I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch5, which describes a new event in Eternity.
In the previous chapter, John was taken up to heaven, and the scene he found there was full of unceasing praise.
But now something happens in heaven; there is a scroll to be opened.
In connection with that event, I'm going to be asking the question; why must the Lamb open the scroll?
The scroll belongs to "the one seated on the throne", who's holding it in his hand.
It's clearly full of detailed information, written on both sides.
But the scroll has been sealed- with seven seals, which means that God placed them there himself.
And the annnouncement is made that somebody must be found to open it.
This brings up a preliminary question; what is meant by "the opening of the scroll"?
The explanation comes in the next chapter, where we see it happening.
The seals are broken one by one.
And each time a seal is broken, something happens.
In the case of the first four seals, what happens is that one of the four "living creatures" from ch4 summons out one of the "four horsemen", and they
begin roaming across the world.
The implication is that the detailed scroll doesn't contain the description of these events.
It contains the events themselves.
Each time a seal is broken, the scroll can be unrolled a little further.
Each time the scroll is unrolled a little further, one more event is "released" into the world.
I think we have to imagine that the seals were fixed on to the scroll, stage by stage, as the scroll was being rolled up.
The key point would be the location of the seal.
The wax would have to be applied over the edge
of the parchment, holding the rolled portion together like a paperclip.
Because that would be the purpose of the seal, to prevent the scroll from being unrolled beyond that point.
Then a further section would be rolled, another seal would be applied, and so on, until the final seal held the complete roll together.
Then the breaking of the seals (in reverse order) would give the effect just described. Each broken seal would give access to the next section of the
scroll, and only the next section, until the unrolling was complete.
But none of these things can happen if the seals cannot be broken.
When the first announcement was made, it seemed that nobody could be found, either "in heaven or on earth or under the earth". Not in the created
John then wept bitterly
But why does it matter?
Why must the scroll be opened at all?
The immediate answer relates to John's concern about the persecuted state of the church, implied in the first chapter.
The events of ch6, locked up in the scroll, are to be God's response to that, the expression of his wrath against the persecutors.
[NB The 4 Horsemen- Why?
But that's only the start.
The breaking of the seven seals leads to the seventh seal.
The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets.
The sounding of the seven trumpets leads to the seventh trumpet.
The seventh trumpet contains the seven vials.
The pouring of the seven vials leads to the seventh vial.
And the seventh vial opens up the events which destroy the power of evil and bring forward the arrival of the new Jerusalem.
Anything which obstructs this outcome is a good cause for weeping.
One of the elders then tells John that the problem has been solved.
"The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David" has conquered.
Obviously this points us towards Jesus.
We find him standing among the elders, the representatives of his people.
But he doesn't appear in the form of a lion.
Nor does he appear in the form of "one like a son of man", as he appeared in the first chapter.
Instead he appears in the form of a Lamb.
Evidently alive, but "standing as though it had been slain".
Risen from the dead, then.
We can see that the Lamb holds "the power that belongs to God"- that's the meaning of the seven horns.
We can see that the Lamb holds "the Spirit that belongs to God" (ie the Holy Spirit)- that's the meaning of "the seven eyes, which are the seven
This is the Lamb who is able to go to "the one who sits upon the throne" and take the scroll from him.
How can the Lamb do what nobody else can do?
The elders and the living creatures say that he is "worthy"- AXIOS.
The root of this word carries the sense, amongst other things, that something "has weight".
It can be translated as "meet" or "befitting".
This is not just about power, but about moral authority.
They say that he's worthy because he died, and because his death ransomed men for God.
We know this from John's gospel- "The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world".
But how does that give him the power to break the seals and open the scroll?
The answer must be that "the sin of the world" is the reason why the seals are there.
In which case, victory over sin would give him the power to break them.
The two things must go together, bcause the final outcome of opening the scroll is renewed access to Life-
And we know from the story of Eden that sin was the obstruction to Life.
When the Lamb has overcome sin, therefore, he is able to break that obstruction (symbolised by the sealing of the scroll) and set these events in
This includes, of course, the destruction of the power of the Beast.
Since if the Lamb can overcome sin-and-death, which is the ultimate enemy of the human race, dealing with merely human persecutors becomes a
comparatively trivial matter.
The rest of the chapter, therefore, is filled with his praise.
"the prayers of the saints" are offered, relating to what he is about to do.
The living creatures and the elders fall down in front of him.
They are joined by "many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands".
These are then joined by "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea".
In short, there's an explosion of joy and praise beginning around the throne and spreading out to fill the totality of the universe.
Even the British are obliged to admit that they're feeling rather chuffed.
So it is the Atonement itself which is the real "new event" in the history of Eternity.
The opening of the scroll is simply the side-effect.
To sum up.
My opening question was deliberately ambiguous, and could be read in two different ways;
"Why must the scroll be opened at all?"
Because the opening of the scroll sets in motion the fulfilment of the promise of Life.
"Why must the Lamb be the one who opens it?"
Because the promise of Life could only be fulfilled by his death and resurrection.
The message of this chapter is that the Atonement is the real driving force of the events of Revelation.
Which means that Revelation cannot be separated from the structure of Christian teaching.
There's a lot to be gained from reading this chapter in conjunction with;
Ch1; "Fear not"
Ch4; "In the presence of God"
Because these three chapters between them are the theological heart of the book.
Then the explanatory ch12 sets out the sequence of cause-and-effect which leads from the Atonement to the Beast's hostility to the people of God;
The woman in heaven
Satan fell from heaven
On eagles' wings
War on the saints
All through the rest of Revelation we can read about what happens.
But these chapters just quoted are the key to understanding why
edit on 26-9-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)