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Book of Revelation
 

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Bible Commentary on the

Book of Revelation

By Brian Pepper

 
Chapter 5
 
King James Version
The Scroll and the Lamb
1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
 

Bible Commentary

REVELATION 5:1
AND I SAW IN THE RIGHT HAND OF HIM THAT SAT ON THE THRONE A BOOK WRITTEN WITHIN AND ON THE BACKSIDE, SEALED WITH SEVEN SEALS.

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book

A new and gripping drama is about to unfold, in this fifth chapter. The action centres around God who holds a book. The Lamb, Jesus, who takes the Book into His own hand: the response of the four Living Creatures, the Twenty Four elders, and the myriad hosts of angels. Testimonies to the Church by EG White, page 267 says "The fifth chapter of Revelation needs to be closely studied. It is of great importance to those who shall act a part in the work of God for these last days". Like the scarlet thread, the 'plan of Salvation' is closely woven into this chapter.

As we noticed in the previous chapter, John the Revelator, and Daniel the prophet were carried through the stream of time, down to that dramatic and fateful hour when "the hour of His judgment is come" (Revelation 14:7). Both of them saw the Son of Man ministering in the presence of the Father. Daniel saw the Books opened, John saw a Book that needed to be opened.

Written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals

As John looked closer, he saw the Father, the One who created all things, holding a sealed scroll. It was perfectly sealed with 7 seals, and all the writing space was taken up, or filled up. John was familiar with this for all Roman wills were sealed with seven seals of seven witnesses on threads that secured the parchment. John also realized that this was a very important document seeing that God was holding it in His right hand.
 

REVELATION 5:2
AND I SAW A STRONG ANGEL PROCLAIMING WITH A LOUD VOICE, WHO IS WORTHY TO OPEN THE BOOK, AND TO LOOSE THE SEALS THEREOF?

I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice

One of the leading angels of heaven makes a very important announcement. The dramatic hour has arrived, the destiny of every soul hangs in the balance.

Who is worthy to open the Book, and to loose the seals thereof?

As the host of heaven gaze upon the One on the throne, a strong angel proclaims with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" This is not a reproof, but a call to the entire universe to witness the glory of the Son of God. This is a fresh unfolding of the Plan of Salvation.

John beholds a great white throne in heaven. No description is adequate to convey the beauty and the majesty of God as He is seated on the throne. John likens it to the appearance of precious stones. "Like a jasper and a sardine stone" with an emerald-like rainbow surrounding Him. "And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices".

Close at hand is the ministering Spirit of God in His Sevenfold perfection. Before the throne is a sea of glass just like crystal. On this sea or paving, stand four beautiful Living Creatures, who are continually praising God both day and night. Surrounding the throne, are Twenty-Four elders who "cast their crowns before the throne" and unite in the great chorus of praise.

All the inhabitants of the universe have their eyes fixed upon the great drama being enacted before the throne. As the drama opens, John sees the Father sitting upon His throne, holding "a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1).

Who is worthy to open the Book and to loose the seals thereof?

The challenge is made! Who is worthy to open the Book? There is a solemn pause as all heaven is hushed into a deadly silence. It is a call to all the universe, to recognize that the Plan of Salvation has its beginnings and its end in Jesus Christ. John must have been tense as he waited for the response.
 

REVELATION 5:3
AND NO MAN IN HEAVEN, NOR IN EARTH, NEITHER UNDER THE EARTH,
WAS ABLE TO OPEN THE BOOK, NEITHER TO LOOK THEREON.

The silence that followed this challenge was awesome, the suspense awful. No one dare come forward to answer the challenge for there was no one in that vast audience able to open the seals.
 

REVELATION 5:4
AND I WEPT MUCH, BECAUSE NO MAN WAS FOUND WORTHY TO OPEN AND TO READ THE BOOK, NEITHER TO LOOK THEREON.

John was touched. "I wept much", says John. Someone has said that the Revelation was not written without tears, neither will it be understood without tears. John's weeping reflects his sympathy for the people of God. To be a true prophet, his own heart must be touched by the sorrows of men and the tragedy of the world.

As the representative of the human race; as one who had endeavoured to build up the work of God; as one who had suffered for the Master; he realized that if no one was found worthy and able to take the Book from the hand of God and to break its seals; then all the promises of the prophets, and all the hopes of Gad's people, and all the prospects of a redeemed world must fail.
 

REVELATION 5:5
AND ONE OF THE ELDERS SAITH UNTO ME, WEEP NOT: BEHOLD THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDA, THE ROOT OF DAVID  HATH PREVAILED TO OPEN THE BOOK, AND TO LOOSE THE SEVEN SEALS THEREOF.

And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David

The Lion of the tribe of Judah

This is none other than Christ Himself for He was born of the tribe of Judah. The figure of a lion signifies strength and it takes strength to gain the victory in the great controversy with evil.

The Root of David

This title comes from Isaiah 11:1 and verse 10. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:" Verse 10 says, "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be
glorious."

In both of these titles, we have pictured the Messiah, who was to rule as "The Lion of the tribe of Juda". This is the One spoken of in Luke 1:32,33, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

Hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof

Hath prevailed

It is wonderful to know that He has prevailed and gained the victory. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgressions. Only Christ, who is God, could redeem man from the curse of the law, and bring him back into harmony with God. Through His victory in the great controversy with Satan, He has the right to open the Book. There is no one else in all the universe able to do this. Christ's victory is unique as no one else in all the universe could have taken His place, for the basic issue is the integrity of the character of God which is expressed in His law. Neither angel or man could have accomplished this vindication, for they themselves are subject to the law.


REVELATION 5:6
AND I BEHELD, AND, LO, IN THE MIDST OF THE THRONE AND OF THE FOUR BEASTS, AND IN THE MIDST OF THE ELDERS, STOOD A LAMB AS IT HAD BEEN SLAIN, HAVING SEVEN HORNS AND SEVEN EYES, WHICH ARE THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD SENT FORTH INTO ALL THE EARTH.

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb

The Lamb now becomes the focal point of the vision. John has just heard Christ called a Lion and a Conqueror. Before Christ can be the Lion and the conqueror He must be the LAMB. The lamb-like qualities are so wonderfully described in Isaiah 53rd chapter and have made the victory possible. "He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He hath borne our griefs, stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Oppressed and He was afflicted. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so He openeth not His mouth. Cut off out of the land of the living for the transgressions of my people was He stricken. He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth".

As it had been slain

The word "as" indicates that this is a symbol. John is not saying that a slaughtered lamb really stands before the throne of God in heaven.

A slain lamb. This takes us back through four thousand years of history, right back to the Garden of God or the Garden of Eden. The heart of the Father was broken when that first lamb was slain. Every time the knife was stained with the blood of an offering it brought to the mind of God the death of His Son. Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It was John the Baptist who said, in John 1:29 second part, "Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."

Having seven horns and seven eyes

Seeing that the lamb itself is a symbol, then the other features of the lamb are also symbolic. The lamb John saw, was a dying lamb, wounded by the sacrificial knife. Horns are a symbol of strength and power. Seven is a number signifying perfection, so seven horns represent the perfect sacrifice. Habakkuk describes Him as having "horns coming out of His hand," or "bright beams out of His side" (margin) "and there was the hiding of His power" (Habakkuk 3:4).

'Great Controversy' by EG White, page 674 says, "Says the prophet, beholding Christ in His glory, "He had bright beams coming out of His side: and there was the hiding of His power." That pierced side, whence flowed the crimson stream that reconciled man to God, - there is the Saviour's glory, there "the hiding of His power." Mighty to save, through the sacrifice of redemption. He was therefore strong to execute justice upon them that despised God's mercy. And the tokens of His humiliation are His highest honour; through the eternal ages the wounds of Calvary will show forth His praise, and declare His power."

Christ will always carry the marks of those wounds in His hands and feet and body. Zechariah 13:6 says, "And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends."

And seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth

Seven eyes a symbol of perfect wisdom and intelligence. However the seven eyes are in this instance associated with the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ is presented as a Lion and a Lamb, so the Holy Spirit is also presented in this symbolic form. This is another way of describing the all embracing work of the Holy Spirit.
 

REVELATION 5:7
AND HE CAME AND TOOK THE BOOK OUT OF THE RIGHT HAND OF HIM THAT SAT UPON THE THRONE.

This is the focal point of chapters 4 and 5. Christ by taking the Book from the hand of God does what no other being in the universe can do. The deathly silence and awesome suspense is broken by this dramatic action of the Saviour. "He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne".

The fact that the Father holds the Book shows clearly that Christ does not do the work alone. Father and Son unite in the work of Redemption. Together they formed this world to be man's home. Together they made man in their own image. Together they made a covenant to redeem man from his fallen estate. Together they worked out the Plan of Salvation, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..."
 

REVELATION 5:8
AND WHEN HE HAD TAKEN THE BOOK, THE FOUR BEASTS AND FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS FELL DOWN BEFORE THE LAMB, HAVING EVERY ONE OF THEM HARPS, AND GOLDEN VIALS FULL OF ODOURS, WHICH ARE THE PRAYERS OF SAINTS.

And when He had taken the Book

The question is, what is in the Book? When the Lamb takes the book from the Father's hand and begins to unloose the seven seals, John sees the entire history of the Christian church from the cross to the second advent, unfolded before his eyes. He sees the mighty triumphs of the cross as men go forth bearing the blood stained banner of Prince Immanuel. He sees the violent opposition of Satan to the forward movement of the Gospel.

When the seals are opened, John sees the part God's people play in the great controversy, and carefully recorded are the good deeds and the kind acts. Malachi 3:16 says, "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name."

John also sees the part the wicked play in this drama of the ages. Their life record is also found in the Book the lamb opens. Matthew 12:36 says, "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."

Speaking of the Jewish leaders who rejected Christ, the book 'Christ's Object lessons' by EG White says "Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision will appear before them in the day when this book is unsealed by he lion of the tribe of Judah" (page 294).

The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the lamb

This is a tremendous moment, for wrapped up in this dramatic turn of events hangs the eternal destiny of every individual who has ever named the name of Christ. Suffering saints and martyrs without number have sealed their testimony in their blood and have done so willingly, knowing that the lamb is well able to take the Book.

Having everyone of them harps, and golden vials full of odours

It is very interesting to notice that the elders have both harps and golden bowls of incense. Harps were associated with the prophets in Old Testament times. 2 Kings 3:15 says, "But now bring me a minstrel. (Elisha said,) And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, (upon his harp) that the hand of the LORD came upon him." Again in 1 Chronicles 25:1 we read, "Moreover David ... separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps."

The Golden bowls are associated with the priests or priesthood. In the ancient sanctuary, the priest carried a bowl of incense while the people prayed outside. 

These two symbols suggest that the twenty-four elders are prophet-priests, which is fitting, seeing they are actively engaged in the throne room of heaven.

Full of odours

'Early Writings' by EG White, page 252 says, "Between the cherubim was a golden censer, and as the prayers of the saints offered in faith, came up to Jesus, and He presented them to His Father, a cloud of fragrance arose from the incense, looking like smoke of the most beautiful colours... As the incense ascended to the Father the excellent glory came from the throne to Jesus, and from Him it was shed upon those whose prayers had come up like sweet incense."

Which are the prayers of saints

The word saint probably suggests a lot of things to some people. To some it may sound like an old grey-haired grandmother, or it may suggest some straight laced person. How often has some person been given the title "saint" because that person refused to go along with the crowd. The text talks about "prayers of saints." Are these the prayers of the grandmothers? or of the preacher, or some better than average person? The word saint is used in the New Testament as a title for a Christian. Ephesians 1:1 says, "...to the saints which are at Ephesus ..." Philippians 1:1 says, "...to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi..." Colossians 1:2 says, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse..." The prayers of the saints mentioned here are the prayers of God's people as they ascend to the Father.
 

REVELATION 5:9
AND THEY SUNG A NEW SONG, SAYING, THOU ART WORTHY TO TAKE THE 800K, AND TO OPEN THE SEAL THEREOF: FOR THOU WAST SLAIN, AND HAST REDEEMED US TO GOD BY THY BLOOD OUT OF EVERY KINDRED, AND TONGUE, AND PEOPLE, AND NATION;

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and open the seals thereof

This is a very special song for it is a song of Salvation. The great songs usually come from deep experiences. The centuries of sorrow are soon to come to an end, for Christ is now entering the final phase of His mediation for lost men. Desire of Ages by EG White says on page 835, "Songs of triumph mingle with the music from angel harps, till heaven seems to overflow with joy an praise.  Love as conquered. The lost are found. Heaven rings with voices in lofty strains proclaiming, "blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb forever and ever."

For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation

When the Book is opened, and the part each individual has played is revealed, when above all, the self-sacrificing role of the Lamb is opened to the universe, all will proclaim that Jesus is the Victor. Philippians 2:8-11 says, "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven, and things 1n earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Note this statement "...the most marvellous thing that ever took place in earth or heaven - the incarnation of the Son of God. God gave His Son to die for sinful beings a death of ignominy and shame. He who was Commander in the heavenly courts laid aside His royal robe and kingly crown and clothing. His divinity with humanity came to this world to stand at the head of the human race as the pattern - man." M.S. 76. 1903.

"And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Every being in the universe proclaims it, every tongue confesses, every knee bows in submission, and even Satan and the wicked will acknowledge that Jesus is the rightful Victor. There will be' no racial barriers, for Salvation in Christ is for every man, which respects no colour distinction and has no boundaries.
 

REVELATION 5:10
AND HAST MADE US UNTO OUR GOD KINGS AND PRIESTS: AND WE SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH.

Anticipating the final cleansing of the universe from sin and man restored to his place beside the Father, there is sung in heaven this joyous song of the redeemed. The four and twenty elders acknowledge God's blessings on them for they have been raised from the depths of sin to the position of Kings and Priests. Though in heaven they look forward to the time when they will reign with Christ on the earth made new.
 

REVELATION 5:11
AND I BEHOLD, AND I HEARD THE VOICE OF MANY ANGELS ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE AND THE BEASTS AND THE ELDERS: AND THE NUMBER OF THEM WAS TEN THOUSAND TIMES TEN THOUSAND, AND THOUSANDS OF THOUSANDS;

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders

As John heard the singing and the earthly and heavenly voices join in praising God, suddenly he becomes conscious of the vast hosts of heaven as they join in acclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb.

The angels at first did not fully understand God's action in banishing Satan, nor in His plan for saving men. As the angels listen to the wonderful testimonies of the Living Creatures and the Twenty Four elders, as they have seen the working out of Satan's rebellion; they are able to realize that God is love and that love is the only way. God is vindicated before all the heavenly hosts. And with one mighty chorus, they sing praise to Him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb.

And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands

Not an actual number but rather suggests numberless hosts.


REVELATION 5:12
SAYING WITH
A LOUD VOICE, WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN TO RECEIVE POWER, AND RICHES, AND WISDOM, AND STRENGTH, AND HONOUR, AND GLORY, AND BLESSING.

The angels sing a seven-part song of praise to God. 'Desire of Ages' by EG White page 131 says, "Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall remember that Jesus left all this for us, that He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."" The doxology of the heavenly hosts is sevenfold, complete and perfect.


REVELATION 5:13
AND EVERY CREATURE WHICH IS IN HEAVEN, AND ON THE EARTH, AND UNDER THE EARTH, AND SUCH AS ARE IN THE SEA, AND ALL THAT ARE IN THEM, HEARD I SAYING, BLESSING, AND HONOUR, AND GLORY, AND POWER, BE UNTO HIM THAT SITTETH UPON THE THRONE, AND UNTO THE LAMB FOR EVER AND EVER.

And every creature which is in heaven

That is every created being takes up the chorus and all heaven joins in adoration of the Father and of the Son. Christ in humbling Himself and taking on the form of man has won the victory. The character of God is vindicated before the entire universe.

And on the earth and under the earth

It was on this earth that the great battle has been fought between Christ and Satan. This one lost world has suffered the blight of sin through so long ages. How wonderful that from this earth there goes up a song of praise which helped to swell that of the heavenly hosts.

And such as are in the sea, and all that are in them

Even the creatures of the sea praise their Maker, for nature itself recognizes and knows the Creator.

Heard I saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever

As we come to the climax of this great praise service, the universal choir link God the Father and the Lamb together giving both the same praise in the same song. That the Lamb is adored here on the same basis as the Father clearly shows that they are equal.

Colossians 1:19 says, "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." Colossians 2:9 says, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily". Verse 10 says, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power."

"Christ the Word, the only-begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father, one in nature, in character, and in purpose - the only being in all the universe that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. By Christ, the Father wrought in the creation of all heavenly beings." 'The Great Controversy' by EG White, p.493.

Everything the Father is, every quality whether it be Deity, or authority, or Excellency or power is and rests in Christ. It is because of this that the angelic hosts unrestrainedly send forth their praise and adoration of the Lamb.

'Great Controversy' by EG White, page 671 says, "Before the universe has been clearly presented the great sacrifice made by the Father and the Son in man's behalf. The hour has come when Christ occupies His rightful position, and is glorified above principalities and powers and every name that is named.."
 

REVELATION 5:14
AND THE FOUR BEASTS SAID, AMEN, AND THE FOUR AND
TWENTY ELDERS FELL DOWN AND WORSHIPPED HIM THAT LIVETH FOR EVER AND EVER.

The great praise service comes to its climax, but not to its end, for this same song will be sung when the New Earth is established. It will be sung by the redeemed and the angels in eternity. 'Great Controversy' by EG White page 678 says, "And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption, and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise."

"The cross of Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In Christ glorified they will behold Christ crucified ... As the nations of the saved look upon their Redeemer, and behold the eternal glory of the Father shining in His countenance; as they behold His throne, which is from everlasting to everlasting, and know that His kingdom is to have no end, they break forth in rapturous song, "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His own most precious blood!" (The Great Controversy, pages 651, 652)
 

 
  Book of Revelation
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  Who was this John?
  John the Son of Zebedee
  Theories of Interpretation
  Striking Features of Revelation
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