Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The Sealed Scroll and the Lion-Lamb

For those who would like to start at the very beginning of this series on the book of Revelation, click here.

Focus changes from a description of the throne in heaven to a scroll in the hand of God. The drama of this scene is extraordinary:

Then I saw in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne a scroll written on the front and back and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a powerful angel proclaiming in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it. So I began weeping bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 

Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 

Then I saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). They were singing a new song: 

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand—thousands times thousands— all of whom were singing in a loud voice: 

“Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!” 

Then I heard every creature—in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them—singing: 

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb Be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!” 

And the four living creatures were saying “Amen,” and the elders threw themselves to the ground and worshiped. (Revelation 5:1-14) 

The scroll is interesting. Having writing on the front and the back symbolizes great content. As for the seals, I have long been bothered by the picture of a scroll with seven seals all in a row. Perhaps it looked like this instead:

  • A seal is likely a dab of sealing wax imprinted with the mark of the message's owner. Only he can grant permission to break the seal and see the contents of the scroll. What if he wanted to have separate sections of the scroll covered by different seals?
  • It does not make sense that the seven seals are on the leading edge of the scroll such that you have to break all seven seals in order to read the contents. Rather the seals have to be set in such a way that the breaking of each allows the next section of the scroll to be read. 
  • Think of a book containing seven chapters. However, instead of our paged book, these pages are printed on leather and sown together. At the end of each chapter, a cord is sown into the seam that connects it to the next chapter. The cord extends a few inches above and below the page. Now, when the scroll is rolled onto its rod and the cord separating the chapters is wound, the cord is tied through one of seven holes in the bottom of the rod, pushed through a hole in the top of the rod, and the the loose end at the top is attached with sealing wax.
  • After the entire book is rolled up, there will be seven seals that each give access to the next portion of the book. The cords attached to the rod prevent the remaining section of the book from being read until the seal is broken.

"Who is worthy?" The entire drama of this chapter surrounds this question and its answer. It is a variation of the king who offers the hand of his daughter in marriage to the knight who can do the most daring deed. John seems to understand that his having this privileged position of standing in heaven and the contents of this book are linked. But he certainly has no call to go forward. He scans the living creatures and the elders and the myriads of angels. No one comes forward. He weeps because he knows the book is of value to mankind and it looks as if he will return with the message, "No one could open the book." This scene has connections to Isaiah and Daniel:

Tie up the scroll as legal evidence, seal the official record of God’s instructions and give it to my followers. (Isaiah 8:16) 

“Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to finish the transgression, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)

“But you, Daniel close up these words and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will dart to and fro, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:4)

The time seems to be at hand for the unsealing of sealed prophecies--it's just that no one has done what it takes to have permission.

"The Lion of the tribe of Judah." But the worthy one does come forth. The Lion of the tribe of Judah. The root of David. The conqueror. These are majestic terms. They are full of strength and glory. It is surprising then when John looks and sees a Lamb whose throat had been cut. Weak, docile, and dead. Yet this Lamb had seven horns, which speaks of perfect authority and seven eyes which symbolizes perfect sight and vision.

Three songs of praise and worship are sung. Singing begins with those closest to the center of the throne, moves to the angels around the throne, and then to all of creation. Here was the one who conquered, who overcame by His own blood, and the testimony of His power, and that He did not love His own life, but accepted death. Here is the Lamb with the heart and authority of the Lion. Here is the ruler who will lay down His own life to show mercy. This is why the Book of Life in Revelation 20 is the Lamb's Book of Life. It is full of the names of men and women that He purchased. 

The "lion" is not mentioned again in Revelation: only the Lamb. The Lamb, however, acts like a Lion. The significance of this, I will cover tomorrow.

Thursday: The Face of Wrath

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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