« Prev Revelation 5:1 Next »

REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 5 - Verse 1

 

CHAPTER V

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER,

THIS chapter introduces the disclosure of future events. It is done in a manner eminently fitted to impress the mind with a sense of the importance of the revelations about to be made. The proper state of mind for appreciating this chapter is that when we look on the future and are sensible that important events are about to occur; when we feel that that future is wholly impenetrable to us; and when the efforts of the highest created minds fail to lift the mysterious veil which hides those events from our view. It is in accordance with our nature that the mind should be impressed with solemn awe under such circumstances; it is not a violation of the laws of our nature that one who had an earnest desire to penetrate that future, and who saw the volume before him which contained the mysterious revelation, and who yet felt that there was no one in heaven or earth who could break the seals, and disclose what was to come, should weep. Re 5:4. The design of the whole chapter is evidently to honour the Lamb of God, by showing that the power was entrusted to him which was confided to no one else in heaven or earth, of disclosing what is to come. Nothing else would better illustrate this than the fact that he alone could break the mysterious seals which barred out the knowledge of the future from all created eyes; and nothing would be better adapted to impress this on the mind than the representation in this chapter—the exhibition of a mysterious book in the hand of God; the proclamation of the angel, calling on any who could do it to open the book; the fact that no one in heaven or earth could do it; the tears shed by John when it was found that no one could do it; the assurance of one of the elders that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had power to do it; and the profound adoration of all in heaven and in earth and under the earth, in view of the power entrusted to him of breaking these mysterious seals.

The main points in the chapter are these:

(1.) Having in chapter 4 described God as sitting on a throne, John here (Re 5:1) represents himself as seeing in his right hand a mysterious volume; written all over on the inside and the outside, yet sealed with seven seals; a volume manifestly referring to the future, and containing important disclosures respecting coming events.

(2.) A mighty angel is introduced making a proclamation, and asking who is worthy to open that book, and to break those seals; evidently implying that none unless of exalted rank could do it, Re 5:2.

(3.) There is a pause: no one in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, approaches to do it, or claims the right to do it, Re 5:3.

(4.) John, giving way to the expressions of natural emotion—indicative of the longing and intense desire in the human soul to be made acquainted with the secrets of the future—pours forth a flood of tears because no one is found who is worthy to open the seals of this mysterious book, or to read what was recorded there, Re 5:4.

(5.) In his state of suspense and of grief, one of the elders—the representatives of that church for whose benefit these revelations of the future were to be made (See Barnes "Re 4:4") — approaches him and says that there is one who is able to open the book; one who has the power to loose its seals, Re 5:5. This is the Messiah—the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David—coming now to make the disclosure for which the whole book was given, Re 1:1

(6.) Immediately the attention of John is attracted by the Messiah, appearing as a Lamb in the midst of the throne; with horns, the symbols of strength, and eyes, the symbols of all-pervading intelligence. He approaches and takes the book from the hand of Him that sits on the throne; symbolical of the fact that it is the province of the Messiah to make known to the church and the world the events which are to occur, Re 5:6,7. He appears here in a different form from that in which he manifested himself in chapter 1, for the purpose is different. There he appears clothed in majesty, to impress the mind with a sense of his essential glory. Here he appears in a form that recalls the memory of his sacrifice; to denote perhaps that it is in virtue of his atonement that the future is to be disclosed; and that therefore there is a special propriety that he should appear and do what no other one in heaven or earth could do.

(7.) The approach of the Messiah to unfold the mysteries in the book, the fact that he had "prevailed" to accomplish what there was so strong a desire should be accomplished, furnishes an occasion for exalted thanksgiving and praise, Re 5:8-10. This ascription of praise in heaven is instantly responded to, and echoed back, from all parts of the universe—all joining in acknowledging the Lamb as worthy of the exalted office to which he was raised, Re 5:11-13. The angels around the throne—amounting to thousands of myriads—unite with the living creatures and the elders; and to these are joined the voices of every creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea, ascribing to Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb universal praise.

(8.) To this loud ascription of praise from far-distant worlds the living creatures respond a hearty Amen, and the elders fall down and worship him that lives for ever and ever, Re 5:14. The universe is held in wondering expectation of the disclosures which are to be made, and from all parts of the universe there is an acknowledgment that the Lamb of God alone has the right to break the mysterious seals. The importance of the developments justifies the magnificence of this representation; and it would not be possible to imagine a more sublime introduction to these great events.

Verse 1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne. Of God, Re 4:3-4. His form is not described there, nor is there any intimation of it here except the mention of his "right hand." The book or roll seems to have been so held in his hand that John could see its shape, and see distinctly how it was written and sealed.

A book, biblion. This word is properly a diminutive of the word commonly rendered book, (biblov) and would strictly mean a small book, or a book of diminutive size—a tablet, or a letter.— Liddell and Scott, Lex. It is used, however, to denote a book of any size—a roll, scroll, or volume; and is thus used

(a) to denote the Pentateuch, or the Mosaic law, Heb 9:19; 10:7;

(b) the book of life, Re 17:8; 20:12; 21:27;

(c) epistles, which were also rolled up, Re 1:11;

(d) documents, as a bill of divorce, Mt 19:7; Mr 10:4. When it is the express design to speak of a small book, another word is used, (biblardion) Re 10:2,8-10.

The book or roll referred to here was that which contained the revelation in the subsequent chapters, to the end of the description of the opening of the seventh seal—for the communication that was to be made was all included in the seven seals; and to conceive of the size of the book, therefore, we are only to reflect on the amount of parchment that would naturally be written over by the communications here made. The form of the book was undoubtedly that of a scroll or roll; for that was the usual form of books among the ancients, and such a volume could be more easily sealed with a number of seals, in the manner here described, than a volume in the form in which books are made now. On the ancient form of books, See Barnes on "Lu 4:17".

 

Written within and on the back side. Gr., 'within and behind.' It was customary to write only on one side of the paper or vellum, for the sake of convenience in reading the volume as it was unrolled. If, as sometimes was the case, the book was in the same form as books are now—of leaves bound together—then it was usual to write on both sides of the leaf, as both sides of a page are printed now. But in the other form it was a very uncommon thing to write on both sides of the parchment, and was never done unless there was a scarcity of writing material; or unless there was an amount of matter beyond what was anticipated; or unless something had been omitted. It is not necessary to suppose that John saw both sides of the parchment as it was held in the hand of him that sat on the throne. That it was written on the back side he would naturally see, and, as the book was sealed he would infer that it was written in the usual manner on the inside.

Sealed with seven seals. On the ancient manner of sealing, See Barnes on "Mt 27:66, See Barnes "Job 38:14".

The fact that there were seven seals—an unusual number in fastening a volume—would naturally attract the attention of John, though it might not occur to him at once that there was anything significant in the number. It is not stated in what manner the seals were attached to the volume, but it is clear that they were so attached that each seal closed one part of the volume, and that when one was broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten was unrolled, a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind the whole; but when that was broken it would not give access to the whole volume unless each successive seal were broken. May it not have been intended by this arrangement to suggest the idea that the whole future is unknown to us, and that the disclosure of any one portion, though necessary if the whole would be known, does not disclose all, but leaves seal after seal still unbroken, and that they are all to be broken one after another if we would know all? How these were arranged, John does not say. All that is necessary to be supposed is, that the seven seals were put successively upon the margin of the volume as it was rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as far as the next seal, when the unrolling would be arrested. Any one by rolling up a sheet of paper could so fasten it with pins, or with a succession of seals, as to represent this with sufficient accuracy.

{a} "book" Eze 2:9,10 {b} "sealed" Isa 29:11

« Prev Revelation 5:1 Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |