The Lamb and the Scroll – Revelation 5

Read the Passage: Revelation 5

Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.

Jesus’ Worthiness (5:1–5)

As chapter five opens, we find John in the throne room of heaven, looking at a scroll “written inside and on the back” (Rev. 5:1). This brings to mind the Ten Commandments and the scroll presented to Ezekiel, both of which were written on the front and back, and both of which communicated the character and plan of God (cf. Exod. 32:15; Ezek. 2:9). The problem that confronted John is that the scroll he saw was sealed. In the ancient world scrolls were sealed with the author’s insignia for both security and privacy, but also as a token of the author’s authority (cf. Dan. 12:4; Jer. 32:10–11; 1 Cor. 9:2). John had been called to heaven to see what would take place and then to communicate this information to others (cf. Rev. 4:1). The fact that no created being could be found to open the scroll grieved John greatly because it meant, in effect, that John’s calling would not be fulfilled.

In asking the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Rev. 5:2) the angel was essentially asking: Who has been authorized by the author of the scroll to reveal God’s plan? Who is qualified to carry out God’s plan? The answer to this question was given in Rev. 5:3, “No one in heaven or on earth [could be found].” Yet, there is hope. No created being can carry out God’s plan for the restoration of all things, including the heavens, the earth, and mankind. Indeed, Jesus Christ—the God-man—is authorized, worthy, and able. Harkening back to Israel’s prophetic blessing upon his sons at Gen. 49:8–12, John learns, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose the seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). This declaration must have brought incredible relief to John, and it ought to bring relief to us, as well. God is always at work, even in our sufferings.

Creatures’ Song (5:6–10)

Using Old Testament imagery, in Rev. 5:5 Jesus was described as a lion. However, in Rev. 5:6–7 there is a surprising image: when John looks he sees not a mighty lion, but “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6; cf. Isa. 53:7; Jer. 11:19; John 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18–19). The image is paradoxical, yet the message is unmistakable: the way in which Jesus has overcome sin is through His substitutionary atonement. In John’s description of Jesus, the slain Lamb, he uses apocalyptic, poetic language. John says that in his vision Christ has “seven horns and seven eyes” (Rev. 5:6). John’s intent here is not to picture a grotesque distorted creature, but to symbolically communicate a literal truth. In the Bible seven is the number of perfection, a horn symbolizes honor and power (cf. Ps. 75:4-5; 112:9; Dan. 7:24), and eyes symbolize omniscience (cf. Zech. 4:10). Thus, in this vision, John is saying that the Lamb—Jesus Christ—has perfect power and complete omniscience.

The reaction of the creatures of heaven to the presence of the Lamb is beautiful and predictable—that is, they worship Jesus for His very being and presence, as well as for His act of substitutionary atonement (cf. Rev. 5:9). The significance of the fact that the creatures’ praise is a “new song” (Rev. 5:9) is that in Scripture God’s people often sing a new song when He has delivered them (cf. Exod. 15; Luke 1). This new song, which is recorded in Rev. 5:9–10, was accompanied by harps and incense. John saw “around the throne [with] the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” all singing praises to God (Rev. 5:11). A myriad is equal to ten thousand, so “myriads of myriads” is a way of saying 10,000 x 10,000, which is equal to 100,000,000. Similarly, the reference to “thousands of thousands” is a way of saying 1,000 x 1,000, which equals 1,000,000. In other words, Jesus is worshiped by an innumerable number of beings.

Creation’s Praise (5:11–14)

As with the other creatures mentioned in Rev. 5:8–10, so here the song being sung is worship to the Lamb for who He is and what He has done. Note the words of the song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). Not coincidentally, there are seven excellencies bestowed upon Jesus: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessings. In each of the doxologies in Revelation, several of these same attributes are given to God (cf. Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:9, 12, 13). In fact, in all of Scripture, a common tie between glimpses into heaven is that there is continual praise that endures forever and ever (cf. Isa. 6:1–4; Ezek. 1, 10). In closing his vision, John also notes that it is not only the creatures in heaven who praise Jesus, but also “every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth” (Rev. 5:13). Let us practice now what we will do for all of eternity.

Application Questions:

  1. How do you explain and understand the presence of evil and good in the world?
  2. Does the fact that some people lack access to divine revelation grieve you?
  3. What made Christ worthy to open the scroll? Why was no one else worthy?
  4. Do you worship Jesus in order to get things from Him, or because of who He is?
  5. In what ways can we praise God apart from singing or verbal declaration?