reading revelation

I’m reading Revelation.

It’s been a long time. To be honest, I tend to skip it. I’ll be reading along in the epistles and when I reach Revelation, it’s like there’s a little sign that says “Now, jump back to the familiar territory of the gospels.”

This time I decided to push past the sign. So far I haven’t grasped much more than I did before, although it’s been such a long time that I can’t remember what I got out of it in past readings. I’m only on the seventh chapter, but so far, the part that hit me hardest – quite unexpectedly – is the passage in chapter five which describes the Lamb taking the scroll.

Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. (Revelation 5:1-4)

Something about these verses caused tears to form in my eyes  (since I’m being honest). Or maybe it was a ray of new understanding. Either way, I felt the desperation of this situation John describes. I felt it because it is a real situation. There is no one on earth, even the nicest man, even the most virtuous woman, even the most well-behaved child, who is worthy to open the scroll. There is no one on earth, even a person who seems to have done everything right, who is worthy to even look at it.

John, in his observing state of trance, instinctively knows that the scroll is a big deal. It’s strongly implied that every person on earth is in a desperate situation, and the scroll is the only way out of it.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne. When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals;

because You were slaughtered,

and You redeemed people for God

by Your blood

from every tribe and language and people and nation

You made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:5-10)

How beautiful. The good news of the gospel. It’s so familiar that I forget what it really is. I forget about the need. I forget about the desperation. I forget that Christ’s death and resurrection is not just a beautiful story (although it’s that), an historical event (it’s that too), or a reason to celebrate Christmas and Easter. It is absolutely the only hope for every human being on earth. Without atonement, we are all helpless to open or even to look at the promise of life. There is an essential element in the blood and the need for a sacrifice. There is no way around it. Without it, I don’t stand a chance. With it, I have life.

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