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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Revelation 5

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. V.

The book sealed with seven seals; which only the Lamb that was slain is worthy to open. Therefore the elders praise him, and confess that he redeemed them with his blood.

Anno Domini 96.


Verse 1

Revelation 5:1. And I saw in the right hand, &c.— Future events are supposed by St. John, as well as by Daniel and other prophets, in a beautiful figure, to be registered in a book, for the greater certainty of them. This book is in the right hand of God, to denote that as he alone directs the affairs of futurity, so he alone is ableto reveal them. This book, through the abundance of the matter, was written within and on the back side, as the roll of the book which was spread before Ezekiel, (ii. 10.) was written within and without. Lucian, in like manner, mentions books written on the backs, or outer side: see also Juvenal, sat. Revelation 1:5. Grotius and others would have it written within and on the back side, sealed, &c. It was sealed to signify that the divine plans were inscrutable, Isaiah 29:11 and sealed with seven seals, referring to so many signal periods of prophesy. In short, we should conceive of this book, that it was such a one as the ancients used,—a volume, or roll of a book, or, more properly a volume, consisting of seven volumes; so that the opening of one seal laid open the contents of only one volume. All creatures are challenged, Revelation 5:2 to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof; but, Revelation 5:3 no one, ( ουδεις, ) in heaven, or earth; or under the earth;—neither angels, nor men, nor departed spirits, were any of them qualified to comprehend or communicate the secret designs of God. St. John wept much at the disappointment, Revelation 5:4 however, he is comforted, Revelation 5:5 with the assurance, that still there was one who had power and authority to reveal and accomplish the counsels of God,—the Son of God: and he alone was found worthy to be the great Revealer and Interpreter of his Father's oracles, Revelation 5:6, &c. and he obtainedthis privilege by the merits of his sufferings and death: whereupon, the whole church, Revelation 5:8, &c. and all angels, Revelation 5:11, &c. and all creatures, Revelation 5:13, &c. sing praises to God and the Lamb, for such glorious manifestations of divine providence and grace. All this is by way of preface or introduction, to shew the great dignity, importance, and excellence of the prophesies here delivered.


Verse 4

Revelation 5:4. And I wept much "And as I had an earnest desire to know the contents, and had pleased myself with a secret expectation that some extraordinary discovery was to be made to me and to the church from thence, it grieved me exceedingly, insomuch that I wept abundantly, because no one was found worthy to open and read the book; nor, indeed, so much as to look into it."


Verse 5

Revelation 5:5. And one of the elders saith, &c.— This might well be translated, And the first of the elders; the first speaking in the name of all the rest. The following expression shews, that the prophesy in Genesis 49:9-10 concerning Judea, was fulfilled in a more sublime sense in Christ the Son of God; and, at the same time, points out his genealogy according to the flesh. See Hebrews 7:13-14. Isaiah 53:2. Hosea 14:6. Romans 15:12.


Verse 6

Revelation 5:6. Stood a Lamb, as it had been slain, As having been slain, or who had been slain for sacrifice, and wore the recent marks of slaughter. Our Saviour is declared by the Baptist to be the Lamb of God, because to be sacrificed to him as a Lamb, to take away the sins of the world. Christ is represented by the two different symbols of a Lion and a Lamb, to express his victory over sin and death, and his sacrifice of himself to obtain that victory:—"A Lion," says a commentator, "because he arose victorious from the dead; a Lamb, because he offered himself holy, harmless, and without spot for us." Horns, in the symbolical language, signify regal power; and, when they are numbered, so many monarchies; that is, power extending over so many monarchies. As the seven lamp sconces in the first vision, signified seven churches, and the seven stars seven bishops, or deputy governors therein; and as these are said to be under the care of the Son of man walking among them, and he is said to have these seven stars in his hand, to denote his power over them (all which shewed the dominion of Christ in his church); to these seven horns shew his power without, against his enemies; that he shall obtain dominion, and is going to take possession of a kingdom in this period; which extends itself universally over seven monarchies, and is equal in number to the seven heads of the dragon, his enemy, whom he is to fight and overcome; and he will then settle his church in the same dominions. Christ is therefore here exhibited according to the state of things present; for, after his conquest of the beast, he appears not with horns defined by any number, but as having many crowns, ch. Revelation 19:12. The next symbol of the seven eyes, &c. is taken from Zechariah 3:9 and shews that Christ, as mediatorial King, is invested with divine power and the providence of the world, and that he has the ministers thereof necessary to that purpose. See Isaiah 11:2.


Verse 7

Revelation 5:7. And he came and took the book, Daubuz understands the delivering of this book into the hands of Christ, as an act of inauguration or investiture into his regal power and authority, as mediatorial King; and shews that many of the expressions here used, are taken from the ceremonies of solemn investitures. But it should seem that his plan of interpreting does not well suit with the date of this vision, which was given to St. John many years after the period of our Lord's ascension, at which time this learned commentator supposes it to commence.


Verse 8

Revelation 5:8. Having every one of them harps, and golden vials, Harps were a principal part of the temple music: vials were also of common use in the temple service; but they were not like those small bottles which we now call vials, but like cups, or little bowls, on a plate, in allusion to the censers of God in which the priests offered incense in the temple. These censers were a sort of cups, which, because of the heat of the fire burning the incense, were often put upon a plate or saucer, something resembling a tea-cup and saucers. To offer incense to God, or before his presence in the temple, was an act of honour and religious worship peculiar to the priest's office; and the prayers of the church are often compared to it. See Psalms 141:2. So that these expressions well represent the whole heavenly church of saints and angels offering a very high act of religious worship and adoration unto Christ. Some read here, golden bowls full of perfumes.


Verse 9

Revelation 5:9. And they sung a new song, Excellent in its kind, and composed on a much greater occasion, and in much sublimer strains of divine harmony, than those which the priests and Levites sung in the temple of Jerusalem; saying, Worthy art thou to take the book from the hand, as it were, of God the Father; for thou, O blessed Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, wast slain to expiate our guilt; and thou hast redeemed us to God by thy precious Blood, from the dominion and indwelling of sin, the tyranny of Satan, the curse of the law, and the wrath of a justly incensed Deity; whose servants and children we are now become in consequence of thykind and gracious interposition, and the efficacy of thy divine Spirit. And we are now assembled round the throne out of every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, near and afar off, sacred and prophane, learned and barbarous: thy power and thy mercy have rescued us from all our bondage and misery.


Verse 10

Revelation 5:10. And hast made us—kings and priests, "We are robed in purity and majesty; we are crowned with gold; (ch. Revelation 4:4.) and here we appear in those priestly offices which we perform with the splendor of princes; and we shall reign on earth. The Christian cause shall prevail through all ages; while the happy souls who have passed courageously through their trials upon earth, come hither in their appointed seasons, and share the honours of thy triumphant kingdom." Christ and his church reign on earth, when the truth and purity of the Christian religion prevail against the opposition and corruption of the world. It is thus that the kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world, is set up in it, and the spiritual powers of his throne are established; which lays no claim to any coercive power of outward force incompatible with the dominion which alone consists in willing submission and voluntary obedience. But the latter clause has probably particular reference to the first resurrection and the consequences thereof, on which I shall enlarge hereafter.


Verse 13

Revelation 5:13. And such as are in the sea, As the inhabitants of the watery element are necessarily mute, we are not to understand by this, that they seemed to grow vocal in the praises of Christ upon this occasion; but rather that heaven, earth, and sea are used to signify, that all nature in its different ways concurred in the acclamation; that is, that the whole constitution of it contributed to furnish out matter of praise; just as inanimate as well as rational creatures are called upon to praise God in several of the Psalms, especially in Psalms 148.


Verse 14

Revelation 5:14. And the four beasts said, Amen, It was the custom in the temple worship for the singers to make pauses. "In every Psalm, (say the Talmudists,) the music made three intermissions. At these intermissions the trumpets sounded, and the people worshipped!"

Inferences.—It should fill us with unutterable joy, when we lift up our eyes to the throne of God, that we there discern the Lamb wearing the marks of slaughter. We should then gratefully remember his dying love; for it is his precious Blood which cleanses us from all sin, and emboldens our addresses to God, conscious as we are that our guilt is attended with great aggravations. Surely, had it been questioned with respect to the great atonement to be made for our transgressions, as it was with respect to the opening of these seals, Who is worthy to complete this gracious undertaking? we should have seen with unspeakable anguish, that none in heaven, or on earth, would have been found equal to the talk. But here likewise the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed. How divinely is he furnished for the high station that he sustains, and for all the glorious services assigned to him! What amazing power, what adorable wisdom is implied in the seven horns, and seven eyes, with which he is here delineated? and O! what love, in submitting to be slain, that he might redeem us to God by his blood! With the prayers of the saints, which come up before God as incense, may they ever mingle their most ardent praises for this divine condescension! And out of gratitude to their Redeemer, let them rejoice to see the glorious change in his humanity, from his humiliation and sufferings on earth, to his exaltation and reward in heaven: and let them ardently long for the happy season, when the full choir of the faithful, from every nation, and people, and tongue, shall unite in this joyful acclamation, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing.—In this world the faithful disciples of Christ are only a little flock; but when they stand together upon the heavenly mountain, they shall appear ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; and all the harmony of their voices, and all the ardour of their souls, inconceivably improved as all their powers will be, shall be united on this happy occasion. Form us, O Lord, we intreat thee, for this divine employment; and teach us, in some measure, to anticipate its pleasure in these regions below. Even now, in spirit and intention, we prostrate ourselves before thee, and lay down the crowns which faith, as it were, hath already received, at thy feet; giving glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, and celebrating the victories and honours of the Lamb.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have,

1. The prophetic volume, which was in the hand of him that sat on the throne, containing the events which in succeeding ages should befal his church. It was written within and on the back side, like Ezekiel's roll. Or, on the back side may be joined with the following clause, as sealed there with seven seals; not probably all on the outside; but as there were seven parchment rolls, one under the other, when the first seal was opened, and the volume unrolled, then the second seal and volume appeared. All things are known to God from the beginning; but they are inscrutable by us till they are accomplished, or he is pleased to reveal them to us.

2. The proclamation issued forth by a strong angel: Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? But no creature was found in heaven, earth, or hell, capable of penetrating into, or of foretelling the events of futurity. This is God's prerogative alone.

3. The grief of the apostle at finding no creature who dared essay the arduous talk. He wept bitterly that he could not gain a knowledge of the things contained in the book, apprehending them to be of signal importance.

4. One of the elders kindly observed his tears, and cheered his affected heart, saying, Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the mighty Lord and Saviour, the root of David, not only after the flesh his offspring, but, as God, the source of all honour and blessedness to his faithful people, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. Note; God's people often needlessly afflict themselves with fears: were their eyes more steadily fixed upon their great Redeemer, their tears never need to flow.

2nd, Behold the wonderful Personage appears, who is alone found worthy to unloose the seals, and unfold this sacred volume.

1. He is described as a Lamb that had been slain, and, by his own blood, having taken away the sins of the world, stood as our great High Priest, just before the throne, within the circle of the elders and the living creatures, as the great Intercessor for mankind, and especially for those that believe, pleading continually the oblation which he once offered in his own body on the tree. He had seven horns, denoting the perfection of his power and dominion as the universal King over his church, to protect his people, and push his enemies till he has consumed them: and his seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth, represent the treasures of wisdom, grace, and knowledge, which, as the great Prophet, he possesses, and dispenses to all his ministers and members, according to their various wants. He came, as fully qualified in the virtue of his all sufficient merit, and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne, who readily gave it to him, acknowledging thereby, that he was worthy to unloose the seals, and reveal the mysterious contents.

2. Instantly all heaven resounds with praise; the church triumphant in heaven begin to sing, angels repeat the sound, and every creature joins the sacred choir, and echoes loud allelujahs.

[1.] The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb with humble adoration, their hearts, like their golden lyres, tuned to their Redeemer's praise; and vials full of the most grateful incense, even the prayers of the saints, breathed before him their sweet perfume. United in sacred chorus, high they raised their voices, and uttered this most glorious song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; qualified fully for the discharge of thy mediatorial office; for thou wast slain for our transgressions, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin, Satan, and death, and be restored to favour and communion with the Most High; and hast made us unto our God, now fully reconciled to us, kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth, exalted to the higher dignity and honour, and raised superior to all our spiritual enemies. Who can, without some glow of the same sacred rapture, read their song; or not long to join with them before the throne?

[2.] The angels, who, without the circle of the living creatures and the elders, in shining ranks innumerable compassed round the throne, joined their adorations, and cried, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

[3.] The whole creation echoes back the sound. All in heaven, earth, and sea, whether angels, the spirits of the just departed, or the living here below, creatures animate and inanimate, all, all utter forth their united praises, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever! The same divine glory is ascribed to each of the sacred Persons, as being one in essence, and alike the objects of every creature's worship and adoration.

[4.] The four living creatures close with their solemn Amen; and the four and twenty elders, the representatives of the church, with humble prostration, fall down and worship him that liveth for ever and ever. Oh when shall I join this heavenly choir, and with them, in heart and lip, unite in these eternal praises of God and the Lamb!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-5.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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