The Lamb and The Scroll (Rev. 5:1–14)

 


The Lamb and The Scroll (Rev. 5:1–14)

The indescribable majesty and glory of God trigger praises to God by the four living beings and the twenty-four priests. They begin a series of hymns in awe, celebrating God as the creator. 

The events of chapter 5 occur right after those of chapter 4. The focus of attention now shifts to a seven-sealed scroll in the hand of God. No one could read or open the scroll because God sealed it with seven seals, and no one was worthy to open it.

5:1 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.

The Scroll

The Greek word βιβλίον Biblion” does not refer to a book in the modern sense but to a scroll (Rev. 6:14). A scroll was a long piece of papyrus or animal skin rolled from both ends into the middle. Writers used such scrolls before the invention of the codex, or modern-style book, consisting of pages bound together.

The Scroll’s Contents

The preterists, historicists, and futurists commentators have different views of the sealed scroll in the Father’s right hand, based on their different approaches to studying the Book of Revelation. They agree that the sealed scroll contains the history of war, famine, death, along with the destruction of the temple. However, they disagree about the timing of their fulfillment.

Regardless of the time of fulfillment of the scroll contents, none of these approaches has good news. Instead, the three views have the mentality of lamentation and woes in the Old Testament before the redemption by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Ezekiel saw in his vision a hand holding a scroll extended to him. He found it written on the front and back when the hand spread out the scroll before him. There were lamentations, mourning, and woe in the scroll (Ezek. 2:9–10). Christ has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted on our behalf (Isa. 53:4).

Unlike the scroll offered to Ezekiel, the scroll that John saw in the right hand of God does not have “lamentations, mourning, and woe.” Instead, it has the good news of God in Christ. Therefore, we should not misunderstand what seems to be horrible news in the Book of Revelation. They are not bad news for the redeemed, but good news for them. They are about the destruction of  Satan, sin, and the old sinful nature; bad news for Satan’s kingdom but good news for the people of God’s kingdom.

The scroll had the kingdom’s title deed, authority, and the redemption of God’s people. God gave Christ dominion, glory, and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him (Dan. 7:14).

Christ entered the Most Holy Place once for all, and He has obtained eternal redemption and kingdom (Dan. 7:27; Heb. 9:12). Therefore, Christ said to His disciples, “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me” (Luke 22:29).

Jeremiah 32 provides a good illustration of the use of such a document shortly before the fall of Jerusalem. In obedience to God’s command (Jer. 32:6–7), Jeremiah purchased a field despite its potential loss as a sign that the Babylonian captivity would not be permanent (Jer. 32:15).

Jeremiah records the details of his purchase (Jer. 32:9–15). He signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. Then, he took the purchase deed to Baruch in the presence of Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses (Jer. 32:9–15).

The sealed scroll of Jeremiah had the deed of the land he had purchased from his cousin, Hanamel. More importantly, it indicated the divine purpose toward his people and city. The God of Israel planned that houses and fields and vineyards would be possessed again in Jerusalem, despite the captivity (Jer. 32:15).

The scroll also contained God’s plans and purposes of redemption and the renewal of everything (Eph. 1:14). Finally, it includes the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ (Col. 2:2; Rev. 10:7). This mystery  “has been hidden from ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Col. 1:26).

The song’s theme of the four living beings and the twenty-four elders mentioned later, in (Rev. 5:8–10), confirms that the scroll is the revelation of the divine plan of redemption in Christ (Rev. 5:9–10).

5:2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 

The Worthy to open the Scroll

The strong angel is not named. Some identify him as Gabriel, others as Michael, but remain anonymous since the text does not call him. He spoke with a loud voice so that his proclamation would penetrate to every corner of the universe. The angel sought someone both worthy and able to open the scroll and to break its seals.

Opening the seals of the scroll means accepting and assuming the responsibilities to fulfill its contents.

5:3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. 

At the cry of the angel saying, “who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Rev. 5:2), uncounted thousands of angels remained silent. All the righteous dead of all the ages said nothing. Therefore, no one in heaven or on earth could open the scroll or look at it.

The process of waiting for the worthy one to open the scroll’s seals has its Hebraic roots in the law of the “Kinsman Redeemer.” In the Old Testament, the word “kinsman” is the one who has the right to redeem.

(Lev. 25) describes the law of the “Kinsman.” If one countryman becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative would come and redeem what his countryman has sold (Lev. 25:25).

The story of Ruth and Boaz is an application of the law of the “Kinsman Redeemer.” Ruth approached Boaz to assume the closest relative’s role, redeem her deceased husband’s land, and marry her. Boaz was not the closest relative, however. So, he had to give her closest relative a choice to assume the role of “Kinsman Redeemer” or decline it. But the “Kinsman Redeemer” declined and waived his rights to Boaz, who purchased the land and married Ruth (Ruth 4).

In earlier times in Israel, one party takes off his sandal for the redemption and transfer of property to become final. Then they give it to the other to legalize the transactions. So, the “Kinsman Redeemer” said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” He removed his sandal as a sign of the final deal (Ruth 4:1–8).

As in the story of Ruth, people were waiting for the qualified closest relative of humanity after losing their inheritance of God’s kingdom because of the first man’s fall. All declined to carry on the rule of the “Kinsman Redeemer.” Figuratively, they removed their sandals.

5:4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 

St. John’s Weeping

The Greek term used to describe St. John’s weeping, κλαιον πολ,” “I wept much,” is a word that expresses robust and unrestrained emotion. So, it is the same word that St. Luke used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ’s weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and Peter’s weeping after betraying the Lord (Luke 22:62).

Overwhelmed with grief, John began to weep because he could not see anyone worthy to open the scroll or look at it. John realized that God would not finish His glorious redemption’s plan until the manifestation of the kinsman-redeemer, who is near of kin, willing, and able to redeem. He wept because he wanted to see Satan defeated, the world saved from sin and death, and God established His kingdom. John was looking for the One who would be the heir of the glory of God’s kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The statement “I wept much” (Rev. 5:4) is the only reference in the scripture, where we see tears in heaven. In the New Jerusalem, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:4).

The Lion of Judah

5:5 But one of the elders [priests] 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.” 

Do Not Weep!

One of the priests comforted John and asked him, “Do not weep.” Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ told the widow at Nain not to weep (Luke 7:13). He also said to those who were grieving over the death of the synagogue ruler’s daughter, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping” (Luke 8:52). The Lord Jesus Christ knew what He was about to do.

The heavenly Father has already taken action before the foundation of the world. The wait for the one worthy to open the scroll was about to be resolved. The priest drew St. John’s attention to a new Person emerging on the scene, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. No human and no angel could redeem the universe. However, one could, by the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). This Person, of course, is the glorified, exalted Lord the Lord Jesus Christ. The heavenly Father foreordained the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Lamb who would carry the world’s sins, and the heavenly Father manifested the Lord Jesus Christ in the times for us (1 Pet. 1:20).

The Lion of Judah

The priest described the Lord Jesus Christ by His messianic title, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” This title is from Jacob’s blessing on the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8–10).

Out of the tribe of Judah, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come (Heb. 7:14). He is the Lion that would tear up and destroy their enemies. He would fulfill His mission by being slaughtered as a lamb. 

The Lord Jesus Christ is the first one who has overcome. The faithful believers have become triumphant by The Spirit of the Father through Christ. At the cross, the heavenly Father in the Lord Jesus Christ defeated all the forces of hell, including Satan (Col. 2:15; 1 Pet. 3:19), sin (Rom. 8:3), and death (Heb. 2:14–15). Believers overcome through His overcoming (Col. 2:13–14; 1 John 5:5).

The Root of David

Some commentators see “the Root of Judah” describing the previous word, “Judah.” Jesse, the father of David, was a descendant of Judah (Matt. 1,6). In this case, “Judah” is “the root of David” because David, historically, is of the tribe of Judah. So, the Lord Jesus Christ was the lion of Judah, which is “the root of David” (Rev. 22:16; Jer. 23:5–6, 33:15–17).

Others understand “the Root of David,” theologically, referring to the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of His divine origin (Mic. 5:2). Christ is the eternal Logos of God [Ὁ Λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ], who is God [θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος] (John 1:1), and He is the Lord of David (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44-45; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44; Act. 2:34).  

The Descendant of David

The Lord Jesus Christ is King David’s Great Descendant (Rev. 5:5). The Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh (Rom. 9:5), was a descendant of David. As Jesse was the father of David,  Isa. 11:1 prophesied about the Messiah, saying, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit.” 

According to the genealogies, Matthew 1 and Luke 3 reveal that the Lord Jesus Christ was a descendant of David. In Rom. 1:3, The apostle Paul said that the Lord Jesus Christ was “born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” The term “Son of David” is a messianic title used frequently in the gospels.[1]

The Kinsman Redeemer

The Lord Jesus Christ shared our humanity by being born of David’s loins. Both the Lord Jesus Christ and the believers are of the same family, human nature. So, the Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call them brothers. Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:11–15).

As in the story of Ruth, Christ has become our beloved “Kinsman Redeemer.” the Lord Jesus Christ met all the qualifications. First, he became flesh, so He is our Kinsman. Second, he loved us and was willing to give up His life to set us free from bondage and restore our lost inheritance (Lev. 25:23–46; Ruth 4; Jer. 32:6–15). Third, he offered Himself without spot to the heavenly Father by the eternal Spirit (Hebrew 9:14).

The Lamb of God 

5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders [priests], 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.

In the Center of the Throne

John saw an incredible scene; the Lamb of God amid the throne, the center of the universe. The four living creatures, the twenty-four priests, and the angels encircled Him (Rev. 5:6).

Being in the center of the throne means that God revealed Him as the focus of the entire creation. Christ was “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations but now has been revealed to His saints;” the hope of glory (Col. 1:26). He is “the Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7). The prophets have been waiting for the time of His manifestation (1 Pet. 1:10-11). In hope, God subjected the creation to expect its redemption from corruption in the Lord Jesus Christ’s manifestation (Rom. 8:19-21).

The Standing Slain Lamb

John saw the Lamb  ”bearing scars and wounds as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6, AMP). Yet, despite the scars from the deadly injury, he is alive, standing on His feet. Though demons and wicked men conspired against Him and killed Him, God raised Him from the dead, thus defeating and triumphing over His enemies.

The Greek word ρνίον Arnion,” translated as “Lamb,” refers to a young lamb or a pet lamb, a male lamb “of the first year” (Ex. 15:5). John drove the imagery from the Passover lamb when Jewish families were required to keep the sacrificial lamb as a household pet for four days before sacrificing it (Ex. 12:3-6).

Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). God chose His Son to be His Lamb of God before creating the world but appeared in the last days for our sake. We believe in God, who raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him (1 Pet. 1:18–21).

While every lamb sacrificed under the Old Covenant pointed toward Christ, He is only referred to as a lamb once in the Old Testament (Isa. 53:7). On the other hand, the New Testament called Jesus “a lamb” four times in (John 1:29,36; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19, and at least twenty-eight times in Revelation.

Who Carries Away the Sins

The theme of “the Lamb” is an important one throughout Scripture. It presents the redemptive work of God in Christ, the Redeemer. The Old Testament question, “Where is the lamb?” (Gen. 22:7), was answered by John the Baptist, who cried, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He is the “Kinsman Redeemer.”

Having Seven Horns

The Lamb had seven horns. Horns in Scripture symbolize strength and power (1 Sam. 2:1,10; 2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 75:10; 89:17,24; Jer. 48:25; Mic. 4:13). Seven, the number of perfection, symbolizes the Lamb’s perfect power. 

Having Seven Eyes

The Lamb in St. John’s vision also had seven eyes, again denoting perfect understanding and knowledge. Those eyes, John noted, represented “the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.” “Seven Spirits of God” describes the Holy Spirit in all His fullness as prophesied in Isaiah 11:2.

5:7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Receiving the Scroll

The Lamb took the scroll out of the Father's right hand, who sat on the throne. Thus, the Worthy One, the Lord Jesus Christ, has arrived to take what God rightfully gave Him. 

Daniel described the scene of the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven, approaching God, and receiving the kingdom from Him. God, “the Ancient of Days, had given the Lord Jesus Christ authority, glory, and sovereign power (Dan. 7:13–14).

Those moments were crucial in the redemption process. Christ went into the Most Holy Place once for all, offered His blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls, and redeemed us from sin forever (Heb. 9:11–12), and received from God the authority and the kingdom (Dan. 7:13–14).

Songs of Redemption

5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders [priests] fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 

Praises broke out from everywhere in the universe as the Lamb of God moved to take the scroll. John added three more majestic doxologies in chapter 5 to the two in chapter 4. The spontaneous outburst of worship resulted as the Father manifested who would be the worthy one. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He would carry on the redemption plan and inherit the long-anticipated kingdom.

As they began their praise and worship song, the four living beings and the twenty-four priests fell before the Lamb. They honored Christ as they honored the Father (Rev. 4:10; John 5:23).

Holding Harps

The twenty-four priests were holding harps and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Scriptures frequently associate harps with worship.[2] Furthermore, the priests holding the harps symbolize their witness to Christ as the legitimate heir of God, for the testimony of Jesus Christ is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10).  

Holding Bowls

The priests used bowls in the tabernacle and the temple,[3] where they served at the altar. They symbolized the priestly work of intercession for the people. Scripture elsewhere associates the burning of incense with the prayers of the saints (Ps.141:2; Luke 1:9–10; Rev. 8:3–4). In the Eucharist liturgy, the priests offer their intercessory prayers in the presence of the sacrificed Lamb of God on the altar. The Lord Jesus Christ is our intercessor before God.

5:9 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, 

A Song to the Lamb

The redeemed sing praises to God throughout Scripture,[4] and the angels share their praises (Luke 2:13–14).

In (Rev. 5:9), the priests sang a new song, directed to the Son: “You… have redeemed us to God” (Rev. 5:9).

The Lyrics of the Song

The theme of the new song is receiving the title deed of the kingdom and the redemption.[5]

The song praises Christ for His worthiness to take the scroll and break its seals. He is worthy because when He was in the flesh, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). The song continues, “You were slain, and redeemed [purchased] us for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

The Song of Redemption

The word “purchased” is the translation of the Greek term γόρασας,” for “redemption,” which pictures slaves purchased in the marketplace and then set free. So at the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ paid the purchase price, His blood. He redeemed people from every tribe (descent), tongue (language), people (race), and nation (culture) from the slave market of sin (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23; Gal. 3:13).

God redeemed us from the empty way of life, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Pet. 1:18–21).

5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

The Song of the Priestly Kingdom

The song moves on to express the results of our redemption: “You have made us kingdom and priests to our God; And we shall reign upon the earth.” The redeemed are now part of God’s kingdom (Rev. 1:6), a community of believers under His sovereign rule through Christ. They are also priests to our God (Rev. 20:6), signifying their complete access to God’s presence for worship and service. 

5:11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders [priests]; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 

More Angelic Voices Added

As John looked for the fourth time, he heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living beings and the priests. The number of them was “myriads of myriads [ten thousand times ten thousand], and thousands of thousands” (Dan. 7:10). So, the innumerable angels joined the four living beings and the twenty-four priests in their songs.

The Song of the Kingdom

5:12 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 gave praise and adoration to the Lord Jesus Christ. He received the authority and the kingdom from God because of His death. Therefore, he is worthy to receive power, riches, and wisdom from God (Eph. 1:20–21). The Lord Jesus Christ said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18, NIV).

5:13 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!” 

All the Creation Joined the Choir

As the great hymn of praise reaches its climax, every created thing in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea, and all things in them joined in. This all-inclusive statement is reminiscent of Psalm 69:34 and the concluding verse of the Psalms, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps.150:6).

A Song to the Father and His Son

The mighty chorus cries out, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13, NIV). Endless blessing, endless honor, endless praise, endless glory, and endless worship belong to the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The creation is unable to contain its joy over its redemption (Rom. 8:19–22).

5:14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders [priests] fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Amen!

The four living beings could only keep saying “Amen,” that solemn affirmation that means “let it be” or “make it happen” (Rev. 1:6–7). The priests fell once again and worshipped.


Excerpt from: Revealing the Father through the Book of Revelation, by Hegumen Abraam Sleman, With God's grace, the book is available on Amazon. I would be blessed if you could get a copy of the book and review it. For more information about the book, please visit frsleman.net. I am looking forward to hearing your feedback. Pray for me!

Blessings to you,

Fr. Abraam Sleman
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[1] Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30–31; 21:9,15; 22:42; Mark 12:35

[2] 2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Chron. 15:16,20,28; 16:5; 2 Chron. 5:12, 29:25; Ps. 33:2, 71:22, 92:1–4, 144:9, 150:3; Rev. 14:2, 15:2

[3] 1 Kings 7:40,45,50; 2 Kings 12:13–14; 1 Chron. 28:17;
2 Chron. 4:22; Jer. 52:19; Zech. 14:20

[4] Judg. 5:3; 2 Chron. 5:13; Neh. 12:46; Ps. 7:17, 9:2, 61:8, 104:33, 146:2; Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19

[5] Ps. 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 14:3







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