THE SEVEN SEALED SCROLL
Revelation 4 is all about the throne of God. It is important that we see that God is on the throne and that he has His purposes and His plan and that everything is calm in heaven before we get to Revelation 5. This is one of the most interesting chapters in the book of Revelation. But we have to understand that this chapter is definitely tied to the previous chapter. God wants you to know that he is in control
A SEVEN SEALED SCROLL
Let’s jump right in Revelation 5:1 says, “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” The first word of this chapter is the word then. In Greek it is the word kai and this signifies that this chapter is joined to proceeding chapter. Not only in subject matter but in chronology.
What did John see? He saw in the right hand of the one on the throne a scroll. Of course, we have to remember that there were no books during this time period. All of the scrolls were made either of papyrus or vellum. So, the first thing that we ask ourselves is, What is this scroll? Many would believe that the little seven sealed scroll in the right hand of the father is the key that opens up the entire book of Revelation. What is the significance of it? A scroll in the hand of God. What does that mean?
Now there are three things that make the scroll important. This scroll must be utterly important because it is not found in the hand of a man, or of an angel, but rather in the right hand of God. We have to remember that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. The right hand of God signifies priority. It signifies importance, therefore, that makes this scroll important. And then, the scroll was written on both sides. Most scrolls in that day would have only been written on one side. Most commentators feel that this signifies a completeness. It signifies wholeness.
And then the scroll is sealed by seven seals. Could this be the scroll that Daniel referred to in Daniel 12:9 where it says, “And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” What has been the plan of God all along going all the way back to Daniel’s day, will one day be unsealed. The time of the end refers to the end of this age when God determines to take back control of this world.
WHO IS WORTHY?
Revelation 5:2-3 says, “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.”
This gives us further insight into the content of this scroll. Why would an angel not be able to open this scroll? It is more than likely that an angel would not be able to open the content of the scroll because this scroll relates to the human race. The angel is looking for a human being. But he says that no one in heaven or earth is worthy. What makes a person worthy? A person is worthy in heaven because of holiness. A person is worthy because of self-sacrifice. A person is worthy because of having conquered their enemies. Ultimately Jesus opened it, (he is fully God and fully man) and there, it is evidently intensely related to the human race.
Since the angel is looking for a human who is worthy and finds that in Jesus, we therefore conclude that this scroll has something to do with they human race and their relationship to their home, the earth.
WHY DOES JOHN WEEP?
Revelation 5:4-5 “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 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.”
John is a man who has been transported from earth to heaven, and yet even in heaven, he is weeping? Why? Why so many tears. These obviously are not just idle tears. He is weeping over this seven sealed scroll. What is interesting is that as you read through the book of Revelation, and you watch the seals get opened, and you hear the trumpets sound, and you see the vials of the wrath of God being poured out, you wonder what the purpose of it all is. But towards the end of the book you read the glorious words in Revelation 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” We do see that Jesus will rule the earth in the millennial kingdom for 1000 years.
With all of that in mind, some conclude that for all intents and purposes this scroll is the title deed to the earth. We know that God gave dominion to Adam in the garden. But unfortunately, Adam lost that dominion and because of the sin of humanity, it was given to Satan. Satan (the prince of the power of the air) has been in control of the world from the time of Adam and will be in control all the way up until the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation Period.
The reason John is weeping is because if no one is found worthy to open the scroll, the world would remain under the curse, and John like all true believers is praying, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
The idea of a sealed scroll has its roots in scriptural typology. Jeremiah, who is known by Bible scholars as the weeping prophet, warned Israel that judgment was imminent. He pleaded with them to repent and turn to God or judgment would come. He also warned them that they would go down into captivity for seventy years and then later return to the land. Jeremiah knew and sensed the judgment of God, but he was also sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to understand the goodness of God. That God would restore to Israel the land. It was by God’s grace they would return.
To prove that, he did a strange thing, he bought a portion of land and then he sealed a scroll and had the scroll hidden for the 70 years of captivity. Later his relatives proved the land was theirs as they were worthy to open the scroll. Jeremiah 32:9-12 “so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels[a] of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy— 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.”
He then told his secretary, Baruch to place the sealed scroll in an earthen jar and preserve it for his heirs. Jeremiah did not live long enough to experience the return to Israel. But his relatives did. They went back to the authorities, and based on the fact that they were related to Jeremiah, proved themselves worthy to open the scroll, and then receive the land. They were verified as the legal owners of the property.
Just as Jeremiah purchased the field and it became the legal property of Jeremiah and his heirs. Even so Jesus has purchased the earth with his blood, and is worthy to unseal the scroll and reclaim what was once God’s. While this chapter may seem sad because John is weeping. It is really glorious but it proclaims the triumph of Jesus.
As we go through the book of Revelation, we must remember that this book is a revelation of Jesus. That is the title. It is the unveiling of Jesus. Here Jesus is seen as the one who triumphed. I like that. 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…” Where the scripture says Jesus Christ has triumphed is more than likely a reference to his death, burial, and resurrection.
FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF JESUS THE WORTHY ONE
Jesus is the obvious hero of this chapter and this book. It is seen in the titles and the characteristics that are given to Jesus.
Revelation 5:5-6 “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. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
Five Characteristics of our Lord
- The Lion of the tribe of Judah
The first title given to Jesus is that of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This is a powerful triumphant title. The lion is known as the king of beast. He is fierce enough to be on the top of the food chain. The tribe of Judah was the ruling tribe of Israel. This tells us that Christ is to come and reign over human affairs.
This refers to the birth of Christ and the fact that Jesus is found in the linage of David. This is significant because God promised David a kingdom that would not pass away. 2 Samuel 7:16 gives us this promise to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[; your throne will be established forever.’” As the Root of David, Christ kingdom is a fulfillment of prophecy
- A lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
When Christ completed the work of redemption, he became victorious in providing everlasting life for those who would believe in him. We know that sin came through Adam, but through Christ came our precious redemption as believers. He is the Lion who is strong and mighty. That Lion will one day come and bring judgment to the earth. But He is also the lamb that had been slain. The image refers to the death Jesus had on the cross but also tells us that Jesus is not slain, but alive. John here sees him as being the sacrifice for the sin of humanity. Those who reject him will see him as a lion bringing judgment. Those who accept him will see him as a lamb bringing salvation.
A Horn in scripture indicates power or authority. One scriptural example is Zechariah 1:18 “Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”
We know that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and in earth. When the scripture says, seven horns, we realize that seven is the number of perfection or completion. Jesus has perfect power and authority. It is interesting to contrast this image of seven horns representing complete power, with a description of the antichrist and his power. In Daniel, the coming evil world leader is referred to as a “little horn.” When Christ came the first time, as a lamb, he had all power and authority but he chose not to manifest it. When He comes the second time, he will come as a Lion with all authority being manifested. He will overthrow all his enemies, and set up a kingdom that He will rule with a rod of iron.
- Seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth
These seven eyes speak of judgment. We have heard in other religions of the “all seeing eye.” While that is some vague reference to who knows what. This is a reference to the fact that Jesus sees everything. He has complete and perfect vision of what all men have done. When our Lord comes he knows all that human beings have thought and done and will judge them perfectly, because he sees them perfectly.
When people reject Jesus Christ, when they use his name as a swear word, they rarely pause to thing that the one they are rejecting will be the one that judges them. For those who have accepted the lamb as their Savior, the fact that Jesus sees all and has all power is wonderful news. But for those who reject him and chose to continue to live lives of sin, this is something that should cause them to shudder, as they realize his perfect eyesight and all authority that He as to judge them.
Only Jesus is worthy to open the seven sealed scroll.
Revelation 5:7-9 “He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 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. 9 And they sang a new song:
When the Lion who is a Lamb takes the scroll heaven erupts in praise and worship. Immediately upon taking the scroll the living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. To fall down before someone is to give obeisance, it is to give honor, it is to give glory. And the Lion/Lamb is worthy to receive all of that worship.
There are two things that the 24 elders had in their hand. First of all, they have a harp. This is indicative of the praise and worship and music that goes on in heaven around the throne. And secondly, they have golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
.We have to interpret the word “saints” in its context as it refers to the prayers of all believers, not just those who are referred to as “saints” in the context of the Catholic church. Some of their prayers may be there as well. While we cannot be completely sure these prayers may refer to the “unanswered prayers” that have been prayed that God will be able to answer at his glorious appearing. There are a lot of prayers that Christians across centuries have prayed. They have prayed, “Even so, Lord Jesus come.” They have prayed “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If you stop and consider there are a lot of prayers that will be answered as Christ sets up His millennial kingdom.
- Prayers for social justice.
- Prayers for the return of Christ.
- Prayers for Christ to rule in the earth.
- Prayers for the peace of Jerusalem.
- Prayers that all human trafficking will stop.
- Prayers that wars will cease.
This may also be an indication that all prayers are answered although we may not see it in our lifetime.
Obviously, such a glorious occasion as this will be accompanied by song. John has seen the scroll representing the title deed of the earth. He weeps because no one is found worthy to open up the scroll. But Jesus having been slain to redeem humanity is found worthy. The only thing that could have happened at that moment is a song. A song is a human expression that gives feeling to our emotions as we express the deepest things of our heart. A beautiful new song is sung by heavenly singers that is self- explanatory.
“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.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
The last verse that says that “you have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God may give insight to a little bit of what we will do in heaven. We will be a kingdom and priests to serve God. The highest honor in the universe would be those who serve in the actual presence of God. What this service looks like is yet unknown.
THREE REASONS JESUS WAS WORTHY TO OPEN THE SCROLL
There are three reasons given in this song that have made the Lamb worthy to open the seals of the seven sealed scroll.
This obviously refers to Christ passion and suffering on the cross. He became the mediator between God and men.
- your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
This is a promise of Christ redemption that is amazing. At the current time there are still tribes that do not have people saved from them. There may even be languages that no one is saved from. But God has promised here that there will be people of every single tribe and language that are represented as purchased by the shed blood of Jesus.
While this should encourage us to continue in efforts to send missionaries and evangelize. The book of Revelation also teaches that their will be a great soul harvest. After the rapture, the book of Revelation tells us that there will be a company of 144,000 witnesses that will proclaim the gospel. There will even be angels flying through the sky who proclaim the everlasting gospel. There will the two witnesses in Jerusalem who will do mighty works in the name of God. These will cause the gospel to be presented and accepted by many fulfilling this promise.
- You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Because of what Jesus did, he is able to take people who are bound in sin, and transform them into a kingdom of priests. This is something that only God can do. He gets all the credit. We are a part of Christ’s spiritual kingdom now and when He returns we will rule and reign with him.
THE ANGELS JOIN IN
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. 12 In a loud voice they sang:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
The enormity of the numbers of angels and redeemed believers who are singing this song bedazzles the mind. The word is myriad upon myriad. Which means innumerable. I have some wonderful choirs, but this is beyond anything done on the earth.
The way the angels describe Jesus is incredible. There are those who would say that Christ was just a good man or a good example. The angels who knew him best describe him as worthy to receive seven things. We must remember that they knew Jesus as the pre-incarnate Son of God. They watched him as he came to earth, lived, died, was buried and raised again. They see him sitting on the right hand of the Father and that is why they ascribe to him the following:
He is worthy to receive these seven things.
This idea should take our earthly worship seven steps higher as we meditate on this.
Then the chapter closes with what can only be described as
THE UNIVERSAL WORSHIP OF CHRIST
Revelation 5:13-14 “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 honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
This verse apparently foresees a time beyond the Glorious appearing, beyond the millennium, when every living creature will worship Christ. We do know that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. What a wonderful thing it is to choose to worship Him now!
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”