JOHN LOOKED INTO HEAVEN and saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. This scroll is like the one given to Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:9-3:3). John heard a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” No one stepped forward, which caused John great sorrow. We must never weep because of our inability to foresee the future events of God. In our humanness, we might fret over worthiness or capacity, perhaps “quitting going in to avoid failure.” Or, we might focus on the wonder and majesty of future events and become distracted from the commission at hand. In any event, one of the elders reassured John that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is worthy to open the scroll (Rev. 5:5).
John was surprised to see not a Lion but a slain Lamb.* Who could be more worthy to judge than He who walked the earth, fully God and fully man, tempted in every way as we, only without sin? It is before this very Lamb that every knee will bow, from every tribe, race, and nation. Upon whom everlasting salvation depends. The worthy One who stands as Mediator between God and man. John says, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (5:6).
Christ is only referred to as a lamb once in the Old Testament (Isa. 53:7) during what many have called “the gospel according to God” (Isa. 52:13-53:12).
Most ancient manuscripts had a rough and irregular texture of vellum (leather) or papyrus. Papyrus sheets were made from the papyrus plant, which was common among the Nile river. But they were fragile and could tear easily. Parchment is much more durable than papyrus, as shown by the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, where almost all of the manuscripts are on parchment. Parchment, and the higher-quality vellum, can be made into scrolls or codices.(1) The details were written inside, with a brief summary written on the outside, and sealed with seven seals. This practice is similar to a Roman contract—such as a deed or will.
The testator himself and six or seven witnesses affixed and described their seals at end of the will, preceded by the Greek word σφραγιῶ, meaning “I will seal with” or ἔστι μου ἡ σφραγίς, meaning “my seal is.” The purpose of these seals was to validate crucial statements or documents with independent attestations. In John’s vision, the seven seals represent the seven judgments that represent the righteous judgment of Christ. Matthew Henry writes, “This represented the secret purposes of God about to be revealed.”(2) Divine judgment was about to strike the earth, which John describes in detail in chapters 6 through 19.
John sees the Lamb standing alive, but looking as if He had been slain. Deadly wounds were clearly visible. The Lamb has seven horns, which symbolize His strength and power. Seven (the number for perfection used in the Bible) represents the Lamb’s complete and absolute power. The seven eyes seen on the Lamb symbolize perfect and complete understanding. The seven eyes refer to the seven Spirits of God we learned about in Part Five.
Jesus is called “the Root of David,” which originates in Isaiah 11:1, 10. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke establish Jesus as a descendant of David. Paul writes, “…concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:3-4).
The Lamb took the scroll from the right hand of God. Immediately the four creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth,” adding, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:7-13).
In The Revelation: Part Seven we will delve into the meaning of each of the seven seals.
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theo.
(1) Paul Gibson, “Why Were the Early Christians More Likely to Write on a Codex Rather Than a Scroll?” BibleQuestions.info (a blog), Nov. 2, 2019, accessed August 23, 2022, https://biblequestions.info/2019/11/02/why-were-the-early-christians-more-likely-to-write-on-a-codex-rather-than-a-scroll/
(2) Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997), 1270.
*The Greek word for “lamb” used here is arnion (ἀρνίον), a “little lamb” for Passover, when Jewish families were required to keep a sacrificial lamb as a household pet for four days before sacrificing it (Exo. 12:3-6).
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture contained herein is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).