Revelation 5 

Who is Worthy to Open the Seals?

Lorraine Day, M.D.

“The purpose of John’s Apocalypse is to unveil those things that will “rapidly” take place at the end.  “Surprisingly, what John now sees in his vision, deals not with what was going to take place on earth but with what was taking place in heaven!  The reason for this remarkable focus in Rev 4-5 can be found in the disclosure that the decisions in the heavenly throneroom determine the course of human history, such as the rise and fall of human governments, but most of all, the ultimate destiny of the world” and all humanity.  The End-Time Prophecies of the Bible, by Hans LaRondelle, p 113.

Daniel had pointed to God’s sovereignty over mankind:  “He changes times and seasons: He sets up kings and deposes them.’  (Dan 2:21; 4:17; 5:18, 26-28). 

Jesus submitted to the brute power of the Roman governor Pilate, but stated, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).

Rev 5:1,2  And I perceived on the right hand of Him Who is sitting on the throne a scroll, written in front and on the back, and sealed up with seven seals.  And I perceived a strong messenger heralding with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose its seals?”

“The scroll is not a ‘book.’  It was applied to a legal document (Matt 19:7, Mark 10:4).  This is its probable meaning here, for it is endorsed on the back and sealed like a mortgage ‘according to the law and custom’ which obtained in Israel in ancient times (Jer 32:8-14).  What the breaking of the seals involves is clear from the new song of the animals and elders (5:9) when the Lambkin gets the scroll.”  Concordant Commentary p 388.  The sovereignty of the earth, which has been in large part controlled by Satan, must be transferred back to Christ.

“The divine scroll in Rev 5 is sealed with seven seals which no one in heaven and earth is worthy to break.  This is highly significant.  No created being, either an angel or saint, has the worthiness of the exalted Lord Jesus.  Christ alone can disclose the judgments of God, by opening the seals (Rev 6-7), and by the clarifying, subsequent visions of the Apocalypse.  Christ thus gives meaning to world history.  He has set mankind on course to a goal that God has predetermined in His throne room in heaven.”  Ibid.

“In this respect these chapters (Rev 4-5) constitute the pivot of the structure which holds the book together, for the rest of the visions dovetail into this main structure.”  Revelation, by G.R. Beasley-Murray   p. 108

Verses 3-5  And no one in heaven, nor yet on earth, nor yet underneath the earth was able to open the scroll, neither to look at it.  And I lamented much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll, neither to look at it.  And one of the elders is saying to me, ‘Do not lament! Lo! He conquers! The Lion out of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals!’

“There is a fitting parallel with the scroll of Deuteronomy which, as the covenant book, was to be given to a newly crowned king in Israel  (see Deut 17:18-20; 2 Kings 11:12). La Rondelle, p 114

“With the taking of the scroll, Christ has been committed the lordship over the world (1 Peter 3:22; Phil. 2:9-11).  The scroll would then signify the rightful transfer of the kingdom. With the taking of the scroll the whole destiny of humankind is put into the hands of the enthroned Christ; hence it is indeed the heavenly book of destiny.  On the basis of its contents He would judge, hence, the judgment book.  The Background and Meaning of the Sealed Book of Revelation 5, Ranko Stefanovic, p 322.

Notice that John HEARS the elder telling John that the “Lion out of the tribe of Judah” will open the scroll.  Next, John LOOKS!  And what does he see?

Verse 6  And I perceived (saw), in the center of the throne and of the four animals, and in the center of the elders, A Lambkin (baby lamb) standing, as though slain, having seven horns (ALL strength) and seven eyes (Sees and knows ALL) which are the seven spirits of God, commissioned for the ENTIRE earth. 

John HEARS that this individual is a “Lion” and LOOKS and sees that it is a (baby) Lamb!  The two are obviously the same.  The “Lion” out of the tribe of Judah IS the “Lamb” slain for the sins of the world.

Verse 7,8  And It (the Lambkin) came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him Who is sitting on the throne.  And when It took the scroll, the four animals and the twenty-four elders fall before the Lambkin, each having a lyre, and golden bowls brimming with incenses, which are the prayers of the saints.

“Lambkin, the diminutive form, is used to distinguish it from the usual word lamb (John 1:29,36; Act 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19).  It is used only once elsewhere (John 21:15), in contrast to a full-grown sheep.  This tender and delicate form adds much to the loving pathos of this prophecy.  The utter weakness of a very young Lamb is in striking antithesis to His character as the Lion and to the mighty acts that He performs as a result of His suffering and death.  It is in beautiful accord with the new name of His wife, who is now called “the bride.”  Youth is renewed in resurrection.”  Concordant Commentary, p 388

“Human history with its final judgment is placed in the hands of the risen Lord.  Without Christ, world history is an enigma, and without purpose.  All heaven, therefore, bursts forth with praise when Christ was declared worthy to receive the divine scroll of destiny.”  LaRondelle p 115,116

Verses 9,10  And they sang a new song, saying,

‘Thou art worthy to take the scroll, and to open the seals thereof:
For you were slain, and did buy us for God by Your blood.
Out of every tribe and language and people and nation
You also make them a kingdom and a priesthood for our God
And they shall be reigning on the earth.”

The song is a “new” song because the rightful King has now been enthroned.  His triumph over sin, Satan, and death on earth is regarded in heaven, as of decisive importance (Phil 2:9-11).

Verses 11,12.13  And I perceived, and I hear a sound as of many messengers around the throne and the animals and the elders, and their number was ten thousand ten thousand and a thousand thousand, saying with a loud voice,

‘Worthy is the Lambkin slain
To get power and riches and wisdom and strength
And honor and glory and blessing!’

 Verse 13  And EVERY CREATURE (Universal Restoration) which is in heaven and on the earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all in them, I hear also saying,

‘To Him Who is sitting on the throne
To the Lambkin -
Be blessing and honor and glory and might
For the eons of the eons!’

“The choir continues to grow until, finally, John sees ALL creatures in heaven, on earth and under the earth (the dead who have been resurrected), adding their voices to the heavenly choirs in exaltation of both the Father and the Lamb.

“Here Christ receives the cosmic-universal recognition of His deity, because “every creature” worships God AND the Lamb.  In John’s vision the circle of worshipers has been constantly enlarged.  First the inner circle of seraphs, then were added the twenty-four elders, followed by the countless angels.  Finally, the outermost circle of ALL creatures in the universe join the adoration and praise of the majesty of God.  This is the ultimate goal toward which history moves and which will be fulfilled in the end.  Heaven anticipates this celebration of the reign of God and of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22-27; 22:1-5).  LaRondelle, pg 117.  The true followers of Christ today can take heart from this assurance.

Verse 14  And the four animals said, ‘Amen!’  And the elders fell down and worshiped.

“Christ’s acts of breaking the seven seals of the scroll resemble the ritual of the opening of a testament which in Roman culture was closed with seven seals.  When a testament was unsealed, it was read aloud before the original witnesses, and then executed.”  Introduction to the New Testament III, Th. Zahn, p 394


© Lorraine Day, M.D. 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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