Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 5:1-14
Chapter 10

August 6, 1993, is a memorable date in British history. On that day, for the first time ever, the Royals of England authorized tours of Buckingham Palace. Anyone, nobleman or commoner, countryman or foreigner, with the twelve dollar price of admission, could roam the halls where only the monarch's of England and their families have tread for centuries.

How awesome it must be, for those who have never been in the presence of royalty to enter the luxury of that castle:

To walk the marble floors;
To enter the cavernous rooms and see the sunlight filtering through stained glass windows;
To see the very throne from which past kings and queens have exercised the duties of their office;
To enjoy for a brief moment the finest furnishings and decor that wealth can buy;
And to think that all this splendor is "everyday stuff" to the royal family.
As impressive as the tour of Buckingham Palace must be, it can in no way compare to the splendor of the tour the Apostle John was given of the throne room of God. For John was not only shown the abode of the Majesty, he was privileged to see the Almighty sitting on His throne, surrounded by the heavenly hosts who were singing His praises. We too, are able to visit the throne room of our God through the Revelation given us in the Holy Scriptures. And the admission is free.

We continue our tour of the throne room of God, and as we begin Revelation 5, we read that

I. John's Attention Is Immediately Drawn To A Scroll

"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1).

Certainly, there can be no question as to the identity of the One who is enthroned. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders all give testimony through their praise, in Revelation 4, that He is the Lord God Almighty and throughout the Scriptures, the right hand of God is symbolic of power, deliverance and righteousness.

Listen to Moses, in Exodus 15:6, "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy."

David said in Psalm 44:3, "For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but thy right hand, and thine arm..."

Again, in Psalm 48:10, "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth; thy right hand is full of righteousness."

It is in the right hand of God that John sees the scroll and so we understand that it symbolizes the power, the deliverance, and the righteousness of God.

We also know from what is later revealed that the scroll contains the judgments God will pour on the earth before the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.

This scroll is "Sealed with seven seals" that must be broken in successive order as the scroll is unrolled. If seven is truly the number of completion in the Scriptures, as many say it is, then this scroll when fully opened by breaking the seven seals, indicates the outpouring of God's judgment is finished. Then, as John knew, after the judgments of God are poured out in the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ will come in Glory, to establish His Kingdom on the earth.

Listen to our Lord's words in Matthew 24:29-30,

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Notice also, in Revelation 5:1, the scroll has "writing within and on the back." Perhaps, this means there are two sides to the story. No question, the judgments of God are sealed on the inside, waiting to be poured on earth's inhabitants. However, to gain insight as to what may be written on the outside, we must go to Daniel 12.

As you may know, Daniel received revelation from God concerning the destiny of Israel and the revelation he received closely parallels the Revelation John wrote.

In Daniel 12:1, we read,

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book."
Daniel wrote that there would be a time of trouble or tribulation unequaled since Israel became a nation, but, at the end of that tribulation, everyone whose name was written in a certain book or scroll would be delivered. Then, God gave Daniel specific instructions concerning this book or scroll. "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4).

Clearly, the scroll containing the names of those Children of Israel who would be delivered out of the Great Tribulation was to be sealed until the "Time of the End." In Revelation 5, John stands at the threshold of the "Time of the End." This is the time when God will pour His judgments upon the inhabitants of the earth. This is the time that is called "Jacob's Trouble" in Jeremiah 30:7.

John sees the scroll in the right hand of God representing power, deliverance and righteousness. On one side of the scroll are sealed the judgments of God that are certain to happen because they are sealed. On the other side of the scroll, just as surely sealed, are the names of those children of Israel that God will deliver out of the Great Tribulation.

What a picture we see here: The power, judgment and righteousness of God in perfect harmony with His Grace. The same right hand that delivers judgment also brings grace. So it has always been in God's dealings with mankind.

In the garden of Eden, when God judged Adam for his sin, before putting him out of the garden He clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals. This demonstrated His Grace in covering their sins with the blood of an animal that died because of their transgression.

When God revealed to Noah that He would flood the earth, He graciously waited while Noah built an ark and offered opportunity for anyone who believed to get on board.

Now, in the closing chapters of Human History we see God's intention to graciously preserve a remnant of His chosen people, but, so there can be no presumption by those who will be delivered, their names are sealed until the "Time of the End."

II. John Sees A Strong Angel

"And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" (Revelation 5:2).

The word "Strong" comes from a Greek word meaning mighty or powerful. Therefore, we may conclude this was not an average angel from the rank and file. Rather, this was an angel of high rank and standing, one with power and authority.

Do you remember the reference to Michael in Daniel 12:1, which we read earlier? He is also mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21. In these passages Michael is mentioned as the guardian prince of Israel. Then, in Jude 9, Michael is called the archangel and is said to have contended with the devil about the body of Moses. Surely, he was acting in his role as guardian prince of Israel by contending for Moses. Therefore, it is within his role as guardian to desire the scroll be opened that will bring to a close the "Times of the Gentiles" and their dominion over Israel.

Surely, the guardian angel of Israel desires that the names of those whom God will deliver be released, perhaps, in expectation of his receiving authority to intervene in their behalf.

Most likely, the Archangel Michael, in anticipation of Israel's restoration and the establishment of the throne of David, will desire the scroll be opened. Therefore, to him is granted the privilege of "...proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose its seals?"

Following the angel's call we read, in Revelation 5:3, "And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the scroll, neither to look upon it." Why? Because the scroll represents power and authority over the earth. The power to execute judgment, to purge the earth and end the rebellion of sin, along with the authority to graciously deliver humanity from judgment.

This power and this authority over the earth are reserved for the Creator and for the One who has obtained it by right of purchase. No angel in heaven, no human on earth or fallen angel under the earth, no one in all the universe other than God, has the right, either by virtue of creation or purchase, to even look at the scroll, much less open it. Consequently, in Revelation 5:4, John says, "And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the scroll, neither to look on it."

Picture John, in the throne room of God, surrounded by His Majesty and Glory, with the hosts of heaven saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty." Now, compare this to the condition of the earth, from which John was called to heaven. Paul describes this condition in Romans 8:20-22.

"For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
All of creation groans with the pain and bondage of corruption brought by sin and it awaits deliverance from sin by the purging of judgment, or by the Grace of God. No wonder, John is overcome by emotion. He sees the glory of sinless perfection in the presence of God, contrasted with the pain and corruption of sin in the creation. Consequently, when no one is found to open the scroll representing God's deliverance from sin, either by judgment or grace, John is overwhelmed.

John's tears, were tears of sorrow for the sinful condition of the world and the prospect that there was no deliverance available, when no one could be found to open the scroll.

Christians today, could learn a lesson from John. We too, should weep because of sin and the destruction it brings to the world. In particular, we should weep for those who do not avail themselves of the grace of God, by trusting Christ as their Savior, for outside believing in Him, there is no deliverance.

Here is John, weeping because there was no one found worthy to open the scroll that the Almighty held in His right hand. This scroll represents power and authority over the earth. This scroll with its seven seals contains the judgments God will pour on the earth to purge it and cleanse it from the rebellion of sin. But, the scroll also contains on the back side, the names of the Remnant God will deliver out of the Great Tribulation. Therefore, the scroll represents not only judgment, but grace. The same right hand that delivers judgment for sin, also brings God's grace to men.

John is overcome with emotion because no one is worthy to open the scroll and release the events that will bring to an end the "Times of the Gentiles" and their dominion over Israel.

III. The Lion of The Tribe of Judah

In Revelation 5:5, one of the twenty-four elders around the throne of God, said, "Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the scroll, and to loose its seven seals."

One of the interesting things contained in v:4, is that John, "Wept much." Then, in v:5, he is told, "Weep not." We do not normally think of heaven as a place for weeping or sorrow. On the contrary, heaven is usually presented as a place absent tears. However, we know that John is in heaven. Furthermore, he is in the throne room, in the very presence of the Almighty and the text says, he "Wept much."

Clearly, there are tears in heaven. There is sorrow before the throne of the Almighty, because of sin. Sin has affected all of God's creation and even the Creator. It is because of sin that the only begotten Son of God left the glory of heaven, put on the robe of flesh, humbled Himself as a servant, and bore our sins, on that cruel cross at Calvary. It is sin that brings sorrow to men and to our God and it is sin that causes tears in heaven and will continue to do so until it is removed from the presence of God and all creation.

There will be tears on the earth until our Lord Jesus Christ comes in glory, binds the evil one and casts him into the abyss. Likewise, there will be tears in heaven until that devil and all who follow him are cast into the lake of fire, at which time there is a new heaven, a new earth and a new Jerusalem. Then, according to Revelation 21:4, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

John is told, "Weep not" in v:5, because God's judgments for sin are about to be poured on the earth and the sequence of events is about to begin, which will bring righteousness and dry the tears of sorrow because of sin, forever.

John, do not weep, for there is One who has prevailed to overcome sin, and who is thereby worthy "To open the scroll, and to loose its seven seals."

Do not weep, for amidst all the destruction and havoc caused by sin, there is One qualified to unroll the scroll, release the seven seals of judgment upon the earth and bring to an end the dominion of sin and death upon the earth. This One is "The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David."

In Genesis 49, as Jacob, also known as Israel, lay dying he pronounced a blessing on each of his sons. Judah was said to be a lion and it was predicted the scepter would not depart from Judah. Because the lion is the king of beasts and the scepter represents authority, we understand that the King who would reign forever would come from the Tribe of Judah.

Later, the great king David was of the house of Judah and it was his throne and kingdom God promised would last forever. But sin brought disobedience and God's judgment when the ten Northern Tribes of Israel rebelled against this throne God had established. The Northern Kingdom was eventually dispersed forever, but the Southern kingdom or Judah was protected by the Lord.

Many years later a young virgin named Mary of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David, gave birth to "The Root of David" as predicted in Isaiah 11. This One, who is virgin born is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lion of Judah, born King of the Jews, the Root of David, Heir to the throne and kingdom of the great king, David.

Now, let's put the picture together. Here is John in the throne room of heaven. He is weeping because of the condition of the earth and because no one is found worthy to open the scroll of God's Judgment. I suspect his head is down, his heart is aching, and he is feeling despair. Then, one of the elders says, "Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

John turns around expecting to see the King of kings, the Heir to the throne of David but instead,

IV. He Sees A Lamb

Listen to his words in Revelation 5:6, "And I beheld and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain."

What a contrast between the description given by the elder and what John saw. It is this contrast that has confused the minds of unbelieving humanity for generations for it is not by His Majesty that the Lion of Judah has prevailed to open the scroll of judgment. It is not by His Sovereign birthright to the throne that the Root of David has overcome to loose the seven seals. Rather, it is by meekly allowing Himself to be led to the slaughter, as a lamb is dumb before his shearers, that Christ has earned the right to open the seven seals of judgment.

His is not a created kingdom. His is not an inherited kingdom. His Kingdom has been purchased with His own blood. Listen to the words of the new song the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing before the Lamb who was slain, in Revelation 5:9-10.

"And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed men to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made them unto our God a kingdom of priests, and they shall reign on the earth."
All who put their trust in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for their sins, and believe He rose from the dead, constitute the Kingdom Christ has called for Himself and are destined to reign with Him on the earth when He establishes His Millennial Kingdom. Truly, Christ has established His Kingdom by Grace, not by might.

But this Lamb is not forever meek and lowly. Notice, in Revelation 5:6, John says He has, "Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." In the Books of Daniel, Habakkuk, Zechariah and Revelation 13:1, we see horns representing the power of kings. In keeping with this typology, the seven horns on the Lamb seem to represent the full or complete power of the Lion of Judah. The seven eyes speak of the omniscience of the King who through the agency of the Holy Spirit knows all that happens in the earth and therefore, judges in absolute righteousness.

Then we read in Revelation 5:7, this One who is to reign in the Throne of David, who will judge the earth and who is worthy because He has redeemed His kingdom with His own blood, takes the scroll from the right hand of the Father. "And he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne."

In doing this, it is evident, judgment and power over all the earth are committed to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God. Daniel wrote about Jesus receiving this power from the right hand of God. In Daniel 7:13-14, he foresaw the investiture of the Son of Man and the Son of David with the kingdom authority.

"I saw in the night, visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
It is this passing of the scepter, from the right hand of the Father, to the Lamb, which begins the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ and allows for the events that will culminate in His glorious return to earth.

Notice in Revelation 5:8, "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb..." In Revelation 5:11, they are joined by innumerable angels in the proclamation of Revelation 5:12, "Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." These are the seven attributes that our Lord receives as the King of kings and Lord of lords and in appreciation for Him receiving them, all of Heaven is rejoicing.


V. John Moves Forward in Time

"And every creature that is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped him that liveth forever and ever" (Revelation 5:13-14).
Here, John gives us a prophetic glimpse of the time when Philippians 2:9-11 is fulfilled. That passage says,
"Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father."
There is coming a time when all creation will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He alone is Lord. This does not mean all will be saved from condemnation. It simply means, no longer will the proud and arrogant be able to stand erect and deny the Lord God. They will be forced by the glory of His presence to bow and confess His blessing and honor and glory and power.

When Revelation 5:13, says, "Every creature that is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea," will praise Him, it means all of heaven's host, all the earth's inhabitants, all of condemned humanity awaiting judgment in Hades and all the fallen angels confined in the abyss, will bow before the King of kings and Lord of lords and praise Him.

It is the duty of creation to praise its Creator and all of creation will someday do just that. Some like the twenty-four elders in v:14, will have the privilege of worshipping Him forever and ever, while for some that time of praise will last only a few moments before they are cast into the lake of fire.

Whether our praise of the Creator lasts for eternity or merely moments, is determined by our response to Him in this lifetime. Those who trust Him as Savior will have eternity to praise Him, while those who reject Him will bow before Him briefly, and then spend eternity in torments.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006