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God the Redeemer Revealed (Revelation 5)

Revelation chapter 4 was a vision of God on His throne, sovereign, powerful, worshipped by all creation and worthy of that worship.  Chapter 5 is a picture of Jesus Christ who is the only one powerful and worthy enough to reveal the message of redemption and revelation to mankind.   In chapter 5 we further see the power and righteousness of God.  This is to set Him forth as the supreme authority which no man, especially the worldly Roman emperors could hope to usurp.  Under the circumstances of 1st century Roman persecution, the Christians see those leaders who are corrupt and evil and they are comforted with these visions of a righteous and all powerful God who cannot be touched by worldly influences or swayed in any way by the Roman authorities no matter how powerful they may appear.  God is in charge and He is the one true and living God, eternal, all powerful, ever righteous, supreme and unconquerable. 

Looking at the big picture in chapter 5 we see a continuation of the throne scene.  Here we are introduced to the lamb, also described as the lion of the tribe of Judah and the root of David.  Obviously this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the redeemer of mankind.  The book He is worthy to unseal and open is, in part, the revelation of God regarding the Christian's hope and perseverance in Christ and the fate that awaits the enemies of God.   Jesus Christ lived in the sinful world and prevailed against all temptations and emerged as the only one powerful enough and with the authority to reveal what was going to happen.

So now all the persons of the Godhead are pictured together in the throne scene.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have all been represented and are the center and focus of the worship and adoration of the creation. 

Revelation 5:1
"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals."
God was holding in His right hand a book.  The right hand is symbolic of a favored position.  The right hand of God is where Jesus is pictured as ruling His kingdom (Hebrews 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22).  Notice that the book in God's hand was written on the inside and on the back.  Typically things written in the first century were on scrolls and they would be rolled up.  This scroll had writing on the front and back which gives the impression that there is a lot to be revealed.  The book is full and complete.  There is no more room for anymore writing or anything to be added to it or changed in any way and when it is opened the people will know all they need to know.

This scroll is also tightly sealed with seven seals.  The number seven representing total completeness means that the book was sealed in such a way that it was not going to be easily opened.  The picture here is that the future cannot be in any way known but by the intervention of Jesus Christ and will remain a secret until he comes along and reveals it.  No one can know the mind of God until it has been revealed.   Paul taught, "but as it is written, Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, And (which) entered not into the heart of man, Whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him.  But unto us God revealed (them) through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

Revelation 5:2
"And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?"
And John sees in his vision a powerful angel.  Obviously not all angels are created equally, there being some kind of hierarchy among them.  We do not know how this works however we see in scripture where Michael the archangel contended with Satan for the body of Moses.  In the Greek the word for archangel means "chief angel".  This angel was powerful and high in authority which suggests that any angel less than he was not even in consideration as a candidate for the task of revealing the future. 

Power alone is not qualification enough to reveal these secrets either.  The proper candidate had to be worthy of this task.  This is a significant point.  Jesus was worthy in light of His righteousness, having lived life on earth as a man and successfully enduring having never sinned, not even when scourged and crucified by His own creation.  Jesus earned the right to reveal the secrets of God.

Revelation 5:3
"And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon."
In particular, none of the emperors of the Roman Empire had the authority or were worthy to reveal what was going to happen.  They were not even able to look at it.  The first century people were being forced to worship the emperors as gods on earth.  These emperors were being hailed as all powerful individuals and they certainly looked it to the those outside the church.  But those in the church were being given a picture of the real authority, the real king and the real God. 

Revelation 5:4
"And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon"
The Christians were living in desperate times.  John was told to come see what would happen in chapter 4 verse 1.  The persecution was bad and it was going to get worse.  Keep in mind that John was on Patmos at the time he received these revelations.  Patmos was a forced labor prison facility for the Roman Empire.  John was most likely not there of his own choosing so was feeling the pressure of the persecution.  He was on an island of rock far away from his beloved brethren and was undoubtedly greatly concerned for their wellbeing.  He was undoubtedly anxious, possibly frantic to know what the fate of his brothers and sisters would be, not to mention the fate of the Lord's church in general.  With the lives of his brethren hanging in the balance, it looked like no one would be able to tell him what he so desperately wanted to know.  So in despair he wept for his brethren, the church and for himself. 

Revelation 5:5
"and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof."
John was comforted with the w
ords that Jesus had overcome sin and was able to reveal God's message.  The lion, because of its strength and courage is known as the king of beasts. The Lion of the tribe of Judah thus signifies the kingly power and majesty of Christ the Lord. He is the conqueror, the Ruler, the King whose lineage is traced through tribe of Judah.  "For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (Hebrews 7:14).  Reference also Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2, Luke 3:33.

King David, son of Jesse (Ruth 4:22),  was a descendant of the tribe of Judah.  Therefore the root of Jesse and of David shows Jesus' connection with that lineage. "And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1).  Reference also Isaiah 11:10, Jeremiah 23:5, Romans 1:3.

God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan; "And it shall come to pass, when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will set up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne for ever.  I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee;  but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever; and his throne shall be established for ever" (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

Revelation 5:6
"And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth."
And John sees in the midst of it all Jesus Christ, the Son of God pictured here as both a powerful and noble lion, ruling over the other beasts, and as a sacrificial lamb with seven horns, meaning perfect power, and seven eyes, meaning perfect all seeing vision.  Being pictured in the midst of the throne conveys the idea that Jesus was sharing the throne with God.  "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).  "for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17).  "And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3).

Jesus is pictured here as a lamb which is symbolic of the sacrificial system and thus represents the redemption of sin. 
"On the morrow he [John the baptist], seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  "...He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth" (Acts 8:32).  "but with precious blood, as of a lamb without spot, (even the blood) of Christ" (1 Peter 1:19).

The seven eyes of the lamb which are the seven Spirits of God is representational of the perfect and complete Spirit, the Holy Spirit, given to Jesus without measure.  "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure.  The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (John 3:34-35).

Revelation 5:7
"And he came, and he taketh (it) out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne."
Jesus, the Son of God, the only one in existence worthy to unseal the revelation of God has taken it from the right hand of God the Father.  John who wept because no one could be found who could reveal the will of God now saw the book containing that message in the hands of Jesus Christ.  It should be noted here that this vision is not just a vision of the revelation at hand, but a general representation of God's will overall being given into the hands of Jesus.  Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, (Matthew 28:18) and has the right to execute judgment (John 5:27).  The book taken from the hand of the Father by Jesus is representative of the eternal purpose of God's plan for man's salvation.  All authority has been passed to the Son in His ascension to reign at the right hand of God the Father.   And only He is able to open this book and reveal the contents. 

The things said to be in that book represented the plan formulated in the mind of God before time began and was a mystery until the fullness of time when it was brought forth and revealed.  "making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, (I say,)  in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:9-11).  See also Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2. 

In this vision we are seeing a grand scene of the overall passing of authority from God the Father to God the Son and His ascension to the throne where He now rules.  One almost gets the feeling they are witnessing a coronation ceremony of sorts where the one who prevailed and has passed the test now assumes the role promised Him since before time began.

Revelation 5:8
"And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
And when Jesus who had prevailed had taken possession, and the authority of, God's word, all creation, represented as the creatures over whom the Lion of Judah reigns, fell down before Him.  We notice here that the Son of God is worthy to receive worship. 

All those around the throne have in their possession harps and vials of odours which are the prayers of the saints.  These instruments of worship are figurative and have no bearing on manmade instruments in our worship today.  Harps are old testament symbols of praise to God.  Harps, psaltries and viols were instruments of praise in old covenant worship and were never used in the new covenant worship during the first century nor for about a thousand years afterwards.  Paul referred to the harp, pipe and trumpet in 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 in order to illustrate a point, but gave no indication they were used in worship.  John later wrote of hearing the one hundred and forty four thousand whose voice was "as the voice of harpers harping with their harps" (Revelation 14:2), and he saw those who were victorious before the beast and his image "having the harps of God" (Revelation 15:2).  Whatever these harps are in the throne room of heaven, we know they were provided by God and were suitable for use there, but on earth, God "dwelleth not in temples made with human hands, neither is he worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything" (Acts 17:24-25 KJV).  In contrast to the heavenly instruments mentioned here, they are all silenced in fallen Babylon (Revelation 18:22).  If one is going to literalize the harps here and take them to authorize manmade musical instruments in worship to God on earth today then they better at least acknowledge that the harpers and other musicians would not have been completely silenced after the fall of the Roman Empire if there were any of them performing in the Lord's church at that time. 

The "golden bowls full of incense" were identified as being the prayers of the saints.  In old testament worship incense was burned in the temple while prayers were being offered outside (Luke 1:10).  In Revelation 8:3-4 the same figurative language we see in verse 8 is also used to illustrate the prayers of the saints; "And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand."  The incense and the harps in this vision were old testament symbols which represented the prayers and the praise of the Christians.  If we were going to literalize the harps, then consistency would demand that we also literalize the incense and start burning it during our prayer in worship to God. 

In this verse we see the prayers of the saints coming before the Throne of God.  Our prayers are heard by God.  James taught that the "fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much" in 5:16. "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15).  "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth" (John 9:31).  What a comfort it must have been to the persecuted Christians to know that their prayers of affliction and supplication were heard by God. 

Revelation 5:9
"And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood (men) of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,"
The new song being sung here is the song of redemption.  A song never before heard because Jesus Christ was slain as the perfect sacrifice and with His blood accomplished something the blood of bulls and goats could never do; the removal of sin completely.  The old law of Moses with the animal sacrifices was unable to make the Israelites perfect (Hebrews 10:1).  The blood of bulls and goats could not take away their sin (Hebrews 10:4).  It was only a temporary measure until Jesus' blood would redeem them completely.  Those who lived faithfully under the old covenant and offered the blood of the sacrifices were purchased by the blood of Jesus when He died on the cross (Hebrews 9:15).  Those today who live after the cross do not have to offer the yearly sacrifices because we have been purged and been made complete (Hebrews 10:1-10).  Today we have a covenant which is faultless, being established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6-7), with Jesus as our High priest and mediator (Hebrews 6:20;12:24, 1 Timothy 2:5).  And this blood sacrifice of Jesus was for all mankind, not just for those living under the old law (Hebrews 10:10, Ephesians 2:12-18).  All the faithful children of God who lived under the old law, and all the saved under the new covenant both Jews and Gentiles were singing the new song of redemption, never before heard or known until Jesus Christ came and offered His blood for all sins forever and then sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12-14). 

Revelation 5:10
"and madest them (to be) unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon earth."
Under the old law, the Jewish High Priest offered up the sacrifices for the sins of the people after he had offered up sacrifices for his own sins (Hebrews 7:27).  The Jewish high priests were taken from among men so they were imperfect (Hebrews 7:28).  Jesus blood purged the sins of all His children forever (Hebrews 10:14) and there is no longer a need for a Jewish High Priest to offer up sacrifices.  Jesus is our High Priest now and because of the blood of His sacrifice all His children are now able to offer up their own sacrifices and praise and worship to God. 

The kingdom mentioned here is the kingdom of God which is peopled by the "called out" or in the Greek is the word "Ekklesia" which is translated "church" in the new testament.  The Ekklesia is not a building, rather it is a people made up of all the saved in Christ.  And all the members of the Ekklesia have been purged of their sins by the blood of Christ and can therefore serve as a priest in their own capacity.  In short, all who are saved can now offer their praise and worship to God directly without having to go through a Jewish High Priest as a mediator.  Our mediator today is not some man who is himself sinful, but Jesus Christ who is sinless and is the perfect High Priest.  The kingdom of God is the total assembly of His children today and it is called a kingdom because everyone in it is a royal priest unto God. 

"But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God's) own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Revelation 5:11
"And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands"
What John was seeing here was the whole creation; angels, elders and the redeemed assembled about the throne of God and they were too numerous even to count. 

Revelation 5:12-13
"saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing.  And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, (be) the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever."
In chapter 4 we saw God on His throne with His Spirit receiving the worship of all creation.  In chapter 5 we see His Son, Jesus Christ introduced, worthy and receiving all the worship of all the creation as well.  Notice carefully the wording "Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb".  The Lamb is equally worshipped with He who sits on the throne.  The Godhead is made up of three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, perfectly united with one single nature, thus when God is worshipped on His throne, all three are.   

Revelation 5:14
"And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped."
The word "Amen" means "be it so".  Jesus Christ, the Son of God has been presented as the only one worthy to reveal the word of God and to receive the worship and adoration of all the creation.  Looking at this through the eyes of the first century Christians living under the oppression of the Roman Empire we see a contrast between this and what the Roman Empire insisted on.  The emperors who demanded to be worshipped as Gods were not Holy.  They were not worthy of the worship of mankind.  They didn't purchase anything with their blood and couldn't if they wanted to because it was unfit for the task.  They did not come back from the dead when they died.  They did not prevail against the world and emerge sinless.  None of them were pictured standing around the throne of God receiving the worship of all creation.  None of them reached up and took from God's right hand the sealed book. 

To the first readers of the Revelation, God is presented as the only true and worthy recipient of man's worship and this has to be a tremendous comfort to those who are being persecuted because of their faith.  Total and complete praise is seen as being offered to God and God alone.  His throne rules, be it so.

Summary Paraphrase:

And I saw God seated on His throne and holding in His right hand a perfectly sealed scroll with words written on it inside and out.  And then I saw a powerful angel announcing in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open this scroll?"  And no one in heaven or on the earth or in Hades was able to open the scroll and reveal its message.  And I wept greatly because no one could be found to open the scroll and read it.  Then one of the elders said to me, Stop weeping!  God's Son, the Lion of the house of Judah, the offspring of King David has prevailed.  He can break the seals and open the scroll.

And I looked and saw with God on His throne and among the elders and the saved of earth, His Son who had been slain but was now standing, having all power and authority and with the all seeing Spirit of God who has been sent far and wide into all the earth.  And the Son went and took the scroll from the right hand of the Father seated on His throne.  And when God's Son held the scroll in His hand, all the elders and the saved bowed before Him and worshipped and the prayers of the saints on earth were heard and were like bowls of sweet incense before God.

And now they are singing a new song never heard before, saying You are worthy to take the scroll and to reveal its message for You were slain and with your blood you purchased all men unto God from every tribe and language and people and nation of the earth.  And you made them a royal race in your kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign as kings over the earth.  

And then as I looked, I heard the voices of many angels on every side of God's throne and of the elders and all the saved and there were so many they could not be numbered.  And they were all proclaiming loudly, "Worthy is the Son who was slain to receive all the power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and majesty and blessing!"  And then I heard every created thing everywhere crying out in unison unto God and His Son, to You be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the dominion for all eternity."  And then all the saved said " AMEN!!!, Let it be so!" And the elders laid down on their faces and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.


Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.