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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Revelation 5

Verse 1

In the right hand (επ την δεξιαν). "Upon the right hand" (επ, not εν), the open palm. Anthropomorphic language drawn from Ezekiel 2:9.

A book (βιβλιον). Diminutive of βιβλος, but no longer so used, βιβλαριδιον occurring instead (Revelation 10:2).

Written (γεγραμμενον). Perfect passive predicate participle of γραφω.

Within and on the back (εσωθεν κα οπισθεν). "Within and behind." Description of a roll like that in Luke 4:17, not a codex as some scholars think. Usually these papyrus rolls were written only on the inside, but this one was so full of matter that it was written also on the back side (οπισθεν), and so was an οπισθογραφον like that in Ezekiel 2:10. There are many allegorical interpretations of this fact which are all beside the point.

Sealed (κατεσφραγισμενον). Perfect passive predicate participle of κατασφραγιζω, old compound (perfective use of κατα), to seal up (down), here only in N.T.

With seven seals (σφραγισιν επτα). Instrumental case of σφραγις, old word used in various senses, proof or authentication (1 Corinthians 9:2; Romans 4:11), signet-ring (Revelation 7:2), impression made by the seal (Revelation 9:4; 2 Timothy 2:19), the seal on books closing the book (Revelation 5:1; Revelation 5:2; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 6:1; Revelation 6:3; Revelation 6:5; Revelation 6:7; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 6:12; Revelation 8:1). "A will in Roman law bore the seven seals of the seven witnesses" (Charles). But this sealed book of doom calls for no witnesses beyond God's own will. Alford sees in the number seven merely the completeness of God's purposes.

Verse 2

A strong angel (αγγελον ισχυρον). One needed (Revelation 10:1; Revelation 18:21) "whose call could reach to the farthest limits of the universe" (Beckwith) and so "with a great voice" (εν φωνη μεγαλη, in a great voice, as in Revelation 14:7; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 14:15, and without εν Revelation 5:12; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 7:2; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 10:3, etc.). See εν ισχυρα φωνη (Revelation 18:2).

Proclaiming (κηρυσσοντα). Present active predicate participle of κηρυσσω, to herald, to preach.

Worthy to open and to loose (αξιος ανοιξα κα λυσα). Worthy by rank and character (cf. John 1:27) as well as by ability (εδυνατο, verse Revelation 5:3), followed by two infinitives (first aorist active) of ανοιγω and λυω, though ινα and the subjunctive can be used after αξιος as in John 1:27. Here αξιος is like ικανος (capable, qualified) as in Matthew 8:8. The articles here (το, τας) refer to the book and the seals in verse Revelation 5:1. It is a husteron-proteron, since the loosing of the seals precedes the opening of the book.

Verse 3

Εν (in) with locative (ουρανω), επ (upon) with genitive (γης), υποκατω (under) with ablative (γης), as in verse Revelation 5:13, including the whole universe, as in Exodus 20:4 (Philippians 2:10). The MSS. vary in the negative conjunctions after ουδεις (no one) between ουδε--ουδε (continuative, and not--nor) and ουτε--ουτε (disjunctive, neither--nor).

To look thereon (βλεπειν αυτο). Into the contents of the book. The universe declines the challenge.

Verse 4

I wept much (εγω εκλαιον πολυ). Imperfect active of κλαιω, picturesque, descriptive, I kept on weeping much; natural tense in these vivid visions (Revelation 1:12; Revelation 2:14; Revelation 5:4; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 10:10; Revelation 19:14; Revelation 21:15). Perhaps weeping aloud.

Was found (ευρεθη). First aorist passive indicative of ευρισκω.

Worthy (αξιος). Predicative nominative after ευρεθη.

Verse 5

One of the elders (εις εκ των πρεσβυτερων). "One from among the elders" of Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10 (εκ with the ablative 8 times in the Apocalypse, 12 in the Fourth Gospel, 10 in rest of the N.T., in place of the mere partitive genitive). No particular reason for one elder as the agent over another (Revelation 7:13).

Saith (λεγε). Dramatic vivid present.

Weep not (μη κλαιε). "Cease weeping" (prohibition with μη and the present active imperative of κλαιω.

The Lion (ο λεων). Satan is called a lion by Peter (1 Peter 5:8), but the metaphor belongs to Jesus also. Judah is called a lion in the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:9) and Jesus as the greatest of the tribe of Judah, "the Root of David" (η ριζα Δαυειδ, Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10) or the Branch from this root (the Messiah).

Hath overcome (ενικησεν). First aorist active indicative of νικαω, "did overcome," coming first in the sentence as "the great historical fact of the victory of the Christ" (Swete).

Verse 6

And I saw (κα ειδον). Stirred by the words of the elder in verse Revelation 5:5 (ιδου, behold). "I beheld."

In the midst (εν μεσω). See Revelation 4:6 for this idiom. It is not quite clear where the Lamb was standing in the vision, whether close to the throne or in the space between the throne and the elders (perhaps implied by "came" in verse Revelation 5:7, but nearness to the throne is implied by Revelation 14:1; Acts 7:56; Hebrews 10:11).

A Lamb (αρνιον). Elsewhere in the N.T. ο αμνος is used of Christ (John 1:29; John 1:36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19 like Isaiah 53:7), but in the Apocalypse το αρνιον occurs for the Crucified Christ 29 times in twelve chapters.

Standing (εστηκος). Second perfect active (intransitive of ιστημ) neuter accusative singular (grammatical gender like αρνιον), though some MSS. read εστηκως (natural gender masculine and nominative in spite of ειδον construction according to sense).

As though it had been slain (ως εσφαγμενον). Perfect passive predicate participle of σφαζω, old word, in N.T. only in Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 13:3; Revelation 18:24; 1 John 3:12. Hως (as if) is used because the Lamb is now alive, but (in appearance) with the marks of the sacrifice. The Christ as the Lamb is both sacrifice and Priest (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:11).

Having (εχων). Construction according to sense again with masculine nominative participle instead of εχοντα (masculine accusative singular) or εχον (neuter accusative singular). Seven horns (κερας) is a common symbol in the O.T. for strength and kingly power (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalms 112:9; Daniel 7:7; Daniel 7:20) and often in Rev. (Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:12). Fulness of power (the All-powerful one) is symbolized by seven.

Seven eyes (οφθαλμους επτα). Like Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10 and denotes here, as there, omniscience. Here they are identified with the seven Spirits of Christ, while in Revelation 1:4 the seven Spirits are clearly the Holy Spirit of God (Revelation 3:1), and blaze like torches (Revelation 4:5), like the eyes of Christ (Revelation 1:14). The Holy Spirit is both Spirit of God and of Christ (Romans 8:9).

Sent forth (απεσταλμενο). Perfect passive predicate participle of αποστελλω, masculine plural (agreeing with ο and οφθαλμους in gender), but some MSS. have απεσταλμενα agreeing with the nearer πνευματα.

Verse 7

He taketh (ειληφεν). Perfect active indicative of λαμβανω, not used for the aorist (cf. ηλθεν, he came), but vivid dramatic picture of the actual scene, "he has taken it."

Verse 8

He had taken (ελαβεν). Here John drops back to the narrative tense (the second aorist active indicative of λαμβανω), not the past perfect as the English rendering might indicate, merely "when he took." For like vivid variation (not confusion) of tenses with ειληφεν see Revelation 3:3; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:17 and with ειρηκα in Revelation 7:13; Revelation 19:3.

Fell down (επεσαν). Second aorist active indicative of πιπτω with first aorist (-αν) ending, just "fell."

Having (εχοντες). "Holding."

A harp (κιθαραν). Old word, the traditional instrument (lyre or zithern) for psalmody (Psalms 33:2; Psalms 98:5, etc.).

Golden bowls (φιαλας χρυσας). Broad shallow saucers, old word, in N.T. only in Revelation 5:8; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1-4; Revelation 16:8; Revelation 16:10; Revelation 16:12; Revelation 16:17; Revelation 17:1; Revelation 21:9.

Of incense (θυμιαματων). Old word from θυμιαω, to burn incense (Luke 1:9), as in Luke 1:10.

Which are (α εισιν). "Which (these bowls of incense) symbolize the prayers of the saints as in Psalms 140:2; Luke 1:10.

Verse 9

They sing (αιδουσιν). Present active indicative of αιδω. Old verb, to chant with lyrical emotion (Colossians 3:16).

A new song (ωιδην καινην). Cognate accusative for οιδε (ωιδη, song) is αοιδε from αειδω, that is αιδω (the verb used), old word already used (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19), called καινην because a fresh song for new mercies (Isaiah 42:10; Psalms 33:3; Psalms 40:3, etc.), here in praise of redemption to Christ (Revelation 14:3) like the new name (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12), the new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2), the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1), not the old song of creation (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11) to God.

For thou wast slain (οτ εσφαγης). Second aorist passive indicative of σφαζω. Αγοραζω used by Paul and Peter of our purchase from sin by Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; 2 Peter 2:1; cf. 1 Peter 1:18).

Unto God (τω θεω). Dative case of advantage as also in verse Revelation 5:10.

With thy blood (εν τω αιματ σου). Instrumental use of εν as in Revelation 1:5. The blood of Christ as the price of our redemption runs all through the Apocalypse. This is the reason why Christ is worthy to "take the book and open its seals." That is, he is worthy to receive adoration and worship (Revelation 4:11) as the Father does.

Men of every (εκ πασης). No ανθρωπους (men) or τινας (some) before εκ in the Greek. See a like ellipsis in Revelation 11:9 with a like grouping of words for all mankind, representatives of all races and nations (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 14:6).

Verse 10

Madest (εποιησας). First aorist active indicative of ποιεω, a prophetic use anticipating the final result.

A kingdom and priests (βασιλειαν κα ιερεις). As the correct text in Revelation 1:6.

They reign (βασιλευουσιν). Present active indicative, futuristic use, though Aleph P have the future βασιλευσουσιν (shall reign) as in Revelation 20:6.

Verse 11

And I saw (κα ειδον). A new feature introduced by the outer and vaster circle (κυκλω) of angels who catch up the new song of redemption in antiphonal singing, answering the song of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. Some MSS. read ως (as if) before φωνην (voice). Ten thousand times ten thousand (μυριαδες μυριαδων κα χιλιαδες χιλιαδων). Literally, "myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands," a mild husteron-proteron. The regular order in I Enoch 40:I. See Daniel 7:10 for χιλια χιλιαδες (thousand thousands) and μυρια μυριαδες (countless myriads). They are all efforts to express the innumerable hosts of the angels.

Verse 12

Worthy (αξιον). Agreeing in gender (grammatical neuter) with αρνιον, but some MSS. have αξιος (masculine, natural gender). Note change to third person εστιν instead of second ε. The point of the song is the same as that in verses Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:10, but the language differs. Note the repeated article το (the lamb the slain) referring to verses Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:9. Note also the one article την before δυναμιν for all the seven grounds of praise (δυναμιν, power, πλουτον, wealth, σοφιαν, wisdom, ισχυν, strength, τιμην, honor, δοξαν, glory, ευλογιαν, blessing), though πλουτον is masculine, in contrast with separate article for each item (all three feminine) in Revelation 4:11, here grouping them all together, "a heptad of praise" (Swete).

Verse 13

Every created thing (παν κτισμα). Every creature in a still wider antiphonal circle beyond the circle of angels (from κτιζω, for which see 1 Timothy 4:4; James 1:18), from all the four great fields of life (in heaven, upon the earth, under the earth as in verse Revelation 5:3, with on the sea επ της θαλασσης added). No created thing is left out. This universal chorus of praise to Christ from all created life reminds one of the profound mystical passage in Romans 8:20-22 concerning the sympathetic agony of creation (κτισις) in hope of freedom from the bondage of corruption. If the trail of the serpent is on all creation, it will be ultimately thrown off.

Saying (λεγοντας). Masculine (construction according to sense, personifying the created things) if genuine, though some MSS. have λεγοντα (grammatical gender agreeing with παντα) present active participle of λεγω, to say.

And to the Lamb (κα τω αρνιω). Dative case. Praise and worship are rendered to the Lamb precisely as to God on the throne. Note separate articles here in the doxology as in Revelation 4:11 and the addition of το κρατος (active power) in place of ισχυς (reserve of strength) in Revelation 5:12.

Verse 14

Amen (Αμην). The four living creatures give their approval to the doxology after the antiphonal songs.

Fell down and worshipped (επεσαν κα προσεκυνησαν). In silent adoration that closes the whole service of praise to the One upon the throne and to the Lamb. As in Revelation 4:10 so here the representatives of the redeemed bow in silent worship. Pliny says that the Christians sing a song to Christ as to God. He is here worshipped by the universe (Philippians 2:10).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/revelation-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.