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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

In this chapter we have a continuation of the vision recorded in the former chapter; there St. John saw a throne set in heaven and a person sitting upon that throne in majesty and great glory, representing to him God the Father. Here he beholds the same glorious person sitting upon the throne with a book in his right hand, written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

Observe here, 1. What St. John saw, namely, a book, by which, Mr. Mede and others understand a roll, containing God's decrees and counsels, his purposes and resolutions, concerning the future state of the church, as they were to be fulfilled according to prophecy, and brought to pass in several ages as the providence of God should order and see fit.

Observe, 2. The person in whose hand this book of the secret counsels of God was; namely, in God's own hand, and his right hand, thereby denoting his authority to impart and communicate the knowledge of this sealed book to whom he pleased, and also his power to execute his purposes and counsels when he pleased, and as he pleased. And as none but God himself can declare who God is, so none but God himself can declare what God does, and what in after ages he will do.

Observe, 3. The copious fulness of this book; it was written, within, and on the back side, inside and outside filled up so that there was no room left either for addition or alteration.

Observe, 4. It was a sealed book, yea, sealed with seven seals, denoting the matters that are therein contained to be most divine and excellent, secret and mysterious, certain and unalterable, and the knowledge of them impossible without the help and favour of special revelation.

Verse 2

Observe, 1. Here is a proclamation made by an extraordinary angel, like an herald or officer, inquiring who was worthy, either in regard of authority, or in respect of ability, to open this book, and unloose the seals, that is, to disclose the secret counsels of God, and to make them known unto the sons of men, implying, that every angel in heaven is not worthy or meet to be the expositor of God's mind and mysteries unto man.

Observe, 2. The great silence which there was in heaven upon this proclamation, amounting to an absolute and peremptory denial, that not any one, either in heaven or earth, or under the earth; not any angel in heaven, nor any saint living upon earth; not any dead saint under the earth, nor any devil or infernal spirit; was either worthy to open the book, or able to foresee or foretell the least event concerning the church, farther than revealed to them.

Learn hence, That neither angels nor devils do understand the mysterious counsels of God, or can reveal future things to man, any farther than as God is pleased to reveal the same unto them.

Observe, 3. St. John's great and bitter lamentation, because no person was found worthy to open the book, and reveal unto the church the secret counsels of God concerning her, I wept much; fearing, no doubt, lest the church of God should be deprived of the benefit and comfort of this revelation. Such as are the true members of the church are greatly afflicted with all the providential dispensations of God which do befall her; but nothing goes so near them, as to have the mind and will of God hidden and concealed from her.

Observe, 4. A seasonable consolation given to St. John: one of the elders that were about the throne said to him, Weep not, for care is taken for the opening and revealing of the book. Christ, who is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David, as man, and the root of David, as God, is found worthy, in regard of the divinity of his person, and the prevalency of his merits, to open unto the church all the mysteries of God, which are meet and convenient for her to understand and know.

Quest. Why is Christ called the Lion of the tribe of Judah?

Ans. In allusion to Jacob's blessing, Genesis 49 where Judah is called a lion's whelp, denoting the dignity and superiority of that tribe above the rest.

Now Christ descended of this tribe, and is called a lion, in regard of his kingly power and strength, in regard of his stoutness and courage, in regard of his mildness and clemency, and true nobleness of spirit, to them that submit and yield unto him, and in respect of his vigilancy and watchfulness over his church; all which are the known properties of the lion; and as that creature is the king of beasts, so is Christ King of kings, and Lord of lords, the only potentate; dominion and fear are with him.

Quest. But how could Christ be called David's root, when we know that David did not spring from him, but he from David, according to the flesh?

Ans. In a natural sense, David was the root of David. David, as man, was the root of Christ: Christ, as Mediator and Godman, was the root of David. Thus he was both David's lord, and David's son, Psalms 110:1.

Verse 6

Observe here, 1. That St. John had a vision of Christ in the former verse, under the representation of a lion: here he is represented under the form and figure of a lamb, as wounded, bloody, sacrificed, and slain: as bearing upon him the signs and scars, the marks and tokens of his by-past death: his appearing as a lamb slain, denoted his death; his stand, denoted his resurrection. There stood a lamb, as it had been slain, it is added-- having seven horns, the strength of a beast lying in its horns; this expression of seven horns denotes that omnipotent power which Christ has in himself, and that fulness of power which he does exert and put forth on all occasions in defence of his church.

It follows, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God; these represent the Holy Spirit of God in its manifold graces given by Christ unto the church, as his agent and advocate upon earth; so that here in the text and context are all the three Persons in the Holy Trinity, whose divinity we believe, and in whom we trust; God the Father upon the throne, with a book in his hand: Christ the Lamb in the midst of the throne, opening the book: and the Seven Spirits, or Holy Ghost, distinct from the two former.

Observe, 2. The office, which Christ, as Mediator God-man, performs; he goes to the throne, and takes the book out of the Father's hand, that is, he received power from God to open the book of mysteries, and to execute them: Christ sat upon the throne as God, but went to the throne for the book, as God-man; this power was due unto him as the reward of his sufferings.

Observe, 3. The joyful acclamations accompanied with the profoundest adorations which were deservedly given by the holy inhabitants of heaven to Jesus Christ, as the only person worthy to take the book and open the seals: They fell down before the Lamb, saying, Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us.

Note here, Divine worship given to Christ the Lamb, which proves his deity; they sing an hymn of divine praise to the blessed Redeemer, with harps, and golden vials in their hands,-- a new song: that is, a most excellent song, setting forth the benefits, and extolling the praises of the Lord the Redeemer.

Observe, 4. The church's celebration of those benefits and blessings, which by the death of Christ she had received, namely,

1. They were redeemed unto God out of every kindred and tongue, people and nation; which shows the universal extent of the gospel church scattered over the face of the whole earth in and among all the nations of the world.

2. They were by him made kings and priests unto God, to reign on earth; that is, spiritual kings and priests unto God, to reign over sin, Satan, and the world, trampling their spiritual enemies under their feet, not expecting an earthly dominion.

Verse 11

Observe here, 1. The office of the holy angels in heaven declared; they stand round about the throne of God continually, as nobles and chief ministers of state attend upon a prince, waiting his pleasure, and expecting his commands.

Observe, 2. The numberless number of them, thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand; and as Almighty God is attended by an innumerable company of angels in heaven, so do the holy angels stand ready to accompany and protect his people here on earth, They encamp round about them. Psalms 34:7

Observe, 3. How readily and cheerfully the holy angels joined with the elders in blessing and praising Christ for the invaluable fruits and benefits of man's redemption: those beneficent spirits rejoice in our happiness; they joy at the conversion of a sinner, and triumph at the glorification of a saint. Here they are said to sing with a loud voice, to show their affection and zeal in the work of blessing and praising God for Jesus Christ, who is an head of confirmation to them, as he was an head of redemption unto us.

Observe, 4. How the angels give the same worship, pay the same homage, ascribe the same honour to Christ, which they do to God the Father: this had never been given, had he not been essentially God: the angels pronounce and proclaim Jesus Christ worthy of omnipotent power; and that honour, glory, and blessing, do appertain to him for evermore.

Observe lastly, That not only all the angels, but all the creatures in heaven, in earth, under the earth, and in the sea, all and every one of them, do worship Christ with religious worship, and pay him divine honour; adore him that sits on the throne, and the Lamb, for ever and ever: that is, the rational part of the world, to wit, angels and men, actively; the sensitive part of the world, objectively; the diabolical part, passively: Christ extorts that glory from them by their torments, which they refuse to give unto him by confessions and voluntary acknowledgements.

What greater argument than this can we desire for our satisfaction, that Christ is truly and essentially God? He thinks it no robbery to be equal with God, to share with him in all that honour and homage, in all that adoration and religious worship, which the whole creation do pay to Almighty God; for thus do the angels and elders above, and the whole church-militant here below, chant forth the praises of the Creator and Redeemer, saying,

Blessing, and glory, and renown, We now give all together, To him that in the throne sits down, And to the Lamb for ever. Amen, Hallelujah.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 5". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/revelation-5.html. 1700-1703.
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