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Exposition on Revelation Chapter 5 - Introduction
The Book of Revelation has been read, studied, and scrutinized by scholars, pastors, and devote believers as well as curious seekers for many years. Yet, regardless whether it is a novice or an expert who are interpreting Revelation, using their different methods; the believer, must not fail to see the glory and sovereignty of God in its pages.
Revelation is understood as an “apocalypse,” a Greek word meaning a disclosure, an appearing, or a making manifest. The Apocalypse or Revelation is, as witnessed to in Revelation 1:1, “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” and must therefore be the manifestation, and appearing of Jesus Christ. Something that was formerly hidden, now comes visible.
It is important “not miss the major message of Revelation: the glorious victory of Jesus Christ over all His enemies.” The lessons of Revelation are uniquely the same as found in the book of Daniel; “God is sovereign over all the affairs of man.”(R. Shumborski) Far from being mysterious and indiscernible, Revelations’ riddles are meant to provoke thought, not conceal its meaning. Its purpose is to reveal truth, in the person of Jesus Christ (John 14.6), not obscure it.
Revelation is not the only book in Scripture disclosing Jesus Christ. In the Torah, which is Genesis to Deuteronomy, as well as the Prophets and Patriarchs, God is continually pointing towards the Messiah, who is to come. Teacher, John MacArthur, parallels the Gospels with Revelation: “The Gospels are also about Jesus Christ but present Him in His first coming in humiliation; the book of Revelation presents Him in His second coming in exaltation.” It is this, exaltation of Jesus Christ in chapter five of Revelation, which is the focus of this article.
The Apostle John, summoned to heaven by God, is taken by the Spirit to the indescribable majesty of God’s throne. This, then, is the moment that all Christians and indeed the entire creation has longed for (Rom. 8.19-22), and John is about to witness.
A The Search for the Worthy One (5.1-4)
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.
John declares, “I saw.” With these words, John stresses his status as eyewitness to the events about to develop. They alert the reader to something unique which is about to be disclosed. The scene at the throne is about to experience a remarkable shift. Revelation is about to happen!
John sees in the “right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll”
(v 1). The right hand, which symbolizes authority, lay a scroll with seven seals. The prophet Ezekiel also had a vision in which a scroll was presented (Ezk. 2:9-10), but was not sealed. In fact, the scroll is unrolled before Ezekiel and given directly to the prophet. By contrast, the scroll which John saw was sealed, and only the One worthy is able to take it from the hand of God, and break the seven seals to open it.
Significantly, the scroll is written on both sides showing that it contains God’s complete plan. No more could be added to what had already been written since the scroll with its seven seals, indicated its finished completeness. The number seven is a sign of fullness, completeness. The scroll testifies that God is the author in its similarity to the two tablets of stone given to Moses, which also were written on both sides, front and back, by the hand of God (Gen. 24.12; Ex. 31.18; 32.15). The writing on the scroll is “God’s complete plan and purpose for the entire world throughout the ages from beginning to end,” This plan, was a foreordained mystery, according to Paul, and is revealed in the fullness of time (Eph. 1-9-11; 3.9-11). Peter spoke of this mystery of Christ, which even the angels had longed to look into (1Pet.1.10-12).
Hence a strong angel with a “loud voice” (v 2) proclaims to every corner of the universe, a call for someone worthy, able, to take the scroll from the hand of God and break the seven seals. The angel knew it could not be one of them. It had to be One who had an all-encompassing power to defeat God‘s enemy, namely Satan, to wipe out his handiwork; sin with all of its effects, and reverse the curse on all of creation. Tragically, John saw there was “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth [who] could open the scroll or even look inside.” There was only silence.
The seals were holding together a scroll so altogether holy that no ordinary creature could break them. Craig Keener reflects, “After hailing God as worthy of all power (4.11), who can presume to be “worthy” (5.2), to have the strength (5.3) to open [the scroll].”  W.A. Criswald talks of John’s despair,
The failure to find a Redeemer meant that this earth in its curse is consigned forever to death. It meant that death, sin, damnation and hell should reign forever and ever and the sovereignty of God’s earth should remain forever in the hands Satan. (Expository Sermons on Revelation, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969) 3:69-70
The Greek word for weep used is ‘klaiõ.’ The same word is used for Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Lk. 19.41), and Peter’s bitter weeping after betraying his Lord (Lk. 22.62). Klaiõ is the term for the most dramatic form of mourning, of strong, unrestrained emotion. The sealed scroll became a sign of alienated inheritance (relationship with God), since no legal representative of the original proprietor (man), could be found worthy to redeem what was lost (the heavenly inheritance). What was needed was a Kinsman-Redeemer (Ruth 4).
B. The Selection of the Worthy One (5.5-7)
7Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
An elder announces to John, “Do not weep!” An echo of a cry which says of the doomed man, “…spare him from going down into the pit…I have found a ransom!” (Job 33.24), John stops to listen.
The elder describes, by two messianic titles, One has been found, “the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David.” A strong, fierce, and deadly ruler -- the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Heb. 7.14). The image of the Lion comes directly from the blessing the Patriarch Jacob gave to Judah, his son (Gen. 49.9-10), the title which the Jewish people applied to the Davidic Messiah. The Messiah was also portrayed as the root coming from the stump of Jesse, the line of David, who would rule all peoples (Isa. 11.1; Jer. 23.5; 33.15; Zech. 3.8). Jesus is a descendant of David, from both Joseph, His earthly father, and Mary, His mother (Matt. 1.1-17; Lk 3.22-37).
The same elder announces, “See…the Lion…the Root…has overcome!” The word, overcome, conveys good news since it links this announcement back to the letters for the seven churches (ch.2-3), which have the recurring refrain, “the one who overcomes,” and also to Jesus who says, “I have overcome” (3.21; Jhn 16.33). This is a victory word.
The messianic titles confirm that Jesus is royalty. As a descendant of the human King David (Matt. 22.41-45). Jesus is human and as Gods Messiah, Jesus is divine (Rom. 1. 2-4). His role as man’s Kinsman-Redeemer and His divinity proclaims Jesus the God-man, who alone was willing and able to give His life to set man free from sin and restore man’s lost inheritance (Lev. 25.33-46; Jer.32.6.15; Ruth).
John turned to see the Lion, however, he saw not a lion but a lamb. Here is the central paradox of Revelation and, indeed, of the whole of Christian faith: Jesus conquered not by force but by His own death, not by violence but by His own martyrdom. The Lion is the Lamb! The Lion, willingly and obediently, became the Passover Lamb for the people of God (Ex. 12.1-13). The Lamb that was led to the slaughter for the transgression of God’s people (Isa. 53.7-8; Ac. 8.32). John the Baptist proclaims, “look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jhn. 1.29, 36). The Apostle Peter proclaims Jesus the “Lamb without blemish or defect…chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Pet. 1.18-20). Wiersbe declares,
The Old Testament question, “Where is the Lamb?” (Gen. 22.7) was answered by John the Baptist who cried, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jhn. 1.29). 
Revelation reveals that plagues will fall on the rebellious of the world (Rev. 6-16), but as the passover Lamb delivered Israel from the culminating plague of Egypt (Ex. 12.23), so Jesus’ blood delivers His people during God’s righteous judgment on mankind (Rev. 7.3). Jesus, the Passover Lamb’s overcoming victory is a new exodus from bondage into Christ’s glorious freedom (5.9-10; 15.3;1 Cor.5.7). J. A. Seiss sums up,
[Jesus] is the true [Kinsman-Redeemer] who having so far triumphed and been accepted, will also prove ready and worthy to complete His work…such is our faith, and hope, and comfort, here reconfirmed to us from heaven. And what we find in the further particulars of this vision, is simply the picture of accomplishment.
The Lamb is described as having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God. The three-fold use of the number seven emphasizes the faultlessness of the Lamb. Horns in prophetic literature symbolize strength and power as is seen in the Ram and the Goat from Daniel 7 and 8. But here, the power is not seen as human power, but is the same as that referred to in the prophecy given to Zerubbabel, in which he was to prevail not by human strength but by the Spirit of God. (Zech. 4.6).
The seven eyes are the seven Spirits of God commissioned by Him to roam throughout the world (2 Chron. 16.9; Job 24.3; Prov. 15.3; Jer. 16.17; Zech. 3.9; 4.10). Zechariah speaks of these eyes, which watch over God’s purposes and His people, as belonging to God Himself. Therefore, their application to Jesus, the Risen Lamb, is a proclamation of His true exalted identity.
Everything since the vision began has been building toward a monumental moment, the final act. The essential goal of redemption is about to be seen; Eden is about to be regained. John watches, awestruck, as the Lamb “took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” Jesus not only receives the book but still holds it, hence reigning over the events of human history. Daniel describes this same momentous scene, though he does not mention the scroll,
…there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him…. (Dan. 7.13-14).
C. The Song of the Worthy One (5.8-14)
8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" 14 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
The sudden outburst of praise results from the recognition that the long-hoped-for conquest of sin, death and Satan is about to be accomplished. Jesus Christ will return to earth in triumph; the curse will be reversed, the believing remnant of Israel will be saved, and the Church will honored, and granted the privilege of reigning with Christ.
The harps seen here were not held by angels but by the heavenly Levites, (1 Chron. 25.1, 6); the elders, not the angels, fulfill the prophetic priestly duties of heaven (1Sam. 10.5; 2 Ki. 3.15; 1 Chron. 25.1). However, astonishingly, the heavenly chorus is offered, not to God, but to Jesus of Nazareth. The four Living creatures and the twenty-four elders offer the same worship to Jesus as they did to the God in chapter four, offering convincing proof of Christ’s deity, since only God is to be worshiped (Matt. 4.10; Rev. 19.10; 22.8). Jesus also receives the prayers of the saints (v 8); prayers, directly inviting all that will soon be released, for their vindication (6.10; 8.4-6). MacArthur explains that “taken together, the harps and the bowls indicate, that all that the prophets ever prophesied, and all that God’s children ever prayed for, is finally to be fulfilled.
The word “saints” appears repeatedly in Acts, the Epistles and Revelation; meaning the “holy ones.” In the Old Testament, the holy ones are the companions of God (Dan.7.21-22), but in the New Testament, they are those who have been sanctified by Jesus Christ. The saints participate in God’s holiness by entering into companionship with Him. The song is a new song of redemption. Only the twenty-four elders at the throne needed redeeming. The four living creatures and the holy angels have no need to be redeemed. They learned from the Church about the mystery of salvation (Eph.3.10; 1Pet.1.12). The angels, rejoice at the salvation of one sinner (Lk.15.7, 10), are God’s messengers (Ps.104.4; Heb.1.7) and the servants of the saints (Heb.1.4).
The song explains the significance of Christ’s death, further reinforcing His worthiness. Christ’s substitutionary death purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Jesus Christ paid the purchase price of His own blood (1Pet.1.18-19), to redeem men from every tribe (descent), tongue (language), people (race) and nation (culture) from the slave market of sin (1 Cor.6.20; 7.23; Gal.3.13). These four terms encompass all of humanity (Rev. 7.9; 11.9; 13.7; 14.6).
The song also expresses the results of redemption; believers made to be kingdom and priests to serve God (Ex. 19.6; Isa 61.6; 1 Pet. 2.5, 9; Rev. 5.10). Kistemaker serves well here,
As God called the Israelites to be a special people in their time, so He addresses His purpose today and instructs them to be citizens in His kingdom and serve Him as dedicated priests. The charge is for time and eternity, for this present life and the life to come. The present rule of the saints on earth will continue with Christ on the renewed earth.
Concentric circles form around the Throne and the Lamb, the four-living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the innumerable multitude of angels, their sound coming as of one voice. John’s wording is similar to that of Daniels vision of those surrounding God’s throne (Dan.7.10), as well as of the writer of Hebrews 12.22.
As the great hymn of praise reaches a crescendo all creation joins in this all-inclusive song, tribe upon tribe, every kindred, every tongue, stops to give praise to the Holy One of God. It is a breath taking, awe-inspiring moment with no adequate words to describe it. These are those whose lives and existence give endless blessing, honour, praise, glory, and worship to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Creation is absolutely unable to contain its joy over its eminent redemption (Rom. 8.19-21). And the four-living creatures say, “Amen“.
When Daniel finished writing his prophecy, he was instructed to “shut up the words, and seal the book” (Dan. 12.4); but John was given opposite instructions, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22.10). The whole of John’s apocalypse is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of future events.
In Revelation 1-3, Christ the exalted Priest-King ministering to the Churches
In Revelation 4-5, Christ the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the earth
In Revelation 6-18, Christ the Judge of all the earth
In Revelation 19, Christ the conquering King of kings, returns to earth
The book closes with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His Bride, the Church, into the glorious heavenly city. God calls all believers to pray and worship as priests; to rule in righteousness on the earth through the King of kings, not simply to “go to heaven” someday, but to glorify God the Father, here, today. This unveiling of Christ in chapter five ends appropriately with these words from MacArthur,
Soon, this mighty host would march out of heaven to execute judgment, gather the elect, and return with Christ when He sets up His earthly kingdom. The stage is set!
© 2010 UlrikeGrace
Keener, Craig S., The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, Muck Terry, (Gen. Editor), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., (c2000)
Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary: Revelation, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI., (c2001)
MacArthur, John, New Testament Commentary, Revelation 1-11, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL., (c1999)
Seiss, Joseph A., The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI., (c1972)
Spilsbury, Paul , The Throne, The Lamb & The Dragon, IVP Academic, Downers Grove IL., (c2002 )
Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Victorious, Victor Books, Wheaton IL., (c1985)