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Revelation 5:1-14

Lesson Focus

Revelation is about worshipping the one who remains so faithful that our greatest sins are not held against us but forgiven.

Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that the dominant image of Jesus in revelation is as one who has been slaughtered yet who has triumphed over sin and death.

  2. Understand that worship of the slaughtered lamb is central to understanding Revelation.

  3. Understand that in the middle of suffering, worship of the slaughtered lamb is how we can remain faithful.

Catching up on the Story

John’s vision takes place in the heavenly throne room, where he is confronted by a myriad of creatures from God’s created order. The vision proper begins with Jesus commanding him to write a letter to seven churches. Most of chapters two and three have to do with these letters. Each letter contains an assortment of encouragement, identifications, and critiques.

While churches certainly existed in the cities named by John, the letter written are not just for them. The letters should be understood as being sent to the universal church. This is true for John’s time in the first century, and it continues to be true for us today. Each letter contains things the church today (yours, mine, and everyone else’s) needs to hear.

As chapter four begins, the vision shifts ever so slightly. John looks and sees through a door the throne room with the throne and its occupant. It is important not to get bogged down in the descriptive details, as John’s language is metaphorical mainly at this point.

Even if what John describes the heavenly throne room to look like is accurate, it is hardly the total of the point he seeks to make.

“This means we are to take this not as a picture of what heaven looks like but as a vivid description of God's character and influence. The images cannot and were not meant to be pressed to yield information on the inhabitants or nature of heaven.” (Witherington III, 116).

John’s main aim is to describe the nature of the worship that takes place in the throne room.

Unending praise and worship of the one who was and is, and is to come. The “Lord and God” (4:11) is worthy to be worshiped because the earth and everything in it is his. He is worthy of being praised because, despite what the rulers of this world claim, God is truly in charge, working toward the redemption and restoration of all things.

Chapter 4 ends with the 24 elders in the throne room taking off their crowns and casting them before the throne. This is an act of submission to the true ruler of all. The image should stick in our minds as we read the rest of John’s revelation. Ultimately, this is what we all will do, abdicate our supposed rights to self-rule and submit ourselves to God.

Worship, then, is the natural outflow of our submission.

The Scroll and the Lamb

At the beginning of chapter 5, the scene shifts ever so slightly. The focus moves from the elders who have given themselves in service and worship to the God of the universe to the one who sits on the throne.

John looks and sees a scroll sealed with seven seals in the right hand of the one seated on the throne. The fact that the scroll is sealed means that the scroll's contents are authentic and valid (Koester, 76). It also is intended to communicate that the document has not been tampered with and that only the intended recipient can open it.

As John is watching the one on the throne, an angel calls with a loud voice, seeking if there is anyone worthy to break the seals and reveal the contents of the scroll. The response was silence from all in heaven above and on earth below. No one was worthy.

John reacts to the lack of response with bitter weeping. But all is not lost. One of the elders we saw casting down their crowns in worship and submission before God introduces