The pace certainly quickens in these chapters of Revelation. After glimpsing the throne of heaven (!) in chapter 4, quickly are we introduced to other things, seemingly layered in and upon one another. We behold the paradox that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is also a slain Lamb. We hear of seven seals—on what must be an important scroll— beginning to be broken.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse appear on the scene (recalling the arrival of warrior-preacher Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider: “And I looked, and beheld a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him”). “Myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” of angels are present and singing; four living creatures are surrounding; elders seem to be everywhere: even “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” are joining together in doxology and praise of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb. The souls of martyrs appear under an altar, and stars are falling from the sky as the moon turns to blood. Behold the Revelation of Jesus Christ made known to his servant John!
As the passage moves so quickly, it is good to slow things down. The conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah appears, and is also the slain Lamb. And the Lamb is the only one worthy to approach the throne of God (!) and take from his right hand a scroll, written front-and-back, sealed with seven seals. The Lamb approaches the throne of God — of God(!) — and takes the scroll. The scroll: the written declaration perhaps of what was, and what is, and what is to come. Who is the Lion appearing as a slain Lamb, around whom the hosts of heaven fall and sing a new song, a doxology to state clearly the way things are actually? “Worthy [worth-ship = worship] is the Lamb who was slain!”
The power of this paradox remains forever arresting, that strength and worthiness emerge from weakness, from the very wounds of the Lamb. The one who was slain is the one who “has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals”; he alone is worthy of life before God. In this very real sense, worship is telling the truth and calling a spade a spade: it is worship to know correctly that we are creatures and God alone is the Creator. The Lamb who was slain is alone worthy to approach the Creator.
A lamb is a paragon of weakness, and yet this Lamb is also the conquering Lion. Obviously, Christ (very God of very God, begotten not made) is at once the Lamb and the Lion, the One who exchanged his glory for our ignominy, his might for our weakness, and took on death that we may live. In the midst of all the motion and all the unbelievable sights, sounds, smells, and experiences described, Revelation is crystal-clear on many things: God’s might and power and knowledge and purposefulness are never in doubt, and the Lamb who was slain did something utterly and completely decisive, precisely in his being slain.
Let us join the living creatures and the elders in declaring the way things are; and in so doing, let us then worship by confessing our creature-liness and his worth-iness: “For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God” (Rev. 5:9-10).