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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 28, 2014

Revelations 5:1-14

  1. Verse 1. In Chapter 4, John has a vision of someone sitting on the throne, but he only describes the appearance of what he sees. In Chapter 5 John notices that the one who is sitting on the throne in his vision has a scroll in his hand. We don't know if the scroll was always there or if it appeared as John was looking at the one on the throne. It seems like things will appear before the eyes of John in this chapter. John sees a scroll that is written on the front and the back and sealed with seven seals. The scrolls had writing on both sides indicating that this scroll is unusual. Documents with writing on both sides are so rare in fact that there is even a technical name for it, an opisthograph. It wasn't common practice to write on both sides of the scroll. This means that whatever the information on this scroll, there is a lot of it - almost more than the scroll can contain. Sometimes the conditions for which the scroll could be read were printed on the outside as well. Ancient scrolls were read horizontally, not vertically. The "rolls" of the scroll were on the left and the right, and the writing lay in narrow columns about three inches wide, written on a substance kind of like brown paper. The scroll was held in the left hand, and unrolled with the right, and as the reading went on, the previously read portion was re-rolled. When a roll was finished, it was fastened with strings and the strings were sealed with wax at the knots. This scroll is sealed with seven seals; there are seven strings sealed with wax around the scroll. These are not seven writings each separated by a seal; but seven seals all set upon one scroll. All the seals must be opened before the scroll can be read. Customarily, under Roman law, wills were sealed with seven seals, each from a witness to the validity of the will. This is "God Will.” In reference to wills, only the proper persons or officials can open a sealed document, and in the case of multiple seals, certain conditions must be met first. It may be significant to remember that Roman wills were sealed in this fashion and thus the document could not be opened until the death of the person whose will it was could be attested. What John is seeing would have been similar to what the Romans did when a will was read. The will would let the hearers know who would be rewarded or punished. The idea of wills and seals was a common sight in John's day. The reader in the first century would have easily seen the picture that is being presented here Edward Champlin's book on Roman wills entitled “Final Judgments: Duty and emotion in Roman Wills” is a great way to really understand what is going on here. God's final judgment for humanity is about to be read. See Hebrews 9:16.

  2. Verse 2-4. An angel asked in a loud voice "Who is worthy to break the seal?" As the question went out to all the earth, no one was able to answer. No one was worthy or had the credentials to open the seals or read the scroll. John says that he weeps because no one is worthy. Under Roman law, if those who sealed the scroll or a representative were not present, the will could not be read. The seven seals needed seven witnesses before they could be opened. Who would be the seven witnesses? Remember that seven is a sign of completeness. It is not necessary for seven to mean actually seven, but it does mean someone is needed who meets all the criteria for opening the seals.

  3. Verse 5. One of the 24 elders spoke to John to comfort him and show him that there was one who was worthy. At the throne appears a figure, which the elder describes as the Lion of Judah and the Root of Jesse. He is worthy to open the seals and read the scroll. The Messianic title Lion of the tribe of Judah comes from Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 31:4, and Hosea 11:10. The title Root of David comes from Isaiah 11:10.

  4. Verse 6. John sees a lamb not a lion, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the throne encircled by the angelic beings. How does a lamb that has been slain looks? His wounds were visible in this vision. A sacrificial lamb would have been slain by having his throat cut. Yet somehow, this Lamb who has been slain has triumphed. The Lamb is standing in the midst of the throne and the elders. This is a sign that he will be worshipped and honored. Though he had been slain, he is now standing and lives -- a clear allusion to Jesus‘ resurrection from the dead. The Lamb has seven horns. In the Old Testament horns signify power, probably from the demonstration of might when two horned rams would fight (Deuteronomy 33:17). Seven is a number that often expresses the idea of completeness or perfection, so seven horns indicates complete might and strength. This is reflected in the Gospels by the risen Christ declaring, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). The Lamb has seven eyes -- a bit grotesque if you take this literally. But seven eyes indicate that the Lamb sees fully, completely. The slain Lamb that stands is all powerful, all knowing, omnipotent and omniscient. His eyes and horns are also the seven witnesses and authority needed to open the seven seals. Jesus is the only witness needed to open this will and testament. He is worthy and has met the criteria for the mediation of this will. Even though the marks of His sacrifice are evident, the Lamb is not presented as an object of pity. He also bears the marks of omnipotence (seven horns) and omniscience (seven eyes). The seven eyes of the LORD are a picture of omniscience drawn from the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:10 and 3:9). A slain Lamb, who has the marks of omniscience and omnipotence! Throughout the Scriptures, eyes suggest knowledge and wisdom, and horns suggest power. This Lamb has knowledge, wisdom, and power fulfilled perfectly: seven horns and seven eyes.

  5. Verse 7-8. John sees the lamb go to the one sitting on the throne and the lamb takes the sealed scroll. Once the lamb takes the scroll, the four living creatures along with the 24 elders bow down and worship him singing a new song. They bowed and worshipped playing harps and holding bowls full of incense which was the prayers of the saints (Ps 141:2).

  6. Verses 9-10. The four living creatures and the 24 elders sang a song that declared the lamb was worthy to open the scroll because he was slain and his sacrifice purchased the redemption of the saints for God, and that sacrifice also allowed the saints to become a kingdom of priests to serve God. Basically they were praising the lamb for being able to read the will and securing the inheritance of the people of God. Interestingly enough the phrase ”You are Worthy" is the phrase that Roman rulers wanted their subjects to say when they entered a room or a city. John sees that only Jesus is worthy of that title. This would have been an affront to the roman rulers of that day to give Christ that honor.

  7. Verse 11-12. The next thing John sees is a number of angels that cannot be counted encircling the four living creatures and the 24 elders. This large number of angels begins to sing as well. Their song gives a seven praise salute to the king. ”Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.“

  8. Verse 13. Then John sees another chorus of the entire creation declaring the praises of the Lamb. The chorus declares that the one sitting on the throne and the lamb are worthy of all the praise. The living God reigns eternally. The Caesars come and go, including those that persecute God's people. But the Lord God lives forever and ever and is ever worthy of our praise.

  9. Verse 14. The chorus ends with the four living creatures declaring "Amen" and the 24 elders bowing in worship.

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