John continued his vision of the throne room of God by describing what he saw next. The apostle saw a scroll (book – Ezekiel 2:9, 3:1) in the right hand of God the Father. We know it was a scroll since the apostle could see writing on the inside and the outside, and books, as we know them, were not yet available. The scroll was also sealed with seven seals. John could have seen these seals only if they were somehow affixed to the end of each scroll (the scroll containing seven pages). The remainder of Chapter 5 describes the only person worthy to open the scroll and beginning in Chapter 6, the first seal is opened. The decrees of God regarding coming events began to be revealed in Chapter 6. John continued the scene by describing an angel who was proclaiming that no one had been found who was able to break the seals. This statement by the angel, given in the form of a question, speaks of the authority or right of someone to open the seals. A seal in the ancient world was an impression made of clay, candle wax or some other material and normally sealed with a signet ring. The seal was used to keep the scroll closed until the authorized person could open it.
No one in Heaven, on earth or even under earth (Hades) was able to open the book or to look into it. No one had the authority. John began to cry because no one could open the scroll and reveal its contents. One the ruling angels (elders) stopped John and declared that there was One Who could open the scroll. John gave the reason for His authority to open the seals. First, He is the Lion from the tribe of Judah, which is the Davidic line of Israel. (Genesis 49:8-12) Second, He is the Root of David, which is specifically the royal line of Israel. (Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:8-12) Both point to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the only One qualified to open these seals because of His victory at the Cross. The opening of the seals will reveal a time of tribulation and judgment upon all the people of the earth and only God (specifically Jesus Christ) possesses the authority to judge. (John 5:25-32)
Revelation 5:6, describes the One Who was worthy to open the seals, as a Lamb Who had been slain (a reference to the Passover Lamb as spoken of by John in John 1:29). The Lamb was standing between the two groups of ruling angels before the throne. John further described the Lamb as having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the spirits of God sent out into the earth. The horn is used in the Old Testament as a symbol of strength and power, as a warrior-king would have possessed. (Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; II Samuel 22:2-3) The seven eyes are symbolic of the Holy Spirit Who is sent into the world as Christ’s representative and the eyes speak of the Lamb’s omniscient (all-knowing) power. (Zechariah 3:9)
In verse seven John tells us that the Lamb took the scroll from the hand of God the Father, which signified that Jesus Christ had the authority to open the scroll. This was a dramatic event that will affect the future of mankind. The scroll will be unsealed by the Lamb and the events described in this scroll will be fulfilled.
When Jesus Christ took the scroll, all the ruling angels fell down before Him. This demonstrated their excitement over the fact that the scroll was going to be opened. We must realize that once the scroll is opened the final events in history will begin to take place, including the end of Satan and his demons. This fact alone would be enough to excite the elect angels of God. Apparently there was quite a celebration as the Lamb took the scroll to open it. The angels had with them harps, which are normally associated with the worship of God. (Psalms 71:22, 92:1-3) The also had golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (believers). Incense in the Old Testament, specifically in the Tabernacle (Temple), was symbolic of prayers rising to God. (Psalms 141:2; Zechariah 14:20) It is not clear what prayers these are or why the angels have them. It can only be conjectured that these prayers are for the coming Milleninial Kingdom that have been offered by believers down through the ages.
The twenty-four elders and the four living beings began to sing a song, which we are told is a new song. This song is new in nature not in time. The song was a tribute to the One Who was worthy to open the seals and gives the reason. It was Jesus Christ Who had died on the Cross for the redemption of all men. Therefore, He is the only One worthy to open the scroll. ( I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23; Galatians 3:13; I Peter 1:18-19; II Peter 2:1)
There are three Greek words for redemption: “agorazo” meaning “to buy”, “exagorazo” meaning “to buy out of or remove from sale” and “lutroo” meaning “to release on receipt of ransom or payment.” Christ has redeemed us from the slave-market of sin and from the Mosaic Law. (Romans 7:14) The Old Testament practice of the “kinsman redeemer” is a perfect example of how Christ redeems us from the Law and from sin. Certain requirements had to be met in order for a person to free someone from slavery. The redeemer had to be a relative, he had to be able to redeem by meeting the purchase price and he had to be willing to redeem the person in slavery.
By becoming a human being, Jesus Christ became a “kinsman” to all mankind. (John 1:1-3,14) In order to meet the purchase price, Christ had to be perfect (no sin of His own to pay for). He was born of a virgin, therefore, He had no sin nature and He lived a sinless life, which qualified Him to meet the purchase price for our sin. (Matthew 1:23, I Timothy 3:16; Romans 5:8; II Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 2:9-11, 4:15: I Peter 1:18) Christ was also willing to redeem us. He was obedient to the Father’s plan for salvation and gave His life freely. (Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 5:19, Luke 22:42, 23:46)
The writers of Scripture were very familiar with the Roman system of rewards for both military campaigns and for athletics. These are primarily the illustrations used throughout the New Testament to represent our eternal rewards as believers. For example, the crowns of the King James English are actually wreaths. Some wreaths were worn on the head like a crown. Some were battle medals or medals for winners in athletic competition worn on the uniform. Both were for accomplishments at the maximum level. Both carried with them immense honor and wealth. Some were given land, some were made rulers over cities or estates, and some received cash. (I Corinthians 4:8, 6:3)
In Revelation 5:11 the rest of the angels joined in singing to the Lamb. Their song continued the praise to Jesus Christ as the One Who was slain, citing His worthiness to receive all spiritual blessings (power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor and glory). Then the rest of creation joined in the song of praise to the Father and to Jesus Christ. The final act of the elders was to completely acknowledge the worthiness of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. His worthiness was illustrated in the Old Testament by many rituals, offerings and sacrifices.
Three offerings were associated with salvation. The first of these was the Burnt Offering, which portrayed the work of Christ or the doctrine of Propitiation (complete satisfaction). It portrayed the death of Christ on the Cross as the full payment for man’s sin and God’s satisfaction with Christ’s spiritual death, physical death and resurrection. This offering demonstrated the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, as our substitute (the guiltless for the guilty). Just as the sacrificial lamb was innocent, Jesus Christ was innocent (sinless). The individual was to bring a lamb without spot or blemish to represent Christ’s perfection. The priest would symbolically transfer the sins of the individual to the lamb on the altar, demonstrating what Jehovah (Jesus Christ) would accomplish for them in the future. The priest would lay one hand on the individual and one on the offering, symbolizing the transfer of sin. (Leviticus 1:2-17; Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 26:39-42; John 1:29; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:14; 10:1-14; I John 2:2)
The second salvation offering was the Meal Offering. This offering portrayed the Person of Christ or the doctrine of Impeccability (sinlessness). The substitutionary death of Christ is still in view here, though the emphasis is on His Person. The fact that Christ was uniquely qualified to go to the Cross and make the payment for mankind’s sin is demonstrated by the fine flour used to make this meal offering. Fine flour represented the holy character of Christ. Upon the meal offering was poured oil and frankincense, the oil representing the indwelling and filling ministries of the Holy Spirit and the frankincense representing God’s complete satisfaction with the Person of Christ. There was to be no honey used in the preparation; the absence of honey representing the bitterness of Christ’s death. The fine flour had no leaven (leaven represents sin); Christ was sinless.
And salt was added for flavor and preservation, representing the quality of Christ’s sacrifice and His ability to keep those who He saves. Finally the meal offering was put into fire, representing judgment. (Leviticus 2:1-16; II Corinthians 5:21; Mark 9:49; Colossians 4:6)
The third salvation offering was the Peace Offering. This offering portrayed the work of Christ in reconciliation. The doctrine of Reconciliation is the removal of the barrier of sin by Christ that separated God and man, thereby bringing peace. This offering was different than the burnt offering, which required the sacrifice to be a male animal, in that the sacrifice could be a male or female animal. This is illustrating that reconciliation is man-ward (God doesn’t need to be reconciled to man, but man does need to be reconciled to God), for male or female. This offering speaks of our permanent relationship with God (positional sanctification and ultimate sanctification), which can never be broken. (Leviticus 3:1-17; Romans 5:1-8; II Corinthians 5:17-20; Ephesians 2:14-17; Colossians 1:20)