22 August 2013

Revelation 5:8-14

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!” (v. 13)


We are still in heaven! Now it is the "the Lamb" who takes centre stage. This is Jesus, the crucified, risen, ascended and victorious Messiah. John the Divine, as the narrator, has been in despair that no one would be worthy to open the sealed scroll that he has seen (Revelation 5:1-5). Now, in opening the seals, Jesus will set in motion the final act of the drama leading to the defeat of God's enemies and the vindication of the saints.

So the God who is worshipped in the heavenly throne room is not simply a grander version of the Roman Emperor. This is a different kind of Lord, one who is known through the suffering servant Messiah and who rules in love. Just as the blood of the Passover lambs (Exodus 12) sealed the people of Israel as a nation dedicated to the worship of their God, so the blood of "the Lamb" Jesus enrols those "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (v. 9) into the kingdom of praise and service to God. The Book of Revelation sees Christianity deeply indebted to its Jewish roots, but sees the scope of God's covenant expanding wider to cross all boundaries of nationality, tribe and language.

Once again, the climax of the passage is a hymn of praise, this time sung by an unimaginably large chorus. There is a line in the service of Holy Communion that echoes this moment: "Therefore, with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven, we praise your name …" It is a chorus that includes the whole created universe, "every creature in heaven and on earth" (v. 13).

Very early in the life of the Christian Church, Christians began to offer prayer and worship to Jesus Christ. If he was only a human being, a part of creation like everyone else, that would have been blasphemous. So passages like this one show a growing Christian confidence in the belief that Christ is truly one with God. Towards the end of John's Gospel, Thomas the disciple blurts out "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28); now that confession echoes around heaven.

To Ponder

  • What can you find out about the Jewish festival of Passover? What are its resonances with Christian worship and teaching?
  • Who might you need to include in order to get a true sense of the inclusive heavenly choir that shares in the hymn of praise?
  • Try writing your own hymn of praise. What language would you want to use to talk about the greatest of Jesus? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.