The Seven-sealed Scroll: verse 1-5.
Verse 1: I saw on the right hand Him that sat on the Throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. This is a heavenly scene. Here the revelator was taken to the Throne Room of God Almighty in the Heaven of heavens or the third Heaven. God the Father is seated on His Throne. That God the Father has a throne implies that He is a king. That he is a king implies He has a kingdom. There is the universal kingdom of God, and there is the earthly realm of that universal kingdom. That this Throne is in heaven implies that it is the universal kingdom of God that is in view. That He is sitting on the throne, implies that He is a sitting King. That He is sitting implies that He is a reigning king. God is and He reigns. In His right hand, there is a book, written within and on the back side. The Greek word translated book here is “biblos” from which the English word bible and its cognates like biblical and biblicist are derived. It is best translated scroll or roll. In the ancient Neareast as in the Roman World, documents were written on scrolls made from animal skins or papyrus and then rolled up. They could be written on the inside as well as on the outside. These documents could be marriage or business contracts, agreements between individuals or treaties between nations or the decrees and edicts of kings, nobles and senates. The scroll was sealed with seven seals. When rolled up, the scroll is secured with wires and knotted. These knots may be on a straight line or at different positions on the scroll. On these knots were placed wet clay or soft wax and the impression of the insignia of the owner is made and then left to congeal. These knots of clay or wax on which the impression of the insignia of the owner are made are called seals or bullae(singular- bulla). For the purpose of consistency we shall stick to seals. Depending on the size of the scroll, the seals could be as few as one to three or as many as five to seven.The seals indicate ownership and authenticity. They are for identification and protection. Here there are seven seals. In Hebraic numerology, seven is the divine number of perfection. It indicates completeness. The scroll with seven seals is the title deed of the Earth. God is the Lord of the Earth which He leased to Adam. It is the scroll of God’s judgement on the Earth which is both eschatological and consummative. It is the perfect judgement because it is divine in origin. God is just and shows no partiality(Deut.32:4; 1 Tim.5:21; Jam.3:17). He is no respecter of persons(Acts 10:31). There is no unrighteousness with Him(Rom.9:14). Let all be liars, but God remaineth true(Rom.3:2).
Verse 2: I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose the seals thereof? A search was made in heaven by the proclamation of the strong angel to find a man worthy to break the seals and the open the scroll. The identity of this strong angel is not revealed. He is probably one of the archangels, perhaps, Gabriel, the bearer of good news. He was sent to Daniel near the expiry of the captivity in Babylon to cause him to understand(Dan.9:20-22). He was sent to the Virgin Mary to inform her of the miraculous conception(Luk.1:26). He was sent to Zachariah the priest concerning the birth of John the Baptist, the herald of His first advent(Luk.1:19).
The Greek word translated loose in the KJV is better translated break. In ancient Neareast, seals are broken before the contents of scrolls can be revealed, usually by the owner of the seal or anyone authorized by the owner or the one to whom the document is addressed. In chronological order, the seals are broken first and then the contents are revealed. In verse 3, no man was found worthy, neither on Earth nor in Heaven to open the scroll or to look thereon. If no man was found in Heaven, certainly none would be found on Earth. Angels were not given rulership over the Earth for they have no physical bodies with which to relate with the earth-dwellers; therefore angels have no authority to judge the Earth either. Anyone who broke the seals and opened the scrolls must be an Adam. He must be a man given authority over the Earth, a representative of God. A man who succeeded where Adam failed. A man who had overcome the Devil. A man who had recovered the lost glory of man. A man in whom the Prince of this world had nothing( John 14:30). A man in whom is no sin(1 Pet.2:22; 2 Cor.5:21). In verse 4, the revelator wept much because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. The situation looked hopeless therefore the Lamentations of the Apostle. If there was no man found to break the seals and to open and read the scrolls, then Satan would rule the World for ever, and man would live in sin for ever though already redeemed by the finished work of Christ on the execution stake on Calvary. That would mean that the work of redemption though completed would not be consummated. But that was not to be. In verse 5, one of the 24 elders about the throne comforted him saying: weep not, behold the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the scroll and to break the seven seals thereof. Jesus prevailed because He is the God-Man. He had previously overcome the Devil in His first advent. He conquered sin and death. He rose from the dead triumphant. He ascended into heaven, angels principalities, powers and authorities are being made subject to Him.
The Lamb of God(v.6-10)
Here in verse 6, the description of the Throne Room in heaven continued. Unlike in the previous five verses where the attention was on the occupier of the throne and the seven-sealed scroll in His right hand, here the attention shifts to the lamb in the midst of the throne. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He was seated at the right hand of the Father. But now he is in the midst of the throne, the four beast and the twenty-four elders standing. He is standing because He is about to vacate His seat at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. He is about to relocate to the Earth to take over the rulership of the Earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is about to return to the Earth as a conquering and triumphant Messiah, Messiah Ben David. He stands as a lamb as it had been slain. His identity is not hidden at all. It is not to be confused with those of any other. He is the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world(Jon.1:29). He was slain, but now He is risen. He is alive again. He conquered death. He conquered the devil and his hordes of fallen angelic brings. He conquered the world. He has right to the Title Deed of the Earth. He is about to metamorphose into the Lion of the tribe of Judah from the Lamb of God. He is the son of God. He is the son of Man. He is the kinsman-redeemer, the “goel.” He is the prototype of the heavenly archetypal man. He is of the family and lineage of David. He is a king. He is a priest, after the order of Melchesedec, eternal, endless. He has seven horns. Horns signal authority. The number seven signifies perfection and completeness. He has perfect and complete authority. He is the perfect ruler of the Earth. He has seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God(Is.11:1-9). These are the spirits of power, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, counsel, the fear of the Lord and righteousness. The seven spirits of God empowers Him for the reign of righteousness. He is a dictator but a benign dictator. These spirits are sent forth into all the Earth. During His reign these spirits shall pervade the Earth, therefore, righteousness and justice shall prevail. During His reign, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and a toddler shall put his finger into the cockatice den; for the Earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea( Is.11:6-9; Hab. 2:15). In verse 7, He approached the Father seated on His throne with the seven- sealed scroll in his right hand. He demanded it. The Father handed it over to Him. This is the moment the whole creation had been waiting for. For the whole creation waiters and travaileth together in pain until now…..(Rom.8:22). He now has the Title Deed of the Earth. He shall proceed to the Earth to reclaim God’s rule over the Earth and to evict the usurper and his minions from the earth’s premesis.
In verse 8, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having everyone of them harps, and golden vials full of odours which are the prayers of the saints. Why fall down before the Lamb, in the presence of the Father, seated upon His throne? Does anyone have doubt that the Son is God?. Here it is unequivocally shown that the Son is God. He is worshipped by men and angels in the presence of the Father. Was the Father jealous? No. Did He forbid it? No. That is exactly what He wants, that men should honour and worship the Son even as they honour and worship the Father(Jon.5:22,23). He that honours the Son, honours the Father. If any one worships the Son, he worships the Father also. If any man acknowledges the Father, he acknowledges the Son. He that had the Son had the Father. He that had not the Son, had not the Father. These heavenly beings have harps, instrument of music to worship and praise both the Father and the Son. They have vials, full of odours which are the prayers of the saints. The Greek word translated vial is “phiale.” It is not like the modern day vial used in medicine, narrow throated. It is more like a saucer, of which the content can be easily emptied. The prayers of the saints were quickly offered unto God as sweet insence and odours. The writer has had the privilege of experiencing this personally. Not only the prayers of saints ascend to God as incense but their lives generally. They may be aromatous or odoriferous, contingent upon the lifestyle, value system, conversation, or conduct of the saints.
Doxology to The Lamb: The Universal Choir in Session(v.9-14).
Verse 9: And they sung a song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the scroll, and to break the seals thereof: for thou wast slain and redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. He had the right credentials. Any one who would have taken the seven-sealed scroll from the Father, broken the seals, and opened the scroll to reveal the content, would have previously lived a sinless life on Earth, would have been slain and redeemed fallen humanity from the ravages of sin, the shackles of the law and the powers of darkness. He would have conquered death. He would have risen from the the dead and ascended into Heaven, and held session at the right hand of God the Father, the Majesty in the Heaven. No other being in Heaven fits this bill but J e s u s, the Son of God. Therefore, He is worthy. He is worthy because He came. He was slain. He died. His blood was shed to redeem all mankind. He did not sin, but He died for sinners. He redeemed us unto God the Father. He reconciled us unto Him. He is the mediator of the New Covenant which was established on better promises(Heb.8:6). He deserves our praise and worship. Some older manuscripts read: and hast redeemed them…., implying that the four beasts and the twenty and four elders are not part of redeemed humanity. It may well be true, but it does not make any significant alteration in our theology, whether it were us or them. Fallen humanity is redeemed and the Son of God is glorified. In verse 20, He not only redeemed us but made us kings and priests: we shall reign with Him on Earth. In verse 11, the voice of the four beasts and four twenty elders were joined by the chorus of an innumerable company of angels. The Universal Choir increased in geometric progression: first, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders, then the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels, and finally the whole creation. Verse 12 is the combined and unanimous voice of the four beasts and the four and twenty elders, saying: worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and blessing. In verse 13, the voices of the four beasts, the four and twenty elders, and innumerable number of angels were joined by all creation. What a universal choir, a universal orchestra? And every creature which is in heaven, and on the Earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying: blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Does any one have doubts that Jesus deserves worship? Here He is worshipped and praised in tandem with Him that sitteth on the Throne, that is, the Father. Here every creature in the whole universe worshipped Him and the Father. Friends and foes, animate and inanimate, the living and the dead, the just and the unjust, great and small, high and low, rich and poor. In verse 14, the four beasts said Amen. And four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever. The doxology did not end, it is an eternal orchestra: for the four beasts and the four and twenty elders continue to worship Him that liveth for and ever. Amen.