Presentation, Proclamation, Propitiation, Praise

PRESENTATIONThen 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. (Revelation 5:1)

Right Hand of God – The “right hand” is a figure of speech that represents God’s ultimate power and authority.(1) God’s right hand is the means whereby victories are obtained for the people of God (Psalm 17:7; 98:1). It is also an instrument of punishment for the ungodly (Hebrews 2:16). While the right hand of man is impotent to save (Job 40:14), God’s right hand sustains his children in their hour of need (Psalm 139:10). God promises to strengthen the right hand of the person he decides to help (Isaiah 41:13).(2)

The Seven-Sealed Scroll – During Bible times, legal documents were often sealed with wax bearing the attestations of seven witnesses imprinted on them. Breaking the wax seals would loosen strings beneath the seal, which wrapped the scroll. Unbroken seals guaranteed that the document had not been opened and possibly altered. This form was used for important documents, including contracts, deeds and wills. This was a common method of securing Roman documents of the period, and some Palestinian Jewish documents of this sort have also been recovered.

Scrolls were normally written on only one side of a papyrus sheet. The fibers on the inside of the scroll ran horizontally, making writing easier on that side. The outside was typically reserved for the title or address, but would also be used when the inside had inadequate space. Documents written on both sides were rare enough to have a technical name, called an opisthograph. John notes that this scroll had writing on both sides (Ezekiel 2:9–10).(3)

From the immediate context in Revelation 5, it is not possible to determine whether the scroll in question had seven seals on the outside or whether the scroll was sealed at seven different points. According to Revelation 6, the seals were broken one after another, which appears to indicate that the scroll had been sealed at seven different places as it had been rolled up.(4) Thus, as it was unrolled, the seals would need to be broken one by one, rather than all at once.(5) Some suggest that the scroll, or book, appears from the context to be the title-deed of man’s inheritance. While it has already been redeemed by Christ on the cross, the scroll contains the steps by which He will assert His rights and take physical possession of it from the usurper.(6)

PROCLAMATIONAnd I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on 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 or look inside. (Revelation 5:2-4)

Not merely no man, but no other being (“in heaven or on earth or under the earth”) was worthy.(7) No saint in glory, no person on earth, no soul in the underworld of death, could take that book (“or even look inside it”). No one was worthy,(8) meant that no one had the requisite power or authority (both were required) to open the book.(9) In the ancient world, a title deed or will could only be opened by the appointed heir. In this case, the heir is Jesus Christ. John wept because he understood that God’s glorious plan for the redemption of mankind could never be fully completed until the scroll was opened. There were three requirements to open the scroll: The redeemer had to be a near kin, the redeemer had to be willing to redeem, and the redeemer had to be able to redeem (see below).(10)

PROPITIATION – 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 center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had 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. (Revelation 5:5-7)

Jesus Christ is worthy because He is our Kinsman Redeemer. He became flesh to become our kinsman. Because He loved us He was willing to redeem us. He demonstrated this by paying a very high price that was required to redeem us.(11) To gain a fuller understanding of this concept of kinsman redeemer, one needs to understand the Hebrew system of land ownership. If a man became poor and had to sell his land, it could be redeemed by a kinsman. The story of Ruth is based on this law (see Jeremiah 32:6–15 and Leviticus 25:23–25). To qualify as the redeemer one had to be a near relative (kinsman), who was willing and able to purchase the property. Ever since the fall, all creation has been under bondage to sin, Satan, and death. But in “these last days” Christ became our Kinsman Redeemer to set creation free.(12)

A Near Relative – Three unique titles are given to our Lord in this text that describes Him as Kinsman Redeemer.

He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” This is a reference to Genesis 49:8–10, where Jacob prophetically gave the scepter to Judah and made it the tribe of the kings. God never meant for Saul, Israel’s first king, to establish a lasting dynasty, because he came from the tribe of Benjamin. God merely used him to discipline Israel because the people asked for a king. Afterwards, He gave the kingship to David who was from the tribe of Judah. The imagery of the lion is symbolic of dignity, sovereignty, courage, and victory. The Gospels prove that He is an heir to this kingship by recording his genealogy. Son of David was a title often used of Him when He was ministering on earth (see Matthew 1).

He is the “Root of David.” This means He brought David (and David’s line) into existence. He preceded David. As far as His humanity is concerned, Jesus was the offspring, having His roots in David (Isaiah 11:1, 10). But as far as His deity is concerned, Jesus is the Root of David. This speaks, of course, of our Lord’s eternality. He is the “Ancient of Days.” How the Messiah could both be David’s Lord and David’s son was a problem with which Jesus challenged the Pharisees. They could not (or would not) answer Him (Matthew 22:41–46).

Jesus was our sacrificial lamb (“a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain”). When John turned around to see, he did not see a lion. He saw a lamb. Jesus Christ is called the Lamb at least twenty-eight times in the Book of Revelation (the Greek word that is used means a little pet lamb), making the emphasis hard to miss. In Revelation 6:16, God’s wrath is called “the wrath of the Lamb.” In Revelation 7:14, cleansing is by “the blood of the Lamb.” In Revelation 19:7 and 21:9, the church is “the bride of the Lamb.” The theme of the Lamb is an important one throughout Scripture, for it presents the person and work of Jesus Christ, as the sacrificial Lamb of God, our Kinsman Redeemer. The Old Testament question posed by Isaac “where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22:7) was answered by John the Baptist when he proclaimed, “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). At long last, in Revelation 5:12, the choirs of heaven sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!(13)

He Willingly Paid the Price of Redemption -– The phrase “looking as if it had been slain” does not imply that the Lamb appeared to have been killed but was not.(14) Rather, “as if” is used to indicate the Lamb is in reality now alive, but in appearance still bears the marks of the sacrifice.(15) The Lamb is represented as standing. Although Christ was slain and laid low in the grave, He now stands. He was not overthrown or defeated by His death. By His death, He offered up His life to pay the price of redemption. By His resurrection, the price was accepted, and He was proclaimed worthy.(16)

Under Roman law, a document became valid only when the addressee had received it.(17) A similar concept is present in the law of contracts today, which require both an offer and an acceptance. Christ offered His life as payment for our sins and God accepted it as “worthy” by raising Jesus from the dead. Today, Christ offers His atoning death to us as a free gift. But we must accept the gift for it to take effect in our lives.

He Was Able to Close the Deal – Seven is the number of perfection. Here we see perfect power (“seven horns”), perfect wisdom (“seven eyes”), and perfect presence (“seven Spirits of God”). Theologians call these qualities omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. All three are attributes of God. The Lamb who is worthy is God the Son, Christ Jesus!(18)

Once again, we see the concept of offer and acceptance on display. The book lay in the open hand of Him that sat on the throne for any to take who was found worthy (the offer). The Lamb (the Son) takes it from “him who sat on the throne,” the Father (the acceptance).(19) That He was able to take it from the hand of the Father demonstrates not only that He was worthy, but that the Father also accepted Him as being worthy.

PRAISEAnd 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 bowls 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 honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the 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 honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:8-14)

Christ alone is worthy of praise. It is interesting to contrast this doxology with the earthly life of Christ. His enemies said He was worthy of death (John 19:7), while the angels say He is worthy of praise. Men accused Him of working by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24), but the angels say He is worthy of divine power. He became poor for our sakes (2 Corinthians 8:9), but He deserves all riches. “The preaching of the cross is foolishness” to sinful man (1 Corinthians 1:18), but it is wisdom to the angels. On earth, Jesus was “crucified in weakness” (2 Corinthians 13:4), but in heaven He is lauded for His power. Dishonored on earth, He is honored in glory. Made a curse on the cross, He is today both the recipient and bestower of blessing.

After the angels completed their praise, all of creation joined to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. “Every creature” suggests that all creation anticipates the redemption that will come when Christ finally asserts His rights as heir over the enemy and establishes His kingdom.(20)

Up Next – The first seal, the rider on the white horse.

_____________________________________________________

References

  1. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
  2. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1860). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  3. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 5:1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Re 5:1). Biblical Studies Press.
  5. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 945). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 565). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  7. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 566). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  8. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (pp. 809–810). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  9. Walvoord, John F. (1966). The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
    Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 584). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 584). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 584). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  12. Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 809). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  13. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 584–585). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  14. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Re 5:6). Biblical Studies Press.
  15. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 5:6). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  16. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 158). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  17. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 5:7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  18. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 585). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  19. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 566). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  20. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 811). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s