Summary: We can reign with the Lamb who reigns right now by obeying him, be intercessors and by sharing in His suffering.
Last week we began the process of putting on our spiritual 3D glasses by looking at John’s vision of heavenly worship that began in Revelation 4. We’ll complete that process this morning as we examine the continuation of that vision in Chapter 5. As I pointed out last week, the vision recorded in chapters 4 and 5 is the key to the rest of the book. It is only by looking through the lens of this vision that we will be able to properly understand everything else that we’ll see in our journey.
Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Revelation 5. But before I read the passage I want to remind you again of an important principle that we’ll need to keep in mind as we look at this passage together. The book of Revelation is not written in a chronological, or linear, manner. This is especially true for chapters 4 and 5. Just because John’s vision occurs after the messages to the churches in chapters 2 and 3 does not mean that the heavenly worship pictured in chapters 4 and 5 doesn’t begin until after the church age ends. And as we’ll clearly see this morning, it doesn’t mean that all aspects of the heavenly worship described in those two chapters occur prior to the events in the rest of Revelation. In a sense, the heavenly worship that John sees in his vision is timeless. Let’s keep that in mind as we look at our passage this morning.
Like last week, the greatest danger this morning is that we’ll get so caught up in the details that we’ll miss the big picture. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll ignore those details because they do have significance. So I’m going to go through the passage in sections to facilitate our examination of the passage. But as I do that let’s make sure that we also keep the big picture in view.
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,
Once again, we see God seated on His throne. But now the attention shifts from God and all that is around the throne to something that He is holding in His right hand – a scroll. So the first question we need to answer this morning is…
WHAT IS THE SCROLL?
Like with many of the other objects in Revelation, there are a number of opinions regarding what the scroll represents. But in this case, with the text itself, other relevant Bible texts and some historical background, I think it we can be pretty confident in identifying what this scroll is.
Let’s begin with the text itself. There we find these characteristics of the scroll:
• In the right hand of God
Obviously God the Father does not have human form, and as we saw last week, John does not describe Him in human form. But in the Bible, when the term “the right hand of God” is used, it is always a picture of His power and authority. So whatever the scroll represents, God the Father has authority over it and the power to ensure that its contents are carried out.
• Written on front and back
We have both Biblical and historical references to scrolls which have writing on both the front and back. The relevant Biblical reference is found in the context of God’s call to the prophet Ezekiel:
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Ezekiel 2:8-10 (ESV)
Since this is the clearest Biblical reference to a scroll with writing on both sides, it may also give us some clues about the contents of the scroll here in Revelation 5. Ezekiel’s scroll contained words of lamentation, mourning and woe. And that certainly describes, at least in part, what we’ll find in the remainder of the Book of Revelation.
• Sealed with seven seals
The concept of a sealed scroll is found in two Old Testament passages. The first is from the prophet Isaiah:
And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”