Commentary on Revelation 5:11-14
Easter is a season of prayer, praise, and worship.
Revelation summons its readers to manifest their loyalty to God, the Lamb, and the Holy Spirit to a life of worship. This is a way for them to demonstrate the Lamb’s example as narrated by John in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 5:11-14, John hears a heavenly chorus and what he hears invites readers to join him in what he sees. In this part of the letter, John places his audience in a narrative world that rejects the imperial world around them, creating what we can call a “worshipping world,” where God alone is worthy to be given honor, praise, and worship. This world of worship is a place outside of all places and it deserves a divine perspective from all the participants. Universally, the multitudes surrounding the throne is incalculable and giving readers the expansiveness of the nature of God and with their entire being, these angelic creatures around the throne, praise the seven of the lamb’s attributes. In a world of imperial ideology and propaganda, the angels break forth in joy singing a new song. The song is deeply divine as it is one of jubilation and a newfound certainty. They are aware that the struggles are not over yet but they believe that God has the last and final word and as such worship belongs to Him alone.
In the deep valley of pain and struggle, Revelation calls upon its readers and interpreters to sing a new song — a song that transcends the present pain and reaches into the divine future. The song of a worshipping congregation overturns the present reality of pain and transforms that reality into a prophetic reality — where God is in control. Worship penetrates the present darkness and transforms it into a world where God’s vision is realized. The taking of the Scroll by the Lamb results in him receiving full praise, signaling the end of the reign of Caesar. Theologically, worshipping of God and singing songs of joy frightens the devil and the oppressor and worship is such a noise in the ears of the evil one (see Luke 10:18). Like in the Global South, freedom songs were frightening to colonizers and to those who sang, they were songs of defiance, faith, and hope for a better future. Similarly, worship songs bring hope in a hopeless world of terrorism, anxieties, depression, cancer, wars, hunger, and poverty. The song of these 24 elders is the same song of Israel and it vibrates with the same vitality as in 1 Chronicles 29:11.
Theologically, Revelation 5:11-14 orients or summons readers to the “theocentric nature of God,” in a world that claims absolute power.1 Like in the movie “Matrix,” people are called upon to choose either the “red or the blue pill” and in similar fashion, Revelation calls people to choose between the worship of God or the empire of which John invites his congregants to choose only the former. The slaughtered Lamb is given worship and more divine attributes are accorded to the Lamb, namely: wealth, wisdom, might, and blessing. These are deeply paradoxical to human perspective, yet John invites readers to envision a new form of wealth in contrast to the wealthy of the empire. The wealthy of the empire is evanescent and the wealth of the Kingdom of God is one of service and not exploitation of the less privileged. In its worship, the church is summoned to be counter-cultural and here the 21st century church is challenged because its worship is tied to the worship of the Imperial world. This statement is deeply controversial and as I write this commentary; I invite my fellow brothers and sisters in the Global world to seriously ponder on this statement and find ways to give full loyalty to God. The question is: Who possess the true wealthy? Is it the empire or is it Jesus Christ?
1 Bauckham, New Testament Theology, 159 – 160.