Revelation Chapters 4 and 5, Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 4, 5 here in Part 2, starting with Rev. 5:1.
I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne [God the Father, as in Rev. 4:3, 9, 10; 5:7, 13] a book [In the margin the NASB has, "or, scroll." I would translate "scroll," with the NIV and NKJV.] written inside and on the back [The NIV has "with writing on both sides."], sealed up with seven seals. [[Apparently the seven seals were along the edge of the scroll in a way that prevented its being opened before all seven seals had been removed. The seven seals are removed by the Lord Jesus Christ one by one (Rev. 6:1-12; 8:1). It is significant that there is very little in the way of new revelation (a revelation of things not revealed in the Bible before) regarding the last things from Rev. 4:1 through 8:1, before the seventh seal is removed (at Rev. 8:1) and the scroll is opened. Apparently this same scroll, or part of this same scroll, is seen again at Rev. 10:2; there it has been opened. Ezekiel 2:8-3:4, with its scroll "written on the front and on the back," is an important cross-reference. I quote these verses and comment briefly on them at the end of the article on Revelation chapter 10.
I'll quote from F. F. Bruce on "sealed up with seven seals" ("New Layman's Bible Commentary in One Volume," [Zondervan, 1979], page 1688). "The seals could be properly broken only by someone with due authority to do so. In this instance the person authorized to break the seals will be marked out by that very fact as lord of history and master of the world's destiny." With the widespread use of the symbolic number seven in the book of Revelation (to symbolize perfection/completeness), I assume that explains the use of the number seven here.]] (2) And I saw a strong angel [cf. Rev. 10:1; 18:21] proclaiming with a loud voice [The "loud voice" fits the "strong angel," but a "loud voice(s)" is common in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:10; 5:12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:7, 9, 15, 18; 16:1, 17; 19:1, 17; and 21:3).], 'Who is worthy to open the book [scroll] and to break its seals?' (3) And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth [cf. Phil. 2:10] was able to open the book [scroll] or to look into it. [To be able to open the scroll here in verse 3 equals being worthy to open the scroll in verse 2. On being worthy to take the scroll and to break its seals and open it, see Rev. 5:4, 5, and 9, 10.] (4) Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book [scroll] or to look into it [[Apparently John was weeping greatly because he knew something of the awesome importance of this scroll and the need to open it. For one thing, to be worthy to take the scroll, to break its seals, and to open it requires someone worthy/able to bring to pass the things written in the scroll. Jesus, who defeated sin, Satan, and death (including spiritual death and physical death) in His atoning death and earned the right to save all who submit to Him in faith; to judge and remove all who continue in rebellion; and to bring about God's new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem was the only One found worthy.
We can probably say that the scroll contains the contents of the book of Revelation, starting at Rev. 6:1. But, as I mentioned, there isn't much in the way of new revelation before the seventh and last seal is removed at Rev. 8:1 and the scroll can be opened. There is a definite correlation between the contents of the scroll and the words "I will show you what must take place after these things" of Rev. 4:1 (cf. Rev. 1:1, 19).]]; (5) and one of the [twenty-four] elders said to me, 'Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah [Compare Gen. 49:8-10; Matt. 1:1, 3; Luke 3:23, 33; and Heb. 7:14. Jesus was/is a "Lion" in His authority and power.], the Root of David [Compare Isa. 11:1, 10; Rom. 15:12; and Rev. 22:16. I assume the BAGD Greek Lexicon (under "rhiza") is right on the meaning of "Root" here: "shoot...growing from the root, symbolically descendant...." It's also true, however, that the Son of God was before David (having always existed), and He was David's Lord (cf., e.g., Psalm 110:1 with Matt. 22:41-46).], has overcome [see Rev. 3:21] so as to open the book [scroll] and its seven seals.' (6) And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders [[As the margin of the NASB shows, a more literal translation of the Greek would be, "[And I saw] in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders." (See under Rev. 4:6 on this more literal translation of the Greek.) The Lamb was on the throne, inside the four living creatures, who were inside the twenty-four elders. The NIV has, "Then I saw...standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." The Lamb, with God the Father, was the center of attention.]] a Lamb [cf. Isa. 53:7; John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:8, 12, 13; 6:1, 16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1, 4, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:9, 14, 22, 23; and 22:1, 3.] standing, as if slain [Revelation 1:18; 5:9, 12; and 13:8, with many other verses, confirm that He actually had been slain. The Lamb of God had been slain, bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties, but now He was alive again, being the first-born from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; cf. Rom. 8:29). He had overcome, and now, for one thing, He had earned the right to take the scroll and to open it. The marks of His crucifixion were visible after His resurrection (cf. Luke 24:39, 40; John 20:20, 25-27).], having seven horns [[Horns (the horns of animals) sometimes, as here, serve as a symbol for reigning, power, and dominion (cf., e.g., 1 Sam. 2:10; Psalm 89:17, 24; Dan. 7:7, 8, 20, 24; 8:3-14, 20-25; and Rev. 17:3, 12). The number seven, which is often used in the book of Revelation, is used here as a symbolic number for perfection. For the resurrected Lamb to have seven horns is a symbolic way of saying that He has all authority, power, and dominion. After His resurrection Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18; cf., e.g., Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 2:10, 15; Heb. 2:9, 14; and 1 Pet. 3:22), but in the plan of God the Father, this authority, power, and dominion hasn't been manifested yet in most senses, and it won't be manifested in its full sense until Jesus has returned to fully save His people and subdue and remove forever the enemies of God (e.g., Matt. 26:64; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Phil. 2:9-11; and Rev. 11:15-18). His unlimited authority, power, and dominion, which is symbolized by the seven horns, will be manifested as He brings to pass all the things prophesied in the book of Revelation.
What is the time setting for the scene pictured in Revelation chapters 4 and 5? The revelation given to Christ Jesus to show to His bond-servants (Rev. 1:1) wasn't given to John until about AD 95, but the scene pictured here in chapter 5 fits best at a time shortly after the resurrection, glorification, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, about AD 30.]] and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. [[First we'll look at Zech. 3:9; 4:10. These verses help us understand the meaning of the seven eyes of Rev. 5:6. Zechariah 3:9 says, " 'For behold, the stone [The stone represents Christ Jesus (cf. Psalm 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Dan. 2:34, 35, 44, 45; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; and 1 Pet. 2:6, 7).] that I have set before Joshua [Joshua was the high priest of Israel/Judah in the days of Zechariah (cf. Zech. 3:1-8).]; on one stone are seven eyes. [The "seven eyes" of Zech. 3:9 apparently refer to "these seven...these are the eyes of the LORD [Yahweh] which range to and fro throughout the earth" of Zech. 4:10. Some understand the seven eyes of Zech. 3:9 to be located on the stone itself. The seven eyes on the stone (the stone which represents Christ Jesus) would then be very much like the picture in Rev. 5:6. This is a reasonable interpretation of Zech. 3:9, but I prefer the viewpoint that the seven eyes of Zech. 3:9 weren't located on the stone; they were the seven eyes of the LORD [Yahweh] that were directed to that very special stone.] Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,' declares the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, 'and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.' " The inscription on the stone apparently deals with the atoning death of the Lamb of God and the resultant high-priestly ministry of the Son of God that (for one thing) will ultimately remove the iniquity of (sanctify) the remnant of the nation of Israel in one day in the last days, when they look upon Him whom they have pierced (see Zech. 12:10-13:1; 5:1-11; 9:9; 11:12, 13; 13:7; 14:2-21; Rom. 11:25-27; and Rev. 11:13). It's also true that His atoning death sanctifies all Christians. (I should mention, however, that Christians are sanctified only to the extent that they walk in line with the gospel and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith.)
Zechariah 4:10 says, "For who has despised the day of small things? [These words allude to the fact that the temple that was being rebuilt in Zechariah's day, when Zerubbabel was the governor of Israel/Judah (Hag. 1:1-2:23; Zech. 4:6-10), was far less glorious than the temple built by Solomon, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. (See Hag. 2:3; Ezra 3:12.) However, as God prophesied in Hag. 2:6-9; Zech. 4:6-10, His work of building would only barely have begun when the temple was finished in Zechariah's day (516 BC); His ultimate work of building would very far surpass Solomon's temple in glory. His much greater work of building His temple/kingdom/new Jerusalem would be accomplished through The Ruler - The Lord Jesus Christ, The King of glory - of whom Zerubbabel was a type, even as Joshua the high priest was a type (see Zech. 6:11-15).] But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line [which goes with building] in the hand of Zerubbabel - these are the eyes of the LORD [Yahweh] which range to and fro throughout the earth."
For the Son of God, who is deity with the God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit), to have seven eyes here in Rev. 5:6 is a symbolic way of saying that He sees (accurately sees, fully sees) everything everywhere. And we are given the fuller information that He does this by "the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth," which is a symbolic way to say that He does this by the Holy Spirit (see under Rev. 1:4). The Holy Spirit can be called the Spirit of Christ Jesus too (cf. Acts 6:7; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; and 1 Pet. 1:11).]] (7) And He came and took the book [scroll] out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne [cf. Rev. 5:1]. (8) When He had taken the book [scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb [It would be quite improper for anyone to fall down before the Lamb to worship Him (cf. Rev. 5:14; 19:10; and 22:8) if the Lamb weren't deity with God the Father - He is!], each one holding a harp [cf. Rev. 14:2; 15:2] and golden bowls full of incense [Most agree that it was only the twenty-four elders (apparently the four living creatures were not included) who were holding the harps and golden bowls.], which are the prayers of the saints. [[This is interesting and important information. The twenty-four elders apparently present our prayers before the throne. Our prayers that haven't been answered yet that have been prayed in the will of God and in faith don't just vanish. Especially relevant here are prayers like, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). (For God's will to be done, including being done in our lives, is all that really matters.) Those prayers are before God now. They will be answered. They are part of what God uses to accomplish His purposes on the earth.
We must understand that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and our great high priest, is the one who makes our prayers acceptable before the Father, not the twenty-four elders – and He intercedes for us (cf., e.g., John 15:16; 16:23, 24; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 8:1-10:25; 12:24; and see under Rev. 8:3-5). Also, we pray in His name. It's true, however, that God does give significant authority and responsibility to others, both angels and men. We're not talking about angels or men competing with God and trying to take some of the glory due to Him (the triune God). We're talking about the fact that God chooses to give important assignment to those under Him, angels and men, which they carry out by His grace for His glory. He didn't create us to be unimportant and to do unimportant things. When we're doing what He wants us to do, it's important and significant. On the relationship between prayer and incense, cf. Rev. 8:3, 4; Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:9-11; and Ex. 30:6-10.]] (9) And they sang a new song [The new song celebrates the victory that has just been accomplished through the death and resurrection of the Lamb of God. Apparently only the twenty-four elders were singing here.], saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book [scroll] and to break its seals [cf. Rev. 5:2-7]; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. [[On "purchased for God," cf. 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; 2 Pet. 2:1; and Rev. 14:3, 4. All true Christians (all the members of God's true Israel) are redeemed through the blood (sacrifice/atoning death/cross) of Christ (cf., e.g., Rev. 1:5). This is a dominant theme in the New Testament. Furthermore, although they're not mentioned here in Rev. 5:9, 10, the elect of the nations are also saved through the blood of Christ (see Rev. 21:27; 13:8; cf. Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:3). He is the only door to heaven for mankind (cf. John 10:7, 9; 14:6).]] (10) You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.' [[See under Rev. 1:6. Our reign will begin when Christ returns, and Rev. 20:6 shows that we will reign throughout the millennial kingdom. Revelation 22:5 adds the information that our reign will continue forever in God's new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem. In a preliminary sense we are priests now (cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9), and Rev. 20:6 shows that we will be priests throughout the millennial kingdom. I assume we will continue to function as priests after the millennial kingdom too.
The KJV and the NKJV have "us" instead of "them" here, and "we shall reign" instead of "they will reign." They also have "redeemed us" instead of "purchased men" in Rev. 5:9. These readings would substantially alter the meaning of these verses. The twenty-four elders would be singing this song about themselves. The twenty-four elders wouldn't, therefore, be high-level angelic beings (see under Rev. 4:4).
The Greek manuscripts of Rev. 5:10 strongly support the translation of the NASB, and most agree that the Greek text behind the KJV and NKJV of Rev. 5:9, 10 is not the original text. Every other translation I have looked at is in agreement with the NASB in Rev. 5:9, 10 (in opposition to the KJV and NKJV), including the NIV, the Amplified Bible, the RSV, the NRSV, the New English Bible, the New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips, the Jerusalem Bible, and the New American Bible. The United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (Fourth Revised Edition, 1993) has the Greek readings followed by the NASB, and they assign their highest rating of certainty to these readings, which means that from their point of view "the text is certain."]] (11) 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 [[Compare Dan. 7:10; Heb 12:22; and Jude 1:14. Under "myriad," my English dictionary has (in part), "originally, ten thousand; any indefinitely large number." The NKJV has, "the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." The NIV has, "numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand." "Myriads" comes from the Greek "murias, muriados," which was sometimes used of a literal ten thousand. (Acts 19:19 in the Greek has the word for five [pente] with the plural for myriads, which yields "fifty thousand [pieces of silver].") But it was often used of an indefinite very large number.]], (12) saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain [cf. Rev. 5:6, 9] to receive power and riches [The NIV has "wealth."] and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing [The NIV has "praise" instead of "blessing" here, and in Rev. 5:13; 7:12. So does the BAGD Greek Lexicon (under "eulogia").].' [[Note that Rev. 4:11 says that God the Father is worthy to "receive glory and honor and power"; note the words spoken to God the Father and to the Lamb (God the Son) in Rev. 5:13; and note Rev. 7:12, words spoken to God the Father, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
Since it's a fact, as we discussed under Rev. 4:11, that these things listed in Rev. 4:11 already belong to God by virtue of who He is and what He has done, He receives them only in the sense that these things, which are His, are ascribed to Him in worship. The same truth applies to God the Son here in Rev. 5:12. The "blessing/praise" of Rev. 5:12; 7:12 and "thanksgiving" of Rev. 7:12 are in a different category; these are things that can be truly be given to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by men and angels in worship.
I'll quote what Isbon T. Beckwith said regarding "blessing" here in Rev. 5:12 ("Apocalypse of John" [Baker, 1979, copyright 1919], page 513). " 'Eulogian,' 'blessing': i.e., praise. The word, like "eucharistian" [thanks] in Rev. 4:9 [and "thanksgiving" in Rev. 7:12], expresses what is offered to Christ on man's part; this is, at least in thought, distinguishable from the acknowledgement of what he possesses in himself, his power, wisdom, glory, etc. The distinction is made clear in the doxology in 1 Chron. 29:11-13, with which this hymn is in several terms parallel."
I'll quote 1 Chron. 29:10-13, "So David blessed the LORD [Yahweh] in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, 'Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name."]] (13) And every created thing [The NIV, KJV, and NKJV have "every creature."] which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth [cf. Rev. 5:3] 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 [or, praise] and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.' [[The praise and worship of heaven pictured in Revelation chapters 4, 5 expands here to include the entire universe. There is some uncertainty as to whether we are to think of the devil and his followers being included here. Some say yes, and some say no. I'm not sure, but I'm sure that whichever way this question is answered it must not be allowed to obscure the fact that the emphasis of this verse, in this context, is on genuine praise and worship of God the Father and God the Son.
The wording of this verse seems to include all creatures, including the enemies of God. On the other hand, the devil isn't going to worship God. It's true, however, that even the devil and his followers will ultimately be subdued, and they will have to acknowledge the wisdom, glory, honor, power, and dominion of God (including God the Son). As Phil. 2:9-11 say, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him [Christ] and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name [This is true already], so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father [In most senses this is still future]." All creation, excluding only those who will be removed by judgment, benefits from the victory/overcoming of the Lamb of God (cf. Rom. 8:19-22; Rev. 21:1-22:5; Isa. 11:1-10; and 65:17-25).]] (14) And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen.' [Compare 1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 7:12; and 19:4. On "Amen," see under Rev. 3:14. For us to say "Amen" after the expression of praise or prayer by others means that we agree with what was said - it is truth - we are making it our own.] And the elders fell down and worshiped." [Note that the twenty-four elders worshiped the Lamb with God the Father, which would be totally inappropriate if He weren't deity with the Father (and the Spirit) - He is!]
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper, and His people be edified!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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