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. And I saw a mighty 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 began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 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.”
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 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 priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
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!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Understanding And Applying the Text
John was watching what happened in God’s throne room. There he saw in the right hand of the Father a scroll. The scroll had seven seals sealing it. It had writing on both sides. We know no one had opened because the seven seals sealed it. Plus no one was worthy to open it.
This may have been the scroll Daniel recorded in his vision. The angel told Daniel to seal it up until the end of time. (Daniel 12:4) If that is true, Daniel’s prophesy came true in John’s lifetime. The unsealing of the book implies the accomplishment of what God promised.
How should we understand the judgments? They are not like a judge’s proclamation on criminals. It is a King rendering judgments to extend His government. These are declarations of a King. They establish the will of the King.
But first, they needed to find one who was worthy. Only the one who was worthy could break the seals. The only one worthy was the Lion of Judah. That is the central theme of chapter five, Jesus’ worthiness. Only Jesus is worthy.
John heard the angel shout, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” No one was worthy. No one was worthy in heaven or earth. There was no creature worthy. No angel was worthy. No man was worthy. It appeared as if the scroll would remain sealed forever.
John broke down and cried. He not only cried, he wailed. But one of the elders consoled him. The elder told him not to cry. There was one who could open the scroll. There was one who was worthy. The Lion of Judah, the root of David was worthy. This was an appeal to some of the greatest promises of the Old Testament.
Who will be the Messiah? He will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah. A lion is strong and powerful. A lion conquers. There was also the image of David, a ruler. This was a wise and just ruler. This had to excite John.
John looked up and what did he see? He did not see a lion. He saw a lamb. A lamb! Are you serious? A lamb? It was a lamb that looked like someone had slain it. The Jews sacrificed Lambs by cutting their throats. So John saw a lamb with its throat cut. This had to be a shock. He expected a lion and he saw a lamb with its throat cut.
Lambs are gentle and harmless. Not only that but this Lamb looked like someone had cut its throat. It should be dead. But this Lamb was the Lion of Judah. Lions are dangerous. They are hunters. They kill and devour their prey. They eat lambs. But this Lamb was the Lion of Judah.
Is that not the way it is with us? We expect God to intervene with strength, with thunder and lightening. We expect a great demonstration of God’s power. Instead, He comes as a gentle lamb. Not only a lamb but a lamb with its throat cut.
The only one worthy was the slain Lamb. The Lamb with its throat cut was the Lion of Judah. The slain Lamb represents Jesus Christ. This is a metaphor. It is a mixed metaphor. What a mixed metaphor! There are many who claim to take Revelation literally. They ignore what the book itself claims. Revelation is a book of symbols, representations, and metaphors. You cannot take Revelation literally and remain true to the author’s intent. To take this passage literally a dead lamb is the worthy one. A dead lamb walked up to someone on the throne. It took a scroll from one on the throne’s hand. That of course is not what John is trying to communicate. A Jesus and only Jesus is worthy.
We like to think of Jesus as meek and mild. Strength is not where we expect it to be. This is one of the most powerful pictures and messages in the book. Jesus is the Lamb slain. Lambs are innocent. Slain lambs are very safe. But He is also the Lion. He conquered and conquers through His death. He is the Lion. Lions are not safe. He is holy. He and He alone is worthy.
Jesus alone is the one who is worthy to reveal the future. The Father finds Jesus alone worthy to release God’s judgment.
Jesus is the fierce Lion of the tribe of Judah. He wars against God’s enemies (17:14; 19:11-21) He is also the gentle Lamb. A Lamb that was slain. A Lamb purchased His people with His blood (v 9.10). Do you see the trinitarian reference? The Father sits on the throne (v 1,7) The Son takes the scroll from the hand of the Father. (v 6,7) The Spirit of God is the horns and eyes of the Lamb. (v 6).
This lamb has power. It has seven horns. Horns are always a sign of power in the Bible. The Lamb has seven eyes. He sees everything. He has the seven spirits of God. Remember the significance of the number seven. In Judaism seven typifies the covenant of holiness and sanctification. It represents all that is holy and sanctifying in purpose. God is holy.
The four creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down and worship. This shows the deity of Christ. He worshiped the Lamb. We are only to worship God. The Lamb was being worshiped as they worshiped God the Father in chapter four. John saw the Lamb came from among the elders. This shows Christ’s humanity.
Each of the elders held a harp and a golden bowl of incense. This incense was the prayers of the saints. The prayers of the saints are pleasing to God. They are a pleasant aroma. Are your prayers a pleasant aroma to God? Or are your prayers one long continuous self absorb petition? “Lord help me with this.” “Lord be with me today.” “Lord help me pass this test, get this job, solve this problem, find my keys.” I fear my prayers are not a pleasant aroma but a stench. My prayers tend to be self-centered and selfish. So often we are at the center of our prayer, not God. When we pray. We must remember who we are and who God is. We must remember our role.
After the creatures and elders fell down in worship they sang a new song. “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 priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (v9-10)
Christ was worthy. He ransomed people for God. His ransoming His people did not make Him worthy. His ransoming was a demonstration of His worthiness. He was always worthy. He did not become worthy. He only demonstrated his worthiness.
The song sung by the creatures and elders was a new song. This song is a summary of redemption. Redemption applies to every people, language, and nation. It did not apply only to the Jews. It applied across the entire planet. It applied to Jews and Gentiles. He made and makes them a kingdom. There are not two kingdoms. There is not a Jewish kingdom and a Gentile kingdom. He made them one kingdom.
Gentiles did not replace the Jews. God brought the Gentiles into the kingdom. There is no discrimination. We are all priests before God. And we will reign on earth. Our hope is not to go to heaven. Our hope is a new heaven and a new earth And in the new earth, we dwell in righteousness.
Our hope is not the redemption of the soul alone. It is also the resurrection of the body. Verses 9-10 underscores that point. We will not remain disembodied soul for eternity. We will not be floating of clouds. We look to the resurrection of the body. And we will reign on earth.