V 1-5 – John sees a door open in heaven – How did he end up in heaven? Last I heard he was writing letters to the churches in Asia. He must have fallen asleep in the sun. And then he hears the same voice he heard before. Well I assume that’s Jesus, then (Rev 1:10-13). Why can’t he be more clear? Instantly he is ‘in the spirit’. Huh? A dream? A trance? An altered state? He sees someone sitting on a fancy throne, decorated with gemstones. So – that would be god??? There are 24 smaller thrones with ‘elders’ on them. Bishops? Angels? Apostles? The people from those churches in Asia who won the prizes in the previous 2 chapters? In front of the main throne are 7 burning torches, representing the 7 spirits of god (Rev 1:4).
V 6-11 – Now we meet 4 beasts (note that in modern translations, as always trying to tone down the language of the KJV, they are living beings or creatures) seated around the main throne. Lion, ox, human, and eagle. So picture the following scenario:
1. The beasts praise god ‘day after day and night after night’
2. Whenever the beasts praise god (which by definition is constantly, according to point #1, right?), the elders drop to their knees, lay down their crowns, and worship also. Does this sound like fun to anyone? I’ll pass.
Point of interpretation – in v 11, the KJV reads “for thy pleasure they are and were created”, to which the SAB scoffs that god must have created parasites, pathogens, and predators for his own pleasure, because likes to watch things suffer. But the NLT of this passage reads “they exist because you created what you pleased”, which isn’t quite the same, is it?
V 1-5 – God (at least I assume that’s who’s sitting on the throne) holds a scroll with 7 seals. At first, no one can be found that’s worthy, or capable, of opening it (sort of like Cinderella’s shoe). John is sad. But then one of the elders calls out “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals”. So…. The lion has been used as the symbol of Judah since Jacob referred to Judah as a young lion when he blessed his children in Genesis 49. David belonged to the tribe of Judah, and we all know who the most famous descendant and heir to the throne of David is… Jesus. (Well, sort of – if his father was Joseph…) So Christians assume that this verse refers to Jesus. (Which is why C. S. Lewis used a lion to represent Jesus in his Chronicles of Narnia.)
Then the 4 beasts and 24 elders, each with a harp and golden bowl of incense (representing the prayers of the people) bow down before the lamb.
In v 9-10 they start singing, and from the words the connection Christians make with Jesus becomes obvious. Then in v 11, millions of angels join the beasts and elders in singing. Their words in v 12 “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” are used in Handel’s Messiah (what else!).
And I know you’re probably sick of the Messiah, but think for a minute – how many people who enjoy listening to this work, or singing it, do you think know the context of this verse? I’d bet not many. The librettist plucked it out of craziness and made it sound noble. I had no idea until now… In v 13, they are joined by every creature in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and under the earth (does that mean hell?). And last, in v 14, the beasts say amen and the elders worship the lamb (isn’t that what they were just doing, anyway?)