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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Revelation 4-5

  Here we go with chapters 4-5. I think these are really unique chapters, and they can really help provide a glimpse of the Biblical perspective of who God is.

Revelation 4-5
Chapter 4
  • Revelation 4 and 5 are distinct in that they are essentially dedicated solely to describing God and a little bit of the Throne in heaven.
  • We start off chapter 4 with John being shown God.
  • What's interesting is the description of God (vs 3)
    • Jasper – a precious, colorful stone that sparkles and flashes luminously of various colors.
    • Carnelian – a beautiful reddish, brown mineral that also shines brightly, semi-translucent.
  • Why, exactly, do you think God is described in such an odd way?
    • It's important to remember how Jews view God. God is a very abstract entity who is difficult to really give human attributes. As such, he is typically described by physical things. Earlier in Revelation the “Son of Man” is described as having hair like wool, and a voice like many waters. Here, God is described by physical things just as he has been traditionally described. The Burning Bush (Exodus 3) is the most common example in which God is portrayed through the natural world. Exodus 24:10 describes God as sapphire.
    • Additionally, the specific minerals that are mentioned, Jasper and Carnelian are both precious and valued greatly. This is just to add to the effect that the author is trying to make about the glory of God.
    • Yahweh wasn't meant to be pronounced, but was just written as four letters YHWH (some scholars have disputed this stating that it was meant to be pronounced, but from what I've been able to find, this is a small, minority view).
  • In verse 3, we also have an account of a rainbow that is like emerald. What exactly does a rainbow traditionally symbol in the Bible?
    • Deliverance and security, just like Noah had received when the rainbow was offered to him as a sign in that tale.
  • 24 thrones for 24 elders are mentioned. There is too much speculation about this to really know what these are form, but some interesting thought is that 12 are for patriarchs of the OT and the other 12 are for the disciples.
  • The most important thing to take from Chapter 4 is that it is keeping with the Jewish tradition of reluctance to actually describe God. Survey the Old Testament, and you will encounter various descriptions of God, all of which are physical or strange. What happened here was that a finite, human language (particularly of such a primitive time) was simply incapable of describing what they felt or saw in their God.
    • John just keeps with this tradition.
Chapter 5
  • While Chapter 4 was all about describing God, chapter 5 is all John's descriptions of "The Lamb of God".
  • We start off with a strange scroll that apparently no one is able to open because of the seven seals on it.
    • It should be noted, for those who don't know, that a seal was like a wax “stamp” placed on scrolls to ensure that they stayed closed and weren't opened before they got to who they were supposed to.
    • This concept of “who it was supposed to get to” is very important when we bring in the figure of the Lamb.
  • Apparently no one in heaven or on earth was able to open the seal (4). What sort of significance does this carry?
    • If Jesus is the lamb, as is overwhelmingly assumed, why is he the only one who can open the seals?
  • At first Jesus is described as the “Lion of Judah” (5) and the “Root of David.” More importantly, he is described as “victorious so that he may open the scroll and its seven seals”
    • The significance of this is pretty big. What was Jesus victorious in that he has this right to open these seals?
  • Back to the Lion of Judah, though. At first when you're reading this, you get an image of a powerful lion. One who was strong and ready to conquer. This is exactly what the Jews were expecting in their Messiah. They believed that their Messiah would be a political or military leader who would lead the Jews to deliverance from the Roman government.
    • Clearly, Jesus doesn't meet this expectation. This was the man who told people to turn the other cheek (Mat. 5:39) and to love one's neighbor as themselves.
    • What follows is Jesus' description as a lamb. This is all too fitting since he wasn't the expected military leader, but a spiritual leader who promoted redemption through his teachings.
  • He is described as a “slaughtered lamb” (6). Why were lambs slaughtered in the Jewish tradition? For remission of sins or guilt, but also as praise to God (think of the story of Noah after the ark).
  • He is described as having “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth” (6). Do you remember the significance of the number seven?
    • Seven implies fullness or completeness. In this case, horns represent power, so it is shown that this lamb has complete or full power, and with eyes he has complete or full vision. I don't mean that he has 20/20 vision, but rather that he has full knowledge.
  • What follows seems to be a worship narrative in which the Lamb is described as “a redeemer” (9), “worthy, receiving power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor, glory, and blessings” (12), as well as “Blessing and honor and glory and dominion” (13). 
    • In vs. 9, we see that the blood of the lamb was enough to "purchase men for God." I think strong comparisons can be drawn from this to the tradition of Passover in which the blood of the lamb would offer security or safety.
    • All this is given by what is described as “countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands” (11). I can't help but think that what the author is trying to get across here is that God is completely worthy of countless or endless amounts of praise.
Recommended Reading:
Daniel 7
Ezekiel 1, 10

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