And 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; 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 or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered [overcome], so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Couple of quick notes. First, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Root of David remind us we are on Jewish ground. These titles have no application to the Gentile apart from recognizing the Lord's place as King of the Jews.
The Lord Jesus Christ is said here to be the "root of David." In 2 Timothy he is said to be the "seed of David." This reveals the duality of the Lord's Person. He is both man and God. As we've noted in other studies, when a Jew called to the Lord as "Son of David," he responded. When a Gentile does the same, he does not. He ignores her until she addresses him as "Lord."
The Lord is said to have "overcome." The Greek word is translated here in the RSV as "conquered," but it is the same word we have seen in the letters to the seven churches and in the judgments. Those who do "overcome" do so in the power of the Lord. Faithfulness and trust in him leads to the power to do what is righteous.
The scroll here reminds us of the parallel Book of Daniel. All of Daniel Chapter 12 should be read here if you are not familiar, but, for now, I will just quote a few relevant verses.
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people [Israel], will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people [Israel] — everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered... But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Well, the scroll here in the Revelation is about to have its seals broken and the information exposed. But, as with Daniel, we may not completely understand, but we'll do our best to glean what we can. Daniel didn't need to understand for it did not concern him directly, ("I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it"). But in the days to come, the remnant then will understand Daniel. the Revelation, and much more than we do today.
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; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 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 with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God
from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on earth.”
I don't dare, for a moment, risk taking away from the glory given to the Lamb here. The figure of the Lamb is different here in the Revelation than it is in John's Gospel. We see the crossover here in the Lamb who was slain, but we see a different Lamb as we progress. To the overcomer he is the Lamb on his throne, washing, comforting, shepherding. But to the wicked and rebellious, he is no longer the silent sacrifice.
- The Wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:6)
- And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:11)
- And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any one worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Rev 14:9-10)
- They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them (Rev 17:14)
The Lamb is connected to the Bride and the Heavenly City which comes down from heaven to the earth and to "the twelve apostles of the Lamb." These are all in a Jewish context.
The Book of Jude
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”`
Just a quick note to keep us connected to other scriptures. The one chapter Book of Jude (which is placed just before the Revelation in our Bibles) is prophetic and Jewish in nature as well. I only pull out a couple of verses from a very deep and fascinating book to help us. Jude deals with false teachers and has similar warnings to what we have seen in the Revelation in regard to the churches in Asia.
Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
All of Israel was saved, baptized (identified) unto Moses in the Red Sea, but were later destroyed. I feel compelled to quote all of 1 Corinthians 10 here. One of the consistent errors in Bible interpretation is applying ALL the warning passages to unbelievers. I cannot seem to make any headway on this topic despite the context of many of these passages is clear. Whether it is 1 Cor 6 or Galatians 5 or Ephesian 4 or Romans 8, 1 Peter, Christians refuse to see the possibility of Christians committing heinous sins to the point of living lifestyles of sin.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors [Jews] were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
-1 Corthinians 10
We cannot escape these warnings. There is no way to read these as for unbelievers. We do not face the testing of the coming Tribulation age, but we should read these examples and be sure our lives are worthy of reward. Our service should be pure (or maturing and as selfless as possible). We must be careful not just to think about sins of a physical nature. Sins of our attitude and desires are just as dangerous.
We should not be bound by the things of this world. We should be sober-minded. Paul warned that some, "have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" through the seeking of wealth. The penalty of sin (eternal death) was satisfied in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord, but we will all answer for our service and the deeds done in the flesh (Col 3).
I am in danger of going back to the Book of Jude and carrying on with this line of warning, but we have already seen these things in the warnings to the churches in the Revelation. Readers may become tired of my emphasis on this aspect of scripture. I'm will almost certainly mention it again, but I hope we've made our point and it won't be the central focus in coming studies/
Sodom and Righteous Lot
Before we leave Jude, please note the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, "the punishment of eternal fire." Is Sodom still burning? And of what is the Lord is his references to the future judgment of Sodom in the gospel accounts? Things to ponder.
Scripture refers to Lot as "righteous Lot" (2 Peter 2:7), yet all we know from Genesis is the man who chose to love in that city so he could make a profit ("Lot... pitched his tent towards Sodom"). We are tempted to follow here the Jewish Book of 2 Peter and its warnings, but we pull back to simply be reminded, Lot came out of Sodom, but lost everything. Lot's wife came out of Sodom, but still desired it in her heart and was turned into a pillar of salt.
The Lord himself points Israel to Lot's wife when he is asked about the coming Kingdom in Luke 17.
In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
In the Tribulation, as we have seen, those who give their lives for the Lord will be given special honor. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Etc.
We pause to note the admonition and warning here in Luke 17 regard to one's "life." The Greek word here is "psychḗ" translated "soul" 58 times elsewhere in the NKJV. Imagine the Lord telling people to "lose [their] souls" as it is commonly used in Christendom. I just insert this here for those interested in the topic of the SOUL.
Just a Final note on Daniel and Jude: both reflect the myriads of heavenly beings around the throne of God. We will be visiting Daniel 7 when we get to the Beasts of the Revelation, but here we have language very similar to our descriptions of Christ and his throne in the Revelation.
As I looked,
thrones were placed
and one that was ancient of days took his seat;
his raiment was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came forth from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
And finally, we tie this back to Paul's Acts Age epistles which reflect an expectation of the Tribulation and the return of the Lord to the earth, in the clouds, just as he left (as the angel promised in Acts 1:9-11).
Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering— since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
-2 Thess 4:4-12
Perfection is Maturity, Not Sinlessness
Here in Revelation 5 we are reminded that the Lamb has ransomed men for God by his blood!
There is a peace is knowing we have the free gift of life. We also know that the Lord understands we are but dust. It may appear that God is asking for unattainable purity of service and life, but a study of the great men and women of faith reveals that even these were flawed people. The Lord is looking for those who seek him and seek his will. He desires we move on towards maturity. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Fear and the flesh will drive us from God and the best he has for us. There were 12 spies sent into the land, yet only two came back trusting God. The other ten, and the nation that believed their testimony, all died in the wilderness. They were not sent back to Egypt, they remained redeemed, but they did not enter into full blessing. Be careful who you believe and why.
What is common in all ages to all companies is the call to be faithful and mature in the faith (be ye perfect). The gift of life is free, but that is not a license to sin or an excuse not to study. As we've noted many times, some will be "ashamed" and some will "suffer loss" when he appears.