About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The Scroll And The Lamb (ch. 5:1-14)

 

Verse 1 shows the picture of one sitting on a throne and in His right hand is a scroll, or book as some versions read.  The word scroll or book is translated from the Greek word "biblion" where we get our word "Bible".  We must remember that they didn't have nice bound books as we have today.  This was more of a scroll than a book as we know it.      

 

The One sitting on the throne in this case is God.  It is not Jesus
because in verse 7 we see Jesus taking the scroll from this One who sits on the throne. 

 

This scroll has writing on both sides and is sealed with seven seals.  Normally scrolls in those days only had writing on the inside, not on both sides as this one has.  Why this scroll has writing on both sides is unknown. What exactly is written in the scroll is unknown, although there has been many guesses throughout the centuries.   It seems clear to me that what was written in the scroll had something to do with the events that would soon come on the earth that are to be revealed in the vision.

 

In Roman culture wills were normally written on scrolls and sealed with seven seals.  Maybe this scroll was God’s will for Israel.  I say Israel because what transpires next has to do with Israel and their return to their God and their long awaited inheritance.    

 

This passage is amazing.  It shows the time at the end of this age where Jesus rises from where He is seated.   Remember, Jesus is pictured as sitting at God's right hand, but here He rises to take the scroll out of God's hands.  The culmination of this age is about to take place.  Any time Jesus rises from His throne something important is about to happen.  I believe if you study Acts 7 and see what unfolds when Stephen is executed, I believe you will see Jesus rise from His throne to greet Stephen as he enters heaven.       

 

Many have suggested that this is the same scroll that Daniel saw in Daniel 12.  That may be the case, but as yet, I'm not quite sure.  It would not surprise me that it was the same scroll.  Daniel was told to seal the scroll up and here we see that Jesus is unsealing the scroll.

 

In verses 2 and 3 we see an angel ask “who is worthy to
break the seals and open the scroll”?  No one in the entire universe could be found worthy enough to break the seals and read the scroll.   The very thought of having these seals opened I believe is important.  John would understand that after all these years of having this scroll sealed up, it should now be unsealed. 

 

It seems to me that the breaking of the seven seals would release what was written in the scrolls.  This would mean that the contents of the scroll tells us what is about to take place, both in heaven and on the earth. 

 

Verse 4 tells us that John was quite upset and actually wept because no one could open the scroll.  I don’t know if John knew what was in the scroll or not, but he must have sensed that it was a very important document to react in such a way.  He must have also understood that the scroll should now be opened.  The text doesn't specifically tell us that this was John's understanding, but why would John weep if he didn't understand that it was now time to unseal this scroll? 

 

In verse 5 we see one of the elders tell John that there is actually One who can open the scroll and He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Root of David.   Both of these terms speak of Jesus and show us as that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.  Jesus came through the lineage of Jud

ah, one of Jacob's sons.  See Genesis 49:8 to 10.  This speaks of Jesus' humanity and is a reminder of the covenant God spoke to Abraham.  
The Root of David speaks to Jesus ruling over the earth.  Jesus would sit on David's throne over Israel, and the entire earth.  See Isaiah 11:10 concerning Jesus being of the Root of David.    

 

The Greek word "rhiza" is translated as Root in verse 5.  It means source or origin.  Jesus finds His human origin through the tribe of Judah and also through King David.  

 

Again, I point out the Old Testament Jewish nature seen here in verse 5.  It's all about Israel , and rightly so, because the events that take place throughout Revelation are all about Israel and bringing it to its knees as predicted throughout the Old Testament.       

 

There is much controversy over who the elders in this chapter are.  Some say they are angels, but I don't think so because angels are distinguished from the elders later on in this chapter.  Also, both in this chapter and the last chapter, these elders are seen as being redeemed and angels have never been redeemed.  Men and women are the only ones who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  

 

Since we know there are twenty four elders, there has been much debate who these elders are.   Some Prophetic Futurists see these elders being representative of the church.  Others see them as being representative of Israel.  Still others see that twelve of these elders represent Israel while the other twelve represent the church.  I really can't say for sure who they represent. 

 

John most likely was startled by the announcement that someone was found to open the seals.  He turns around, expecting to see a lion, yet he sees a Lamb, as if it was slain.  God’s Lion in this instance was a Lamb, the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.  John said the Lamb looked as if He had been slain.  We know that Jesus will have the marks of the cross on His glorified body for all of eternity.  That will certainly be a sight to see in the next life.  To see Jesus standing before us with scars on His body will be extremely humbling. 

 

Here we see yet another portrait of Jesus.  This time He’s the Lamb, not the mighty warier.  Jesus is the Lamb of God to those who believe but for those who do not believe He is the Lion of God.  I'd prefer meeting Jesus as a lamb rather than a lion.  Humanity has the choice; stand before the Lamb or stand before the Lion as the end of this age.

 

We thus note that the cross has something to do with what follows.  What follows is the judgment of the world.  It is the Lion Jesus who brings about this judgment.  To me this tells me that the cross is the foundation for the judgment to come.  What people have done with the cross of Christ determines how they will be judged.

 

Verse 5 also says that “He has triumphed”.  The triumph took place on the cross.  Triumph refers to a battle and the cross was a battle in many respects.  So once again, because of the cross, Jesus is worthy to loose the judgments upon the earth.  That being said, even though the battle was won on the cross, the realization of this victory takes place over time and culminates at the end of the thousand year rule of Christ as we will see later.

 

Verse 6 tells us that the Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes.  John says that the seven eyes were the seven spirits of God, or as we’ve already discussed, the seven fold Holy Spirit, as many believe.  That being said, I'm not convinced anymore that these seven sprits aren't seven special distinct spirits apart from the Holy Spirit.  J  John doesn’t tell us what the seven horns represent, but most Prophetic Futurists suggest this to be a picture of strength, authority, and power.

 

In verses 7 and 8 we see Jesus go to the throne of God and take the scroll out of the right hand of God.  When He does this, the four creatures and the twenty four elders fall down before the Lamb.  They must have realized what was now happening was very important.  This must have been one very overwhelming event for them.                

 

Notice that Jesus takes the scroll from God's right hand.  First of all, the term "right hand" was understood in John's day to be an idiom sharing authority with another.  This means that Jesus and the Father share authority.  Also, note that God the Father has a right hand.  You might wonder how God can have a right hand when we know that He is a spirit as we see in John 4:24.  Either what John is seeing is a vision consisting of pictures and portrayals of that which humans can't see, or else, John is really seeing real things that are beyond human comprehension.  I might suggest the latter to be true.        

 

John tells us that the creatures and elders had two things in their possession.  They each had a harp and a bowl of incense.  Obviously the harps were to help them sing.  The bowls represent the prayers of the saints according to John.  Some suggest that the prayers in the bowl are unanswered prayers, or why would they still be seen in a bowl.  I can understand that, but again, the text doesn't say it.               

 

We should note from these verses that God the Father is the one sitting on the throne with the scroll in His hand while Jesus is the one standing in the midst of the throne who takes the scroll from God the Father.

 

The song that these men and creatures sing concerns Jesus being slain which gave Him the authority to “purchase men for God.”  Men and women from every tribe and language were brought into the Kingdom of God as priests to serve the Living God.  Jesus bought these people’s salvation, not from the devil, but from God.   So, as hard as it is to understand, Jesus purchased these people from God and for God. 

 

It is important to note that this verse tells us that from every tribe, every ethnic people, in every corner of the earth will be represented in heaven.  Jesus will have a remnant from every type of people imaginable.  You can count on that.   

 

The last line of the song says that we, the redeemed, will reign on earth.  Many Christians throughout the centuries lived in poverty and submission to sinful man, but in the days to come, they will reign as kings.  For many Prophetic Futurists this is speaking of ruling with Jesus during the thousand year rule of Christ.  I also believe that it continues on into the new earth as well.    

 

The new song that is sung is found in verses 9 and 10.  We need to understand who is singing this song.  Verses 8 and 9 say that the four living creatures and the elders are singing this new song. This is important due to a translation difficulty in these two verses.  The KJV says that the Lord has redeemed "us" to God.  That would suggest that the elders, and those of "us" they represent sing this song.  That would mean that the church is in heaven at this point in time, meaning, they've been raptured before the Tribulation, or so most Furists believe.  The NIV totally ignores the word "us".  It simply states that Jesus purchased men for God.  If you read the NIV, you might not understand that the men purchased were the elders who were singing the song.

 

Now in verse 10, the KJV continues on with the same theme.  It uses the word "us", as if "us" is referring to the elders,those they represent, and the four beasts, are singing the song. 

 

The reason why this is controversial is because those who like the KJV's rendering believe the church is in heaven singing this song.  Those who believe the church is still on earth like the NIV version because it seems to suggest to them that the church is still on earth.  I understand both sides of the issue.  I'm leaning towards the KJV way of thinking at this moment.    

 

Part of the problem in translating verses 9 and 10 is because the Greek manuscripts are not in agreement in this matter.  Depending on what manuscripts one uses in his translation will determine what is translated.  Also, one's theology might take precedent in the translation as well.   

 

We should not forget who the four living creatures are singing this song to.  You can take or leave what I'm about to say because I can't say it as a dogmatic fact.  We know that eventually all creation will be restored If you read Romans 8:18 to 22 you note that all creation is now groaning in a measure of agony, waiting for the day of their restoration.  If the twenty four elders represent the redeemed men and women of the earth, I'm wondering if the four living creatures don't represent the animals on the earth who are waiting for their restoration as Paul seems to imply in Romans 8.  All that being said, as I said in Revelation 4, most commentators believe the four living creatures are some kind of angelic being.                

 

Verse 10 states that Jesus has made the saved saints "a kingdom and priests".  Some suggest that this should be "a kingdom of priests".   I suggest the word "kingdom" be used here because it seems to best fit the translation from the Greek.  Those who prefer the word "kings" preach, and many times to an unhealthy extreme, that Christians are both kings and priests.  Since we are kings, they promote what I call the unbiblical doctrine of wealth and prosperity.  I personally don't see Christians as being kings in this present age.  I do see us as being priest.  That is to say, we are the agent between sinners and God.  We will be kings after Jesus comes back to earth and we rule with Him.

 

The opening of these seals must be a great and mighty event because the angels join in by singing as well.  The number of these angels according to John is “thousand upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand”.  This is clearly a large number of angels.  This is also the number of two thirds of the angels, since one third followed satan in his rebellion.  This clearly tells us that the angelic world is one very huge world.  I suggest that there is much more to the angelic world than what we know of from the Bible.  The Bible only tells us what we need to know for God's present purpose for us and this planet.             

 

I believe the numbering of these angels should not be taken literally and exactly here.  Like the Old Testament  terms "sand of the sea", and "stars in the sky" as applied to Israel's population as being a very huge number, so it is here.  The first mention of "thousand" in this verse is translated from the Greek word "murius", where we get our English word "myriad".  This can either mean ten thousand as the KJV puts it, or, an indefinite number, as the NIV suggests.  If you take the latter then the number of angels are too many for John to count.  If you understand it as ten thousand, then, it might be possible to count the angels here.  All this being said, if you understand these numbers here to be indefinite, that does not mean you need to understand other numbers, like 144,000 Israeli evangelists or 1260 days to be taken symbolic.  I believe they should be taken literally.   

 

These angels sing about the Lamb being worthy because He was slain.  These lyrics are similar to that of the four living creatures and the elders, but with no mention of redemption and being bought with His blood.  Angels aren’t redeemed as mankind is.

 

The singing doesn’t stop with the addition of the angels.  John, in verse 13, says that every creature in Heaven, on earth, under the earth, and on and in the sea were singing as well.  This tells me that everyone was singing and proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus.  Their songs gave praise to “the One who sits on the throne”.  He is worthy of praise, glory and honour for ever and ever.

 

The text clearly says here that every creature, whether in heaven, on earth, or in the sea, give praise to Jesus.  This might well support what I've just said a couple paragraphs back.   If you understand these creatures to include animals that give praise to Jesus, then animals are in heaven. It doesn't mean they have been redeemed, simply restored to their original state. On the other hand, many understand the word "creatures" to refer to human creatures.  

 

At this pint I insert part of an article I wrote about animals in heaven.  Revelation 5:13 says that every creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea worship the Lord.  The Greek word translated as "creature" into English is "ktisma'.  This simply means "created thing".   Therefore, every thing that God created is worshipping in heaven according to this verse.  This would include animals.  If we are to take this verse literally, it would also include other parts of God's creation apart from human and animal life.     

 

We should note that the word creature is often used in Revelation in connection with the four living creatures in heaven.  Every created thing would obviously include these four living creatures, but it's clear that they are not the only created thing being spoken of here in Revelation 5:13.

 

I think this verse pretty plainly speaks of animals worshipping the Lord along with all other created things.  Does this mean there are animals, or, the souls of animals in heaven?  For further information about the souls of animals you can read my article entitled "Do Animals Have Souls"?

 

The setting for Revelation 5 is clearly in heaven.  I could be wrong, but it thus appears to me that there are at least the souls of animals in heaven who are worshipping the Lord here. 

 

At the end of the book of Revelation we see the new earth.  I strongly believe there will be animals on the new earth, and, if they worship in heaven, I'm sure in their own way they will worship the Lord on the new earth.

 

I can't say how animals worship.  Jesus alluded to the fact that stones could possibly cry out in worship to God in Luke 19:40.  If stones could to this, I'm sure animals can as well.         

 

This event reminds me of what Paul says in Philippians 2:10 and 11.   All mankind will bow their knees and confess that Jesus is Lord.  This was one fantastic worship service here in Revelation 5.  It's simply beyond our imagination.  

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