In the Rector’s Bible Study, which meets Thursday nights at 7:30, we have studied many biblical manuscripts. For the past several months we have been studying the Book of Revelation. To say that this Book is misunderstood by many and avoided by most may be an understatement, so it is understandable when my description of the Book raises a few eyebrows: the Book of Revelation is a love story!
Any casual reader, or movie-goer for that matter, most likely has a very negative impression of the Book: obscure, negative, scary, un-understandable, are only a few of the descriptions I have heard. We have been inundated by reports of tele-evangelists and obscure, but news-attracting groups that claim the Book is literally accurate. Others attempt to re-frame the Book as a complete allegory. Still, others say it is an elaborate secret “code book.” There are countless novels, movies, and references in pop culture that have further eroded and obscured the message that God set forth in the Revelation to St. John: the Book is a witness of love, devotion, and faithfulness.
Of the many places in the Book that point us to God’s love, the 5th chapter, a chapter in which the Scrolls are opened, and the judgments start, is preeminent. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is the designation of kingship prophesied in Genesis 49:8-10; this image is one of royalty, power, authority, and might. At the time Jesus came, many, if not most, of the people expected that the Messiah would conquer as the avenging Lion through miraculous power (Moses) or military might (David). The truth of this prophesy is witnessed by the Revelation to John in chapter 5: And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
If this story ended here, it would be enough to know that God, faithful and true, did not abandon the world to sin and death, but it does not. The scripture continues: And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. When John looks for the Lion, the majestic, conquering King, he sees instead the Lamb, the gentle, wounded, and bloody sacrifice of love. God will open the Scrolls of Judgement, not from a place of overlordship or vindictive righteousness, but out of love and for the purpose of gathering those who are lost.
In the Book, God continues to call to everyone through every means possible reminding them of the sacrifice that God has made to make God’s presence and intentions clear. Parents re-enact this witness every day with children of all ages. The child disobeys, even questions the parent’s authority and the parent, out of love, discipline, and shows examples of sacrifice and hardship that are present and await the child if they do not change their behavior. The child then chooses which way to go, acknowledges the parent’s love in the midst of the discipline, or re-doubles their defiance. The parent then has the option of giving up on the child or doubling down the discipline in order that the child will reach the “saturation point” and choose the better path.
In the Book of Revelation, God is doubling down the discipline through God’s own sacrifice of creation, the creation that God made and loves. God’s purpose is to saturate the children who have chosen the lesser path and bring them again to life and light. The Book is a love story from start to finish, filled with blessings, hope, and repeated calls and offerings of unspeakable rewards for the treasured bride of Christ.
Sadly, one passage in Chapter 5 cannot relate the breadth and depth of God’s love poured out and God’s devotion displayed. That you may receive the witness of what the Book truly reveals, I offer you St. John’s continued witness:
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.
Please join us on Thursday night so you too may receive the witness and understanding that will bless you as we grow in the likeness of Christ.
Through the Lamb,
Father Bill Burk†