1 And I saw in1 the right hand2 of the one who is sitting on the throne a scroll3 having been written on the front and back4 and it had been sealed with seven5 seals6. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a great voice7, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break8 its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven, nor on the earth, nor under the earth was able to open the scroll or even look at it.9 4 And I was weeping greatly10 because no one worthy was found to open the scroll or even look at it. 5 And one of the elders11 said12 to me, “Don’t weep! Behold, the lion13 who is from the tribe of Judah14, the root of David15, has conquered. He is able to open the scroll and its seals.
6 And I saw in the middle of the throne16 and of the four living creatures and in the middle of the elders,17 a lamb18 standing19 as if it had been slain20 . It had seven horns21 and seven eyes22 which are the seven Spirits of God that have been sent into all the earth. 7 And he went and took23 it from the right hand of the one who is sitting on the throne. 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty- four elders fell24 down before the lamb, each25 having a harp and a golden bowl full of incense26, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang27 singing a new song28 saying,
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals
because you were slain29 and with your blood, you purchased for
God people from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 And you made them30 to be a kingdom and priests to our God
and they will reign31 on the earth.”
11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and of the living creatures and of the elders. The number of them32 was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands33, 12 saying with a great voice,
“The lamb who was slain is worthy to receive
the power and riches and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and praise!”34
13 And all the creatures who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea and all the things in them were heard saying,
“To the one who is sitting on the throne and to the lamb be
the praise and the honor and the glory and the power forever35!”
14 And the four living creatures were saying, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshipped.
1 ἐπὶ (in)
or “on”. The use of ἐπὶ may indicate that God’s right hand is open with the scroll lying one his open palm.
2 The right hand of God is alway a sign of authority in both the NT and the OT.
3 βιβλίον (scroll)
or “book”. Within the context of the Apocalypse, the “book” was indeed a “scroll”. The scroll was made from either egyptian papyrus or parchment which was made from animal skin.
There are many possibilities about what the scroll is. 1. The lamb’s book of life. 2. The OT Torah. 3. The last will and testament containing the inheritance of the saints. 4. A bill of divorce where God divorces the unbelieving Israel. 5. A contract deed or a will. In ancient times, a will would be written, rolled up and sealed by seven witnesses and a description of the contents would be written on the outside. Beale* (Pgs. 344-346) 6. A heavenly book containing the redemptive plan and the future history of the world. Mounce** (Pg. 142). Osborne*** sees a combination of 5 and 6. (Pgs. 248-250).
The Jewish Custom: Criswell points out that if a Jewish family were to lose its property or possessions by some kind of misfortune or distress, their property could not be permanently taken from them (the Old Testament law of jubilee and the kinsman redeemer protected them against this).75 However, their losses were listed in a scroll and sealed seven times. Then the conditions necessary to purchase back the land and their possessions were written on the outside of the scroll. When a qualified redeemer could be found, who could meet the requirements of reclamation (a kinsman like Boaz as in the story of Ruth), the one who had taken the property was required to return it to the original owner.
The scroll is in the possession of the One Who sits on the throne. He gives the scroll to the Lamb, for He alone is worthy.
4 Most scrolls were only written on one side. This imagery is an allusion to Ezekiel 2:9-10.
Ezekiel 9:9-10 describes the scroll as having lamentations, mourning, and woes written on it. These are the judgements on the world and the scroll is given to the One Who is to judge the world. The Son does nothing of Himself, but does the will of the Father. They are One.
5 “Seven” is again used to show “completeness”. We will find out what he seals do as they are broken in Chapter 6.
6 A seal would have been made of wax or clay and would have been used to seal up a letter or a in this case, a scroll. The seal was intended to keep the contents of a document secret until it was opened by the official person. The seal in a king’s court was also used to make a document official by using an signet ring to place an image on the seal itself. Osborne*** (Pg. 248).
The seals are broken in sequence, one leading to the other. The events they portray unfold likewise in time.
7 The “mighty” or “strong” angel here is acting as a royal herald in God’s court. He is making an announcement or in this case, proclaiming a question. Perhaps the might angel is one of the archangels, but the text doesn’t say. Osborne*** (Pgs. 250-251).
A thundering trumpet is given voice. Thunder was heard on the mountain of the Lord in front of the Israelites and is now heard again.
8 λῦσαι (to break)
Greek: “to loose”.
He Who broke the chains of sin and death is now breaking the seals of the scroll.
9 No one was found to be worthy, in heaven or earth. That is why God sent His Son.
10 πολύ (greatly)
Greek: “much”. John is concerned that the coming judgements may not come because no one can open the scroll. Osborne*** (Pg. 252), Mounce** (Pg. 144), and Beale* (Pgs. 348-349).
11 εἷς ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων (one of the elders)
Greek: “one from the elders”.
12 λέγει (said)
13 Lion is used throughout the OT to represent power and strength. Osborne*** (Pg. 253).
The power and strength of our Lord is highlighted in this title/ description of the Lord. He overcame the world.
14 An allusion to Genesis 49:9-10.
15 An allusion to Isaiah 11:1. Both this passage and the previous passage are interpreted to be messianic by Jews. Both depict a military feel. Osborne*** (Pgs. 253-254).
The Jews anticipation of the coming of the Messiah as King will be borne out. He will come. They did not recognize Him the first time when He came in the form of first-fruits of the harvest to come. They did not comprehend the temple which had been rebuilt in three days, for they were given over to their unbelief.
16 There are different interpretations as to where the lamb actually was, but what does the context say? We know in verse 7 that “he went and had taken it from the right hand of the one who is sitting on the throne”. For this to happen, the lamb could not be “in the center of the throne”. The lamb must have been in middle “between” the four living creatures and the throne. If is possible that the lamb started in the center of the throne and then moved away, but the text doesn’t say that.
Christ is described as being between the throne and the living creatures, but in the middle of the elders.
One might see this as another sign that God is not bound by place as we know it. Just as He is not bound by time, He is present in each moment and in each place. God is One, yet we see Him manifest Himself in different ways. At the same time, He is the beginning and end. This applies in time and space, but we are told His depth is beyond our understanding, and we have some understanding of both. The multitude and expanse of His existence extends well past our eyes.
17 The living beasts could be a symbol for Israel. The elders could be a symbol of those who believe in faith in the Lamb that stands among them. Jesus is said to be in the midst of the lampstands.
Remember the law acted as a “school master” until the child reached the age of maturity. This could shed light on why these are called the elders, for they are no longer under the law, but a law in of themselves. The law is fulfilled in their rebirth.
18 Take note that the lion now becomes the lamb! In other words, Jesus moved from being a military leader to the ultimate sacrifice. This is how he conquered; not by military might, but by sacrificing himself. This joins with themes in John’s Gospel (John 1:29) and is most directed at John’s time change of the crucifixion (John 19) that breaks with the other Gospels so that Jesus is being crucified at the very time that the priest are “sacrificing” the passover lambs.
He was at the same time the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah at His first coming. We saw the lamb and came to understand the lion as we looked back on what took place. John’s vision now sees Jesus in His heavenly splendor as the Risen King, but part of the splendor and wonder of the Son of God is that He was the Lamb that was sacrificed for all.
19 ἑστηκὸς (standing)
Greek: “having stood”. The participle is in the perfect tense.
He has taken His rightful place. Because of what He has done we are able to see this vision, and will one day see it for ourselves.
20 ἐσφαγμένον (had been slain)
Greek: “having been slain”. The verb means to be killed violently. The participle is in the perfect tense. Perhaps both ἑστηκὸς (standing) and ἐσφαγμένον (had been slain) in the perfect tense is a picture of Christ’s resurrection. An event that happened in the past, but the effects are still being felt today. Also, see Beale* (Pg. 352).
21 The seven horns show the lambs “complete” authority as a military leader and show his power and strength. This combines the military aspect and the sacrificial aspect into one metaphor. Osborne*** (Pg. 256). Mounce** says the horns represent the lamb’s “perfect power”. (Pg. 145).
22 The lamb is “all-seeing” by way of the seven Spirits of God. Mounce** says it shows the lamb’s “perfect wisdom”. (Pg. 145).
The wisdom and power of God reside and are present in Jesus, just as they are in the Holy Spirit. This recalls the seven spirits that were before God’s throne. These are of and reflect the presence of God, for He is perfect and nothing is hidden from Him. So would be the Lamb, for He is one with the Father, just as the Spirit is one with the Son and Father. That is why the number three signifies the divine.
23 εἴληφεν (took)
Greek: “had taken”. The verb is in the perfect tense. This is a bit odd,
but is a continuing occurrence throughout the Apocalypse.
It may be reminding us that God’s will is accomplished even as it is to come. His word will be fulfilled and will not come back empty.
He has given His life and has taken it back up. From the hand of the Father to the hand of the Son, from Him comes the power and authority in all things.
24 Falling to His feet they find the resting place of their hope and the object of their worship.
25 ἔχοντες ἕκαστος (each having)
Refers back to the living creatures and the elders.
26 The harp and the bowl would have been obvious to the seven churches as ancient vases depict Apollo holding a hard and a bowl. The imagery represents worship to God. The harp will be for the upcoming singing and the incense (prayers) is the “sweet smelling aroma” to God. Osborne*** (Pgs. 258-259).
The bowls here are in sharp contrast to the bowls of woe that are to be poured out in judgement.
27 ᾄδουσιν (they sang)
The verb is actually in the present tense: “they sing”. Perhaps John is
thinking of the continual aspect of the present tense.
The living creatures and the elders alone sing. They hold the harps and bowls of incense. The angels lift their voice, but “say” rather than sing. Though they do not sing, they do confess the Son.
The song of the saints has begun and will never end.
28 Mounce** says, “The song to the Lamb is a new song because the covenant established through his death is a new covenant. It is not simply new in point of time, but more important, it is new and distinctive in quality.” (Pg. 147).
29 An echo from Isaiah 53:7 of the LXX.
30 The TR changes αὐτοὺς (them) to ἡμᾶς (us). The KJV renders the
passage: “And hast made us”.
31 The TR changes βασιλεύσουσιν (they will reign) to βασιλεύσομεν (we will reign) as translated in the KJV.
32 “Them” are the angels.
33 An allusion to Daniel 7:10.
In Daniel 7:10 the thousands stand before the throne of judgement and give witness to the opening of the books.
34 The hymn can be broken into two parts: 1. the attributes of Christ (power and riches and wisdom and might) and 2. the worship of Christ (honor and glory and praise). Osborne*** (Pgs. 262-264).
35 εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων (forever)
Greek: “into the ages of ages”.
And so the song remains...
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)
Ἀποκάλυψις 5·1 Καὶ εἶδον ἐπὶ τὴν δεξιὰν τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου βιβλίον γεγραμμένον ἔσωθεν καὶ ὄπισθεν κατεσφραγισμένον σφραγῖσιν ἑπτά. 2 καὶ εἶδον ἄγγελον ἰσχυρὸν κηρύσσοντα ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ· τίς ἄξιος ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον καὶ λῦσαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ; 3 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς οὐδὲ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον οὔτε βλέπειν αὐτό. 4 καὶ ἔκλαιον πολύ, ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἄξιος εὑρέθη ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον οὔτε βλέπειν αὐτό. 5 καὶ εἷς ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων λέγει μοι· μὴ κλαῖε, ἰδοὺ ἐνίκησεν ὁ λέων ὁ ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Ἰούδα, ἡ ῥίζα Δαυίδ, ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον καὶ τὰς ἑπτὰ σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ.
Ἀποκάλυψις 5·6 Καὶ εἶδον ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον ἔχων κέρατα ἑπτὰ καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς ἑπτὰ οἵ εἰσιν τὰ [ἑπτὰ] πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεσταλμένοι εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν. 7 καὶ ἦλθεν καὶ εἴληφεν ἐκ τῆς δεξιᾶς τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου.
Ἀποκάλυψις 5·8 Καὶ ὅτε ἔλαβεν τὸ βιβλίον, τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα καὶ οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀρνίου ἔχοντες ἕκαστος κιθάραν καὶ φιάλας χρυσᾶς γεμούσας θυμιαμάτων, αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ τῶν ἁγίων, 9 καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες·
ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου
ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους 10 καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς,
καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. Ἀποκάλυψις 5·11 Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἀγγέλων πολλῶν κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῶν ζῴων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν μυριάδες μυριάδων καὶ χιλιάδες χιλιάδων 12 λέγοντες φωνῇ μεγάλῃ·
ἄξιόν ἐστιν τὸ ἀρνίον τὸ ἐσφαγμένον λαβεῖν τὴν δύναμιν καὶ πλοῦτον καὶ σοφίαν καὶ ἰσχὺν καὶ τιμὴν καὶ δόξαν καὶ εὐλογίαν.
13 καὶ πᾶν κτίσμα ὃ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα ἤκουσα λέγοντας·
τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίω
ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. 14 καὶ τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα ἔλεγον· ἀμήν. καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν καὶ προσεκύνησαν.