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Revelation 4-5

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Heavenly Worship The Throne Room of Heaven Visions of the Glory of God and of the Lamb Worship in Heaven God Entrusts the Future of the World to the Lamb
4:1-6a 4:1-11 4:1-6a 4:1-6a 4:1-11
4:6b-11   4:6b-11 4:6b-8  
      4:9-11  
The Scroll and the Lamb The Lamb Takes the Scroll   The Scroll and the Lamb  
5:1-14 5:1-7 5:1-5 5:1-5 5:1-5
  Worthy is the Lamb 5:6-10 5:6-10 5:6-10
  5:8-14      
    5:11-14 5:11-14 5:11-14

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. These two chapters form a literary unit; chapter 4 shows God as Creator (the connotation of Elohim, God as creator, provider, and sustainer of all life, cf. Psalm 104) and chapter 5 shows God's Lamb (Jesus) as Redeemer (the connotation of YHWH, God as Savior, Redeemer, and covenant-making God, cf. Psalm 103). The larger literary context continues through the opening of the seven seals. However, the seals themselves begin in chapter 6 and continue through 8:1.

 

B. Chapter 4 forms a central theme (the secure glory and rule of YHWH) of the book of the Revelation. This heavenly throne scene is similar to the heavenly tabernacle of Hebrews 8 and 9. This motif (God's heavenly glory) forms the central goal of early Jewish mysticism.

 

C. The book of the Revelation is not primarily the how and when of the Second Coming; it is primarily the sovereignty of God in human history. These two chapters are essential in understanding the remainder of the book and its purpose!

 

D. It is obvious from these two chapters that John was using apocalyptic language to describe spiritual truth. John used imagery from OT apocalyptic passages, particularly Ezekiel, chapters 1 and 10; also 2:9,10; Daniel 4; 7:13-14 and also innumerable references to Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic writings, such as I Enoch. If this is true then it is extremely inappropriate to force Revelation into a literal, totally historical interpretive grid, especially when we force the events of our day, our culture, our geographical setting into the details of an ancient apocalyptic book. This is not to imply in any sense that Revelation is not true. It was not meant to be interpreted like historical narrative; a better hermeneutical model may be the parables of Jesus (see Fee and Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, p. 256)!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 4:1-11
 1After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." 2Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. 5Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6and before the throne there was, something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come." 9And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."

4:1

NASB, NKJV"after these things I looked"
NRSV"after this I looked"
TEV"at this point I had another vision and saw"
NJB"then, in my vision, I saw"

This grammatical formula, with a slight variation, is also found in 7:1,9; 15:5; 18:1 and possibly 19:1. These is a series of visions. Most OT prophetic visions were covenantally conditioned, emphasizing the "if. . .then" of God's covenant with Israel. Israel's current faith determined her future fate. This is also true of John's visions in the Revelation.

1. Jesus' words to the seven churches are conditional. Their response to His warning determined their future.

2. The judgments of the seals and trumpets are also conditional. God wants unbelievers to repent and turn to Him.

As in the OT, God's universal redemptive plan (cf. Gen. 3:15; 15:12-2; 17:1-8, also note Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29) is unconditional based on His promises but also conditional (cf. Gen. 12:1; Revelation 2-3) on human covenantal response . This universal redemptive plan is revealed in the heavenly scenes of chapters 4 and 5.

SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN

▣ "a door standing open in heaven" This is a perfect passive participle, meaning that the door was opened by deity (passive voice) and remained open (perfect tense). This is another way of expressing God's revelation of Himself to mankind. It is very similar to 19:11; Ezek. 1:1; Matt. 3:16; John 1:51 and Acts 7:55-56. See Special Topic at 3:7.

The word "heaven" is used more than 50 times in John's writings and always in the singular except for one time in 12:12. The exact meaning of this change, from the singular to the plural, is theologically uncertain. The rabbis discussed whether there were three or seven heavens (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2). John focuses on one heaven, wherein God dwells; He chooses to let us see into His realm. Though there is chaos on earth, there will be none in heaven.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEAVENS AND THE THIRD HEAVEN

▣ "and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet" A voice like a trumpet was mentioned in 1:10 (see note). At first this implies Jesus speaking, but because chapters 4 & 5 are a literary unit and Jesus is not introduced until 5:5,9-10,12,13, this probably refers to a revealing angel (very characteristic of apocalyptic literature). An angel's voice and a trumpet blast are related in Paul's description of the Second Coming (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16).

▣ "come up here" Dispensationalists have assumed that this is the secret rapture of the Church because of their presuppositional understanding of the book of the Revelation (all OT prophecies must be literally fulfilled; the church and Israel are totally separate; the church will be secretly raptured to heaven so that OT prophecies can be fulfilled to an earthly Israel). Often this interpretation is supported by an argument from silence, since the word "church" does not appear in Revelation after chapter 3 (except in 22:10). However, there is nothing in the text to imply that anyone but John was called up to heaven.

Because of the "lightning" and "thunder" of v. 5, this may be an allusion to Moses being called up (cf. Exod. 19:20,24) on Mt. Sinai to receive God's revelation (cf. Exodus 19-20, esp. 19:16,19).

Also notice the mention of God's voice like a loud trumpet in Exod. 19:19 (see Special Topic: Horns Used in Israel at 1:10).

"what must take place after these things" This phrase may be an allusion to Dan. 2:29,45. If so, it refers to historical events in a series, not future events. Revelation is not things in the first century and things in a far distant future century, but events that:

1. recur in every age (cf. Matt. 24:4-14)

2. reflect the whole period between Christ's first coming and His second coming (the seven literary units of the book)

This phrase is similar to 1:1. God's word and will must (dei) come to pass. Here the time element (i.e., shortly) is left out, but the certainty remains. God will accomplish His redemptive plan!

4:2 "Immediately I was in the Spirit" John is described as being in the Spirit in 1:10; 17:3 and 21:10. This may be similar to what happened to Ezekiel in Ezek. 8:1-4; 11:1, to Jesus in Matt. 4:8; to Philip in Acts 8:39-40, and to Paul in 2 Cor. 12:1-2. Whether this is a spiritual trance or a physical transportation is uncertain.

▣ "a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne" The term "throne" (thronos) is used over 47 times in this book. God's reign is the central motif of this heavenly vision (chapters 4 & 5). The throne is a symbolic, apocalyptic way of showing that YHWH is in control of all history. God is a spiritual, eternal, personal spirit; He does not sit on a throne (see Special Topic at 2:1)!

One purpose of the genres of prophecy and apocalyptic is God's knowledge and control of future events. All history is known and purposeful (telos, cf. Matt. 24:14; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

The throne is described as "was standing." This imperfect tense can have two meanings: (1) it has always stood or (2) it was just set up. This may be an allusion to Dan. 7:9, "thrones were set up."

4:3 "He who was sitting was like" John is not going to describe the appearance of God because in Jewish thought, this was extremely inappropriate (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). But he will describe the glory of God in the colors of three precious gems. Gems are also used in Ezek. 28:13 to describe heavenly (Garden of God) imagery.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, TEV"jasper"
NJB"diamond"

The exact color and name of gems is very uncertain in ancient literature. The names of gems and colors were changed from country to country and period to period. The jasper was the first stone found in the breastplate of the High Priest which is mentioned in Exod. 28:17-21. This stone seems to be a clear stone. It will be connected with the "sea of glass" (cf. 4:6; 15:2; 21:11,18,21). It may refer to our diamond.

NASB, NKJV"sardius"
NRSV, TEV"carnelian"
NJB"ruby"

The sardius was a blood red stone. It was the last stone on the breastplate of the High Priest. This may be an allusion to God as being the First and the Last with the emphasis on the Messianic tribe of Judah (the emerald rainbow). These two stones are listed in ancient writings as a summary of all jewels.

▣ "and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance" The emerald is the stone for Judah on the breastplate of the High Priest. The emphasis of the rainbow has been greatly conjectured but there are two main theories.

1. Some see it as an allusion to Gen. 9:16, where the rainbow is a symbol of God's covenant protection and a sign that the storm is over; in the midst of judgment there was promise and mercy.

2. Others relate it to Ezek. 1:28, a symbol of the glory of YHWH.

Whether the rainbow is a sign of judgment or of covenant is uncertain, but it obviously was an unusual rainbow because it was green in color and not simply a refraction of normal light.

4:4 "Around the throne were twenty-four thrones" The reason for twenty-four thrones has been disputed.

1. some see it as connected with the orders of the Aaronic priesthood set up by David in 1 Chr. 24:7-19

2. others see it as an allusion to the heavenly council which is mentioned in 1 Kgs. 22:19; Isa. 24:23; Dan. 7:9-10,26

3. still others see it as a combination of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles, which symbolizes the complete people of God (cf. 21:12,14)

It is surprising that this number does not occur in Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic literature.

▣ "twenty-four elders sitting" There has also been much debate about the identity of these elders. There are two major theories

1. They represent believers:

a. pictured as being clothed in white (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:8; James1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4)

b. angels are never said to wear crowns and sit on thrones (cf. vv.4,10)

c. they are in lists which specifically include angels (cf. 5:11)

d. 5:9-10 in the Vulgate, Peshitta, and later the Textus Receptus includes the elders in the songs of redemption

2. They represent angels:

a. angels do wear white garments (cf. Matt. 28:3; John 20:12; Mark 16:5; Acts 1:10; Rev. 15:6 and Dan. 10:5,6)

b. these elders are always identified with the living creatures as in 5:11,14, which seem to list three different orders of angels

c. one of the elders acts as a revealing angel (cf. 5:5)

d. in Isa. 24:23 the angels of God's heavenly council are called "elders"

e. the textual evidence of 5:10 implies that the elder does not include himself in the song of redeemed humanity

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: ELDER

▣ "golden crowns" Nowhere in Scripture are angels said to wear crowns (even the powerful angel in Daniel 10). The demonic hordes from the abyss are described as wearing something similar to golden crowns in 9:7.

4:5 "from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder" This is similar to Exod. 19:16-19, which describes physical phenomena that surround the presence of God on Mt. Sinai. These phrases indicate God's presence (cf. 11:19) or His judgments (cf. 8:5; 16:18).

"seven lamps of fire" These appear to be seven separate lamps (torches), not one bowl with seven wicks (cf. Exod. 25:37; Zech. 4:2). They function in a way similar to all the other "sevens," referring to the very presence of God.

▣ "which are the seven spirits of God" This same phrase is used in 1:4; 3:1 and 5:6. It is often interpreted as a reference to the Holy Spirit based on 1:4, but none of the other references confirm that interpretation. This phrase seems to be equated with the churches (seven stars, 3:1; seven lamps, 4:5) or with the omnipotence and omniscience of the Lamb (5:6). See Special Topic: The Seven Spirits at 1:4.

4:6 "a sea of glass like crystal" There have been numerous theories about this phrase:

1. it refers to the laver in the Temple (cf. 1 Kgs. 7:23; 2 Chr. 4:2-6)

2. it is related to the concept of the crystal sea found in Exod. 24:9-10

3. it is part of the portable throne chariot of God in Ezek. 1:22,26; 10:1

4. it is a symbol of separation from the holiness of God (cf. 15:2).

This sea is removed in Rev. 21:1, showing the curse (cf. Genesis 3) of mankind's sin and separation has been removed. See note at 21:1.

"four living creatures" These living creatures are described in vv. 6-8. They are a combination of the cherubim of Ezek. 1:5-10 and 10:1-17 and the seraphim of Isa. 6:2,3. The numbers of wings and faces vary, but it is a composite picture of these human/animal/angels which surround the throne of God (cf. 4:6,8,9; 5:6,8,11,14; 6:1,3,5,7; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHERUBIM

▣ "full of eyes in front and behind" This may refer to the eyes of each of the four faces or it may be a biblical metaphor of God's omniscience (cf. v. 8; Ezek. 1:18; 10:12).

4:7 "lion. . .calf. . .man. . .eagle" This is an obvious allusion to Ezek. 1:6,10. In rabbinic literature these are listed as the strongest of the different orders of God's creation. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202) used these four different faces to describe the four Gospel writers (church tradition finally settled on John, eagle; Luke, human; Mark, ox; Matthew, lion) but this is too speculative and allegorical. These composite creatures are symbolic, not literal. Knowing the OT emphasis on maintaining God's orders of creation, a composite human and animal creature would be Levitically unclean. This is not historical narrative of actual things and events, but a highly symbolic genre seeking to describe ultimate, spiritual truths; in this case God as the ever living One (vv. 8,9), the Holy One (v. 8), and the creator of all things (v. 11).

4:8 "holy, holy, holy" These living creatures are repeating the song of the seraphim in Isa. 6:2,3. This is the first of many hymns that are found in the book of the Revelation (cf. 4:8,11; 5:9-10,12,13; 7:12; 11:17-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 18:2-8; 19:1-3, 6-7). Often the hymns are a means of interpreting the visions. Another symbol, like the sea of glass, it functions as a Hebrew superlative of the ultimate holiness of God.

"the Lord God, the Almighty" These were three of the OT titles for God (cf. 1:8):

1. Lord = YHWH (cf. Exod.3:14; Psalm 103)

2. God = Elohim (cf. Psalm 104)

3. the Almighty = El Shaddai, the patriarchal name for God (cf. Exod. 6:3)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:8.

▣ "who was and who is and who is to come" This phrase is a recurrent title (cf. 1:4; 4:8; see full note at 1:4). This is a play on God's covenant name, YHWH, which comes from the verb "to be." This same theme is repeated in vv. 9 and 10 in the phrase "to Him who lives forever and ever" (cf. 10:6; 15:7).

4:9-11 This is one sentence in Greek, which shows that ultimate worship is due Him who sits on the throne and lives forever (cf. Psalm 47; Dan. 4:34; 12:7). This may be an allusion to the angelic attendants called the heavenly council (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:19; Job 1:6; Dan. 7:10) or the Jewish "angels of presence" (i.e., Tobit 12:15).

4:9 "the living creatures" These angelic beings are mentioned often in the book (cf. 5:6,8,14; 6:1; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4).

4:10 "will cast their crowns before the throne" This is a symbol of their acknowledgment that God deserves all the praise and honor! Whatever was the reason for their having crowns, they recognized that the power was from God!

4:11 "You created all things" The elders and living creatures praise God as the Creator, Sustainer and Provider of all things. This is the theological emphasis of the name Elohim (cf. Genesis 1; Job 38-41; Psalm 104). This chapter uses the theological meaning of the two most used names for God to describe His actions. The progressive revelation of the NT makes it clear that Jesus was the Father's agent of creation (cf. John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16 and Heb. 1:2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:1-5
 1I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" 3And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."

5:1 "and I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne" A better translation of this phrase would be "on the right hand of Him" (Peshitta translated into English by Lamsa and the Amplified Bible). It is not the idea of God holding tightly to the book, but God holding it out for someone to take and open.

The phrase "the right hand of Him" is a biblical anthropomorphism to describe God's power and authority (see Special Topic at 2:1). God does not have a physical body; He is a spiritual being (cf. John 4:24), uncreated and eternal.

"book" The Greek term is "biblion" which later was used to refer to a codex (book). Most commentators agree that books did not appear until the second century, so what we have here is a papyrus or parchment scroll (NKJV, NRSV, TEV and NJB). There are several theories as to the meaning of this book.

1. the book of woes found in Ezek. 2:8-10; and Rev. 10:8-11

2. the book which the people are unwilling to read because God has spiritually blinded them (cf. Isa. 29:11; Rom. 11:8-10,25)

3. the events of the end-time (cf. Dan. 8:26)

4. a Roman last will or testament, which was traditionally sealed with seven seals

5. the book of life (cf. Dan. 7:10; 12:1), which is mentioned so often in the book of the Revelation (cf. 3:5; 17:8; 20:12,15)

6. the Old Testament (cf. Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15)

7. the heavenly tablets of I Enoch 81:1,2.

In my opinion aspects of #1, #2, or #3 seem to be best; the scroll is a book of the destiny of mankind and God's culmination of history.

▣ "written inside and on the back" This was very unusual in the ancient world because of the difficulty of writing on the back side of papyrus, although it is mentioned in Ezek. 2:8-10 and Zechariah 5:3. It symbolizes God's complete and full control over history and human destiny.

Both of the participles (written and sealed) that describe this scroll are perfect passives. The first is a special grammatical form used to describe Scripture as being inspired (i.e., John 6:45; 8:17; 10:34, etc). The second is a way of expressing that the scroll was protected, preserved, and reserved by God.

▣ "sealed up with seven seals" The seven seals have two possible origins.

1. Seven was the number of perfection from Genesis 1, therefore, it was perfectly sealed.

2. Roman wills were sealed with seven seals.

The seals were small blobs of wax containing the imprint of the owner, placed where the book or scroll would be opened (see Special Topic at 7:2). In 6:1-8:1 the breaking of these seals brings woes upon the earth, but the content of the scroll is not revealed in this literary unit. As a matter of fact, in the structure of the book, the seventh seal starts the seven trumpets which is the seventh seal.

5:2 "I saw a strong angel" Some see a connection etymologically to the name Gabriel, which means "God's strong man." Another strong angel is mentioned in 10:1 and 18:21. Angelic mediation is common in Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic literature.

▣ "proclaiming with a loud voice" He was addressing all creation.

▣ "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" The term "worthy" is a commercial term relating to the use of a pair of scales. It came to mean "that which corresponds to." Something is put on one side of the scales and what is put on the other is equal. It could be used in a negative or positive sense. Here, it is the inestimable value of the sinless Savior. Only Jesus was equal to the task of redemption. Only Jesus was equal to the task of consummation. Only Jesus is worthy (cf. 5:7, 9-10,12).

5:3 "And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it" This shows the total inability of angels or humans to bring about the will of God! Rebellion has affected them all! Creation cannot help itself! No one is worthy!

5:4 "I began to weep greatly" This is an imperfect tense verb, which denotes the beginning of an action or repeated action in past time. This meant "loud wailing," so characteristic of the Ancient Near East.

5:5 "one of the elders said to me" Here we find one of the elders acting in the role of an angelic interpreter, as in the book of Daniel. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELDER at 4:4.

▣ "Stop weeping" This is a present imperative with the negative particle which usually meant to stop an act which is already in process.

▣ "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah" This is an allusion to Gen. 49:9-10 (cf. II Esdras 12:31,32). The Messiah is the conquering Lion (king) from the tribe of Judah.

▣ "the Root of David" This is an allusion to 2 Samuel 7 and particularly Isa. 11:1-10. This same idea of a royal Davidic Messiah can be found in Jer. 23:5; 33:5 and Rev. 22:16.

▣ "has overcome" This is an aorist active indicative, which implies it was an accomplished fact (i.e.,Calvary and the empty tomb). Notice that the Lion is not going to conquer by His power, but by His sacrifice (cf. v. 6).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:6-10
 6And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

5:6 "a Lamb standing" This concept of a sacrificial Lamb (i.e., baby lamb, arnion) depicts the vicarious atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Lamb is mentioned throughout the book of the Revelation (cf. 5:6,8,12,13; 6:1,16; 7:9,10,14,17; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1,4(twice),10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7,9; 21:9,14,22,23,27; 22:1,3). The sacrificial metaphor is from

1. the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12)

2. one of the lambs that was sacrificed daily in the morning and evening (the continual, cf. Exod. 29:38-46; Num. 28:3,6,10,23,31; 29:11,16,19,22,25,28,31,34,38)

3. the slain lamb of Isa. 53:7 or John 1:7,29

This metaphor is used of Jesus in two distinct senses: (a) as an innocent sacrificial victim and (b) as the overcoming victor (also found in Jewish apocalyptic literature, cf. I Enoch 90:9; Testament of Joseph 19:8-9). In the NT only John the Baptist in John 1:29,36 and John in Revelation 5:6,8,12,13; 61:1, refer to Jesus as "Lamb" (Paul asserts this, but without the term in 1 Cor. 5:7).

▣ "as if slain" He was dead but now alive. The Messiah's resurrection is parodied by the sea beast (cf. 13:3).

▣ "having seven horns and seven eyes" The first term refers to power or omnipotence (cf. Exod. 27:2; 29:12; Deut. 33:17; 2 Chr. 18:10; Ps. 112:9; 132:17; Jer. 48:25; Ezek. 29:21; Zech. 1:18-21). The second term refers to God's omniscience (cf. 4:6,8; Ezek. 1:18; 10:12; Zech. 3:9 and 4:10). This symbolism is similar to Dan. 7:13-14.

▣ "which are the seven Spirits of God" See Special Topic at 1:4 and note at 4:5.

5:8 "When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb" This shows the worship of the Lamb as well as the worship of God (cf. v. 13), which is a central theme in Revelation.

▣ "and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" Angels were the regular bearers of prayers to God in inter-biblical Jewish literature (cf. Tobit 12:15; III Baruch 11). The idea of incense representing prayers is used several times in Scripture (cf. 8:3-4; Ps. 141:2; Luke 1:10).

▣ "saints" Although the word "church" does not appear after chapter 3, the concept of "saints" does continue throughout the book and must refer to the people of God. The concept of believers as "saints" is common in Revelation (cf. 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20,24; 19:8 and 20:9).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS

5:9-10 There is a significant Greek manuscript variant related to the pronoun "us." The NKJV has the pronoun "us" in v. 9, "have redeemed us to God," and in v. 10, "and have made us kings and priests to our God." Most modern translations (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB) omit "us" in both verses. If "us" is present in both verses then Jesus' sacrificial death includes the twenty-four elders who seem to be angelic creatures. Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus' death related to angelic redemption. Also, the presence of "them" (autous) in v. 10 grammatically excludes the possibility of "us" being original. The United Bible Society's fourth edition rates the two plural pronoun's omission as "certain."

5:9 "And they sang a new song" In the OT there are many allusions to the new song (cf. Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 and Isa. 42:10). At every major event in the OT, the people of God were encouraged to sing a new song praising God's activity. This is the ultimate song about God's revealing Himself in the Messiah and the Messiah's work of redemption on behalf of all believers (cf. vv. 9,12,13; 14:3).

The emphasis on "new" things is characteristic of the new age in Isaiah 42-66.

1. "new things," 42:9

2. "new song," 42:10

3. "do something new," 43:19

4. "new things," 48:6

5. "new name," 62:6

6. "new heavens and new earth," 65:17; 66:22.

In Revelation there are also many "new things."

1. "new Jerusalem," 3:12; 21:2

2. "new name," 2:17; 3:12

3. "new song," 5:9,10,12,13; 14:3

4. "new heaven and new earth," 21:1

 

▣ "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals" This new song (vv. 9-10) is a fivefold description of the worthiness of the Lamb.

1. substitutionary death (cf. 5:6,9,12; 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)

2. redemptive price paid (cf. 5:9; 14:3-4; Mark 10:45; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23; 1 Tim. 2:6)

3. purchased men from every nation (cf. 5:9; 7:9; 14:6)

4. made the believers a kingdom of priests (cf. 1:6; 5:10)

5. they will reign with Him (cf. 3:21; 5:10; 20:4)

 

▣ "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" This is a recurrent metaphor of universality (cf. 7:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6). It may be an allusion to Dan. 3:4,7.

▣ "and purchases for God with Your blood" This is surely a reference to the vicarious atonement of the Lamb of God. This concept of Jesus as the sacrifice for sin is central in Revelation (cf. 1:5; 5:9,12; 7:14; 12:11; 13:8; 14:4; 15:3; 19:7; 21:9,23; 22:3) and also in all the NT (cf. Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:24-25; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 1:7; Phil. 2:8; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:28; and 1 Pet. 1:18-10).

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

5:10 "have made them to be a kingdom and priests" This is an allusion to Exod. 19:6 and Isa. 61:6. This terminology is now used for the Church, the new Great Commission people of God (cf. Rev. 1:6; 20:6; 1 Pet. 2:5,9). See note at 1:6.

"they will reign upon the earth" Some translators see this in a future sense and some see it as a present reality. There is a Greek manuscript variant between the future tense in MSS א, P and the present tense in MS A (Alexandrinus). If it is in a present sense it is similar to Rom. 5:17 and Eph. 2:6. If future it possibly deals with the reigning of the people of God with Christ (cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; I Cor. 4:8; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 5:10). Even this future reign is seen in two ways.

1. in Rev. 20:4 & 6 it seems to refer to a millennial reign

2. in Rev. 22:5 it seems to refer to an eternal reign (cf. Ps. 145:13; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18,27)

3. possibly the millennium is a symbol of eternity

The UBS4 gives the future tense an "A" rating (certain).

SPECIAL TOPIC: REIGNING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:11-14
 11Then 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, 12saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." 13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth 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 and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." 14And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.

5:11 "many angels" This verse lists three groups of angels: (1) many angels (thousands of thousands); (2) living creatures (four); or (3) elders (twenty-four).

▣ "the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands" This seems to be an allusion to the heavenly court of Dan. 7:10 (see note at 5:1).

5:12 "the Lamb that was slain to receive power" This is the affirmation of the Son from the angelic beings. "Was slain" is a perfect passive participle (cf. 5:6; 13:8), which implies "slain in the past" with the marks and effect of the slaying remaining. When we see Jesus He will still have the marks of the crucifixion. They have become His badge of honor! The concept of the cross is implicit and central in Revelation. See note at 5:9.

In this verse seven attributes are given unto the Lamb by the angelic orders:

1. power

2. riches

3. wisdom

4. might

5. honor

6. glory

7. blessing

These attributes may come from 1 Chr. 29:10-12, which may also be the OT source for the liturgic conclusion to the Lord's Prayer in Matt. 6:13 in the Greek manuscript tradition.

The NASB Study Bible (p. 1855) adds the note that the attributes of God begin with three in 4:11, then four in 5:13, and finally seven in 5:12 and 7:12. Remember apocalyptic literature is a highly structured genre which uses symbolic number often.

5:13 All conscious human creation (the largest human choir possible), humans (both alive and dead) in v. 13 bless the Father and the Son with a fourfold blessing (cf. v. 14; Ps. 103:19-20; Phil. 2:8-11) and the angelic orders (the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders) surrounding the throne affirm the blessing (cf. v. 14).

5:14 "Amen" This is an affirmation from the four throne angels (the four living creatures). See Special Topic at 1:6.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How do chapters 4 and 5 fit into the overall purpose of the book?

2. What is the literary genre of chapters 4 and 5?

3. From what sources does John pull his imagery?

4. Who are the elders?

5. Are the creatures described in 4:7-10 cherubim or seraphim?

6. List the OT titles of the Messiah which are found in chapter 5.

7. List the fivefold description of the Messiah's worthiness found in 5:9 and 10.