Revelation 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying,


“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed

people for God

from every tribe and language and people and


and you have made them a kingdom and priests to

our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation is a scary book. What with the numbers and weird imagery, not to mention how it’s (often tendentiously) used to support all manner of political, historical, personal, or theological doomsday scenarios, it’s intimidating to read.

And the content itself is terrifying at times. I’ve often heard it summarized as ‘Jesus wins’, which, while an accurate summary, leaves out some of the detail. There’s a real, visceral depth to that victory. Throughout John’s vision, we get a multifaceted picture of the holiness of God, and his very real anger at both sin, and those who lead others into sin. His judgement on the world that refuses to acknowledge ‘the Lamb’—the crucified and victorious risen Messiah, Jesus Christ—is sustained, bloody, great and terrible, and final (cf. most of Revelation 6-20).

One of the advantages of apocalyptic literature is the vividness of the language. The historical accounts of the Gospels and Acts don’t have dragons, or creatures, or shining thrones with rainbows and amazing beasts; John’s vision does, and employs it all to show us the victory of the Lord Almighty and the lamb. A disadvantage can be that this type of writing is difficult for us who aren’t used to the genre of ‘apocalyptic’ (think Revelation, parts of Daniel, and a few other instances in the Bible)—but really, that’s only natural when you’re unfamiliar with the conventions of style. Despite any confusion we may have over the various aspects of symbolism, the main message is clear: Jesus wins.

Perhaps, one point in the letter where this is the clearest is the vision of heaven in chapters 4 and 5. John sees a great throne in heaven, surrounded by four beasts representative of the strength of all of creation, and a crowd of elders representative of his people. The one sitting on the throne is worthy of all honour, power, strength, glory and might, because he created all things. Absolutely everything in all of creation is subject to him.

So far, so consistent with the picture of God throughout Scripture: the absolute uncontested ruler. But in chapter 5, the only one in heaven and earth worthy to enact God’s judgement is a slain lamb. There’s not much in his appearance to commend him; he is slain and bloody—but he’s not dead. He was dead, and now approaches the throne alive and triumphant over all.

Once he takes the scroll, all of creation breaks out in song. They sing a “new song” to the lamb. In the song of the living creatures and the elders, the worthiness of the lamb to carry out the will of God is based on his sacrifice:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed

people for God” (v. 9).

Because he redeemed a people by his blood, he is worthy to be praised alongside the Father. At the focal point of all heaven and earth is a song sung about Jesus. The elders and creatures around the throne, uncounted angels, and every creature in all of creation sing about the Lamb who was slain.

At the epicentre of God’s glory is the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died and has been raised.

At other points in Revelation, Jesus appears far more majestic and obviously victorious: in chapter 1, he appears to John similarly to how God appeared to prophets in the Old Testament, with terrifying and overwhelming sights and sounds; in chapter 19, he is the conquering king riding a warhorse with a great sword and boundless army. But here, in the centre of John’s vision of heaven, Jesus is praised for his cross. He is praised for the weakness that is stronger than man’s strength, and the foolishness that is wiser than men’s wisdom. By his blood, he purchased us for God to be his holy nation, to the praise and honour of his name.

Jesus wins. Actually, as Revelation 5 shows us, he’s already won. He has redeemed us, and is worthy of enacting divine judgement on the world. We’re just waiting for him to wrap things up, put his enemies under his feet, and make it known to everyone that his is the name above all names. He’s already won. So come, Lord Jesus, come.

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