Revelation Chapter Five – “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book…”

26 Oct

Revelation 5

(The Things Which Shall Be Hereafter…cont’d.)

A. The Proclamation:  John sees an event, which causes despair to flood his soul. The crisis of the seven-sealed book is about to begin.

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:1, 2).  This is more of a declaration or proclamation than a question.  It is very similar to the question often posed in our wedding ceremonies, “Who gives this bride away to be lawfully wedded?”

God the Father holds here in His hand a scroll which is rolled tightly and sealed closely with seven seals. Stauffer is the one who calls our attention to the fact that the Roman law required that a will be sealed seven times, as illustrated in the wills left by Augustus and Vespasian. While it is interesting that this method was used, we know that in the Book of Revelation the number seven is not just an accidental number and that it wasn’t used only because they used it in the Roman Empire. (J.V. McGee)

In Zechariah we read: “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and     behold a flying roll.  And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof is ten cubits.  Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it” (Zech. 5:1–3).

This flying roll is the same thing as the scroll here in Revelation.

The scroll represents the will of God concerning His judgment on this earth.  Revelation is also a book of Redemption and the scroll is symbolic of those involving the redemption of the land in the Old Testament.  In Jeremiah, the prophet is told to buy a parcel of land which would be restored to him in the future.

Jeremiah 32:6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,  7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.  8 So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.   9 And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.  10 And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.  11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: 12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.  13 And I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.  15 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.

            Revelation is a book of Redemption.  Jesus is the kinsman redeemer.  He had to be next of kin, willing, and wealthy enough to be able according to Leviticus.

B.    The declaration.

“And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon” (5:3).

The idea that some kind of a universe wide search was undertaken is not really supported here.  The strong angel is pointing out by his proclamation that no other can be worthy.  Adam is the only man who ever lived who has at any one time ruled the earth but he lost it due to sin.  (Genesis 1:28)  Moses was the lawgiver, but he was also a lawbreaker. David and his line failed. None of Adam’s line qualifies. There is none today.  To think that a search takes place is to think that all of Heaven was oblivious to God’s plan of the redemption of the earth and also puts forth the idea that after this supposed search, Jesus sort of steps out of nowhere and finally decides to take the scroll.  However, this plan has been put in place since before ‘the foundations of the world’. (J.V. McGee)

Think back to the example of our wedding ceremony and the question asked, “Who gives this women to be lawfully wedded?”  Does not the attendees already know who that person is?  Or does the ceremony come to a screeching halt while the wedding party looks for someone willing and able to give the bride away.

Notice that only John, who has just arrive, is weeping.  Everyone else is aware that the Lion of Judah is worthy.

C.    The lamentation.

“And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (5:4).

Why did John weep? Perhaps because (among other things) he realized that the ultimate resurrection and glorification of his own body was directly connected with the removal of the curse placed upon this earth. (See Rom. 8:17-23.)  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

D.    The manifestation.

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:5-7).

Phillips writes:

“John turned to behold a Lion. But instead of a shaggy mane and gaping jaws and dreadful teeth, he saw—a Lamb! Was there ever a more dramatic moment in the history of the universe? The Lion was none other than the Lamb!” (Exploring Revelation, John Phillips, p. 106)

This Lamb is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The proof is overwhelming.

1.    He has the characteristics of a lamb. Our Lord is referred to as a Lamb twenty-nine times in the New Testament. In all but one instance (1 Pet. 1:19) it is the Apostle John who employs this title. Furthermore,

a.    It is a pet lamb. There are two words for “lamb” in the Greek New Testament. One is amnos (a lamb in general) and the other is arnion (a special household pet lamb). Here in Revelation 5:6 the second Greek word is used. (For a related Old Testament passage, see 2 Sam. 12:1-4.)  During the feast of Passover, on the tenth day of the first month the head of a household would take a firstling of the flock and bring it in the house.  The family would feed and care for the lamb for four days before killing it for sacrifice.  It essentially became their ‘pet lamb’ or most special to them.  Jesus, the treasure of heaven, gave His life a ransom for us.

b.    It is a slain lamb. Here the Greek word for slain is sphatto, and refers to a violent death of some sort. The same word is found in the following passage: “We should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother” (1 Jn. 3:11, 12).

The word sphatto is found only seven times in the New Testament, and four of these usages refer to the death of Christ (Rev. 5:6, 9, 12; 13:8).

c.    It is an all-powerful lamb. The lamb is pictured as possessing seven horns, which in biblical symbolic language refers to power and authority.

d.    It is an all-knowing lamb. The lamb is pictured as possessing seven eyes, referring to perfect knowledge and wisdom.

2.    He has the characteristics of a lion. John calls him “The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David,” and so he is. Three key Bible chapters explain this title.

a.    In Genesis 49 the dying Jacob predicted that Judah, his fourth son, would be like a lion, and that the later kings of Israel, including Christ himself, would come from his tribe (Gen. 49:8-10).

b.    In 2 Samuel 7 God told David (who was of the tribe of Judah) that his kingdom would be eternal and that his household would rule forever (2 Sam. 7:8-17).

c.    In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel explained to Mary (who was of the house of David) that her virgin-born son would inherit all the Old Testament promises as found in Genesis 49 and 2 Samuel 7 (Lk. 1:30-33). Thus John sees Christ as a Lamb, since he once came to redeem his people. This was his past work. John also sees him as a lion, for he shall come again to reign over his people. This will be his future work. The source of his claim to the earth’s scepter is therefore related to his slain Lamb characteristics while the strength of his claim is due to his mighty Lion characteristics.

E.    The adoration.

“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever” (5:8-14).

1.    The source of this worship. It comes from all directions and includes every creature.

a.    the twenty-four elders

b.    the four living creatures

c.    uncounted angels

d.    all upon the earth

e.    all under the earth

At this point it should be noted that John carefully separates the singing he heard from the saying (chanting). Of all the various groups involved, only the redeemed are described as singing.

W. A. Criswell writes:

“Always the redeemed sing. God’s blood-washed sing. God’s children sing, but angels do not sing. Here is my conclusion. Music is made up of major chords and minor chords. The minor chords speak of the wretchedness, death and sorrow of this fallen creation. Most of nature moans and groans in a plaintive and minor key. The sound of the wind through the forest, the sound of the storm, the sound of the wind around the house, is always in a minor key. It wails. The sound of the ocean moans in its restlessness, in its speechless travail. Even the nightingale’s, the sweetest song, is the saddest. Most of the sounds of nature are in a minor key. It reflects the wretchedness, the despair, the hurt, the agony, the travail of this fallen creation. But an angel knows nothing of this. An angel knows nothing of the wretchedness, nothing of the despair, nothing of the fall of our lost race.” (Expository Sermons on Revelation, pp. 204, 205)

2.    The subject of this worship: “Worthy is the Lamb.”

a.    What he once did: “For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (5:9).


(1)    Isaac once asked, “Where is the Lamb?” (Gen. 22:7).

(2)    John the Baptist then answered “Behold the Lamb!” (Jn. 1:29).

(3)    All creation now says, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Rev. 5:12).

J. Vernon McGee writes:

“They sing of His blood in heaven. Down here many denominational churches are taking from their hymn books all songs about the Blood of Christ, but the Blood is not being taken out of the hymn books in heaven w they sing about the Blood up there!”

We are told that this singing is a new song (5:9).

(4)    The old song is that of creation. (See Job 38:7; Rev. 4:11.)

(5)    The new song is that of redemption.

b.    What he now receives: “Power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).



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