31 July 2012

Revelation 5:11-14

"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, 'To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' And the elders fell down and worshipped." (vv. 13-14)


12-07-31 drawing (3)Much of the book of Revelation is set in heaven but it is a book which is nonetheless very much engaged with what is happening on earth. Its intended readership, after all, is not citizens of heaven but of earth.

Today's passage portrays all of heaven and earth in exuberant worship of the Lamb who was slain. The scene is superlative: it includes myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. The technical term for such a number which defies description is, according to my children, a 'gazillion'. So a gazillion angels sing in worship to the Lamb that was slain.

However, those on earth are not to be outdone. Every creature in heaven is joined by every creature on earth, under the earth and in the sea. In addition, is that enigmatic little phrase, "and all that is in them" (v. 13).

I can't quite work out whether that is a reference to all that is in the creatures (ie  with all their being they praise the Lamb). Alternatively, it might be a reference to all that is in the heavens, the earth, and the sea. The latter suggests that it is not just creatures who are in praise of the Lamb but also the very creation itself. Jesus himself suggested that rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40).

Methodist Holy Communion liturgy utilises the refrain, blessing and honour and glory and power (verse 13), in the great Prayer of Thanksgiving. This is not by accident for as we come to share in bread and wine we both remember and worship the Lamb who was slain.

I love the recurring exclamation marks at the end of verses 12-14. I also love the idea presented here of heaven and earth joined together in worship. This is worship which is so emphatic and full throated that the four creatures next to the very throne of God - who cry without ceasing, holy, holy, holy - are reduced in verse 14 simply to an emphatic "Amen!" Surely I am not alone in longing for worship that I lead or am part of to have some elements of John's vision of heaven and earth combined?

To Ponder

  • Can you recall a moment in which you were part of or led an act of worship which captured something of John's vision of heaven and earth in exuberant praise? What was it like?
  • If we believe in a God who is self sufficient and thus has no inherent need of creation, then what do you think is the purpose of worship in the context of heaven?
  • In verses 12-13 what might it mean for creatures 'to bless' their creator?
  • John's vision in chapter 5 is a largely utopian one. Suffering and injustice, war and disease are not so much airbrushed out of the picture as completely ignored. What does it mean for you to offer praise when you live in the world as it is now and not as it is envisioned by John?


Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel is a Methodist minister, currently stationed as Director of Wesley Study Centre, Durham - a Methodist theological institution which is part of St John's College within the University of Durham. Prior to this he was New Testament Tutor at Spurgeon's College in London and Chaplain to Farringtons School in Kent