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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

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Verses 1-5

The Scroll

Revelation 5:1. In this new chapter your eye is focused on “a book” which is “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne”. In the previous verses you’ve seen that all power is in the hands of the Lord Jesus. In the scene that you now see, it is presented in the way in which the Lord Jesus takes all power in His hands. He already has had the power since His work on the cross (Matthew 28:18), but here we have the moment that He openly accepts His power. Therefore it is a very impressive moment.

Usually people write only “inside” a book, but of this one also “the back” or the outside is written on. It is totally filled with texts without any room for someone to add something to it. Indeed nothing is to be added to it, because the book contains the property rights of Christ (cf. Jeremiah 31:1-Joshua :; Leviticus 25:23-Lamentations :). From this book it appears that He is authorized to execute judgments that are needed to purify the earth and then to fulfill the counsels of God with regard to creation.

The judgments are described in Revelation 6-19. In the chapters afterwards the fulfillment of all God’s plans follow with a blessing for both the old and the new creation. That all this has been recorded in a book means that it is all unchangeably established and it is being carried out controllably as it is described. The book contains the history of the future. Only God is able to write history beforehand.

The book is “sealed up with seven seals”. That means that in order to open the book, these seals are first to be broken. Therefore you see the first acts with regard to the judgments when in chapter 6 the seals are being broken one by one.

Revelation 5:2. But first the question arises who is worthy to open the book and break its seals. This question comes from the mouth of “a strong angel” and it sounds through the universe, through heaven and over the earth. The question is who the owner is of the inheritance described in it, which is creation. Another question is who has the right of obtaining the inheritance. That question must be answered, because the inheritance has fallen into the hands of an unlawful owner, the devil, caused by the guilt of man.

A strong angel is asking the question, but he himself is not the answer to the question, however powerful he may be. It must be someone who is worthy to do it and who is able to do it, who has the power. The right on the inheritance is therefore about the personal dignity of the heir and about the personal ability to execute the content of it. He Who meets both conditions (dignity and ability), is the Son of Man (John 5:27).

Revelation 5:3. The voice of the angel is sounded everywhere, but there is no answer from anywhere:
1. not from “heaven”, the dwelling place of the elect angels,
2. not from “the earth”, the dwelling place of men and
3. not from “under the earth”, the residence of other intelligent creatures.

The universe, in all its components (cf. Philippians 2:10), consists of not one single creature that is able to deal with the book. No one is able to do that, no one has the suitable ability (Psalms 49:8).

Revelation 5:4. When John sees that there is no reply to the question of the angel, he bursts into tears and weeps intensely. He weeps, not because he had been looking forward to the judgments, but which now will not be executed anymore, like Jonah once was very displeased in such a case (Jonah 4:1). No, he weeps, because he cannot stand the thought that evil will reign forever without being punished.

Numerous people have tried to open the book and to make the time of blessing to happen. That is still the effort of man. But he himself was and is a part of the evil and therefore completely unfit and also not able, incapable, to deal with the evil in a way that is pleasing to God. Is there really no one who is able to do it? Yes, there is a Man Who meets all God’s holy demands with regard to the evil.

Revelation 5:5. John may be weeping much, but not for long. An elder – a glorified believer who has insight in the ways and the counsels of God – says to him not to weep. For there is Someone Who is able to open the book and its seven seals. It is “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” about whom Jacob has prophesied (Genesis 49:9-1 Kings :). As the Lion He is the Ruler. He is also “the Root of David”. He belongs to the royal descendants, He is the true Son of David and has the legal right to reign. It is no one else than the Lord Jesus.

He gained His dignity and right by His victory on the cross. That is where He regained the ownership of creation. There He crushed the head of satan, who by wiles and craftiness has illegally taken possession of creation. He has paid the full ransom and repurchased the whole creation for God. He has the right to open the seals, which is the right of redeeming the earth, in order to purify it from all injustice. He has conquered on the cross and will give shape to that victory in everything He does.

Now read Revelation 5:1-5 again.

Reflection: Have you ever felt that the evil is in control and that it seems as if it will never change? When does that happen? How do you respond to that?

Verses 6-14

The Lamb

Revelation 5:6. John has heard that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed and is entitled to the creation. You can imagine that he is now expecting to see the impressive stature of the king of animals. But what does he see? A Lamb, of which originally is literally said, a little Lamb, a word that appears almost thirty times in Revelation. The diminutive (little) makes you feel the nullity even stronger. A lamb is completely defenseless, it doesn’t reflect any power; on the contrary, there is hardly anything weaker than that. And that image of weakness is even more amplified when you see the Lamb there “standing as if slain”.

Here you see in which way the Lord Jesus has overcome, namely by being slain. The Lamb stands there as an animal of which the throat has just been cut through. That means that the remembrance of Golgotha will remain to be preserved in heaven. But the Lord Jesus is not on the cross nor in the grave anymore; He is “in midst of the throne” (NKJV) of God, in other words, in glory. The work is finished! At the same time you read that the Lamb ‘stood’. That indicates that He is ready to come into action. The time of sitting is over (Revelation 3:21; Psalms 110:1).

The Lamb stands in the “midst”. He is the center “of the throne and of the four living creatures and … the elders”. Everything that has got to do with government and insight, finds its center in Him. He rules and acts. He does that as Lamb, but not as a defenseless Lamb. He has “seven horns”. ‘Horns’ speak of strength (1 Samuel 2:10; Luke 1:69), here especially of royal strength. ‘Seven’ horns means a perfect and absolute strength.

The Lord is however not only omnipotent, He is also omniscient. He has a perfect insight into all things that happen on earth. That’s what the “seven eyes” indicates as a representation of “the seven Spirits of God”. Here the number ‘seven’ symbolizes again the perfection of the Spirit through Whom He works (Isaiah 11:2). These seven Spirits are “sent out into all the earth”. That symbolizes that He is omnipresent. He knows perfectly about all things that come to pass. Nothing escapes from His all-seeing eyes (2 Chronicles 16:9; Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10).

Revelation 5:7. Then the Lamb walks to the throne. It must have been an awesome moment for John and everyone who at that moment are in heaven. What is happening now in heaven is a unique event. Everyone must be breathlessly watching this scene. The Lamb comes and takes the book out of the right hand of Him Who sits on the throne. Now He has the book in His hands. Without saying a word to one another, the Lamb, once slain, is given the full entitlement by the One Who sits on the throne, the triune God, to take back the stolen property.

The act is as calm as magnificent and sublime, full of majesty. The description is without any human addition in language or in act, which would only impair this unsurpassed moment. You should just take a moment to allow what is happening here to sink in.

Revelation 5:8. The time of waiting is over, the time of acting has come. The tension has been broken. After the Lamb took the book, heaven comes into action to worship the Lamb. Heaven is aware of the enormous importance of the book being taken. It means that the judgment over the world is very near and the age to come is about to start.

Both the representatives of God’s kingdom (the four living creatures) and the representatives of all believers who are in heaven, express their admiration for the Lamb. He is worthy and He has all power to do whatever is needed to perfectly carry out God’s plan to the end. They all have “a harp” for expressing their admiration. The harp is an instrument of praise and worship and is often mentioned with a view to the millennial kingdom of peace (Psalms 33:2; Psalms 43:4Psalms 49:4; Psalms 150:3).

Beside a harp they also all have “golden bowls full of incense”. The meaning of the incense is written right behind it. They are “the prayers of the saints” (cf. Psalms 141:2). Beside worshippers there are also intercessors on behalf of the believers who are on earth at that time. Those who are in heaven are aware of their relation to those who are in need on earth. These bowls may also contain the prayers of all saints that were prayed through all ages. In those days not many were saved, but most died as martyrs; but now those prayers will be answered. No prayer that has ever been sincerely prayed to God by a believer will remain unanswered.

Revelation 5:9. These worshippers and intercessors themselves are not in need and are free from sufferings. For them the time to sing has come. “They *sang a new song.” It is a song that the earth has not known yet, neither Moses (cf. Revelation 15:3), nor David, though he also speaks of a ‘new song’ (Psalms 33:3; Psalms 96:1). Only those who were bought by the blood of the Lamb are able to sing it.

When the redeemed people were on earth, they sang songs of deliverance, songs that were forward-looking to the time of victory and the kingdom of glory. Those were songs of hope. But when the book is taken and opened, the songs will change into songs of victory and celebration of the peace that will come. Above all, they will sing to Him Who has worked all things.

In this new song they reply to the question that was asked in Revelation 5:2 by the strong angel. They sing to the Lamb: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals.” He is the content of the song and not the believer or what he has received. They also sing why He is worthy of it: the incredible work of redemption and atonement which He has accomplished in the offering of Himself. He was slain. In that way His blood was shed as the purchase price. In that way He has purchased, and indeed it was “to God”.

The purchased ones come from all parts of the world population. It is not only the church (Matthew 13:44), but those are all believers from all ages. He is the true Redeemer of the Old Testament, the true Boaz. He not only bought the believers. He has obtained the believers as a special property (1 Corinthians 6:20). But He bought the whole earth including the unbelievers (2 Peter 2:1; cf. John 17:2; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 13:44).

Revelation 5:10. The elders do not worship God for what they themselves are, but for what He has made of the ransomed ones. Therefore they sing about “them”. It indeed refers to themselves, but they do not intend to promote themselves as the theme of the new song. Their only intention is to draw all attention to the Lord Jesus. All light must fall on Him.

It is because of Him that they were made “a kingdom and priests”. What an awesome transformation for men who once were in bondage of sin and worshippers of satan. They are now ‘kings’ of a kingdom where the Lord Jesus has all authority. They are allowed to serve Him there. As subjects of that kingdom they now find themselves already under His blessed reign, a reign that will soon be established on earth.

They are also as priests of God in His presence to worship Him. In that way man has come at the highest level of God’s purpose with him (Matthew 4:10).

As an extra favor they are also allowed to “reign upon the earth” together with the Lord Jesus.

Revelation 5:11. John sees and hears that others mix themselves in the worship. It is the voice of an enormous number of angels. The numbers that are mentioned indicate that it is about innumerable millions of angels. They form a circle around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, in the midst of which the Lamb is standing (Revelation 5:6). The angels have no personal part in the redemption. Therefore they are standing at a greater distance of the Lamb. But they certainly have great admiration for Him Who has accomplished the work of redemption.

Revelation 5:12. The angels also worship Him as the Lamb That was slain. They see the effect of it and know that the cause of it lies in Him and His work. Everything they mention has always been used by man through the ages, in order to exalt himself. Now the time has come that all these things will be used by the true Man to exalt God. He is the Owner of it all, but it will become visible by His acts. And everything that becomes visible of Him prompts everyone who sees it to exclamations of admiration.

1. It begins with “power”. The power that man has used to destroy his way on earth, is used by Him in judgment and thereafter in blessing.
2. All “riches” of the universe is His and will no more be misused, but will expose Him in His manifold luster.
3. He is the “wisdom” and will make that visible in all His ways and works.
4. He has the “might” that enables Him to carry out what He has decided to do.
5. He is worthy of all “honor” and that will openly be given to Him.
6. Everything that becomes visible of Him, is pure “glory”, splendor and majesty.
7. “Blessing” is ascribed to Him, Who once was so maligned.

Revelation 5:13. The circle of worshippers gets bigger. The whole creation, everything that has been created, rejoices in God and the Lamb. Then the curse will be taken away from creation. This form of praise will never come to an end.

Revelation 5:14. The executors of God’s judgment agree with the praise. The only thing the elders can do is fall down and worship.

Now read Revelation 5:6-14 again.

Reflection: Tell the Lamb about the admiration in your heart for Him.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-5.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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