The Scroll and the Lamb
The vision moves from focusing on God and the angels and elders worshiping God around the throne to the Lamb who is worthy to take and open the scroll. The worship of God is focuses on his role and sovereignty in creation now the attention turns to worshiping of the Lamb who was slain and his redemptive work. These scrolls play an integral part in what transpires in the chapters to follow.
Vs. 1: “in the right hand…” – The right hand signifies omnipotence of God.
“a scroll…” – This scroll is sealed with seven seals to protect the confidentiality of the contents that are within it. The contents (as we will see) contain the full account of God’s sovereign and divine plan for “what must take place.”
The seven seals symbolize the complete sacredness or holiness of the scroll. The contents are the complete (7 is number of completion) end story of God, judgment and all.
Daniel 8:26 – Daniel is told to seal up the contents of his prophecy that will be opened at a latter time.
The double-sided writing on the scroll indicates how extensive the judgment of God is.
Vs 2: A mighty angel (Gabriel?) with a loud voice. The loud voice is needed because the proclamation that he makes needs to reach all of creation. Since the proclamations are from God a strong powerful voice is required.
The call the angel makes is for someone who is worthy to perform the ultimate service of bringing history to its predestined conclusion.
Vs 3: The call is to all of creation and nobody is worthy to take the scroll and open it or even look at the contents inside.
Vs 4: John weeps loudly and in disappointment because it appears to him at the moment that God’s plans are about to be spoiled because there is no one worthy to open the scroll that contains the final judgments of God.
Vs 5: The elder tells John not to weep. Why? Because there is One who is worthy; He is the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” In Gen. 49:9 – 10 Jacob gives a blessing to his twelve sons and Jacob calls Judah “the lion cub” and then is promised that the scepter will never depart from him until it comes to the one whom it belongs to.
“the root of David” – Isaiah 11:1 speaks of a king from the line of David who will judge righteously and usher in peace.
Both these titles refer to Jesus and the Elder tells John not to weep because Jesus is worthy to take and open the scrolls.
Vs 6: In the midst of this scene John sees a lamb, not a lion.
The lamb has” seven horns and seven eyes” and has the wounds of a sacrificial offering = Victory through sacrifice.
Seven horns symbolize perfect power and seven eyes symbolize perfect wisdom and knowledge.
This Lamb is the Lord of lords and King of Kings and as we will see He is the one who is worthy to open the scroll and thus wage war on the beast and his minions. The Lamb is none other than Jesus Christ who is enthroned with God and he is the victor over all forces of evil both human and demonic.
Vs 7: The action of the Lamb… He goes and takes the scroll from the right hand of the one holding it (God).
Vs 8: The response of the elders and creatures is worship when they witness Jesus as the worthy lamb.
The harp is the traditional instrument used in the singing of Psalms.
The golden bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints.
“The idea of angels acting as intermediaries and presenting the prayers of saints to God is common in later Jewish thought. In Tob 12:15 an angel says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, who present the prayers of the saints, and who go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” In 3 Baruch 11 it is Michael the Archangel who descends to the fifth heaven to receive the prayers of people. It was the increasing emphasis in Jewish thought on the transcendence of God that made such intermediaries appropriate. In Revelation the twenty-four elders perform this function.” (Mounce)
Vs 9 – 10: The Lamb is worthy to open the book for three reasons: he was slain, he ransomed people for God, and he made them to be a kingdom and priests. That the same ascription of worth is directed both to the One upon the throne (4:11) and to the Lamb (5:9) indicates the exalted Christology of the Apocalypse.
Redemption was for all tribes, tongues, and nations. This implies the universal nature of redemption. Redemption is for all who believe. The blood of Christ is sufficient for all people, not just one specific people group.
Vs 11: The worship now expands to the innumerable angels lifting up their voices.
Vs 13: All creations worships the Lamb.
According to theologian Robert Mounce in his commentary on Revelation, “Chapter 5 has revealed a central truth that governs the entire book of Revelation. By his sacrificial death the Lamb has taken control of the course of history and guaranteed its future. He alone was worthy to break the seals and open the scroll of destiny. The hosts of heaven break out in jubilant song honoring the redemptive work of the Lion who is the Lamb. His triumphant sacrifice has transformed men and women from every part of the universe into priests in the service of God. Countless angels circle his throne and declare his power and praise. This vision of the grandeur of the triumphant Lamb prepares John to share with his readers the more solemn aspects of the judgments that lie in the future. A vivid portrayal of the one who has won the crucial battle against sin supplies the confidence that in the troubled times to come there remains a hope that is steadfast and sure.” (Mounce)
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