of the future that lead up to the second coming of Christ, ultimate salvation of the saints, and the final judgment.” Fourth there are some that believe it is a book containing God’s plan of judgment and redemption which was inaugurated in Christ’s death and resurrection (in his first coming) and will be completed in his second coming. Each of these interpretations as presented appear to be nearing the nature of this peculiar volume.

However, there is another view that may be even better. The description of the document is similar to that of an ancient will or testament (binding contract). “This kind of contract…would be written on the inner pages and sealed with seven seals. Then the content of the contract would be described briefly on the outside…” (Thomas, Revelation, 378; see also Ford, Revelation, 92 and Beasley-Murray, Revelation, 120-33). “Since the opening of the seals enact the judgments of God on earth in order to bring about the return of Christ as King of the earth” (and usher in a new heaven and a new earth) “it seems best to view the scroll as the title deed or divine contract to the world. As such, the scroll certainly contains the eternal decrees of God and expresses his divine will and counsel” (Hindson, Revelation,  64; see also Beale, Revelation NIGTC, 340ff). However, this title deed or document of inheritance must be bequeathed and then opened in order for all to learn its contents. This naturally leads to an important question.

2. ELEMENT #2: An Important Question-5:2-3

John continues his report with “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’…” (5:2a). Though the identify of this angel is unknown (some have suggested Gabriel and Michael as possibilities) what is known is that he is described as mighty and appears making an important inquiry. What follows next in the vision (everything moving forward in the book) appears to be contingent on the contents of this scroll. The next thing would be to hand it over and have it opened so as to reveal its contents and usher in the glorious end culminating in a new heaven and new earth. However, in order for this to happen, someone worthy of the scroll must surface.

The rising tension of the scene reaches fever pitch when in verse 3 John reveals “and no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it,…” (5:3). “The worthiness required for this is so great that no created being can even contemplate it, much less attain it” (Bullinger).

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on how the vision that began in chapter 4 has unfolded. It is similar to a glorious piece of music (say, “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber) that exists as one large crescendo leading to a climax. Everything from the new time (“after these things”) to the new domain (being taken up into heaven) to the perspective offered (“in the Spirit”) to the focus given (to the one sitting on the throne) to the strange phenomena (rainbows, lightning, etc.) to the other characters present (twenty four elders and four living creatures) has increased John’s expectation (and the expectation of his readers) for something incredible to happen. This is only accentuated by the crisis of verse 3. Is all this build-up for naught? Like a lingering dissonant chord in need of resolution, the scene appears to stall, and it is too much for John to handle.

3. ELEMENT #3: A Grievous Proposition-5:4

John’s emotions boil over in verse 4—“Then I began to week greatly” (5:4a). The verb means to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping (Louw Nida). There in the middle of this glorious worship service, stanzas of praise are replaced by the vociferous cries of this humble guest who is overwhelmed by the grievous presumption that now confronts him.

“because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it,…” (5:4b). Though we might find John’s behavior a bit curious, consider what might have been going on in his mind. Because no one was found to open the seven-sealed scroll, John probably believed there was no way he could receive the knowledge of the revelation that he was told to expect in 5:1. Also, because there appears to be no way for the book to be opened, John probably wondered whether or not God’s glorious plan contained therein could be carried out. Therefore, John is not weeping for his own sake (say unfulfilled curiosity). Instead, he is grieved by the apparent indefinite postponement of God’s final and decisive action to bring about the new heaven and the new earth and, by proxy, the ultimate salvation and hope of God’s people (Mounce).

Thankfully, the extreme tension is satisfied, the dissonant chord resolves, John’s tears are wiped away, and overwhelming grief is itself overwhelmed by profound comfort.

4. ELEMENT #4: A Profound Comfort-5:5

The comfort that John desperately needed and the satisfaction the scene requires to move forward is introduced by one of the elders sitting around the throne—“and one of the elder said to me” (5:5a).
 “Stop weeping” (5:5b-d). The prohibition is offered quickly and directly. “The…messenger sees beyond John’s limited human perspective that such sorrow is inappropriate and instructs him to cease wailing” (Thomas, Revelation, 386). After all, the elder wouldn’t want John cries to interrupt the most glorious introduction of the most important character in the book.

For “Behold,” the Elder exclaims, “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (5:5c). The elder’s exclamation immediately directs John’s attention to this occasion as a source of joy rather than sorrow for there is one who is present who is worthy to take and open the scroll—the victorious Christ. In other words, a hero exists that has provided salvation and as a direct result is qualified to provide salvation for John’s present distress (opening the seven-sealed scroll and paving the way for the eschatological judgment and salvation to be disclosed in the remainder of the Apocalypse). Two descriptive phrases introduce Christ as the long-expected conquering messiah. First he is called “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” (5:5). This is an allusion to Genesis 49:9.

Genesis 49:9-“Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up.”

The description connects the figure in view to the Jewish people and the much-anticipated Savior thereof. It is a powerful regal image (lions were, after all, used as decoration in Solomon’s palace—one of the most impressive architectural wonders in his day—1 Kings 7:29, 36). The regal theme is carried along by the figure’s connection to “the Root of David” (5:5). “Root” is a metaphor for offspring and here probably refers to Isaiah 11:1, 10.

Isaiah 11:1, 10-“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit… Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.”

Such terms and references describe Christ’s headship in the final Davidic kingdom—the same forever kingdom that was promised David in the Davidic covenant found in the Old Testament. In many ways, the Christ described in this passage is the same Messiah that the Jews expected when he first came and that they have continued to anticipate. Though in his first coming he was born as a baby boy and laid in a manger, here he is described as a royal lion of victory.

John is encouraged by the elder to gaze upon this Lion because he “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” The perfective aorist of “has overcome” highlights both the completeness of the action and the ongoing implications thereof. Here, the completed action is a victory that was won. This victory came three days after Jesus was crucified. In conquering the grave, Jesus confirmed his unique identity as Savior and Lord of his people—the rightful heir of the new heavens and new earth. As such, he alone is worthy of taking the scroll and breaking open its seals. This action will bring the judgements upon the world and future events that will lead to the new heavens and the new earth. As Tenney states “because He (Christ) has redeemed the world, He has the right to judge it and to cleanse it for His use” (Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 129). Put another way, the same one who purchased salvation for his people in his first coming is the one who alone is worthy to bring about the conditions necessary for the future glory of those saved (in a new heaven and new earth).

So What?

In this incredible scene we witness the rise and relief of tension that follows an interruption of the worship witnessed in heaven. In many ways this passage—Revelation 5:1-5—contains the hinges of history, for in it, one era closes (essential salvation in a spiritual sense for the people of God) and another opens (existential salvation to follow the purge of the tribulation). To be sure, the tension that exists in this passage is other-worldly scale and the relief that is achieved by the one introduced ushers in a new era. However, the same Christ who brings peace to John and an answer to the question raised in this text is equally qualified to bring you ultimate relief and hope today. Why? Because he is the one who overcame it all—sin and death—and by extension offers that same victory to those who follow him. Praise the Lord! Though we may face things we are made to endure in this life (interruptions that disrupt our lives), we have a coming king who promises us victory and relief in the end! Certainly he is worthy of our worship and our praise! Does he receive that from you today? Do you know the overcomer and, as a result, hold the promise to overcoming yourself?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

After These Things-Revelation 4:1-11

1. OBSERVATION #1: An Invitation to a Holy Spectacle-4:1

Before we dive into this wondrous spectacle, let’s remind ourselves of where we are in the Book of Revelation. John’s phrase in verse 1—“after these things” (meta tautau) marks a major division in his presentation. In chapter 1 we saw a preface to the book and in chapters 2-3 we listened to a series of proclamations (to the seven churches). Chapter 1 dealt with what John was viewed earlier (in the vision provided first in the book), while chapters 2-3 dealt with Jesus’ message for John’s contemporary context (the seven churches of Asia minor in the late first century). These opening chapters deal with the things which were (chapter 1) and the things which are (chapters 2-3). However, with “after these things” opening up the fourth chapter, we are now moving to “the things which must take place after these things” (see Revelation 1:19). In other words, verse 1 doesn’t just begin the next section or the next chapter, it transitions the book from introduction and epistle (chapters 1 and 2-3 respectively) to prophetic apocalypse (chapters 4ff). 

It is “after these things” that John witnesses a threshold to a new domain—“and behold, a door standing pen in heaven,…” (4:1b). Notice, not only is the reader now dealing with a different time (“after these things”), but he/she is dealing with a different dimension (“heaven”). The access John has into this new continuum is granted him by means of “a door standing open.” This threshold seems to allude (at least potentially) to Christ himself. In John’s gospel Jesus calls himself the “door” (“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”-John 10:9). After all, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the Life, no one comes unto the Father except through” him (John 14:6). Not only is this true in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but so too is it in his eschatological ministry. The only way that John can access the domain of the Father is through the door—access granted him by Christ himself.

In fact, Christ may not only serve as the door granting access to heaven, he also is presented as the one who invites John into heaven. From the other side of the door, John hears a voice—“and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me said, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things,’…” (4:1c).  Who’s voice is speaking here? The same voice that spoke in Revelation 1:10—“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.” Given the description of the speaker in Revelation 1 and what he calls John to do, it is clear that Christ is the speaker in both Revelation 1 and in Revelation 4. In Revelation 4:1, Christ invites John to witness “what must take place after these things,” again highlighting prophetic nature of the phenemona that will soon be revealed.

The repetition of “after these things” along with what follows helps us identify the nature of the large section of the book spanning from Revelation 4-22. It might surprise you to learn that there are at least four approaches to John’s Apocalypse that have garnered support throughout church history. 
One approach is called the idealist approach or the spiritual view. This view uses the allegorical method to interpret the Book of Revelation. Such an approach to John’s apocalypse was introduced by ancient church father Origen (AD 185-254) and made prominent by Augustine (AD 354-420). According to this view, the events of Revelation are not tied to specific historical events. The imagery of the book symbolically presents the ongoing struggle throughout the ages of God against Satan and good verses evil. Another approach is called preterism. “Preter,” is Latin for “past.” Something all preterists believe is that all or most of Revelation is a description of historical events already completed in the first century.  According to preterists, chapters 1-3 describe the conditions in the seven churches of Asia Minor prior to the Jewish war (AD 66-70). The remaining chapters of Revelation describe the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans (mostly through metaphor). There are two major views among preterists. 1) Full preterists believe that all the prophecies found in Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 and that we are now living in the eternal state, or the new heavens and the new earth. 2) Partial preterists (the majority view among preterists) believe that most of the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem but that chapters 20-22 point to future events such as a future resurrection of believers and return of Christ to the earth. Partial preterists view full preterism as heretical since it denies the second coming of Christ and teaches an unorthodox view of the resurrection. A third position is the historicist approach. This view teaches that Revelation is a symbolic representation that presents the course of history from the apostle’s life through the end of the age. The symbols in the apocalypse correspond to events in the history of Western Europe, including various popes, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and rulers such as Charlemagne. Most interpreters place the events of their day in the later chapters of Revelation. Finally, there is the view that I hold and that seems to be in keeping with a more literal reading of the text (a view that also appears compliant the repetition of “after these things” in verse 1). This view is called the futurist view and it teaches that the events of Revelation chapters 4-22 will occur in the future. Most futurists divide the book of Revelation into three sections as indicated in 1:19: “what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Chapter 1 describes the past (“what you have seen”), chapters 2-3 describe the present (“what is now”), and the rest of the book describes future events (“what will take place later”). All views are still able to appreciate the glorious scene currently underway in the text and glean the important application from this particular passage.

2. OBSERVATION #2: The Focus of the Glorious Scene-4:2-3, 5-6a

This is because the focus of the glorious scene is not on when this takes place, but on who is described next. John captures the moment much as he did in the first vision he was given earlier (in 1:10). In 4:2a he states “immediately I was in the Spirit.” Let’s stop for a moment just admire how all three members of the Trinity are already involved in this most wondrous vision. Soon, God the Father will be revealed as the focus of this text. Already we’ve learned that access is granted to John by Jesus the Son (who invited the apostle to enter the domain through the special door). And finally, the ability to behold what is disclosed is brought about by the Holy Spirit. One commentator has described John’s abilities “in the Spirit” as “. . .a state of ecstasy; the outer world being shut out, and the inner and higher life or spirit being taken full possession of by God’s Spirit, so that an immediate connection with the invisible world is established.” Whether John saw this as a dream, was literally carried into heaven, or was impressed upon in some other spiritual way, all that is disclosed is viewable and discernible because of the Spirit’s activity in the life of this last-living apostle.
Now “in the Spirit” John beholds “a throne…standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne” (4:2b). Occupying the “seat of absolute power” is none other than God the Father. This is brought into focus by the worship he receives later in the chapter, the distinction that is drawn between He and others around him in chapter 5, and the description that follows in the next few verses.

While the Father is unviewable (after all “no one can see God and live”—Exod. 33:20) at times in the Scriptures he is represented as assuming a visible form. In 4:3, John describes the glory that he observes, not the essence of the one producing the white hot rays emanating from the throne—“And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance” (4:3a). Ordinarily, the jasper is a stone of various wavy colors that are somewhat transparent. In Rev 21:11 it represents watery crystalline brightness. The sardine, our cornelian, is typically a fiery red. Some have suggested that as the watery brightness represents God’s holiness (jasper), so the fiery red His justice executing fiery wrath (the sardius). The same union of white or watery brightness and fiery redness appears in Rev 1:14; 10:1; Ez 1:4; 8:2; Da 7:9.

Revelation 1:14-“His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.”

Revelation 10:1-“…and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;”

See also: Ezekiel 1:4; 8:2; Daniel 7:9.

More is said about what exists further out from the center of the throne space-“and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance,…Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sound and peals of thunder (4:3b, 5a). The rainbow is a divine symbol of beauty and promise—a promise that has been kept since the days of Noah. This particular rainbow is compared to an emerald…?... Remember John is doing his very best to describe what he is seeing in another realm—something that is only remotely possible by means of the Holy Spirit. Later we learn (in verse 5) that the emerald rainbow is accompanied by flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. It is an awesome, loud, and almost frightening vision complete with powerful manifestation of natural wonders. 

John continues with “and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;” (4:5b). Seven Spirits of God? Both here and in Revelation 5:6 “seven Spirits” is employed as a sophisticated way to refer to God’s complete Holy Spirit (inasmuch as the number 7 is a number of completion and, at least here, appears to be utilized in a figurative way). Another translation of this might read “the seven-fold Spirit of God.” The description used of the Spirit “lamps of fire” is in keeping with the manifestation of the Spirit described in Acts 2 and with the Spirit’s unique ability to illuminate the things of God!

Also “before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal;…” (4:6a). A churning sea in the ancient world was believed to be a place of mystery, chaos, and danger. However, the sea before the throne of God in heaven is perfectly placid. The pure ether which separates God’s throne from John, and from all things before it, may be meant to symbolize the “purity, calmness, and majesty of God’s rule” (Alford). There is, in other words, no disturbance in God’s holy realm.

3. OBSERVATION #3: The Worshipers Gathered Around-4:4, 6b-8

Next, we observe along with John, the worshipers that are gathered around the throne. There are two groups of worshipers identified in this passage. The first are twenty four elders—“around the throne were twenty-four elders” (4:4a). Of all the biblical numbers (7, 3, 12, etc.) 24 is a bit peculiar. However, context clues might help us ascertain who these 24 elders represent.

John describes these elders as “sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads” (4:4b). Some have wondered if these are angels. However, angels are never said to be clothed in white with crowns. Given what we read elsewhere in the New Testament white robes and crowns of victory, implying victory after enduring some conflict.

James 1:12-“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the LORD has promised to those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 9:25-“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Both Paul and James seem to be encouraging the church. Perhaps these twenty four elders represent the church! (after all, church leaders are even referred to as “elders” throughout the New Testament). However, there is this awkward 24 number. Certainly the church has twelve founders (the apostles), but that only gets us halfway to what we see in this scene. Where might another twelve make up the difference? The twelve tribes of Israel! After all, were not Old Testament saints God’s people as well? Sure! Therefore, these 24 elders probably represent all who make up the people of God (Old and New Covenant)—those who were saved by looking ahead to Jesus’ coming and those who embraced Christ’s completed ministry after the fact.

2 Timothy 4:8-“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Therefore, the prophecy disclosed to John includes all the redeemed, pictured here in the heavenly throne room surrounding the throne of God in worship.

But these are not the only worshipers present, “and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind, the first was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle …” (4:6b). If this scene could not get any more other-worldly, just add four different multi-winged creatures covered in eyes! The identity of these creatures and exactly what they represent is unknown and largely up for speculation. One possible explanation is that each represents a gospel with the one like a lion representing Matthew (the gospel that exalts Christ as a Jewish Messiah), the one like a calf representing Mark (a beast of burden that sympathizes with Mark’s presentation of Christ as suffering servant), the one like a man representing Luke (who loves to call Jesus the Son of Man and accentuate Christ’s humanity), and the one like the eagle representing John (the gospel who argues for Jesus’ divinity). Regardless of what they represent, one thing is for sure, they are not of this world.

Though their identity is left a mystery their activity absolutely clear—“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within, and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,’…” (4:8). These creatures are shown praising the Lord for his unique and supreme holiness. The thrice proclaim accolade of “holy!” (agioV) probably means something close to “holy to the third power” and identifies God’s other-worldly character. The four living creatures also invoke the Father’s proper name in their praise—"Lord God” (kurioV qeoV--a Greek translation of yhwh Elohim). They even comment on God’s supreme power by referring to him as “the Almighty.” Finally, the four living creatures celebrate God’s eternality—“who was and is and is to come” (a triad that demonstrates one of God’s enduring qualities—sovereign over time).

By now it is clear what is taking place in this unfolding spectacle—John has been invited to a wondrously glorious worship service in which many have gathered around the heavenly throne to offer praise to its occupant. In fact, worship preoccupies the remainder of the passage.

4. OBSERVATION #4: The Praises lifted to the Almighty Creator-4:9-11

Praises continue to echo against the celestial walls of this hall “when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks (another triad 😊) to him who sits on the throne, to him who lives forever and ever.”

For every time the four living creatures cry “holy, holy, holy” (agioV, agioV, agioV) “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne” (4:10). The example of worship introduced by the four living creatures is followed by the collective people of God who fall in humility before the eternal God and accompany their praise with a demonstration of their adoration –they cast all their crowns (any merit they have achieved in the Lord’s strength, any good works they have accrued in the Spirit who saved them, any eternally redemptive act that follows Christ’s example) before the Father.

And this they do while saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power (another triad 😊); for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (4:11). God the Father is worthy (axioV) to receive praise because in his Holiness (agioV) he created the universe. Allusions to Genesis abound in this opening worship service as the Father is celebrated here principally for his ability to create. Earlier, the sign of the covenant with mankind never to flood the earth again (the rainbow) hints at God’s ability to restart things in a most miraculous way. These subtle references to creation and the flood foreshadow what the majority of the rest of this book is about—the re-creation of the world. The same one who spoke the world into existence at the beginning will bring about a new heaven and new earth in the end and for this he is worshiped.

So What?

What if you were shown the door to heaven, called up by Christ, and were the one tasked with recording all of this! I can’t imagine how hard it was for John to keep up and put into words what he saw at the beginning of this vision. However, stripped of all of the pomp and circumstance, behind all of the wonder and glory, there is a very simple lesson to be learned here that has everything to do with God’s rightful place of worship. In this scene, we witness the Father in what might be referred to as his most natural habitat—the center of heaven sitting on his throne, receiving worship and adoration form all who are present. While we might revere what is described in this passage with awe and wonder, what is keeping it from being a reality be albeit on a small scale, in our everyday lives? God’s people ought to praise the Father (the audience of one and writer of the unfolding opus), because of the Son (the instrument of praise that carries the melody to the Father’s ear) through the Spirit (who enables us with the ability to play well). When we do this, we live in our most natural state as worshipers of a God who brought this entire world into being and one day will bring about a new heaven and a new earth. May he receive glory, and honor, and thanks forever and ever.