Revelation 5 focuses on the One who sits at the right hand of God the Father, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. See Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 22:3.
The Scroll with the Seven Seals
Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one is heaven or earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll and look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
John sees God having a scroll in His hand. This scroll contains the events of the tribulation period.
The Identity of the Scroll
God is truly directing the affairs of this world. This scroll being “in the right hand” of God the Father helps us to understand that not only is He the source and controller of all events, but that He has a plan that has already been determined.This scroll is rolled up from both ends. It has writing on both sides, which indicates that it contains an extensive message and may mean that its message has a great deal to say about the future. The seals will need to be broken in order to unroll it. In Daniel 12:4 Daniel is instructed to seal the scroll and in Daniel 12:9 this has taken place. However, that instruction to Daniel is about to be reversed.
The Importance of the Scroll
This seven-sealed scroll contains everything that is recorded for us in Revelation 6 through to Revelation 22. John sees a mighty angel proclaiming a message with a loud voice. This indicates that this message is an urgent message. Someone, who is worthy to open the scroll needs to be found. John begins to weep for He understands that there is no one who can fulfil this all-important task.
The Introduction of the Worthy One
But then one of the elders speaks up. He is part of twenty-four elders who represent the completed body of believers – the Church of Jesus Christ that is now in heaven. And he brings comfort to John for he knows there is One who is worthy to break the seals; it is none other than the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. This title of Jesus Christ refers to the Messianic promise given to Judah, the son of Jacob in Genesis 49:8-10. The Messiah comes from the tribe of Judah and is described as a lion, which speaks of power, strength and majesty. Jesus Christ is the Messianic Lion who will rule and reign over all the earth. The term “Root of David” is a reference to Isaiah 11:1-2. However, when John is looking for the Lion He sees a Lamb. The Lamb looks as if it had been slain which points to Jesus Christ’s death on the cross on behalf of sinners according to John 1:29 and I Peter 1:18-19. John sees this Lamb standing in the centre of the throne.
In Hebrews 1:3 and Hebrews 10:12 Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, which is a position of rest. However, John sees Him standing, which indicates a position of action for the time has come to take action against the inhabitants of the earth and to set up His Kingdom over all. This Lamb is encircled by the four living creatures and the elders, which indicates that He is the object of their worship and praise. John sees the Lamb as having “seven horns.” “Horns” are symbols of authority and power either of individual rulers or of nations. See Daniel 7:7-8. The number “seven” may indicate the fullness of the Lamb’s power and authority to rule and reign. Furthermore, John sees the Lamb as having “seven eyes” which are the seven spirits of God or the seven-fold Spirit of God. This indicates that God knows all things and sees all things according to Zechariah 4:10. Isaiah mentions the seven-fold Spirit of God in Isaiah 11:2. Having given us a description of the Lamb, John then tells us that the Lamb takes the scroll out of the right hand of the Father. This is done in full confidence that He has the Father’s approval and blessing to do so.
The Song to the Lamb
And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bows full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever.” The four living creatures said, “Amen”, and the elders fell down and worshipped.
The key title John uses in this chapter is “The Lamb of God.”
The Reaction to the Taking of the Scroll
The moment the Lamb had taken the scroll the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders bow down before the Lamb and they begin to worship using harps as their instrument of worship. See Psalm 33:2-3; Psalm 98:5; Psalm 147:7. John notices that the elders are holding golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. The incense speaks of the believers’ prayers rising up to the attention of God. See Psalm 141:2. We have a similar scene in Revelation 8:3. These prayers very likely represent the long-standing prayers of God’s people, including the prayer “may Your Kingdom come” from Matthew 6:10. John hears the elders singing a new song. The Psalms often speak of singing “a new song” to the Lord. See Psalm 33:3; Psalm 96:1; Psalm 144:9: Psalm 149:1. Isaiah too speaks of “a new song” in Isaiah 42:10. In Revelation 14:3 we read about the 144,000 Jewish believers from the tribulation period who sing “a new song” which no one else can learn. The new song of the elders shows us the reasons why the Lamb was worthy to open the scroll.
1. Because He was slain.
2. Because He redeemed people from every tribe and language and people and nation.
3. Because He made believers of kings and priests.
His blood was the price for our redemption. Our redemption is not based on our performance or personal worthiness – we were bought at a price and therefore belong to God according to I Corinthians 6:19-20 and I Peter 1:18-19.
The twenty-four elders represent every tribe and language and people and nation. Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 28:19 to is make disciples of all nations. Believers serve God as kings and priests, which has been made possible by the redemption of Christ. Moreover, believers will reign on earth. Please note that some bible translations have rendered the words from the twenty-four elders as referring to others than themselves. In these bible translations we read in Revelation 5:20 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” However, that is not correct. The text should read “You have made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and we will reign on the earth.” For the twenty-four elders represent the completed Church who is in heaven when they are singing a new song. Consequently, they are singing about themselves and not about others who are yet to be redeemed.
John then sees angels involved in the worship of the Lamb together with the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. Finally, John sees every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth praising God and the Lamb. Even the beings under the earth, which may refer to demonic spirits, will praise God and acknowledge Him. Such praise, adoration and worship will continue throughout eternity. To give such adoration to the Lamb clearly demonstrated His divine nature. Along with the Father He is worthy of such praise.