Revelation Chapter Five

The Scroll

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A Brief Overview

Chapter five describes the scroll, bound up by seven seals, in the right hand of God. But who is worthy to open the scroll? An elder tells John that the Lion of Judah is worthy.

John sees  the Jesus the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, taking the scroll. He then describes the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders bursting into a chorus of spontaneous praise and worship.

Whereupon ten thousand upon ten thousand angels and every creature on earth and under the sea,  join in this sublime crescendo of worship.

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is worthy to open the scroll!

The Scroll

Revelation chapter five continues with John’s superb vision of the glory and majesty of the heavenly courts, with the throne of God at it’s very centre.

Revelation 5:1 ‘Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne…’

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.

The scroll is bound by the seals and can only be opened in God’s perfect timing. Some believe that this moment in time is upon us.

The chapter continues:

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. The future of this world was bound up in the writings of this scroll. If it lay unopened then the world would have no destiny. At this precise point, no-one could even peek inside the scroll and the future of the world looked bleak indeed.

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 5:4I 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.

Who can 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!

 Oecumenius put it  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.

Only the perfect God-man, Christ Jesus, was qualified and worthy to open the scroll and release its contents.

The Slain Lamb

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 also the sacrificial Lamb who secures redemption for the saints.

John 1:29  ‘The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John continues:

Revelation 5:6He 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 nature and spirit of God in all its fullness.

He is the all-powerful but yet he allowed the authorities to lead him away to be slaughtered.

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.

All the powers of darkness were defeated by a Lamb, who walked in perfect obedience, not seeking his own glory but rather the glory of his heavenly Father.

Philippians 2:8  ‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.’

Later on in Revelation, we will read of how Satan is defeated by the elect laying down their lives in martyrdom.

Revelation 12:11  ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’

They will follow the path of Jesus.

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!

Prayer and Worship

I belonged to a very precious prayer group that met very early on a Tuesday morning. There were three or four of us who would meet. Sometimes we knew 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.’

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. Then there is the vitality and clarity of a Spring morning that looks forward to the eternal delights of heaven.

Revelation 5:9You 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.’

The sacrifice of Christ Jesus upon the cross made him worthy to purchase the souls of men. In turn, we are called to lay down our lives as priests in the kingdom, serving our Lord.

1 Peter 2:9  ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…

In chapter six, we will read of Jesus releasing judgements on this world when he opens the first four seals. Tyrants release unrighteous judgements on innocent civilians but Jesus will release righteous judgements on a fallen and wicked world, having laid down his life to bring a countless number of souls to repentance, salvation and eternal joy! He is worthy!

Of Angels

We are then treated to the divine spectacle of so many angels around the throne.

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.

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

 In chapter six we will see the first six seals of the scroll being opened.

These beautiful words of John 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!

Notes:

 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

13 Gary Cohen Understanding Revelation

14 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 882

Further thoughts: 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 creatio

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