1. Singing plays a prominent role in these chapters. Why sing? About what? To whom are the songs addressed? What function does worship have in chapters 4–5? What relationship does worship seem to have to matters of allegiance, identity, suffering, and hope?
2. How do these chapters make you feel? What range of emotion/feeling, and what highs and lows does the author register? What effect do they have on you? What effect do you suppose they were intended to have on the original readers? Plot out a brief “trajectory” of the emotional/spiritual movement in these chapters.
3. In chapter 4, explore the symbolism of the throne room and the language John uses to describe it. Recognizing that theological symbols often have multivalent meanings, explain what you think these images mean. What words, phrases, and images in chapters 4–6 have explicit or implicit political meaning? What do you “read between the lines” in this political language? Consider the biblical or political resonance these images may have had for John’s first audience.
4. What is John’s cosmology (i.e., his understanding of how various parts of the physical and spiritual universe are arranged and relate to each other)? Attempt a simple sketch that shows the relationship of various levels of reality.
5. Examine the word worthy in chapter 5. What does John seem to understand with this word, and why is the Lamb “worthy”? What message is John sending to his first-century readers by repeatedly using this word? What is the meaning of the little drama about no one being found worthy to open the scroll, with the lion/lamb coming to save the day?
6. What is the meaning of the various symbolic references in these chapters?
a. Who is the one on the throne?
b. Who is
the Lion of the tribe of
c. What does the scroll represent? What does opening its seals represent? What is meant by worthy (5:2)?
d. What do the four living creatures represent? the 24 elders? Is the number of each significant? What is their function? Compare the four living creatures with those of Daniel’s vision.
7. What is going on with the lion/lamb switch? Why is a lion announced, but then it is a lamb that appears?