The Enthronement of the Lamb
Memory Text: “Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5 NKJV
To rightly understand the book of Revelation, the importance of Revelation. 4 and 5 cannot be overstated. These two chapters form a unit that comprise the theological fountainhead for the rest of the book. Scenes portrayed here have connections to John’s entire narrative and help us to see that the unfolding of the great controversy is threaded throughout the entire book. The objects and characters introduced in this section, appear repeatedly throughout the book.
When John is called up into heaven, (Revelation 4:1,2), the first thing he sees is the throne, and only afterward does he describe the One sitting on the throne. In this way John draws particular attention to the throne. This is the central object in the narrative John unfolds. The word appears 47 times throughout the book, the most out of any book in the bible. In Revelation, the throne is contested territory. One of the main issues in the book revolves around the question, “Is God worthy to sit on the throne?” God has a throne, but Satan also has a throne (see 2:13; 13:2; and Isaiah 14:12-14). God shares His throne (3:21) and Satan shares his (13:2). The overriding theme in the book of Revelation is the great controversy.
Who shall we serve, which throne will we give allegiance too?
“The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to…gain a knowledge of its grand central theme…of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption. He should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy…He should see how this controversy enters into every phase of human experience; how in every act of life he himself reveals the one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and how, whether he will or not, he is even now deciding upon which side of the controversy he will be found.” Ed 190.
The 24 Elders and Four Living Creatures
There is much discussion given to the identity of the elders and living creatures, but more important is what they do. Throughout Revelation they appear at strategic points giving praise to God. They form part of the heavenly council, before which Satan first instigated his war on God. The fact that the living creatures are full of eyes around and within, indicate their watchfulness and attention to the unfolding proceedings of the council. They sing, day and night without rest (4:8). Their praise is a counter image to Satan’s accusations, which also occur day and night (12:10).
The 24 elders are also angelic creatures, participating in the council. Note this comment, in which EGW describes the action of the elder in Revelation 5:5.
“John was distressed at the utter inability of any human being or angelic intelligence to read the words, or even to look thereon. His soul was wrought up to such a point of agony and suspense that one of the strong angels had compassion on him, and laying his hand on him assuringly, said, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” [verse 5]. 12MR 296
The Sealed Scroll
The book is obviously of great importance. It is found in the right hand of the One sitting upon the throne. The OT background points to both Jeremiah 32:10 and Ezekiel 2:9,10. It is the book of destiny, from which humanity will be judged.
“There in His open hand lay the book, the roll of the history of God's providences, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Herein was contained the divine utterances, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the Eternal, and the history of all ruling powers in the nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue, and people from the beginning of earth's history to its close.” 20MR 197.2
“What will such a one do in the day that the books are opened, and every man is judged according to the things written in the books? The fifth chapter of Revelation needs to be closely studied. It is of great importance to those who shall act a part in the work of God for these last days. There are some who are deceived. They do not realize what is coming on the earth… Unless they make a decided change, they will be found wanting when God pronounces judgment upon the children of men. They have transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant, and they will receive according to their works” (Ms 37, 1909)
The Strong Angel
We have no detailed information about this strong angel (Revelation 5:2), other than the question that he poses, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” Yet, this question is tremendously significant within the storyline. God’s worthiness is connected to the worthiness of the one who can open the scroll. It raises the question as to the worth of the one that will be on the throne. This echoes the issues raised by Satan’s accusations which initiated the heavenly conflict. The problem facing the heavenly council is the rebellion of Satan which is paralleled by rebellion on earth.
The total silence in response to the question is conspicuous in a noisy book like Revelation. Unquestionably this is a moment of great importance in the unfolding storyline. The result of this silence and the lack of a suitable candidate worthy to open the book, is that John weeps greatly. He apparently understands the importance of the question and the issue facing the heavenly council. This is made clear by his intense weeping.
The tension in the plot is unbearable. The heavenly songs of chapter four are in contrast to the loud voice of the herald whose question reverberates throughout the universe and the deafening silence that follows. John weeps uncontrollably as it appears that no one is worthy to open the book and break its seals.
Fortunately, there is one who is worthy. One of the elders comforts John by combining two Messianic images, the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9) and the Root of David (Isaiah 11:1, 10), to describe the mighty warrior, who has overcome and thereby earned the right to open the scroll. These are kingly images, and it is important that what happens next is not missed. As John turns to see this overcoming king, he is confronted with the slain Lamb. The Lamb is in the midst of the throne. The centrality of the location indicates that the Lamb is the focus of attention.
As John looks for the emergence of the conquering Lion, he sees a slaughtered Lamb. This interplay of images indicates that the ruling power of God is manifest through the self-sacrifice of the Lamb. God’s authority is displayed through self-sacrifice. This is how God establishes His reign. The image that John sees, not only connects the Lamb with the attributes of deity, more importantly, the image redefines omnipotence. Omnipotence is not to be understood as the power of unlimited coercion, but as the power of infinite persuasion, the invincible power of self-negating, self-sacrificing love.
God’s right to rule is questioned in the larger narrative structure, and that right cannot be enforced through sheer power. Given the importance that Revelation places on the effects of the deceptive nature of Satan’s accusations, an overwhelming display of force would only serve to strengthen Satan’s claims. If the slanderous mischaracterizations of God are to be overthrown at all, it must be through the discovery of the truth about God. This is the role that the slain Lamb serves. God is revealed through the Lamb, as the self-sacrificial One. God’s worthiness is inseparably connected with the worthiness of the Lamb, which is demonstrated through a conquering, that takes place through death.
The idea of conquering through death is an important theme in Revelation. In a variety of ways, the idea of overcoming occurs twenty-three times in Revelation, twice as frequently as in the rest of the NT. Christ’s overcoming, is the basis for His people’s ability to overcome as well.
The believers are persecuted by the devil (2:10) and it is he that they conquer, through Christ’s overcoming (12:11). They conquer even though they might be martyred (13:7). What must not be neglected is that they are conquering Satan through their deaths; they are not merely overcoming the strength of any earthly power. This concept resonates with the heavenly council. There should be no question that the Lamb’s victory is of the same nature. Christ has also conquered Satan and earned the right to rule the universe.
From any perspective, the concerns brought out in these chapters are full of significance. They bring to light the issue within the heavenly council, and the question as to who is worthy to rule. The answer is convincingly and unarguably given in the slain Lamb. It is no wonder the universe, which could not answer the herald’s question-who is worthy- joins together to sing “worthy is the Lamb that was slain” (5:12).
Another important issue within this passage, is the question “When are the events taking place?” The lesson connects the events with the ascension and inauguration of Christ. This interpretation has become mainstream within Adventism over the last 35 years or so. However, for decades before the introduction of this view, many Adventist expositors saw within these chapters, parallels to the judgment of Daniel 7. For further study, some of these are shared here.
There are many parallels to Daniel 7 that indicate this is the same scene:
1. Both Daniel and John “looked” Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:1
2. Throne was set Daniel 7:9a; Revelation 4:2a
3. God on throne Daniel 7:9b; Revelation 4:2b
4. Servants around throne Daniel 7:10b; Revelation 4:4, 6-10; 5:8,11
5. Books/book involved in the vision Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:1-5
6. Approach of messianic figure to reign Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 5:5-7;12-13
7. Scope of kingdom Daniel 7:14a; Revelation 5:9b
8. Prophet’s emotional distress Daniel 7:15; Revelation 5:4
9. Saints given kingdom Daniel 7:18, 22, 27a; Revelation 5:10
10.Other thrones are present Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:4
It is of special importance that in these parallel chapters, thrones surround the throne of God. These are the only two passages in which this description is found. The elders on their thrones also appear in the judgment scene of Revelation 11:15-18.