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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

Christ, the Lion and the Lamb, Praised with a New Song.

The book sealed with seven seals:

v. 1. And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals.

v. 2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof?

v. 3. And no man in heaven nor in earth, neither under the earth was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

v. 4. And I wept much because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

This is a continuation of the second vision and again presents the majesty of God together with His eternal love. A new incident is introduced: And I saw on the right hand of Him that was sitting on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Not in the clenched hand, but on the open hand of the Lord there lay a scroll, the form in which books were then produced, a long roll of parchment or of sheets of papyrus fastened together. The writing on this scroll covered not only the front, but also the reverse side. But the scroll was not open to be unrolled by any one that chose to do so, but it was sealed, and not only with one seal pressed upon the cord that was passed around the roll, but with seven distinct seals, secure against prying hands and eyes. This book contained the thoughts and works of God as they were to be executed among men, the divine course and counsel in the latter days.

The prophet now relates: And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals? All the good angels are powerful spirits, they excel in strength, Psalms 103:20. But here it is specifically stated that it was one of the mighty ones of Jehovah that stepped forth with his challenging cry, which was intended to penetrate through the universe and to reach every created being. He wanted to know which man on earth was able to unroll the scroll in the hand of the Lord, after breaking its seals. Only echo answered him: And no one in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth was able to open the scroll or have a look at it. No angel from the realms of heaven, no man nor any animal in all the wide world, none of the spirits of darkness, whose abode is commonly placed in the regions beneath the earth, was able to find out and to tell what God had planned in His secret counsels concerning events in the last days of the world. Satan is a mighty spirit and is able to perform many wicked deeds, but only if God permits it. There is no creature familiar with the counsels of the Lord, nor can any man uncover them. John misunderstood the meaning of this fact for a moment: And I wept abundantly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to take a look at it. He supposed that prophecy and revelation had ceased forever, that the Lord would never again make known His counsels to men. It was not disappointed curiosity, nor was it weakness of faith which caused the tears of the seer, but only his fervent love for the Church of Christ, which is often obliged to walk through so many dark valleys, with no light from the hills to show the way or to promise help. To this day it is not the weeping Christian that is objectionable to the Lord, but the indifferent church-member.

Verses 5-7

The Lamb that was slain:

v. 5. 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.

v. 6. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

v. 7. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.

The flood of tears which John's love for the Church had caused him to weep was soon stopped: And one of the elders says to me, Do not weep; behold, the Lion out of the tribe of Judah has conquered, the Root of David, to open the scroll and its seven seals. One of the twenty-four elders that sat on twenty-four thrones about the central throne of the Lord comforted John with a wonderful word of consolation, bidding him not to weep. The Church at all times has the best, the most reliable comfort for all situations in life, from the Word of God's grace. Lifting up his finger with impressive solemnity, the elder pointed out the true Comforter, who in His humiliation resembled a lamb, was the Lamb of God, but now, in His exaltation, is the victorious Lion Jesus Christ, the Lion out of the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:9-10, set out to conquer all the enemies of mankind, and He, the God-man, did overcome and vanquish them all. He, the Root of David, Isaiah 11:1-10, that grew up as a root out of dry ground, a shoot of a stem that had practically died, He had prevailed, He had gained the victory. And so the result was that He could loose the seals and unroll the scroll of the counsels of God. The only-begotten Son of God has revealed the Father to us, and He is still making known to us what we need to know for this short life, until we leave its trials and problems behind us and enter into the presence where all that we must know shall be revealed to us in glory. Note: in the great work of redemption and government of the Church the Lord, our heavenly Father, does not deal with us directly, but through His Son, Jesus Christ. Just as Christ wrought a complete vicarious redemption for us, so He is active as our Prophet to this day, making known to us the gracious and good will of the Father.

John having dashed away the tears of his weeping was gladdened by a wonderful sight: And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings and in the midst of the elders a Lamb standing as having been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent into all the earth. The description is such as to concentrate the entire attention of the reader upon that wonderful Lamb: Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, is the center of all contemplation in the New Testament. The Lamb was in the very midst of elders and cherubs, it occupied the very throne of God. He bore the marks of having been slain, it was still to be noticed that He had been the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and yet He stood forth in triumphant power. For He possessed seven horns and seven eyes, which the prophet himself explains as signifying the sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and of knowledge, who searches all things, even the deep things of God. In Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. The powers of Christ's Holy Spirit go forth into the world and gain one victory after the other for the Lamb that was slain, as He wills it.

That Christ, He who was slain for the sins of the world, but has now been exalted to the right hand of the power of God, is immeasurably supreme over all creatures is shown by the action which is ascribed to Him: And He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne. That was Christ, the patient Lamb of God, but also Christ, the conquering Lion out of the tribe of Judah. He was worthy and fit, He had the right and the power to go to His heavenly Father and receive from Him the counsels concerning the Church. He alone is the proper interpreter of the divine counsel, for He Himself is the Ruler, to whom the Father has entrusted the Kingdom. As the eternal God. coordinated Kith the Father in majesty and power, also according to His human nature, Jesus is the Head of the congregation, over all, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all, Ephesians 1:23. Thus Jesus Christ is on the throne of the Father, but also in the midst of His Church, and therefore the fortunes of the believers are safe in His hands

Verses 8-10

The song of the elders:

v. 8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.

v. 9. And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation;

v. 10. and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.

Jesus the Savior is here the sole center of interest; everything revolves about Him: And when He had taken the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, every one having a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. The taking of the scroll by the Lamb was a signal for a general demonstration of adoration. The strange and wonderful living beings, the four cherubs which John had described chap. 4:7, united with the elders, as the representatives of the Church of Christ, in bringing homage to the Lamb. They fell down in an attitude of submission and worship; they presented their bowls of incense, the prayers of the saints on earth, of all faithful believers everywhere: they made ready their harps for a striking hymn of praise. The bowls of gold were truly types of the believing hearts in whom the daily burnt offering of the New Testament is burning without ceasing, a sweet savor unto the Lord. Note that no distinction is observed between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant; for these two are in reality one, and it is the same spirit in which they together bring praise and honor to Christ.

Now their hymn is recorded: And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy art Thou to receive the scroll and to open its seals, because Thou wast slain and didst redeem us to God by Thy blood from every tribe and language and people and nation, and Thou hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign upon the earth. In the first part of the vision the hymn had been addressed to God the Creator, but here it is directed to the Lamb as Redeemer, for the cost and scope and result of His redemption. It is a new song, which will never grow old, which will never be omitted in the Church, neither here in time nor hereafter in eternity. Every new revelation of the glory of the Lamb renews the beauty of the first mercy, by which He became our Savior. All the elders join in this song, since it is the hymn of the whole Church. They praise the Lamb as worthy of the greatest honor in the kingdom of God, of being the intimate of the Father in the secrets of His eternal counsel, of knowing the things which are written in the scroll of God's decrees. This worthiness is enhanced by the fact that the Lamb was sacrificed for us, that His body, His blood became the true expiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. To God we have been redeemed by the holy, innocent blood of His only-begotten Son. It is a salvation which was earned for all men: regardless of tribe and language and people and nation: to all men the free grace of God in Christ Jesus is offered. The believers, then, those that are enjoying the fruit, of this glorious redemption, are not only called into His fellowship, to receive from Him, of His fullness, daily, and grace for grace, but the Lord has even constituted them a kingdom, a royal priesthood, chap. 1:6; 1 Peter 2:9, He has appointed them to rule with Him on earth. Although we are now despised and rejected of men, we are in reality partakers in Christ's rule of the world, and the time will come when this power will be revealed to the astonished unbelievers, to their eternal discomfiture.

Verses 11-14

The choruses of praise:

v. 11. And I beheld, and I Heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands;

v. 12. saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

v. 13. 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 honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.

v. 14. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth forever and ever.

The hymn of praise is here taken up by a larger circle of blessed spirits and creatures, in a sacred concert with such, magnificent antiphonal singing as pertains to the halls of heaven alone: And I saw, and I heard as the voice of many angels round about the throne and the living beings and the elders, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. The very angels go into ecstasies over the work of redemption as performed by the Lamb that was slain. With eyes and ears that mere held open by the inexpressible wonder of it all John took notice of the countless celestial beings as they circled round the throne and the cherubs and the elders, their voices rising in such anthems of glory as pertain to the realms of eternal joy.

Their song is practically a repetition of that of the elders: Saying with a mighty voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise. Although this outer circle of angels does not address its praise directly to Christ, yet the angels laud and magnify the work of redemption by which mankind has been redeemed from everlasting ruin; for the angels themselves have a desire to look into the depths of God's love shown in the salvation of the world. They declare the Lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of the world to be worthy of all the great gifts and blessings which came upon Him, were given to Him, at the time of His exaltation to the right hand of God. "Honor and glory and praise are due to Him whose victorious death has won Him the power of bestowing incalculable riches on His people, and of lifting the veil of the future, where He finds this in the interest of His Church."

And still wider are drawn the circles of adoring praise: And every creature in heaven and on the earth and beneath the earth and on the sea and all that are in them I heard saying, To Him that sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and might forever and ever. Here the fulfillment of St. Paul's words, Php_2:10-11 , is recorded and described, that in the name of Christ every knee should bow. of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that, all tongues should confess that Jesus is the Lord. See Psalms 103:22; Psalms 145:10. Whether willingly or unwillingly, every creature is obliged to acknowledge the deity, the divine godhead, of Christ, the exalted Son of Man, to praise, magnify, and bless Him, to yield itself to His dominion, to confess that to Him all the strength and wealth and wisdom of life rightly belong. And thus God is glorified, also in the glorification of His Son. The praise of God the Creator and the praise of Christ the Redeemer are blended in one final song which will continue to be chanted throughout eternity. To this great song of praise the antiphonal Amen of the cherubs answered: And the four living beings said, Amen; and the eiders fell down and worshiped. Verily it shall be so: all the earth shall be full of His glory. All the earth shall fear the Lord, and all the inhabitants of the world shall stand in awe of Him, Psalms 33:8.


The prophet sees the book of the counsels of God, whose seals could be broken only by Christ, the Lamb that was slain, a fact which caused the elders to break forth in a hymn of praise which was afterwards taken up not only by myriads of angels, but by the chorus of all creatures.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 5". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/revelation-5.html. 1921-23.
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