Revelation chapter 5 follows on from the throne room scene that we were invited into with John in chapter 4. We are still in the throne room, but we're immediately introduced to a problem. A scroll, a scroll sealed with seven seals.
What's on the scroll is unknown, but the scroll is written on both sides, which points to the scroll we find in Ezekiel 9-10
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
With the link to this scroll, we can assume that this scroll in 5:1 also points to lament, mourning and woe. We see, however, that this judgement is no more just against the nation of Israel (like Ezekiel's scroll is), but rather against all nations - all of the world. Perhaps it's the book of life referenced in the letter to Sardis (3.5), pointing to people's destinies in life and their eternal destiny.
This scroll has seven seals. Like a witnessed legal document today, this scroll has been witnessed by multiple people. Each seal unique to the witness. But here we find the problem. No one is worthy of breaking the seals and opening the scroll. Who is worthy? In 4:11 we see our Lord and God is worthy and now we come up against this question, "who is worthy?". John weeps because no one is worthy, there is no champion. Then we see an elder comfort John because there is someone who is worthy. The elder tells John that the Lion of Judah (Genesis 49:9-10) is worthy of opening the scroll and its seven seals.
John looks over for the Lion upon the throne, but then we are met with one of the key messages of the book of Revelation. A paradox - an absurd and contradictory statement and situation that constantly plays out throughout the letter. The Lion has been replaced by another symbol, a symbol that should not represent victory and strength, but one that does. What is on the throne? A slain lamb stands upon the throne. The image is a blood-covered lamb, a baby sheep. Sheep are the most vulnerable of all animals, and here we see a lamb, slain - yet standing. This is the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has won victory!
In contrast to the Roman Empire that brought peace through war, and victory through force, we see this beautiful picture of victory having been won by death, by martyrdom. Yet we are still left with hope because the slain lamb is standing (showing us our Lord's resurrection). The Lion, a symbol of strength, courage, and power has been replaced by a slain lamb standing, helplessness, and vulnerability. The final victory has been won through the final act of Christ upon the cross.
The seven horns show us the strength of the lamb. The number seven showing us completeness, while horns are a symbol of strength. The seven eyes point back to Old Testament imagery as well. In Zechariah 3:9, we see an inscription written on a stone with seven eyes, saying, "I [God] will remove the sin of this land in a single day". Showing us and promising us the cross! Zechariah 4:6 shows us how this victory will be achieved, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit". Our Lord Jesus Christ is the slain lamb, who has achieved the final victory, not through violence and strength, but by laying down His own life for us, through the ultimate act of grace. It is He who now resides on this heavenly throne.
God was worthy (4:11), and now we see a new song (5:9-10, 12-13). Jesus Christ is worthy. He is worthy of opening the scroll and its seven seals. He has brought redemption to the saints (angels of verse 11). These saints are from all the nations (not just Israel). He has brought redemption by the blood of the new Passover lamb. 10,000 is the largest number in the Greek alphabet and so 10,000 by 10,000 just represents a very large number. It is through the blood of the slaughtered lamb that we are able to be called saints.
So while we opened this chapter with a problem, we find the solution through Jesus. This chapter provides us with the problem that the world will be judged, and that there is a standard that we are held account against. It is because of this truth we are drawn towards the saviour. It is this truth that drives us to the saviour. Judgement will come when the worthy lamb opens the scroll, but it is through the lamb Himself that we are saved from that judgement, that our names and the names of all the saints have been written into the book of life. And for this reason, the slain lamb is worthy of all worship. He, who has secured victory, is worthy of all praise.
Keeping the thinking going
If He is worthy of all praise and worship, would He find pleasure in your praise and worship?
If you call yourself a saint, do you live a transformed life?