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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-14

Chapter 5

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne a scroll that had writing both within and on the backside, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open this scroll, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I sobbed convulsively, because no man was found worthy to open and read the book, neither to look thereon ( Revelation 5:1-4 ).

What is this book that has such a strong reaction upon John when no one is found worthy to open? This book is nothing other than the title deed to the earth. Under Jewish law whenever you sold property in the deed there was always a redemptive clause. You always had the right to buy the property back within a specified period of time providing you could fulfill the terms and the requirements that were written in the deed.

So wherever there was the sale of property, there was always two deeds that were drawn up. One deed was sealed and it was put away in a safe deposit. The other remained open and was kept by the person who sold the property. And in the time of redemption you would bring both deeds, the one that was open and the one that was sealed. And by the open deed you would prove that you were the one that had the right to redeem it. And in the redeeming of it, you would break the seals of the closed deed and you would fulfill the requirements therein, and thus, the property would revert to you.

In the book of Jeremiah thirty-two, we find Jeremiah is in the prison. He has predicted that Jerusalem is going to fall to the Babylonians. He has encouraged the people not to resist in order to spare their own lives, because resistance would be suicide. The Babylonians are going to conquer them and so capitulate. Well, he was arrested for treason and he was thrown into the dungeon, because of his encouraging of the people not to try to resist the Babylonian invasion, but to surrender because Babylon was going to conquer them. He also prophesied that after seventy years of Babylonian captivity, they were going to come back and they were going to occupy the land again. They were going to be carried off to Babylon, but after seventy years they will come back and occupy the land.

Now, here you are. The Babylonian army is outside of the city. It has now put the siege around the city. They are about ready to conquer the city and here is Jeremiah sitting in the prison, because he has encouraged the people not to resist because they are going to fall. But he has also prophesied we are going to have this land again.

So the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and said, "Look your uncle's property is coming up for redemption. Go ahead and redeem it." Now there was this clause in these contracts that if you personally could not redeem your property again, then one of your relatives could step in and redeem it for you so that the property remained in the family.

So the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah that Hanameel's field is coming up for redemption. "Go ahead and redeem it." His uncle was unable to do it himself. So in order to show his faith to the people in the promise of God that they were going to come back and have this land again, Jeremiah went ahead and redeemed the field.

The next day as he was there in the dungeon, his cousin came in and said, "Hey, my dad wants you to redeem the field. The right of redemption is yours. He can't do it. He wants you to redeem it. Jeremiah knew it was the Word of the Lord that came to him saying, "Redeem the field of Hanameel." So he said, "I took the instruments and I sealed the one." And He gave them to his scribe and he said, "Now bury these in a jar so that when we finally come back into the land. So keep the two documents, the one that is sealed and the other, and bury them both together in the jar, and when we come back into the land we will claim this field which is ours." So you can read that in the thirty-second chapter, the two deeds that were written up, the one that was sealed and the other that was open.

So, here we find in the scroll of the right hand of Him who was sitting upon the throne, a scroll that is sealed with seven seals. It is a title deed. It is the title deed to the earth.

Originally the earth belonged to God by creation. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof and all they that dwell therein" ( Psalms 24:1 ). When God created man, God gave to man the earth. He said to Adam, "have dominion over the fish of the sea, the foul of the air, over every moving and creeping thing for I have given it unto thee. It is yours"( Genesis 1:26 ). So God gave the earth to man. But Adam turned the earth over to Satan when he disobeyed God and obeyed the suggestion of Satan. He forfeited the earth over to Satan and it became Satan's. We sing this is my Father's world. Yes, in a technical sense. Yet, in a very practical sense at the present time it is Satan's world. Paul said, "He is the god of this world. He has blinded the eyes of the people" ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). Jesus twice or three times called him the prince of this world.

You remember when Jesus came; what was the purpose of His coming? It was to redeem the world back to God. And what was the first thing Satan did? He took him out into the wilderness and tempted Him. The first was to turn the stone into bread. But the second, he took Him up unto a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. And he said, "I will give these all to you and the glory of them, if you will bow down and worship me, for they are mine and I can give them to whoever I will"( Luke 4:6-7 ).

What a boast Satan is making. "Hey, the whole world is mine. I have the capacity to give to whomever I will." And Jesus did not dispute that claim. It's right. The world is in Satan's control. The world is in rebellion against God. Satan indeed is the god of this world, and when you receive Jesus Christ, you become an alien to the world. Jesus said, "If you were of the world, than the world would love you, because the world loves its own, but you are not of the world"( John 15:19 ). This world is under Satan's power and control. That is why it is so obviously wrong to blame God for all the problems that exist in the world today; yet, man wants to blame God for all of the suffering that is going on in the world.

If God is the God of love, than why are there people starving in Ethiopia? Why over in Cambodia are they going through such horrors? If God is the God of love, why are children suffering here, there, and in other places? Why this? Why that, if God is a God of love? Because the world belongs to Satan in rebellion against God and man has joined in Satan's rebellion.

And I am certain that if we could have a vote, and we placed on the ballot "Who do we want to rule over the world? God or Satan," Satan would win by a landslide. Now you may challenge that statement. But just put Satan in the guise of the flesh in which he comes, living after the flesh or living after righteousness, and you don't have to go to the ballot. People express their vote by the lifestyles that they live. And I dare say that those that are living after the flesh far outnumber those that are living after the Spirit. So, the person casts his vote by his lifestyle and obviously Satan has won by a landslide.

Living a righteous life, living after the Spirit is not the popular life. It isn't the life that is applauded by the world nor even admired by the world. So Jesus came to redeem the world back to God. He paid the price of redemption. And what was the price of redemption? His blood shed upon the cross. And whenever you read of redemption in the New Testament, it is always related to the blood of Jesus Christ. That was the price that He paid to redeem the world.

When Adam died, he died for his own sin, because God declared that the soul that sinneth, it shall surely die. He said to Adam, "In the day that you eat thereof, you are going to die"( Genesis 2:17 ). When he died, he died for his own sin, and so with every other man since Adam with the exception of one. There was only one man who died for the sins of others not for his own. Jesus was without sin. Peter said, "We are redeemed not with corruptible things like silver and gold from our empty manner of living, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ who was slain as a lamb without spot or blemish" ( 1 Peter 1:18-19 ). So in the innocent one dying, His death then was the price paid for the redemption of the world.

Jesus said, " The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man going through a field and discovering a treasure, and who for the joy thereof immediately goes out and sells everything that he has in order that he might buy that field so he can obtain the treasure"( Matthew 13:44 ). And the parable, the field represents the world. Jesus said, " Now the field is the world." Who gave then everything to purchase the world? Jesus Christ. And for what purpose did He purchase the world? That he might take the treasure out of it. And what is the treasure? His church, the body of Christ, you who have come to believe and trust in Him. And He redeemed the whole world that He might take you out of it.

So, as we come now to the heavenly scene, we are coming now to that time of redemption. There was always the appointed time when the property was to be redeemed. And of course there was another specification within the law. If you or your family members were unable to redeem the property at the time of redemption, then you lost the rights of the property forever and it remains now perpetually in the new family ownership that has taken control. You have lost your rights forever. You had the one chance to redeem it and that was it.

In most cases the redemption period that was set was that of seven years, which corresponded also to the time of redemption for a man who was sold into slavery. You could not remain there for more than seven years. Interesting to me that just about six millennia ago, man was sold into slavery to sin and the world was sold over to Satan and he took control and has had control for almost six thousand years. For Adam forfeited the earth just about 4000 years B.C. and we are coming out to the 2000 years AD

I personally believe that this year of redemption is coming up very soon. And what we are reading about here in the book of Revelation will take place within twenty-five earth years. I believe that God has established that six thousand years, the six in one pattern, and that it will be fulfilled in the big overall view, when Satan will have had his reign for the six thousand years and the earth is now coming up for redemption.

And here is the heavenly scene and we observe it here with John. An awesome scene, there on the throne God sits with all of His glory, as the cherubim worship Him, and as the twenty-four elders respond to the worship declaring the worthiness of God to receive it. And now the scroll in His right hand and the angel proclaiming with this strong loud voice, "Who is worthy to open this scroll, and to loose the seals." And then the notation, "No man was found worthy." What does that mean? No man has the capacity to redeem the world.

Now every four years we have men stand up and tell you that they can save the world. And if you will just vote for them, they have got a program and a plan of redemption. And man has been trying to redeem mankind, but no man is found worthy. No man can redeem himself, much less the world. So, no man was found worthy. And this of course then brings on John's weeping. Why? Because if nobody redeems it, it stays Satan's domain forever. That thought is more than John can bear. It wipes him out. He begins to sob convulsively with a horrible contemplation that the world will forever be under Satan's control and power and the misery will reign on and on through that.

And I wept much [literally sobbed convulsively], because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. [Don't worry, John, it is not all lost. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has prevailed.] And I beheld, and, lo, in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, there stood a Lamb as it had been slain [literally slaughtered], having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book [or scroll] out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne ( Revelation 5:4-7 ).

It is interesting to me that the elder declares to John, "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah". When John sees Him, he sees Him as a lamb that had been slaughtered, which would indicate that John perhaps sees Him still bearing the marks of the cross and His suffering for us.

It could be that your first view of Jesus in heaven will be a very shocking experience. For in our minds we have envisioned in looking upon the face of Jesus of seeing someone who is just perfect in beauty, glory, standing in awe of that beauty. But in the prophecy of Isaiah fifty-two and fifty-three, he said, "And as many as looked upon him were astonished." They were shocked. For his face was so marred you could not recognize Him as a human being. "And we hid as it were our faces from him." In other words, it was so shocking we could not bear to look. But then he went on to say, "But He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities."

These wounds that he bears are the wounds that he suffers for you when He paid the price of your redemption, when He took the judgment for your sins, when He died in your place. And it could very well be that our first view in heaven, prior to this completion of the redemptive act, that our fist view of Jesus will be a very shocking experience as we see Him with the marks of the sufferings that He bore for us in order to redeem us.

I turned and I saw him as a Lamb that had been slaughtered there in the midst of the throne among the living creatures, the cherubim, and in the midst of the twenty-four elders, there stood the Lamb.

And when he had taken the book, the four cherubim, living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints ( Revelation 5:8 ).

When in the Old Testament the priests went into the holy place of the Tabernacle each day, he bore a little golden bowl that was attached to these golden chains. And he would have incense in this little golden bowl, and when he would come past the altar where the sacrifices had been offered, he would take a burning coal from the altar and would place it in this little bowl of incense. And of course, the smoke of the incense would begin to rise. And he would go into the holy place where they had the altar of incense, and he would wave this little golden bowl of incense before the altar and the sweet savor of smoke would ascend up before the veil, behind which dwelt the presence of God. And it was the offering of incense unto God, which was representing the prayers of the people. And there are scriptures that refer to our prayers ascending as sweet incense before God.

So at this point these twenty-four elders act, as do the priests when they take these little golden bowls full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints, and they offer them at this point before God.

Now our redemption is not yet complete. The price is complete. It has been paid. Jesus died once and for all. But, Paul the apostle in Romans eight said, "And we and all creation do groan and travail waiting for our redemption, to wit, the redemption of this body." So in the mean time, my body is not yet redeemed. I am longing for that day. I am waiting for that time.

In the meantime, God has given to me the Holy Spirit as a down payment, as an earnest of my inheritance until the redemption of His purchased possession. So God has shown that He is earnest in His intentions of redeeming you, and to show you that He gave to you the Holy Spirit. He has sealed you with that Spirit of promise until the day of redemption. And Paul talks about that in the first chapter of the book of Ephesians. One of the glorious blessings that we have in Christ, in heavenly places, is that after we believe we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession. The Lord has purchased you. He has paid the price. He hasn't yet picked you up. He has paid the down payment, but He is coming to get you one of these days. He says, "Hey, they are mine. I paid the down payment. This is it."

Now we are told in Hebrews that God has put all things in subjection unto Him, but we don't yet see all things in subjection. That isn't yet the reality. We still see a world that is in rebellion against Him. It is not submitted to Him. The world is in rebellion against Him. So we do not yet see all things in subjection unto Him, but we do see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, and He is waiting until the Father brings all things into subjection. He is resting in His finished work and now the Father is going to bring all things into subjection unto Him and He is going to establish Him then as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. But the redemption is not yet complete, for He hasn't yet laid claim to that which He purchased.

It is like you going in to buy something from the department store and you realize you don't have enough money for it right now, but you want it, so you put a down payment on it and you would like them to hold it for you. So they will write up the contract and put it on hold and you have a specified period of time to come in and pick it up. In the meantime it belongs to you technically. No one else can come in and buy it. Someone else could come in and say that they want it, but they would say, "Sorry, we sold the last one. They put the down payment on it." So that is the earnest. You showed that you are earnest. You are intending to buy it. That is what it is all about. You just haven't picked it up yet. So, we have the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.

So as they offer these little bowls, odors before the throne of God, the prayers of the saints. How many times have you prayed "Thine kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven"? That is an unanswered prayer up to this point. Now the church has been offering that prayer for centuries, but that is still an unanswered prayer. Now it doesn't mean that God does not intend to answer it. God does intend to answer that prayer. It is just a matter of timing, which of course is one of the problems with a lot of our prayers.

The time is now come and so the prayers are now brought before the throne of God, the prayers of the saints, the prayers through the centuries, "Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven". And soon God's kingdom will be coming and soon the will of God will be done here on the earth even as it is in heaven. And you won't have the rebellion against God, which is destroying our planet, but you will have a planet all in obedience and subjection to Him. Oh, what a glorious place this could be if everybody lived as God wanted us to live, if we lived together in love, in righteousness and peace. For the kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but righteousness, peace and joy.

The earth can produce enough food for everybody. It is just that we are using the resources and managing the resources very poorly. We are using them for the wrong purposes, but when Jesus comes and establishes His kingdom, then shall we see the earth that God intended and righteousness upon the earth covering the earth as the waters do cover the sea.

And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and you've redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ( Revelation 5:9 );

So, redemption. "Thou art worthy to take the book and loose the seals for you have redeemed us by your blood, out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation".

Now the question: Who can sing this song? Is this the song of redeemed Israel? No, because these people are taken out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation. Surely it is not the song of angels. That leaves us one group, the church. The song of the redeemed church made up of people from all over the world, from every family, every tribe upon the earth. They are redeemed through Jesus Christ, the family of God, one in Christ. For "there is neither Jew, nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all" ( Colossians 3:11 ), one big family in Jesus singing of the redemption through His blood.

Which brings up a very interesting point. Inasmuch as the Tribulation does not begin until chapter six and the church is there in heaven declaring the worthiness of the Lamb to take the scroll and loose the seals, the Tribulation does not begin until the seals are loosed. It precludes the church being on the earth during the Great Tribulation period. Surely the Lord is not going to send us back down to go through the Tribulation and then rapture us again.

And have made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the eaRuth ( Revelation 5:10 ).

Jesus, again to the overcomers, promised that they would be able to reign with Him, in His kingdom, and that ruling with Him with a rod of iron, that is to Thyatira.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ( Revelation 5:11 );

Now what is ten thousand times ten thousand? One hundred million. Thousand of thousands would be millions more. How many are redeemed and will be there in heaven? I don't know, but a good-sized crowd. All one in Christ, all declaring the glory of our Lord.

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing ( Revelation 5:12 ).

So that chorus of angels joining in with the church. You see, they can't sing the verse. They only can sing the chorus. They don't know what it is to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. But when we come to the chorus and we begin to declare His worthiness to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing, they can join that chorus and they do.

And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped him that lives for ever and ever ( Revelation 5:13-14 ).

So, this scene in redemption in the heavenly places. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Revelation 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/revelation-5.html. 2014.
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