Text: Revelation 5
5:1 a book (scroll). There are several possibilities here: Dr. MacArthur has suggested, in several sermons, that this scroll is the title deed to Earth. Dr. Ryrie has suggested that it is the “Book of Redemption” telling the story of Redemptive History (See Ryrie Study Bible notes on Revelation). In the New Oxford Annotated Bible we are presented with the idea that this scroll contains the Divine Plan of Judgment and Redemption.
written inside and on the back. This is typical of various kinds of contracts in the ancient world, including deeds, marriage contracts, rental and lease agreements, and wills. The inside of the scroll contained all the details of the contract, and the outside—or back—contained a summary of the document. In this case it almost certainly is a deed—the title deed to the earth (Jeremiah 32:7)
sealed up with seven seals. Romans sealed their wills 7 times—on the edge at each roll—to prevent unauthorized entry. Hebrew title deeds required a minimum of 3 witnesses and 3 separate seals, with more important transactions requiring more witnesses and seals.
This is like the scroll given to Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:9–3:3) and given that it is sealed it is both unalterable and unknown until God chooses to reveal the contents.
5:2 strong angel. The identity of this angel is uncertain, but it may refer to the angel Gabriel, whose name means “strength of God” (Daniel 8:16). If you look at Luke’s Gospel, we see that the angel who visits Zacharias says “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God and am sent to bring you these tidings (Luke 1:19).” This lends itself to the idea that the angel who speaks is in fact Gabriel. The only other angel specifically named in the Bible is Michael. I find it doubtful, though, that this would be Michael since he is usually portrayed as a warrior.
5:3 in heaven or on the earth or under the earth. This common biblical expression denotes the entirety of the universe and it is not intended to teach 3 precise divisions.
5:2-4 The scroll awaited one worthy to open the scroll and break its seals, and no servant of God introduced so far—neither elders nor living creatures nor anyone else in heaven, on earth, or under the earth—had sufficient authority to unveil and implement God’s secret agenda. Sensing that the church’s hope stood in jeopardy, John began to weep loudly.
5:5 the Lion… from the tribe of Judah. One of the earliest titles for the Messiah, it speaks of His fierceness and strength, which although glimpsed in His first coming, do not appear in their fullness until the moment anticipated here.
the Root of David. Another clearly messianic title, it anticipates His being a descendant of David, who with devastating force will compel the wicked of the earth to succumb to His authority.
I have an amillennialist friend who believes that this moment pictures the moment of Christ’s ascension; I disagree. It seems as though the logical conclusion, here, is that we see a reverse hierarchy i.e. the potential openers of the scroll are listed in ascending order and no one in the created order is worthy. John mistakenly concludes that there is no one worthy to open the scroll because none in the created order are worthy. Where the angel says behold, I think “wait!” is a better translation. Wait! Look, the creation cannot open it but the Lion of Judah, who is the Creator is worthy.”
5:6 Lamb. Hearing of a lion, John turns to see a lamb (lit. “a little, pet lamb”). God required the Jews to bring the Passover lamb into their houses for 4 days, essentially making it a pet, before it was to be violently slain (Ezekiel 12:3, 6). This is the true Passover Lamb, God’s Son (Isaiah 53:7; Jeremiah 11:19; John 1:29).
as if slain. The scars from its slaughter are still clearly visible, but it is standing—it is alive.
seven horns. In Scripture, horns always symbolize power, because in the animal kingdom they are used to exert power and inflict wounds in combat. Seven horns signify complete or perfect power. Unlike other defenseless lambs, this One has complete, sovereign power.
5:8 harp. These ancient stringed instruments not only accompanied the songs of God’s people (1Chronicles 25:6; Psalms 33:2), but also accompanied prophecy (1Samuel 10:5). It should be noted that these would be smaller and much more portable than what we know as a harp today. The 24 elders, representative of the redeemed church, played their harps in praise and in a symbolic indication that all the prophets had said was about to be fulfilled. Spontaneous praise is almost always the response of the saints.
bowls full of incense. These are golden, wide-mouth saucers similar to those which were common in the tabernacle and temple (Remember that the tabernacle and the temple were pictures of heavenly realities. Incense was a normal part of the Old Testament ritual. Priests stood twice daily before the inner veil of the temple and burned incense so that the smoke would carry into the Holy of Holies and be swept into the nostrils of God. That symbolized the people’s prayers rising to Him.
prayers of the saints. Specifically, these prayers represent all that the redeemed have ever prayed concerning ultimate and final redemption.
5:9 new song. The Old Testament is filled with references to a new song that flows from a heart that has experienced God’s redemption or deliverance (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 144:9). This new song anticipates the final, glorious redemption that God is about to begin.
purchased for God with Your blood. The sacrificial death of Christ on behalf of sinners made Him worthy to take the scroll (1Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:3; 1Peter 1:18, 19; 2 Peter 2:1).
A note on the translation of verse 9: The KJV and the NKJV translate this as “purchased us/redeemed us” Revelation 5:9 is entirely dispensational
5:10 a kingdom and priests…reign upon the earth. The earth will not always be tyrannized by Satan and destroyed by his followers (Rev. 11:18; 12:12; 13:8). The first heaven and earth, stained by the curse through human sin, will be replaced by a new (or fully renewed) heaven and earth (21:1, 4) in which Christ’s saints will reign in righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).
5:11 myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands. The number is to express an amount beyond calculation. The Gr. expression can also be translated “innumerable” or “many thousands” (Luke 12:1; Hebrews 12:22). Essentially, this is a limitless host. On its surface, it would appear that the whole of Heaven responds to Christ in an atiphonal chorus of praise. This is the clearest picture that we are given, in the Bible, of Jesus as being the center of everything.
5:12 power… and blessing. This doxology ascribes, to the Lamb, the sevenfold tribute that He is worthy of… power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing
Finally, every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea (Psalm 146:6) offers a fourfold doxology (blessing, honor, glory, might) to God and to the Lamb. Eventually, every knee “in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” will bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).