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Revelation 5

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Verses 1-7

Rev 5:1-7

SECTION TWO

VISION OF THE SEALED BOOK

Revelation 5:1-14

1. THE LAMB WORTHY TO OPEN THE BOOK

Revelation 5:1-7

1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals.--As the vision of chapter 4 shows God’s power as Creator to bring to pass the things to be revealed, so the vision of chapter 5 shows Christ’s power as Redeemer to reveal what things would come to pass. What John saw was God sitting upon the throne with a book in or lying upon his right hand. This changed view was for the purpose of giving proper praise to Christ as the only one able to make the revelation. This was in harmony with the statement already made. (See 1:1.) This book was not printed as ours are today, for there were no such books then, but it was a manuscript rolled as a scroll. (Jeremiah 36:2; Hebrews 10:7.) "Written within and on the back" probably means that it was written on both sides. "Close sealed" means that the edge of the roll was fastened down with a seal. Being rolled together and sealed indicates that the contents written could not be known till the seals were broken. Since the seals were opened in succession, and a vision appeared at the opening of each seal, the natural conclusion is that the roll was made up of sheets and when a seal was broken that sheet was unrolled and its writing seen. The book contained symbolic visions of what was to come to pass hence, revealed the destiny of the church and its enemies from that time till the end of the world. There is nothing said about the writing being read by the Lord when the seals were opened; in fact, it may have been only the symbols that were written. This may account for the fact that when a seal was opened there appeared before John the vision--living picture--not the reading of words. What John did was to put in words a description of the picture which he saw. Occasionally he tells what some feature of a vision means, but aside from that the visions are left without explanation. How their meaning may be determined will be discussed later. Seven sheets rolled together and sealed with seven seals probably indicate that the book contains a full revelation of the future history of the church.

2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?--The angel appeared as strong to harmonize with the fact that he proclaimed with a "great voice," as indicating perhaps that his question was to be heard by all intelligent creatures. This would put in bold relief the one who alone was worthy to open the seals. This means one whose rank and authority was such that God would grant him the privilege of revealing the future.

3 And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon.--The angel’s question was a challenge to all creation. No one possessed either the ability or the moral worthiness to disclose the future hidden things. This inability belonged to all realms ; none of the angelic hosts in heaven, none of the nations of men on earth and none of the righteous dead in the intermediate state was able. This means that no creature in all God’s universe could perform this solemn task.

4 And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon:--To open the book meant to break the seals and to look thereon meant to see and describe the symbols that were written in it. When no one came forward to open the book, John was so affected that he wept much. Apparently the promise made in 4:1 that he was to be shown. things "which must come to pass hereafter" would fail. Being in exile and deeply concerned about the future of the churches, he was moved to tears because no one was ready to make the coveted disclosures. His sorrow and distress are no surprise, when we consider his love and sacrifices for the churches. Men and women yet claim to reveal the secrets written in the book of the future by some mysterious power or by communicating with the dead, but this vision is proof that the future belongs to God. All the revelations he wants us to have are now recorded in the Bible.

5 and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, he Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof.--Regarding the elders, see notes on Revelation 4:4. The text gives no reason why one of the elders rather than some other heavenly being spoke this message to John. This instructing the apostle by one of the elders shows that they were a class of heavenly worshipers. Christ’s overcoming Satan and death is the reason for his exaltation to God’s right hand (Philippians 2:7-11), and for "angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22.) The elders here mentioned being in heaven would know of his exaltation and power; hence, could appropriately speak the comforting words to John. That this language refers to Christ is unquestionable, and the descriptions used show in a vivid way his worthiness to open the book. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14), and calling him a Lion is probably in reference to Genesis 49:9. The lion, as king of the forests, was a fitting symbol of Christ endowed with royal authority--a ruler exercising over angels in heaven, men on earth, and the spirits of the departed in Hades. The Root of David means a descendant of David--one whose lineage gave him, the right to exercise this royal authority. Being endowed with this authority because of his victory, he was the only one worthy and able to show John the future struggles and triumphs of the church.

6 And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.--Here a change is made in the scene--a Lamb appears in the midst of the group composed of God, the living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the strong angel. The Lamb was standing, which indicated it was alive, though it bore marks of having been slain. Since John had probably heard John the Baptist declare Jesus to be the "Lamb of God" (John 1:36), and had witnessed his crucifixion, he knew, of course, that what he saw in heaven was a symbol of Christ. The lamb was a type of innocence and sacrifice; Jesus was both manifested in highest form.

The further description of the Lamb shows Jesus to be the proper one to open the book. He had "seven horns, and seven eyes." It is generally understood that the number "seven" signifies perfection. John explains that the seven eyes represent the "seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth." The "seven Spirits" probably refers to the Holy Spirit. See notes on l:4. As the eyes see all natural objects that come within the range of vision, they are appropriate symbols to represent the Holy Spirit’s power to see and know what facts should be revealed. The disclosures therefore to be made would be perfect. The use of the word "horn" in the Bible indicates that it is a symbol of power, as the following passages show Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:1 Jeremiah 48:25; Zechariah 1:18; Luke 1:69. Seven horns mean perfect power to do what was necessary. In this part of the vision John was shown that whatsoever things that would appear in the symbols to follow were sure to come. to pass; for there would be sufficient power to accomplish what was predicted. This must have been great encouragement to the then suffering congregations to be faithful to God in spite of any trial.

7 And he came, and he taketh it out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne.---The one here called "a Lamb" is represented as taking the book out of the hand of the one who sat upon the throne. This means that Christ received the authority of the Father to open the book--make the revelations it contained. But scholars have asked this puzzling question Did John see the form of a lamb? If so, how could a real lamb be represented as taking a book out of the hand of the one on the throne? Some answer by supposing that the vision may have been changed just at this point from the image of a lamb to that of a man. The text does not so indicate. Others suggest that the word "Lamb" may be used figuratively, as in John 1:29, to describe the characteristics of Christ, but the real appearance was of some heavenly being in the form of man. When we speak of the "Lamb of God" now, we never visualize a real lamb, but only transfer the lamb characteristics to Christ. Then we should remember that human beings are probably unable to understand fully heavenly representations. The essential point here made is that Christ only was able to make the revelations of future events.

Commentary on Revelation 5:1-7 by Foy E. Wallace

The sealed book—Revelation 5:1-5.

1. “In the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book”—Revelation 5:1.

The book was a scroll wherein things were registered, engraved. The productions that are now called books were unknown in this early age in the present form of printing and binding. They were usually in the form of a scroll, written or engraved on material known as parchment. (2 Timothy 4:13) A sealed book was a roll of parchment, or scroll, bound by a band, with a seal affixed to the tie of the band or to the knot. Reference is made to this usage in Isaiah 29:11, and illustrations of it have been produced in most of the dictionaries of the Bible lands and times. This book which was written within and on the backside contained the events which were depicted. The unsealing of the closed book was the revelation of the predicted events within.

2. “Who is worthy to open-and to loose-no man in heaven nor in earth"—Revelation 5:2.

The strong angel is emphasizing the important proclamation. The great voice is comparable to the announcement. The declaration no man in heaven nor in earth meant that it belonged only to the One on the throne to open it; no created being, terrestrial or celestial; no man in earth belonging to authorities of the earth; and, neither under the earth, or belonging to any order of humanity whether in authority as head or under subjection to powers of the earth, whether in the realm of living men or of the hadean domain of the disembodied spirits of men--no man, no created being was worthy or able, in finite limitations to open the book.

The restriction neither to look thereon meant that they were not permitted to see or know what was in the book. To open meant to understand and reveal the significance.

3. “And I wept because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book"—Revelation 5:4.

The inspired seer wept in the awesome realization that the things within the book were beyond human disclosure.

4. “Weep not: behold the Lion of Judah, the root of David hath prevailed"—Revelation 5:5.

The comforting counsel to weep not shows that the anxiety was premature and the fear was unfounded; they were only tears of interruption; hence they were to withhold the weeping and wait to see the full procession.

The title, Lion of Judah was symbolic of power. The lion is the most courageous beast, the king of the forest, an emblem of strength and valor. It was used here with prevailed to designate the invincible Christ who would conquer his own and his people’s enemies.

The symbol of the tribe of Judah connects with the prophetic blessing of Genesis 49:8-12. The capital of the tribe was Ariel, meaning “lion of God” (Isaiah 29:1) . Hence, the lion of the tribe of Judah was descriptive of the lineage and character of the divine descendant of the tribe. Judah, under divine favor, was a nation in itself, typical and prophetic, in such biblical phrases as the “house of Judah, the kindred, stock, and lineage” as in Genesis 12:17; 1 Timothy 5:8; Luke 2:4; 2 Samuel 7:18. The prophecies pointed to Christ, the spiritual head of the house of Judah -- Isaiah 22:21-22 --having the ruler-ship--the divine government, which Judah typified. And he was the minister of the new covenant which God made with the “house of Judah,” as stated in Hebrews 8:1-13. See verses 8 to 10. The limited phrase “with the house of Israel,” in verse 10, indicated that in the new covenant there would be no distinction--Israel was Judah, the whole. Thus the Lord sprang out of Judah. (Hebrews 7:14)

The root of David: By metonymy the Christ is called the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and of David (Revelation 5:5). The plant or branch springs from and grows out of the root. Christ is the root, instead of the branch, which springs from the root of the spiritual people of David. (Romans 15:12) Isaiah uses the words, rod, stem and branch (Isaiah 11:1); and Zechariah gives him the title of “The Branch” (Zechariah 3:8); also in 6:12, the title Branch is used to show that He was to be the plant itself, the stem (source), and rod (on which branches grow) as on the vine of John 15:1. The name of David in prophetical office and regal character was the most eminent type of the Christ. (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3). As ruler over the temporal kingdom of Israel, he was the forerunner to the Son of David who should be ruler of the spiritual Israel forever. (Isaiah 9:7; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Luke 1:32-33)

In the prophecy of Ezekiel 34:23-24 Christ is the new David of the new Israel; the one shepherd of the one flock. The distinction between Judah and Israel would be lost, and would no longer exist. Further references to the tabernacle, the throne, the mercies, the blessings, and the key of David were all applied and ascribed to Jesus Christ.

The Lamb in the midst of the throne—Revelation 5:6-10.

1. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts (beings), 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”—Revelation 5:6.

The Lamb in the midst of the throne was Christ, here represented as a lamb instead of a lion because of his having been sacrificially slain; but the slain Lamb was now risen and is seen as the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah to deliver his people from their foes and oppressors.

2. “Having seven horns and seven eyes-which are the seven spirits of God sent forth"—Revelation 5:6.

The seven horns and eyes are the symbols of perfection in all of his divine attributes, and the seven spirits of God, which were sent forth were symbolic of the perfection of the truth in the testimony of his witnesses. (Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:14)

3. “He came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne"—Revelation 5:7.

The Lamb took the book from him on the throne. The One on the throne is God. The One who took the book is Christ--the Lamb “in the midst of the throne”

4. “The four creatures (beings), the four and and twenty 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.

Because he was the One who was “able to open the book” and to Him complete and united homage was due; not one creature (being), nor one elder, but the four of the one group, and the twenty-four of the other, representing complete and united worship and adoration: having every one of them harps and golden bowls (vials) full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.

5. “Having every one of them harps"—Revelation 5:8.

The harp was not an instrument of mourning, but of rejoicing. In Israel’s captivity the harps were hung on the willows (Psalms 137:2) in representation of Israel’s sorrow. The symbol here is not that of sorrow in the calamities to come, but of rejoicing in the triumph of their deliverance, by the Lion that “hath prevailed,” and who would lead them through all the scenes of conflict enclosed in the book, which was now about to be disclosed by him, in scenes of the ultimate eventual victory of the unfolding experiences.

6. “And golden vials full of odors”—Revelation 5:8.

The vial, or censer, was a vessel used in altar service to contain the fire with which incense was burned, the perpetual fire from the altar of burnt offerings. It sometimes stands for the altar itself as in Hebrews 13:10 : “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” Its use for common purposes was positively forbidden, and no other composition or preparation was acceptable, either of fire or of incense than that which was prescribed. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21; Leviticus 10:1-4)

7. “The prayers of saints"—Rev Revelation 5:8.

The incense was symbolic of intercession, typical of the intercession of Christ for his saints. Here it is designated to be the prayers of saints because the saints in tribulation were imploring the intercession of the Lamb. In Revelation 8:3, the incense was “added to the prayers of the saints,” which signified the merits of the death of Christ, and which extended and amplified the symbol of intercession. The altar stood for that upon which sacrifice was offered as mentioned in 1 Kings 13:1-34; 1 Kings 18:30, and it was appropriated exclusively in the offering of sacrifices for sin on behalf of the one who had offended the law. It symbolized Christ as the Christian’s only sacrifice, and there is no need for any other altar. It is upon his altar that spiritual offerings are now made (Hebrews 13:10) and to him all true worship ascends (Hebrews 13:15). This vision of Revelation is based on the typical significance of the sacrificial offerings of the Old Testament, which not only reminded the people of sin and the need of expiation, but prefigured the atonement of Christ doctrinally envisioned in Isaiah 53:10, and mentioned in 1 Peter 2:24, as having been accomplished.

8. “They sang a new song, saying, thou wast slain . . . and hast redeemed us to God . . . out of every kindred, people, nation”—Revelation 5:9.

The new song was the theme of redemption from sin by the blood of the Lamb, in contrast with redemption of Old Testament Israel from the physical servitude of the song by the sea.

“Redeemed to God” signified the restoration and repossession of a forfeited state, a redemption by a blood price of an inheritance that was lost.

“Out of every kindred, tongue, people, nation.” The new Israel was not tribal or national but composed of all men of all nations, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. It was the sublime vision of the new people of God. (Hosea 1:10; Romans 9:25-26; 1 Peter 2:10)

9. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth”—Revelation 5:10.

Kings: This refers to the reign of Christ in the kingdom now present and existing--“made us”--it was of past performance and establishment; not a future kingdom, but present. The church is the priesthood now (1 Peter 2:5; 1Pe_29), an analogy based on Exodus 19:6. The church sustains a kingly relation to Christ, and of it the members “reign with Christ”; hence, they are kings in royalty with him. (Romans 8:17) It is a reference to the state of the church under the gospel--under the spiritual government of Christ. (1 Timothy 6:15) The term “king” signified a sovereign prince or ruler in a kingdom. (Proverbs 8:15) It is applied to God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe (Psalms 44:4); and to Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 45:1; Ephesians 4:5); and to all true Christians who as heirs, reign with him in life. (Romans 8:17; Romans 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:12)

Priests: The church sustains a priestly relation to Christ, and its members participate in the offering of spiritual sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:15) The word priest is contracted from elder or presbyter, and was a general name for ministers of God’s service. (Hebrews 10:11) In all scriptures it denotes one who offers sacrifice. It is applied to Jesus Christ in the highest office, who offered himself for the sins of all men. (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 9:11-12) It applies to every true believer (Christian), who himself offers spiritual sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6) Under the law the priest was a person consecrated and ordained to teach the people, pray for them and offer sacrifices. (Leviticus 4:5-6) Christians perform all of these services and functions now in the new priesthood, the church.

Reign: The word is variously used literally and figuratively. Commonly the word to reign means to rule, or to govern as a sovereign prince. (2 Samuel 5:4-5; Matthew 2:6) God reigns as absolute monarch, he governs and disposes of all things in heaven and earth. (Psalms 93:1); Christ reigns in this dispensation in his kingdom, the church (Luke 1:33; Matthew 2:6; Romans 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25); Death reigned from Adam to Moses, Romans 5:15 --that is, prevailed, held sway, dominion; Sin reigns, when the motions of sin are obeyed, as one obeys the law or command of a king, when it exercises an absolute uncontrolled power over the soul (Romans 6:12); Grace reigns through righteousness, prevails through the gospel to abolish the rule and dominion of sin, as we are governed by what it teaches (Romans 5:21; Titus 2:11-12); and Christians reign in righteous living with Christ (Romans 5:17). All who receive grace in gift of righteousness (forgiveness in Christ), and partake of the spiritual life, whereby sin is conquered, reign with apostles in conforming to their teaching and example; and reign with Christ as in the sufferings with him in the death to sin and partaking of his suffering (2 Timothy 2:12)

We shall reign: Literally rendered the passage reads are reigning--referring in the Revelation context to their continuing conquests in the trials that were present.

What the four creatures and twenty-four elders were chanting in unison, as a complete representative company, was the prospect f a glorious triumph over their oppressors. It symbolized a reign of victory, a symbol that the oppressions to be revealed in the seals could not consume them; the wrath of monarchs could not destroy them; nor the power of kings and emperors defeat them. They would survive; they would live; they would reign on the earth, not in future glory, but reign there and then as conquerers and overcomers in an undefeated, triumphant cause. The church was symbolized as being complete and imperishable in conflict with their heathen oppressors.

The angelic symphony—Revelation 5:11-12.

1. “I heard the voice of many angels . . . and the beasts (beings), and the elders . . . ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands”—Revelation 5:11.

The voice: The sound of myriad thousands of angels and beings was but one voice, a concert of praise; with one object, the Lamb; and with one theme, in symphony of the adoration to the Lamb.

Thousands: The literal computation would be ten thousand times ten thousand--100,000,000--One hundred million, plus thousands of thousands, on multiplied thousands more. So figuratively it signified that all the church on earth, represented by the four and twenty elders, and the whole family of heaven (Ephesians 3:14), represented by the multiplied decimals, joined in the adoration of the Lamb in the midst of the throne. (see verse 13)

Commentary on Revelation 5:1-7 by Walter Scott

THE THRONE AND THE SLAIN LAMB

CONNECTION BETWEEN CHAPTERS 4, 5, and 6

In the previous chapter is witnessed the vast and glorious throne of the Eternal, the symbol of the governing power of God throughout the universe. Round it all persons and things are grouped in their respective positions. The main thought of the chapter is God the sovereign Ruler of all creation governing according to His nature and on the basis of eternal righteousness. It is not a portion of the divine Word which calls forth the affections of the soul. It is a vision which absorbs rather our being as creatures. The vision remains, the scenery is not changed, nor is the glory in anywise dimmed as the additional truths contained in chapter 5 come before us.

There is an intimate connection between chapters 4, 5, and 6. The first series of judgments is noted in Revelation 6:1-17. The great actor is the Lamb, while the throne as seen in chapter 4 is the source of the judgments. We have here a continuation of the vision already beheld by the Seer, with two prominent and additional features, namely, the seven-sealed book, and a Lamb as slain. We may remark that in this chapter, preparatory to the proper action of the book, namely, JUDGMENT, the majesty of the lion and the meekness of the Lamb are combined, and centre in Him Who alone is worthy to bear these double glories.

This grand chapter is divided into four parts, the first two being introduced by the words "I saw" (Revelation 5:1-2); the second two parts are each prefaced with "I beheld" (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:11). In brief, the subjects are: first, the book; second, the challenge; third, the song; fourth, the worship.

Revelation 5:1

THE SEVEN-SEALED BOOK

Revelation 5:1 "And I saw on the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne a book, written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals." This book or roll is, of course, a symbol. The book of life (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8) is a register of names; the books of works (Revelation 20:12) are the divine records of human actions. But the book beheld by the Seer contains in full THE REVELATION OF GOD’S PURPOSE AND COUNSEL CONCERNING THE WORLD. It contains the history of the future, and gives us the successive steps needful for the inauguration of the world-kingdom of Christ. God is about to bring again His First-Begotten into the world amidst the acclaim of angels (Hebrews 1:6), and the seven-sealed roll unfolds how this will be brought about. The contents of the book cover the period from the breaking of the first seal (Revelation 6:1-17) till the close of the kingdom reign and commencement of the eternal state (Revelation 11:18).

The book lay on the right hand of the Eternal. The position of the roll was in fitting accord with the proclamation of the angel (v. 2); in itself a challenge to the universe to produce one of sufficient worth to approach the place of distinguished honour (Psalms 110:1; Ephesians 1:20) and take the book.

The book or roll was "written within and on the back,"(*Some would punctuate the clause thus: "written within, and on the backside sealed with seven seals," but where else could it be sealed save on the back? Why state that? It was customary to fill up a scroll and continue the writing on the back. The roll beheld by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:10) was, we are expressly informed, "written within and without" The fulness and completeness of the prophetic announcements about to be unfolded seem the thought designed in the scroll being written on both sides.) thus signifying that the whole counsel of God respecting this world was herein unfolded; no further revelation of God’s purposes was to be vouchsafed. This book was fully written (compare with Ezekiel 2:10).

Revelation 5:1 "Sealed with seven seals." Each seal closes a certain portion of the book; hence the contents are successively revealed as the seals are opened in order. But the whole is absolutely hidden from men and angels till opened by the Lamb. The "seven seals" express the perfection with which the hidden counsels of God are securely wrapped up in the divine mind till their open disclosure by the Lamb. The prophet Daniel (Daniel 12:4) was instructed to "shut up the words and seal the book even to the time of the end;" whereas the Seer of Patmos (Revelation 22:10) is told the exact opposite, "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand." The former was to seal; the latter was not to seal. Even Daniel, distinguished above all his contemporaries for the many and far-reaching revelations and visions granted him, says: "I heard, but I understood not" (Daniel 12:8-9). Now, however, that we have reached "the time of the end," not exactly "the end," all is open. The book of prophecy is completely and openly revealed. For us the seven-sealed book, with its full and minute disclosure of the future, is no longer a hidden mystery. Prophecy, once a secret, is so no longer.

Revelation 5:2-3

THE CHALLENGE OF THE ANGEL.

Revelation 5:2-3 "And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who (is) worthy to open the book, and to break its seals? And no one was able in the Heaven, or upon the earth, or underneath the earth, to open the book, or to regard it." The attention of the moral and intelligent universe is to be directed to the book resting on the open palm of the Throned One. The angels "excel in strength" (Psalms 103:20), but their might is exercised only in the path of instant obedience to the will of the Creator. Each one of the countless myriads of the angelic hosts is held in dependence upon Him Whose will is their happy service. All angels are strong, but there are measures, and ranks, and orders amongst them. There are prominent angels amongst their fellows, as Gabriel, Michael, etc. ("Michael the Archangel" (Judges 1:9). Scripture never speaks of "Archangels." Jewish writers divide the angelic hosts into orders and classes as "Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Princedoms, Powers," to which division Ephesians 1:21 evidently alludes. In the region of the supernatural the unseen ministers of the divine will guide, control, and in every way influence human affairs. They are God’s ministers.) The loud voice of one of those angels of power penetrates to the utmost bounds of the universe, searching "the Heaven," the dwelling place of God; "the earth," the dwelling place of men; and "underneath the earth," the abode of other intelligent beings. Those three terms indicate the extent of the universe. Everywhere and to every being the angel’s voice reaches.

Revelation 5:2 "Who is worthy to open the book, and to break its seals?" Moral competency to answer to the angelic proclamation there was not. The universe in all its parts,"The three kingdoms of creation" (Philippians 2:10), does not possess one being competent to disclose and execute the counsels of God; "no man," reads the Authorised Version; "no one," a term of much wider import, rightly reads the Revised. To "open the book and to break its seals " are regarded as separate actions. The natural order would have been to first break the seals in order that the book might be opened. The import of the angel’s proclamation, however, is to open the book so as to unfold its contents; and the breaking of the seals, their execution as in Revelation 6:1-17. The moral force of the acts is the point in question. The challenge is unanswered. The undertaking required moral worth and a proved capacity not found in any created being.

Revelation 5:4-5

THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB.

Revelation 5:4-5 "And I wept much because no one had been found worthy to open the book nor to regard it. And one of the elders says to me, Do not weep. Behold, the Lion which (is) of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome (so as) to open the book and its seven seals." The grief of the Seer is emphasised by the use of the pronoun "I," which is emphatic in the Greek. "I wept much." John is here regarded as the representative of the prophetic feeling at "the time of the end," or "the last days." His soul is stirred within him as his eye rests on the sealed scroll lying on the open hand of the Sitter on the throne, with no one in the vast creation of God competent to disclose its contents and carry them into execution. The tears of John have been termed "the weakness of the creature," but if "wept much" is sometimes the expression of weakness, it is equally the expression of a right and godly feeling. It has been remarked, "Without tears the Revelation was not written, neither without tears can it be understood." But the book was to be opened. And since worship of the highest order and an intimate knowledge of the mind of God are characteristics of the crowned and glorified elders or representatives of the redeemed, it is one of these elders who consoles the weeping Seer by directing his attention to One in every respect qualified to unfold the divine counsels and carry them to a triumphant issue. Who is He? The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. What has He done? He has overcome every spiritual power by His death on the cross. Thus He has an unchallenged right in Himself, and because, too, of what He has done, to advance to the right hand of the Eternal, take the book, and effectuate the counsels of God.

Revelation 5:5 "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Genesis 49:9). The dying patriarch, however keen his spiritual vision, could not have dreamed that his glorious prediction (vv. 8-10) pointed to the advent of the Messiah nearly 4000 years afterwards, Who in irresistible might, majesty, and sovereignty would secure the blessing of Israel and of the whole earth. In His lion-like character He crushes every opposing force, and establishes His universal kingdom on the ruin of all opposition. Here worth and might are combined.

Revelation 5:5 But another title is here used of our Lord: "The Root of David." Why David? Why not Moses, or Abraham? David is the representative of Royalty. Moses the expression of Law. Abraham the depositary of Promise. Now these two chapters (4 and 5) have as their main subject the kingdom rights and glories of Christ. Thrones and crowns are frequently referred to, and in fact characterise this sublime portion of the Apocalypse. Hence, the introduction of the kingdom being the question, David is fittingly named. Christ is both the Root and Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16). He is the former as Divine, and the latter as Man. He is both Root and Branch (Isaiah 11:1-16).

In Revelation 5:4 the words in the Authorised Version "and to read" are rightly omitted in the Revised.

Revelation 5:6-7

VISION OF THE SLAIN LAMB.

Revelation 5:6-7 "And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a Lamb standing as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God (which are) sent into all the earth: and He came and took (it) out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne." The Seer "wept much." The elders, heads of the heavenly priesthood, knew and could divinely interpret the mind of God. What was dark to John was light to them; what was cause of sorrow to him was gladness to them. One of the elders directed the attention of the weeping Seer to One who, in majesty and resistless might, had besides personal and acquired rights which would entitle Him to disclose and effectuate the counsels of God. But when John looked he beheld a "lamb" (The term lamb occurs in the Apocalypse twenty-eight times: the word employed signifies a diminutive animal Arnion, not Amnos, as in the Gospel (John 1:29, etc.). The word lion is only once applied to Christ in this book.) instead of a "lion." Seeming weakness instead of majesty.

In the midst of the heavenly scene stood a Lamb as slain. The wound prints in Him as risen beheld by the disciples (John 20:20; John 20:25; John 20:27) are now seen by John in Him glorified. The memories of Calvary are treasured in Heaven (We see no difficulty in supposing that in the glorified body of our blessed Lord the indelible marks and scars of the cross will be seen (John 20:20-27).) John the Baptist first pointed out Jesus on earth as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29-36); John the apostle now beholds Him in that same character on high. But how different the position! There, wounded and slain (Isaiah 53:1-12); here, the center of Heaven’s strength and glory, yet bearing in His Person the marks and scars of the cross.

The "Lamb standing" between the throne and the elders is the first step to the assumption of the inheritance. He is about to take to Himself His great power and reign. At present He sits with His Father in His throne (Revelation 3:21), and with Jehovah at His right hand (Psalms 110:1). But the session of patience is seen by the Seer to be at an end. The Lamb vacates the "throne" and "right hand," and stands ready to act. Standing intimates readiness for action: sitting refers to a state of quiescence.

Revelation 5:6 "Having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent into all the earth." Here the mystic number "seven," denoting perfection, is thrice repeated. Strength and intelligence are denoted by the "horns" and "eyes," and the fulness of administration of the Holy Spirit in government in the "seven Spirits of God." All are perfect, and all connected with the government of the earth which is about to be assumed by the Lamb in His redemption character "as slain."

The Lamb advanced and took the book "out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne." What a combination of glories and rights centre in God’s beloved One! The majesty and might of the Lion, the meekness and sacrificial character of the Lamb, combined with all power and intelligence, are conspicuously displayed in the Person of the glorious One beheld by the Seer. Then how severely simple the words in which the majestic action is narrated. The opening of the seven-sealed roll on the hand of Jehovah intimates an undertaking of such a momentous character that the cross alone surpasses it, a work involving the glory of God and the blessing of creation, and one in which the whole universe is directly interested (Revelation 5:11-14). "He came and took (it) out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne." Neither the pencil of the artist nor the pen of the historian is needed here. The artless simplicity of the account is God-like. "Simple and majestic, without any pomp of words, or any effort to decorate the scene," writes Moses Stuart. "How calm and sublime!" says F. W. Grant. And with these testimonies we are in full accord.

Commentary on Revelation 5:1-7 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 5:1. Him that sat on the throne was God, for he is said to be the creator of all things, in the last verse of the preceding chapter. What was called a book in old times is the same as we call a roll; something like a long strip of paper and rolled up from one end. Let us remember we are in a book of signs or symbols. This book or roll is a symbol of the future events, and being sealed signifies that the future is unrevealed to all unless the seals can be broken so that the writing can be read. There were seven seals which is the complete number again, signifing that the future is hidden from the world. If the seals can be broken and the writing read, each one will reveal a part of the events that are to come in the future.

Revelation 5:2. Strong angel proclaiming. He was asking a question with a loud voice which signifies a general call in order to give all a chance. The call was to the task of opening the book which means to make predictions of the coming events.

Revelation 5:3. Heaven (where God dwells), earth (the abode of living human beings), under the earth (the abode of departed spirits). These three regions take in all intelligent creatures in the universe. Note that no man in any place was able to respond, which signifies that the future is a sealed book as far as uninspired beings are concerned, whether they be in heaven or• on earth.

Revelation 5:4. Since the loud request had been made by a strong angel the importance of the subject was evident, which explains why John wept when no one (the word for man is not in the original) was able to respond. Read the book, neither to look thereon signifies that unless the seals can be broken, no uninspired person can even see the writing much less read (understand and interpret) it.

Revelation 5:5. One of the elders means one of the four and twenty who represent the two great systems of religion. He was able to console John and bid him refrain from weeping, because there was one available who would be able to open the book. Lion of the tribe of Juda (Judah). In Genesis 49:9-10 this lion is predicted and Hebrews 7:14 tells us that Christ came from the tribe of Juda. Root of David means that Christ was the very important descendant of David the son of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1 Isaiah 11:10). This conversation represents the leaders of the two organized systems of religion as understanding that the great plans in which they were only agents in the service of God, were made good through the merits of this Lion.

Revelation 5:6. In the midst, etc. Thayer gives us the rendering as follows: "And I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and the elders." He then offers his explanation as follows: "In the vacant space between the throne and the living creatures (on one side) and elders (on the other side), accordingly nearest the throne." As it had been slain. A lamb may be slain and then come back to life still bearing the marks of its death wounds. Thus Jesus was permitted to retain the wound marks until He had completed the great work with His apostles. (See John 20:20.) Horns in symbolic language means authority, and seven of them means complete authority. (See Matthew 28:18.) Seven eyes signifies a perfect vision which would be necessary in order to see into the future. Seven Spirits is explained at Revelation 14.

Revelation 5:7. He (this Lion and Lamb) came to the throne to get the book. Him that sat upon the throne means God, and in giving the book to the Lamb signifies that God gave his Son the ability to reveal the future events. This fact is stated literally in the first verse of the book of Revelation.

Commentary on Revelation 5:1-7 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 5:1

Without any doubt whatever, this chapter is a continuation of the throne of God scene in Revelation 4. The same throne, the same living creatures, the same angels, the same 24 elders, the same solemn worship, and the same Person upon the throne are present here that were seen in Revelation 4. The great new element that comes to light in this portion of the vision is that of the Lamb of God "in the midst of the throne" with the Father. "Chapters 4,5 are one passage."[1] Nothing in these two chapters should be interpreted as "things that shall come to pass hereafter," for quite obviously they describe present and eternal realities in the spiritual world. As Beckwith stated it:

These are the supreme "things that are" (Revelation 1:19), out of which the "things that are to come to pass" must flow certainly and completely in spite of the powers of evil.[2]

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

A book ... It is natural to assume that the book was of the scroll type familiar to the people of those times. Books were made of papyrus pith sliced exceedingly thin and carefully joined together in vertical strips and reinforced by an additional layer with the strips laid horizontally, then bonded with glue and water. They were pressed flat and sandpapered for smoothness, giving a sheet of "paper" similar to ones seen today. The scroll was made by piecing many of these sheets together, side to side, to form the roll of required length. In reading, the roll was transferred from the roller in one hand to another roller in the other. Barclay tells us that a book the length of Romans would have required a roll 11 1/2 feet long.[3] A characteristic of the scroll was that the strips of papyrus caused a horizontal grain on one side and a vertical grain on the other, called the recto and verso. Usually, scrolls were written only on the side with horizontal grain, because that provided easier writing. Longer writings, however, utilized both sides. From the fact of the scroll in view here having been written "on the back," a rather extensive communication is indicated.

What is the meaning of this scroll? From its being "in" or "on" the right hand of God, the exceedingly great importance of it must be deduced, but what is it? Many different answers are given: "It contained the whole of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."[4] "It is God’s redemptive plan for the denouement of human history, the overthrow of evil, and the gathering of a redeemed people."[5] "It is the New Covenant, since the New Covenant tells how God will save the church, Israel, the world, and the universe."[6] "This is a book of the future of the world and of mankind."[7] "It is some kind of legal document relating to the destiny of mankind."[8] "The book is surely that which contains the world’s destiny."[9] There is perhaps a measure of truth in all these answers. Certainly, there is some bearing which the book had upon the mystery of redemption, and the long-secret device by which God would achieve it in the death of his Son. Human salvation, together with God’s purpose of achieving it and the mystery of how it would be done, is included in it because we cannot agree with the notion that John’s weeping in Revelation 5:4 was due merely to disappointment at not seeing the future revealed. See comment on Revelation 5:4.

Sealed close with seven seals ... Especially important documents were sealed with multiple seals; and the appearance of seven seals here indicates the inviolate nature of the document. The thought that as each seal was broken a portion of the scroll could be read is not correct. In fact, the scroll was not read at all in this prophecy! Only as the seals were broken, the visions conveyed part of the information to John. As Lenski pointed out:

The seals sealed the entire roll; all would have had to be broken to ready any of it. The opening of each seal is not undertaken to reveal seven successive lengths of the roll, each length then to be read. Nothing whatever is read. When each seal is opened, it releases the revealing symbolism of what the book contains.[10]

[1] William R. Newell, The Book of Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), p. 94.

[2] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 261.

[3] William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 208.

[4] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 162.

[5] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 81.

[6] Watchman Nee, "Come Lord Jesus" (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1976), p. 66.

[7] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 505.

[8] G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Greenwood, South Carolina: The Attic Press, 1974), p. 120.

[9] Leon Morris, Tyndale Commentaries, Vol. 20 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 90.

[10] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 193.

Revelation 5:2

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

Who is worthy ... The key for unlocking the mystery written in the scroll was not power only, but morality, righteousness, holiness, and justice - in a word, worthiness. The great problem to be solved in human redemption was simply this: how could God injustice do it? Paul stated it thus: "That he might be just and the justifier of him that is of the faith of Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

Inherent in this interpretation is the fact that the vision at this point is retrospective in time, looking to the period when the salvation of Adam’s race appeared to be absolutely impossible. As Caird said, "Some of the contents (of the scroll) are already past."[11]

The situation in this verse appears to be almost identical with that described in Psalms 40:6-8, in which Christ, in his pre-existent state before the Incarnation, responded to the challenge of redeeming mankind in the words:

Then said I, Lo, I come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God.

This is the remarkable passage in which the preexistent Christ spoke of "the body" God had prepared for him. For fuller comment on that remarkable passage, see my Commentary on Hebrews, p. 213.

ENDNOTE:

[11] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 72.

Revelation 5:3

And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon.

The apostle John, at this juncture in his experience "in the Spirit," was permitted to share in the perplexity, dreadful uncertainty, and helplessness that encompassed the heavenly host in their contemplation of the seemingly impossible solution of human redemption. Of course, this uncertainty did not pertain either to the Father or to the Son; but the helplessness, even of the supernatural creation, in matters pertaining to human salvation is clearly evident here. This was the same mystery pondered by the angels gazing intently into the mercy seat of which Peter spoke (1 Peter 1:12).

Heaven ... earth ... under the earth ... Even some of the great scholars are unbelievably naive in their reference to what they call the concept of a three-story universe. No such concept ever existed, except in the minds of some of the critics. The New Testament clearly speaks of three different heavens, the second and lower heaven being that of the stars and constellations, and the third being the presence of God himself, as in this vision. Paul used this same expression (Philippians 2:9-10), evidently meaning "beings" in heaven (angelic), earth (human), or under the earth (demonic). Adam Clarke commented, "Neither angels, men, nor devils can fathom the decrees of God."[12] Hinds pointed out another important meaning in this:

Men and women yet claim to reveal secrets in the book of the future by some mysterious power or by communicating with the dead, but this vision is proof that the future belongs to God. All the revelations he wants us to have are now recorded in the Bible.[13]

[12] A. Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (London: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 991.

[13] John T. Hinds, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 77.

Revelation 5:4

And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon:

Many scholars accept the interpretation of the apostle’s weeping as being due to his disappointment over not getting to see the visions he expected.

Barclay’s comment is typical:

The voice had made the promise to him, "I will show these things which must be hereafter." It now looked as if the promise could not be kept, and as if he had been frustrated. The seer weeps because the promised vision, as he thinks, is not to be.[14]

This interpretation is rejected here, because frustration is a totally inadequate grounds for such overwhelming grief as that manifested by the apostle in this verse. Excessive weeping for such a reason would hardly appear commendable in such a character as John. No! Something far more important is in view. Newell caught a glimpse of it thus:

It was as if sin and Satan were to go on forever in the usurped control of affairs in this world. It was as if it still must be written:

Right forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne.

The apostle was broken-hearted about this. The Greek word is the same as that for Christ weeping over Jerusalem.[15] This clarifies the retrospective throw-back in the vision to a period before redemption was achieved by Christ. But John’s grief was quickly assuaged. God has already progressed far beyond the hopeless condition apparent at first. Indeed, the victory had already been won, and the victorious Lamb of God was already seated on the throne. The time was then far later than the heart-breaking glimpse of the past had indicated.

[14] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 212.

[15] William R. Newell, op. cit., p. 98.

Revelation 5:5

and one of the elders saith unto me,, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof.

Weep not ... Many commentators have quoted the beautiful words of John Wesley in this connection: "The Revelation was not written without tears; neither without tears will it be understood."[16]

One of the elders saith unto me ... We agree with Mounce that, "The fact of an elder’s addressing John is of no particular significance."[17] It appears to be an inert factor in the vision.

The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah ... This expression occurs nowhere else in the Bible."[18] Despite this, the conception is nevertheless found in the patriarchal blessing of Judah (Genesis 49:10), who earned the right to have his name stand in a title of the Messiah when he unselfishly offered himself as a ransom for his brother Benjamin (Genesis 44:18-34).

John’s application of this glorious title to Christ, or rather its being so done in heaven, confirms Jesus Christ as the true occupant of the throne of David. Jesus Christ is now the true and only King of the true Israel, "the seed of David" who sits upon David’s throne exalted in the heavens. David was the first "lion of the tribe of Judah," although not so-called in Scripture; but Christ, David’s greater Son, became the true Lion. David, as ruler of the temporal kingdom of Israel, was the type or forerunner of Christ the ruler of spiritual Israel forever. As Wallace pointed out, the adoption of this title by Christ is but a continuation of the New Testament pattern of ascribing to him all of those glorious things of David, such as "the tabernacle, the throne, the mercies, the blessings, the key of David, etc."[19] For a further discussion of these things see under Revelation 3:7 b.

The Root of David ... This title goes back to Isaiah 11:1 ff, in which it was prophesied that, "A rod out of the stem of Jesse ... there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people ... his rest shall be glorious." As Barclay noted, "This means that Jesus Christ, the son of David, was the promised Messiah."[20]

[16] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (Naperville, Illinois: London: Epworth Press, n.d.), in loco.

[17] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1977), p. 144.

[18] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 95.

[19] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Book of Revelation (Nashville: Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Publications, 1966), p. 133.

[20] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 214.

Revelation 5:6

And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.

A Lamb standing ... Beyond all controversy, the Lamb is Jesus Christ the Son of God, and significantly he is in the midst of the throne, sharing eternal and omnipotent authority with the Father himself. This is the grand truth of this chapter and of the whole book. Everything depends upon this. Some young students may be aware that unbelieving critics have tried to eliminate this passage; but as Beckwith said:

The Lamb once slain forms the very heart of the whole scene. The attempt of Vischer and his followers to expunge the idea destroys the entire paragraph; it is criticism run riot.[21]

"Only in the Johannine writings is Jesus called `The Lamb.’"[22] This, of course, affords strong evidence of the same author for all of them, the expression being used "twenty-eight times in Revelation."[23]

As though it had been slain ... Scholars point out that this actually means, "as though it had been newly slain."[24] or that the Lamb was standing in heaven "with its throat cut."[25] Thus, the vision proves that the death of Christ was a historical fact, as was also his resurrection from the dead.

Having seven horns, and seven eyes ... Horns were familiar symbols of honor, power, authority, and glory in the Biblical and other Hebrew literature. Caird said of the horns, "By this symbol, John undoubtedly invests Christ with the attributes of deity."[26] But not merely this symbol does so; they all do. A Lamb standing in heaven with its throat cut undoubtedly does the same thing! In such symbols the character of the vision is evident. Things accounted to be totally impossible in reality are present everywhere in Revelation.

The presentation of Jesus Christ as the Lamb, while being stressed particularly in John’s writings, is nevertheless a thoroughly Biblical representation. There was the entire institution of the Passover built around the sacrifice of the lamb; there was the identification of Jesus as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" by John the Baptist. Paul’s reference to "Christ our passover," and the great Suffering Passage of Isaiah 53, wherein Jesus was compared to the "lamb dumb before its shearers," - all of these references show the Biblical foundation of the words here.

Some scholars have made quite a point of a different word for "lamb" in this passage; but Lenski discounted this as having no significance at all. "It is merely a linguistic matter in the Greek."[27]

Seven eyes ... These are interpreted for us as "the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth," another symbol of the omniscience and divinity of the Son of God. There is nothing in this whole passage that does not proclaim this same essential fact. For example, who but God could be in "the midst of the throne" and "in the midst of’ the elders and the living creatures also? It is childish to draw diagrams and propose to locate any of these symbols as unalterably in one place or another. By Christ’s having "the seven spirits of God," the quibbles of Jeremias and Windisch, etc., to the effect that in part of the New Testament it is God who sends the Holy Spirit and that in others it is Christ who does so, are refuted. What is done in this respect is done by either or by both.

[21] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 510.

[22] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 145.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Watchman Nee, op. cit., p. 67.

[25] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 125.

[26] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 75.

[27] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 198.

Revelation 5:7

And he came, and he taketh it out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne.

The scene here is still in the past tense from the standpoint of the apostle John. "The moment is that of his appearance in heaven, fresh from the suffering and triumph of the cross."[28] This was, of course, some decades prior to the writing of Revelation. The tense of the verbs here, as noted by Carpenter, bears this out: "He came, and he has taken the roll out of the hand of him that sat on the throne."[29] Mounce and many other interpreters of the same school do not apply this to a past event but "to an event yet to take place at the end of time."[30] This we consider to be incorrect. Hendriksen’s correct view of this is:

The Lamb has taken the scroll out of the hand of him who was seated on the Throne. This very clearly refers to the fact that Christ, as Mediator, at his ascension received authority to rule the universe.[31]

Any doubt that this is the proper view of this passage is forever removed by reading Matthew 28:18-20. It is impossible properly to interpret Revelation without a thorough knowledge of what the rest of the New Testament teaches. People who expect Christ to be enthroned at some future time have forgotten that he is already enthroned. "Psalms 110 indicates the date (when this occurred); it was the moment when Christ sat down on the Throne at God’s right hand."[32] See also Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 1:8-9; Hebrews 2:9.

[28] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 643.

[29] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 556.

[30] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 146.

[31] William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 110.

[32] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 202.

Commentary on Revelation 5:1-7 by Manly Luscombe

1 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. A. God is holding a book. This book (scroll) is important. It has writings on both sides. There are two types of scrolls at this time - Parchment and Velum. Parchment is made with strips of reeds pressed together. The topside was laid horizontal for easy writing. On the backside the reeds were laid vertically. This made writing on the back said very difficult. The other type of scroll was velum (animal leather, usually deer). Again, one side of leather is smooth and easy to use. The backside of leather is rough and more difficult to write on. By writing on both sides there are two indications - a) the message is important and no space must be wasted. b) There is a scarcity of writing materials - either very costly or not available. It is sealed. The seal is not like one seals a Mason jar with fruit inside. Some have tried to make this teach the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” They have implied that God seals us in and we cannot escape. But the seal here is for three purposes. 1. The seal shows the item to be genuine. 2. A seal proves the document is official. 3. A seal demonstrates that it has not been tampered with or altered.

2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Strong angel - It is assumed that this is one of the four living creatures around the throne. He cries, “Who is worthy to open the book, loose the seals?” The issue is not - Who can (has the ability), but who has the authority and power?

3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. The search was extensive. No man on earth and no man in heaven had such authority. No man under the earth (among the dead and buried) could open the book or look inside. No human (saved or lost, living or dead) could open the book.

4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. John wept. He was searching for answers. The answers are in this book. John can’t just walk up to God and open the book to learn what it says. There is important information in this book and no one can open it and share its content with the suffering Christians.

5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” An elder points to the LION of the tribe of Judah. Judah = tribe of kings - David, Solomon, and Christ. The Lion is the symbol of rule and power. The lion is the “king of the jungle.” He (Christ) is triumphant. He is of the root of David (in the line of kings). He has the power to open the seals and reveal the contents of the book.

6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. John turns to see the LION. And - there - in the middle of the 24 elders and the four living creatures - stood a lamb. NOTE: Jesus is the lion of Judah AND the Lamb of God. He had 7 horns and seven eyes = 7 Spirits of God.

7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Jesus takes the book out of the hand of God. Only Jesus could reveal its content.

Sermon on Revelation 5:1-6

The Scroll

Brent Kercheville

Revelation 4 revealed the scene in the throne room of heaven. God is sitting on the throne in splendor and glory. The four living creatures and 24 elders are praising and worshiping God because he is worthy and deserving of honor. The focus shifts from the throne and the one who sits on the throne in chapter 4 to the scroll in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne in chapter 5. In this lesson we are going to examine the scroll and its meaning in Revelation and its meaning in Old Testament prophecy.

The Scroll’s Writing

There are a couple unique attributes about this scroll. The first unique characteristic is its seven seals. In its simplicity, the seven seals reveal that the scroll is perfectly and completely sealed. As we are going to notice, no human can open the scroll. The scroll is fully sealed until the proper time and the proper person to open the scroll. We will also notice as we continue our study of Revelation in future lessons that as each seal is broken, an event happens on the earth. This imagery will be important to keep in mind as we study through the book.

The other unique aspect of the scroll is that it has writing on both sides. Usually a scroll had writing on only one side. The simple meaning of the image presents itself to us. A scroll with writing on both sides pictures a complete message. The whole scroll has writing, even on both sides. Therefore, God’s complete message is ready to be revealed. The image of a scroll with writing on both sides is not unique to the scriptures. In Ezekiel 2:9-10 we read that in Ezekiel’s vision he is given a scroll that has writing on both sides.

And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. (Ezekiel 2:9-10 ESV)

Notice the scroll given to Ezekiel has the same characteristic of having writing on the front and back. Ezekiel also notices that the scroll is full of words of lamentation, mourning, and woe. I think we have an indication of the things we are going to read in the Revelation scroll when we are told that it has writing on both sides. It is a scroll of judgments and woes.

The Scroll’s Identity

Before we can move forward, I think we must ask an important question. What is this scroll? Where did this scroll come from? There are two choices: either we know nothing about the scroll and we are going to find out the meaning of the scroll now, or this scroll is the same scroll that we have seen elsewhere in the scriptures. Typically, the book of Revelation has been studied as if this scroll has no reference to any scrolls in the Old Testament. Many scholars and writers do not examine the significance of this scroll in the scriptures. However, there are many reasons to consider that this scroll in Revelation 5 is the same scroll found in the book of Daniel.

We mentioned at the beginning of our study of the book of Revelation that the word “revelation” means an unveiling of things previously concealed. The name of the book has the very idea built into it that this book is revealing previously concealed information. The scroll in Revelation 5 is the visualization of this truth. The scroll, something that has been sealed with seven seals, is now opened. The scroll has writing on both sides, but no one knows what the scroll says until the scroll is opened.

The scroll in Daniel 12 appears to be the same scroll that is in view in the book of Revelation. Turn to Daniel 12:4-9. Daniel is told that the words of the book are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Then we see a man clothed in linen standing above the waters of the stream. He raises his right hand and left hand toward heaven and makes an oath that it will be a time, times, and half a time when “all these things would be finished.” Daniel does not understand and it is repeated to him that the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Now look at Revelation 10:5-7 and notice the image is the same. The angel is standing on the sea, just like the angel in Daniel 12. The angel in Revelation raises his right hand and makes another oath, just as he did in Daniel 12. This time the angel gives an oath that there will no longer be a delay when all these things would be fulfilled. The angel in Daniel said that there would be a delay. The delay was a time, times, and half a time (a time marker that we will examine later in the study of Revelation). Now, the angel in Revelation says that there will no longer be a delay. To show the connection further, this information in Revelation 10 comes after the seventh seal is opened on the scroll. The seventh seal reveals seven trumpets that are about to sound. The angel in Revelation 10:7 says that when the seventh trumpet from the seventh seal sounds, all of these things are accomplished concerning the mystery of God. The mystery of God, that is, the things previously sealed by God, would now be revealed and fulfilled. In Revelation 10:8-9 John is told to take the scroll and prophesy its contents. We will look more closely at these images when we get to Revelation 10. But I want you to see right now the strong connection of the sealed scroll in Revelation 5 with the sealed scroll in Daniel 12.

Homer Hailey in his commentary on Daniel observes that the angel in Daniel 12 is the same angel in Revelation 10, speaking about the same things (Hailey, 247). Other scholars see this connection as well.

“The idea of sealing and opening books in connection with end-time happenings is found in the OT only in Daniel 12, 7” (Beale, 339). Beale continues later in his commentary making the same point. “Most futurist commentators would disagree with my argument thus far, which has been that Revelation 5 portrays a vision of inaugurated fulfillment of OT prophecy. The metaphor of seals can be found outside Daniel elsewhere in the OT and Jewish apocalyptic, but the seals in Revelation 5:1 ff come from Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9” (Beale, 347).

Finally, the phrase found in Daniel, “Time of theend” is the same as “the last days” in the scriptures. These are descriptions of the time of the coming of the Messiah who would set up his kingdom. “The time of the end” is describing the events that will lead up to and bring about the coming of the Messiah. Revelation as the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies is appropriate to the time frame that the angel gives.

Consider this: if Revelation is not “unveiling” the sealed scroll of Daniel, then what is the book of Revelation unveiling? Further, if Daniel’s prophecy that was sealed “until the time of the end” was not revealed to John in the book of Revelation, then Daniel’s scroll was never unveiled in the days of the Messiah. We do not know what Revelation is revealing nor do we have Daniel’s prophecy unsealed. However, the book of Revelation is showing us that this revelation given to John is unveiling the sealed prophecy of Daniel.

Who Can Open The Scroll?

We come back to the imagery in Revelation 5. The one who is seated on the throne is holding the scroll that is sealed in his right hand. A strong angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” I think the added description of the one making the proclamation is a strong angel is interesting. Not even the strong angel can open this scroll. Revelation 5:3 continues this thought. No one is able to open the scroll. No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth can open this scroll or look into it. Observe that the question is not, “Who is strong enough to open the scroll?” Rather, the question is who is worthy. Who has the right to go before the throne, take the scroll, and open the seals revealing its contents? No created being is even able to contemplate being worthy to open this scroll. At the realization that no one can open the scroll, John begins to weep loudly.

However, one of the 24 elders speaks to John and tells him to no longer weep. There is someone who is worthy to open the scroll and its seals. The one worthy is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. He has conquered and he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah comes from Genesis 49:8-10. The context of Genesis 49 is Jacob is about to pass away and he is giving the blessings to his sons before his death. This is some of the blessing pronounced on Jacob’s fourth son, Judah.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:8-10 ESV)

Notice that the imagery of the lion is given to Judah and it is a reference to the eternal rule that will come from Judah. Through Judah will be the lineage of the kings. The descendants of Judah will rule. Notice the messianic interpretation the Jews had of this text from their Targum (an Aramaic translation of the scriptures).

“He shall be a ruler in the beginning and in the end the king from the house of Judah will be anointed, because you, my son, removed yourself from the judgment of slaying. May he rest; may he dwell in strength like a lion, and like a lioness, and there is no kingdom that can shake him. One who executes rule shall not pass away from those of the house of Judah, nor a scribe from the sons of his sons, forever, until the Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom, and whom the nations will obey.” (Genesis 49:9-10; Targum)

Further, the Messiah is called the Root of David, which comes from Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10.

He shall be a ruler in the beginning and in the end the king from the house of Judah will be anointed, because you, my son, removed yourself from the judgment of slaying. May he rest; may he dwell in strength like a lion, and like a lioness, and there is no kingdom that can shake him. (Isaiah 11:1)

One who executes rule shall not pass away from those of the house of Judah, nor a scribe from the sons of his sons, forever, until the Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom, and whom the nations will obey. (Isaiah 11:10)

In Jewish literature, the Root of David was seen as a reference to the conquering Messiah who would destroy the enemies of Israel (2 Esdras 12:32; Sirach 47:22). The symbolism behind the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David is the conquering Messiah who puts his enemies under subjection.

John turns to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but instead sees a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. Do you see the great picture? The conquering Messiah does not conquer by military muscle but through his sacrificial death. Jesus does not conquer through armies or by physical strength. Jesus conquers by enduring hostility and dying as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Victory has been achieved, not by sword, but by sacrifice. Christ is the conqueror but his victory was won on the cross.

Verses 8-14

Rev 5:8-14

2. THE HEAVENLY WORSHIP

Revelation 5:8-14

8 And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb,--In Revelation 4:8-11 the living creatures and elders are represented as worshiping God upon his throne; in this verse they are seen worshiping Christ by bowing before the being called the Lamb. Since he was able to break the seals and open the book of the future, naturally he was worthy of receiving their adoration. The manner in which their worship vras rendered is described in the following expressions.

having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.--Whatever the different features of this vision may signify, we should not forget that John was seeing things in heaven, not on earth. There is no question about the language indicating that the four living creatures and twenty-four elders all fell down to worship the Lamb. The words also seem to mean that each of the twenty-eight had a harp and a bowl of incense; certainly the twenty-four elders did. The text clearly indicates the individual worship of each for each is represented as having a harp. To understand a material harp in a purely spiritual realm, played by spirit beings, is, of course, incongruous. It will be necessary to find what they, as symbols, represent if any application is made to things on earth, just as is necessary in other features of the vision. If all is to be taken as strictly literal and applied to the church, then each Christian would have to use a harp individually in worshiping. This would require as many harps as individuals in the congregation, which is quite enough to show the absurdity of any such interpretation.

John declares that the incense represents the "prayers of the saints." Just as incense arose when the priests offered it in the tabernacle and temple, so the prayers of those in the church ascend to God. This symbolic sense of the word "incense" is in harmony with the following texts: Leviticus 16:12-13; Psalms 141:2; Acts 10:4. When John explains the application to be made of this word as being figurative, why conclude that "harp" is to be taken literally. The natural and reasonable application of the word here is that it represents praise. Since Paul tells us to make melody "with your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19), we know that the human heart is represented as the spiritual instrument that should vibrate (make the melody) in harmony with the sentiments of the song we sing. Each saint has one of these spiritual "harps" which can be used in perfect unison with all other singers. From any view-point the passage absolutely excludes the mechanical instrument.

9 And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou hast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,--This part of their song of praise states that Christ’s worthiness to open the seals of the book is shown by the fact that he shed his blood as the price sufficient to purchase men of every class and nation. In Acts 20:28 he is represented as purchasing the church. In this passage the church is looked upon as a body ; in our text it is viewed as being composed of individuals. This and similar passages furnish the unquestioned proof that Gentiles are included in the purchase price paid. Incidentally it also shows that men are saved by entering the church; for none can be saved without Christ’s blood, and none can be saved by it, if responsible for conduct, outside of the institution purchased by the blood. If saved out of the church, then saved without his blood.

10 and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth.--In verses 9 and 10 here the heavenly host repeats in very similar words the same thoughts which John uttered in 1:5, 6. "Didst purchase" and "madest" are coordinated terms in the same grammatical construction. They express a completed past act, which must of necessity be true regarding his purchase of the church with his blood. Then the church purchased with his blood he made a kingdom. As certainly as the church existed at the time John was writing, just that certain had it been made a kingdom. The kingdom was in existence; hence, the premillennial theory that Christ must come in person to establish a kingdom is of necessity false. The saved in the church had also been made priests. Since the church is described as a tabernacle or temple, those who render service in it are called priests. That relationship was in existence then. (1 Peter 2:5.) This is not denied. Since establishing the Christian priesthood and the purchase of the church are conceded as past events, there can be no reason assigned for denying that the kingdom had been established.

The King James Version says "shall reign," but the Revised says "they reign" which is present tense. The distinction is not especially important, for if they were then reigning, they would still reign. But as they were then a kingdom the present tense is evidently the correct expression, especially since the present tense often means continued or repeated action. The reign "upon the earth" is perfectly natural, for the church (kingdom) is upon the earth. Just as the priesthood must be spiritual, so the reign must be. The saints on earth, but under Christ, reign through the teaching and living of Christ’s law; they exercise a leading, directing and restraining influence.

11 AndI saw, and I heard a 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; --Surrounding the company that was worshiping the Lamb, John saw a host of angels of too many thousands to be numbered.

12 saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.--The myriads of angels join with the group about the throne in ascribing praise to Christ. Like the preceding song, they base his worthiness upon the fact that he was slain. Being worthy to receive all these things showed he was not only the one to open the seals but to reign. That he had the honors here mentioned at that time is unquestionably a fact. Their words probably mean that he was worthy to possess them as he then did, because he had been made worthy by his death to receive them.

13 And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying,--By a figure of personification even animals and inanimate nature are represented as praising God. (Psalms 148:7-10.) Hearing voices from created things in every realm showed John that all creation in its proper manner must honor God and Christ. Adding this song to the two previous ones of the heavenly beings made the praise universal.

Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.--The same thought is expressed here as in the preceding verse, except that God is also praised.

14 And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped.--When the hymn of praise closed the four living creatures pronounced the Amen, and the twenty-four elders bowing in worship gave their assent. All of these ascribing to Christ authority and power was a most solemn and impressive way of showing him to be able to break the seals and reveal the future. This feature John introduces in the next chapter.

Commentary on Revelation 5:8-14 by Foy E. Wallace

4. “The four creatures (beings), the four and and twenty 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.

Because he was the One who was “able to open the book” and to Him complete and united homage was due; not one creature (being), nor one elder, but the four of the one group, and the twenty-four of the other, representing complete and united worship and adoration: having every one of them harps and golden bowls (vials) full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.

5. “Having every one of them harps"—Revelation 5:8.

The harp was not an instrument of mourning, but of rejoicing. In Israel’s captivity the harps were hung on the willows (Psalms 137:2) in representation of Israel’s sorrow. The symbol here is not that of sorrow in the calamities to come, but of rejoicing in the triumph of their deliverance, by the Lion that “hath prevailed,” and who would lead them through all the scenes of conflict enclosed in the book, which was now about to be disclosed by him, in scenes of the ultimate eventual victory of the unfolding experiences.

6. “And golden vials full of odors”—Revelation 5:8.

The vial, or censer, was a vessel used in altar service to contain the fire with which incense was burned, the perpetual fire from the altar of burnt offerings. It sometimes stands for the altar itself as in Hebrews 13:10 : “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” Its use for common purposes was positively forbidden, and no other composition or preparation was acceptable, either of fire or of incense than that which was prescribed. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21; Leviticus 10:1-4)

7. “The prayers of saints"—Rev Revelation 5:8.

The incense was symbolic of intercession, typical of the intercession of Christ for his saints. Here it is designated to be the prayers of saints because the saints in tribulation were imploring the intercession of the Lamb. In Revelation 8:3, the incense was “added to the prayers of the saints,” which signified the meritsof the death of Christ, and which extended and amplified the symbol of intercession. The altar stood for that upon which sacrifice was offered as mentioned in 1 Kings 13:1-34; 1 Kings 18:30, and it was appropriated exclusively in the offering of sacrifices for sin on behalf of the one who had offended the law. It symbolized Christ as the Christian’s only sacrifice, and there is no need for any other altar. It is upon his altar that spiritual offerings are now made (Hebrews 13:10) and to him all true worship ascends (Hebrews 13:15). This vision of Revelation is based on the typical significance of the sacrificial offerings of the Old Testament, which not only reminded the people of sin and the need of expiation, but prefigured the atonement of Christ doctrinally envisioned in Isaiah 53:10, and mentioned in 1 Peter 2:24, as having been accomplished.

8. “They sang a new song, saying, thou wast slain . . . and hast redeemed us to God . . . out of every kindred, people, nation”—Revelation 5:9.

The new song was the theme of redemption from sin by the blood of the Lamb, in contrast with redemption of Old Testament Israel from the physical servitude of the song by the sea.

“Redeemed to God” signified the restoration and repossession of a forfeited state, a redemption by a blood price of an inheritance that was lost.

“Out of every kindred, tongue, people, nation.” The new Israel was not tribal or national but composed of all men of all nations, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. It was the sublime vision of the new people of God. (Hosea 1:10; Romans 9:25-26; 1 Peter 2:10)

9. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth”—Revelation 5:10.

Kings: This refers to the reign of Christ in the kingdom now present and existing--“made us”--it was of past performance and establishment; not a future kingdom, but present. The church is the priesthood now (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9), an analogy based on Exodus 19:6. The church sustains a kingly relation to Christ, and of it the members “reign with Christ”; hence, they are kings in royalty with him. (Romans 8:17) It is a reference to the state of the church under the gospel--under the spiritual government of Christ. (1 Timothy 6:15) The term “king” signified a sovereign prince or ruler in a kingdom. (Proverbs 8:15) It is applied to God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe (Psalms 44:4); and to Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 45:1; Ephesians 4:5); and to all true Christians who as heirs, reign with him in life. (Romans 8:17; Romans 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:12)

Priests: The church sustains a priestly relation to Christ, and its members participate in the offering of spiritual sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:15) The word priest is contracted from elder or presbyter, and was a general name for ministers of God’s service. (Hebrews 10:11) In all scriptures it denotes one who offers sacrifice. It is applied to Jesus Christ in the highest office, who offered himself for the sins of all men. (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 8:4) It applies to every true believer (Christian), who himself offers spiritual sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6) Under the law the priest was a person consecrated and ordained to teach the people, pray for them and offer sacrifices. (Leviticus 4:5-6) Christians perform all of these services and functions now in the new priesthood, the church.

Reign: The word is variously used literally and figuratively. Commonly the word to reign means to rule, or to govern as a sovereign prince. (2 Samuel 5:4-5; Matthew 2:6) God reigns as absolute monarch, he governs and disposes of all things in heaven and earth. (Psalms 93:1); Christ reigns in this dispensation in his kingdom, the church (Luke 1:33; Matthew 2:6; Romans 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25); Death reigned from Adam to Moses, Romans 5:15 --that is, prevailed, held sway, dominion; Sin reigns, when the motions of sin are obeyed, as one obeys the law or command of a king, when it exercises an absolute uncontrolled power over the soul (Romans 6:12); Grace reigns through righteousness, prevails through the gospel to abolish the rule and dominion of sin, as we are governed by what it teaches (Romans 5:21; Titus 2:11-12); and Christians reign in righteous living with Christ (Romans 5:17). All who receive grace in gift of righteousness (forgiveness in Christ), and partake of the spiritual life, whereby sin is conquered, reign with apostles in conforming to their teaching and example; and reign with Christ as in the sufferings with him in the death to sin and partaking of his suffering (2 Timothy 2:12)

We shall reign: Literally rendered the passage reads are reigning--referring in the Revelation context to their continuing conquests in the trials that were present.

What the four creatures and twenty-four elders were chanting in unison, as a complete representative company, was the prospect of a glorious triumph over their oppressors. It symbolized a reign of victory, a symbol that the oppressions to be revealed in the seals could not consume them; the wrath of monarchs could not destroy them; nor the power of kings and emperors defeat them. They would survive; they would live; they would reign on the earth, not in future glory, but reign there and then as conquerers and overcomers in an undefeated, triumphant cause. The church was symbolized as being complete and imperishable in conflict with their heathen oppressors.

Commentary on Revelation 5:8-14 by Walter Scott

THE LIVING ONES AND ELDERS THE NEW SONG

Revelation 5:8-10 "And when He took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals, because Thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them to our God kings and priests, and they shall reign over the earth." In the previous chapter Jehovah in the greatness and eternity of His Being, as also in His relation to all creation as its Lord, its Sustainer, and Creator, evokes the profound worship of the living ones and elders. No angels are mentioned as taking part in the worship. But here we have as the center of Heaven’s worship THE SLAIN LAMB, and accordingly all creation is stirred to its depths. There are additional features of heart interest, added grounds and reasons of worship, not found when Jehovah, as such, is in view. The slain Lamb brings before us the holy Sufferer of earth given up to insult and wrong, rejected and crucified, uttering no word of reproach, nor exercising power on His own behalf save the passive might to suffer. Now all is blessedly changed. The Lamb once stood in the midst of the ribald band (Matthew 27:27-31) silent, meek, unresisting, alone in holiness, in calm dignity, enduring to the utmost the mean and cruel contempt of the ferocious men around Him, who rained their blows on His defenseless head, bowed before Him the mocking knee, covered Him with their disgusting spittle, crowned and pierced Him with the prickly thorn, thrust a reed into His bound hands, stripped Him, and with blow and taunt indulged their vile and depraved nature. Silent and patient in His agony He stood in the midst. Now the self-same Lamb bearing in His Person the marks of His passion is here seen as the object of Heaven’s worship. No voice is, nor can be, silent when the slain Lamb appears.

Here the living ones unite with the elders in profound prostration before the Lamb. Observe, too, the moment and occasion. How fitting! "When He took the book" they "fell before the Lamb." That supreme moment to which the ways of God all tend, for which creation groans, Israel yearns, and saints hope and pray, has come. Its first action is the transference of the reins of government to the slain Lamb. The kingdom is to be mediatorial in character. The sceptre will be wielded by Christ in association with His heavenly saints, here represented by the eiders, and with other redeemed but martyred companies subsequently translated.

Revelation 5:8 "Having each a harp and golden bowls" applies to the elders, not to the living ones. These latter are of the executive government of God, and as that government is to be administered by Christ, the slain Lamb, they own His right and title to universal dominion. The living ones and elders worship Jehovah in Revelation 4:1-11, they equally worship the Lamb in Revelation 5:1-14. What does this prove but that the Son is equal with the Father, and that whatever added glories He acquired by incarnation and atonement, yet He, the Son, is God, and as such entitled to the worship of every created being.

Revelation 5:8 "A harp." In earth’s millennial praise various musical instruments are named (Psalms 149:1-9; Psalms 150:1-6). But the choral praise of the heavenly hosts is represented by the harp only. The harp and song correspond as in that of the martyred company of Judah (Revelation 15:2). In the direct praise and worship of Jehovah of old the harp seems more frequently employed than any other musical instrument, owing to its rare combination of solemn, grand notes with soft and tender strains under the hand of a skillful player (Isaiah 24:8; Psalms 33:2; Psalms 43:4; 1 Chronicles 25:6). Song and harp are generally named together.

Revelation 5:8 "Golden bowls ("A broad open vessel or basin;" see useful footnote, p. 158, "Lectures on the Book of Revelation," by William Kelly.) full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints." Priestly praise (the harp) and service (the bowls) are here united. In 2 Chronicles 3:1-17; 2 Chronicles 4:1-22, the temple and its holy vessels prefigure the millennial scene in some of its highest aspects. What the gold basins were in the temple (2 Chronicles 4:22), such with their own characteristic differences are the golden bowls in the hands of the heavenly saints. "Golden bowls" mark their value and attest the high and holy service for which they are used. "Full of incenses." ("I have ventured to make a plural to suit the original, which implies a variety of sweet odors." -- Hooper. See also "New Translation.") It is not one perfume, but many. The fragrance is full and diversified. The "incenses are the prayers of the saints." Prayer on earth is incense in Heaven. We sometimes deem our prayers as worthless. Ah! it is not so. God in His own inimitable way and rich grace values our cries and intercessions, and they ascend to Him as incense.

But who are the praying company of saints in whom the heavenly priesthood are so deeply interested? The central part of the book clearly enough points to the existence of a witnessing company on earth during the course of the apocalyptic judgments, a company saved from amongst Jews and Gentiles (Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 13:7-10). These holy sufferers under the apostate civil power (the Beast), and under the religious apostate power (the Antichrist), will have the rage of Satan let loose upon them working through his chiefs on earth. All suffer in the awful week of seven years (Daniel 9:27) preceding the millennial dawn. Many are martyred, and thus have a heavenly place and portion assigned them; others survive and form the nucleus of the millennial inhabitants who will joy in the public advent and righteous reign of Christ, Lamb of God, and Son of Man. The prayers of these saints are incense. (Many writers on the Apocalypse contend that the harp and bowls of incense signify the praise and prayers of the redeemed in Heaven. The former is true, but certainly not the latter. Prayer as the expression of need would be out of place in Heaven. It is idle to cite Revelation 6:9 to the contrary. "Under the altar" and a waiting the resurrection of the body is not the same as raised and glorified in Heaven and beyond need as the elders undoubtedly are.) But carefully note that the elders neither act as mediators nor intercessors. They do not present these supplications to God, nor add by mediation to their value. The elders in Heaven are the brethren of those holy sufferers on earth. Strange, therefore, that they should not be interested in the struggles and conflicts here in which they formerly had their part. But theirs, while deeply sympathetic, is a passive attitude. The angel-priest who adds incense to the prayers of the saints is no created being (Revelation 8:3-4); Christ, and He alone, is competent to do this. He alone is the Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and Intercessor (Romans 8:34). One Mediator, Who is "the Man Christ Jesus." Two Intercessors, Christ in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit in us now.

Revelation 5:9. "They (the elders) sing a new song." There is no song recorded in the book of Genesis. The patriarchs were men of deep thought and of serious, not joyous mind. The first song on earth of which we have any account is narrated in Exodus 15:1-27. The deliverance which had been wrought for Israel (Exodus 14:1-31) formed the ground and material for both song (Exodus 15:1-19) and refrain (v. 21). The old song is God celebrated in creation glory (Job 38:7). The song in our text is termed "new" because of its theme, redemption, not typically, but actually accomplished; "new" because sung in Heaven on the eve of the full burst of millennial joy. We may observe that there is no song in Revelation 4:1-11, nor is it said in Scripture that angels sing. The song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3) unite to celebrate God’s past ways with Israel and His present grace in and through the Lamb. "The song over creation must give place, in compass and melody, to the song over the triumphs of Jesus" (J. G. B.), and this is the new song which has as its burden and theme the conquering Lamb of God; a song which embraces the past and the future, the cross and the kingdom. Grand as the song of Israel was when sung on the eastern bank of the Red Sea, this in its character and occasion is incomparably greater. The redeemed sing of Him and to Him.

Revelation 5:9 "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals." It is remarkable how the introduction of the Lamb shuts out all else. In that character which presents Him as slain He absorbs the attention of Heaven. Where is the Lion of the tribe of Judah? The Lion gives place to the Lamb. Under the former title, which is one of might and power, He will defend the cause of His oppressed people of Israel, and in His career of victory He rests not till the triumph of that people is secured. But that title of assertive power is meantime in abeyance, and the Lamb is all the glory in Heaven and earth. Of course the power of the Lion and the grace of the Lamb center in Jesus. Here the Lamb is personally addressed in song. His worthiness to disclose and to execute the counsels of God are celebrated. Next, the ground of the Lamb’s worthiness to carry out the purposes of God into full and glorious result is stated.

Revelation 5:9 "Because Thou hast been slain and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation." As the Lion of the tribe of Judah He acts in power, but as the Lamb He was slain. Here the accomplishment of God’s counsels of grace and glory is traced to the cross as the basis. "Because Thou hast been SLAIN." Without the cross, Christ would have entered into spheres of glory alone; without it there could have been no redemption for sinners. The cross is the grandest counsel of eternity and the grandest fact of time. It is the immovable basis on which rests the blessing of Israel and creation, as also the glory of the Church and of saints in the heavens.

The redemption of the race is a figment of the theological brain, and absolutely destitute of scriptural authority. Do Philippians 2:10-11; Colossians 1:20; Acts 3:21 lend the slightest support to the notion that all things, persons, and demons shall be redeemed, or restored to their pristine condition? We emphatically answer, "No!" Philippians 2:10-11 asserts the subjection of the universe to Christ, but subjection is not redemption. Colossians 1:20 limits the reconciliation of all things (not persons) in Heaven and earth, the under world being exempted. Acts 3:21 refers to the fulness of millennial blessing, the testimony of prophecy. But instead of proclaiming the redemption of all men, the prophets of old expressly refute it (Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 66:24). What, too, of the solemn testimony of the Seer of Patmos? (Revelation 19:19-20; Revelation 20:7-15). There is no redemption of the race, but of persons out of it, and this distinction is quite in accord with the ancient testimony of Moses in Psalms 90:3. "Thou turnest man (the race) to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men" (individuals). Purchase is universal, and intimates a change of ownership. Redemption is special, and refers to a change of state. "Redeemed to God," then we are His. Not only so, but, writes the apostle, "We also joy in God" (Romans 5:11), the highest moral state compatible with creaturehood. At what an infinite cost has our blessing been secured! "By blood." The past redemption of Israel was effected by power (Exodus 15:13; Psalms 106:10); the redemption of sinners out of the race is by blood (1 Peter 1:18; Romans 3:24). The distribution of the human family is under its usual and well-known significant factor four, i.e., tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. Out of these God gathers and redeems a people for Himself.

Revelation 5:10 "And made them to our God kings and priests, and they shall reign over the earth." The pronouns "them" and "they," instead of as in the Authorised Version "us " and "we," mark an important distinction in the interpretation of this important passage. The elders do not sing of their own redemption, but that of a people on earth. Their priestly service was on behalf of others, so here their song is of the redeemed then on earth. They sing and celebrate the blessing of others, not their own. How unselfish! How unjealous! How intense the interest in God’s work of grace in the earth during the interesting interval between the Translation (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and the Advent of the Lord in power (Revelation 19:11-14). The redeemed in Heaven delight to declare the blessing of the redeemed on earth. "Made them to our God kings and priests," royal dignity and priestly nearness. "They shall reign over the earth." Jerusalem will become the capital seat of government on earth during the blessed coming era (Jeremiah 3:17), and the Jewish people, then all saved, take the headship of the nations (Ezekiel 48:15-35; Isaiah 52:1-10; Psalms 47:1-9). But the heavenly saints shall reign "over," not on, the earth. The kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Son (Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:43) intimate respective spheres of blessing. All saints who die, along with those changed at the Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52), reign over the earth in blessed association with Christ. They are not subjects of the kingdom; they are kings, and are in full number presented as about to assume royal functions in Revelation 20:4. Our reign as to its character takes its pattern from His, the union of royal authority and priestly grace (see Zechariah 6:13, "He shall be a priest upon His throne").

Revelation 5:11-14

THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB.

THE INTELLIGENT UNIVERSE IN

PRAISE TO GOD AND TO THE LAMB.

Revelation 5:11-14 "And I saw, and I heard (the) voice of many angels around the throne, and the living creatures and the elders; and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands: saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that has been slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in the Heaven, and upon the earth, and under the earth, and (those that are) upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might to the ages of ages. And the four living creatures said, Amen: and the elders fell down and did homage." "I saw" and "I heard" are expressions which denote the rapt attention of the Seer.(* The former, i.e., "I saw," occurs forty-four times; the latter, i.e., "I heard." twenty-seven times. They are found in conjunction in the closing section of the book. In the fifth and last mention of John as the writer of the Apocalypse he twice assures us that he "saw these things and heard them" (Revelation 22:8). The testimony of the apostle to the fact that these visions were actually seen and the various voices and sounds actually heard is personal and decisive.) The introduction of angels into the heavenly scene and the place which they occupy is of profound interest. They announced the birth of Jesus and praised God in words of never-dying fame (Luke 2:8-14); an angel ministered to Him in the gloomy garden as the dark shadow of the cross and agony rested on His spirit (Luke 22:43); two angels witnessed to His resurrection (John 20:12-13); and two also testified of His ascension (Acts 1:10-11). When He re-entered His heavenly home, then was made good that article of the Christian faith "seen of angels" (1 Timothy 3:16). The whole system of Christianity is a matter of inquiry and interest to the heavenly hosts (1 Peter 1:12). They delight to serve the heirs of salvation now (Hebrews 1:14), even as it will be their joy to serve them in glory (Revelation 21:12). They accompany the Lord in innumerable hosts in His triumphal entry into this world (Matthew 25:31; Hebrews 1:6). It is not predicated of angels that they love or are loved.

In the center stands the slain Lamb, around the throne the living ones and the redeemed, while the outer circle is formed of angels whose numbers are beyond human computation (see Daniel 7:10).(In the relation of the numbers by the Seer and Prophet the order observed is not the same. John first names the larger number. Daniel first mentions the smaller number. But substantially there is no difference.) In the response of the angelic hosts to the song of the redeemed they say, whereas the elders sing. There is more than a verbal difference in this, for while angels know the Lamb they cannot say "He was slain for us." We know Him in a deeper, fuller, more personal way than do angels. He died for us, not for them; hence the difference, we sing, they say.

Angels are never said to sing. Observe, too, that the elders in their song directly address the Lamb, whereas the angels, in keeping with their place and service, adopt a more distant form of address. The former sing to Him, the latter speak of Him. The full burst of praise from the angelic hosts is grand. The symphony is unmarred by one discordant note. They ascribe to Him the fullest number (seven) of attributes, ("Power" is first named because the circumstances call for its immediate exercise. "Power" in its widest and most comprehensive character is ascribed to Him. "Riches," the wealth of the universe, physical and moral, is His due. "Wisdom," as seen in all the ways and works of God next follows in the list. "Strength" is that quality which enables one to execute what the will determines to be done. "Honor" implies that every mark of public distinction is worthy to be conferred on the Lamb. "Glory" refers to public and moral display, of which the Lamb is deemed alone worthy. "Blessing," every form and character of blessedness or happiness is here ascribed to the Lamb.) as they also do in Revelation 7:12; in the former, however, the slain Lamb is the burden of their testimony, whereas in the latter it is "our God," the God of angels and of men. The order in which the attributes are named in the two respective angelic strains differs. There are also other minor points worth noting in these ascriptions of praise. The seven terms denote the highest and most perfect expression which a creature can offer. They embody the full and perfect praise of the most exalted of God’s creatures.

But the full tide of praise is not yet exhausted. It rolls on, gathering force and volume, till the whole universe is embraced. "Every creature which is in the Heaven, and upon the earth, and under the earth, and (those that are) upon the sea, and all things in them," the vast universe of God in all its parts. Jehovah on His throne and the Lamb are the objects of universal adoration. The fourfold ascription of praise, "blessing, and honour, and glory, and might," marks the universality of this spontaneous burst of worship. The praise is never ceasing, "to the ages of ages."

The living creatures add their "Amen," whilst the elders again "fell down and did homage." In drawing our comments to a close on this peculiarly precious page of divine revelation we would observe that the song and its accompanying responses are anticipative. Millennial and eternal themes are celebrated and spoken of as accomplished. The past tense is generally employed. The slain Lamb is the object round which all are grouped. In the person of the Lamb we have the firm guarantee for the glorious display of all God’s counsels. Hence, ere the work is performed, faith exultingly cries, "It is done."

Important Emendations in Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 5:1-14.

Authorized Version Vs. Corrected Text

Revelation 4:1, "After this." "After these things."

Revelation 4:1, "Hereafter." "After these things."

Revelation 4:4, "Four and twenty seats." "Four and twenty thrones."

Revelation 4:6 etc., "Four beasts," "Four living creatures."

Revelation 4:9-10, "Ever and ever." "Ages of ages."

Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 5:14, "Four beasts." "Four living creatures."

Revelation 5:8, "Golden vials full of odours." "Golden bowls full of incenses."

Revelation 5:9, "Redeemed us to God." "Redeemed to God."

Revelation 5:10, "Made us." "Made them."

Revelation 5:10, "We shall reign." "They shall reign."

Revelation 5:10, "On the earth." ” "Over the earth."

Revelation 5:12, "Power." "The Power."

Revelation 5:13-14, "Ever and ever." ” "Ages of ages."

Delete in verse 14 the words "that liveth for ever and ever" (see the "Revised" and other critical helps).

Commentary on Revelation 5:8-14 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 5:8

And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

As Morris said, "Worship is reserved only for God (Revelation 22:9); that the Lamb is worshipped is evidence of his full divinity."[33] This verse has a very important bearing upon the mediatorial office of Christ, as revealed in the New Testament. Bruce was of the opinion that "the elders perform priestly functions in heaven";[34] but such a view must be rejected. That view became popular early in post-apostolic times; and from it, in time, developed the conception of the Virgin Mary as a heavenly mediator; but nothing like this is known to the New Testament. Barclay traced this superstition back to the Testament of Dan (6:2), which reads, "Draw near unto God and to the angel that intercedeth for you, for he is a mediator between God and man."[35] However, as Barclay proceeded to point out:

That is exactly the feeling that Jesus Christ came to take away, for He came to tell us that God is closer to us than breathing, nearer than hands and feet. He came to be the living way by which for every man, however humble, the door to God is open.[36]

That such is indeed true is not possible of any contradiction, because, as Paul expressed it:

There is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Thus, we must not look for any priestly service, nor any mediatorial function whatever, being performed by those four and twenty elders in heaven. As a matter of fact, they were not offering any prayers at all in the vision. As Barnes pointed out, "It is not said that they offered prayers, but incense representing the prayers of the saints."[37] The incense they offered in this vision stands for the prayers of actual living saints on earth at the time, which is further proof that these twenty-four elders are to be understood as representing the universal church on earth. What the elders were doing in heaven only portrays symbolically the true significance of the prayers of Christians on earth.

Having each one a harp ... This also is grossly misunderstood as some kind of support for the proponents of instrumental music in the worship of Christ; but the harp here is purely symbolical, not of mechanical instruments of music, but of singing, an action in which the heavenly host immediately engaged. As Hinds expressed it, "From any viewpoint, the pas sage absolutely excludes the mechanical instrument."[38]

The triumphal enthronement of the Son of God in this chapter no sooner takes place, Christ having accepted the office of King of the Universe, "than there is a great burst of triumph and exuberant joy in three doxologies."[39] See next verses.

[33] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 98.

[34] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 643.

[35] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 220.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961), p. 127.

[38] John T. Hinds, op. cit., p. 80.

[39] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 111.

Revelation 5:9

And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,

The glorious outburst in heaven extolled the triumphant death of Christ on the cross, that being where the purchase of a people from all classes and kindreds was actually paid. Very clearly, it is not some far-off millennial morning which is in view here but the scenes of Calvary, the garden of Gethsemane, and the post-resurrection meeting with the apostles in the upper room.

They sing a new song ... This is the new song of redemption in Jesus’ blessed name, the "new song" prophesied by Isaiah 42:10. In this connection, it is proper to note that "forgiveness of sins" is the newest thing on the planet earth, being never before possible until the death of Jesus on the cross. See extensive discussion of this in my book entitled "The Mystery of Redemption." Christianity is the truly new thing. In it are the new creation, the new name, the new song, the new heaven and the new earth, the new birth, the new life in Christ, etc.

Strangely enough, the widespread references in sermonic literature to the "song" which the angels sang the night Jesus was born find their only corroboration in what is written here. This passage says "they sang a new song," introducing it by "saying." It is plain that this verb is consistent with song as well as speech?[40]

Purchase with thy blood ... The conception of the church as a possession, bought by the blood of Christ, is everywhere in the New Testament. "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). "The church which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28), etc.

Of every tribe ... tongue ... people ... nation ... The universal characteristic of the church is stressed by this. It is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ that actually concerns every man ever born on earth.

ENDNOTE:

[40] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 100.

Revelation 5:10

and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth.

This is a disputed text, there being even some question of the translation; but despite this, the meaning comes through with absolute clarity. The saints of Jesus Christ, the Christians of all tribes and nations, are now reigning upon the earth with Jesus Christ. Some people do not wish to believe this, but the dogmatic power of this verse refutes the unbelievers. The Christians in this current dispensation reign with Christ. Their reign is exactly in the same sense as that of the apostles "reigning with Christ" (Matthew 19:28), a reign which Jesus Christ himself affirmed would occur during "the times of the regeneration"; that is, the "times of the new birth," meaning the current gospel age. Now, for some of the problems.

The KJV renders this passage: "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth." There are two significant changes in the ASV. "Us" is changed to "they," and "we shall reign" is changed to "they reign." We shall take the first change first.

That the "us" here means Christians of the present times is obvious, and since that is the true meaning of the passage, no matter how it is translated, the KJV should be retained. We do not suppose that modern scholarship is any better qualified to solve this than the KJV translators. Furthermore, their translation (1611) is further corroborated and confirmed by the Sinaiticus manuscript, discovered in 1859. Bruce and Seiss both confirm this;[41] and Seiss elaborated his opinion thus:

Some critics and expositors have rejected this (us), for the reason that it is omitted in Codex Alexandrinus and from the Ethiopic version; though the latter is not much more than a loose paraphrase. The Codex Sinaiticus is of equal value and authority with the Alexandrinus, and it has it. So also do the Codex Basilanus (in the Vatican), the Latin, Coptic (Memphitic), and Armenian, and all other manuscripts and versions. We regard it (the "us") as indubitably genuine.[42]

This writer does not pretend to be able to resolve this question, but certainly there must be some basis for the supposition that the KJV may indeed be correct in this instance.

The other problem regards the tense: "We shall reign" (KJV) vs. "they reign." Here the later translations are obviously correct, because that is what the passage means. Even if "shall reign" is read here, it means, "they shall continue to reign, as at the present time." "The context seems to demand the present tense";[43] but even if the future tense is what John wrote, "it would refer to the future immediately subsequent to the appointment of each king and priest."[44] Wallace also agreed to this thus, "We shall reign, literally rendered is are reigning, referring in the Revelation context to their continuing conquests in the trials that were present."[45] As Caird summed it up:

Any suggestion that the reign of the Christians belongs to an ultimate future is beside the point, since we have now been twice told that they are already kings and priests.[46]

The apostle Peter spoke convincingly of this in the first epistle (1 Peter 2:9), where he called Christians a "royal priesthood," which is exactly what is affirmed here, adding that they are now offering up "spiritual sacrifices" to God, thus also "reigning" with Christ.

THE EARTHLY KINGDOM VIRUS

The first and greatest mistake ancient Israel ever made was rejecting the theocratic government of God and demanding a king like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8); and this mistake was likewise their last, for it blinded them against the coming of their hoped-for Messiah. At the time of the First Advent, the Jewish nation, especially its leaders, wanted nothing either in heaven or upon earth as ardently as they wanted the restoration of their earthly monarchy, obliviously ignorant of the fact that a secular kingdom was contrary to God’s will from the first. By the times of Jesus, their hopes of a Messiah had degenerated into a carnal malignant patriotism; and when they knew that Christ had no intention of organizing an army and chasing the Romans, they crucified him!

People of our own times who long for some earthly, secular appearance of Christ to establish some kind of a literal kingdom on this earth are guilty of the same mistake as that of ancient Israel. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. It is a reign over the passions and appetites of the body, a reign over the lusts and vanities of the flesh, a spiritual reign of a people who, in a sense, are "called out" of the world with its secular value judgments. The very word "church" means "called out." Every line of the New Testament denies that Christ ever intended or that he ever plans to rule in any temporal sense on this earth. The church age is not to be followed by any so-called "kingdom age." The church is the kingdom; and the thousand years reign refers to the whole time between the First Advent and the Second Advent of Christ. Many people are not satisfied by the type of kingdom established by Christ, resulting in the projection of all kinds of bizarre and unscriptural notions regarding some "future" kingdom. If people can bear to hear it, the "kingdom" has already been in existence since the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. The saints of the New Testament were baptized into that kingdom; and there is none other.

[41] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 643.

[42] J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse Lectures on Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1900), pp. 103,104.

[43] J. W. Roberts, The Revelation of John (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1974), p. 62.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., op. cit., p. 137.

[46] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 77.

Revelation 5:11

And I saw, and I heard a 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;

These words introduce the great doxology which follows. Significantly, none are silent in the hosts of heaven, the praise and adoration of the Father and of the Son being unanimous, full, spontaneous, and overwhelmingly joyous. "Needless to say, the numbers are not to be taken literally; they are simply employed to express the countless throng of that innumerable company."[47] See Hebrews 12:22.

Revelation 5:12

saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

It is hardly profitable to dwell upon each one of the seven "receivables" in this overwhelming doxology; because even they do not exhaust the worthiness of the Lamb; but rather, in there being seven of them (the number of perfection), they stand for the infinite perfection and worthiness of Jesus Christ our Lord. Practically all of the qualities mentioned in this doxology are ascribed to Jesus elsewhere in the New Testament.

Saying with a great voice ... This passage being introduced with "saying" and a very similar passage being introduced as "singing" (Revelation 5:9) suggest that the angels’ "saying," "Glory to God in the highest, etc.," (Luke 2:13-14) may also be understood as a song.

Revelation 5:13

And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the do minion, for ever and ever.

In these great doxologies Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12-13, the first two are addressed to the Lamb, but in the last, the Father is also included. This linking of the Father and the Lamb continues throughout Revelation, in their aggregate, providing overwhelming evidence that in the early church Christ was honored in every way as fully God, co-reigning with the Father in heaven and upon earth. These magnificent passages show that there could not possibly be any subsequent honors or glories that Christ could be conceived of as possessing, which he does not already possess. This is one of the great facts of this marvelous prophecy.

Many scholars have a tendency to tie in what is said here with the passage in Romans where Paul said, "the whole creation travaileth" (Romans 8:19-21), but that passage refers to people, not to animals. A different meaning is here; namely, that the lower creations, in their proper way, honor and praise God through their continuity as he directed them. Foy E. Wallace expressed the thought here thus:

The whole creation in antiphonal response joined the symphony of praise "unto him that sitteth on the throne" - God, the Creator, and "unto the Lamb" - Christ the Saviour. As the host is enlarged to "every creature," the praise is expanded to include both the One on the throne, and the One in the midst of the throne - God and the Lamb.[48]

This writer has attempted to express the idea of this verse poetically; and it is included in this series of commentaries, in Commentary on Galatians, p. 14.

Revelation 5:14

And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped.

Amen ... "This word confirms the preceding doxology, and is one of three ways in which the word ’Amen’ is used in Revelation."[49] These are: a final "Amen" is used with no change of speaker (Revelation 1:6-7); the "Amen" as a name of God (Revelation 3:14); and the detached "Amen," as here. It is also used as both the beginning and the ending of a passage (Revelation 7:12).

Moffatt’s comment on this chapter is:

By prefacing the struggle on earth (Revelation 6:1 f) with a vision of the brilliant authority and awe of heaven, the prophet suggests that all the movements of men on earth, as well as the physical catastrophes which overtake them, are first foreshadowed in heaven and consequently have a providential meaning.[50]

The apostle Paul fully agreed with the things the apostle John indicated here; namely, that:

God made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26).

From the beginning to the end, all things are foreknown and foredetermined by the Father; and yet, mystery of mysteries, this does not conflict with the principle of the freedom of the human will.

Before concluding the exciting and most profitable study of this magnificent chapter, it is not amiss to note that:

In the antiphonal singing, in the Amen, and in the silent worship at the end, we not improbably have some reflection of the usages in the public worship of the Church at that time.[51]

MERCY ON THE THRONE

We cannot leave this great chapter without stressing the fact of the Son of God’s enthronement with the Father and the implications of it regarding the mercy it symbolizes. Weak and sinful mortals may contemplate the eternal righteousness and justice of the Almighty God and find but little comfort in the thought until the vast significance of what is revealed in this chapter is realized. Jesus Christ who walked on earth, hungered, grew weary, suffered, struggled with earth’s problems, and at last died on the cross, that One, like ourselves, with the scarred hands and the pierced side, HE is on the Throne! He stands there, represented in this vision not in resplendent robes of glory but as a sacrifice for our sins. Mercy and forgiveness are in the control center of the universe. The God-man is reigning, but still a man, still loving those for whom he died. This incredible truth overshadows everything else in the Bible, being the unique fact that endows human life with cosmic meaning, sheds the light of hope in darkness, dispels the terror of the tomb, and supplies the only strength men have in their struggles with temptation.

The Old Testament exhibited the Mercy Seat above the covenant and the Law, but the New Testament reveals Mercy on the Throne. The Old Testament worshipper remembered his sins, but the New Testament worshipper remembers Him whose blood cleanses us from all sin. The law of sin and death has been replaced by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

For the suffering and persecuted church of John’s day, nothing could have provided for them anything more necessary and helpful than this precious vision of the Lamb on the Throne.

[47] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 557.

[48] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., op. cit., p. 140.

[49] Ralph Earle, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 539.

[50] James Moffatt, Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 388.

[51] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 514.

Commentary on Revelation 5:8-14 by Manly Luscombe

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. The 24 elders and four living creatures fall down and worship the lamb. They have harps and golden bowls full of incense. The incense represents the prayers of the saints. If the bowls are symbolic, the harps must be also. Bowls = prayers; harps = praise. (See Revelation 14:2)

9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They sang a “new song”. New because this song could not be sung in the OT. It was not sung before the cross. This song praises the one who redeemed us. Every kindred, tongue, people and nation = Jesus redeemed all people of all ages.

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” We (Christians) are kings and priests on this earth. Christ is our king and we are reigning WITH Him (Revelation 20:4). We are a priesthood of believers. We do not go to a priest to communicate with God. We ARE the priests. (Revelation 1:6)

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. Angels surround the throne - around the 4 living creatures - around the 24 elders. They number 10 thousand times 10 thousand PLUS thousands of thousands. (See Hebrews 12:22)

12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” The angels agree, “The lamb is worthy to receive - 1. Power, 2. Riches, 3. Wisdom , 4. Strength, 5. Honor, 6. Glory, 7. Blessing. There are 7 qualities listed here - the number of perfection.

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, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Around the angelic host are all humanity. Every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea. All humanity - worship and praise God and the Lamb. There is a sigh of relief. There is a “Hallelujah” from all humanity. Now we can learn what God has in store for His people.

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. The 4 living creatures and the 24 elders joined in the worship.

Sermon on Revelation 5:7-14

Worthy Is The Lamb

Brent Kercheville

The cry has gone throughout heaven and earth looking for the one who is worthy to open the scroll. John looks and sees the Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. We noted in our last lesson that this shows the way the Lion of the tribe of Judah would conquer. The Christ will not conquer by physical force or military might but through his sacrificial death on the cross.

The Lamb (Revelation 5:6-8)

The Lamb has many unique characteristics that we need to observe. First, the Lamb has seven horns. We will notice throughout the book of Revelation that the number seven represents completeness and perfection. A horn on one’s head represents power and strength, like an animal that has horns on its head shows power (cf. Daniel 7:7; Daniel 7:20). Christ is the Lamb that was slain, but he is seen with perfect power and strength. This is not a defenseless lamb. This is not a weak lamb. This lamb has complete, sovereign power. Further, the Lamb has seven eyes. John tells us the meaning of the seven eyes, “which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” This is the third time we have read about the seven spirits of God. Revelation 1:4 and Revelation 4:5 are the other places where the book also refers to the seven spirits of God. In our previous studies in mentioned that we would wait until Revelation 5:6 before we fully explored the meaning of this symbol.

“The seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” comes from Zechariah 4:10.Zechariah 4:10 says, “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.” The prophetic picture in Zechariah is the promise that God would accomplish the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. The word of the Lord tells Zerubbabel, who was the leader of the people of the first return from Babylonian captivity, that it would not be by physical might or power, but by God’s Spirit that these things would be accomplished. God sees all that is happening (hence the seven eyes representing perfect knowledge and perfect sight) and will accomplish his plans and purposes. Remember that the people were prevented from rebuilding the temple when they first returned. Thus, the temple of the Lord remained desolate. God is declaring in this prophecy that he sees all that is going on in the earth. God knew that their plans of rebuilding had been frustrated. But God had decreed for the temple to be rebuilt and therefore it will be rebuilt by the power of God’s Spirit. Bring this meaning into Revelation 5. God knows and sees all that is happening on the earth. God knows their persecution and suffering. However, God’s plans will not be thwarted. The Lamb will rule. The Lamb will conquer. God’s Spirit is at work and God will fulfill his promises and prophecies. The Lamb is the instrument through which all of God’s plans will be fulfilled.

In Revelation 5:7 we read the Lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. When he took the scroll, look at what happens. The four living creatures and the 24 elders fall down before the Lamb. Remember in chapter 4 that the four living creatures and the 24 elders were worshiping the one who sits on the throne. The 24 elders were falling down before God as he sits on the throne. Now the four living creatures and the 24 elders are falling down and worshiping the Lamb. The point is simple yet powerful. The Lamb is divine. The Lamb is God. The Lamb is worthy of worship.

We are shown one other interesting aspect concerning the 24 elders. Revelation 5:7 tells us that the 24 elders are holding a harp and the golden bowls of incense. John tells us the golden bowls of incense represent the prayers of the saints. We see prayer pictured as the smoke of the incense rise up to God in Psalms 141:2 and Luke 1:9-10. The saints are not special people, as sometimes thought of by those in religion. Rather, in scripture the saints is a shorthand way of speaking about God’s people who have been set apart and made holy. A beautiful picture is placed before us. The prayers of God’s people rise up to the throne room of God and the Lamb.

Application: Have you ever wondered if there is value in prayer? Have you ever thought that praying seems like talking to one’s self? Perhaps you have wondered if anyone hears your prayers. Revelation 5 shows us definitively that prayer reaches the very throne room of God. God hears your words. God sees and knows all that is going on throughout the earth. Even still, God hears your prayers.

Worthy Is The Lamb (Revelation 5:9-10)

At the beginning of Revelation 5, a cry went out from the strong angel, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” The answer comes in song in verse 9. The 24 elders are singing a new song concerning the Lamb. In the Old Testament, a “new song” is an expression of praise for God’s victory over the enemies. In Isaiah 42:10 we read about singing to the Lord a new song. The praise concerns how the Lord had restrained himself but now will cry out, act, and judge (Isaiah 42:14-17). I believe the point in Isaiah is the same point in Revelation. God has restrained himself from acting. The new song reveals that God is now going to act and judge.

What are the words of the song? “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals.” Why is the Lamb worthy to take the scroll and open the seals? The song goes on to explain the Lamb’s worthiness. The Lamb is worthy because he was slain. It is not simply that he died. Rather, the meaning of his death is what is in view. Through the death of the Lamb he has ransomed people for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation. The word “ransom” means to acquire something by paying a price. By the blood of the Lamb he bought the people for God. His death bought us. The cross is the single defining act that makes us possible for us to be God’s people. We were lost. Jesus bought us. The cross is the Lamb’s act of victory.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)

Notice that the victory is not only over our sins. Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them through the cross. The Lamb is worthy to open the scroll and reveal its contents because the cross shows victory.

Not only is the Lamb worthy because of the cross, he is also worthy because of the power he exerts toward his people. The Lamb has made his people a kingdom and priests to our God and reign on the earth. Through the cross he has caused us to have a special relationship. We are in the kingdom of God receiving his blessings and inheritance. We are priests given direct access to God. We reign on the earth. We are the conquerers. We are the victorious ones who rule with the Lamb now.

Praise the Lamb (Revelation 5:11-14)

John looks again around the throne room and hears the voices of myriads and myriads of angels. The voices of thousands and thousands of angels are saying with a loud voice that the Lamb is worthy. The Lamb is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. Jesus deserves these things because of what he has done. Because of his sacrifice, we must give him glory, honor, and blessing. Because of what Jesus has done, the spiritual beings are praising him. Notice that every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them declare praises to the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. Everything ever created is praising and worshiping God and the Lamb. Withthese blessings, the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Conclusion

We must see what Christ has done for us. Through his death on the cross, he has bought us so that we can be God’s people. Christ paid the price so that we can be in a relationship with God. Not only can we be in a relationship, but we can be in the ruling kingdom of God. We are part of the indestructible kingdom. We are heirs of the kingdom, children of the king, with all the rights and privileges of this status. Not only are we in his kingdom, but we are made to be priests. We have direct access to the Father to speak to him and to receive forgiveness. Not only are we made to be priests, but we reign with Christ. It does not matter what happens to us in this life, our blessings are secure. Our inheritance is sure. Look at what Christ has done!

When we see and appreciate what Christ has done, then we will worship as all the created beings of heaven and earth worship. We will repeatedly praise him. We will be in awe of him. We will bow down before him. We will give ourselves to him. Our lives will reflect our praise and worship of the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb.

LESSON 11.
THE SEALED BOOK

Read Revelation 5

1. Describe the book in the hand of him who sat on the throne. Ans. Revelation 5:1.

2. What question was asked by the "strong angel"? Ans. Revelation 5:2.

3. Who was not able to open the book, nor to look thereon? Ans. Revelation 5:3.

4. What caused John to weep? Ans. Revelation 5:4.

5. What did one of the elders say to John? Ans. Revelation 5:5.

6. Which of Jacob’s sons was compared to a lion? Ans. Genesis 49:9.

7. Give Jacob’s prophecy regarding the reign of Judah. Ans. Genesis 49:10.

8. To which of the tribes of Israel did Jesus belong? Ans. Hebrews 7:14.

9. Who is the "Root of David"? Ans. Revelation 22:16.

10. Describe the Lamb that John saw. Ans. Revelation 5:6.

11. Who is the Lamb of God? Ans. Jno. 1: 29, 36.

12. What do the seven eyes represent? Ans. Revelation 5:6.

13. From whom did he receive the book? Ans. Revelation 5:7.

14. What then was done by the four living creatures and the twentyfour elders? Ans. Revelation 5:8.

15. What did each have in his hand? Ans. Revelation 5:8.

16. What do the bowls of incense represent? Ans. Revelation 5:8.

17. Give the words of the "new song." Ans. Revelation 5:9-10.

18. What did the Lamb of God purchase with his blood? Ans. Revelation 5:9; Acts 20:28.

19. What were his people, or his church, made to be? Ans. Revelation 5:10; Luke 22:29-30.

20. Where do they reign? Ans.Revelation 5:10; Romans 5:17.

21. Whose voice did John hear next? Ans. Revelation 5:11.

22. What were they saying? Ans. Revelation 5:12.

23. What then did all created things in every place do? Ans. Revelation 5:13.

24. What did the four living creatures say, and what did the elders do? Ans. Revelation 5:14.

E.M. Zerr

Questions on Revelation

Revelation Chapter Five

1. Where did John see one sitting?

2. Tell what was in his hand.

3. On what side was it written?

4. How was it sealed?

5. What kind of angel did he see?

6. Tell what kind of voice he had.

7. What did he wish done to the book?

8. And what to the seals?

9. Could a man be found to do this?

10. What three places were searched in vain?

11. Was inability restricted to opening the seals?

12. What did this cause John to do?

13. Who then spoke to him?

14. Tell what he bade him not do.

15. To what lion did he then refer?

16. How was he related to David?

17. What had he prevailed to open?

18. Tell what he could do to the seals.

19. Whom did John then behold?

20. Where was it standing?

21. What had happened to it?

22. Tell what parts it possessed.

23. What did they represent?

24. To what place are they sent?

25. Who then came to the one on the throne?

26. What did he take from his hand?

27. At this who fell down?

28. Before whom did they fall?

29. What did every one of them have?

30. Tell what they represented.

31. What kind of song did they sing?

32. To whom did they ascribe worthiness?

33. What was he worthy to take?

34. After taking it what could he do?

35. Tell what happened to him.

36. To whom had he redeemed them by his blood?

37. Who were the ones here said to be redeemed?

38. From where had they been redeemed?

39. To whom had thy been redeemed?

40. They had been made to be what?

41. To whom were they to be in this service?

42. What were they then to do?

43. Where was this to take place?

44. What did John then hear?

45. Tell where they were when heard.

46. How many of them?

47. With what kind of voice did they speak?

48. Whom were they praising?

49. What was he worthy to receive?

50. Tell who else John heard speaking.

51. Whom were they praising?

52. Where was he sitting?

53. Tell what they ascribed to him.

54. For how long was he worthy of it?

55. What did the four beasts then say?

56. Tell what the 24 elders then did.

Revelation Chapter Five

Ralph Starling

The one on the throne had a book in His hand.

No one was worthy to open it in heaven or on land.

John said "what’s in it?" and was so touched.

To think non could open it and he wept much.

One of the Elders said, "We have found one to open the seal,

The Lion of Judah, root of David, hath prevailed and is real.

I looked and there, and in very much pain,

Was a Lamb that had been slain.

He came and took the book from God’s right hand,

With great rejoicing the book could now be opened to man.

With harps, songs, odors and prayers the proclaimed.

We have been redeemed by the Lamb that was slain.

And every creature in heaven, earth and sea decreed.

Blessings and glory for his great deed.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 5". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/revelation-5.html.
 
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