REVELATION 5 – The Scroll and the Lamb
21st January 2006
While this chapter is part of the vision that began with the description of the
Throne of God and goes through to the opening of the seals in chapter 6, the focus
centres on one individual – the Lamb of God. It is His actions from this point on
that will govern and dictate events that will take place on earth throughout its
history from this moment onward. The actions of all other participants are described
in terms of worship directed to the Lamb and the One on the Throne. The culminating
emphasis is on the worthiness of the Lamb to receive worship because of His death.
REV 5:1 – The description is of a “scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with
This raises a problem. Papyrus codices, which were written as books similar to what
we know today, did not originate until the start of the second century AD – after
when this was written. Papyrus rolls were designed either for public or private use.
Usually the writing was on one side only with the inside writing in successive
Scrolls that were written on both sides were called “opisthographs’s and it was
for public use only. If the item to be read was a “book” then the seals could have
been opened one at a time and the next few pages read. If it was a scroll in the
normal sense then all the seals would have to be broken at once before any of it
was read. Since John’s vision indicates a sequential opening of seals, we must
assume that this particular scroll was unlike any in normal use. One possible
explanation is that there were seven “rolls” somehow clipped together, which could
have been individually unclipped and unrolled. Another possibility is that the
seals were internally present in the roll, but then how did John know there were
7 of them since 6 of them would have been hidden? We simply have to accept that
there was a document that was sealed and needed to be opened. The seals were made
of wax impressed with a signet ring and only the owner, or someone directly
appointed by the owner with the owner’s signet ring could break the seals and
read what was inside. Original documents were usually sealed while copies were
not. Sealed documents were normally kept hidden in a safe private place while
unsealed documents were for public consumption. The fact that this scroll came
from the One seated on the Throne signifies that it was a private document from
the hand of God Himself and not even the angels knew its contents, but because
it had writing on both sides it could be made public after the seals had been
broken by the only one qualified or authorised to do so.
MATH 24:36 – 44 The comments here were spoken before the Book of Revelation was
written. Within the scroll that John saw was a description of events that
clearly held within it a time sequence so that people who were alive at the
time and who had been given the understanding through Christ, could understand
the timing of events related to the return.
There are a number of other comments that could be made about the significance
of the term “scroll”.
1. The O.T. Law or Torah normally is written on a scroll – even to this day.
The words of this scroll in John’s vision have the same force, power and
application to man as the 10 commandments – because they both have come from
the same source.
2. There is a parallel with the scroll given to the prophet Ezekiel to eat.
EZEK 2:9 – 10 – description of the contents of the scroll. Note this was eaten,
not opened as John’s vision because no man is worthy to open the things of God.
3. Some have drawn a parallel between the scroll of Revelation and
JER 32:10 – 14 – This “book” or “scroll” was a title deed. So the Revelation
Scroll has been likened to a “title-deed” to either humanity or creation. By
His redeeming death Christ has won the authority to this deed.
4. Ancient Roman wills or “testaments” were sealed with 6 seals, each of
which bore a different name of the sealer and could only be opened by that person.
So the book of John has been likened to the testament or will of God concerning
the promise of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
Each of these 4 views may have merit and provides some truth in understanding
the book of Revelation, but realistically it is only from understanding the words
contained within Revelation itself that the full nature of the scroll can be
understood. Since the seals hinder the opening of the scroll until they are all
broken, we may assume that the seals are preparatory to the opening of the scroll
and the disclosure of its contents. This means that the seals have the effect of
hiding the contents of the scroll until they are broken. (ISAIAH 29:11).
The contents of the scroll can be summarised in a cascading fashion as we get
close to the return of Christ we focus in and see more detail of what is actually
going on. This places the return of Christ as the most important event and then
the closer we are to that point, the more detail we have of world events relating
to that return.:
1. Initially we have the first 6 seals of the book opened. These happen before
Christ’s return and therefore the events described are in much less detail both
in terms of their specific, timing and intensity – ie are they localised to one
part of the earth or are general global happenings? Could they be considered
Just prior to the opening of the seventh seal, in connection with the events
under the 6th seal we read vs 6:17. This is the signal that we now take a
magnifying glass and focus with much more scrutiny and see events in greater
detail that we have previously.
2. When the seventh seal is opened, there is an earthquake present but then we
have events broken down into the blowing of the 7 trumpets of judgement.
3. Likewise when the seventh trumpet is sounded we again have much finer
detail and accuracy as to the timing and description of events with the
description of an earthquake and hailstorm present but also a description
of the seven last plagues in 7 bowls.
In summary we could liken the scroll that is handed to the Lamb as God’s
personally approved timeline relating to His induction as King of Kings and
Lord of Lords in the Kingdom of God over all humanity. But this job description
has been opened also to us – why?
JOHN 15:15 - This is true. The vision of the apostle John is a direct fulfilment
of this promise, that the scroll he received from the Father, he now passes on to
us as His friends. This means we know the most important and vital information
relating to Christ’s return to earth and overthrow of Sata’s rule to be replaced
by His own.
REV 10:7 – The scroll contains the unveiling of the mystery of God. Thus the seals
conceal the mystery which only Christ can disclose, of how and when God’s judgement
and Kingdom will come. This also contains the announcement of the inheritance of the
Saints. So the scroll is both about judgment and inheritance of the Kingdom. It
contains the announcement of how things will ultimately end for all people and this
is possible only because Christ has obtained the right through His death on the cross
to be the inheritor of the promises of God.
REV 5:2 – 4
A challenge is shouted out publicly for a worthy one to open the seals. It must be
understood that such a person cannot self-proclaim their worthiness – the only one
worthy to open the seals of a scroll was either the one who sealed it in the first
place (God) or someone directly appointed and approved by God for that task. In this
case all creation was absolutely silent, motionless and speechlessness. Since John
inherently know that this document contained the description of the conclusion of
all human history, it is not surprised at his reaction and distress.
The announcement is made that there is one who has “prevailed”. This could also be
translated as “triumphed”, “overcome”, “conquered”, “won the victory”. Two titles
are used to describe this individual, both of which are Messianic titles,
“Lion of the Tribe of Judah” – GEN 49:9 - 10
“Root of David” – ISAIAH 11:1, 10; JER 23:5; REV 22:16
As John no doubt looked to see a mighty Lion coming forth , he instead is greeted
with the striking picture of a young sheep as if it had been slaughtered either with
its throat cut, or the marks of death that the Christ still bore on his appearance
(nail marks in hands and feet and spear mark in his side). This metaphor of the Lamb
is used throughout the rest of the book in chapters 6, 7, 12, 13 and 21. It was only
through the self-sacrificial action that Christ undertook, that qualified Him as
being worthy to open the seals. While events described in the book relate to a
conquering powerful Christ, we must never forget the path that allowed Him to get
to that point. Unless we observe the Passover ceremony as Christ’s apostles and the
New Testament Church did, the full meaning of the sacrificed Lamb of God is lost.
The false Easter ceremony has not and does not convey the understanding of the
history, purpose and meaning of the slaughtered Lamb of God.
John notices that this Lamb, who bears the marks of death, is also the ruler who
bears the signs of the fullness of divine omnipotence, dominion and omniscience.
In other words this was not just anyone who was killed but the very Divine Son of
The next thing is the Lamb acts. In the Greek, apparently it is written in the form
of a dramatic action – indicating both purpose and urgency. Since the One on the
Throne allows this to happen symbolises that a) the Lamb is indeed worthy to open
the seals and b) God is giving authority for Christ to execute His plan of redemption
and Salvation of humanity through the Lamb. Christ’s death on the cross is the basis
for His authority to redeem the world by taking and opening the seven-sealed scroll.
REV 5:8 – 10
The Lamb’s actions elicit the hymns of praise in vs. 9, 12 and 13. The “harps” are
“lyres” while the prayers of the saints are strongly represented. These prayers
are not praise but a petition for Christ’s urgent intervention and judgment and
most particularly for “Thy Kingdom to come”. The term “saints” is simply a
normal term for the rank and file Christian who has been set apart for God’s purpose.
2 COR 1:1; PHIL 1:1 – Greeting of Paul
The contents of the new hymn firstly describes the qualification of this person
who alone has the right to take the scroll and open the seals and the means by
which this happened – his death on the cross. With this sacrifice the price of the
shed blood of Christ redeemed or purchased men for God. This death broke the
stranglehold of the Satanic powers and authorities and allowed for the eventual
liberation of all humanity. The centrality of Christ’s sacrificial actions come
repeatedly throughout this book and should dominate our understanding of Revelation
and it is through His actions as Jesus of Nazareth that a salvation has been secured
that is universally applied to all classes and peoples on this earth. This action of
salvation and rulership in His Kingdom has flowed on to others who take on the
name of Christ and follow Him in word and deed.
REV 5:11 – 12
John now sees a new vision similar to Daniels vision (DAN 7:10 of the countless
multitude surrounding the Ancient of Days. The imagery suggests infinite power
and honour of the One at the centre. The number present shows that God’s running
of the Universe is an impressive enterprise that goes far beyond what mere
humans can obtain on this earth.
The hymn contains a sevenfold (perfect and complete) list of qualities that
this sacrificed humble lamb symbolically receives.
They are power , wealth, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and praise. It is
interesting that in the next verse these are the qualities and attributes that
are ascribed to God Himself.
REV 5:13 – 14
Finally far beyond the precincts of the Throne, there arises an expression of
praise and worth from the whole created universe. Worship of the Father and Son
is blended together as those closest to the Throne fall down in worship. Indeed
there is someone worthy to open the seals who has the very power and authority
of God Himself, and that is what can now happen.
In going through the events that are described in the rest of the book, if we forget
how this revelation was made possible, by the worthiness of the Lamb, then we
are missing a vital part of understanding. As servants of Christ we are to
become more like Him and it is only through our actions of self-sacrifice,
humility and service that we can emulate Him and inherit the Kingdom. As Christ
said we are to become like little children. Too often we can become upset or
frustrated at what happens around us and want to take action to correct or
solve the problems we see, forgetting that the Lamb of God did not have that
approach – He simply died. Revelation tells us that the problems will indeed
be solved, but in God’s way and in His time – the time revealed by the rest
of the book of Revelation.