Revelation 5:11-14 - COMMENTARY:
After receiving Jesus' instructions regarding the letters to the seven churches (chapters 2-3), John, "in the Spirit" (4:2), was called into the heavenly throne room (chapter 4). There he saw God on his throne-and twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones that surrounded God's throne-and four living creatures, odd creatures, with many eyes front and back, singing praises to God night and day. The twenty-four elders also fell before God's throne in worship and praise.
Chapter 5 began with the vision of a scroll "in the right hand of him who sat on the throne" (5:1). That scroll had writing on both sides, and was sealed with seven seals. John began to weep, because no one was worthy to break the seals-but one of the elders said, "Don't weep. Behold, the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome; he who opens the book and its seven seals." (5:5).
Then John saw a vision of "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth" (5:6). The Lamb took the scroll from God (5:7)-at which point the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb and sang a hymn of praise to the Lamb:
"You are worthy to take the book,
and to open its seals:
for you were killed,
and bought us for God with your blood,
out of every tribe, language, people, and nation,
and made us kings and priests to our God,
and we will reign on earth" (5:9-10).
At that point, our lectionary passage begins.
REVELATION 5:11-14. WORTHY IS THE LAMB WHO WAS SLAUGHTERED
11 I saw, and I heard something like a voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands (Greek: myriades) of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands; 12 saying with a loud voice,
"Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed (Greek: esphagmenon-from sphazo) to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!"
13 I heard every created thing which is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion, forever and ever! Amen!"
14 The four living creatures said, "Amen!" The elders fell down and worshiped.
"I saw, and I heard something like a voice (singular) of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders" (v. 11a). These many creatures surround God's throne. Even though there are many angels and four living creatures and twenty-four elders, they speak with one voice. This is a heavenly
choir, and no one is out of tune.
"and the number of them was ten thousands (myriades) of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice" (vv. 11b-12a). The book of Daniel tells of a vision of God in which "thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him" (Daniel 7:10). This vision of John appears to borrow from (or to allude to) that earlier vision.
These terms, "ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands," are not precise measures, but instead are to be understood as numbers beyond numbering. They are like our word "zillions," by which we mean "an indeterminately large number" (Webster's dictionary).
"Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed" (esphagmenon-from sphazo) (v. 12b). This is the song that the heavenly choir sings in praise of "the Lamb who has been killed." The Greek word sphazo is especially appropriate here, because it is the word used for slaughtering livestock-for the temple sacrifices. Jesus is the paschal lamb, sacrificed to save us from death and to atone for our sins.
"to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!" (v. 12c). Because of his willing sacrifice, the Lamb is worthy to receive these seven things. The fact that there are seven is probably not coincidental, because for Jews, seven was the perfect number, because God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3).
"I heard every created thing which is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them, saying" (v. 13a). This is quite a statement:
• "Every created thing which is in heaven" would include all the angelic host-and the twenty-four elders (4:4)-and the four living creatures (4:6).
• Every creature "on earth" would include humans and elephants and lions and birds and a host of other creatures-a real Noah's ark of creatures, but not two of each kind but all of every kind.
• Every creature "under the earth" would include earthworms and moles-quiet animals for the most part-but they somehow participate in this great chorus. Perhaps they are like the quieter instruments in an orchestra-a piccolo or a flute. They wouldn't contribute much volume to the sound, but we would miss them if they were silent.
• Every creature "in the sea" would include fish and whales and sharks and octopuses and sea urchins and oysters and thousands of other species. Once again, we tend to think of these as silent creatures. However, we have learned that whales have songs, and we have managed to record their beauty. We might someday learn the songs of the other sea creatures as well.
All of these creatures from all of these places will sing in chorus to honor the Lamb. While John doesn't comment on the beauty of the orchestration, surely God will insure that it is the loveliest chorus ever heard.
"To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion, forever and ever! Amen!" (v. 13b). This is the song that the host of creatures will sing. "Him who sits on the throne" is God the Father (4:3). The Lamb is God the Son.
Blessing, honor, glory, and might repeat four of the things given to the Lamb in verse 12-although the word that is translated might in verse 12 is dynamis (power, might), while the word that is translated might in verse 13 is kratos (power, dominion).
"The four living creatures said, 'Amen!'" (v. 14a). The "four living creatures" were first mentioned in chapter 4 (and will be mentioned a number of times in this book). They are "full of eyes before and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within. They have no rest day and night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!'" (4:6-8).
These four creatures pronounce the Amen, which signals agreement-which means "let it be so!"
"And the elders fell down and worshiped" (v. 14b). The twenty-four elders were first mentioned in 4:4. There they were seated on twenty-four thrones positioned around the throne of God. They were dressed in white robes and had golden crowns on their heads. It is hard to imagine a more elevated status than that which they enjoyed. Nevertheless, they fell down in a posture of reverence to worship "him who sits on the throne" (God the Father) and "the Lamb" (5:13)
Study Guide for Revelation 5 - The Lion, the Lamb, and the Scroll
A. One worthy to take the scroll.
1. (Rev 5:1) The throne and the scroll.
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
a. I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll: The focus of Revelation 4 was the throne. Here, John begins with reference to the throne, but now shifted his focus to the scroll held by the enthroned Lord.
b. Written inside and on the back: This means that this scroll was unusual. It wasn't common practice to write on both sides of the scroll. This means that whatever information was on this scroll, there was a lot of it - almost more than the scroll can contain.
i. Ancient scrolls were read horizontally, not vertically. The rolls of the scroll were on the left and the right, and the writing lay in narrow columns about three inches (8 centimeters) wide, written on a substance somewhat like brown paper. The scroll was held in the left hand, and unrolled with the right; as the reading went on, the previously read portion was re-rolled. On such a typical scroll, the Book of Revelation would fill a scroll 15 feet (4.5 meters) long.
c. Sealed with seven seals: When a roll was finished, it was fastened with strings and the strings were sealed with wax at the knots. This scroll was sealed with seven seals; there were seven strings around the scroll, each string sealed with wax.
i. These were not seven writings each separated by a seal; but seven seals all set upon one scroll. All the seals must be opened before the scroll could be read.
d. A scroll written: Through the centuries, commentators suggest many different ideas for what this scroll is, and what was written upon it. It's important to remember that whatever was on this scroll, no one except Jesus was (and is) worthy to open it (Revelation 5:3-4).
i. Some think the scroll was the Old Testament, or the Old and New Testaments together, or fulfilled prophecy. But these ideas look back, not forward, and John wrote of things related to things which must take place after this (Revelation 4:1). Additionally, if the scroll was the Old or New Testament, who is unworthy to open that scroll?
ii. Some think the scroll was God's claim of divorce against Israel, but there is little Scriptural evidence for this idea, and who is unworthy to open that scroll?
iii. Some think the scroll was God's sentence against the enemies of the church. Perhaps this is true, but only in an indirect sense; but who is unworthy to open that scroll?
iv. Some think the scroll was the text of the Book of Revelation, or the next few chapters. But this is rather unlikely considering how the idea of the scroll is communicated, and who would be unworthy to open that scroll?
v. Some think the scroll was the title deed to planet earth. This is an attractive idea, especially because the coming time of tribulation will end with Jesus ruling on earth. But it is hard to demonstrate this with certainty. The best connection in this idea seems to be with Jeremiah 32:6-15, which describes Jewish title deeds as sealed. But there is no doubt that the earth is the Lord's (Psalm 24:1), though the governments of this world belong in some sense to Satan (Luke 4:5-8). If God has to get the title deed back, when did God ever "lose" the title deed to planet earth? In fact, God holds this scroll - it isn't lost. But the scroll must be opened, it must be revealed.
e. A scroll written: The best solution is to see the scroll as "God's will, his final settlement of the affairs of the universe." (Barclay) This is based on the idea that customarily, under Roman law, wills were sealed with seven seals, each from a witness to the validity of the will.
i. "Roman law required a will to be sealed seven times as illustrated in the wills left by Augustus and Vespasian for their successors." (Walvoord)
ii. "The book may mean the purposes and designs of God relative to his government of the world and the Church; but we, whose habitation is in the dust, know nothing of such things. We are, however, determined to guess." (Clarke)
iii. "The seven sealed book therefore is the comprehensive program of God culminating in the second coming of Christ." (Walvoord)
iv. "The book of the counsels, decrees, and purposes of God relating to his church, as to what more remarkable things should happen to it to the end of the world; which book was in the hand of the Father." (Poole)
v. The idea here is that God has a book in which the history of the universe is already written. He has written the history of the world in advance, He holds in His hand the history of the world in advance, and He initiates the consummation of all history. Only God can hold this scroll.
f. In the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll: Remember the emphasis is not on the content of the scroll, but on its seals and the One who is worthy to take it.
2. (Rev 5:2-4) Who is worthy to open the scroll?
Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?" And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
a. A strong angel: We don't know who this angel is. Many have suggested that it is Gabriel, but we don't know. Nonetheless, this angel issued a challenge to all creation: Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals? This is a challenge no creature can answer because no creature is worthy to open this particular scroll.
b. No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it: John could not have said it any stronger. It was as if the strong angel looked through the entire universe to find someone worthy, and did not find anyone worthy to even look at the scroll.
i. There was no answer to the strong angel's challenge because the creation is utterly incapable of deciding or effecting its own destiny. Someone above the order of created beings must determine the course of history - only God can unfold this plan.
c. So I wept much: John wept either because a previous promise to see the future may now be denied (Revelation 4:1), or more likely, because the consummation of history would now indefinitely postponed.
d. No one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it: To look upon the scroll, one must have the right to open the scroll and possess it - and no creature was found worthy.
3. (Rev 5:5-7) The Lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy to open the scroll.
But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
a. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah: One of the elders (not an angel) rescued John from his grief, showing him the one who has prevailed to open the scroll. This One was the great figure of Old Testament prophecy: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, Messiah of Israel and of the Gentiles.
i. The Messianic title Lion of the tribe of Judah comes from Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 31:4, and Hosea 11:10. The title Root of David comes from Isaiah 11:10 and is repeated in Revelation 22:16.
ii. Trapp says that a Lion is a fitting image of our Messiah, "1. For the excellency of his strength. 2. For his heroical spirit. 3. For his principality; the lion is the king of beasts. 4. For his vigilancy; the lion sleepeth with open eyes."
b. And I looked, and behold... stood a Lamb: Because of the elder's announcement, John expected to see a Lion, but saw a Lamb instead. John even used the specific word for a little lamb; he "Signifies a little or delicate lamb." (Clarke)
i. The Lamb is presented in a way both sympathetic and powerful; He is living (stood a Lamb), but He still had the marks of previous sacrifice upon Him (as though it had been slain).
ii. When men want symbols of power they conjure up ferocious beasts and birds of prey such as those that represent nations and sports teams. But the representative of the kingdom of heaven is a Lamb, representing humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love.
iii. The Lamb looks as though it had been slain. It's hard to describe what John saw, but this Lamb had the marks of sacrifice on it. The coming judgment beginning in chapter six is dictated and administrated by the Lamb who already offered an escape from judgment by taking judgment upon Himself. The judgment will come upon a world that hates the Lamb and all He stands for, and rejects His offer of escape.
c. As it had been slain: The idea is that the sacrifice of Jesus is still fresh and current before God the Father. There is nothing stale or outworn in the work of Jesus on the cross. Thousands of years later, it is still fresh as the day He died on the cross.
i. "This form of speech is put to show the continual recent virtue of Christ's death eternally effectual before God, as whereby once for all he hath purchased eternal redemption." (Trapp)
ii. As it had been slain: "As if now in the act of being offered. This is very remarkable; so important is the sacrificial offering of Christ in the sight of God that he is still represented as being in the very act of pouring out his blood for the offences of man. This gives great advantage to faith; when any soul comes to the throne of grace, he finds a sacrifice there provided for him to offer to God. Thus all succeeding generations find they have the continual sacrifice ready, and the newly-shed blood to offer." (Clarke)
d. Having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth: Even though the marks of His sacrifice were evident, the Lamb was not presented as an object of pity. He also bore the marks of omnipotence (seven horns) and omniscience (seven eyes). What a figure! A slain Lamb, who has the marks of omniscience and omnipotence!
i. Throughout the Scriptures, eyes suggest knowledge and wisdom, and horns suggest power. This Lamb has knowledge, wisdom, and power fulfilled perfectly: seven horns and seven eyes.
ii. Which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth: The Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of God (in the sense of being the "Spirit of the Father"), but also the Spirit of Christ (see Acts 16:7 and Romans 8:9).
iii. The seven eyes of the Lord are a picture of omniscience drawn from the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:10 and 3:9).
e. Then He came and took the scroll: No created being was found worthy to take the scroll, but the Lamb can take it. His rank, character and ability to take the scroll and open it (and thus dictate the destiny of creation) has been permanently demonstrated by His work on the cross.
B. Praise to the Worthy One.
1. (Rev 5:8-10) The song of the elders and the cherubim.
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
a. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb: When the Lamb took the scroll, the response was immediate. High-ranking angels and redeemed man joined to worship the Lamb.
b. Each having a harp: The harp is "Properly, a zithern or kind of guitar, played either with the hand, or with a pick." (Alford) Worship in heaven is accompanied by music. As one might expect, this is the passage that started the idea that people in heaven will have harps.
c. And golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints: With their golden bowls full of incense, the elders symbolically presented the prayers of the saints. However, they did not intercede for the saints, functioning as mediators for God's people.
i. We are reminded that there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). These elders did not pray for the saints, and this in no way justifies the Roman Catholic practice of praying to the saints, asking them to pray for us.
ii. "It is also possible that these prayers represent the long-standing prayer of God's people, 'Your kingdom come.' " (Hocking)
iii. Golden bowls full of incense: In this we see how precious the prayers of the saints are to God. He regards them as a sweet smelling incense, as if set in precious golden bowls.
iv. The connection between prayer and incense is shown in Psalm 141:2: Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Incense has a pleasing aroma, it ascends to heaven, and it needs fire before it is of any use.
d. And they sang a new song: The elders sang a new song, for mercies that are forever new.
i. "By a new song is either to be understood as an excellent song (for new songs were usually most valued,) or (which pleaseth me best) new as to the matter of it; for the servants of God under the Old Testament could not bless God for the actual redemption of man by the blood of Christ, but only rejoice in hope, embracing the promises seen afar off by the eye of faith." (Poole)
ii. "It is a new thing that the Son of God should become man. It is a new thing to ascend into the heavens with a body. It is a new thing to give remission of sins to men. It is a new thing for men to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a new thing to receive the priesthood of sacred observance, and to look for a kingdom of unbounded promise." (Victorinus)
e. You are worthy: In the days of the Apostle John, Roman Emperors were celebrated upon their arrival with the Latin expression vere dignus, which is translated You are worthy. Here the true Ruler of the world is honored.
f. For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth: In the praise of Revelation 4:11, the emphasis was on God's work of creation. Here, the emphasis is on His work of redemption.
· The song honors the price of redemption: for You were slain
· The song honors the worker of redemption: have redeemed us
· The song honors the destination of redemption: have redeemed us to God
· The song honors the payment of redemption: by Your blood
· The song honors the scope of redemption: every tribe and tongue and people and nation
· The song honors the length of redemption: have made us kings and priests to our God
· The song honors the result of redemption: and we shall reign on the earth
g. Kings and priests to our God: Believers are kings because of their royal birth and their destiny to reign with Jesus. They are priests because they need no mediator other than Jesus Himself.
i. "When a fellow comes forward in all sorts of curious garments, and says he is a priest, the poorest child of God may say, 'Stand away, and don't interfere with my office: I am a priest; I know not what you may be. You surely must be a priest of Baal, for the only mention of the word vestments in Scripture is in connection with the temple of Baal.' The priesthood belongs to all the saints." (Spurgeon)
2. (Rev 5:11-12) Countless angels join in, declaring the worthiness of the Lamb because of the redemption He accomplished.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
a. I heard the voice of many angels around the throne: The angels and the elders fell down before the Lamb together (Revelation 5:8). Yet it seems that only the elders sang the song of the redeemed (Revelation 5:9-10), because in no place does the Bible tell us of the redemption of angels. Then, the voice of many angels around the throne rose up with the praise of the Great Redeemer.
i. In Revelation 4:9-10, the angels prompted the elders into worship. Here, the elders seem to prompt the angels. It is a wonderful cycle in heaven, with the angels and elders encouraging each other to more and more praise.
b. The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: This is an innumerable company of angels.
c. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain: In their song, the angels did not offer praise for their redemption. This is because angels are not (to the best of our knowledge) subjects of this redemption but they are careful observers of it, and are therefore able to praise God because of it (1 Peter 1:12 and Ephesians 3:10).
i. The angels can clearly see the greatness of God's work in redeeming fallen men, so in response they credit power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing to the Lamb. In the same way, we can praise God for the way He works in the lives of other people.
3. (Rev 5:13-14) All creation praises the Father and the Lamb.
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, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
a. Every creature: John couldn't be any more complete in his description. Truly, this is every creature - in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them.
b. Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb: This combined worship of the Father and the Lamb is strong testimony to the deity of Jesus. "There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Lamb is to be reckoned with God and as God." (L. Morris)
i. "Now if Jesus Christ were not properly God this would be idolatry, as it would be giving to the creature what belongs to the Creator." (Clarke)
ii. "Depend upon it, my hearer, you never will go to heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God. They are all doing it there: you will have to come to it, and if you entertain the notion that he is a mere man, or that he is anything less than God, I am afraid you will have to begin at the beginning and learn what true religion means. You have a poor foundation to rest upon. I could not trust my soul with a mere man, or believe in an atonement made by a mere man: I must see God himself putting his hand to so gigantic a work." (Spurgeon)
c. Fell down and worshipped Him: The ancient Greek word for worshipped is literally "to prostrate" or "to lay before another in complete submission." The scene may be that the elders fell down to their knees, then laid themselves before Him who lives forever and ever as an expression of their total submission and worship.
i. "This is the eastern method of adoration: first, the person worshipping fell down on his knees; and then, bowing down touched the earth with his forehead. This latter act was prostration." (Clarke)
d. Forever and ever... worshipped Him who lives forever and ever: The living God reigns eternally. The Caesars come and go, including those who persecute God's people. But the Lord God lives forever and ever and is ever worthy of our praise.
Krell - Bible.org - Rev. 5:1-14 Commentary
We are studying the book of Revelation. Today we are in Revelation 5:1-14. In both chapters 4 and 5, the scene is in heaven. In chapter 4 we experienced the worship of God the Father. In chapter 5 we will experience the worship of Jesus Christ. These two chapters provide us a keyhole glimpse of what will be going on in heaven before God pours out His judgments on the earth (Rev 6-18).2
1. God is in complete control of the future (5:1-4). John records, "I saw3 in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up4 with seven seals." Chapter 4 began by focusing our attention upon a throne; chapter 5 begins by drawing our attention to a scroll. In God the Father's right hand John saw a book (lit. a "scroll").5 What more profound way of picturing God's ultimate sovereignty over all history could be found than this picture of the scroll resting in His hand?6 However strong evil becomes, however fierce be the satanic evils that assail God's people on earth, history still rests in God's hand.
God's "right hand" refers to His authority to translate the contents of this scroll into action. This scroll is the focus of John's attention in this chapter, and it is what Jesus Christ opens in chapter 6, resulting in the judgments that will come upon the earth. The scroll contains the detailed plans and purposes of God for subduing the enemies of Christ and establishing His reign upon the earth.7 This scroll is so full of words that John could see writing on the inside as well as the outside of the scroll (cf. Ezek 2:10).8 Writing on both sides indicates the detailed and important nature of the judgments. It also emphasizes their ability to accomplish the purposes of God. Someone, probably God, had sealed it with seven seals, suggesting the profound nature of the revelation it contained. It may represent the book of prophecies God instructed Daniel to seal until the end times (Dan 12:4, 9). The perfect number of seals ("seven") may also hint at the absolute sacredness of the scroll. The seals inform us that while this plan has been settled in the eternal counsels of God, it has been concealed and only one, who is duly authorized, may open it to read and execute it. The period of grace and God's long-suffering has now come to an end.
John is mesmerized by God the Father and the scroll in His right hand, when he sees a "strong angel9 proclaiming with a loud voice,10 'Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?' And11 no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it" (5:2-3). This unnamed, strong angel asks the question of the ages: "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to open the scroll and by breaking its seals to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Any prophet could have revealed this information but it took someone with adequate power to execute the events foretold, as well as to reveal and bring them to pass. This strong angel goes on a universal search and discovers that no angel, no created being (cf. Phil 2:10), no human being, no creature, no spirit, and no one can open the scroll.
This futile search almost crushed John's heart! He dissolved emotionally. The future of the world seemed too bleak to face.12 So in 5:4, John acknowledges, "Then I began to weep greatly13 because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it." John's continual weeping reflected his sorrow that God's future kingdom and final judgment appear to be indefinitely postponed because no one had sufficient authority to open the scroll.14 Did this mean that the wrongs of earth would not be dealt with? Does this mean that the righteous will never be vindicated and that the wicked will go unpunished? John understood that if God's purposes fail, then all of life is meaningless. If no one can open the scroll, none of God's purposes will come to pass. The sad truth is: without Christ there will be only weeping.
2. Jesus Christ will carry out God's final purposes on earth (5:5-7). Yet, suddenly in 5:5, one of the elders said to John, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." One of the 24 elders comforted John with the news that Jesus Christ would open the scroll (cf. Luke 7:13; 8:52). He had achieved victory over all God's enemies and therefore had the authority to open the scroll and to release its contents. The "Lion that is from the tribe of Judah" and the "Root of David" are Old Testament titles of the Messiah who would fulfill the promises of salvation and would rule.15 The tribe of Judah was the tribe of David from which the kingly line proceeded (Gen 49:9-10). It was this tribe that the promise was given of a Son whose throne and kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam 7:13, 16). The title "the Root of David" means the Messiah would come through the lineage of David as a greater son of David (Luke 1:32-33).16 He who came after David as the offspring of David was also before him as the root (Rev 22:16). As God's ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority necessary for this task. He overcame Satan, sin, and death so He could implement God's purposes for the future that this scroll revealed. Only Christ can carry out God's final purposes on earth.
Eagerly, John turns his head to see this Lion-King. But the apostle is not prepared for what he sees. Expecting to see a kingly Lion, the apostle sees something totally different: John saw "between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb17 standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth" (5:6). Notice four things in 5:6.
First, John sees the Messiah as a "Lamb."18 The "Lamb"19 is a symbol of Jesus Christ at His first advent, meek and submissive to a sacrificial death as our substitute (Isa 53:7; John 1:36; 21:15).20 The Lion is a symbol of Jesus at His second coming, powerful and aggressively judging the world in righteousness (Ps 2).21 John saw the Lamb, now in the center of all the creatures and elders gathered around the throne, as the central character and most important personage in the entire heavenly scene (cf. Rev 3:21; 4:6; 7:17).22
Second, the Lamb had been slain. The word "slain"23 means to cut up and mutilate an animal sacrifice. It speaks of a violent, bloody sacrifice. It describes the gory crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thorns pierced His skull. A whip lacerated His back. Fists bruised His face. Nails gouged His hands. A spear tore His side. Blood and water came gushing out.24 Christ paid the ultimate price for mankind.
Third, the Lamb is "standing." This slain Lamb, who was violently slaughtered and put to death, is now actually standing! Having been killed, He is alive again, and He is standing in the innermost circle next to the throne.
Fourth, the Lamb is awesome with His seven horns and seven eyes. The number seven represents the fullness of Christ's power in defeating His foes. The horn is a biblical symbol for power and authority.25
The seven eyes represent the fullness of Christ's divine wisdom and discernment (Zech 4:10). His eyes are the seven Spirits of God (i.e., the seven manifestations of the Spirit) that communicate to Christ all that transpires (Isa 11:2-4).26 The Lamb is all-knowing as well as all-powerful. This is one Lamb who can't have the wool pulled over His eyes! There is no more dreadful thought than to have to face the "Lion" in judgment because you have rejected the "Lamb." The purpose of the Lord's first coming was gracious. He came to "seek and to save those who are lost" (Luke 19:10). But the purpose of His second coming is different. Then He comes to deal with His enemies and to fulfill His promises of blessing to His own. Do not reject the grace of God, my friend. There comes a time when all men must deal with the "Lion," either as the One for whom we have watched and worked and prayed or the One whom we have rejected.
Now in one dramatic moment, Jesus Christ, the Lion-Lamb, boldly approaches the throne of God. In 5:7, Jesus exercises His sovereignty27 by coming and taking the scroll out of the Father's right hand. This symbolizes a transfer of authority from the Father to the Son to reveal the future and to execute judgment.
What we have in Revelation 5 is a vision of Christ (5:1-7) and the expanding, concentric circles of His worship in heaven. First, we see the worship of Jesus Christ in heaven by those immediately around the throne (5:8-10); then we see worship throughout all heaven (5:11-12); finally, we see worship throughout the entire universe (5:13-14). Like a "wave" at a football game, it spreads to all creation.28
3. Jesus Christ is worthy of overwhelming praise (5:8-14). In 5:8, John writes, "When He [Jesus] had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." This transfer resulted in an outpouring of praise for the Lamb because it signaled that Christ would begin judging (Rev 6-18). While the four living creatures and 24 elders prostrated themselves in worship, only the elders had harps and bowls.29 They used the harps to praise God in song (Ps 33:2; 98:5).30 Throughout the Bible, the harp is an instrument of joy and gladness. In fact, the harp is used in Scripture more than any other instrument to praise God (Ps 71:22). All types of instruments will be used in heaven to worship God. Here on earth, we must do the same (Ps 150:3-6).
John explained that the bowls contained the prayers of God's people that are as the fragrant aroma of burning incense to Him (cf. Ps 141:2; Luke 1:10). In the Old Testament the offering of incense was a priestly duty (Num 16:6-7) so these angels were functioning in a priestly capacity.31 The prayers offered are probably all those unanswered petitions that people have prayed asking God to judge unrighteousness, including, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven" (cf. 5:10; 6:10; 8:3-5; Matt 6:10; Luke 18:7-8).32 These prayers are the pleadings of saints already in heaven, requesting God to make right every wrong on the earth. These prayers are petitions offered to God to vindicate His name on the earth by pouring out His judgments upon an unbelieving world. Remember, saints in heaven are glorified-they are perfected in the image of Christ. We will be without any sin. Therefore, these prayers are perfect petitions offered by perfected people in a perfect place.33
In 5:9-10, John goes on to record that "they sang a new34 song,35 saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased36 for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.37 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.'" As a result of the Lamb's authority from God to advance God's plan of the ages, the living creatures and elders sang a "new song"38 (cf. Rev 14:3). This song represents new praise for deliverance about to take place.39 In this song the Lamb receives honor as being worthy in view of four things. The first is His death. He was "slain."
The second reason the Lamb is worthy is because He "purchased" (redemption) for God, by His death, people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This represents divisions of humanity based on lineage, language, race, and political orientation.40 Together these terms describe the universal nature of Christ's people. It is important to note that this, however, does not teach universalism. Every person will not ultimately be saved. But people "from" every people group will be in heaven. How will people from groups that never heard the Gospel be in heaven? First, Jesus said that the Gospel will be preached to all the world by the end of the age (Matt 24:14). This includes all people groups who will eventually be reached for Christ (cf. Rev 14:2-3; 15:2-4). This assurance should motivate us as a church and as individuals to fulfill our responsibility for world evangelization. Second, I believe that those who die an early death-babies, infants, fetuses aborted-go into the presence of God. Every people group experiences these untimely tragedies and will populate heaven.41
Third, the death of Christ not only saved men, it also made them priests and kings so that they would share in His kingdom (cf. 1 Pet 2:5, 9). Priesthood involves immediate access into God's presence for praise and worship as well as the privilege of priestly service. The fourth is the blessing of His people by allowing them to rule on the earth (during the millennium).42 This is man's ultimate end; he will worship God by fulfilling God's ordained responsibilities on a new earth, for all eternity.
The company of worshippers expands to include all the angels of heaven. A second choir of worshippers joins now with the first choir and all heaven breaks loose! In 5:11-12, John writes, "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud43 voice,44 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain45 to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'" An innumerable host of angels now joins the four creatures and 24 elders in ascribing worth to the Lamb (cf. Dan 7:10; Ps 68:17-18; Matt 2:13). The Greek word for "myriad" (miros) means 10,000.46 "Myriad of myriad" would mean 10,000 times 10,000. That's 100 million! But this is in the plural-"myriads of myriads"-meaning hundreds of millions times hundreds of millions. The number is easily in the billions. But then John records that there are still "thousands of thousands" in addition to the billions. One thousand times one thousand is one million. But again, this is in the plural ("thousands of thousands"). So there are multiplied millions spilling over the billions of worshippers already counted. This staggering number exceeds the limits of human language and our ability to comprehend.47 Multiplied billions are in this heavenly choir worshipping in heaven.
In 5:12, the angels use seven expressions (the perfect number is probably significant) to indicate the wonder of the Lamb.48 The repetition of "and" (kai) between each quality brings special emphasis to each one individually. These characteristics of which Jesus is worthy (power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing) are things that He already possesses in heaven. Therefore, the song of praise, which the angels are singing, implies that He is worthy to break the seals and to open the scroll (that is to commence the period of the great tribulation) in order to gain these on earth, even as He already possesses them in heaven. As I understand this song it is earthly power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing which our Lord is worthy to receive. The events of chapters 6-19 actually bring these to pass.49
(1) He is worthy to "receive power." Power (dunamis) is mentioned first perhaps because the immediate situation calls for the need of great power to accomplish His purposes in the earth. He alone, as the perfect God-man Savior, is worthy of such power for He alone will and can use it with perfect justice and equity (Isa 11).
(2) "And riches" (ploutos) refers to the wealth of the universe. All this is His by creation and now by redemption and reclamation.
(3) "And wisdom" (sophia) refers to the Lord's omniscience and its wise use in carrying out the purposes of God in the world.
(4) "And might" (ischuos) refers to working might or power in action and stresses His omnipotence to carry out God's will.
(5) "And honor" (time) refers to the esteem, the value and respect which is due to Christ because of who He is and what He has and will accomplish to the glory of God, and the benefit of the world. He deserves public distinction.
(6) "And glory" (doxa) refers to the tribute and public display of adoration that should accrue to Christ, and again this stems from His person and work, both past, present, and future.
(7) "And blessing" (eulogia) refers to the praise that should be given to the Lord because of His wonderful acts of redemption and reclamation.
Our passage closes with universal praise to the Father and the Son (5:13-14). John writes, "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion50 forever and ever.' And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshiped." In this vision John "heard" "every created thing" giving praise to God and to the Lamb. The crescendo to this symphony of praise is all creation, everywhere and everything worships the Father and the Son. The stones, the birds, the animals, and the fish finally cry out-all creation had been groaning under the futility of the curse, now they know that they are about to be set free (Rom 8:18-23).51
In Revelation 4 and 5, the sequence of praise shows that the first two are addressed to God, the next two, to the Lamb, and the last one to both.52 It is God who is praised as the Creator, in Revelation 4 (4:11). It is the Son who is praised in Revelation 5, as the Reconciler of creation (Col 1:20). Thus, every living creature praises both Father and Son. God the Father and God the Son are both equally to be worshipped forever and ever.53 One of the weaknesses today is that many people want to worship "God" but they don't want to worship Jesus. Yet, the Father has said that there is no life apart from Jesus (John 3:35-36).
Our passage concludes as the worship culminates in John's vision with the four creatures saying "Amen" repeatedly, after the vast crowd fell silent. The elders are then seen worshipping by prostrating themselves before God's throne (cf. 4:10).
A boy once captured two little birds and put them in a cage. A man saw the boy carrying the cage and asked him what he was going to do with the birds. "Oh," the boy replied, "I'm going to play with them for a while and then feed them to my cat." The man looked at the caged birds and took pity on them. "Say, I'd like to buy the cage and the birds from you. How much do you want for them?" The boy thought for a minute and then named his price. The man paid it and the boy handed over the cage, after which the man immediately opened the cage and set the birds free.
That's what Jesus did for us. Satan had us caged and was going to feed us into the jaws of eternal death. But Jesus Christ purchased us, cage and all, and set us free. We're going to be worshipping Him for all eternity because He paid that price. We need to start practicing our worship down here because He alone is worthy.54