For the past six weeks we have journeyed through the book of Revelation. At the beginning of the series I spoke about the difficulties in reading Revelation because it is full of symbolism, visions, and strange occurrences. The language of Revelation sometimes is mysterious and slick as it teases its reader to make connections and possibilities that one has never made before. Revelation is a fluid book as there are many views on the translation of this book thus it is not surprising that Revelation has been and is interpreted multiple ways. Unfortunately, this has led to some irresponsible reading and translations of Revelation. However, it’s safe to assume that the original recipients of this letter understood the central message without much difficulty.
The Scroll and the Lamb
In Chapter five the vision continues from the previous chapter but moves from centering on the angels and elders worshiping God around the throne to the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is the Lamb that is worthy to take and open the scroll. The worship of God in chapter four is focused on His role and His sovereignty in creation, but now attention is turned to the Lamb who was slain and his redemptive work. From here on out the scrolls play a primary part in what transpires in the chapters to come.
Vs. 1: “I saw a scroll (book) in the right hand…” – The scroll or book is sealed with seven seals to protect the confidentiality of the contents that are within. The contents, as we will soon see, are not definitive but some interpretations are as follows.
The right hand signifies power and the omnipotence of God.
The seven seals symbolize the complete sacredness or holiness of the scroll. The contents are complete, since 7 is number of completions, and it most likely contains the end story of God, judgment, and redemption.
The double-sided writing on the scroll indicates the wide-range of God’s judgment.
Vs 2: “A strong angel who shouted 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 opening the scroll. Scrolls were rolled up and secured with strings to prevent them from coming unrolled. A strip of soft clay, wax, or lead was placed under the strings, then folded over the tops of the strings, and finally imprinted with a distinctive marking, often from a signet ring
“Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” The call is to all of creation.
Vs 3: Nobody in the realm of all creation (heaven, earth, or under the earth… some say the water) is worthy to take the scroll, open it, or look at the contents inside.
Vs 4: “I began to weep bitterly” - John is troubled because it appears that no one is worthy, thus potentially God’s plans could be spoiled because there is no one worthy to open the scroll that executes the judgments of God.
Vs 5: One of the twenty-four elders tells John not to weep. Why? Because there is One who is worthy; He is the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” The lion represents both power and royalty. In Gen. 49:9 – 10 Jacob gives a blessing to his twelve sons and Jacob calls Judah “the lion cub” and he is promised that the scepter will never depart from him until it comes to the one whom it belongs.
“the heir to David’s throne” – 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. Jesus has conquered death through the cross of Calvary. His death has brought forth victory.
Vs 6: One would imagine that in the next scene a lion would emerge forward and take the scroll, but that is not what happens. A lamb, appearing to have been slaughtered, emerges and that take s the scroll.
This lamb is a bit odd looking it has” seven horns and seven eyes” and has the wounds of a sacrificial offering.
The lamb is significant. Not only does the Lamb point to Jesus, the sacrificial lamb of Passover of Exodus, but also the suffering Servant of Isaiah, and it also reveals the mystery of Revelation: God is victorious not through brute force but through submission and obedience through the death of Jesus Christ. The slaughtered lamb has redeemed people from all nations.
Now, we cannot make the mistake that the picture of the slaughtered lamb means he is weak and powerless. No, just the opposite is implied through the seven horns and eyes.
The seven horns symbolize perfect power, and seven eyes symbolize perfect wisdom and knowledge.
The 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 that eventually releases final judgment and salvation. 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 steps forward and takes the scroll from the right hand of the one holding it (God).
Vs 8: “the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.” The response of the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures to the Lamb taking the scroll is worship when they witness Jesus as the worthy lamb as he is worthy to carry out God’s plan.
“Each one had a harp” The harp is the traditional instrument used in the singing of Psalms.
“they held golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
Commentator Robert Mounce writes, “The idea of angels acting as intermediaries and presenting the prayers of saints to God is common in later Jewish thought. In Tobias 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.”
Vs 9 – 10: “And they sang a new song” - The Lamb is worthy to open the book for three reasons:
“from every tribe and language and people and nation” - Redemption is 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: “I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels” Pan out - The vision worship continues but now expands to the innumerable angels lifting their voices. Worship is universal that is extended to include agents of all creation, heavenly and human.
Vs 12: There are seven merits credited to the Lamb that make Him worthy.
Vs 13: All creation 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.”
From here on out the slaughtered Lamb is the central figure in how we interpret the remainder of the book. God’s divine judgment and ultimately salvation and redemption must be interpreted and understood through the lens of the Lamb who was slain and is worthy of all worship.
 Craig R. Koester, Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, ed. John J. Collins, vol. 38A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2014), 373.
 Craig R. Koester, Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, ed. John J. Collins, vol. 38A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2014), 374.
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 135.
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 138.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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