John is so engulfed in what he sees that he actually begins to cry when there is no one found worthy to open the scroll (5:3). I’ve always found that striking. Whatever he sees, it’s a scene of immense tension and apparently sadness. He watches and cries.
The first words of comfort: “The lion has conquered” (ἐνίκησεν ὁ λέων, 5:5). I think the animal is noteworthy in light of what follows.
As John looks on, what animal is it that he actually sees in the midst of it all? A lamb. The contrast is even more striking because this lamb stands there looking as though it has been slaughtered (ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον, 5:6). First he hears, “the lion has conquered,” then he sees a mutilated lamb take the scroll.
It’s no mistake. When the lamb takes the scroll, those around him hit the ground. They fall before it, praise springs from their lips (5:9–10), and it summons all of creation at once to scream out their own sounds of worship — things in the sky and heaven, on the earth, under the earth, in the ocean, all of it (5:11–14). They praise the slaughtered lamb.
And then we hit chapter six with the crazy-colored horses, the seals, and the riders unleashing destruction and plagues and death on the earth. My son is into animation on the iPad right now, and I’ve been asking him to draw this chapter for me. I find it interesting that so far his reaction to the horses and riders has been frustration: “It doesn’t make sense. How can I draw that?”
Last night, the most striking scene was the one about the fourth seal, the one with the green horse (6:7–8). χλωρός can mean pale but it very frequently means green, and a green horse is so much cooler than a pale one. Besides, the other horses in this chapter are distinguished by a color. Anyway, I’m reading it green. Death rides the green horse with Hades in tow.
This morning it’s a less obvious feature of the scene about the sixth seal that got me to pecking on this keyboard. All throughout chapter six, you repeatedly read “when he opened the seal” (ὅτε ἤνοιξεν τὴν σφραγῖδα), and by the time I get to the sixth seal I forget who he/she/it actually is. It’s the lamb.
After the first verse of chapter six, you don’t hear mention of the lamb until verse sixteen. Earthquakes are happening everywhere, the sun has turned black, the moon looks like its drenched in blood, the stars are falling, the sky is torn, the mountains and islands are shaken from their places. All the presidents and dictators, the rich and famous, CEOs, managers, average people, the oppressed, they all run to hide in caves, and whose wrath is it? They scream to be hidden from the wrath of the lamb (κρύψατε ἡμᾶς … ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς τοῦ ἀρνίου, 6:16). Lion-like chaos is being unleashed by the slaughtered lamb.
It’s upside down, and that is my only conclusion. It’s another example of how upside down it all is.
There’s good news here.