Our passage for study consists of two songs of praise. The first is directed to God the Son; the Lamb receives praise for his person. He is the wonderful saviour who has instituted the new age of the kingdom of God. He has gathered a people to himself to inevitably overwhelm the powers of darkness and bring order to chaos. All this is achieved by the one "who was slain". Then, in the second song, both the Father and the Son are offered the praise of "every creature in heaven and on earth."
v11. John paints for us a picture of the heavenly throng gathered about the throne of the Ancient of Days.
v12. The great crowd breaks out in praise. Seven aspects of Christ's person are identified. The first four are attributes of his person which are elsewhere ascribed to him in the New Testament. The next three are attitudes expressed toward him by others. The seven attributes are power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing. There are three groups who sing the song of praise. There are angels, vast in number, and there are twenty four elders. The elders are probably superior angels. The third group consists of the four living creatures. These four are translated as "beasts" in the Authorized version, but although they are described with animal-like features, the description is only used to illustrate the greatness of their qualities. They are majestic and powerful, wise and wonderful. They stand above the angels and above the elders in their association with God. They come closest to him and share his attributes.
v13-14. In the second song of praise, representatives of every living creature in the realms of heaven and on earth join in singing praise to the Creator God and to the Lamb. All are filled with wonder at what has been achieved through the work of the "Lamb". He was slain in order to gather to himself a new creation to "reign" in the ages to come. "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honour and glory and power". "Amen"
The mystery of sin and chaos, of the ever constant manipulation of life by the powers of darkness, fills us with fear. For the early Christians, the powers of darkness were real indeed. The book of Revelation was, according to tradition, penned by John the apostle during the reign of Domitian, AD 81-96. During his reign he strengthened emperor worship and instituted a general (although not overly vicious) persecution of "atheists". As far as the Roman authorities were concerned, Christians were atheists. John saw in these events the sign of things to come. The "beast" is about to be revealed; evil will have its way. What hope is there for the people of God in the face of the determined violence of the secular state?
The mystery of evil is something that bothers everyone. Somehow the cancer of sin seems out of place, an unacceptable intrusion to be denied, and yet which refuses to be denied. How can there be a loving God in the face of such corruption? How can he seemingly ignore the plight of his people?
We may believe that all is in the hands of a loving, sovereign God, and although evil seems to have triumphed, good will prevail. "My husband's death with cancer was God's way of bringing me back to Him." Was this lady suggesting that God gave her husband the cancer just to get her back to church? We may want to argue that evil goes hand-in-hand with free will. Maybe it does! The problem of evil for a believer is not an easy one to address. What does the existence of evil tell us about God, given that He is the supreme originator?
The book of Revelation tells us that rampant chaos may seem to be the norm, may seem to be ever the master of the situation, but this is not the case. The masters of darkness, evil and their domain of chaos, only give the illusion of mastery. Their reign is under attack. Christ has triumphed over them on the cross and has gathered, in his victory-parade, a people to reign with him in eternity. Even now his people are confronting the powers of darkness and shaking their hold on the world. The reign of the New Creation has begun.
Those of the light, in the realm of light, in the expanse of the Cosmos, see a new thing. There stands the Lamb by the Ancient of Days, his work complete, his rule begun. The darkness now begins to retreat before the one who has received power, wealth, wisdom and strength. The new age of enlightenment has dawned. Those of the light, in the realm of light, burst into praise before "him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb". All are singing his praise.
On the earth, in the shadows and the darkness of our existence, little seems to have changed. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Business criminals are honoured. Politicians become the new media personalities and evil abounds. Yet, all this is but a fading illusion. Let us therefore, lift our eyes heavenward and know that even now the seals are broken and darkness flees. "Amen".
1. Why is the Lamb worthy to open the seals?
2. Who is the "every creature" in v13?
3. In what sense does this scene give comfort to us in our Christian walk?