11. The Seven Sealed Book and the Lion Who was Also a Lamb (Rev 5:1-14)
Chapters 6 and following will unfold the ominous events of the Tribulation and describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. Over and over from this point on, what occurs will be described in terms of God’s wrath and judgment as an outpouring of His holy and righteous character. But before these events occur, man is given the perspective of heaven—a perspective which demonstrates something of the justice of these events and their necessity. In chapter four our attention was focused on the throne set in heaven and its Occupant. In chapter five the scene is still in heaven and continues the vision of the throne, only now the focus is on a new item of vital importance, the seven-sealed book (actually, a scroll, the Greek biblion) and its Recipient. The book contains the prophecy of events to be unfolded in the rest of the book of Revelation.
The Seven Sealed Book
The Position of the Book
The next thing catching the attention of John was the seven-sealed scroll held in the right hand of the Throne Sitter. The importance of what is taking place in this scene is evident by the position of the scroll which is in the hand of the Almighty Sovereign and Holy God of the universe. God, whose plans must be carried out, must now bring judgment to bear upon sinful man. The period of grace and God’s long-suffering has now come to an end. The “right hand” as always is a symbol of God’s strength and justice.
The Portrayal of the Book
“With writing on both sides.” John was impressed with the fact the book contained writing on both sides meaning that it was full, written all over. This clearly demonstrates the importance and comprehensive character of its contents. But what does this mean and teach us? While we are not told exactly what the book contains, several things suggest the following picture:
(1) From the context of Revelation and similar portrayal in Ezekiel 2:9-10, this scroll undoubtedly contains prophecies of the judgments of the Tribulation. Writing on both sides simply emphasizes the fullness of the judgments and their ability to accomplish the purposes of God.
(2) In the chapters that follow, the breaking of the seals result in the out-pouring of the judgments described in Revelation. This clearly shows that the seven-sealed book contains prophecies of all the judgments necessary to bring rebellious man to his knees, defeat Satan’s kingdom, restore the kingdom of the earth under the visible authority of God, and to reestablish man as God had originally intended before the fall and the invasion of the tyrant, Satan (Gen. 1:26-28).
(3) Later on, through the unfolding of the seals and the judgments that come out of the seals (like the trumpet judgments) voices in heaven are heard at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). The seventh trumpet includes the seven last plagues or bowls judgments that bring an end to the kingdom of this present world under Satan’s authority. See also 12:10 which anticipates the doom and final days of Satan’s kingdom.
(4) So the seventh trumpet, with the plagues that follow, will result in the defeat of the enemies of God and the establishment of God’s kingdom through Messiah. One of the key features of Revelation concerns the two kingdoms: the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. The words “king, kings, kingdom,” etc., occur thirty times and in twenty-five verses in this book.
Chapters 12-14 are parenthetical and halt the progress of the judgments in order to develop certain themes that are tied into the key players of the Tribulation drama (Satan, Israel, the beast, the 144,000, the angel with the everlasting gospel, the beast worshippers, and the reaping of the earth by the Lord, the One who is the true white horse rider).
When we compare 11:15-17 with 15:1-7 and 16:17, it seems evident that it is the seventh bowl which finishes the judgments and accomplishes the defeat of Satan and his end-time kingdom. This final bowl comes out of the seventh trumpet which comes out of the seventh seal. Its the telescopic effect discussed in the introduction.
All of this suggests that the seven-sealed book contains the story of man losing his lordship over the earth to Satan, the usurper, and its recovery through the God-man Savior, the Lion who is also the Lamb. He alone is able to accomplish what no one else in the universe can, and He does so through the judgments of the sealed book.
“Sealed up with seven seals.” “Sealed up” is katasfragizw from kata meaning “down” and sfragizw, “to seal.” This compound verb means “tightly sealed, firmly sealed,” and so, “very hidden, very secure.” “Seven” is the number of perfection or completeness. So all of this expresses the perfection with which the hidden counsels of God are securely hidden until they are disclosed by God Himself as here. Walvoord writes, “Further, the document is made impressive by seven seals, apparently fixed on the edges of the scroll in such a way that the seals must be successively broken if the scroll is to be unrolled and read.74
But there is another reason for the seven seals which is suggested by a knowledge of the two cultural and historical practices of John’s day.
The Roman Custom: The Roman custom of making a will included a ceremony involving a testator and seven witnesses. For each of the seven witnesses there was a seal. In addition, a very reliable friend was selected who would, for a coin, purchase the property for the family. In this way the property would become the property of the reliable friend, however, upon the death of the testator, the very reliable friend would return the property to the rightful heirs. For such a document, a long scroll of parchment was used. The writer of the document would begin writing and after a period, he would stop, roll up the parchment enough to cover his words, and then seal the scroll with wax. He would then resume writing, stop, seal another portion, and so on until the entire scroll was sealed with seven seals. In this way, the scroll would read a section at a time after each seal was broken.
In the analogy, the Lord Jesus is the reliable Friend who has purchased our redemption and is here seen opening the seals which provide us with our inheritance. In this case, He is reclaiming that which was lost by Adam. Further, this procedure was used to keep unauthorized persons from opening the seven-sealed scroll. Only a “worthy” person, the one with the right credentials, could open the seals, read the inheritance, and give it to the inheritors.
The Jewish Custom: Criswell points out that if a Jewish family were to lose its property or possessions by some kind of misfortune or distress, their property could not be permanently taken from them (the Old Testament law of jubilee and the kinsman redeemer protected them against this).75 However, their losses were listed in a scroll and sealed seven times. Then the conditions necessary to purchase back the land and their possessions were written on the outside of the scroll. When a qualified redeemer could be found, who could meet the requirements of reclamation (a kinsman like Boaz as in the story of Ruth), the one who had taken the property was required to return it to the original owner.
The Principle and Application
(1) The earth and its dominion properly belonged to Adam and to his progeny or descendants (Gen. 1:26-30; Heb. 2:7-8)
In this we see the Divine Purpose for Man Decreed (Heb. 2:6-8a)
(2) The earth and the human race was not meant to be ruled by angels, i.e., by Satan and the fallen Angels under his control (Heb. 2:5, 8b, 14-15; Rev. 9:1-11; 12:1-10)
In this we see the Divine Purpose Delayed (Heb. 2:8b), “But now we do not see all things subjected to him.”
(3) Therefore, some one must be found within humanity, a kinsman redeemer, one who is qualified to reclaim the lost inheritance, someone who was true humanity, yet free to redeem; not a sinful man, nor an angel (Heb. 2:9, 14-17). Note the elements of worthiness and redemption in Rev. 5:9-10.
In this we see the Divine Purpose for Man Accomplished (paradise lost regained) (Heb. 2:9, 14, 17)
So, man is faced with the big question, “Who is able?”
The Problem of the Scroll
John sees a strong angel—an angelic messenger of God—one of the unfallen angels all of whom are personally interested in man’s redemption and in this book. We also see that he speaks with a loud voice, undoubtedly to emphasize the importance of this question and in order to penetrate all of the universe with the question posed, “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?”
The vision opens with three notes of emphasis: a strong angel—only twice more is reference made to a strong angel in the book, viz., 10:1 and 18:21 (Greek). The angel proclaims—not merely says. The word signifies to announce as a herald. With a loud voice denotes urgency and great concern… . Who is the strong angel making the challenge? The answer is, doubtless, Gabriel, the one who ordered the closing and sealing of the book to Daniel.76
This scene dramatically calls our attention to the problem. There was no one qualified in any place in the universe to open it, or even look into it.
“No one … was able.” “Able” is an imperfect tense of a continual problem. The Greek word here is dunamai which means the ability to do something whether by ability, strength or power, or by authority or permission. Search was made in every conceivable place in the universe, but there was no one qualified and capable.
4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside (NIV).
John’s weeping stresses the effect on John, a godly man longing for the righteousness of God to be manifest in the world to rid the world of its ungodliness and the product of that—man’s stubborn rebellion and the evil, tyranny, and injustices throughout the world. John’s sobbing also demonstrates the inability of anyone else in the universe to solve man’s dilemma. When the dominion was lost, man began to experience tears, pain and sorrow because of his condition in sin and the onslaught of Satan’s murderous ways and dominion.
Mankind has sought answers to its problems by searching in all the wrong places. By-in-large, man has put his trust in mankind, in human governments, in wealth, in pleasure, in human philosophies, but the tears of man’s sorrow still continue to flow like a river the world over. The daily headlines and the news on TV are a constant reminder of this. The world, from the very early history of mankind as seen in the tower of Babel, has searched among the systems of the world and looked to the wisdom of man for its solutions instead of to the Lamb who is also the Lion, the Sovereign Savior. None of man’s solutions can even begin to provide for the enormous problems facing us.
The Sovereign Savior
John is commanded to stop his weeping because his eyes (and ours) are turned to that One who turns tears of sorrow into tears of joy, and weeping into laughter. Note the following chart which contrasts the two pictures here given of Christ.77
Jesus as the Lion
Jesus as the Lamb
the lion character refers to His second coming
the lamb character refers to His first coming
the lion speaks of His majesty
the lamb speaks of His meekness
as lion He is sovereign
as lamb He is Savior
as lion He is Judge
as lamb He is judged
the lion speaks of the government of God
the lamb speaks of the grace of God
As to His Person
(1) He is “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” The lion is the king of beasts, and Judah is the royal tribe. Here we have an allusion to Genesis 49:9-10 where it is predicted that the future Ruler of Israel and of the earth would come out of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe. This is, of course, a reference to the Lord Jesus who was of the line of David, a legal descendent by adoption through Joseph (Matt. 1), but also a physical descendent of David through Mary (Luke 3:23f).
(2) He is “the Root of David.” This is a reference to Isaiah 11:1 where it is prophesied that from Jesse, David’s father, the future Ruler of the earth, the Messiah, would rise up like a shoot or stem from the root of a cut down tree. The Davidic line would be cut down so that no man would sit on the throne of David (cf. Jer. 22:24-30), but from David’s line or roots would come the Messiah, David’s own progeny.
As to His Work
(1) He “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” “Overcome” is the Greek verb nikaw which means “to win a victory, come off victorious, to conquer, be victorious over one’s enemies.” The tense is aorist. It is what grammarians call a culminative aorist which views an event or series of events from the standpoint of an accomplished act. It is used of verbs which signify an effort, or process, and the aorist denotes the attainment of the effort as an accomplished fact.
The Lord Jesus faced many battles like that of His temptation, of His ministry, and of course of the cross. In all of these He came forth victorious. The aorist emphasizes the complete success of Christ’s work in His ministry on earth, particularly the cross. This should remind us of His victorious shout just before He bowed His head and voluntarily died for the sin of the world. He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
“So as to open” is an aorist infinitive which points us to the intended results of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus in the plan of God. The results of Christ’s redemptive victory is the capacity and authority to break the seals and to pour out the judgments.
‘To open the book” refers to Christ’s authority and right to reveal the prophecies of this book, first to John and then to the church.
“To open the seals” refers to His authority to break the seals and unleash their judgments here revealed when the time comes for the Tribulation.
Verse 6: So what else does John see?
(2) “A Lamb standing as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes …” Each part of this symbolism describes certain aspects of Christ’s person and work.
“A Lamb.” Since the one standing is “the Lamb of God,” we might have expected to find the Greek article with the noun, but it is absent. Why? Because the absence of the article draws our attention to the quality or character of Christ as God’s sacrificial Lamb. Further, the term used here is the Greek arnion. The regular word for lamb is arnon. Arnion is the diminutive form and means “little Lamb,” but it came to be used as a term of endearment. The sacrificial lambs were not just lambs taken out of the flock, but those which had often been brought into the home, cared for and loved. It expresses God’s love for His Son and what it cost Him to give Him for us.
The term lion is used of Christ only once in Revelation, though this is the book which reveals Christ’s lion-like majestic authority and character. Yet the term “Lamb” (arnion) occurs in Revelation 28 times. The point is simply that His kingly crown, rule, and power lies in His Person and redemptive work as the Lamb of God who died in our place. The biggest battle was won on the cross. He could not take His place as Ruler until He had become the Kinsman Redeemer by the sacrifice of Himself as God’s arnion. The figure of the Lamb perfectly expresses the submission and controlled gentleness (meekness) of Christ as silent before His shearers and as He was led to the cross to bear our sin. This is clearly a prominent emphasis in this chapter and declared to be one of the reasons for His worthiness to open the book and its seals (cf. 5:9-10).
“Looking as if it had been slain” (NIV), or “standing as if slain” (NASB), or better, a lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered.78
“Standing” is a perfect tense of the verb, $isthmi, “to stand.” He had been slain, but now He is seen, not dead, but very much alive, indeed standing, firmly positioned, immovable and ready to judge. The perfect tense stresses this firm position.
“As if slain” or literally, “as slaughtered.” This verb, sfazw, means “to slay, slaughter” and was used especially of victims for sacrifice.79 The obvious reference is to the Lord Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Again the Greek text employs the perfect tense which stresses completed action with results going on in the present. The continuing results were not continued death, but the efficacious effects of Christ’s substitionary work for sin and His defeat of Satan’s power (Col. 1:12-13; 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14). The position of standing points to Him as the resurrected and victorious Savior. The marks are nevertheless there, the marks of death on His resurrected body, undoubtedly everlasting symbols of His sacrifice for us (cf. John 20:24-29).
“He had seven horns.” The horn is the symbol of power and of government, and seven (the number of perfection) shows us that Christ’s power and government are perfect. He will be victorious over all His enemies and rule in perfect righteousness and justice as prophesied in Isaiah 11.
“And seven eyes.” Eyes are symbolic of Christ’s omniscience, wisdom and insight. Again, seven emphasizes the totality and perfection of His knowledge and insight. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
“Which are the seven Spirits of God.” Though Christ Himself is omniscient, He also is the One who sends forth the Holy Spirit into the earth, who likewise knows all and sees all. None of His actions and decisions in His righteous judgments against the sin of mankind will be made on partial knowledge.
(3) “And He came and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” What a beautiful scene. The only one qualified is now seen moving to take the book out of the hand of the One on the throne. With the taking up of the scroll, action is now ready to begin. Once more we must notice what Christ is doing. He is not sitting in heaven at God’s right hand, making intercession. Instead, He moves forward to take the seven-sealed book containing the judgments of the Tribulation. This portrays His determination to establish the visible kingdom on earth when the time is right in the future. He is seen standing and walking between the throne and the 24 elders, the glorified, resurrected church there in heaven with Him. Walvoord writes:
In the act of receiving the book from God the Father, it is made evident that judgment and power over the earth are committed to Christ the Son of God. Daniel 7:13-14 is a parallel passage. There Daniel reveals the ultimate triumph of Christ when the kingdoms of the world are given to Christ. Daniel declares,
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
In that future day complete authority over the world will be realized by Christ, an authority which He will exercise both in the judgments which precede His second coming and in His reign for one thousand years which will follow His second advent.80
Now the solution to man’s dilemma has been found in the Lion who was also a Lamb. This recipient of the scroll is worshipped, first by the four living beings and then by the twenty-four elders (5:8-10). Following this, these two groups are joined by an innumerable host of angels, and finally by all creation in recognition of the worthiness of the Lamb and in praise of His accomplishments (5:11-14).
We must not pass on to this scene without understanding the nature or the reason for what is taking place here. Remember, this chapter is a prologue to the terrible events of the great Tribulation by which all the enemies of Christ and of God’s purposes for Him are defeated and made the footstool of His feet. It is then that Christ will begin to reign as the God-man, but also as the King of kings in fulfillment of all Old and New Testament expectations. But when do the events of this chapter occur? I believe they will occur sometime after the rapture, with the church in heaven, but just before Daniel’s Seventieth Week or the time of Jacob’s distress.
So let’s review for a moment to get the perspective so that we can properly gain the impact of this scene.
(1) This section (chapters four and five) began with meta tauta, “after these things.” They deal with events which must take place after these things, or after the church age (4:1).
(2) The elders who represent the church are seen in heaven, glorified, robed and crowned.
(3) Also around the throne in heaven is a sea of crystal portraying not only God’s perfect holiness but the Old Testament laver which is now like crystal, and a symbol that there is no more need for daily cleansing of sin due to the finished work of Christ.
(4) There is also seen a new throne set in heaven, a throne of judgment for coming events rather than a throne of intercession. In this regard Christ is seen not sitting as our advocate and intercessor, but standing and moving to take the book or scroll full of judgments. The picture of Christ here with the titles given to Him (5:5) show that He has laid aside His role as intercessor and advocate for the church (who is now with Him in heaven) and is taking up a new work on behalf of Israel, to fulfill Israel’s kingdom promises.
Let’s also look back into some other New Testament verses to properly get the picture here.
(1) After Christ died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead, He was taken into heaven where He sat down at God’s right hand as our advocate and intercessor (Heb. 1:3; Rom. 8:34).
(2) Here Christ was to sit and serve as our intercessor until it was time for what we can call “operation footstool,” the time when Christ will move to defeat all His enemies and have all things brought into subjection to Him (Heb. 1:13; 10:12-14).
(3) Because of His humble submission to the Father’s plan to become man and die on the cross for man’s sin (i.e., His humiliation), God has highly exalted Him above all, giving Him a Name above all names with the purpose that all creation would one day worship at His feet and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God (Phil. 2:9-11).
(4) Now, we do not see all things subjected to Him. Instead, Satan, the usurper, is still walking about, the nations are still in an uproar (Ps. 2), and Israel is still in unbelief as a nation (cf. Rom. 11). We now see Christ in His humiliation, made lower than the angels as true humanity, suffering and dying for man’s sin on the cross, and then ascended and seated as our intercessor (Heb, 2: 8, 9, 14, 17, 18). But this is all temporary, until his enemies are made his footstool (Heb. 10:13).
Now back to our scene in Revelation five. The church is no longer on earth. Christ’s intercession and advocacy is no longer needed, so Christ is no longer seated on the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Instead He is seen standing and then moving to take the scroll full of Judgment. This is a clear sign that Christ, looking prophetically to the future, is about to proceed with His work as King and Judge; it is now time for “Operation Footstool.”
Is there any wonder therefore that the Lamb is here so greatly revered for what He is about to do. Note that it is when the Lion/Lamb takes the scroll that the actions of worship immediately follow.
Their Actions of Worship (8a)
(1) “Fell down before the Lamb.” In the previous chapter God is worshipped as the sovereign Creator, but here the center of heaven’s worship is the Redeemer of mankind. The living beings and the elders fall down before the Lamb in profound prostration of worship and recognition of the Lamb’s finished work of redemption and His worthiness to now accomplish what He is about to do.
(2) “And they sang” (5:9). Literally, the Greek text say, “and they sing a new song,” present tense of the verb adw, which means “to sing” but in the NT it is used of praise to God. “Song” is wdh and in the NT it is only used of a sacred song or a song of praise.81 The use of the present tense is interesting. When John wrote Revelation, he was recording what he had seen through the visions revealed to him. It is sometimes difficult to determine the reason for the use of a particular tense or the aspect (the portrayal of a tense as to progress, simple occurrence, completed action, etc.) of a tense in a given context, but this may be what is called an historic present, though this use is less prevalent in apocalyptic writing than in narrative literature. Most translations translate this as “they sang.” So why the present? John may have used the present simply because he wanted to show the scene as in progress, but more than likely, this is what grammarian call an historical present. Historical presents are often used to introduce, highlight, and bring to prominence the scene that follows, specifically, the song of praise extolling the worthiness of the Lamb to take and open the book.
Their Instruments of Worship (8b)
Harps and golden bowls full of incense are instruments to aid in praise and worship of the Lamb. The indication is that they each not only had a harp, but played it as an expression of their adoration of the Lord.
Since this scene is prophetic of the future, the “golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints” would certainly include the prayers of church age saints who will be in heaven with the elders who are seen around the throne.
But what does this teach us concerning prayer?
(1) That the bowls are golden stresses the value of prayer to us and especially to God.
(2) That the bowls are full would stress the extent and abundance of their prayer and worship. Our praise and worship will not be halfhearted or part time then, and it should not be now. The saints will be full of the prayer of praise.
(3) Incense was burned in the tabernacle and temple which gave off a pleasing odor and ascended upward to God. The incense portrayed the person and work of Jesus Christ who alone satisfies the character of God and is pleasing to Him. Biblical praying and praise to God through the Lord Jesus Christ fills the area with a sweet atmosphere and aroma which calls attention to God’s glory and to Christ’s person.
(4) But what do the prayers consist of? Lindsey says that the incense “represents the earnest prayers of believers of all past ages begging God to judge Satan and his followers and to liberate mankind and creation from its curse.”82. This would be in keeping with the example prayer Christ gave to the disciples, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
Another view is that this refers only to the prayers of those then in heaven who are occupied with Jesus Christ and are full of praise only. Barnhouse is probably right when he says,
… today, prayer consists of confession, intercession, and worship. When we confess we are occupied with our sins; when we intercede, we are occupied with human needs, ours and others’ but when we worship we are occupied with Him alone. The day will come when prayer will be emptied of its need of confession. There will be no more laver. Prayer will be emptied of its need for intercession. There will be nothing remaining but that which may be symbolized under the bowls of incense, and all our prayer shall be praise and worship.83
Their Song of Worship (9-10)
Again, we should note that the goal of the song is to acclaim the worthiness of the Lamb to unleash the judgments of the seals. This is a keynote of this chapter. Terrible judgments will follow as an expression of God’s holiness and justice against man’s sin and rebellion. But what about God’s love? This is declared in the accomplishments of the Lamb as the gift of God’s love (John 3:16). Further, the Son gave His life as God’s solution to sin. But a large portion of the world has rejected and turned away from God’s Son. In this section we have what is in part a theodicy, a vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil and the judgments that will follow.
There are five reasons given in this new song that declare the Lamb as worthy. They fall into three time slots, all being based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
(1) He “was slain” is an obvious reference to the cross and the substitionary death of Christ for the sin of the world. This looks at the past historic event, the demonstration of God’s love for the world.
(2) The words, “and with your blood you purchased men for God,” point us to the efficacy of Christ’s death and describes both its past and present. Note that it is viewed as an accomplished fact. “Purchased” is the Greek, agorazw and means “to purchase in the market place.” It is used of the redemptive work of Christ which sets us free from sin and death. But the tense, a consummative or effective aorist, points to our redemption as an accomplished fact. There is a present effect in that every time a person believes in Christ, His redemptive death becomes the means of the believer’s salvation.
(3) “You have made them to be a kingdom” points to a further present effect of the cross, the establishment of a kingdom. Whenever a person trusts in Christ, they are rescued from the kingdom of darkness and made a part of a whole new kingdom, a kingdom of light in accord with God’s will for man (Col. 1:13).
(4) “And priests to God” This stresses our present representative character. By Christ’s work we have access to God and can serve and represent Him to men here on earth during the church age.
(5) “And they will reign …” The Greek employs a future indicative of a promised future fact. Though God is always on throne, sitting in the heavens and in charge of all that goes on, the church is not ruling today. Though the church will rule with Christ in the future, it was never meant to rule in this present age (1 Cor. 6:2). Rather, the Lord’s promise was, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).
The Sayings of Adoration and Exaltation
The seven-fold saying of the angels (12)
Here we are told that a host of innumerable angels surround the throne with the four living beings and the 24 elders, and that their voice is heard. Please note—as one voice. Voice is singular which emphasizes they are speaking in perfect unity, as one. An innumerable company of mighty beings speak in complete appreciation for the Lamb, for what He has done, and is now about to do. They speak in a loud (Greek megas) i.e., a great voice. Megas speaks of both the intensity and degree.
The angels who were present at Satan’s revolt and again at the fall of man are overjoyed and excited at the prospects of these judgments, now that one with whom they have done battle over the centuries is about to be removed. Thus a seven-fold exaltation is said of Christ.
(1) He is “worthy to receive power.” Power (jdunamis) is mentioned first perhaps because the immediate situation calls for the need of great power to accomplish His purposes in the earth. He alone, as the perfect God-man Savior is worthy of such power for He alone will and can use it with perfect justice and equity (Isa. 11).
(2) “And wealth” refers to the wealth of the universe. All this is His by creation and now by redemption and reclamation.
(3) “And wisdom” refers to the Lord’s omniscience and its wise use in carrying out the purposes of God in the world.
(4) “And strength” (iscus) refers to working might or power in action and stresses His omnipotence to carry out God’s will.
(5) “And honor” (timh) refers to the esteem, the value and respect which is due to Christ because of Who He is and what He has and will accomplish to the glory of God and the benefit of the world.
(6) “And glory” (doxa) refers to the tribute and public display of adoration that should accrue to Christ and again, this stems from His person and work, both past, present, and future.
(7) “And praise.” Praise (“blessing” in the NASB) is the Greek word (eulogia) which means “fair or good speech.” It refers to the praise that should be given to the Lord because of His wonderful acts of redemption and reclamation.
The four-fold saying of all created beings (13)
The emphasis of verse 13 is that all creation will finally praise Jesus Christ and recognize His sovereign authority and right to rule as the God-man. In chapter four the praise was to the Father. Here it is to the Son and the Father, both are praised.
This is the prophesy and fulfillment of Philippians 2:10-11. This means, that even the devil and his demon hosts are brought to this place, in spite of themselves and their defiance of God and Christ’s authority, and their unwillingness to praise Him. Here the angelic conflict will be resolved. Satan will be forced, after all these centuries of blasphemy, slander and accusations against God, to praise God and to admit God and His Son are worthy to be praised.
The four-fold blessing consists of “praise and honor and glory and power (the NASB has “dominion”) for ever and ever.” Praise and honor and glory are the same as above, only now a new note of praise is added—that of everlasting dominion. The Greek word here, kratos, is translated as “power” by the NIV, but that translation does not distinguish it enough from the other two words for power used in this chapter, dunamis and iscus. Kratos does mean “power, might, strength,” but it is particularly used of ruling power or sovereignty or dominion. The verb form, kratew, means (a) “to be strong, mighty,” hence “to rule, be master, prevail,” and then (b) “to get possession of, obtain, take hold of.”84 The emphasis here is clearly that of the Lion-Lamb prevailing against the rebellion of man and Satan and visibly taking control of the reigns of government over the earth through the events that will follow in chapters 6-19.
The response by the living beings and 24 elders (14)
Here we have the proper response from the four living beings and the worship of the 24 elders, the effects of the above praise. The amen signifies “truly, truly.” This is heaven’s response—the response of the angelic hosts asserting the validity of the praise. The falling down of the elders in worship shows the church’s response (through the representation of the twenty-four elders) to the sovereignty of God and the worthiness of the Lamb to now extend that sovereignty to earth and recover it for God and redeemed mankind.
The scene of chapter 5 can be considered as prophetic of future events in which the church of Jesus Christ bearing witness in the world today will be in the presence of the Lord in heaven. Those who have received Jesus Christ as Saviour and who have entered into the blessings of His redemptive work will be numbered among the tens of thousands pictured in chapter 5 as giving their worship and praise to the Saviour. That which John contemplated in prophetic vision will be an actual part of the future experience of the saints of God as they wait with Christ for the consummating events of the age and the establishment of His kingdom.85
All is now ready for the events of chapters 6-19—the outpouring of God’s divine wrath upon the earth and rebellious man.
The emphasis of these verses is clearly worship, recognizing the worthiness of the Lamb to take the book, open its seals, and pour out its judgments. But a further emphasis is the unified expression of worship. No one is preoccupied with themselves or with people. All attention is on the Lamb. No one is occupied with protecting their frail egos or vying for attention or worried about his position or praise, as we see in Luke 22 with the disciples. No one is seeking to promote their hidden agendas, for none now exist.
Obviously, God wants our worship just like this today. This passages serves as a beautiful example of what our worship and service for the Lord should always be like.
Romans 15:5-6 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; 6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Never will such music have been heard in the universe. Never will so many voices have intoned such mighty praise. The armies of armies come to the last note. The mightiest of God’s creatures sound the amen. We gaze upon the scene with no voice for utterance and, prostrate, we worship the Lord Jesus Christ who now proceeds to the most awful scenes of judgment with actions that rooted in His cross.86
As we so clearly see from this chapter, in heaven, all believers in their glorified state, without a sinful nature, will be occupied with giving praise and glory to God. But that’s not something we should put off until heaven. May we now be living to the glory of God as those who love Him and are living in the moment-by-moment expectation of the Savior’s coming.
Three men worked on a large building project. One was asked, “What are you doing?” “I’m mixing mortar,” he said. The second man said, “I’m helping put up this great stone wall.” When the third man was asked, he replied, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.”
Those three men could just as well have been working on a car, a truck, a house, a road, or any legitimate product or service a man or woman might provide. Most people work to earn a living, attain success, or amass wealth. Such reasons, however, must not be the Christian’s primary motive for working. Like the third man in our story, we need to see that what gives work eternal value is not the product or service of our labor but the process of laboring itself — doing the job faithfully to the glory of the Lord.87
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)