And I sawJohn’s focus now shifts from the details of the throne and the living creatures and elders to that which lays upon the right hand of “Him who sat on the throne.” The scene which presents itself to John is among the most sublime in all of Scripture. If Isaiah 53 can be said to be the “holy of holies” of the OT, then perhaps Revelation 5+ holds that honor in the NT.
Where, in all the revelations of eternity, is there another such a scene? Where, in all the disclosures of God, and His awful administrations, is there another such a picture, or another such a crisis? Search the book of inspiration from end to end, and you will find no parallel to it.1
right handThe side of favor and strength (Ps. 20:6; 74:11; 80:17; 89:13; 98:1). This is the side at which the Son is seated awaiting His kingdom (Ps. 110:1; Dan. 7:13-14+; Mark 16:19; Acts 5:31; 7:55; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 10:12) and making intercession for His Church (Rom. 8:34). Jesus is seated “with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21+) and shares the power and reign of the Father (Rev. 5:13+; 6:16+; 7:10+ cf. 1K. 2:19). The long period of waiting while He remains seated is about to come to an end.
on the throneThe position from which the Father rules the affairs of His universe (Ps. 47:8; Isa. 6:1; Dan. 7:9-10+). The throne pictures both sovereignty and judgment (Rev. 20:11+).
a scrollβιβλίον [biblion], also rendered book (Rev. 1:11+; 3:5+; 13:8+; 17:8+; 20:12+; 20:15+; 21:27+; 22:7+, 9-10+, 18-19+). Later, a mighty angel appears with a little book βιβλαρίδιον [biblaridion] and cries out at which seven thunders utter their voices. John is told to seal up the things which the seven thunders utter and not write them (Rev. 10:4+). The angel then declares (even swears) that “in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” (Rev. 10:6+). John is then commanded to eat the little book which will be sweet to the taste but bitter in the stomach. The book given to John, like that eaten by Ezekiel (Eze. 2:9-3:5), apparently contains prophetic pronouncements of God, of woe and judgment, which must come to pass (Rev. 10:9-11+). There are similarities between this scroll and these other books. This scroll is also sealed. Great prophetic streams find their fulfillment in the opening of the scroll. These similarities have led some to suggest that the sealed scroll primarily contains prophetic information previously unrevealed which is now made known through the things shown John.
What ought we to look for as the first thing, in the Apocalypse, which , as we have seen, has the end of the “many days” and “the time of the end” for its great subject, but the unsealing of this book, the sealing of which is so prominently spoken of in the book of Daniel? . . . We take it therefore that the opening of the seals of this book is the enlargement, development, and continuation of the Book of Daniel, describing, from God’s side, the judgments necessary to secure the fulfilment of all that He has foretold.2As attractive as this explanation may be, it falls short of explaining the emphasis placed in this chapter between the right to open the book and redemption. The identification of this scroll is not found only in the fact that, like other prophetic writings, it is sealed, but also in its close association with redemption (Rev. 5:9+) and the events which follow upon the loosing of its seals. The scroll is inherently related to the fulfillment of a purchase.Ladd suggests the scroll is a form of ancient will. “The little book is in the form of an ancient will, which was usually sealed with the seals of seven witnesses. It contains God’s inheritance for His people, which is founded upon the death of His son (see Heb. 9).”3 This view has the advantage of explaining the emphasis found here upon the death of the Lamb (Rev. 5:6+, 9+). The events which transpire following the loosing of the seals are directly related to Christ’s inheritance:
[Psalm 2:1-3] describe[s] the rebellious world forces gathered together to try to prevent God’s Messiah from taking tenant possession or administration of the earth. [Psalm 2:7] records that when the Messiah confronts this challenge, He will declare what God has already decreed concerning Him: “Thou art my Son.” . . . the biblical term “son” involves the concept of “heir” (Gal. 4:7). Thus, as God’s Son, the Messiah is the heir of an inheritance given to Him by God. Psalm 2:8 presents God’s description of that inheritance: “I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”4Although the loosing of the seals results in the realization of the promised inheritance (Ps. 2:8), it seems that more than just a will is in view. A purchase was made at the cross, and now the deed of that purchase is being claimed by its rightful owner.While Babylon had besieged Jerusalem, God told Jeremiah to purchase a plot of ground in Israel. Even though the land had fallen to Babylon, Jeremiah’s purchase demonstrated the reality of God’s promise to restore Israel back to the land (Jer. 32:14-15, 43-44). There are significant parallels between Jeremiah’s deed of purchase and Messiah’s redemption described in this chapter. In both cases, a purchase was made in advance and a period intervened before the possession was fully awarded at a future date.
Although [Jeremiah] had paid the price of redemption for this cousin’s land and thereby had gained the right of tenant possession, he could not take immediate, actual possession of the land for at least two reasons. First, Jeremiah was confined in prison when he paid the price of redemption (Jer. 32:2-3, 8-9). Second, his cousin’s land was “already under Babylonian control” when Jeremiah paid for it. Because Israel had rebelled against God so persistently, its land inheritance had been turned over to foreigners (Lam. 5:2; Jer. 32:21-24, 28-36). The Jews (including Jeremiah) would be exiled to other countries, and their land would continue under enemy control for several decades; but then the Jews would be regathered to their homeland, and their land would be restored to their control (Jer. 32:15, 37, 41-44). Because he knew that actual possession of the land could not take place for many years, Jeremiah commanded that both deeds of purchase be placed in a secure place for a long time (Jer. 32:13-15).5The purchase price has been paid, but that which has been purchased remains in the hands of usurpers. Thus, a chain of judgments are brought forth by which the purchaser takes back what He rightfully owns. In the end, the usurpers are evicted and that which has been purchased is finally in the hands of the purchaser.
The contents of the Βιβλιον [Biblion] must be brought into relation to the whole chain of judicial acts which unfold from Rev. 6+ on and from which there develop organically the visions of the trumpets and bowls. Hence we are not concerned merely with the 6 or 7 seals themselves, but with all the last events up to the consummation.6The meaning of the scroll is best understood by recognizing the truth in each of these ideas:
Frequent references to the events of the seals, trumpets, and bowls appear throughout the remaining visions in Revelation . . . indicating that the content of the seven-sealed scroll ultimately includes the unfolding of the consummation of the mystery of all things, the goal or end of all history, for both the conquerors and the worshipers of the beast. In Rev. 10:7+ we are told that in the days of the sounding of the seventh trumpet “the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” From this it may be concluded that the scroll contains the unveiling of “the mystery of God” that OT prophets foretold . . . Thus the “seals” conceal the mystery, which only Christ can disclose (Dan. 12:9+; Rev. 10:4+), of how God’s judgment and his kingdom will come. . . . The scroll, then, is not only about judgment or about the inheritance of the kingdom, Rather it contains the announcement of the consummation of all history.10
written inside and on the backThe tablets of the Testimony containing the Ten Commandments which Moses brought from Mount Sinai were also “written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.” The writing was the work of God engraved on the tablets (Ex. 32:15-16). In the previous chapter, we saw extensive parallels between the experience and vision of John and that of Ezekiel (Eze. 1). Here is another parallel, for Ezekiel was given a book which contained “writing on the inside and the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.” Legal documents are also written on both sides:
Jeremiah signed and sealed shut one copy of the scroll deed of purchase and had witnesses sign it, apparently on the outside (Jer. 32:10, 12). Concerning this practice, Weemse wrote, “For the manner of writing the contract, he who was to buy the ground wrote two instruments; the one to be sealed with his own signet, the other he showed unclosed to the witnesses, that they might subscribe and bear witness of that which was written. This, the witnesses did subscribe UPON THE BACK of the inclosed [sic] instrument” . . . Gaston Maspero gave an example of an enclosed document being used as evidence. “Contracts stamped upon clay tablets have been found in Babylonia, enclosed in an envelope of clay, on the outside of which an exact duplicate of the contract is impressed: if in the course of time any disagreement arose and it was suspected that the outside text had been tampered with, the envelope was broken in the presence of witnesses to see if the inside text agreed with it or not.” The fact that the sealed scroll of Revelation 5+ had writing on both the inside and the outside (Rev. 5:1+), in the same manner as Jeremiah’s and other deeds of purchase in Israel’s land redemption system, indicates that it is a deed of purchase.11
sealedκατεσφραγισμένον [katesphragismenon], perfect tense passive: having been sealed. It was previously sealed and remains so. Various types of documents can be sealed. A document may contain prophetic pronouncements from the Lord concerning the future and be sealed until the time in which its contents are to be fulfilled (Dan. 8:26+; 12:4-9+). Other documents, such as title deeds are sealed to protect their contents from tampering until the time in which the title is claimed. Jeremiah’s deed was sealed this way (Jer. 32:10-14). Until the seals are broken, the contents of the book are inaccessible—they remain an unrevealed mystery (Isa. 29:11; Dan. 8:26+; 12:4-9+; Rev. 10:7+). Even in our own day, when so much within Scripture has been revealed (Rev. 22:10+), God’s words remain a sealed book for many. This was the case in Isaiah’s day (Isa. 29:11-14).
seven sealsIn the number seven is found the symbolism of completion. See Seven: Perfection, Completeness. Within these seven seals are found all the judgments to be poured out upon the earth and the earth dwellers as part of the redemption of creation and the Lamb taking dominion over the earth. See commentary on Revelation 5:5.All seven seals enclose the scroll as a unit. Some commentators attempt to divide the effects which flow from the opening of the seals into separate categories: the wrath of Satan versus the wrath of God. This will not do, for it is the Lamb Who is the only one found worthy to loose the seals. He alone opens all seven seals. His initiative is as fully engaged in opening of the first seal as the last.
All seven are part of the same sealed scroll; all seven have the same purpose or function with regard to that scroll; all seven will be part of the irrefutable evidence that Christ is the true Kinsman-Redeemer; all seven will be broken by Christ; and all seven will be part of the same program of Christ’s evicting Satan and his forces and taking permanent possession of the earth.12The sequence of events which follow from the opening of these seals indicates that all the judgments which following are included within the seals:
A study of Revelation 8+ through 18 indicates that the seventh seal will contain the seven trumpet and seven bowl judgments. Thus, when Christ breaks all seven seals of the Revelation 5+ scroll, He will thereby instigate the total bombardment of divine wrath or judgment against the domain of Satan and his forces, which will cover the 70th week of Daniel 9+ up to Christ’s coming immediately after the 70th week and the Great Tribulation.13
Who is worthy to open“A mighty angel shouts out a challenge for anyone to come forth who is ‘worthy’ to open the great scroll and its seals. All creation in heaven and earth and under the earth stood motionless and speechless. . . . no one had the authority and virtue for such a task.”14 “As the echoes of his cry recede there is only silence. The powerful archangels Michael and Gabriel do not answer. Uncounted thousands of other angels remain silent. All the righteous dead of all the ages, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter and the rest of the apostles, Paul, and all the others from the church age, say nothing.”15The question of worthiness hinges on several factors. Only Christ has the necessary qualifications:
The possession of this book and the execution of the purpose can be entrusted only to one who is completely worthy. No ordinary man can accept the responsibility of opening its sealed pages. Paradoxically, the person who undertakes this tremendous task must be absolutely courageous and absolutely compassionate.20
no one . . . was ableAll men, except one, are “born of Adam” and are lost in sin, and are therefore unqualified to bring about redemption (1K. 8:46; 2Chr. 6:36; Job 15:14; Pr. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:9, 19-23; Gal. 3:22; 1Jn. 1:8-10).
And what, indeed, have been all the endeavours of unsanctified men, in politics, in science, and in all the arts of civilization, improvement, philosophy, and even religion, but to work out this problem of successful repossession of what was lost in Adam, to attain to that forfeited perfection and supreme good which has ever danced before their imaginations.21When Adam forfeited dominion in the Fall, all men born of the line of Adam fell with him (Rom. 5:12; Acts 17:26). Having inherited the sin of Adam, none is able to prevail. Herein lies the need for the virgin birth of Christ. For Christ is the only man for which the truism “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” does not hold.
Throughout history there have been many pretenders to earth’s throne who have sought to conquer and rule the world. The first and most powerful and notorious usurper was Satan. After his rebellion against God was crushed, he and his angelic followers were thrown out of heaven (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:3-4+), and he became the “god of this world” (2Cor. 4:4). He inspired a host of humans to try their hand at conquest, men such as Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander the Great, the emperors of Rome, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. In the future will come the most powerful Satan-possessed human conqueror of all, the final Antichrist. All of those men, and a host of lesser lights, have one thing in common: they failed. Only one individual has the right, the power, and the authority to rule the earth: the Lord Jesus Christ.22
I wept muchἔκλαιον [eklaion], imperfect tense: I was weeping. John evidently understood the significance of the scroll and the great need to open it and to read its contents. From this we understand overwhelming sadness attends any future which continues apart from redemption. For the horrors of sin, sickness, murder, death and the warping of all things God intended for good would continue unabated for unending millennia if it were not for the cross of Christ. If God had not sent His Son—at His own initiative—mankind would have forever and completely remained lost. Locked within an eternity of generations darkened by depravity and pain, there would have been forever no hope. Aside from the cross, the history of man is one long testimony of inability to overcome the ravages of sin.
John knew by that Spirit in which he was, what that sealed book meant. He knew that if no one was found worthy and able to take it from the hand of God, and to break its seals, that all the promises of the prophets, and all the hopes of the saints, and all the preintimations of a redeemed world, must fail.23
W. A. Criswell explains why John wept: “[John’s tears] represent the tears of all God’s people through all the centuries. Those tears of the Apostle John are the tears of Adam and Eve, driven out of the Garden of Eden, as they bowed over the first grave, as they watered the dust of the ground with their tears over the silent, still form of their son, Abel. Those are the tears of the children of Israel in bondage as they cried unto God in their affliction and slavery. They are the tears of God’s elect through the centuries as they cried unto heaven. They are the sobs and tears that have been wrung from the heart and soul of God’s people as they looked on their silent dead, as they stand beside their open graves, as they experience in the trials and sufferings of life, heartaches and disappointments indescribable. Such is the curse that sin has laid upon God’s beautiful creation; and this is the damnation of the hand of him who holds it, that usurper, that interloper, that intruder, that alien, that stranger, that dragon, that serpent, that Satan-devil. ‘And I wept audibly,’ for the failure to find a Redeemer meant that this earth in its curse is consigned forever to death. It meant that death, sin, damnation and hell should reign forever and ever and the sovereignty of God’s earth should remain forever in the hands of Satan” [Expository Sermons on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969), 3:69-70]24Thankfully, man was not left abandoned to a history of self-perpetuated depravity. For history is HIS story—“History, then, has its center in Jesus Christ and its goal is his triumphant reign over all the powers of the world.”25
do not weepμὴ κλαῖε [mē klaie], a present tense imperative indicating that John continued to weep.26
the Lion of the tribe of JudahGod had revealed that the ruler would be like a lion, an offspring of Judah (Gen. 49:9-10; Ps. 60:7). Jesus was born in the line of Judah (Mat. 1:2-3; Luke 3:33; Heb. 7:14). Although Reuben was the firstborn, due to his sin and the sins of his brothers, the right of kingly rule fell to Judah:
Actually Reuben had the right of the firstborn. Nevertheless the Messiah is not “Lion out of the tribe of Reuben.” For, on account of sin (as recorded in Gen. 35:22), Reuben was deprived of his firstborn rights and the right concerning the Messiah (1Chr. 5:1; Gen. 49:3-4). The next following brothers, Simeon and Levi, were also excluded (Gen. 49:5-7) on account of their bloody deed at Shechem (Gen. 34:25). Thereupon Reuben’s rights as the firstborn were divided as follows: The double share of the material inheritance (Deu. 21:15-17) went to Joseph (in Ephraim and Manasseh; 1Chr. 5:1-2); The priestly dignity (see Ex. 13:2, 13:15), having regard to Ex. 32:26-28, went to Levi (Num. 3:12, 45; 8:17-18); and The ruler’s dignity (Gen. 43:1-34; 33:1-20; 48:14, 18-19) went to Judah, Jacob’s fourth son (1Chr. 5:2). Therefore is the Messiah the “Lion out of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5+; Gen. 49:9-10).27The genealogical records of the tribes of Israel were lost in the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. This poses a problem for Judaism which, having rejected Jesus, still awaits Messiah. If Messiah comes now, how will it be determined that He is the Lion from the tribe of Judah?
Messiah will have to come before the tribe of Judah loses its identity. This establishes a clear time period for the prophecy. The records by which tribal identities were maintained were kept in the Jewish Temple. All of these records were lost with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Within a few generations all the tribes of Israel, with the exception of Levi, had lost their identity. Immediately after 70 A.D. the rabbis passed laws which would preserve the identity of the priestly tribe of Levi, but Jews from the other tribes quickly lost their identity. In order for this prophecy to have significance to humans (God still knows the tribal identities), Messiah had to come before 70 A.D.28
Root of DavidJesus was born in the line of David (Mat. 1:1, 6, 17, 20; Luke 1:27, 32; 3:31; Rom. 1:3; 2Ti. 2:8; Rev. 22:16+), He is the “son of David” (Mat. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42; etc.). Jesus is the “Rod from the stem of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1), the “Root of Jesse” (Isa. 11:10), David’s father (Ru. 4:22).Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.29 God made an unconditional covenant with David where He swore that his throne would be established like the sun and moon (Ps. 89:33-37). At present, there is no “throne of David” upon the earth, but there will be when the Lion has completed His work (Rev. 20:4-6+) for the zeal of God will ensure it!
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa. 9:6-7) [emphasis added]As a root springs anew from the stump of a tree which has been cut down and appears to be dead, so the line leading to Messiah was preserved throughout history. “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, Yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant” (Job 14:7-9). This root was repeatedly chopped back, but never completely terminated as Satan attempted throughout history to thwart the Messianic line of promise. See commentary on Revelation 12:4.23:5-6; Servant, Zec. 3:8; Man, Zec. 6:12; Lord, Isa. 4:2). See Four Gospels.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer. 23:5-6) [emphasis added]Some see the root as including the idea of Jesus’ preexistence (cf. Mic. 5:2).31 Although this is true (Mat. 22:42-25), the present context deals with the origin of Jesus, not of David. Root here “is a metaphorical term for ‘offspring.’ ”32
has prevailedἐνίκησεν [enikēsen], from the same root (νικᾶω [nikaō]) which describes “he who overcomes,” ὁ νικῶν [ho nikōn]. Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Whoever is born of God shares in His inheritance as overcomer (1Jn. 5:4; Rev. 2:7+, 11+, 17+, 26+; 3:5+, 12+, 21+; 17:14+; 21:7+). “At the cross He defeated sin (Rom. 8:3), death (Heb. 2:14-15), and all the forces of hell (Col. 2:15; 1Pe. 3:19). Believers are overcomers through His overcoming (Col. 2:13-14; 1Jn. 5:5).”33
Christ defeated Satan and his forces when He paid the redemption price of His shed blood. Through the payment of that price, Christ defeated Satan and his forces in the sense that He gained the right to take tenant possession of the earth away from them and rule the earth as the last Adam. This truth sheds light on the meaning of Christ’s statement just before He went to the cross, “the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11). Christ’s death sealed Satan’s doom. At the proper time, determined sovereignly by God, Christ will exercise the right he gained at the cross to throw out the usurper.34“Since [the] captivity, the royal family of Judah has not exercised rule but has remained dormant, just as a stump gives no evidence of having life. The stump of this royal family will spring to life again suddenly when its King (the Messiah or Christ) springs forth from it to rule.”35 Having prevailed, the Lamb qualifies as the promised Shiloh (Gen. 49:10; Eze. 21:25-27). Midrash Rabbah 98 states that Shiloh denotes “to he whose it is,” “to he who it belongs,” “he whose right it is,” or “to whom kingship belongs.”36
to open the scrollJesus has the authority to open the scroll because He has the key of David. See commentary on Revelation 3:7. “God [the Father] Himself will not break a single seal of it, for the Father has ceded the prerogative of judgment”37 (John 5:22-27).
to loose its seven sealsHaving paid the ultimate price of redemption, being made sin on our behalf (Isa. 53:6; 2Cor. 5:21), the Lamb has earned the right to loose the seals bringing judgments on those who continue to reject His gracious offer of redemption (John 3:35-36). As each of these seals is loosed, additional judgment is brought upon the earth. The first six seals result in preliminary judgments (Rev. 6:1+, 3+, 5+, 7+, 9+, 12+). At the loosening of the seventh seal, the judgments become more pronounced as all seven trumpet judgments are within the seventh seal (Rev. 8:1-6+). At the opening of the seventh seal, the first four trumpets are sounded (Rev. 8:7+, 8+, 10+, 12+). Because the last three trumpet judgments are especially severe, there is a pause in the judgments as angelic warning is given concerning the severity of the last three trumpets (Rev. 8:13+). Then the first two of the final three trumpets sound (Rev. 9:1+, 13+). At the sounding of the final trumpet, the declaration is made: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15+). By this we understand the last seven bowl judgments to be subsumed within the seventh trumpet. Prior to the pouring forth of the seven bowls of wrath (Rev. 16:1-17+), three more additional angelic warnings are given (Rev. 14:6-9+). The judgments of God’s wrath are completed in the pouring forth of the seventh bowl (Rev. 16:17+). See Sequential Events.In the loosing of all seven seals, and the subsequent trumpet and bowl judgments, Christ retakes that which He purchased at Calvary (John 19:30; Rev. 11:15+; 16:16+; 21:6+). To bring the kingdom of God to earth, the kingdom of Satan must first be overthrown. Much of what follows in this book must be understood in the context of the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom prior to the setting up of God’s kingdom on earth.
By the end of the 70th week, Satan and his forces will have drawn all the rulers and armies of the world into the land of Israel for the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12-16+), which will take place at Christ’s Second Coming and will pit Satan and his ungodly allies against Christ and His forces (Rev. 19:11+-20:3+). This will be Satan’s ultimate challenge to Christ’s right to take tenant possession of the earth and rule it. The combined military might of rebellious mankind will be gathered to the precise location to which Christ will return to take possession of the earth, because Satan will want all the help he can get to try to prevent Christ from exercising His right (Ps. 2:1-3).38
No portion of the roll is said to be unfolded and read; but simply the seals are successively opened, giving final access to its contents being read as a perfect whole, which shall not be until the events symbolized by the seals shall have been past, when Eph 3:10 shall receive its complete accomplishment, and the Lamb shall reveal God’s providential plans in redemption in all their manifold beauties. Thus the opening of the seals will mean the successive steps by which God in Christ clears the way for the final opening and reading of the book at the visible setting up of the kingdom of Christ.39See The Arrival of God’s Kingdom.
four living creaturesSee commentary on Revelation 4:6.
the eldersSee commentary on Revelation 4:4.
a Lamb“When John turned, he saw, not a Lion, according to the Elder’s announcement, but a Lamb, according to the prior historical fact.”40 For the Lion of Judah must first be the Lamb of God in order to purchase redemption and earn the right to go forth as a Lion in judgment. Here we see the character of God—grace and mercy preceding judgment. “In one brilliant stroke John portrays the central theme of NT revelation—victory through sacrifice.”41Ἀρνίον [Arnion], originally meant little lamb42 or young sheep.43 “The imagery derives from the Passover, when Jewish families were required to keep the sacrificial lamb as a household pet for four days before sacrificing it (Ex. 12:3-6).”44 The only other occurrence of arnion in the entire NT is John’s gospel, where it is used of the Christian community (John 21:15).45 This is another indication that the same author wrote the book of John and the book of Revelation. See Authorship.46 “In Revelation the name ‘Lamb’ (arnion, literally, ‘little lamb’) is used more often than any other name or title of Christ. John called Him the Lamb twenty-eight times.”47Twice in John’s gospel, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” referring to His impending sacrifice which will atone for the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36). Isaiah also described the Messiah as a sacrificial lamb, a passage which Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch (Isa. 53:7; Acts 8:32-35). Peter describes the precious, sinless blood of Christ “as of a lamb without blemish and spot,” an allusion to the Passover lamb whose blood “covered” the Israelites from the destroying angel in the plague which took the firstborn of Egypt (1Pe. 1:19 cf. Ex. 11:5-6; 12:3-13). In fulfillment of the requirement that no bones of the lamb may be broken (Ex. 12:46; Ps. 34:20), the Roman soldiers found Jesus already dead and did not break his legs as they did those of the thieves crucified beside him (John 19:33-36). Paul clearly understood Jesus to be the Passover lamb. “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1Cor. 5:7). It is by “the blood of the Lamb” that believers overcome the diabolos who “throws-against” them accusations (Rev. 12:11+), for it is the blood which cleanses them of sin and provides their white robes. It is the blood of Christ which provides for their eternal life as those who are written in the “Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8+).The Lamb is to be contrasted with the beast throughout this book.48 The second beast who “had two horns like a lamb” may be mistaken as this lamb by those who are deceived, but he speaks “like a dragon” (Rev. 13:11+). See Master Imitator. See A Lamb and a Beast.
stoodἑστηκὸς [hestēkos], perfect participle: having stood. The lamb had been there for some time. Having been seated to the right hand of the Father for millennia, Jesus now rises. The time of sharing the Father’s throne is rapidly drawing to a close. Once He takes the scroll, as the Root of David, He will initiate a series of irreversible events which will result in the establishment of the Davidic kingdom upon the earth. See commentary on Revelation 5:10.
as though it had been slainἐσφαγμένον [esphagmenon], perfect passive participle: “of animals, especially when killed as a sacrifice slaughter, slay; metaphorically, of Jesus’ atoning death as the Lamb of God.”49 By His one-time sacrifice, sin was rendered powerless to prevent those who trust in Him from right-standing before God (Heb. 9:26). It has been said, “the only man-made thing in heaven will be the scars of the Savior.” Isaiah informs us, “His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa. 52:14). Heaven and earth will pass away and the former things will pass (Rev. 21:1+, 4+), but will the scars of Messiah ever be erased? For they serve as a testimony of His love, His resurrection from death (John 20:20, 27), and His identity as Redeemer (Luke 24:30-31).The slaying of God’s own Son was not an afterthought in response to an unexpected rebellion. He was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8+).50 Peter informs us that He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times” (1Pe. 1:20). It was known from all eternity that Christ would come to die for the sin of the world: there is nothing which God has not seen and provided for in advance (Isa. 45:21). Even as early as Abraham, God provided a detailed picture of the atonement of the cross when Abraham was told to offer Isaac as a picture of another Father’s offering of another Son on the same mountain years yet future. As Abraham observed, “God will provide for Himself the lamb” (Gen. 22:8) and so He has! This is the pierced Lamb which “every eye will see,” “even they who pierced him” (Rev. 1:7+ cf. Zec. 12:10). Are you trusting in the slain Lamb, Who was foreordained for your redemption?
seven horns“Here is the intimation that something more than sacrifice and intercession is now to be His business.”51 The horn is a biblical symbol denoting power or government (1S. 2:10; 2S. 22:3; Ps. 132:13-17). The seven horns indicate the complete power of Christ and the finality (completeness) of His kingdom. “As a horn is the emblem of power, and seven the number of perfection, the seven horns may denote the almighty power of Jesus Christ.”52 His is the only “everlasting dominion” and kingdom “which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14+). Other “horns” have risen and fallen on the world stage (Dan. 7:7-8+, 11+, 20+, 21+, 24+; 8:3-12+, 20-22+; Rev. 12:3+; 13:1+, 11+; 17:3+, 7+, 12+, 16+), but the “stone cut without hands” will strike all previous horns and smash them to pieces (Dan. 2:34+, 45-46+; 7:14+). Christ is the horn of salvation from the lineage of the house of David (Luke 1:67-73):
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold-the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure. (Dan. 2:44-45+)
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:14+)
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Php 2:9-11)The seven horns may also allude to the conquest of Jericho by Joshua (his Hebrew name is Yehoshua meaning “YHWH saves,” corresponding to Jesus in Greek):
When the children of Israel first entered the land of Canaan to claim it for their own as God had promised, they encountered a wicked city barring their way. When in accord with God’s command, the priests took “seven trumpets of ram’s horns,” the walls of Jericho tumbled down and the city and its alien inhabitants were destroyed. Thus, these “seven horns” on the Lamb may well have recalled to John the seven ram’s horns of Joshua, and their effectiveness in enabling the people of God to enter on their inheritance in God’s land of promise.53Another similarity with the Book of Joshua is found in the pouring forth of the seventh bowl—subsumed within the sounding of the seventh trumpet—when the mighty city of Babylon is destroyed (Rev. 16:17-19+).
seven eyesAs the text says, these are the seven Spirits of God. Commenting on the related passage in Zec. 3:9, Baron explains:
The manifold intelligence or omniscience of this “Living Stone”—the seven reminding us of the sevenfold plenitude of the One Spirit of Jehovah, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Jehovah,” which should rest upon Him, and which was so wonderfully fulfilled in Him whom the New Testament seer beheld as the Lamb which had been slain [Rev. 5:6+].54
Three grand qualities of the Goel [kinsman-redeemer] are thus brought to view;—first, sacrificial virtue, to take away sin; second, aggressive strength to conquer and to overcome all foes; and third, perfect and universal intelligence, direct from the indwelling Spirit of God in all its fulness.55See commentary on Revelation 1:4.
sent outἀπεσταλμένοι [apestalmenoi], perfect passive participle: having been sent out. They were sent in the past and by now have already seen all (Zec. 4:2-10). The eyes indicate omniscience and the complete knowledge of all that is hidden for perfect judgment. There is no secret which these eyes have not viewed (Ecc. 12:14; Isa. 29:15; 40:27; Mat. 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2; Rom. 2:16; 1Cor. 4:5). See commentary on Revelation 1:14.
took the scrollεἴληφεν [eilēphen], perfect tense. An aorist use of the perfect tense encountered in narratives.56 The emphasis is on the past action rather than the continuing results. “The Greek conveys a dramatic action in the tense of the verb ‘took’ (perhaps a dramatic perfect?): ‘He went up and took it, and now he has it.’ ”57 Having stood, Christ now takes the scroll out of the hand of the Father. As Christ initiates these actions, the world slumbers below, oblivious to the thief approaching in their night.58 “He who moved at first to create, now moves to restore. . . . The Lamb Becomes a Lion . . . in the scene before us Christ is not on the Father’s throne; the age of His intercession has come to a close. We shall see Him acting in an entirely new character. . . . The age of the Church is over. This is now prophecy of the future.”59Here is a pivotal moment in history, second only to the crucifixion in its import. “This is the sublimest individual act recorded in the Apocalypse. It is the act which includes all that suffering creation, and the disinherited saints of God have been sighing, and crying, and waiting for, for all these long ages—for six thousand years of grief and sorrow.”60 “His taking of the scroll marks the initiation of proceedings to convert its contents into reality and eventually usher in the promised kingdom.”61After age-upon-age of death, murder, disease, and sin—while countless bones piled upon the earth below—God has waited in patience so that all that would come to Him would respond (2Pe. 3:9). Even since the cross, where the cost of sin was paid in full, justice has slept due to grace. With the Lamb’s taking of the scroll, the events of history take a turn toward the impending redemption of all that is God’s from the dominion of Satan and sin. Once the Lamb rises from the right hand of the Father to take the scroll, the die is cast and the program leading to the redemption of the created order moves now in rapid succession. The Son of God has begun to take the nations for His inheritance (Ps. 2:8; 82:8). He is now about to take possession of that which has been His since the cross, an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away—the one kingdom which shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:14+, 27+). When the last of the seals has been loosed, triggering the trumpet and bowl judgments, it will be said, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15+). “This marks the beginning of the end of the groaning of Rom. 8:22.”62This is no gradual conversion of the world to Christ, but the initiation of a dramatic, cataclysmic intervention into His history to reject Satan and unrepentant earth dwellers. See Trouble Ahead.
living creaturesSee commentary on Revelation 4:6.
twenty-four eldersSee commentary on Revelation 4:4.
fell downThe living creatures and elders repeatedly fall before the throne in adoration and worship (Rev. 4:10+; 5:14+; 19:4+).
harpHarps are played by the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 14:1-3+) and all those who have victory over the beast by refusing to take the mark and worship him (Rev. 15:2+). The Levites used harps as part of their priestly service ministering to God (2Chr. 5:12; 29:25), as did the psalmist (Ps. 33:2; 43:4; 71:22; 92:3; 149:3; 150:3).
golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saintsIt was at the hour of incense that the people were praying when the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias announcing the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:10). The prayers of the saints—many of which have remained without answer for thousands of years— will find their fulfillment in the events to come (Rev. 19:1-2+). Later, similar bowls will contain the wrath of God (Rev. 15:7+). It seems we are to see a correlation between the prayers of the saints offered up to God as incense and the resulting vengeance poured forth as God’s wrath. Prior to the sounding of the seven trumpets, an angel offers the prayers of the saints with incense on an altar before God. He then exchanges the contents of the censer for fire from the altar and throws it to the earth resulting in “thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake”—all sounds of impending judgment (Rev. 8:3-5+).The continual cries of God’s elect throughout history are like the fragrance of incense which rises to God (Ps. 141:1-2). “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” (Luke 18:7). Malachi spoke of a time when incense would be offered to God, not just in the Temple, but across the entire world. Not just by the priests of Israel, but by all the Gentiles. This offering pictures the global prayer which even now ascends from the saints as a memorial to His throne (Mal. 1:11; Acts 10:4). When on our knees we are contributing to the contents of these bowls. “And who can reckon up the volumes and oceans of such entreaties, which remain to this day unanswered? But, not one of them is lost. They are carefully treasured in golden bowls.”63
Why are harps and bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8+), connected with the Lamb’s taking the book of the inheritance? Did the prayers of the saints bring about this scene? Would our Lord have commanded His disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth,” if (a) God had not meant to bring this to pass, and (b) if the prayers of the saints were not a vital factor in bringing about this glorious result?64Some view only the elders as possessing the harps and bowls. “The fact is that the details of the following description are not appropriate to the living beings. To see them as possessing harps and bowls is unnatural, and to attribute to them priestly functions ignores the priestly function that is distinctive to the elders (Swete; Charles; Lenski).”65 Although one of the living creatures handles a golden bowl later in the Apocalypse (Rev. 15:7+), this bowl is full of wrath and is not seen to reflect a priestly function whereas the golden bowls of incense are priestly in function (Lev. 4:7; Num. 4:16; 1S. 2:28).
they sangᾳ῎δουσιν [adousin], present tense: they are singing. A historical present which describes an event which has already transpired using the present tense for heightened vividness which transports the reader to the time of the action. In the OT, the tribe of Judah (meaning “praise,” Gen. 29:35) led the way into battle and so it is here (Jdg. 20:18). These scenes of ecstatic heavenly worship are as lofty as the judgments which follow are severe.Both the living creatures and the elders sing this song. This has caused some to favor the variant reading of this verse which omits the “we” from the redeemed because the living creatures, being of an angelic order, are not among the redeemed.66 See below.
a new songNew is καινὴν [kainēn], new in quality. The new aspect of the song may be worship motivated by the impending opening of the scroll which for so many years has remained untouched. The words of this song record the unique initiation by the Lamb of the events which rapidly lead to the climax of history and the establishment of His kingdom.
open its sealsSee commentary on Revelation 5:5. See Revelation 6:1+.
You were slainSee commentary on Revelation 5:6.
you . . . redeemed usἠγόρασας [ēgorasas]: “Literally buy, purchase, do business in the marketplace (Mat. 13.44); figuratively, as being no longer controlled by sin set free; from the analogy of buying a slave’s freedom for a price paid by a benefactor redeem (1Cor. 6:20).”68 Redemption involves a purchase and those who are purchased are no longer their own (1Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2Pe. 2:1). The purchased price for those redeemed was not made with corruptible things like silver and gold (1Pe. 1:18), but by the life of the Son of Man Who gave “His life a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28). The redemption in view is both soteriological (individual souls are reconciled to God) and eschatological (the original creation will be restored at last).
Redemption has its roots and foundations in the past, but its true realization lies in the future, and connects directly with the period and transactions to which our text relates. The Scriptures everywhere point forward to Christ’s Apocalypse, as the time when first the mystery shall be finished, and the long process reach its proper consummation.69This is similar to Boaz’s redemption of land for Naomi (Ru. 4:1-11). Like Boaz, Jesus is the Goel. The term Goel describes the person who is next of kin and his respective duties as kinsman-redeemer: to buy back what his poor brother has sold and cannot himself regain (Lev. 25:25-26); to avenge any wrong done to a next of kin, particularly murder (Num. 35:12-27); to purchase land belonging to one deceased who was next of kin and to marry his widow and to raise up children for the deceased (Ru. 2:20; 4:14).There are small variations in the manuscript evidence for verses 9 and 10 which impinge on a significant theological issue: the identity of the twenty-four elders. Are the elders included among the redeemed or not? The TR text for these two verses (reflected in the KJV and NKJV) is shown below. We have marked the places where other manuscripts differ.
. . . For you were slain and have redeemed usA to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made usB kings and priests to our God; and weC shall reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9-10+, NKJV)
Tregelles retains “us,” remarking “in verse 9, eemas, ‘us,’ should certainly be read. There was an opinion, many years ago, that it rested on but slight authority. This arose through an error in a reprint of Griesbach’s text; so that he was supposed to have excluded it. On this misprint interpretations were based. Now of all collated manuscripts, the Codex Alexandrinus alone omits eemas (and this is thought to have some support from the Ethiopic version); and one manuscript has eemon instead. The consent of the ancient versions has much weight in a case of this kind. It is surprising that some later editors have omitted it only on the authority mentioned.” [S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, p. 69, 70 note].73
Some critics and expositors have rejected this ἡμᾶς [hēmas] (us), for the reason that it is omitted in the Codex Alexandrinus, and in the Ethiopic version; though the latter is not much more than a loose paraphrase. The Codex Sinaiticus, however, which was discovered in 1860, and which is of equal antiquity and authority with the Codex Alexandrinus, contains it. The Codex Basilianus, in the Vatican, contains it. The Latin, Coptic or Memphitic, and Armenian, which are of great value, contain it. And so do all other manuscripts and versions. And to discredit it simply and only because it does not appear in that one single Codex of Alexandria, is most unreasonable and unjust to the weight of authority for its retention.74Here we encounter an excellent example of the arbitrary and subjective nature of textual criticism underwriting the NU text which omits “us.” The motives are no doubt well-intentioned as is the logic—once applied. But the guidelines employed in the selection of the preferred text from among the variant readings are flawed. Proponents of the Critical Text attempt to pass off as scientific analysis that which is largely arbitrary. For it is impossible to accurately restore an original text when subjective guesswork, hundreds of years after-the-fact, guides the selection process. The approach relies heavily on heuristics: general guidelines which seem to make sense, but which cannot be known to actually reflect the facts. And therein lies the vulnerability of the method. In the case at hand, we have “us” in every significant manuscript known with the exception of one. But that doesn’t deter the “logic” of textual criticism which arrives at a conclusion rejecting the overwhelming evidence in favor of the one exceptional reading:75
Although the evidence for τῷ θεῷ [tō theō] is slight, . . . this reading best accounts for the origin of the others. Wishing to provide ἠγόρασας [ēgorasas] with a more exactly determined object than is found in the words ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς κ.τ.λ. [ek pasēs phylēs kṭl], some scribes introduced ἡμᾶς [hēmas] either before τῷ θεῷ [tō theō] (94 2344 al) or after τῷ θεῷ [tō theō] (א 046 1006 1611 2053 al), while others replaced τῷ θεῷ [tō theō] with ἡμᾶς [hēmas] (1 2065* Cyprian al). Those who made the emendations, however, overlooked the unsuitability of ἡμᾶς [hēmas] with αὐτούς [autous] in the following verse (where, indeed, the Textus Receptus reads ἡμᾶς [hēmas], but with quite inadequate authority).76
A number of internal factors militate against the inclusion of ἡμᾶς [hēmas] as part of the text of the autograph. A most obvious one is the impossibility of reconciling the first person plural with the third person plurals what are clearly the correct readings in the next verse. . . . Such an abrupt switch from first person to third person renders the language of the song meaningless, so the reading must be judged as impossible.77Here we see a bias of scholars of our age who frequently assume that those before us lacked the necessary care or intelligence to handle the text: they “overlooked the unsuitability . . . in the following verse.” They would have us believe that for hundreds of years, scribes preserved an “obvious” error which “renders . . . the song meaningless.” Centuries later, appealing to arbitrary and subjective guesswork, these critics reject the majority witness and elevate the single minority variant while claiming to “restore” the proper text. Such is the science of textual criticism.While we recognize the need for textual criticism, we regret that often arbitrary and unverifiable suppositions are given precedence over manuscript evidence leading to questionable conclusions as here.Part of the motivation for expunging “us” from this verse comes from a desire, possibly misplaced, to bring verse 9 into conformity with the majority of manuscripts which have “them” rather than “us” in verse 10: “Indeed, all the critical authorities are unanimous in substituting the 3rd person for the 1st in the next verse [verse 10]. But if so, then we must have the 3rd person here and not the 1st person.”78 There are two liabilities which attend such reasoning:
Some have sought to dissociate the elders from the redemption of which they sing (Rev. 5:9+) by deleting the word “us” from the text, affirming on that basis that these could not be the representatives of the church. On this point several things are to be observed. First, there is good manuscript evidence to include the word in the text. The word need not be deleted on textual grounds. In the second place, even if it were to be deleted it does not mean that the elders were not singing of their own redemption. In Exodus 15:13, 17, where Moses and the people of Israel are praising God for His judgment, which they manifestly experienced themselves, they sing in the third person. Scripture gives precedent, therefore, for dealing with that which is subjective as an objective fact. And in the third place, if the word were omitted and it could be proved that they were singing about a redemption which they did not experience themselves, it need not prove that the elders are not the church, for as the elders are brought into a knowledge of the judgments of God being poured out on the earth they anticipate the victory of the saints who are on the earth through these experiences and they can praise God for the redemption of these from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9+) who have experienced the tribulation, been saved in it, and who will be made “kings and priests, and shall reign on the earth,” (Rev. 5:10+; 20:6+).83
by your bloodA bloodless gospel is no gospel. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. The redeemed of this age are “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” [emphasis added] (Acts 20:28). Redemption provides for the forgiveness of sin—that which separates man from God—and was made possible “through His blood” [emphasis added] (Col. 1:14). This is the reason why Christ’s blood is said to be “precious” (1Pe. 1:19).84 See commentary on Revelation 1:5.
every tribe and tongue and people and nationThe global emphasis of this book is seen in this phrase and similar. The redeemed come out of “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Rev. 7:9+). John is told to prophesy about many “peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Rev. 10:11+). The earth dwellers, who rejoice over the death of the two witnesses, represent the “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” (Rev. 11:9+). The worldwide scope of the Antichrist’s power is seen in that he is granted authority over “every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7+). The gospel is preached by an angel to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6+). The waters upon which the harlot sits “are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:1+, 15+). The work of the Church is to reach these global peoples with the message of the gospel (Mark 16:15) and results in a global harvest of incredible diversity. The four categories denote global extent. See Four: the Entire World, the Earth.
Behind phylēs (“tribe”) is the idea of the same descent. It is a group belonging to the same clan and united by family lineage (Lenski; Haily). People speaking the same language are intended in glōssēs (“tongue”) (cf. Acts 2:4, 6, 8, 11) (Lenski; Hailey). Laou (“people”) unites a people of the same race or stock (Hailey) or possibly of the same interests (Lenski). The group indicated by ethnous (“nation”) is one bound together by political unity (Lenski) or perhaps, more broadly, by habits, customs, and peculiarities [Cremer].85These facts all stand against the preterist interpretation which would localize these passages to Jerusalem and the Mediterranean attending the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or the subsequent fall of Rome.
have made usThe TR text reads as shown. The MT and NU texts read “have made them.” See discussion concerning textual variants in the preceding verse.
kings and priestsThe TR and MT texts read as shown. The NU text reads “a kingdom of priests.” A similar variation attends Revelation 1:6+ where the TR text reads as shown, but the MT text agrees with the NU text as shown here. See commentary on preceding verse. See commentary on Revelation 1:6.As priests, believers are ministers of the new covenant—not of the letter, but of the Spirit (2Cor. 3:6). They offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1Pe. 2:5) while proclaiming His praises (1Pe. 2:9). They minister to God as priests and share His reign as kings (Dan. 7:27+; Rev. 2:26-27+; 3:21+; Rev. 20:6+). “Though believers are currently viewed as a royal priesthood (1Pe. 2:5, 9; cf. Ex. 19:6), this is only preliminary to the fullness of the way they will function alongside Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.”86 See commentary on Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:21, and Revelation 20:6.
we shall reign on the earthThe TR text reads as shown. The MT and NU texts read “they shall rule.” See discussion concerning textual variants in the preceding verse.This is the same promise made earlier to the overcomer in Thyatira and Laodicea. The saints will be given power over the nations and will co-rule with Christ (Rev. 2:26-27+). They will sit with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:21+). They shall reign (future tense) on the earth in fulfillment of the familiar petition within the “Lord’s Prayer”: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10). The rule will be upon His throne, not upon the throne of the Father where He currently is seated. This occurs at the Millennial Kingdom following His appearing (2Ti. 4:1; Rev. 20:4-6+). The psalm writer said, “those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth” [emphasis added] (Ps. 37:9b). Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” [emphasis added] (Mat. 5:5). There is real, physical land involved in the redemption which pours forth from this book. The taking back of man’s dominion over the earth which was lost by Adam (Gen. 1:26, 28), and the restoration of Israel to the Promised Land (Amos 9:13-15).87 See commentary on Revelation 3:21.Some argue that a future earthly kingdom is out-of-step with the spiritual glories of the gospel. Yet it is completely in keeping with the promises found throughout the OT.
But strangely enough, some of the very men who are so scornful of the alleged “materialism” of a Millennial Kingdom, are the most insistent that the Church today must make effective in society what they call the social and moral ideals of the present kingdom of God. Thus, it is our duty to vote the right ticket politically, give to the Red Cross, help the Boy Scouts, support the United Nations, endow hospitals, etc. But if a “spiritual” kingdom can and should produce such effects at the present time through the very imperfect agency of sinful men, why cannot the same thing be true in larger measure in the coming age when the rule of God will be mediated more perfectly and powerfully through the Eternal Son personally present among men as the Mediatorial King? ... The reasoning of such men at times seems very curious. If physicians conquer disease, if scientists eliminate certain physical hazards, if by legislation governments improve the quality of human existence, if wise statesmen succeed in preventing a war, etc.,—these things are often cited as evidence of the progress of a present Kingdom of God. But if the Lord Jesus Christ Himself returns to earth in person to accomplish these same things, more perfectly and universally, then we are told that such a kingdom would be “carnal.”88
Some people tell us that it is quite too low and coarse a thing to think of the earth in connection with the final bliss of the saints. They preach that we do but degrade and pervert the exalted things of holy Scripture, when we hint the declaration of the wise man, that “the earth endureth forever,” and that over it the glorious and everlasting kingdom of Christ and His saints, is to be established in literal reality. But if the ransomed in heaven, with golden crowns upon their brows, kneeling at the feet of the Lamb, before the very throne of God, and with the prayers of all the saints, and the predictions of all the prophets in their hands, could sing of it as one of the elements of their loftiest hopes and joys, I beg to turn a deaf ear to the surly cry of “carnal”—“sensual”—“unspiritual”—which some would turn me from “the blessed hope.” Shall the saints in glory shout “We shall reign on the earth,” and we be accounted heretics for believing that they knew what they were saying?89
living creaturesSee commentary on Revelation 4:6.
eldersIn favor of the view that the elders are the redeemed, they are distinguished from angels both here and in Revelation 7:11+. See commentary on Revelation 4:4.
ten thousand times ten thousandμυριάδες μυριάδων [myriades myriadōn], myriads of myriads, a countless multitude. A similar phrase describes the demonic horsemen, δισμυριάδες μυριάδων [dismyriades myriadōn], two myriads of myriads. Assuming demons are fallen angels, and only one-third of the angels fell (Rev. 12:4+), then the total number of the elect angels is truly staggering, essentially innumerable (Job 25:3; Ps. 68:17; Dan. 7:10+; Mat. 26:53; Luke 2:13-14; Heb. 12:22).
the Lamb who was slainSee commentary on Revelation 5:6.
power . . . honor . . . gloryThe same three which were earlier given to the Father in worship (Rev. 4:10-11+) are now given to the Lamb. Yet, Scripture records that God will not give His glory to another (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). Jesus taught, “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” [emphasis added] (John 5:23). Thus He prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). What greater statement of divinity could Jesus have made than this? “Therefore, it is proper to worship the Son, even as it is proper to worship the Father, for here it has been shown that Father and Son receive the same worship.”90 Indeed, Jesus frequently received worship at His First Coming (Mat. 2:2; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9; 28:17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 20:28). Once again, we see that Jesus is God. See commentary on Revelation 1:17.
This scene contrasts markedly with the crucifixion, an event in which all humanity rebelled against its Creator and thought to kill Him so that it could go its own irresponsible, independent way. Here, at last, Jesus Christ receives His due: full acclaim and acknowledgment by every created thing.91
every creatureAll that is creaturely worships the Creator. This alone establishes that Jesus is not a created being—for worship of any creature, no matter how high, is blasphemous idolatry (Rev. 22:8-9+).
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Php 2:9-11)
in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the seaAll of the created order—no matter their location—pay homage to the Father and the Son (Ps. 148:7-10; Php. 2:10). The fourfold division of the phrase denotes the universal creation, similar to how the heavens and the earth are used (Gen. 1:1), or under the earth may refer to those in Hades: both demons in the bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1-2+; 9:11+; 11:7+; 17:8+) and the unsaved dead who await final judgment (Rev. 20:13+). See Four: the Entire World, the Earth. Whether visible (the material realm) or invisible (the spiritual realm), all is dependent for existence every moment upon the favor and will of God. It is in this sense that Jesus is the “Beginning” and “Firstborn” over creation (Col. 1:15; 3:14).
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Col. 1:15-17)
to Him who sits on the throne and to the LambBoth the Father and the Lamb receive equal worship. An astounding indication of the Deity of Christ and the Trinity! Only in the eternal state will we be able to fully apprehend the glory of the Father and the Son (John 17:24).
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1Ti 6:13-16) [emphasis added]See commentary on Revelation 5:12. See Worship of God.
living creaturesSee commentary on Revelation 4:6.
twenty-four eldersSee commentary on Revelation 4:4. The NU and MT texts omit twenty-four.
Him who lives forever and everOmitted from the NU and MT texts. See commentary on Revelation 1:8, Revelation 1:11, and Revelation 1:18.
1J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 118.
2E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 233.
3G. E. Ladd, “Revelation, Book of,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 4:174.
4Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 97.
6Gottlob Schrenk, “Biblion,” in Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromily, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), s.v. “Biblion.”
7Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 379.
8Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 96.
9Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 43.
10Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 71.
11Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 81, 88.
14Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 71.
15John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 5:2.
16Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 130.
17Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 84.
19Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View, 53.
20Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 126.
21Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 118.
22MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 162.
23Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 114.
24MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 165.
25Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 71.
26“The prohibition is of the cessation of some act that is already in progress. It has the idea, Stop continuing.”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 720.
27Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1951, c1964), 157.
28Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 22.
29For more on the Davidic Covenant, see 2S. 7:8-17, 19; 23:5; 1K. 11:36; 15:4; 2K. 8:19; 1Chr. 17:9-16, 27; 22:10; 2Chr. 6:15-17; 7:18; 13:5; 21:7; Ps. 2:6-8; 89:3-4; Ps 89:19-51; 132:10-12; Isa. 9:7; 11:1; 37:35; 55:3; Jer. 22:30; 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:14-17, 19-26; 36:30; Eze. 37:24-25; Hos. 3:4-5; Amos 9:11-12; Luke 1:32-33, 69-70; Acts 2:29-32; 13:22-23, 32-37; 15:16-17; Rom. 9:4.
30Line of Messiah: Gen. 3:15; 9:1, 26; 12:2; 17:19; 21:12; 22:18; 25:23; 26:5, 2; 27:27; 28:3, 13-15; 32:9; 35:11; 48:4; 49:10; 2S. 7:12-16; 1Chr. 17:11; Jer. 22:30; 36:30; Luke 1:33.
31 “As the ‘root’ of David, He existed before David, that is, He is eternal. And as the ‘offspring’ or descendant of David, He is the rightful Heir to the throne of David, and the One who will fulfill the covenanted blessings promised to David.”—Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 93. “Not merely ‘a sucker come up from David’s ancient root’ (as Alford limits it), but also including the idea of His being Himself the root and origin of David: compare these two truths brought together, Mat. 22:42-45. Hence He is called not merely Son of David, but also David. He is at once ‘the branch’ of David, and ‘the root’ of David.”—A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 5:5.
32Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 5:5.
33MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 167.
34Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 92.
36“ ‘The Messiah shall be called Shiloh to indicate that he was born of a woman and would therefore not be a divine being.’ The amniotic sac in which the fetus is formed in the womb is called the shilyah in Hebrew. This is similar to sheloh, the Hebrew word for Shiloh. This is one of the rabbinic arguments against the divinity of Messiah.”—Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 23. Rabbinic interpretation associated the title Shiloh with the Messiah: a midrash takes “Shiloh” to refer to “King Messiah” (Genesis R. 98.13), the Babylonian Talmud lists “Shi’loh” as one of the names of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b), and Medieval Jewish Biblical expositor Rashi makes the following comment: “Shiloh - i.e. King Messiah whose is the Kingdom.” Note that Eze. 21:25-27 was given to Zedekiah, the last king of the Davidic dynasty.
37Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1957), 173.
38Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 94.
39Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 5:1.
40Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 237.
41Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 144.
42Although the diminutive sense may have no longer been the sense by NT times. [Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 108]
43Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 72.
44MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 167.
45Arnion occurs in the Septuagint at Ps. 114:4, 6; Jer. 11:19; 50:45.
46Jesus as the “Lamb” in Revelation: Rev. 5:6+, 8+, 12-13+; 6:1+, 16+; 7:9-10+, 14+, 17+; 12:11+; 13:8+, 11+; 14:1+, 4+, 10+; 15:3+; 17:14+; 19:7+, 9+; 21:9+, 14+, 22-23+, 27+; 22:1+, 3+.
47Harold D. Foos, “Christology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 106.
48 “Another object of the form Greek, arnion, the Lamb, is to put Him in the more marked contrast to Greek, therion, the Beast.”—Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 5:6. The beast in Revelation: Rev. 11:7+; 13:1-4+, 11-12+, 14-15+, 17-18+; 14:9+, 11+; 15:2+; 16:2+, 10+, 13+; 17:3+, 7-8+, 11-13+, 16-17+; 19:19-20+; 20:4+, 10+.
49Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 371.
50Passages related to the foundation of the world: Gen. 1:1; Pr. 8:29; Mat. 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 1:1; 17:24; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3; 9:26; 1Pe. 1:20; Rev. 13:8+; 17:8+.
51Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 116.
52Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 5:6.
53Morris, The Revelation Record, 101.
54David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1918), 116.
55Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 117.
56Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 578.
57Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 72.
58Mat. 24:43; Luke 12:39; John 12:6; 1Th. 5:2, 4; 2Pe. 3:10; Rev. 3:3+; 16:15+.
59Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 98, 100.
60Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 117.
61Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 5:8.
62Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 5:5.
63Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 118.
64William R. Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994,c1935), 97.
65Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 5:8.
66 [Barnhouse, Revelation, 110] raises the question as to whether the living creatures may participate in the song having a personal experience of redemption. We feel this view has little merit. For one, Scripture is entirely silent as to this possibility. For another, upon what basis would angelic redemption be based? For Christ came as the God-man, born of a woman to regain that which was lost by the first man Adam. How could fallen angels profit from human redemption? Our ignorance concerning the angelic realm is only surpassed by our tendency toward unprofitable speculation concerning that which we cannot know.
67Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.
68Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 33.
69Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 111.
70Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According To The Majority Text (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1985), Rev. 5:9.
71Ibid., Rev. 5:10.
73Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 5:9.
74Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 108*.
75Regarding the identification of the twenty-four elders as angels, Thomas who holds such a view, observes: “If any one of the three readings including ἡμᾶς [hēmas] is correct, it would mean that those singing this song are among the redeemed. This would necessitate a reconsideration of the conclusions reached above regarding the identities of the four living beings and twenty-four elders [as angels]. Unquestionable manuscript support for inclusion of the pronoun is impressive.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 410.
76Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 666.
77Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 410.
78Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 242.
79John Niemelä, The Twenty-Four Elders and the Rapture (Orange, CA: Chafer Theological Seminary, 2005), 5.
80Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 5:9.
81MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 172.
82This passage illustrates the elasticity of the tenets of textual criticism and how easily its practitioners abandon their own grammatical heuristics when it seems useful.
83J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 257.
84Characteristics of Christ’s blood: Gen. 9:4; Ex. 12:23; 24:8; Lev. 17:11; Isa. 52:15; Zec. 9:11; Mat. 26:28; 27:4; Luke 22:20; John 19:30; Acts 20:28; Rom. 5:9; 1Cor. 10:16; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:14, 20; 2:14-15; Heb. 9:12, 14, 22; 10:19, 29; 11:28; 12:24; 13:12, 20; 1Pe. 1:18-19; 1Jn. 1:7; 5:8; Rev. 1:5+; 5:9+; 7:14+; 12:11+.
85Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Revelation 5:9.
86Ibid., Rev. 5:10.
87Concerning the land promises made to Israel, see: Gen. 15:7, 18; 26:4; 35:12; Ex. 3:8, 17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5, 11; 32:13; 33:1; Deu. 1:8; 29:1, 9, 12; 30:1; 32:52; Jos. 21:43; 23:5; 1Chr. 16:18; 17:9; Ps. 105:11; Isa. 60:21; Jer. 11:5; 16:15; Eze. 37:14, 25; Amos 9:15; Acts 7:5.
88Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 520-521.
89Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 119.
90Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 5:12.
91Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 5:8.