Advent 2022: Week Three, Thursday, Revelation 4:9-5:5

The verbs in this section are not smooth when it comes to tense. Some of them are future but with a present feeling. Some are present but nestled within other verbs that are past. I translated them that way, and didn’t smooth it out. You will see them. I think there is a reason for this. John is seeing things that have him quite rattled.

9. When the creatures give glory, honor, and thanksgiving to the one sitting upon the throne, the one who lives forever,

10. the twenty-four elders will fall before the one sitting upon the throne and prostrate themselves in worship of the living one, forever and ever. They will throw their crowns before the throne saying, 

11. ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power because you created things and by your will it happened and was created.’  

5:1. On the right of the one sitting upon the throne, I saw a book which had writing inside it. It was sealed up on the outside with seven seals. 

2. I saw a strong angel preaching in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to untie its seals?’

3. No one in heaven, on earth, or underneath the earth was able to open the book or look inside it. 

4. And I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the book or look inside it.

5. One of the elders says to me, ‘You should not weep, for behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, he conquered to open the book and its seven seals.’

Sadly, this block doesn’t have a clean break with the previous section. Literally it is a continuation, beginning with ‘when’. Nevertheless, the main action that begins the reading is the elders, twenty-four of them, bowing low, throwing their crowns, and praising the Lord.

Then, like a play or a novel, a device is introduced that causes problems. It is a book. The book is in the right hand, or at the right, of the one sitting. The one sitting, remember, is God Almighty. The problem, as a loud angel preaches, is there is no one worthy to open the book. God has the book. No one can open it.

The book has seven seals. There is writing on the inside. I don’t know how John knows there is writing on the inside, but he does. This is likely not intended to be a book as you and I know it, but a scroll rolled up. Books were not really in existence during John’s lifetime. However, it might be a book that John saw even though he is unfamiliar with that kind of binding.

The scroll is secured by seven seals. No one in the sky, on the earth, or underground is worthy to open it. If we take this passage literally, which we probably shouldn’t, it reflects a time when human beings are living in space and deep underground as well as on the face of the earth. The best way to take it, however, is to think of no angelic being in the spiritual realm is worthy, nor any living humans, and none among the dead are worthy either.

But have no fear. There is a solution to the problem. There is one who is worthy. The lion of the tribe of Judah. The root of David. Do not weep. Do not mourn. He will break the seals and open the scroll so that history may proceed forward through its horrible destined fate until that time when all things are made new. This worthy one conquered so he would be able to do this very thing.

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