A Bible Lesson on Revelation 5

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Remember Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” John is being given a picture of the way things really are. Chapter 4 describes the throne of God the Father. In Chapter 5, Christ enters the picture. Chapter 4 gives us a glimpse of God the Creator, Chapter 5 gives us a glimpse of God the Redeemer, Jesus the Lamb.

Revelation 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

“in the right hand” is literally “on the right hand.” This is a picture of a scroll in the open “palm” of the Father. The writing on both sides is an indication to us that the scroll is very full. Papyrus scrolls were apparently made from two layers of strips of reeds set at right angles to each other. Writing on the side where the strips were horizontal was easier than on the other. Only when there was very much to write were both sides used. This scroll symbolically has in it the complete plan and purpose for the entire world throughout all ages from beginning to end.

This scroll is sealed with seven seals. Various theories of the significance of this have been put forward. One points out that Roman wills were sealed in this fashion, and this is perhaps to interpreted as the final declaration, will or testament of God concerning the consummation of redemption history. At the very least, 7 means that it is thoroughly and completely sealed.

Michael Wilcock suggests something pretty interesting about all the 7s in Revelation. He points out that from the 7 day week of creation, through God’s repeated use of 7s in the setting up of Old Testament worship, it seems that God has chosen to structure things in 7s. We are used to saying that the ancients thought of 7 as being a number of perfection or completeness, but it may be more accurate to say that 7 represents the essence of a thing. It represents “the way things really are.” It may be that what is fundamental and intrinsic, God has for His own reasons chosen to cluster in 7s, and so the number appears repeatedly in this picture of how all really is and will finally be resolved.

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

There is a “strong angel.” Surely. This creature’s voice is to be heard in the whole universe. Notice the issue here. The issue is worthiness (not whether one might be capable, but rather whether one has any business doing this). And it is evident that no other being in the universe has any business touching that scroll, save Christ alone. This is things as they really are, and when seen for what they really are, no created being (fallen human nor angel) dares to claim this place. The issue is the real goodness of the One who would open the scroll.

3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,

No one save Christ is qualified to open the scroll. Opening that scroll means setting in motion the final chapter of God’s redemption plan for the world. That’s not your place, nor mine, nor the place of any other created being. Not any creature in the totality of the universe is qualified call the shots. In and of ourselves, we’re not even qualified to know about God’s intentions!! Quoting the Heidelberg Catechism: “Q: Can there be found anywhere a mere creature able to satisfy for us? A: None; for, first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin man has committed; and, further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin, and deliver others from it.”

4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.

This weeping is weeping and wailing. And John is not just throwing a two-year-old’s temper tantrum because he doesn’t get to hear the end of a good bedtime story. This is profound grief. At stake here is the wrapping up of human history. Christ has secured salvation for us all, but the universe has not yet been completely righted. We still live in a fallen world. John and his Christian brethren are suffering persecution for the faith. The final setting right of all things has not taken place, and at this point, it looks to John like it may never come. For God’s final intentions for the world to come to pass, they must be declared and executed. At the moment it seems like there’s no one to do this, and John’s heart aches for all things to be set right.

5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Again, Chapter 4 mentions 24 elders and that exactly who these are is not sure. Probably by counting 12 sons of Israel and 12 apostles we get to 24, representatives all of all time who have loved God. But it’s not absolutely clear. Whoever these are, one informs John that all is not lost.   Messiah, the lion of the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 48:8-10), the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1,10) is qualified to open the scroll. Messiah is qualified by virtue of His once-for-all triumph over sin, hell and the grave. It is Jesus’ place to set in motion the will of the Father for the end of time. He has conquered. This is good news. We don’t have to hope against hope that He will conquer. It’s a finished work, and on its basis He can bring history to its glorious end. He has, in space and time, already conquered those powers that seem to threaten His church in John’s time and in ours.

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

John looks, surely expecting to see a warrior, one who could be described as a lion. What he sees is a lamb! He sees the Lamb of God, Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, still bearing the marks of having been slain. This One is “as though it had been slain,” yet very much alive. Leon Morris says the Greek perfect tense here indicates that “not only was the lamb slain at a point of time, but that the efficacy of His death is still present in all its power.” The Lamb is slain but alive, with all the benefit of that sacrificial death present. So stands the Lamb in the center of the throne. If this isn’t a true picture, this is the worst of blasphemy. Jesus stands where only God should be. Either He and the Father are indeed one, or this is an abominable picture.

This sacrificial Lamb of God has seven horns and seven eyes. Horns are usually symbols of power or honor. He is completely (and in reality) all powerful, and worthy of all honor. Eyes clearly stand for seeing/knowing. Jesus is omniscient. And seven spirits are sent. The Holy Spirit in all His fullness/completeness has been sent out into all the world. We have in verses 5 and 6 the incredible simultaneous meekness and majesty of Christ. He is all powerful and all knowing, and has secured for us salvation through His atoning sacrificial death.

7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

This is the rightful place of our risen Savior. He takes the scroll from the Father’s right hand. With the explicit approval of the Father, He will conclude salvation history. He will unfold the end of time. The truth of this fact produces three spontaneous outbursts of worship and praise. The first is from the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders.

8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

The representatives of the angelic beings and redeemed humanity fall in worship before the Christ. They delight in God’s plan and purpose. They rejoice in His salvation. On earth, John and his fellow believers have no position and are counted as of no importance. The reality is that their prayers are precious and are brought into the presence of God.

9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

A “new” song is sung. This “new” is not so much new in point of time, as it is new in point of quality. This is a thing that has not only been recently produced, but there has never been anything like it. It is fresh. There’s not been a reason for this song before and none other fits the occasion.

What it is that qualifies Jesus to declare and execute God’s intentions for the wrapping up of history is what He did on Calvary. That’s the crux of all that is. That is what you and I should be saying and saying again as long as we have breath. That is what is essential. Christ’s work on Calvary purchased salvation for everyone who will trust Him, regardless of race, language, culture or government. There is no barrier to that salvation except for foolish human pride and unwillingness to bow the knee. You and I have been ransomed for God, not for ourselves, but for God.

10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Christ’s work has made for God a people. He has finished what was begun with the call of Abraham. Christ has made a kingdom and priests to God. The typical English version’s “will”/”shall” is not literally there. If it’s not intended, then the statement is a statement about what is really going on at the present. To those seeing with only temporal eyes, the church is insignificant in comparison to the great powers of John’s time and of ours. But the reality is different than that. The redeemed comprise a kingdom, are priests to God, and shall (or in fact presently do) reign on the earth.

The worship and praise rightfully going to Christ now expands out in a larger concentric circle.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

It is “myriads and myriads and thousands and thousands.” The meaning is “innumerable” angels.

12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Worthy is the Lamb by virtue of His atoning sacrifice, to receive a 7– the essence of all that is. Jesus is here at the center. And power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise are correctly His, these things that are God’s alone. The angels testify to the truth that this Lamb is one with the Father.

Finally, the circle widens to all of creation. Every creature joins the hymn of praise to God the Son.

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Leon Morris wrote, “In the last resort there is no creature, wherever found, which does not recognize the superior worth of the Lamb.”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Amen, so be it. The first to sing to God in John’s vision of what is real (Revelation 4:8), the ones closest to the throne, say “Amen!” And redeemed humanity as represented by the elders falls down and worships the Lamb.

The destiny of creation is not up to chance or some blind fate. Salvation history is not hanging in the balance. It is in the sure hands of a loving Father and a Savior who died for us. Through the Lamb, the victory is won.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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