A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The Scroll and the Lamb
Then 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. And 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. (Rev 5:1-4)
This scroll has been called the title deed to planet Earth. Scrolls normally had writing on one side only, but in a few cases the Lord writes on both sides. When He does it indicates that there’s a judgment coming.
In Ezekiel 2 a scroll with writing on both sides meant that Israel was about to be judged, and Ezekiel was being chosen to bring the news to the other captives in Babylon that soon the whole nation would be joining them for a 70 year stay. In Zechariah 5, a flying scroll the same size as the tabernacle’s Holy Place warned that those who failed to keep the Law would be banished from God’s presence and their homes destroyed. Although this scroll mentioned only the commandment against theft on one side and only the one against false witness on the other, the fact that one was in the middle of the first stone tablet and the other was in the middle of the second one leads scholars to believe that they represent all 10 Commandments.
The reason John wept so bitterly is because he knew what was at stake here. Only someone who could redeem Planet Earth and return it to its rightful owner would be able to open the scroll, and no one could be found. Not in Heaven, not on Earth, not under the Earth. Without a qualified redeemer Earth would be lost for all eternity.
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. (Rev. 5:5-6)
There is someone worthy to open the scroll, after all! The fact that the word Lamb is capitalized here means that this is The Lamb of God from John 1:29 who takes away the sin of the world. He’s also the Lion of Judah from Genesis 49:9-10 and the Root of David from Isaiah 11:1-3.
John described Him as a Lamb looking as if it had been slain, so we know He’s still in human form, and still bears the scars of His crucifixion. Once Jesus agreed to become a man, He became a man forever. This Lamb is the giver of the Holy Spirit, confirming that it’s the Lord who has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals because He redeemed the planet at the same time He was saving us. (Romans 8:19-21)
I Didn’t Know It Was Lost
How was the Earth lost in the first place? Some believe that in Eternity past, the one we call Satan was given the Earth as his kingdom. It was a gift in keeping with his stature as both the anointed cherub, in charge of the ones who guard the very Throne of God, and Worship Leader in the heavenly realms as well. He truly was the light bearer then (Lucifer means light bearer in Latin) adorned with every precious stone with a voice like a pipe organ. He was the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, the ultimate created being (Ezekiel 28:11-14).
But puffed up in the arrogance of self love and pride, he rebelled and was driven out in disgrace, his positions and his possessions taken from him, his kingdom laid waste (Ezek. 28:15-17). He sat there amidst the ruin for who knows how long, powerless to do anything, until God said, “Let there be light,” and all the angels shouted for joy. (Job 38:7)
When God created Adam five days later and gave him dominion over the Earth, Satan conspired to get it back. Indwelling a serpent, he tricked Adam and Eve out of their land, gaining back through deception that which he had lost through rebellion. In the process he had also divested Adam and Eve of their immortality, causing their deaths and the deaths of all their children (Genesis 2:16-17). He immediately set about to rebuild his kingdom, becoming the prince of this world (John 12:31) and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).
God’s law requires that a next of kin redeem that which a family member has lost (Leviticus 25:25). According to the law a son could redeem what his father had lost, but in the transaction Adam had become a sinner, disqualifying all of his sons from ever redeeming him. The coin of redemption was the blood of a sinless man, and all of Adam’s sons were sinners, having been born in their father’s likeness. (Gen. 5:3) Adam was a son of God (Luke 3:38) so only another son of God would suffice.
Since the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons (Exod. 20:5) a woman could give birth to a sinless man, but only if she could do so without the aid of a husband. Thus, in the garden God announced that the seed of the woman would redeem what Satan had stolen, (Gen 3:15) a prophecy of the virgin birth.
In due time, the Son of God, born of a virgin, gave His life to pay mankind’s debt of sin and redeem Adam’s stolen property, Planet Earth. All God (sinless) and all human (man), He is the only One in creation worthy to take the scroll and open its seals.
As Adam’s Kinsman Redeemer, He paid the debt of sin owed by Adam’s progeny and redeemed the property that Adam lost as well. Now He’s come to take possession of that which He’s paid for. Since the next of kin was also responsible for avenging the death of a family member, He also comes as Adam’s Avenger of Blood (Numbers 35:16-21), and that’s one of the reasons why the rest of this book is the story of great judgments.
He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And then 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 (us) for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them (us) to be a kingdom (kings) and priests to serve our God, and they (we) will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:7-10)
I’ve placed the more accurate translations of this passage in parentheses. The Greek word used here is a first person pronoun, the plural of me. It appears 173 times in the Bible as us and we, never as third person words like men or them or they. Also the Greek language uses the same word for king and kingdom, so you have to decide which one to use from the context. Kings fits better than kingdom. All my substitutions are consistent with the KJV translation.
Some of the modern translations take either the post trib or a-milliennial view or both and are therefore reluctant to show the raptured church in Heaven in Revelation 5. Instead, by changing the passage to the third person, they have the 24 elders sing about the church as if we’re still on earth. But it doesn’t work. The 24 elders are the church. This is a song for the redeemed and only the church can sing it. The King James version is correct.
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. (Rev. 5:11-14)
The powerful work done by George Frederic Handel in setting these words to music in his “Messiah” will pale into insignificance when compared to this angelic choir. No one knows just how big this choir is. Ten thousand was the largest number in use in those days. Writing today John might have used “millions and millions” just as easily.
C.H. Spurgeon wrote that the Greek word translated all (or every) had seven or eight different uses, and only on rare cases did any of them literally mean each and every one. More likely John meant that every classification of mankind was represented, the rich, the poor, the free, the enslaved, the Jew, the Gentile, etc. These were joined by the animals on land, the birds in the air, the fish of the sea, and even those in the underworld, who though they rebelled and await their judgment in chains, recognize the authority of The Christ. (James 2:19)
Like the four living creatures, I can only add, “Amen!”