Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 5 - The Lion, the Lamb & the Scroll
by I Gordon
- The mysterious scroll (what does it mean?)
- The greatest anguish (what made John weep greatly?)
- The awesome redeemer (why is He a a lamb and a lion?)
- The eternal song (will you be singing it?)
- The everlasting honor (will you be giving it?)
And it all starts and revolves around a somewhat mysterious scroll.
- The One on the throne: This pictures God the Father who is upon His throne. He holds this scroll in His right hand but, as we shall see, is looking for One with the right to open it.
- The scroll: Being in the Father's right hand, this scroll is obviously very important but why? The Old Testament, in Jeremiah 32:6-15, gives helpful background on understanding its significance. I encourage you to read that passage but here is the executive summary: Jeremiah had previously prophesied that Judah was going to be destroyed by the Babylonians. The king of Judah enjoyed this prophecy so much he had Jeremiah jailed. While in prison, Jeremiah's cousin visits him and says 'Jerry, Jerry, Jerry... boy have I got a deal for you! I have a fantastic property, low maintenance, all day sun, olive trees, juicy figs... it's got it all Jerry. For this week only I've got a super sale going on and have discounted it by three whole shekels! You heard that right - three shekels off! You are a close relative Jerry... you have the right to buy it. Come on, what do you say?' Now it's fair to say that this was not exactly the time to be buying real estate. Firstly Jeremiah was in prison. Secondly the Babylonians were coming and the land would soon be worthless. Thirdly Jeremiah knows that he will soon be exiled and likely never come back to Israel. So what does God say? "Buy it Jeremiah!" And so though Jeremiah knew all that was about to occur, in obedience to God he purchased the property as a sign to all that God would be faithful and one day bring the Jews back to their land. Now this is where it becomes very relevant to Revelation 5. When Jeremiah paid the price for the land, a scroll was written and it was sealed up. This was the title deed to the property. Normally on the inside was written what the purchaser had redeemed - that is, what they would take possession of. On the outside were the conditions that were to be meet to take possession. Now this document was very important because it proved who the rightful owner of the land was. So given that the Babylonians were about to invade, Jeremiah placed the scroll, this title deed for the property, in an earthenware jar so it would be protected and last a long time. According to Jeremiah's prophecy about the exile, it would have to last 70 yeas (Jer 29:10) and while he knew that he would never take possession of the land, this scroll would allow a close relative of his to one day take possession of this land.
- The seven seals: The scroll in the Father's right hand had seven seals. There is a contextual reference in the seven seals. Seven is obviously very prominent in the book of Revelation and speaks of perfect completion. The seven seals also would have been recognized by John's readers within the Roman world. John MacArthur writes concerning the scroll:
"Romans sealed their wills seven times—on the edge at each roll—to prevent unauthorized entry. Hebrew title deeds required a minimum of three witnesses and three separate seals, with more important transactions requiring more witnesses and seals."
So to sum up the picture before us in this first verse:
- The scroll in the right hand of God the Father is a title deed to this earth.1
- It is sealed with the perfect number of seven seals which once broken, will reveal the conditions for the rightful owner to take possession of this planet.
- But the question before us is who has the ability and right to take and open this scroll? Is there someone that can take possession of, and rule, this earth?
- 'Michael, mighty archangel, what about you? Will you step forward?' 'I cannot. This earth was given to man, lost by man and man must redeem it'.
- 'Adam , Son of God, what about you? Will you open the scroll?' 'I'm sorry, I failed. I followed the lie and started this whole mess. I lost my rights.'
- 'Abraham , father of Israel, will you redeem this land?' 'I can't... I couldn't even wait for God to bring about His promise and produced an Ishmael causing centuries of conflict... I'm sorry.'
- 'Moses , Oh great deliverer, can you deliver here?' 'I wish... But I was angry, disobeyed God in my anger and struck the rock. I wasn't even allowed into the Promised Land. I cannot redeem. I needed redemption myself.'
- 'David , Oh great and mighty king, what about you?' 'Um, one word - Bathsheba. It is true what I wrote 'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. I cannot.'
- 'Paul , great Apostle and leader of the church, can you lead us out of this situation?' 'No. I spent the early part of my life persecuting and putting God's people to death. It is true what I wrote that I am the greatest of sinners.'
tears] represent the tears of all God’s people through all the centuries. Those tears of the
Apostle John are the tears of
Eve, driven out of the
Garden of Eden, as they bowed over the first grave, as they watered the dust of the ground with their tears over the silent, still form of their son, Abel. Those are the tears of the
Israel in bondage as they cried unto God in their affliction and slavery. They are the tears of God’s
elect through the centuries as they cried unto
heaven. They are the sobs and tears that have been wrung from the heart and
soul of God’s people as they looked on their silent
dead, as they stand beside their open graves, as they experience in the
trials and sufferings of life, heartaches and disappointments indescribable. Such is the
curse that sin has laid upon God’s beautiful
creation; and this is the damnation of the hand of him who holds it, that usurper, that interloper, that intruder, that alien, that stranger, that
serpent, that Satan-devil. ‘And I wept audibly,’ for the failure to find a Redeemer meant that this earth in its curse is consigned forever to death. It meant that death, sin, damnation and
reign forever and ever and the
sovereignty of God’s earth should remain forever in the hands of Satan.
W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation
"In Revelation our Lord is presented both as Lamb and Lion. As the Lamb of God, He is the sacrificial One, bearing away the sins of the world. As the Lion, He is the Judge, punishing His enemies. At His First Coming, He was the Lamb. At His Second Coming, He will be the Lion. The Lamb had seven horns (omnipotence) and seven eyes (omniscience). His possession of the seven Spirits of God reminds us that the Lord Jesus was endued with the full measure of the Holy Spirit (Joh 3:34 b). The seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth suggest omnipresence."
Believers Bible Commentary
This prophecy showed that the tribe of Judah would have the line of kingship and rule as strong as a lion. And specifically there would be One named Shiloh (a name for the Messiah) that would come who would receive the obedience of the peoples. And yet we know that first of all He had to come as a lamb. This was of course pictured in the yearly Passover where Jesus is seen as the lamb who takes away the people's sins. But at the second coming the world shall see that Lion. The Bible says that 'The king's wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass.' (Pro 19:12) That is so true of the Lord and we want to want to be on the right side of this lion!
- Free the slave: He had to redeem those from his family that had fallen into slavery: Lev 25:48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,
- Redeem the land: He had to purchase any family land that was sold or lost: Lev 25:25 'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.
- Avenge the murder: He had to avenge the blood of a murdered close relative: Num 35:19 'The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.
- Marry the childless widow for a brother or relative in his family: Deu 25:5 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.
- Boaz qualified as a kinsman redeemer being a relative of Elimelech
- Boaz was able and willing to pay the price to redeem the land owned by Elimelech,
- Boaz was also able and willing to marry Ruth, to love, care and support her for all his days.
- Jesus qualified as a kinsman-redeemer for all mankind because He came as a man (Phil 2:8-11, Heb 2:11)
- Jesus was able to pay the price of redemption for He lived a sinless life (2 Cor 5:17)
- Jesus was willing to pay the price, laying down His own life, that we may receive eternal life (John 3:16, 10:18).
- Free the slaves: We were slaves to sin and death but Jesus came as our Redeemer to to set the captives free! (Luke 4:18)
- Redeem the land: At Jesus' return He will redeem the earth restoring that which was lost in the first Adam (Matt 19:28)
- Avenge the murder: At Jesus' return He will act as the avenger of blood to take down the ultimate murderer - Satan (John 10:10, Rev 20:1-3)
- Marry the childless widow: Jesus has redeemed the widow (believers like you and me), taken us as His own and planned the greatest marriage in the history of the world which still to come in heaven! (Rev 19:7)
- The song honors the price of redemption: for You were slain
- The song honors the worker of redemption: You... 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
And let me add this about the songs that we see in Heaven: They are all Christ centered. 'You are worthy', 'You were slain', 'by Your blood', 'you have made us kings and priests'. It is all about Jesus and what He has done... as it should be. Now think about the worship songs you sing today. They may follow this and I hope they do. But many are 'man-centric' about how we feel and what we are going to do. If this is the case, let me just say that heaven has it right and earth has it wrong!
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.
- In the first vision: "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain..."
- In the first song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain..."
- In the second song: "In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain..."
“Why should our exalted Lord appear in His wounds in glory?”
“The wounds of Jesus are His glory.”
H.A Ironside writes:
The sealed book was the title deed to Jeremiah’s inheritance. When the people of Israel came back from Babylon there would be a man who could go into court and say, “This deed belongs to me. I am Jeremiah’s heir. I have the right to break the seals and take the property.” With this illustration from the Old Testament before us, we have no difficulty in seeing what the seven-sealed book in Revelation means. The book that John saw in the hand of Him that sat on the throne is the title deed to this world. When God said, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:2) it was just another way of saying, Who is the rightful heir? Who can say, “I have title to break those seals, title to claim that world, it belongs to me?” Who is worthy to take possession of that world and subject it to himself?
The vision opens with three notes of emphasis: a strong angel—only twice more is reference made to a strong angel in the book, viz., 10:1 and 18:21 (Greek). The angel proclaims—not merely says. The word signifies to announce as a herald. With a loud voice denotes urgency and great concern… Who is the strong angel making the challenge? The answer is, doubtless, Gabriel, the one who ordered the closing and sealing of the book to Daniel.
J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ
We read in Romans that: The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom 8:19)
All of creation is anxiously longing for redemption too... anxiously waiting for a redeemer. It wants to be free once again. And yet there was no one that could step forward to take the scroll and open its seals. At this point, all the sin, all the suffering, all the sorrow... would continue with no end and no way out. This was the scene of the greatest anguish.
As a side note, at His crucifixion Jesus also told people not to weep for Him, but for themselves and their children because of that which was coming.
Luk 23:28-31 Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. (29) For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' (30) Then " 'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!" ' (31) For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?".
Another prophecy of the Messiah Jesus related to the Lion is:
Hos 5:14-15 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver. (15) I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
This is an important prophecy and the times are getting very close where Israel, in their affliction, will earnestly seek Jesus!
Rev 5:9 contains an important textual dispute. Are the elders speaking about their own redemption of others? David Hocking writes:
"The Book of Revelation has probably, out of the 5,500 manuscripts, only about 350 fragments. In the controversial text for instance, in Revelation 5:9 about the new song that the elders are singing in heaven, whether they are singing it about themselves-"we've been purchased of God with His blood"-or about those that are on earth that are going to get saved, is the difference between being a pre‐tribulationist and a post‐tribulationist. That's how serious it is. So, it's a matter of manuscript evidence. Some manuscripts read "them." Some manuscripts read "us."
Now if these twenty‐four elders are singing a song of redemption about themselves, then they aren't angels, which is the number one view of the post‐Trib. So you understand, if they are singing a song about themselves, they are representing the church of Jesus Christ in heaven all during the Tribulation period, which makes you a "pre‐tribber." So, many manuscripts read "them or thus." In fact you'll see a number of NIV, New American and all of that saying in the margin, "most ancient authorities agree with this," Which is a flat out lie. Why? Because there are only twenty‐four Greek manuscripts on Revelation 5:9 that we know are in existence-twenty‐three of them read "us." The only one that doesn't is Codex Alexandrinas, the Egyptian tradition."
William MacDonald breaks down this song for our lives today:"The chorus widened as many angels joined the living creatures and the elders, a choir numbering millions, perhaps billions, all participating in perfect harmony. Their tribute is one that believers will sing throughout eternity. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive:"
- power—over my life, the church, the world, the universe;
- riches—all my silver and my gold;
- wisdom—the finest of my intellectual powers;
- strength—my physical strength for His service;
- honor—a single, pure desire to magnify Him in all my ways;
- glory—my entire life devoted to glorifying Him;
- blessing—all my powers of praise for Him.