"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 5 - Quick Links
Revelation 5:1 - And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
John introduced the throne of God in Heaven in Revelation 4. This chapter describes commencement of a series of events which will take place at the throne. These series of events in Heaven will unleash the events of the Tribulation on Earth.
John sees a scroll (or book), which in ancient times were tablets, or a continuous roll of papyrus, or parchment. As a point of interest, the Greek word for scroll is "biblion," where we derive our word for "Bible."
"Him who sat on the throne" has possession of this scroll. Recall from Revelation 4:2 and 4:3, that the "One... who sat on the throne" is Jesus, where He sits at the "right of the power of God" (Luke 22:69). In other words, both the Father and the Son are present on the throne, but Jesus is the only physical form of God that there is (John 1:18, Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15, 2:9). Thus, Jesus is the only physical form that John sees on the throne. The Lord governs in righteousness and justice, delivering judgment and grace from His seat of authority (Revelation 4:2):
Psalms 9:7-8 - But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.
In Revelation 1:16, we saw that the right hand, or being at the right side, is a favored position and symbolizes strength, protection and salvation. The scroll being in the right hand shows that it is very significant.
The scroll in Revelation has writing on the "inside and on the back." In other words, there is writing on both sides of the parchment. We read of a similar scroll in Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 2:9-3:1 - Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel."
The writing on the scroll given to Ezekiel was a warning to Israel of impending judgment, if they did not repent. This scroll was not sealed, as is the one in Revelation. Ezekiel's warning of coming judgment was conditional, though the Lord knew Israel would continue in rebellion; judgment eventually came as a result (Ezekiel 2-3).
"Sealed" in the Greek means having been closed, or made secure. Ezekiel's scroll was not sealed; thus, its contents contained a conditional warning. In contrast, the scroll in Revelation is a sealed document; its contents cannot be revoked, similar to the way the seal of a king's signet ring made pronouncements irreversible:
Esther 8:8 - ...for whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke.
Daniel 6:17 - Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.
Like Ezekiel's unsealed scroll, God wrote the Ten Commandments on both sides of the tablets:
Exodus 32:15 - And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.
In Jeremiah, we read of another sealed document that had writing on the inside and on the outside. Jeremiah prophesied about the exile of Israel to Babylon. Before the exile, the Lord told Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin. The exchange occurred as follows:
Jeremiah 32:6-9 - And Jeremiah said, "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, "Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it."' Then Hanamel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, 'Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money - seventeen shekels of silver.
Jeremiah 32:10-15 - And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison. "Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days." For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land."'
This "purchase deed" was a document that detailed the ownership of the land. Witnesses signed the deed after sealing it. Therefore, the witnesses' signatures were on the outside of the deed. According to the Mosaic Law, a next of kin was able to redeem the land:
Leviticus 25:24-25 - And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land. 'If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold.
Being the next of kin, Jeremiah's cousin Hanamel was able to buy the land. Upon return from the exile a close relative could claim the land back. Several centuries earlier, in the story of Ruth, Boaz being the next of kin to Naomi, not only redeemed the land, but also took Ruth as his wife in the redemption process (Deuteronomy 25:6-10, Ruth 4).
Jeremiah's "purchase deed" is the only other document in Scripture sealed, with writing on both sides. It is clear that the scroll in Revelation is a "purchase deed" as well. The land in Israel was given to the Hebrews by allotment. Certain circumstances could cause them to lose the land, but God made provisions for them to redeem it back. Similarly, Adam was given the whole earth to rule over. But after the fall, Adam's dominion and hence the "purchase deed" to the earth was forfeited:
Hebrews 2:5-18 - For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
When Jesus came the first time, it was clear that Satan was in control of the world. When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered to give all the kingdoms of the world to the Lord, if He would worship him (Matthew 4:8-9). It appears the Satan controls the world to this day:
Ephesians 6:11-12 - Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
A sealed document conceals the contents within, until someone breaks the seals. The seals also preserved integrity of the contents. When it comes to spiritually "sealed" documents that contain God's words, the contents are not concealed to everyone; just to those who turn their hearts away from God:
Isaiah 29:10-14 - For the LORD has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, namely, the seers. The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I cannot, for it is sealed." Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I am not literate." Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden."
When the seals are physically broken on the scroll in Revelation 6, the scroll's contents will take place in real-time. This is also the case for Daniel's prophecies that an angel told him to seal "until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4, 9), when they would be understood as they came to pass. The same goes for all of Revelation:
Revelation 22:10 - And he said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand."
We have been at the "time of the end" since John penned these words. The understanding of these prophecies will become clearer, as we draw closer to their fulfillment because the elements of these prophecies have begun to take shape. For example, Daniel's prophecy that foretold of people "running to and fro and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:4) didn't make much sense to him, or to those who read this prophecy, before the last century. But most of it makes sense now to the current generation.
Our generation has seen the increase in travel, and the fairly recent development of the internet, which allows access to vast amounts of information, at the click of a mouse. It is clear that these prophecies given to Daniel are no longer sealed. We understand that the technology foretold by Daniel will aid in prophecies not yet fulfilled, like the "mark of the beast" system introduced in Revelation 13. This system will need a way to keep track of everyone on Earth, now made possible with the use of computers, for the purpose of buying and selling.
While the contents of the sealed scroll will occur at the breaking of each seal, all the words in Revelation have always been unsealed (Revelation 22:10). Those who read the contents of the scroll with a heart for the Lord can understand them. This goes back to what God told Isaiah in the passage above; the contents remain sealed only to those who turn their hearts away from God.
In short, the scroll is the "purchase deed" to the earth. It is not until the revealing of the contents of the sealed scroll to the world, that reclamation by a "kinsman redeemer" can take place. Subsequent chapters show that judgment is found written in the sealed document, similar to Ezekiel's scroll. Zechariah's description of the scroll also shows that judgment is found written on both sides, which will come to fruition during the Tribulation period, when a curse will go out over the whole earth:
Zechariah 5:1-3 - Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I answered, "I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: 'Every thief shall be expelled,' according to this side of the scroll; and, 'Every perjurer shall be expelled,' according to that side of it."
Revelation 5:2 - Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?"
Here we meet the first of three "strong" or "mighty" angels. Some speculate that Gabriel is the first strong angel because of his instruction to Daniel to seal up the prophecy given to him (Daniel 8). Gabriel also prophesied of the birth of the Kinsman Redeemer of the sealed scroll (Luke 1:26-38). The strong angel here in Revelation is looking for someone qualified to unseal this prophetic scroll. This angel's loud, or great voice, shows that his petition is important.
We will see later in Revelation 5:7 that "Him who sat on the throne" offers the scroll to anyone worthy to open this "purchase deed" to the earth. Identifying who is worthy to open the scroll goes back to the kinsman redeemer, as discussed in the last section. Based on the accounts in Leviticus 25, Jeremiah 32, and Ruth 4, only a close relative can act as a redeemer of land. Therefore, only a worthy relative of Adam, the original landlord of the earth, can loosen or break the seals of the "purchase deed," and redeem the earth. In Revelation 5:9, we will learn who is worthy to open this scroll.
Revelation 5:3 - And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.
At the fall of man, Adam forfeited the "purchase deed" to the earth. As a result, God cursed both man and the creation:
Genesis 3:17-19 - Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."
All of Creation has been in bondage since sin entered the world:
Romans 8:20-23 - For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
The wording in Revelation 5:3 suggests that no "created" being is worthy to open the scroll. Because man forfeited the "purchase deed" to the earth after sin entered the world, only a sinless relative to Adam can redeem it. Angels are not qualified to open the scroll because they are not relatives of Adam. Angels are also created beings. All humans are Adam's relatives, but disqualified as kinsmen redeemers because all humans have sinned:
Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned.
Revelation 5:4 - So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
Job recognized the need for a redeemer, who could reverse the death that has plagued man since Adam:
Job 19:25-27 - For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
For Job, his hope in the Redeemer was all that he had. Paul shows us that those who have no hope have nothing but sorrow:
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
John was weeping because it appeared that there was no one worthy to open the scroll, let alone read it. He understood what was at stake for the earth and the creation. Without a worthy kinsman redeemer, there is no hope. If the creation is not reconciled and restored, the passages below show that God's creation was in vain, and God's sovereignty (preeminence) would be forfeited. In other words, a lot is at stake in the creation's redemption!
Isaiah 45:18 - For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: " I am the LORD, and there is no other."
Colossians 1:16-20 - For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven....
Revelation 5:5 - But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."
One of the elders comforts John, reminding him that there is someone who is worthy to open the scroll. The only one worthy, is none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The scriptures foretold the Messiah would come from the line of Judah. Just as a lion is the king of the beasts, Jesus Christ is the "King of kings" from the tribe of Judah:
Genesis 49:8-10 - "Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people."
Micah 5:2 - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."
A "root" is the source of something. In this case, the "root" of Jesus' genealogy is in the line of David. Jesse was David's father. Therefore, Jesus was also the "Root of Jesse":
Isaiah 11:1-5 - There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.
Isaiah 11:10 - "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious."
These prophecies fulfilled by Jesus are in line with the covenant made with David. (Click here for all the passages of the "Davidic Covenant."):
2 Samuel 7:8, 12-14, 16 - Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel.... "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.... And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever."
Jeremiah 23:5 - "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth."
As heir of David, Jesus has the legal right to the throne of David. As "King of kings," the Messiah will rule over the entire earth:
Revelation 19:15-16 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jesus "has prevailed to open the scroll." The Greek word translated "prevailed" means "to conquer or overcome." By sinning, one can succumb to the world. Jesus did not sin, therefore He overcame the world:
John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Romans 5:19 - For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
1 John 5:3-4 - For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world....
We are able to overcome the world through Jesus. (See "Promise to the overcomers").
Being the sinless kinsman redeemer to Adam, Jesus has "prevailed to open the scroll." After opening the scroll, Jesus will deliver the earthly kingdom to the Father. This will take place after all the contents of the scroll are revealed (Revelation 19 and 20):
1 Corinthians 15:24 - Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
With the "key of David" (Revelation 3:7), Jesus is able to redeem and reconcile us to the Father:
Colossians 1:19-20 - For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Like Boaz (Ruth 4), Jesus will take a bride, the Church, in the redemption process:
2 Corinthians 11:2 - For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Ephesians 5:31-32 - "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Revelation 19:7 - "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready."
6 And I looked, and behold, 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, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Revelation 5:6 - And I looked, and behold, 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...
See Revelation 4 for commentary on the living creatures and the elders.
Though the elder announced Jesus as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," John sees a Lamb in the midst of the throne, instead of a lion. The Lamb appears "as though it had been slain." He is alive and standing, yet the scars are still visible. Jesus is no doubt this sacrificial lamb.
The Greek word translated "lamb" refers to a young sheep. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb foreshadowed in the Passover meal:
Exodus 12:3-7, 13 - Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.... Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
1 Corinthians 5:7 - ...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Peter tells us "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8)." With this in mind, it is interesting to note that the Israelites chose the Passover lamb "four" days before they killed it. Jesus was chosen as the Lamb slain "4,000" years before the crucifixion occurred in real-time:
1 Peter 1:18-20 - Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
Revelation 13:8 - ...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Like the Passover lamb, the Lamb of God did not have one broken bone:
Numbers 9:11-12 - On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.
John 19:33-36 - But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, "Not one of His bones shall be broken."
Jesus, as the Lamb of God, paid the price for our sins:
Isaiah 53:5-7 - But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
John 1:29 - The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
1 Peter 1:18-19 - Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
Christ covered the cost of the "purchase deed" to the earth with His blood, which He shed on the cross. When Jesus takes back possession of the earth, He will be able to gather all things to Himself, from both Heaven and Earth:
Ephesians 1:7-10 - In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him.
Jesus will rule over the earth as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" and "King of kings," once the contents of the "purchase deed" He paid for come to pass:
Revelation 11:15 - Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
We will go into detail about the contents of the scroll, as we move through Revelation.
Jesus, as the Lamb of God, has seven horns. In the next section, we see that the Lamb also has seven eyes. "Seven" is the number for perfection, or fullness. (See "Prophetic Patterns in Numbers"). This number is replete throughout Revelation. Since chapter one, we have seen seven churches, the seven Spirits of God (Revelation 1:4), and seven seals on the scroll (Revelation 5:1).
It was through the blowing of seven trumpets of rams' horns, at the leadership of Joshua, that Israel began to take their inheritance:
Joshua 6:13-16 - Then seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually and blew with the trumpets. And the armed men went before them. But the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days. But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!"
In Hebrew, the name "Joshua" is "Yeshua." The Greek for "Yeshua" transliterates to "Jesus" in English. The name "Yeshua" means "He delivers" or "the Lord Is Salvation." Jesus is our "horn of salvation," having redeemed us by His blood:
Luke 1:68-69 - "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David."
The Messiah is "the horn of David":
Psalms 132:13-17 - For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: "This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed."
A horn also represents strength:
Psalms 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
2 Samuel 22:3 - The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.
1 Samuel 2:10 - The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed."
Symbolically, a horn can also show the authority, or dominion of a king:
Psalm 89:15-17, 20-24 - Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted.... I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand shall be established; also My arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague those who hate him. But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted.
In his prophecies, Daniel explicitly tells us that horns symbolize kings:
Daniel 7:24 - The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.
There are several other examples in Scripture that confirm that a horn represents the power and authority of kings (Zechariah 1:21, Psalm 148:14, Jeremiah 48:25, Lamentations 2:3, 17, Ezekiel 29:21). Jesus is the ultimate "Horn," with both the power of salvation and the power to rule over the world. Having "seven" horns shows that He has perfect and complete power.
John tells us that the seven eyes on the Lamb represent the seven Spirits of God. Recall from Revelation 1:4, the seven Spirits of God represent the Holy Spirit. The seven eyes on the Lamb of God show that He has the fullness of the Spirit, as pictured in the baptism of Jesus:
John 1:29, 32 - The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.... And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him."
The seven Spirits of God are before the throne (Revelation 1:4), in the form of fire (Revelation 4:5). The physical eyes of Jesus looked like a flame of fire in Revelation 1:14, representing His displeasure with sin. The "eyes of the Lord," or the Holy Spirit, seek out intent of the heart of man. The Lord deals with sin, in the interest of those who have a heart for Him:
2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him....
The seven Spirits of God being "sent out," is literally "having been sent out" in the Greek. They went out in the past, as we will see in a moment, and they will also go out in the future, as shown here in Revelation. This demonstrates God's omniscience; nothing is hidden from Him:
Hebrews 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.
The Holy Spirit is not only the "eyes" of the Lord, but also the power through which the Lord operates throughout the earth, as shown in the passages below. Note: the Messiah is "the Branch" (Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15) and "the stone" (Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:7):
Romans 1:3-4 - Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Zechariah 3:8-9 - 'Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.'
Zechariah 4:6-10 - So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' " Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."
As an interesting side note, a number of things symbolize the Holy Spirit in Scripture, such as oil, wind, and water. However, the Holy Spirit appears as fire to the Church. The first time the Holy Spirit appears as fire is when the Church is born (Acts 2). The last time in Scripture that the Holy Spirit appears as fire is in Revelation 4:5, right after the elders, who represent the Church, are introduced in Heaven. The seven Spirits of God were shown as "eyes" in the Old Testament, and now they are seen as "eyes" again here in Revelation, after the Church arrives in Heaven, but before the Tribulation begins.
This change in how the Holy Spirit manifests, supports the doctrine of dispensations, in that He deals with different groups of people in different periods of time differently. In other words, outside of the Church Age, the Holy Spirit is "eyes which scan to and fro" throughout the earth. During the Church Age, the Holy Spirit works through believers, represented by the lamp stand in Revelation 1:20. A lamp stand bears light, but it is not the source of the light. The "fire" of the Holy Spirit makes the Church "lights in the world" (Philippians 2:13-15). When the light of the Church leaves the world at the rapture, the Holy Spirit will again function in the world as "eyes."
Revelation 5:7 - Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
The Greek word "ek," translated "out of," can also mean "out from." The word "hand" is not in the Greek in this verse, or in Revelation 5:1. Therefore, this verse could be translated:
Either way, the scroll is obviously in God's possession, whether it is physically in His grasp or not. However, the original language gives a little different picture than the translation, in that God is not necessarily holding the scroll out for the taking. Rather the scroll is available for any worthy to take it. Jesus takes the scroll, being the only one worthy to take it.
Some object to the thought of Jesus both giving and taking the scroll, and why many assume that the Father is the "One" on the throne (Revelation 4:2) with the scroll. However, the Father is invisible and Jesus is the only physical form of God that there is (Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15 & 2:9). The alternate interpretation shown above may help with this perplexity. However, even though our human minds can't grasp such a possibility, the Lord is omnipresent and may be exhibiting this attribute in this passage.
As an example of God's omnipresence, recall from Revelation 1:14 that the physical form of God appears as two figures together in one of Daniel's visions, as the "Son of Man" and as the "Ancient of Days." So too, Jesus appears in Revelation as the "One" on the throne and the "Lamb" taking the scroll.
Revelation 5:8 - Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
See Revelation 4, for commentary on the living creatures and the elders.
As soon as Jesus takes the scroll, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders lay prostrate in worship before Him, each having a harp. Harps in the Bible were widely used in worship and in a few instances when men prophesied (1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Chronicles 25:3). David had the power to drive away distressing spirits from Saul when he played his harp (1 Samuel 16:16, 23). It is clear from these examples that music transcends from the physical realm into the spiritual realm.
Recall from Revelation 4:4, the musically talented Levites served in the temple. These priests prophesied and worshiped through music (1 Chronicles 25). As shown in Revelation 4:4 and 4:7, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures represent the Church and Israel. Both groups are priests before the Lord (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:4-9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). It makes sense that the pattern on Earth is also found in Heaven, with musically gifted priests incorporated in both the earthly temple and the heavenly throne.
Priests were also commissioned to burn incense in worship to the Lord:
1 Chronicles 23:13 - The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses; and Aaron was set apart, he and his sons forever, that he should sanctify the most holy things, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister to Him, and to give the blessing in His name forever.
The bowls used in the earthly temple were pure gold (Exodus 25:29). Zechariah saw a similar bowl in his vision:
Zechariah 4:2-3, 11-14 - And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left...." Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."
The olive trees are the two witnesses found in Revelation 11:4. As shown in the following passages, the bowl is God the Father, the lamp stand with golden pipes and receptacles are Jesus, and the golden oil is the Holy Spirit. The seven lamps or candlesticks represent the Church (Revelation 1:20).
In Zechariah's vision, the bowl is the source of the oil feeding the lamps on the lamp stand through the pipes. Likewise, the Father gives the Holy Spirit to the Church through His Son, Jesus Christ:
Acts 2:32-33 - This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
Ephesians 2:14-18 - For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
While the pipes represent Jesus in Zechariah's vision, in Revelation 1:12, Jesus also represents the shaft of the lamp stand that the lamps attach to. In both pictures, the lamps are dependent on the Son of God, to produce light to the world, and have access to the Father.
John tells us the golden bowls are full of incense, which represents the "prayers of the saints." The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us in our prayers, carrying them to the Father:
Romans 8:26-27 - Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
It is through the Son, our mediator, that we make our petitions to the Father, by asking in His name:
1 Timothy 2:5-6 - For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
John 15:16 - ...whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
While it is widely thought that these prayers contained in the gold bowls are all unanswered prayers of the saints, the following passages suggest that prayers of incense are prayers for justice and judgment on the wicked:
Psalms 141:1-5 - A Psalm of David. LORD, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.
Revelation 8:2-6 - And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The Lord modeled prayer for just and righteous rule on Earth:
Matthew 6:9-10 - In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Interestingly, prayers and incense appear in Scripture when the angel declared John the Baptist's conception and birth. John's mission was to prepare the people for the Lord's righteous and just rule in the coming Kingdom:
Luke 1:8-13, 16-17 - So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.... And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
In summary of the last few sections, the elders and living creatures worship the Lord with praise and prayer because someone was found worthy to open the "purchase deed" of the earth. Since the Kinsmen Redeemer came to claim the "purchase deed," He will be able to rule and reign in justice and righteousness over it.
Revelation 5:9 - And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation..."
As shown in Revelation 4, the elders and living creatures together represent redeemed man from the beginning of time to the rapture. The saints sing a song about man's redemption, in worship to the Lord. The song is new, because before this moment it had not been sung and could not be sung, since the Redeemer had not yet taken the scroll.
The Psalms often include the phrase "a new song," but the following Psalm, in particular, combines elements of the scene of our current study.
Psalms 149:1-9 - Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment - this honor have all His saints. Praise the LORD!
In this Psalm we see the assembly of the saints, who are singing praises accompanied by instruments, including the harp. Also note that the theme is prayer for justice. The saints will return among the armies of Heaven (Revelation 19:14), and rule and reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom (Revelation 5:10).
This song of redemption sung by the elders and living creatures, explains why the Lord is worthy to take the "purchase deed" and break its seals. The Lord's sacrifice paid the price:
Romans 3:23-25 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood....
Hebrews 9:11-12,15 - But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.... And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 - For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
There was foreshadowing of the Lord taking the "purchase deed" of the earth at the beginning of His earthly ministry. Jesus proclaimed His mission of redemption, when He took a scroll of Isaiah handed to Him, and He read the following prophecy:
Luke 4:16-21 - So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
The saints, represented by the elders and living creatures come from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation." The divisions of family, language, race, and country, show that the Lord's redemption price is for all humans. However, only those that accept the Lord's sacrifice, He will redeem. That is why the Lord commissioned the disciples to go out and preach the Gospel to the world. The phrase "every creature" is literally "all the creation" in the Greek in the following passage:
Mark 16:15-16 - And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."
As we will see later, a battle over the souls of man will continue to wage until the Lord returns:
Revelation 13:7 - It was granted to him [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
But the Lord still provides the invitation for salvation to all people groups, even until the end of the Tribulation:
Revelation 14:6 - Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.
Revelation 5:10 - "...and have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."
The elders and living creatures who represent Israel and the Church (Revelation 4) continue singing their "new song."
God said Israel would be a kingdom of priests, if they followed the Lord:
Exodus 19:5-6 - Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
God has made the Church kings and priests (Revelation 1:6). Believers in the Church are their own priests, as their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Being a priest in the new covenant means that we minister to God by offering spiritual sacrifices (2 Corinthians 3:6), not blood sacrifices as required in the old covenant:
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9 - Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.... But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
As the Bride of Christ, the Church is royal heir to the Kingdom. The Old Testament saints "are exalted" and will join the Church on the throne:
Job 36:7 - He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; but they are on the throne with kings, for He has seated them forever, and they are exalted.
1 Samuel 2:8-9 - He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them. He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness...."
It is clear throughout Scripture the millennial reign of Christ will be over an earthly kingdom. The faithful from both the Old Testament saints, and the Church, are heirs of that new world:
Romans 4:13 - For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Daniel 7:27 - Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.
Through the redemption process (Leviticus 25), the Lord will restore man's dominion over the earth that Adam forfeited at the fall. Those who survive the Tribulation will live on into the Kingdom in their mortal bodies under the dominion of the resurrected saints. (See "The Millennium").
13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
Revelation 5:11 - Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands...
After the elders and living creatures finish their song of redemption, John hears the voice of angels. The angels encompass the throne of God, around the living creatures and the elders, as shown in the schematic.
There are too many angels to number. The Greek word "murias," translated as "ten thousand," generally has the meaning of a myriad or an innumerable count (Luke 12:1, Acts 21:20). The following passage, which uses the same Greek word, supports this meaning:
Hebrews 12:22 - But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.
Revelation 5:12 - [I heard the voice of many angels...] saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
The angels join the elders and living creatures in worship of the Lord. It appears that they are shouting out to the Lord in praise, but not in song. In fact, there is little evidence in Scripture that indicates angels sing at all. The following is the only passage in Scripture that says the "sons of God," or angels "sang":
Job 38:4-7 - Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
However, the Hebrew word translated "sang" does not specifically mean singing and can also mean to cry, rejoice, or shout for joy (source). If angels don't sing, perhaps the ability to sing is a special gift God gives to the redeemed and their celestial representatives.
Like the elders and living creatures, the angels acknowledge that Jesus is worthy because of His sacrifice as the "Lamb who was slain." He is also worthy to receive seven things:
This is the only passage that lists these seven items together. The passages below, each containing several of these things, further explain why the Lord is worthy to receive them.
The Lord is worthy to receive these things because He created all things:
Revelation 4:11 - "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."
All things come from the Lord, therefore they are rightfully His:
1 Chronicles 29:10-13 - Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. "Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name."
As already noted, the "Lamb that was slain" is worthy of these things because He made salvation possible through His sacrifice:
Revelation 7:10-12 - "...Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
Revelation 5:13 - And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
John hears praises to the Lord from beyond the throne, coming from Heaven and Earth. The concluding verse of the following Psalm encapsulates this radiating praise:
Psalms 150:6 - Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!
Ultimately there will come a day when every created being will worship the Lord:
Philippians 2:5-11 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
There is disagreement among scholars whether this moment of praise fulfills the passage above in Philippians. At this time in history, most of man has not only rejected Christ, many will blaspheme Him later in the Tribulation:
Revelation 16:9, 11 - And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.... They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
Revelation 16:21 - And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
The phrase "every creature" in the Greek can mean "all," "the whole," or "every kind of." With this in mind, it may make more sense to translate verse 13 this way: "And every kind of creature," instead of "every creature." It seems misplaced that every creature would worship the Lord at this time.
It is generally thought that "every knee will bow" and "every tongue confess" that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11) will ultimately be fulfilled at the "Great White Throne Judgment" (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who reject Christ will have to acknowledge Him as Lord, when they bow down in worship before Him on judgment day. But because of their rejection, those "under the earth" are not included among those who the Lord will redeem and reconcile:
Colossians 1:16-20 - For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
That said, the following passage suggests that most, if not all, will acknowledge "the Lamb," at the beginning of the Tribulation:
Revelation 6:15-16 - And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"
I believe that the purpose for this moment of worship is for the creation to pay homage to the Creator, as it should. Praise from the saints is what He delights in most and why they are close to Him on the throne. The following Psalm captures this theme:
Psalms 148:1-7 - Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths.
Psalms 148:8-14 - Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints - of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD!
In our passage of discussion, we are again shown two aspects of Christ: "Him who sits on the throne," exhibiting His sovereign power, and the sacrificial "Lamb." Recall from Revelation 5:7, the Father is invisible and Jesus is the only visible form of God there is (Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15 & 2:9). Therefore, the two forms seen by John are both Jesus, which demonstrates God's omnipresence, while showing us two characteristics of Him.
Revelation 5:14 - Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
In the same pattern established in chapter 4, the elders fall down in worship in response to the verbal praise by the living creatures (Revelation 4:9 and 4:10). In Revelation 1:18, Jesus tells us that He is "alive forevermore." Our eternal life depends on His victory over death:
1 Corinthians 15:16-22 - For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
Romans 6:5-10 - For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
In conclusion to this chapter, it is important to understand where we are in the order of prophetic events. The Church Age is over. The redeemed Old Testament saints and the Church are in Heaven around the throne. The Lord, as Kinsman Redeemer, has just taken the "purchase deed" to the earth. In Revelation 6, the Lord breaks the Seals to open the "purchase deed." When all the events contained within the "purchase deed" transpire on the earth, the Lord will come to reclaim what is His.
In preparation for the Kingdom, the judgments enclosed in the "purchase deed" must come to pass before Christ returns. In the process, God will evict the rebellious inhabitants and destroy them. The Jewish people will play an important role in this earthly kingdom (Zechariah 8). However, God must deal with Israel's rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Through the Tribulation, Israel as a nation will come to accept Jesus as their Messiah. God will turn back to His people and they will turn back to Him:
Zechariah 13:9 - I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; and each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.'
Revelation Flow Chart:
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