1 Revelation 5:1-5 describes the scroll, bound up by seven seals, in the hand of God. But who is worthy to open the scroll? An elder tells John that the Lion of Judah is worthy.
2 Revelation 5:6-8 describes John seeing the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, taking the scroll.
3 Revelation 5:8-11 describes the living creatures and the twenty-four elders bursting out into praise and worship.
4 Revelation 5:11 describes ten thousand upon ten thousand angels in worship.
5 Revelation 5:13 describes every creature joining in this crescendo of worship.
6 The following chapter will describe the opening of the first six seals.
Revelation 5:1 ‘Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne…’
The fifth chapter continues on from the glory and majesty of the fourth. The Lord God Almighty is seated on the throne. The term ‘right hand’ speaks of the authority of the words of the scroll.
Revelation 5:1 ‘a scroll with writing on both sides’.
A scroll was made from thin sheets of papyrus in two layers at right angles to each other and joined together with glue, water and pressure. The writing on both sides denotes the overwhelming nature of its written content.
Revelation 5:1 ‘and sealed with seven seals’.
Chapter six, which follows, will describe the opening of the first six of these seals.
Walvoord comments that this is ‘a book that contains the prophecy of impending events to be unfolded in Revelation.’ (6)
Matthew Henry writes: ‘This book in the hand of God is shut up and sealed, it is known to none but himself, till he allows it to be opened. Known unto God, and to him alone, are all his works, from the beginning of the world, but it is his glory to conceal the matter as he pleases.’
Daniel 12:4 ‘But you Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.’
Some have proposed that the time and season for the opening of Daniel’s scroll has come; and that in conjunction with the Book of Revelation, the time has come for end-time prophetic understandings to be revealed.
Psalm 2:8 ‘Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.’ points towards the scroll being a will of inheritance that Christ receives from the Father, that is, the Kingdom.
‘The writing on both sides denotes the overwhelming nature of its written content.’
Revelation 5:2 ‘And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice: Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. But no-one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.’
The mighty nature of the angel reflects the gravity of the matter at hand.
Matthew Henry simply radiates at this point in his commentary. I will leave you with his profound and gracious words: ‘None in heaven or earth could accept the challenge and undertake the task, none in heaven, none of the glorious holy angels, though before the throne of God, and the ministers of his providence, they with all their wisdom cannot dive into the decrees of God: none on earth, no man, the wisest or the best of men, none of the magicians and soothsayers, none of the prophets of God, any further than he reveals his mind to them: none under the earth, none of the fallen angels, none of the spirits of men departed, though they should return to our world, can open this book, Satan himself, with all his subtlety, cannot do it, the creatures cannot open it, nor look on it; they cannot read it. God only can do it’. (9)
That just about says it all!
Revelation 5:4 ‘ I wept and wept because no-one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside’.
This is such a poignant verse. World history has offered up many great men and women but none could even come near to opening the scroll which contains the destiny of mankind.
Oecumenius put it more succinctly, commenting: ‘For how could anyone of those filled with the mist of sin look into it in the presence of the divine throne on which the scroll was laid’.
Revelation 5:5 ‘Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’.
This speaks of the triumph of Christ Jesus on the cross. Only a man could pay the redemptive price for the sins of men. Only God could walk in holiness and not sin. The divine and human nature of Jesus fulfilled both causes.
The following two verses describe the Lion and the Messiah:
Genesis 49:9 ‘You are a lion’s cub, O Judah’ – points towards Christ being the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He will be the King of the whole earth.
Isaiah 11:10 ‘In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples, the nations will rally to him and his place of rest will be glorious’ – points towards the Messianic role of Christ.
Revelation 5:6 ‘Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders’.
Morris catches it elegantly when he writes: ‘When earth-bound men want symbols of power they conjure up mighty beasts and birds of prey. Russia elevates the bear, Britain the lion, France the tiger, the United States the spread eagle – all of them ravenous. It is only the Kingdom of Heaven that would dare to use as its symbol of might, not the Lion for which John was looking but the helpless Lamb, and at that, a slain lamb’! (11)
He is the victorious Lion that destroys Satan but the sacrificial Lamb who secures redemption for the saints.
Christ Jesus is both God in perfect omnipotence and the vulnerable sacrificial Lamb. The path to greatness lies in perfect surrender, seeking neither gain nor glory, but completely committed to following the path laid out before us. May we glorify the Lord every step that we take!
Revelation 5:6 ‘He had seven horns and seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne’.
The horns speak of power and the number ‘seven’ alludes to complete and perfect power. The eyes speak of omniscience, the all-seeing and all-knowing nature of Jesus. He has the Spirit of God in all its fullness.
Morris points out that: ‘There is a striking combination of the utmost in power and the utmost in self-giving’. (12)
Revelation 5:8 ‘And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints’.
The Lamb is worthy of worship and this is evidence of the divinity of Christ Jesus.
Prayer and Worship
I belonged to a very precious prayer group that meet very early on a Tuesday morning. There were three or four of us who would meet. Sometimes we know that our prayers were reaching the heavens and sometimes we would feel so small, so insignificant compared to the immensity of the need for prayer. This verse is the great encouragement. We may not play harps but we knew that every prayer meeting needed to begin with worship, to order to align ourselves with the greatness of our Lord in heaven.
We knew that with all our faults and failings that nevertheless we were washed by the grace of the Lamb and our early morning sacrifice and commitment to prayer made us to be golden bowls of incense in the sight of God.
We knew that our brothers and sisters throughout the world were also praying. Our prayer group may have been only a ‘small beacon’ but our bumbling prayers joined with all the prayers of others and rose up as a mighty column of incense prayers to our God in heaven.
Psalm 141:1 ‘O Lord I call to you, come quickly to me, hear my voice when I call to you, may my prayer be set before you like incense, may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.’
Worship and prayer go together so well…a match made in heaven. Each one of us is called to enter into our own unique way of worship and prayer but yet we come together to hold the bowls of congregational prayer and worship. The incense gives of itself, consumed by an inner fire and releasing a sweet perfume to the One above and as we worship we are delightfully consumed too.,
Revelation 5:9 ‘And they sang a new song’
The word for ‘new’ used here is ‘kainos’ and it speaks of the quality of freshness rather than of being recent. In church we can often find ourselves singing a song from habit and it can all become somewhat dry and predictable until a breeze of the Holy Spirit passes through and the song catches its freshness once more. There is the freshness and clarity of a Spring morning that looks forward to the eternal delights of heaven.
Revelation 5:9 ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on earth’.
Tyrants release unrighteous judgements on innocent civilians but Jesus will release righteous judgements on a fallen world, having laid down his life to bring a countless number of souls to repentance, salvation and eternal joy! He is worthy!
I am not so sure that words are needed to describe the last words of this chapter. It is for us to just drink them in and be refreshed with the magnificence of the eternal heavenly worship that is due to God and the Lamb.
Revelation 5:11 ‘Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
The vision is astounding but then they begin to sing:
Revelation 5:12 ‘In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise.
Those, like myself, who have never really seen angels wait in expectant wonder.
Then all of creation joins in:
Revelation 5:13 ‘Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power forever and ever!
We are left speechless at just the thought of it all!
Romans 8:19 ‘The creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it. in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.’
Revelation 5:14 ‘The four living creatures said ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped’.
Matthew Henry comments: ‘Thus we have seen this sealed book passing with great solemnity from the hand of the Creator into the hand of the Redeemer.’ (14)
These beautiful words bring to an end the wonder and amazement of chapters four and five of Revelation. We must now brace ourselves for the darkness of chapter six. But we have been encouraged and strengthened and we will make it through to the other side, to the joyous comfort of chapter seven. I promise!
In chapter six we will see the first six seals of the scroll being opened.
6 John Walvoord Revelation location 1725
7 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 802
9 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 810
10 Michael Wilcock Message on Revelation location 814
11&12 Leon Morris Revelation location pg 94
13 Gary Cohen Understanding Revelation
14 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 882
1 Cohen comments brilliantly: ‘It is the showing of the Lamb obtaining ‘the title deed of the universe’. This sealed deed is a writ of repossession and eviction. Sin and Satan have usurped the creation with millions of its inhabitants from the holy God, but Christ, by dying, became able to salvage the earth so that the original holy purpose could be fulfilled. Only He who paid the price and defeated sin is worthy to evict Satan and all sinners from their illegal domain and to repossess the creation for God.’ (13)
2 We can never over-emphasize that only Christ Jesus was worthy to open the scroll. Mankind would fall short at the first fence. World leaders would not know where to begin. The forces of darkness would stumble in their gloom. Only the radiant light, the saviour of the world, the redeemer of men by his perfect holy sacrifice, only he is worthy to take the scroll and open the seals!