Have you ever seen something so strange you had to get somebody else to verify what you were seeing? In Revelation chapter 5, there’s so much happening here and at first reading this I’m like what in the world is going on here. There are angels, scrolls, beasts, a lion, a lamb, and elders all packed into 14 verses. I could spend several hours talking with you about this and everything in it. Obviously, I can't, so over the next couple of minutes, let’s look at three key areas.
First, there is a scroll and it’s obvious it’s extremely important because everyone’s attention is on it; however, no one can open it. Revelation 5:3 says, “But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.” What is it? Why is it so important? What is its message? I don’t know about you but I’m wondering where this scroll came from. To answer that, we must look back to Daniel 12:4 which says, “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” The archangel Michael speaking to Daniel tells him to keep this sealed up until it’s time for it to be revealed.
Now, in Revelation, John sees that time for it to be opened. In ancient times, emperors and kings would melt wax onto paper then press their signet ring into the wax leaving their mark and showing their full authority behind the seal. Now, this is extremely important because this seal meant the authority to open it belonged to the one who sealed it. Even the angels did not know what was written in it. The seal protected the contents of the scroll or letter from being tampered with. Now, as we read in Daniel’s verse, he was given a glimpse but was not allowed to share it. Fast forward to John’s vision, he is seeing the time for it to be opened and shared. However, the person of authority, the one who sealed it, is not to be found. John feels the pressure and the hopelessness so much he begins to uncontrollably weep. Now, as for the scroll itself, we’re not told what it actually is, but many Biblical scholars believe it is the title deed to the Earth and all its inhabitants. However, others see it as God’s righteous judgment on the Earth.
So, at this point, what do we know about how the scroll can be opened? There are qualifications and qualities required of the one who can open it. Who meets the qualifications to execute judgment on the Earth? John 5:22 says, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” And Acts 17:31 says, “Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Jesus is the one who has this divine authority. He already conquered death and the grave and even experienced God’s judgment firsthand. No one else can perform this role.
The next area to consider is John and his heartbreak of seeing this unfold. The Bible says John “weeped bitterly”. Another way to think about this is desperately, severely, or inconsolably. Have you ever experienced this amount of sobbing? This is how John felt because no one was found worthy to open the scroll. Verse 3 says, “But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.” This description indicates no one inside or outside the universe or our realm of time and space had the ability to open the scroll. John felt the hopelessness of this situation and was utterly dismayed. Not only for the opening of the scroll, but he wants to know more about what’s inside it. He has a hunger to know about the mysteries of God.
How do you approach God’s word? Do you thirst and hunger to know more about Him? To be in His presence outside of Sunday service and study His word on your own? Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” This is an assurance from Jesus that for those who desire more of God, they can certainly have all they want.
The final area I want to consider is that of the 2 figures in John’s vision. A lion and a lamb. Verse 5 shows one of the 24 elders pointing out to John “…the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” In the Old Testament, God compares Himself to a lion a couple of times. Hosea 11:10 says, “He shall roar like a lion”, Hosea 5:14 “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah.” And Joel 3:16, “The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem;…” A lion is fierce and I certainly wouldn’t want to meet one in the wild. A lion is also known as a king and, therefore, Jesus is our King because He is the Conquering Lion and is truly worthy to open the seals from God.
In comparison, verse 6 begins talking about a slain lamb approaching to take the scroll. Now, a lamb is quite a peaceful animal; harmless and virtually non-aggressive. Yet, here is a Lamb……and it’s standing. Not only is it standing but standing in the center. Now this lamb is described as having seven horns, symbolizing power, and authority (Daniel 7:24; Zechariah 1:18), and seven eyes showing he sees everything and possesses all wisdom and understanding. This includes the sevenfold spirit or characteristics which are Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).
Now, Jesus many times has been referred to as a Lion and a Lamb and verses 5 and 6 shows us again how Jesus is a Lion, a King, mighty and full of strength and power, yet he put all that aside and became a Lamb for you and for me. Isaiah 53:7 “…He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” And 1 Peter 1:19 “It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
Chapter 5 goes on to describe how everyone everywhere in this scene worshiped the lamb because He and only He is worthy to open the scroll. He is the only one with the authority to do so and this audience rejoices in this fact. John, in verse 11, sees millions of angels singing praises to Him. And then in verse 13 John sees all creatures, everywhere in, on, under the Earth worshiping and praising Jesus.
As we close our time together, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. Revelation is a message of hope and regardless of what presumptions you may have, the enemy doesn’t want you to read this book because it shows his defeat. God will restore His will on earth and resolve the mess of humanity. A vast majority believe man will bring the golden age to this planet. It will never happen. Revelation shows us the culmination of all scripture and helps us see the only hope is in God. Throughout the existence of time, humanity put their hope in other humans. Old Testament Kings, Roman Caesars, British Kings, American Presidents just to name a few. We weep just like John if we depend on mankind. No leader in the world has a clue as to how to solve the great problems of the Earth.
God’s solution to the problems of the earth revolves around a Lion who submits to death. C. S. Lewis wrote his Narnia Chronicles around this idea. Redemption of creation takes place by Jesus’ death for man. Creation revolves around Him. The Lamb of God extends His grace to all who accept it. We need to beware because this Lamb is also a Lion who will judge this earth. The scroll is God’s judgments on this Earth. Jesus is the only one worthy and with all authority to open the scroll and execute these judgements.
Revelation is the revealing of Jesus Christ, and my prayer for you is God provides you insight as we progress through this book. I challenge you this week to take a personal inventory and ask yourself this question, “What is one specific way I can worship the only one worthy to open the sealed scroll and give Him glory?”