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Revelation 5:1

I (1) saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a (2) book written inside and on the back, (3) sealed up with seven seals.

1. Saw = This is the first of thirty-nine occurrences of the phrase "and I saw." It serves to remind the reader that John describes exactly what he sees with his own eyes. He saw the book and he saw the seals—all seven of them. This requires that all seals be on the outside of the scroll. This requires that all seven seals are broken before John will know the contents of the scroll.

2. Book written inside and on the back = There are probably as many questions about this phrase as there are letters that compose it. However, the questions can be grouped under three headings: (a) function, (b) content, and (c) form. Of the three, function is the easiest question to answer.

a. Function: First, a sequential nature is established. With the seven seals, the author indicates the seals are opened one after another. This format will be repeated in relation to the trumpets and bowl judgments that follow. The book is built around these three sequences. Second, Christ, who is uniquely able to break the seven seals, is clearly established as a sovereign who executes the will of the One seated on the throne—God, the Father. The Father has willed that the Son oversees its execution. John 5:22, 27 and Acts 10:42 indicate that Jesus is Judge of all. This is the central purpose of the Revelation: to reveal the Son’s execution of the Father’s judgment against both the living and the dead. This naturally leads to the question of content.

b. Content: Once it is accepted that the seven seals are not a part of the contents of the scroll, but in fact are conditions to its opening, the reader is able to discern two things. First, John does not explicitly indicate what is contained in the scroll. However, with the breaking of the seventh and final seal, the first direct attack against the earth begins in the form of a trumpet judgment. That the trumpets are judgments of God will be detailed later. Second, since Revelation 8-20 contains the judgment of God against wickedness, the scroll must contain the eschatological judgment of God, else the contents of the scroll are never disclosed. This seems highly unlikely given the importance of the scroll indicated in Revelation 5. Ezekiel 2:9-10 speaks of a scroll similar to Revelation 5. Ezekiel’s scroll contained "lamentations, mourning, and woe." All three terms are associated with disaster. All three express deep grief on the part of the afflicted.

c. Form: The exact form of the scroll is debated. However, taken at face value several points are obvious. First, the basic book form during John’s time was the scroll. The fact that all seven seals were visible argues for a scroll. The fact that the contents of the scroll could not be known until it was opened argues for a rolled up scroll. There is no historical evidence of a sealed scroll within a sealed scroll.

3. Sealed up with seven seals = there is historical evidence of scrolls containing seven seals. In both the Jewish and Roman worlds, seven sealed scrolls were very common. Specifically, Roman law mandated that wills be validated by the seals of five or seven witnesses. Jewish magic also employed the motif of seven seals.

Revelation 5:2

And I saw (1) a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "(2) Who is worthy (3) to open the book and to break its seals?"

1. A strong angel = this is the first of three "strong angels" introduced in the Revelation. Revelation 10:1 introduces a second "strong angel" in connection with the second scroll of the Revelation. The third and final "strong angel" appears in Revelation 18:21 as the prophet of doom for Babylon, the great city. These angels are not identified by name, but by duty. They proclaim God’s revelation.

An interesting text that helps with the identity of this particular class of angelic being is Daniel 10:21. Here an angelic being, who identifies himself as one sent to proclaim revelation to Daniel, states, "Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince." The New American Standard Translation indicates that the word stands should be translated shows himself strong. The Hebrew verb means to be strong. However, the Hebrew verb can be intensified, which in this case gives the sense to show oneself strong. That Michael is classed with this angelic being suggests that these two angels are a special class—strong angels.

2. Who is worthy = this rhetorical question focuses on the qualifications for the task. Naturally, the one who owns the scroll can break the seals. However, the question presupposes that someone else is necessary to set in motion the events connected with breaking of the seals.

Revelation 5:3-4

And (1) no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then (2) I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;

1. No one = John indicates that no one answered the angelic question. The division—in heaven, on earth and under the earth—serves to highlight the universal absence of a legitimate response. Think of all the great men of human history who acted as if they could and would answer. However, Jesus who is able and worthy to open the book does not answer the angelic question.

2. I began to weep greatly = the importance of the book and the absence of anyone to open it is highlighted by John’s deep weeping. This particular vision is written in such a way by John that the importance of the Lamb is heightened.

Revelation 5:5

And (1) one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, (2) the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, (3) the Root of David, (4) has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."

1. One of the elders = evidences that this group of beings are capable of acting individually.

2. The Lion that is from the tribe of Judah = Judah is referred to as a lion in Genesis 49:9. There Jacob offers a great prophetic prediction about Judah’s future, which includes the promise of a future ruler. Jesus is that ruler.

3. The Root of David = is the second Davidic title applied to Jesus here. The great Old Testament support for this title in reference to Jesus is replete. Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12 are clear references.

The reference to Judah and David establishes Jesus as a royal descendant of King David. This requirement is stated throughout the New Testament (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30-32; Romans 1:3; and 2 Timothy 2:8). However, it is not solely based on His genealogy that makes Him worthy to open the book.

4. Has overcome = this verb gives the reason that this particular Judeo-Davidite is worthy to open the book. This verb means to conquer. The particular Greek construction means, "to conquer absolutely." John does not explicitly state what the Judeo-Davidite did to conquer here, but an indirect allusion is given in verse 6.

Revelation 5:6

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders (1) a Lamb standing, (2) as if slain, having (3) seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

1. A Lamb standing = this is the first of twenty-nine times arnion (lamb) occurs in the Revelation. With the exception of Revelation13:11, all refer to Jesus:

a. The Lamb standing, 5:6
b. The Lamb worshipped, 5:8
c. The Lamb praised, 5:12-13
d. The Lamb, 6:1, 7, 9,
e. The Lamb wrathful, 6:16
f. The Lamb honored, 7:10
g. The Lamb sacrificed, 7:14
h. The Lamb provider, 7:17
i. The Lamb, 8:1
j. The Lamb sacrificed, 12:11
k. The Lamb’s book, 13:8
l. The Lamb standing, 14:1
m. The Lamb leads, 14:4
n. The Lamb provider, 14:4
o. The Lamb’s presence, 14:10
p. The Lamb’s song, 15:3
q. The Lamb’s war, 17:14
r. The Lamb’s marriage, 19:7
s. The Lamb’s marriage supper, 19:9
t. The Lamb’s wife, 21:9
u. The Lamb’s apostles, 21:14
v. The Lamb is temple and light, 21:22-23
w. The Lamb’s throne, 22:1, 3

From these references, we can discern that lamb is John’s title of choice for the Lord in the Revelation. In the common phrase, "the Lamb of God," a Greek synonym is used. Thus, the term arnion is unique to the Revelation and the New Testament as a title for the Lord Jesus.

This Lamb is standing. Given the great detail offered in chapter 4 of the Revelation, some have argued that the Lamb must have been absent until chapter 5 of the Revelation. There is no way to be sure. The New Testament presents the Lord in two positions in heaven. Stephen declared that he saw the Lord "standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56, 5:31). Mark 16:19 declares that "the Lord…was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God." Thus, the Lord is presented as both standing and sitting. Perhaps, the Lord’s position is indicated by what He is about to do. In this case, He is standing because He is about to take the scroll from the hand of God.

2. As if slain = this phrase qualifies the messianic title. The phrase literally says, "as slain." There is no doubt indicated by the Greek that the Lamb was in fact slain. The point is that He was slain, but now He is alive.

In the Jewish worldview, a slain lamb related to their sacrificial system. In the Jewish sacrificial system, a lamb or sheep was used in several different sacrifices, i.e., Passover and burnt, sin, and guilt offerings. These sacrifices have as their goal either peace or purification. Thus, by the sacrifice of a lamb, one sought peace with God or purification from sin. Revelation 7:14 declares that the blood (the sacrificial death) of the Lamb makes robes (the person) white (pure or acceptable to God, the Father). This points to purification.

3. Seven horns and seven eyes = a horn is a symbol of power (Jer 48:25, Dan 7:7-8) and seven horns represent absolute power. Seven eyes are explained as "the seven spirits of God sent to the whole earth." The ability to see the "entire earth" at the same time indicates absolute sovereignty. Therefore, the slain, but alive Lamb is both the absolute power and sovereign of the earth.

Revelation 5:7

And (1) He came and (2) took the book out of (3) the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

1. He came = movement is suggested by this term. Jesus is reported to be standing "in the middle of the throne, (Rev 5:6)." The sense seems to be that Jesus is standing in the middle between the thrones of the elders and throne supported by the four living creatures.

2. Took the book = this particular verb expressions action with the emphasis on the result. Took does not suggest force, but the appropriate action in response to an outstretched hand. In other words, God is holding the book out waiting for the Lord to take it.

3. The right hand = symbolizes power.

Revelation 5:8

When He had taken the book, (1) the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and (2) golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of (3) the saints.

1. The four…before the Lamb = This is the only scene presented in the Revelation where the heavenly court fall down before the Lamb. The term worship is not used in the description of the action of the heavenly court, but the Lamb receives the honor no less.

2. Golden bowls…prayers of the saints = Revelation 8:3 will speak again of the prayers of the saints. Look there for more details.

3. Saints = the Greek says literally, "the holy ones." This term occurs thirteen times in the Revelation (5:8, 8:3, 4; 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:8; 20:9). This is clearly John’s term of choice to designate those who belong to Jesus Christ throughout the ages. Notice the different descriptions:

a. Their prayers are collected and held in heaven, 5:8, 8:3.
b. They are rewarded by God, 11:18.
c. They are the object of Satan/Antichrist’s persecution, 13:8.
d. They persevere and remain faithful during persecution, 13:10, 14:12.
e. They are the object the world’s persecution, 16:6.
f. They are the object of "the great harlot’s" persecution, 17:6.
g. They rejoice over God’s punishment of the harlot, 18:20.
h. They are among the designated kill of the harlot, 18:24.
i. Their righteous deeds are the dress of the wife of the Lamb, 19:8.
j. They live in Jerusalem during the 1000 year kingdom, 20:9.

This term is used of Israelites in Daniel 7:21-22, 25, 27 and 8:24. They are depicted as the object of Antichrist’s persecution and God’s benevolence. At the time of Daniel’s writing, saints referred to only those of Israel. This point has been seized on by pretribulationists who insist that the term saint be limited to those of Israel in the Revelation. Pretribulationists reason that the church will have been raptured to heaven before Revelation 5 occurs. It is argued that those persecuted by Satan/Antichrist during Daniel’s Seventieth Week will not be part of the "bride of Christ" because the church age ends at the Rapture, which pretribbers argue most occur before Daniel Seventieth Week begins.

This whole line of reasoning is fundamentally flawed. While Daniel 7 and 8 can correctly be limited to Jews at the time of writing, whether the term saints as used in Revelation can be extended to include New Testament believers must be left to exegesis, not theological presuppositions. The term saints or holy ones is used throughout the New Testament to refer to an individual believer, a small group or the entire body of Christ. (Notice: Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 12:13; 15:26; 16:2, 15; 1 Cor 6:1-2; 14:33; 2 Cor 1:1; 13:12; Eph 1:15; 3:18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Phil 4:22; Col 1:4; 1 Tim 5:10; Philem 5, 7; Heb 6:10; 13:24; Jude 3).

Revelation 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for (1)You were slain, and (2) purchased for God with Your blood (3) men from (4) every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made (5) them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and (6) they will reign upon the earth."

1. You were slain (sphazein) = indicates the basis upon which the Lamb is worthy to open the seals. The Lamb is worthy because of three things He did. First, literally the Greek says, "You were slaughtered…" This Greek verb implies a violent and merciless death (Louw-Nida, § 20.72). This term is used to describe the Lord’s death in chapters five and thirteen. It is used of believers in Revelation 6:9 and 18:24. The fact that the term is used to describe both the deaths of the Lord and believers indicate that the mode of death is not indicated. While the death of the Lord resulted from crucifixion, it is clear that the death of all believers is not the result of crucifixion. It is used to describe the actions of Cain against his brother in 1 John 3:12. Cain killed his brother by cutting him.

2. (You) purchased (agorazein) = is the Greek verb used throughout the New Testament to designate the activity of the Lord in His death for sinners. The term means, in a figurative sense, "to cause the release of someone by paying a price." In this case, the price was the Lord’s life.

3. Men = the reader will notice that this word appears in italics in the NASB. This indicates that the word does not appear in the original Greek. The reason this word is inserted is because the Greek does not contain an object of the verb. This is not reflected correctly in the King James Bible. However, the sense of the text demands that an object be inserted to make the sense complete. It is common sense that God purchased men (and women, boys and girls) with the death of the Lord.

4. Tribe and tongue and people and nation = these four ethnic units cumulatively emphasize the universality of the group purchased by the Lord’s death. It is important to recognize that a group of individuals were purchased.

5. You have made them to be a kingdom = this is the third and final action describing the Lord’s work that establishes His worthiness to break the seals. He made them. This act was done at the time the purchase was made. This helps all believers understand their position in Christ. We were bought before we were born and established as a kingdom. This is good news for the broken of our world. We are a kingdom and we are priests of God.

6. They will reign upon the earth = this is the final and ultimate outcome of the Lord’s work at death. The undisputed "they" and "them" in the original Greek of verse 10 demand that the objects of verse 9 be objective in nature. This means that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders do not include themselves in the list of those purchased by the blood of the Lamb.

Notice that the locale of the saints' reign will be the earth. This would strongly argue against an amillennial interpretation of the book of Revelation, which sees the reign of the saints restricted to heaven.

Revelation 5:11

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was (1) myriads of myriads, and thousand of thousands,

1. Myriads…thousands = John’s use of great size numbers should not be under appreciated. Daniel emphasized the innumerability of the angelic beings that attend the God of heaven and so does John.

Revelation 5:12-14

Saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.



Next Section: Chapter Six - The First Six Seals
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