The throne room of heaven is where what happens in our world is enacted… but who is worthy to enact the purposes of God for human history? How are we to interpret our own contemporary history? How does knowing these things help those who are struggling? [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
If possible, have two people read the passage out loud while others listen with their eyes closed. The imagery contains deliberate contradictions, simile and metaphor that are clues to its interpretation.
Q: If it is wrong to interpret these visions in a wooden and literal manner what is John trying to convey to us by using these descriptions and writing techniques?
There is Old Testament background to the imagery in these two chapters, this background provides us with the interpretation.
- 4:3 God is described as Light (Genesis 1:3 – see how John interprets this verse in John 1)
- 4:4 The elders and council of God (see Isaiah 24:23, I Kings 22:19 and Job 1 for example)
- 4:5 The lightning, thunder and voices from the throne (see Exodus 19 and the New Testament comment on this event in Hebrews 12:18-29)
- 4:6 Visions or descriptions of God in the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:10 – Israel’s elders, Ezekiel 1:22,26, I Kings 7:23 the sea of Solomon’s temple, compare Revelation 21:1)
- 4:6 The Cherubim that are linked to all life (Isaiah 6:1-3, Ezekiel 10:14)
- 5:1 The scroll of God’s words and purposes (Ezekiel 2:10, Jeremiah 36)
- 5:10 The hosts of heaven (Daniel 7:10)
Q: What do the images of Chapter 4 teach us about God and our access to him?
Q: Why does John weep (5:4) that no one in heaven (angelic), on the earth (the living), or under the earth (the dead and demonic) was found worthy to open the scroll?
Q: The Elder, in 5:5, combines two prophecies to describe Jesus: Genesis 49:9-10 and Isaiah 11:1-9. What do they teach us about Jesus?
Q: In 5:6 the slain lamb is the ancient symbol of sacrifice (for example: Exodus 12 – the Passover, compare Revelation 1:18.) Why does Jesus’ death make him worthy to open the scroll of God’s purposes for history?
Q: What does Jesus’ death achieve and why is that worthy of the unrestrained praise of heaven and all creation?
Q: Describe how the praise of heaven changes over chapters 4 & 5.
Two asides: Science and History.
- If the voice of creation praises God what does this teach us about a Christian approach to natural sciences?
- If Jesus holds the interpretive keys to history (the scroll of God’s word), how does this help us to critique modern attempts to interpret history through say:
The rise of the working classes?
The inevitability of democracy and capitalism?
The rise of a master race in Europe or Asia?
The importance of economics?
Q: Why is it important that we know the character and qualities of the one who holds the scroll?
Q: What difference does this make to how we interpret natural disasters, wars, famines, plagues and diseases which this prophecy goes onto describe and which we experience as a daily reality?
Q: Would these chapters help you to counsel someone who was suffering?
Revelation 4 & 5 – Who is worthy? (a talk outline)
Things we do not know
The throne in heaven (Chapter 4)
– 24 elders
– 7 spirits
– sea, thunder & lightning
– 4 living creatures
– Praise to the eternal God for:
– his being
– his creation
The scroll & the lamb (Chapter 5)
– the sealed scroll
– who is worthy?
– I wept & wept
– The lion of Judah, the slain lamb
– Praise to the lamb
– he purchased human beings for God
– worthy is the lamb to open the scroll
– Praise to the eternal God and to the Lamb.