Thursday, September 03, 2015

Bowing Down to the Lamb in Revelation 5

Granted, all of God's intelligent creatures ascribe blessing, honor, glory and power to the Lamb (the Son of God) in Revelation. But such glory and honor is imputed to him within a context where, as the Lamb qua Lamb, he approaches the throne of God and "takes" a scroll from the hand of the Father, thus proving himself worthy (after conquering this world) to open the seven seals of the scroll since he bought persons for God out of every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 5:8-10).

The context is one of kingly investiture: the Lamb is honored and glorified because he is God's appointed King. Just as Jehovah's ancient people performed divinely approved acts of obeisance to God and the Judean King (1 Chronicles 29:20), so all of God's intelligent creatures honor the One upon whom YHWH has bestowed honor, glory, might and power (Heb. 2:7-9). See also Dan. 2:37 (LXX) for a similar ascription of praise to a ruler whose kingship is said to have been derived from God's sovereignty or permissive will, as it were; notice, however, that John never explicitly tells us the Lamb is worshiped. After noting that the Christusbild constructed of the Lamb in Rev. 5:13-14 "almost approaches deity," P.M. Casey provides these enlightening comments:

"This is almost heavenly worship, but it does not have to be perceived as such. Here, as always, the lamb is carefully distinguished from God, and he is not said to be divine. He does have other exalted functions. It is as a lamb that Jesus is victorious over the kings of the earth (17.14), and he shepherds the victorious martyrs (7.17) . . . Yet God is precisely what this figure is not, and this illustrates the social nature of the restraining factor of monotheism" (P.M. Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, page 142).

Jn. 17:5 certainly does not teach that the Son shares the Father's glory; rather, Christ subsisted alongside the Father in a state of matchless glory prior to becoming flesh. The Gospel of John, as is the case with the book of Revelation, limits "worship" in the strong and proper sense to God the Father alone:

"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:10-11).

Some textual variants (as found in the TR) actually read ZWNTI EIS TOUS AIWNAS TWN AIWNWN in Rev. 5:14, thereby pointing to the Father as the rightful object of reverence, devotion, adoration and praise. Even if this is a scribal addition, it is solidly based on texts such as Rev. 4:9-11; 10:6; 15:7. See also Rev. 11:15-17; 15:4; 19:4.


Duncan said...


I have been researching the crowns from one of your earlier blogs as to why they are golden crowns. Nothing much found as yet other than the extensive usage in the tabernacle of gold & the extensive use of gold in imagery relating to heavenly beings in visions. In Daniel etc. But here we see the king of kings imagery. The one king and his straps or princes lowering there crowns to high ruler.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for reminding me that the imagery of golden crowns is rooted in concepts from the Hebrew Bible and tabernacle/temple imagery. Richard Bauckham also makes some good observations about the golden crowns and 24 elders in The Theology of the Book of Revelation (page 34):

As well as cultic imagery, there is political imagery. The
throne-room is the place from which God exercises his rule over
the world. The twenty-four 'elders' - a political, rather than
cultic term - are the angelic beings who compose the divine
council (cf Isa. 24:23; Dan. 7:9; 2 Enoch 4:1; T. Levi 3:8). As
their own thrones and crowns indicate (4:4), they are themselves rulers. They rule the heavenly world on God's behalf
They too worship, but significantly they do so by an act of
obeisance in which they get down from their thrones, remove
their crowns and lay them before the divine throne (4:10).
Thus they acknowledge that, as created beings (4:11), their
authority is wholly derivative from God's. He alone is to be
worshipped as the source of all power and authority.


I would take issue with some of what Bauckham's writes, but he makes some good points about these cratures, and the source of their authority.

Duncan said...

Typo strikes again! Satraps not straps.