Summary: Christ is Worthy to redeem in Revelation 5:1-14 through: 1) The search for the worthy one (Revelation 5:2-4), 2) The selection of the worthy one (Revelation 5:5–7), and 3) The song of the worthy one (Revelation 5:8–14).
Recently, there was a meeting of commonwealth representatives to discuss plans of succession in the event of the death of Queen Elizabeth. It was not an open and shut case, for they sought to determine who was worthy to occupy the throne. Eventually they choose Prince Charles. Of the many factors that call into question this suitability, he unilaterally changed his present role which has traditionally been “defender of the faith” to uphold Christian teaching, to “defender of the faiths”, plural, seeking to take no personal position. One may argue that this is appropriate for essentially a political figure, but it just reinforces that there is a unique worthiness to Christ and Christ alone. Only one individual has the right, the power, and the authority to rule the earth: the Lord Jesus Christ. He will one day take back what is rightfully His from Satan the usurper, and all the rebels, demonic and human. No one else is worthy or capable of ruling the world—no evil man, no good man, no demon, and no holy angel. Revelation 5 introduces Jesus Christ, earth’s rightful ruler, who is pictured about to return to redeem His people from sin, Satan, death, and the curse. He is the central theme of John’s second vision of heaven. The worship of God for his role in creation gives way to the worship of the Lamb for his work of redemption (Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 128–129). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
The events of Revelation 5 occur right after those of chapter 4. The scene, as in chapter 4, is the throne of God in heaven. Present are the cherubim, the twenty-four elders (representing the raptured, glorified church), and the Holy Spirit in His sevenfold glory (4:5). The events described in these two chapters anticipate the holocaust of divine judgment about to be poured out on the sinful, rebellious, cursed earth (chaps. 6–19). Awestruck by the indescribable majesty of God’s throne, and the flashes of lightning and peals of thunder that proceed from it, the cherubim and elders begin a series of hymns of praise to God. Those hymns celebrate God as creator and redeemer, and rejoice that He is about to take back what is rightfully His. This is the moment that all Christians (Eph. 1:14) and the entire creation (Rom. 8:19–22) long for.
As that moment approaches, God begins to stir. John begins verse 1 of chapter 5 with the phrase I saw, or “I looked,” which introduces the various scenes described in this chapter (cf. vv. 2, 6, 11) and stresses John’s status as an eyewitness. In his vision, John saw in the right hand of Him who was seated/sat on the throne a scroll/book written within/inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. God stretched out His hand, as it were, and in it He held a scrod/book. Biblion (scroll/book) does not refer to a book in the modern sense, but specifically to a scroll (cf. 6:14). A scroll was a long piece of papyrus or animal skin, rolled from both ends into the middle. Such scrolls were commonly used before the invention of the codex, or modern-style book, consisting of square pages bound together. While Roman wills were sealed up with seven seals, this scroll is not a will but a deed or contract. Dr. Robert L. Thomas explains: This kind of contract was known all over the Middle East in ancient times and was used by the Romans from the time of Nero on. The full contract would be written on the inner pages and sealed with seven seals. Then the content of the contract would be described briefly on the outside. All kinds of transactions were consummated this way, including marriage-contracts, rental and lease agreements, release of slaves, contract-bills, and bonds. Support also comes from Hebrew practices. The Hebrew document most closely resembling this scroll was a title-deed that was folded and signed, requiring at least three witnesses. A portion of text would be written, folded over and sealed, with a different witness signing at each fold. A larger number of witnesses meant that more importance was assigned to the document. (Dr. Robert L. Thomas Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1992], 378) (cf. Jer. 32:9-15)