What comes to mind when you think of Bible translation?
Millions without a Bible and no way to know Christ? Or the image of a missionary preaching with an open Bible in hand? Or how about the need for a faithful translation in your own language?
Yet there is another image that we should consider.
In Revelation, the apostle John had a vision of heaven and witnessed unending praise around the throne of God. Furthermore, he saw Jesus Christ exalted and declared worthy of all praise.
In the words of praise uttered around the throne, we encounter profound truths about Christ with implications for the Word and the translation of the Scriptures for the nations.
In light of John’s vision, we see that the ministry of Bible translation is a response of humble obedience to Jesus Christ, equipping His bride, the church, for the ministry of the Word in her own language and all the languages of the redeemed.
John’s Vision of Heaven
In Revelation, chapter 4, the apostle John is taken to heaven and given a glimpse of the eternal praise around the throne. John first witnesses the praise of God the Father.
Then, in chapter 5, the praise halts for an announcement. A special scroll is presented to God the Father. An angelic voice asks if anyone is able to open the scroll.
However, the silence grows because no one is worthy to take the scroll. It appears to John that no one has sufficient authority to open the scroll and thereby usher in the judgments in it. He begins to weep.
Then one of the elders rebukes him and says that the Lion of Judah will take the scroll. John looks and sees not the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Lamb approaches the throne and takes the scroll.
The heavenly beings around the throne burst out in praise, singing that Jesus is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. The angels then respond in praise, repeating that the Lamb is worthy.
Worthy is the Lamb Who Was Slain
Why is Jesus Christ worthy? The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders around the throne declare that He is worthy because He was slain. The multitudes of angels joining the praise call Jesus “the Lamb who was slain”.
The praise of Christ focuses on His sacrificial death on the cross, an act of humble obedience to God the Father to fulfill His Father’s will.
In John 10:18, Jesus told His disciples that He would lay down His life of His own accord and by His own authority.
Jesus struggled at the prospect of suffering on the cross but willingly submitted to the Father’s will. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
God the Father has exalted Jesus to His right hand because of His willingness to humble Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:8-9).
In the heavenly throne room, the apostle John saw the exalted Christ, who willingly laid down His life, now taking up the scroll with authority.
Worthy is the Lamb Who Redeemed the Nations
The Lamb is worthy because He laid down His life in humble submission to His Father. Yet the heavenly praise does not stop with His death.
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders also declare that He is worthy because He redeemed a people for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus mentioned that He would give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). On the night He was betrayed, He told His disciples that His blood would be shed so that many would find the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He told them that they would proclaim the gospel to the nations (Luke 24:46).
Furthermore, Jesus gave His followers who gathered on a mountain in Galilee a commission to take the gospel to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
In the praise of heaven, the apostle John hears that the redeemed of the nations includes people from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
Worthy is the Lamb Who Made a Kingdom and Priests
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders do not stop after declaring Jesus worthy for His death which redeemed a people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. They continue by praising Him for making the redeemed a kingdom and priests.
In the first verses of Revelation, John wrote that Jesus had made them a kingdom and priests of God the Father (Revelation 1:6).
The apostle Peter also wrote of the redeemed as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
The church is a “kingdom” in the sense that they reign on earth. Furthermore, believers are “priests” because they are set apart for a special ministry to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.
How do believers carry out their priestly ministry to God? How do they “proclaim the excellencies” of God the Father? Through the ministry of the Word in the languages of the redeemed.
The Redeemed and the Word of God
The redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation are to proclaim the excellencies of God the Father. They are to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all creation (Mark 16:15).
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit moved the first disciples to proclaim the mighty works of God in the languages of the pilgrims in Jerusalem (Acts 2:11). The apostle Peter then stepped forward and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the crowds in Greek, since it was a message of salvation for the nations (Acts 2:14-47).
For the kingdom to advance and for the redeemed to proclaim the excellencies of God, the people of God must minister to the ethno-linguistic groups of the world in their respective languages.
Translation for Christ and His Bride
Jesus Christ has redeemed His Bride, the church, from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He builds them up with His Word, and His followers build each other up through the ministry of the Word.
When we approach the ministry of Bible translation from this perspective, we recognize that it is centered in Christ and for His glory. Because He is worthy, we praise Him and grant Him our humble, obedience service.
We submit to His purpose, building up His kingdom and priesthood, and some are specifically called to do that by equipping the saints from every language with the Scriptures in their own language.
May those who are called to the ministry of Bible translation be encouraged and persevere in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of the Lamb and our heavenly Father, who are worthy of all praise and honor and glory!
The fact that millions don’t have the Word of God in their language should move our hearts, but it shouldn’t be our first reason to translate.
Unreached people groups without a church should grab our attention, but not more than the Lamb who is worthy of all praise. He knows every one of His sheep, even those who are still unreached.
As important as these and other concerns may be, they fall short of the reason we should translate the Word.
We should give our time, our resources, and even our lives to the ministry of Bible translation for the glory of Christ.
And when we focus on the glory of Christ and serve Him as our first motive and greatest love, we will be used by Him to accomplish His purposes, which are greater than any one need we might see.
If we focus on a specific need, though, we risk serving out of guilt and even glorifying the need instead of the One who gives us joy as we serve with His strength.
So, we translate to the glory of Christ, on behalf of the church, equipping churches in their own languages for the reading, preaching, and teaching of the Word, in personal obedience to God who calls us to this ministry.
Let’s keep the Lamb of God ever before us.
Until we join the worship of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, around the throne, may this vision move us to serve the church, proclaim His greatness, and advance the translation of His Word.