Connections 05.05.2019: Every Creature, and All that Is in Them

Revelation 5:6-14

The vivid descriptions in the book of Revelation are both beautiful and haunting. Centuries of biblical scholars and interpreters have taken a stab at explaining the meanings behind John’s visions. You and I are privileged to have access to these ideas. Also, because we are followers of Christ, we are responsible to read the text and listen for what the Spirit of God may say to us right here, right now.

As a biweekly writer of this Coracle post, I feel that my task isn’t to offer additional scholarly interpretations of these mysterious words (and others in the Bible). Instead, I usually try to listen for a particular phrase, word, or idea to strike me. Today, it is the words of verse 13: “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”

April 22 was Earth Day. Every year, people celebrate this day in various ways, most of which involve some level of conservation and protection for the gorgeous planet we’ve been given. Why do some people disdain Earth Day or the lifelong, year-round practices it promotes? Why do some people deny the negative human impact on our world? Why is the health and care of our planet sometimes considered a left-wing, liberal pursuit? It’s sad that caring for the Earth has become, on many points, a political issue.

Scripture shows us a better way. Genesis 1 and 2 tell the story of the creation of the Earth and everything in it, and God said that it was all good. In Job 38–39, we find a glorious yet tender account of how God orders and watches over all the wonders of creation, from the “springs of the sea” (38:16) to the “waterskins of the heavens” (38:37), from the “calving of the deer” (39:1) to the hawk that “spreads its wings” (39:26), and from the “dwelling of light” to the “place of darkness” (38:19). Finally, the writers of the psalms sing of God’s created world over and over again.

And here in Revelation, who is lifting up their voices with the angels and living creatures and elders of heaven? “Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them.” Not just the priests. Not just the political leaders. Not just the rich. Not even just the humans. Every creature and all that is in them are singing praise to “the one seated on the throne and the Lamb.”

God’s creation matters—every bit of it. And everything that God made will one day praise the Creator forever and ever! Amen.

Discussion

• How would you describe the book of Revelation? How often do you read from it?
• What can you learn from the mysterious nature of a book like Revelation?
• How do you feel about Earth Day? What level of importance do you give to practices that conserve the Earth’s resources and protect its creatures?
• How do you think God feels about the Earth and all its creatures?
• What does it mean to you to read that “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them,” will one day sing praises to the Creator? How can you join them?

Reference Shelf

The Lamb and the Scroll, 5:1-14

…the reader who searches, as John did, for a fierce, conquering lion will be surprised. In place of a lion, John sees a lamb. This is a startling transformation. The reader is told that a lion, a fierce creature of the wild, has conquered. What the reader finds, however, is that the lion is in reality a lamb—but not any ordinary lamb. It bears the marks of its execution, “standing as if it had been slaughtered” (5:6). This lion-lamb is clearly Jesus, the one “who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood” (1:5).

…The seven horns on the lamb symbolize the power and strength of the lamb. He is no helpless victim, but a powerful conquering lamb. The seven eyes, John explains, represent God’s spirits sent forth into the world. They are symbols of God’s presence and knowledge. The Lamb thus acts with the authority of God. He is filled with God’s power and God’s insight. John’s depiction of Christ as a slaughtered lamb with seven horns and seven eyes combines images of death and defeat with symbols of power and authority. Through this imagery John declares that the only “conquering” that is consistent with the values of God is conquering that occurs through self-sacrifice and love, not through violence.

By taking the scroll from God, the Lamb receives authority and lordship from God. Jesus is the only one who is worthy and able to bring to completion God’s plans and purposes for the world. Recognizing this, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down in reverence and worship before the Lamb. Each of the heavenly beings holds two objects related to worship—harps and bowls of incense….

Harps, along with other musical instruments, had been a regular feature of temple worship in Jerusalem. Musicians’ guilds formed choirs and orchestras that provided music as a part of the temple worship. John portrays a heavenly worship scene modeled after, but even more resplendent than, earthly worship. In the Hebrew Bible, harps were instruments of praise to God and accompanied the singing of psalms (Pss 33:2; 43:4; 147:7; 149:3). Here they provide musical accompaniment for the new song that the heavenly chorus sings.

The “golden bowls full of incense” call to mind the incense that the priests offered to God every morning and evening in the temple…. For John, the prayers themselves are the incense that is offered to God. The imagery of prayers as incense is a graphic portrayal of the prayers of the people wafting up to God and a reminder to the readers that their prayers are not in vain. God will hear and respond to their cries. For John’s readers, faced with persecution, social ostracism, and ridicule—as well as for modern readers confronted with life’s difficulties—the assurance that God hears their prayers is a powerful comfort. John says that these are the prayers of the “saints.” In the New Testament, the word “saints” does not denote a special class of elite Christians. The word “saints” or “holy ones” refers to all faithful followers.

…The four living creatures and the elders, who previously had sung their praises to God, now join together to sing a new song to the Lamb. The reference to a “new song” is found often in the book of Psalms (33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; cf. Isa 42:10). In

Revelation, the song is new not only in the sense that it appears for the first time. Rather, it is new because it is qualitatively different. It celebrates God’s decisive act of salvation enacted through the sacrificial death of Jesus. The song declares a three-fold reason why Jesus is worthy of praise and adoration: He has been slaughtered; he has ransomed the saints; and he has made them a kingdom and priests. The word used to

describe Jesus’ death, “slaughtered” is a violent term, often used in association with an animal that is slaughtered for sacrifice. Accordingly, the use of this term here may suggest an interpretation of the death of Jesus as the Passover lamb. Through his death (his “blood”) he has ransomed or purchased the people for God, an economic metaphor that reflects the practice of buying the freedom of slaves or prisoners of war. The death of Christ was an act of liberation. It has freed people from their bondage to sin and from the powers of evil that oppress and enslave.

…This new community is a universal community. Christ has redeemed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:10). The people of God are drawn from every station and walk of life. …The emphasis here on the communal aspect of the work of Christ—making people into a new “kingdom”—should serve as a corrective to an excessively individualistic understanding of salvation that persists in the thinking of some Christians. God has created a “new people,” not simply new individuals.

After the hymn by the four living creatures and the elders, a chorus of angels lifts their voices in praise to the Lamb. They, too, sing a song extolling the worthiness of the Lamb. The throng of angels is innumerable. The Greek word myrias (myriad) can mean ten thousand, but can also be used to refer to a countless throng. The latter is intended here. The imagery of the innumerable band of heavenly attendants surrounding the throne is drawn from Daniel 7:10. Whereas earlier God has been recognized as being worthy because, as creator, God is the source of all things (4:11), the Lamb is declared worthy because of his act of redemption (5:9, 12). The sacrificial death of the Lamb, through which God’s salvation of the world has been made possible, is the basis for the outburst of praise directed to the Lamb. The praise of the Lamb continues to expand in an ever-widening circle, moving from the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders to the angels in heaven, finally encompassing “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea” (5:13).

All creation bursts forth in adoration of God and the Lamb. The scene reaches its climax when the four living creatures and the elders, who had begun this praisefest in the throne room of God, burst forth with an “Amen!” and fall down and worship both God and the Lamb. Heaven and earth reverberate with the joyous hymns of praise and the echoes of “Amen!”

Mitchell G. Reddish, Revelation, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2001) excerpts from 109–13.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (14) and Natalie (12), and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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