Revelation - Week 2
Summary: If Jesus is Lord, we cannot serve any other god, and we must work diligently to not fall into the trap of worshiping the empires or kingdoms that we live in.
Key Scripture (Revelation 5): The Scroll and the Lamb
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angelproclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Big Picture Context: Empires and Kingdoms all have a mythology or a religion that legitimize their existence, their leaders, their stories, and their activity in the world.
In the 1st Century Christians lived inside the Roman Empire which had a distinctive religion (a civil religion) that explained how Rome conquered, that its leaders were chosen by the gods and were in fact divine, and that Rome had a divine purpose.
The Central Claim of Christians: Jesus is Lord
- This meant that Caesar was not Lord, that was a lie of the empire
- God's kingdom would prevail over all other kingdoms, conquering by love not violence
- God's involvement in the kingdoms of this world is not what they are telling you it is.
Revelation parodies and criticizes the oppressive nature of imperial power and the blasphemous claims made about it.
- Understanding this conflict, between Jesus as Lord and Caesar as Lord is key to understanding Revelation
- The images of battle are all images of God's Kingdom conquering the kingdoms of this world
- The Christians John wrote to were all struggling not to be assimilated and discipled by the civil religion of Rome, struggling to stay true to the faith of Jesus as Lord.
Civil Religions at Work
- Sacred Texts
- Practices of Allegiance
Empires want us to believe
- Their violence is just and necessary
- Their oppression of some for the sake of others is the proper way for things to work
- Their purpose is for a higher good
- We owe them allegiance
Revelation teaches us, instead
- Jesus is Lord alone, no earthly power is worthy of praise
- Jesus conquers through his sacrificial love not violence and oppression
- God's kingdom will prevail and is eternal
- We can only serve on God (the 1st Commandment)
- God is the ultimate judge and will pass judgment on the empires of this world
Questions the Revelation Leaves Us With
- What gods are we worshiping other than Jesus?
- How can our community offer the world a living witness that Jesus is Lord?
- How can we be great neighbors without being assimilated into our empire?
- How do we disciple Christians so that we can resist the empires around us and know how to live when our faith brings us into conflict with them?