Easter 3 • Revelation 5:1–14 • April 14, 2013

By Victor Raj

Preliminary Considerations
For a serious study of our text there is no better place to turn than Professor Louis Brighton’s commentary Revelation.[1] Readers are encouraged to consult it. This text and the other appointed lessons (Acts 9:1–22; Psalm 30) for this day focus on the theme, “The Big Picture.”

Notes on the text
The season of Epiphany engages the church for the celebration of the gospel for all people with a specific focus on mission to the Gentiles. Easter is the demonstration of God’s decisive victory over sin and death, and the overcoming of every evil, in the person of Jesus Christ. Revelation (chapter 5) is the eschatological manifestation of the glory and grace of God. The mystery that has been hidden for ages has now been fully revealed incarnationally in God’s decisive action in Jesus Christ; in this big picture Christ reigns supremely and the whole creation, in heaven and on earth, rejoices in that reign and joins in praise and thanksgiving to God.

Revelations 5 opens up a magnificent, glorious scene; the big picture of a realized eschatology where all things fall into their proper place. The redeemed of God from every tribe and tongue and nation (v. 10), and the entire created order in heaven and on earth, under the earth and on the sea (v. 13) worship the only true God who rules in eternity. This pericope is attestation of Christ’s finished work. The Lamb of God was slain, and he has with his blood ransomed for God a people from all over the world. They are now for him a kingdom and a priesthood. Only the Lamb who paid the price with his blood is worthy to open the scroll. The mood is set for a heavenly celebration. The scroll is now open and the song goes on. (Note that in v. 9, the ingressive/inceptive present translates as “they began to sing and continued to do so without ceasing.” Under the lordship of Christ, the church celebrates. The Lamb, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, rules from the center (5:5, 6). In him the Gentiles will hope (cf. Rom 15:12).

Acts 9:1–22 is also a customary reading for the observance of St. Paul’s conversion, January 25. Paul has spoken so vociferously of his “former life in Judaism” (Gal 1:13), when he perhaps knew the Messiah only in part. Brought up in the Pharisaic customs and practices, Paul was so zealous for the patriarchal traditions in obeying the law that, when compared to his contemporaries, his record was spotless to its most minute detail. Even as a teacher of the Law, Paul had only a limited vision of God and his counsel. Then he knew his mission only in part. He thought the killing of Christians paid homage to the one true God. The big picture began to emerge for Paul on the “road to Damascus.” He was breathing murderous threats on Christians, the true followers who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah.

Now the big picture emerged for Paul. His targets, whose lives he was committed to ending, were followers of Jesus, the very Son of the God he was so zealously intending to serve. Persecuting them was indeed persecuting the Lord (Acts 9: 4, 5). The vision he received transformed his life and called him to a new mission. Paul was now God’s chosen instrument to proclaim the whole counsel of God in Christ’s name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the children of Israel. Until the end, Paul was committed to this mission, as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13), proclaiming Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2) as light to the nations (Acts 13:47; cf. Is 49:6).

According to Brighton, the ultimate purpose of Christ revealing the content of the scroll to John and to the church is to strengthen the church’s faith and to encourage her to remain faithful to Christ amidst all the sufferings so as to attain the promise of everlasting glory. “That faithfulness,” says Brighton, “involves carrying out the mission Christ has given to her.”[2] The Son of David set apart Paul so that, in Christ’s name, he may bring salvation to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47; 28:28). This is the big picture of the church of every age.

To be sure, as in every age, the church of Jesus Christ amidst suffering, particularly for the sake of the gospel, it is privileged to proclaim. In Paul’s own words, some may be proclaiming Christ out of envy and jealousy, many times adding to, and sometime subtracting from, the full revelation in Scripture. Some add to it captive philosophy and empty deceit while others are drawn to human traditions and the elemental spirits (Col 2: 8). There is no famine for this in our culture either, whether in the form of the New Age, or pluralism, or numerous other spiritualities. In terms of “restoring” God’s kingdom (Acts 1:7), even devout Christians employ human calculus to figure out its imminence or transcendence.

Actually, the full picture of Christ for all eternity, his mission and his care for all is a little picture, from beginning to the end. It is that of the Lamb and his blood. In one word, it is the cross, the Cross! Wherever Christ is proclaimed thus, there is repentance, life, and salvation.

Endnotes
[1] Louis A. Brighton, Revelation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).
[2] Ibid., 139.

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