Exegesis of Revelation 5:1-10

The book of Revelation is all about the revelation of Jesus Christ, given to His servant John (Rev 1:1 ESV). The beginning of the revelation is dedicated to seven churches, where Jesus sends His angel to address each one personally. The scene changes in chapter four when John is given a vision of heaven, more specifically the throne in heaven. God is seated on the throne and around Him are living creatures and elders that praise God without end. The scene changes in chapter five when John notices a scroll in the right hand of God.

Rev. 5:1   Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne  a scroll written within and on the back,  sealed with seven seals.  2 And  I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,  4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold,  the Lion  of the tribe of Judah,  the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Rev. 5:6   And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw  a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with  seven eyes, which are  the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.  8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders  fell down before the Lamb,  each holding a harp, and  golden bowls full of incense,  which are the prayers of the saints.  9 And they sang  a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for  you were slain, and by your blood  you ransomed people for God
from  every tribe and language and people and nation,
10     and you have made them  a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

 

Exegesis of Revelation 5:1-10

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Rev 5:1 ESV). Scrolls that were sealed with seven seals were used all over the Middle East in ancient times and were also used by the Romans. These documents were used as deeds or contracts including marriage-contracts, rental/lease agreements, work contracts, etc (Thomas). Looking ahead to chapter six of Revelation we know that the scroll that John saw in God’s hand is God’s deed/contract to the earth.

“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it” (Rev 5:2-4 ESV). The angel is not named, but we know he is “strong,” and he gives a strong challenge yelling out in a loud voice for all creatures to hear, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” The challenge is made to all living creatures in heaven and on earth, but nobody accepts the challenge. It is amazing to think of all the great men of God and of all the glorious and even holy angels that live in the throne room of God, yet no man or angel was worthy to open the scroll. Also none “under the earth,” no demon and not even Satan himself had the power to open this scroll or to look into it. Therefore since no created being can open or look into the scroll we can conclude that only God himself can do this. John’s reaction at this point is interesting, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, he began to weep loudly. Part of this sorrow could come from the guilt of sin that separates us and causes us to be unworthy, but since holy and sinless angels were also not worthy to open the scroll, I think his weeping could have been simply because he was overwhelmed with God’s complete holiness and separation from any other created being.

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals’” (Rev 5:5 ESV). John’s weeping is then interrupted with the announcement that there is one person worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals, this person is the Lord Jesus Christ described by two messianic titles. The first title, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” comes from Genesis 49:8-10 and Jesus is connected with this passage in Hebrews 7:14. The Root of David comes from the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 and verse 10, also Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-17 and Revelation 22:16 are connected. From the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 we know that Jesus was a descendant of David from both his Father and Mother. Jesus is the only one worthy to open the scroll because He is the rightful King from David’s lions; He is the powerful lion from the tribe of Judah, He has overcome. At the cross He defeated sin (Rom 8:3), death (Heb 2:14-15), all evil forces and authorities (Col 2:15), and those who believe in his name overcome together with Him (Rom 8:37; Col 2:13-14; 1 John 5:5) (MacArthur).

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as through it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Rev 5:6-7 ESV). The imagery given of Christ like a slain lamb is powerful. In fact the word John uses for lamb “Arinion,” refers to a little lamb or a pet lamb, the type that would have been used for Passover (Ex 12:3-6). Although all sacrifices made in the Old Testament pointed toward Christ, He is directly called the lamb in Isaiah 53:7 (MacArthur). Therefore Jesus, the “Lamb” appears victorious, he had the marks of suffering still upon him, yet he conquered as the lamb used to satisfy the justice of God. He also appears with seven horns that testify to His great and perfect power (horns symbolizing power and the number seven representing perfection and completeness). Jesus is also seen with seven eyes that represent the seven spirits of God (Rev 1:4, 4:5), this phrase describes the Holy Spirit in all His fullness and perfection. Jesus Christ the Lamb, is then seen as an equal with God sharing in His omniscience and omnipotence, He therefore was the only one worthy to take the scroll of God.

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priest to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Rev 5:8-10 ESV). The scene that follows of Christ taking the scroll is amazing, the heavens erupt with praise for the Lamb. The Lamb was slain, His sacrifice was counted worthy to God and by His blood people from every place on earth were purchased for God. Now all people that were paid for by the blood of the Lamb have been be counted as priest for God, they are a kingdom and shall reign on the earth. This is the defeat of sin and Satan in its fullest form. Redemption was accomplished and God is glorified!

In conclusion this is a powerful passage that gives us a glimpse into heaven. It is full of messianic language and imagery and gives a clear picture of Jesus Christ and His worth and power. Other themes include the power of God, His holiness, and the Gospel is also clearly seen. Jesus’ work is done, He has defeated sin and its power forever!

– Aaron Smith, written 10 September 2014

Works Cited

MacArthur, John. MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Revelation 1-11. Chicago: Moody, 1999. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Thomas, Dr. Robert L. Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary . Chicago: Moody, 1992.

 

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