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In Bible blog I have just completed a look at Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthian Assembly. You can find these and all my 1778 blogs by date on my archive, or by googling: emmock.com topic, or emmock.com bible reference. My new project is an examination of The Revelation, the final book in the Christian Bible. It’s controversial but fun, offering trumpets, angels, the four horsemen, a beast from the sea and the whore of Babylon. What’s not to like? It begins on 30th July. Join me. The headlines are reminders of the world we live in:
Revelation 5 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
5 Next I saw in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals; 2 and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 But no one in heaven, on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look inside it. 4 I cried and cried, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or look inside it. 5 One of the elders said to me, “Don’t cry. Look, the Lion of the tribe of Y’hudah, the Root of David, has won the right to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw standing there with the throne and the four living beings, in the circle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One sitting on the throne. 8 When he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down in front of the Lamb. Each one held a harp and gold bowls filled with pieces of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people; 9 and they sang a new song,
“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals;
because you were slaughtered;
at the cost of blood you ransomed for God
persons from every tribe, language, people and nation.
10 You made them into a kingdom for God to rule,
cohanim to serve him;
and they will rule over the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard the sound of a vast number of angels — thousands and thousands, millions and millions! They were all around the throne, the living beings and the elders; 12 and they shouted out,
“Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb to receive
power, riches, wisdom, strength,
honor, glory and praise!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth and on the sea — yes, everything in them — saying,
“To the One sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb
belong praise, honor, glory and power
forever and ever!”
14 The four living beings said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshipped.
As I emphasised yesterday we are dealing with visions in which heaven is the counterpart and final future of the earth. In such a theology there is needed a category or character that binds heaven and earth together, and as we shall see, for this author, that role is played by Jesus Messiah, who is characterised as the Lamb. This term is found only in the Gospel of John, the letters of John, and here. It seems to have two scriptural sources: one the image of the Passover lamb, and the other the servant of God in Isaiah 53 who is taken like “lamb to the slaughter house.” It is however an image developed to describe Jesus as blameless victim of evil and redeemer of humanity through the willing sacrifice of his life. Simultaneously he is also the “lion of Judah” the Messiah who has won the victory over the powers of evil. On earth he shares the weakness of his human followers, while in heaven he shares the strength of God; but on earth he never ceases to conquer and in heaven he never ceases to be the slaughtered victim. Only he is worthy to open the scroll which sets in motion the victory of God, because only he has perfectly withstood the slaughtering power of evil in his weak flesh.
This passage gives instruction to the reader that in interpreting the Revelation, all the language must be understood as referring to the activity of the Lamb who is at the heart of the Throne. So, for example, any mention of killing, or crushing evil must be seen as the action of the crucified Jesus. Even the wrath becomes “the wrath of the Lamb ” Failure to accept that only the Lamb can open the scroll that we are reading, will result as it has many times in the history of the church, in a gross misunderstanding of this book. It may sometimes stretch our imagination to see some bloodthirsty description as signifying the love of the Lamb, but we should persevere nevertheless.
The description here of the lamb with seven horns and eyes which are the seven spirits of God, reinforces my interpretation of the seven spirits as the watchful, powerful, Holy Spirit that inspires the prophets including this author. The living creatures and the 24 elders representing created life and all the people of God bring the praises of earth and offer them now to the lamb. The fact that worship which can only be given to God is now given to the Lamb is a sign that the Lamb shares in God’s identity. By its bloody death the Lamb has bought back from captivity people of all races and nations who had been held hostage by the power of evil, who have become the true Israel, “a kingdom for God and priests to serve God.”
As if to underline the divine identity of the Lamb the author shows all created beings offering it honour and praise.
This book of visions is Jesus – centred, and must never be confused with the worldly triumphalism of the church in its times of affluence.