Last time, in chapter 4, our author (a “John” – 1:1) was granted a vision of God in heaven, receiving worship in his throne room.
In chapter 5, God – the one on the throne – is holding a sealed up scroll – a scroll which we later find out (ch. 6-9) contains his future plans. This is what the author was promised at the start of chapter 4 – that he’d be shown the future (4:1), again, something we know from Isaiah is the prerogative of God alone.
No one is found worthy to open it, and John is bummed. Someone tells him,
“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Lamb. Who? We’ve met him before – it is Jesus, the one through whom God has given this vision to John (1:1), described in chapter 1 as the one who “made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father”. (1:6) So, not God himself – this one, like us, has a god, and in contrast, there is no god over God. And Jesus’ god, God, is our god.
John brings this whole message from Jesus, but also from the seven spirits around God’s throne, and from God himself. (1:4-5) Again, the assumption is that Jesus is someone other than God.
So it is all the more striking that here he is (chapter 5) in the very throne room of God, daring to take and open the scroll. They sing to him,
““Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals…”
Whew! So he won’t be struck dead for his daring act. Now, why is he worthy? Because he’s God himself? Can’t be that; he’s portrayed here as a second self in addition to God. Because he’s “ontologically equal to God”? Because he “shares the divine nature”? The author only gives a simpler reason:
“…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
This expands on what’s already been said as to his worthiness to take and open the scroll – it is because he has “triumphed” – v. 5. So he’s worthy to do this because of what he accomplished as the obedient Messiah, indeed, the willing sacrificial Lamb. This is part of his reward. But there is more!
The above was sung by the “twenty four elders” attending God’s throne. But now a chorus of uncountably many angels chimes, or rather, roars in:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Presumably God, creator of the cosmos and so owner of it all, needs neither power, nor wealth, nor wisdom, nor might. (I’m not clear on the difference between “power” and “might” here; need to look more into the Greek terms.) But the Lamb does need those things, and this whole scene seems to be about his exaltation to the right hand of God. (Ps 110) Now, astoundingly, the two receive worship together, jointly, receiving the last three things just mentioned, which neither needs, but both deserve.
The chorus now includes every creature:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
This climax sort of ends the scene. (The Lamb goes on in ch 6-9 to open each of the seven seals on the scroll.) But what just happened? Two beings were addressed, two beings were worshiped. One of them was God. The other was the man Jesus, called the “Lamb” and recently exalted to a God-like position. We know he’s a man because he’s in the line of David, and of the tribe of Judah. (v.5) God, we know from the Hebrew Bible, is not a man (e.g. Num 23:19), although he is somehow like a man, since both men and women are made in his image. (Gen 1)
Note that there’s no theory in the explication here; we’ve stuck entirely to the assumptions of an intelligent, first century, biblically literate reader, and explicated how he or she would look at this episode.
Now go back to our dueling arguments. One who believes what John teaches here in Revelation 4-5 must accept premise 2. Jesus is worshiped, and plainly, this is held forth as appropriate. The author is aware that this may be shocking, so he specifically relates why Jesus is worthy of honor. (5:12) So a Christian ought not reject both arguments on the grounds that 2 is false. 2 is true, if John is to be believed.
But does all this help us choose between the arguments? Yes! We’ll look at this in the next post.