Revelation Chapter 5:1-14

The Kinsman-Redeemer and the Scroll with Seven Seals (Part 3)

The Scroll and the Lamb (5:1-4)

“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. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it”.

In chapter 4 of Revelation John describes the Throne Room of God, then at the start of chapter 5 there is a definite shift from the general to the specific. John’s attention is focused on a seven sealed scroll in God’s right hand, and as he studies the details of the scroll a “mighty angel” calls out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”. The seven sealed scroll with writing on both sides is the key symbol in chapter 5, it is identified as a very unique document, being addressed to a specific individual, “who is worthy”. The title “mighty angel,” may well mean the angel is an archangel, which would seem to indicate that it is Gabriel who makes the challenge for the person “who is worthy,” to come forward.  

John then records that the call of the “mighty angel” had no response, no one could be found in all of creation that met the criteria to open the scroll. The reason no one comes forward is that creation is not worthy, creation on its own is unable to determine its own destiny, and on understanding this John breaks down in tears. When I was a teenager in the 70’s, it was not uncommon when watching a movie at the theatre, that the film, which is basically a plastic strip, would break because of repeated use. The unfolding story before my eyes would be replaced by a white screen, illuminated in light from an empty projector. John had a similar experience, the amazing unfolding of events occurring in heaven before him comes to a sudden and abrupt end, and the mysterious content of the seven sealed scroll will, it seems, never be known.

The Scroll with Seven Seals

It is important to note that the scroll is held in the right hand of God, in Biblical times the right hand was the working hand, so when Scripture refers to God’s right hand, it is speaking about the work of Jesus. Jesus was responsible for the work of creation (John 1:3), and for the work of the salvation of mankind (1 Corinthians 15:3b-5; Romans 5:1-2).

To fully understand the written content of the seven seals, an explanation of the meaning of a seven sealed double-sided scroll must be discussed. The scrolls in ancient times with writing on both sides were legal documents, and W. A. Criswell, in his book Expository Sermons on Revelation, gives an excellent explanation of the use of the scroll in Biblical times. He explains that Jewish law ensured that no Jewish family would lose their lands because of debt. Should a Jewish family be in financial distress their losses would be listed in a scroll and sealed seven times. The conditions necessary to purchase back their land and possessions would be written on the outside of the scroll. When a kinsman-redeemer, who met the stated requirements, came forward, he was able to purchase the property back for the family from the person to whom the property had been forfeited because of debt. This ensured that no family would ever lose their right to land given to them by God.

In Revelation 5 Jesus is the Kinsman-redeemer, the only one who meets the requirements to open the scroll. The Lamb of God, who took the penalty for sin upon Himself, will administer the judgements upon a world that has rejected His deliverance, and hates Him and all that He stands for. The scroll contains the requirements in the seven seals, for the world to be restored back to being under the full authority of Jesus.

The seven seals are the overview of the book of Revelation from chapter 6 onwards to chapter 20, including all that occurs in the Tribulation, especially all the judgements that will be poured out onto the earth. The scroll contains the unfolding revelation of the Lord’s plan in restoring the world and mankind to how He intended it to be, a perfect world with a perfect God.

Satan has dominion of the earth

The scroll is not the title deed to the world, Scripture clearly states that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1), rather the scroll relates to dominion over the earth. God crowned Adam and Eve with glory and honour, “You have made him (Adam) to have dominion over the works of Your hands” (Psalm 8:6-8). Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam’s dominion and authority was usurped by God’s enemy, Satan.

In Luke 4:6, when Jesus Christ was being tempted by Satan, Satan said to Jesus, “All this authority (note authority) I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish”. Jesus did not question the legitimacy of his claim. Satan is called “the god (or ruler) of this world (sinful man)” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The apostle John acknowledges that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). In the world under the “authority” of Satan there is bondage to sin. When Jesus returns as King, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the chains of bondage will be broken, and the slaves set free. The seven sealed scroll is therefore a legal deed to the freedom of humanity.

So, when Jesus completed the work of redemption, He earned the title deed to the kingdoms of the earth: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8).

An example of the kinsman-redeemer is recorded in the book of Ruth, where Boaz is the kinsman-redeemer (go’el), which is a person who restores the rights of a relative. The duty fulfilled by Boaz, reveals a parallel to the work of Jesus in the Gospels: Boaz, on the threshing floor covers Ruth with his Tallit (prayer shawl), bringing her under his protection, and then redeems her and takes her as his bride. Jesus covers us with His blood, atoning for our sins, redeeming us and making us His Bride. Soon, Jesus is going to return to claim His Bride at the rapture, He will then take the roll of Kinsman-Redeemer, from the hand of the Ancient of Days. The seven years of Tribulation, will consist of all the requirements which will remove the authority from Satan that the first Adam lost, and restore it to the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Once the seven years is completed, Jesus will then return to earth with His Bride to assert the redeemed authority of man over the kingdoms of the earth.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5)

“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”.

One of the elders on seeing the distress of John moves to comfort him, all hope was not lost. John is told to cease his weeping, for behold the King is here, the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (cf. Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 31:4, and Hosea 11:10). Jesus is the “root of David” (cf. Isaiah 11:10), both Matthew and Luke record that Jesus is a descendant of the tribe of Judah in their genealogies. The Gospel of Luke record the lineage of Mary and links Jesus to King David through the line of Nathan, while the Gospel of Matthew follows the line of Joseph, Jesus’ legal father, through King Solomon. When Mary married Joseph, Jesus legally became a part of Joseph’s household, and therefore a part of the House of David.

The title “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” not only identifies Jesus as the Messiah, but also His deity a King, it is He alone that will succeed at uniting the nations of the world, and ruling from the throne of David in Jerusalem.

Revelation 5 – Jesus the Lion and the Lamb.

The Lamb (5:6-7)

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

While the elder sees Jesus as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” the all-powerful King, John pictures Jesus as a meek and mild lamb. The two animals are totally opposite in every respect, including being at opposite ends of the food chain! But, before Jesus could reveal Himself as King, He had to first be the humble servant, who would give up His life for others. John describes the lamb as appearing as though it had been slain, Jesus is the Passover Lamb, He died on the cross at 15:00 on the eve of the Passover, the exact same time the Passover lamb was slaughtered on the Temple Mount by the High Priest. The Passover lamb died for the sins of Israel, however, Jesus died for the sins of all the world (John 1:29).

The Lamb John sees has seven horns, the horn in Scripture represents power, strength and authority, and seven is the number of goodness, perfection and completeness, so the horns on the Lamb represent perfect power. The seven horns on the Lamb also point to the two distinct natures of Jesus (hypostatic union), Jesus was both fully human and fully God – being a man he was able to become the acceptable sacrifice, and being God He had the power to raise Himself from the dead:

  • John 10:18: “No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again”.
  • Matthew 28:18: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”.

The Lamb also has seven eyes indicates the omniscience of Jesus, He is all seeing and all knowing. Zechariah 4:10 emphasizes this describing how the seven eyes of the Lord range throughout the whole earth, missing nothing. There is also a link to Isaiah 11:2, which describes seven aspects of the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding (the seven eyes see all), the Spirit of counsel and might (the wise Judgement of God), the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord”. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt upon Jesus on earth, He was always God the Son, a member of the Holy Trinity.

Jesus as the Lamb of God, was found to be worthy, He had successfully completed all that was required for the redemption of mankind, and the restoration of creation. The Lamb that was slain was found to be worthy, and could take hold of the scroll and open it.

Praise to He that is Worthy (5:8-10)

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

Immediately, when the Lamb picked up the scroll from the hand of God, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb, and together break into worship, singing a new song. All the elders are depicted with harps, which is a musical instrument similar to the Lyre but larger and with more strings, the instrument was plucked or strummed, being played to support worship. The much-repeated cartoon image of people in heaven sitting on clouds playing music on harps, derives its origin from this passage of Scripture. The Jewish oral law (the Talmud) records that the 10-stringed harp will return as an instrument of worship just before the Messiah comes, so many Jews believe that the 10-string harp is the true biblical harp.

The 10-string harp

The elders also have golden bowls of incense with them, which are the prayers of the saints (cf. Psalm 141:2), revealing that the elders are both representatives of the Church and mediators. The golden bowls symbolise purity and holiness, and this reveals the value of the God whom the elders serve, in the same manner as the golden objects in the Tabernacle revealed the value of the God to the nation of Israel – He is precious. The significance of the incense being the prayers of the saints is very important, this incense is poured out onto the alter of incense in Revelation 8, and the prayers of the saints go up as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

Since the Roman Catholic Church uses Revelation 5:8 to justify praying to saints, some clarification is required here. Scripture identifies all believers as saints of God, for example, Paul always started his letters to the churches by writing a salutation, a number of which included a greeting to the believers in the church, or the district of the church, and Paul referred to these believers as “saints”:

  • 2 Corinthians 1:1: “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia”.
  • Romans 1:7: “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.
  • Ephesians 1:1: “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints (in Ephesus), the faithful in Christ Jesus”.
  • Colossians 1:1–2: “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, at Colossae”.

Another example of believers being called “saints” in Scripture is in Revelation 13:7, where God allows the Beast (the Antichrist) “to make war on the saints and to conquer them”. God gives authority to the Antichrist to persecute believers during the Great Tribulation; the last verses of chapter 13 explains that the persecution will be related to the pressure place upon people to worship the Antichrist as god, and to take the mark of the beast.

Now, the first rule that must be met for a person to become a “saint” in the Roman Catholic Church is that they must be dead! Canonization of a person to sainthood cannot normally start until at least five years after the person has died. This underlines the error of their belief, as it is clear that Paul is writing to all believers in the region, not a select few, and to the living not the dead. Also, the Antichrist will not be digging up corpses of saints to abuse their remains, although Popes have been known to do this in the past:

  • At the Cadaver Synod the corpse of Pope Formosus, who had been dead for about seven months, was put on trial by his successor Pope Stephen VI.
  • The theologian John Wycliffe spoke against the corruption of the Roman Church especially the practice of indulgences, and he believed that people should be allowed to question the teaching of the Roman Catholic clergy. He also translated the bible from Latin into English which could then be read by all in his homeland. These actions upset the Roman Catholic Church and he was subsequently declared a heretic, but unfortunately for the Roman Church, Wycliffe had a stroke and died before sentencing could be carried out. So, 13 years later Pope Martin V had his corpse dug up and burned

Ralph Woodrow explains how the concept of praying to saints originated in the Roman Church: “With the idea of gods and goddesses associated with various events in life now established in pagan Rome, it was but another step for these same concepts to finally be merged into the Church of Rome. Since converts from paganism were reluctant to part with their ‘gods’ – unless they could find a satisfactory counterpart in Christianity – the gods and goddesses were renamed and called ‘saints.’ The old idea of gods associated with certain occupations and days has continued in the Roman Catholic belief in saints and saints’ days” (Ralph Woodrow Evangelical; Babylon Mystery Religion; association, Inc. 1990.). As there are more than 10,000 saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, Satan has effectively squashed prayers to God in favour of prayers to the dead.

Revelation 5:8 must then not be interpreted from the corrupted Roman Catholic interpretation that “Christians” should pray to saints. The Roman Church holds that the 24 elders are “saints” who have bowls of prayers that have been offered up to them, and they then present these prayers to God. As Mary is the focus of Roman Catholic prayers, she should be present in this revelation of the Throne Room of God, at the head of the queue with barrel loads of incense – she is not!

Note that it is only after the prayers of the saints (all believers) have been offered up to God in Revelation 8, that the judgements of God begin. The message to be gleaned from this is that the Church is required to pray into prophecy, and seek the restoration of all things under the authority of Jesus – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

The song the elders sing is both a new song and an excellent song, for it is sung to the one who is proclaimed to be worthy, and because of this is about to start the process which will bring a restoration to all things – worthy indeed of a new song of praise. The song lists the elements that made the Lamb worthy to take hold of the scroll, all of which reveal the love the Lamb has for His creation:

  • The Lamb was slain to redeem the lost.
  • His Blood paid the price for the redemption of mankind.
  • The redeeming blood restored people in relationship with God
  • The redeemed were from every culture on the earth.
  • The redeemed were elevated to the position of service as priests of the Most High.
  • The redeemed will rule and reign with Jesus in the Kingdom.

The song not only praises the Lamb, but underlines the magnificence of the plan, the promise that God will exalt the humble is clearly revealed in the Lamb becoming worthy to open the scroll, and start the process which will result in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah taking His rightful place a King of kings and Lord of lords.

Redeemed means “to regain possession of,” the new song that the cherubim and the elders sang was focused on the work of the cross, which opened the way for people to be restored in relationship with God. With the opening of the seals in chapter 6, the process of the redeeming of dominion over creation could then begin.

What a wonderful future awaits every believer, Jesus is our King High Priest, and as the children of God, we are saved into royalty, with the privilege of serving as priests, which elevates every believer to the position of king priest, under our King High Priest.

The Worship of an Innumerable Multitude (5:11-14)

“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, 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ 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 honour and glory and might forever and ever!’ 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped”.

The voices of multitudes joining in cause John’s focus to move from the elders and the cherubim and zoom out to capture billions of angles around the throne of God, raising their voice in worship. Only a serenade of this magnitude would be sufficient to glorify the greatness of the Lamb, because of the redemption He accomplished. Scripture does not go above 10 000 when numbering something, Daniel, for example, when attempting to number the angels before the throne of God writes, “Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand (1 billion) stood before him,” so, John in his effort to describe the great multitude of angels before the throne of God, writes a description that indicated that the number was innumerable.

The chorus of voices praising the Lamb eventually extends to all creation. The Redeemer is also the Creator, so all that has resulted from the work of His hands recognises what He has achieved, which will result in the restoration of all things.

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