An Apocalyptic Tribute To The Lamb (Rev 5:1ñ14) -- By: J. Daryl Charles

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:4 (Dec 1991)
Article: An Apocalyptic Tribute To The Lamb (Rev 5:1ñ14)
Author: J. Daryl Charles


An Apocalyptic Tribute To The Lamb (Rev 5:1ñ14)

J. Daryl Charles*

The force of symbolic language lies in its ability to supersede human categories. No Biblical writer exceeds the imagination and compelling imagery of the author of the NT Apocalypse. The theology of John is visual theology;1 seeing is understanding. The audience will experience earthquakes, storms, fire, pain, joy, worship, agony and delirium, all of which serve to mediate the tension between contemporary powers that be and Christian faith, thereby affirming the might and sovereign reign of Almighty God, ho pantokratōr. It is within John’s view, using graphic symbolism, to encourage Christians to an active, not passive, participation in history. The ability to persevere is directly proportionate to one’s conviction that God indeed is enthroned and ruling over the powers.

The NT Apocalypse could well be called a “book of powers.”2 “Keys,” “overcoming,” “seals,” “might,” “strength,” “war,” “thrones,” “horns,” “scrolls,” “angels,” “swords” and “crowns” permeate the visions of John. In the struggle to live out the Christian faith in a first-century context where the role of the Roman imperium is unchallenged, John assures his audience that “the saints” will partake in the rule of ho pantokratōr, that “they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:10; 20:6; 22:5). The exact mode of mediating that rule, however, is quite antithetical to the brute Roman kratos exerted by the Caesar.3 It is in this mediatory role of divine imperium that the key figure of the Apocalypse, the Lamb, emerges.

I. The Function Of Revelation 5

1. Revelation 4–5 in the scheme of the whole. Chapters 4 and 5 of this apocalyptic drama mark the introduction of the Lamb. The audience is transferred in John’s vision from the seven churches to the courts of the heavenly throne room to observe, in a liturgical context,4 the pivotal event of human

*Daryl Charles is instructor in New Testament at Chesapeake Theological Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.

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