“I don’t know about you, but Revelation is not one of my favorite books in the Bible,” Ps. Sivin Kit said on Sunday, April 12th, at Bangsar Lutheran Church. Not something one would typically hear from a preacher, is it? While many other biblical scholars have a great love for Revelation and are even passionate about it, Ps. Sivin honestly shared his personal view of it, before he went on to give a very down-to-earth sermon on the heart of Revelation.
“It’s a strange book,” he said. “With visions and angels…” He went on and shared about his experiences as a young Christian —how he used to listen to guest speakers teach about the book of Revelation, and how they would often display a chart that shows the timeline of different views and interpretations of the book.
These charts somehow helped to make the Bible seem more relevant and connected with the world. However, we also need to be careful not to take these different interpretations to heart, as jumping directly from the text to the world as we know it, has proven to be problematic. Although much of the book is applicable to us in this age and time, we also need to bear in mind that John’s intended audience was the seven churches in Asia Minor many, many centuries ago.
Ps. Sivin also pointed out that when the topic of Revelation comes up, many Christians tend to immediately associate it with the rapture. This idea was all the more heightened over the past decade or so with the release of the popular Christian fiction series, Left Behind.
For Barbara Rossing, a Lutheran New Testament scholar, all the hype surrounding the rapture and tribulation became a distraction to the true message of Revelation— away from God, and away from God’s vision for the World. To counter balance this teaching, she wrote her book, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation.
While a large part of Revelation may be about doom and gloom, she argues that there is more. During an interview when she was asked to summarize the book of Revelation in seven seconds, she said, “God is coming to heal the world; not kill millions of people.”
Ps. Sivin agrees with Rossing, and further reminded the congregation of the importance of realizing that God is in the now, and not just in the future. God is He who was, and is, and is to come. In the midst of oppression, persecution, and suffering that we see today, God is still working.
Having laid out the backdrop for his sermon, Ps. Sivin went on to delve into the Scripture passage for the day. He described this passage to be “sandwiched between two visions”: The first vision is about how nobody but the Lamb is worthy to open the scroll, and the second is of the seven seals, which deals with death and destruction. In between these two visions, we find a vision of worship:
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.
In order to better understand this passage, it is important to first read the preceding verses:
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
The vision starts off with John weeping because no one in heaven or on earth who was worthy to open the scroll could be found. But then an elder comforted him saying that the Lion of Judah has triumphed and is able to open the scroll. John then abruptly shifts his attention to the Lamb.
“The image of the Lion is of one who is strong—a conqueror. But when John directs his attention to the Lamb, he is doing something with his words, … where the Lion now becomes the Lamb in the hearts and minds of those who read this text.”” Ps. Sivin explained.
When we go back to verse 12 and 13, we see something different. John turns the conventions upside down. The Lamb—not the Lion is the one that is proclaimed worthy. The one that is thought to be insignificant and weak, is the one that every creature on earth and in heaven and under the earth bows down to worship.
The Lamb is not just a lamb that was slain, but the Lamb that sacrificed Himself for all of creation, and rose again victorious. That is why the Lamb that we see in stained glass windows is not a lamb that remains slain, but one that stands upright and is more powerful than any empire.
This vision re-orientates the readers of this book. With the emphasis on the Lamb who deserves all worship, God becomes the center of the vision—even though there are also visions of death.
This picture illustrates the concept well, in that, even though the four horsemen are bringing judgment upon the world, we are reminded that the Lamb is seated on the throne. In other words, God is sovereign.
What then should our response be? 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:14) Bowing down is a sign of humility—one that acknowledges authority. By bowing down in worship before the Lamb, we submit to God with a willingness to serve and take on His vision.
The book of Revelation is really about calling us to worship. The reminder to focus on the Lamb—the unassuming warrior—is also a reminder to focus on the micro decisions in our day-to-day lives. While havoc may he raging around us in the macro, our smallest decisions have the ability to make a big difference in our lives and those around us.
**Bangsar Lutheran Church is a vibrant and growing church with a very strong sense of community. Made up of a diverse group of people from multiple nations, they seek to be a safe place for anyone looking to serve and grow together. They are actively involved in reaching out to the local community, and have lots of fun together while making it a point to involve their children and youth. They currently have a “Garden Project” where they meet together to tend to their fruit/vegetable and herb garden.
“At BLC, we firmly believe that people are more than numbers. People have names, personal stories, problems and possibilities. As a community, we are reminded that we are saints and sinners at the same time; we are always in a position in need for God’s grace. More so, as a community, we become Christ to each other – loving and serving each other by supporting, praying and blessing one another.” – Ps. Sivin Kit
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