A Kingdom of Priests
Revelation 5:5-14 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.”6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign[b] on the earth.”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 honour 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 honour and glory and power,for ever and ever!”14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
This is an amazing passage where we get a glimpse into heaven and into the worship of the
‘Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David’ (v5), ‘the Lamb’ (v6, 8). These verses are all
about Jesus. He is the Lamb ‘looking as if it had been slain’ (v6), reminding us of the sacrifice
of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, but also reminding us that he is now very much alive!
This lamb has seven horns (perfect power) and seven eyes (perfect omniscience). Leon Morris
says that in these symbols of Jesus ‘there is a striking combination of the utmost in power and
the utmost in self-giving’.
But even as we see Jesus in cosmic glory in this passage, we learn something about who we
are. This is apt, because our identity is only ever truly understood in the light of who Jesus is.
What we learn from verses 9 and 10 is that we are a people gathered from every corner of the
earth; that we belong to God, having been purchased by Christ’s blood; and that we are a
‘kingdom and priests to serve our God’.
In the Old Testament, the priests had a mediatorial role in two ‘directions’. They represented
the people to God by bringing appropriate sacrifices on behalf of the people, and they
represented God to the people by declaring the will of God to the people in terms of the Law
and right behaviour.
In the New Testament, Jesus is our great High Priest who has made once and for all the one
sacrifice needed for sin (Hebrews 9:12, 26; 10:10). No individual other than Jesus in the New
Testament is described as a priest, but the Christian community as a whole is described here
and in 1 Peter 2 as a priesthood to serve our God.
Reflection: What does it mean for us as a Christian community to serve God together as
‘priests’. Think about the two ‘directions’ of the OT priesthood, and then about how we might
‘represent’ Jesus to people in our community, and how we might bring people in our
community to know Jesus.
Nat Rosner grew up in Sydney, lives in Melbourne and loves both cities! A former lawyer, she’s now a Minister at St Hilary's in Victoria and is passionate about sunshine, summer, sport, reading and local church ministry. This reflection was originally posted as part of a series at St Hilary's, Kew (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hung, our Feature Artist for April, 2017)