Chapter 5

Introduction

The seal introduction, which began in chapter 4, now continues and concludes here in chapter 5. This introduction serves to explain the objective that will be accomplished within the seal period. That objective will be completed when all of the seal events have taken place, and those seal events will be described in the next chapter.

Commentary

The Seven-Sealed Scroll

Chapter 4 presented God the Father depicted as the undisputed king of heaven, and now we shall see what He intends to do with regard to the earth.

1I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it

v1 book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals – Here we see God the Father producing a book (in the form of a scroll) that is closed (rolled up) and kept closed by seven seals.

That it is written on the inside and on the back suggests a similarity to the scroll in Ezek 2:9-10: 9Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.

On the other hand, there is an important difference between these two scrolls, because the scroll in Ezekiel 2 was handed to the prophet himself and he was told to eat it (Ezek 3:1). In contrast, the scroll here in Revelation 5 shall be handed to the Lamb (the Son of God in verse 7) and He will open it. Ezekiel’s scroll actually bears a greater resemblance to another scroll seen in Revelation 10, because there, the scroll is handed to the John himself, and John will also be told to eat it.

So, the fact that the Lamb’s scroll is written on the front and back like the scroll given to Ezekiel is probably intended to indicate only a similarity in content. We see that Ezekiel’s scroll was full of lamentations, mourning and woe for Israel, and the same can be said about the Lamb’s scroll, except that it is full of woe for the entire earth (Rev 1:7, Rev 8:13, Rev 12:12, Rev 18:19).

v2 Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals? – It is quickly made clear that not just anyone can open this scroll. It requires someone who is worthy.

v3 no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it – There is an (apparently) exhaustive search for someone who is worthy, and for a moment, it seems that there is no one.

v4 I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy – This compels John to weep greatly. The fact that he is weeping implies that John knows what the scroll represents — and he knows that it’s vitally important that it be opened.

What Does The Scroll Represent?

The obvious importance of this scroll, John’s awareness of what it means, and his weeping over the thought that it might not be opened suggests only one thing: This scroll must represent some promised objective that God has made known to His people, and that this objective must be greatly desired by both God and His people.

There is one such promised objective that has been revealed for which we are still awaiting its fulfillment: The promise that the kingdom of God will come to the earth. This promise entails Christ returning to fulfill His rightful role as king on earth forever, and with the saints reigning with Him victoriously.

This promise has been made numerous times throughout the Bible, starting way back in Genesis, and all through the Old Testament prophets. When Jesus made his first appearance on earth 2000 years ago, the promise of the coming kingdom of God was his primary topic. I refer to this promise as the Great Promise of the Bible.

As we go forward in Revelation, we will see that the fulfillment of this promise is exactly what will be brought about as this seven-sealed scroll is opened. But first, one must be found worthy to open it.

With this understanding of what the scroll means, it is no wonder that John wept so bitterly when it appeared that the promise would fail. If this scroll cannot be opened, then there is no second coming, no kingdom, no victory, and God’s promise failed. However, a promise from God cannot fail, as we will see.

Christ is Worthy to Open the Scroll

5and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

6And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

10“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

v5 behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals – One is finally found who can open the scroll, and thus bring about the Great Promise. Without doubt, this worthy one is Jesus Christ. Importantly, he is introduced as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David which emphasizes his status as the heir to David’s earthly kingdom of Israel, and thus his upcoming role as king on earth.

Side note: We are not to believe that there was (or will be) any doubt about finding the one worthy to open this scroll. The drama presented in verses 2-5 is a device to stress two points:
(1) the absolute importance that the scroll be opened, and
(2) the absolute uniqueness of Christ as the one worthy to open it.

v6 a Lamb standing, as if slain – When John looks to see the “Lion of Judah”, he instead sees a Lamb that appears as if slain! This again is a reference to Jesus, but this time the imagery emphasizes his role as priest, which he fulfilled at his first coming. In his role as priest, he offered up the perfect sacrifice to make atonement for sin — his own sinless body. Or, as John the Baptist declared in John 1:29, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. The lion and lamb imagery makes it clear that the coming king is the same Jesus who is our faithful high priest. As Zech 6:13 foretold, He will be a priest on His throne.

v7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne – The scriptures are very clear that only God the Father (the one on the throne) knows when the Great Promise of Christ’s coming kingdom will be fulfilled (Matt 24:36) and only He has the authority to initiate this event (Acts 1:7). God’s initiation of this Great Promise is exactly what we are seeing as the Father produces this scroll and hands it to His Son.

v9 they sang a new song – The song answers the question of why Christ is uniquely worthy to open the scroll, and thus fulfill the Great Promise.

v9-10 9for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation 10“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” – Christ is uniquely worthy to bring the kingdom of God to earth. One reason (mentioned above) is that he is the rightful heir to David’s earthly throne. The other reason, mentioned here, is that Christ purchased people from earth for His kingdom. There are people in Christ’s kingdom only because Christ lovingly purchased them with his own blood in his role as priest (see Why Two Comings of Christ). The people in His kingdom are called priests in verse 10 because, having been cleansed, they may all come directly into the presence of God.

His subjects had to be purchased for His kingdom because they were not born into the kingdom of God. According to Eph 2:1-3, we were all once outside the kingdom, slaves to the devil who is called the ruler of this world or the prince of the air (John 12:31; John 14:30; Eph 2:2). This transaction is well described in Col 1:13-14: For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The price Christ paid was sufficient for all people, but some don’t want to honor Christ as their king, and so they continue to rebel. Nevertheless, Christ is the rightful king who will reign on earth, and those people who rebel will still come under His authority and judgement. Jesus described this in his parable of the rebellious citizens (e.g. Luke 19:12,13,14,15,27).

The Purpose of the Scroll

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

14And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

v12 Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing – As heaven explodes into praise, the countless angels pronounce the things that the lamb is worthy to receive: power, wealth, glory and honor. Note that these are the things attributed to a king. In fact, they are the same things attributed to God the King of Heaven in Rev 4:11.

This verse helps us understand the purpose of the scroll. The Lamb who was declared worthy to receive the scroll is now declared worthy to receive the kingdom (dominion) upon the earth. It’s not that the scroll and the kingdom are two different things that the Lamb is worthy to receive, but rather that the scroll represents the kingdom. Receiving the scroll represents receiving the kingdom on earth.

v13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. – This statement is the logical conclusion of the Great Promise fulfilled: All of creation — both heaven and earth — are unified in fully acknowledging the the honor, glory, and authority of God and Christ (Dan 7:27, Zech 14:9).

In short, verses 12-13 are announcing the long-awaited coronation of Christ as the king on earth.

The United Kings

Please do not miss the significance of the imagery across chapters 4 and 5.

  • In chapter 4, God the Father is depicted as the King of Heaven, where He is worshipped fully.
  • In chapter 5, Christ is depicted as the coming and worthy King on earth, where He shall be worshipped fully.

We see that both of these kings, Father and Son, and thus their kingdoms, shall be in perfect unity. In other words, the kingdom of earth will finally be united with the kingdom of heaven, and God shall be worshiped as the king of kings everywhere. We see this united kingdom of God expressed clearly in Rev 11:15 – Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever”.

Jesus taught his followers to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matt 6:10 KJV). This prayer shall finally and positively be answered by the opening of this scroll.

Again, all of this is the Great Promise being fulfilled.

The seal introduction presented in chapters 4 and 5 has thus provided us with the objective that will be accomplished by the seal events. Those events begin in the next chapter, as Christ proceeds to break open the seven seals on this scroll.

Side note: Please understand that the events described in the next chapter do not chronologically follow the coronation of Christ seen at the end of this chapter. The coronation of Christ is the ultimate consequence of opening the seven-sealed scroll, and the next chapter describes the process of opening that scroll. As we shall see, the opening of the seals represent the events leading up to Christ’s coronation as king on earth.

Then, the subsequent chapters up through chapter 19 will add even more layers of descriptions with even greater detail, but each layer concludes with the coronation of Christ. Finally, in chapters 20 through 22, we will be given more detail about the time following the coronation of Christ.

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