Ted Grimsrud—March 31, 2012
The basic message of the seven messages to the faith communities in chapters two and three, when taken as a whole, focused on the call to those communities to maintain their loyalty to Jesus and his way in face of demands from the Roman Empire for this loyalty. These messages conclude with a promise of a place with the Lamb and his God for those who “conquer.”
The call to “conquer” is a call to Jesus’ way of persevering love. Chapters four and five now provide the bases for taking this call with the utmost seriousness and the utmost hope.
After the messages conclude, John looks and sees an “open door” in heaven (4:1). He’s taken inside and sees a throne. The appearance of the one seated on the throne is never described—confirming that this is the creator God.
So John gets a theophany in this moment of transition from the challenges to the actual recipients of the book to the terrible visions that will follow. This direct vision of God seems to be intended both to ground the challenges in the realities of the sovereign one who calls them forward and to remind the readers that the visions to come do not negate the healing intentions of the one on the throne.
Chapters four and five actually make up one vision with one main message: God is present in the Lamb who brings healing to the world. The two chapters present a kind of worship service. It begins with worship and praise from the twenty-four elders (4:4, 11), proceeds to the four living creatures (4:8), then focuses on the core content—the triumph of the Lamb. It then proceeds to more worship, including from the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, concluding as the service began, with the elders (5:14). Continue reading