The Book with Seven Seals: None Worthy to Open It but the Lamb: He Takes It amidst the Praises of the Redeemed, and of the
Whole Heavenly Host.
1. in, &c.—Greek, "(lying)
upon the right hand." His right hand was open and on it lay the
book. On God's part there was no withholding of His future purposes as
contained in the book: the only obstacle to unsealing it is stated in
Re 5:3 [Alford].
book—rather, as accords with the
ancient form of books, and with the writing on the backside, "a
roll." The writing on the back implies fulness and completeness,
so that nothing more needs to be added (Re 22:18). The roll, or book, appears from the
context to be "the title-deed of man's inheritance" [De Burgh] redeemed by Christ, and contains the
successive steps by which He shall recover it from its usurper and
obtain actual possession of the kingdom already "purchased" for Himself
and His elect saints. However, no portion of the roll is said to be
unfolded and read; but simply the seals are
successively opened, giving final access to its contents being
read as a perfect whole, which shall not be until the events symbolized
by the seals shall have been past, when Eph 3:10 shall receive its complete
accomplishment, and the Lamb shall reveal God's providential plans in
redemption in all their manifold beauties. Thus the opening of the
seals will mean the successive steps by which God in Christ clears the
way for the final opening and reading of the book at the visible
setting up of the kingdom of Christ. Compare, at the grand
consummation, Re 20:12,
"Another book was opened … the book of life"; Re 22:19. None is worthy to do so save the Lamb,
for He alone as such has redeemed man's forfeited inheritance, of which
the book is the title-deed. The question (Re 5:2) is not (as commonly supposed), Who
should reveal the destinies of the Church (for this any inspired
prophet would be competent to do)? but, Who has the WORTH to give man a new title to his lost
inheritance? [De Burgh].
sealed … seven
seals—Greek, "sealed up," or "firmly sealed." The
number seven (divided into four, the world-wide number, and
three, the divine) abounds in Revelation and expresses
completeness. Thus, the seven seals, representing all
power given to the Lamb; the seven trumpets, by which the world
kingdoms are shaken and overthrown, and the Lamb's kingdom ushered in;
and the seven vials, by which the beast's kingdom is
2. strong—(Ps 103:20). His voice penetrated heaven, earth,
and Hades (Re 10:1-3).
3. no man—Greek, "no one."
Not merely no man, but also no one of any order of
in earth—Greek, "upon the
under the earth—namely, in Hades.
look thereon—to look upon the
contents, so as to read them.
4. and to read—inserted in English
Version Greek text without good authority. One oldest manuscript,
Origen, Cyprian, and Hilary
omit the clause. "To read" would be awkward standing between "to open
the book" and "to look thereon." John having been promised a revelation
of "things which must be hereafter," weeps now at his earnest
desire being apparently frustrated. He is a pattern to us to imitate,
as an eager and teachable learner of the Apocalypse.
5. one of—Greek, "one from
among." The "elder" meant is, according to some (in Lyra), Matthew. With this accords the description
here given of Christ, "the Lion, which is (so the Greek)
of the tribe of Juda, the root of David"; the royal, David-descended,
lion-aspect of Christ being that prominent in Matthew, whence the lion
among the fourfold cherubim is commonly assigned to him. Gerhard in Bengel
thought Jacob to be meant, being, doubtless, one of those who rose with
Christ and ascended to heaven (Mt 27:52, 53). The elders in heaven round God's
throne know better than John, still in the flesh, the far-reaching
power of Christ.
Root of David—(Isa 11:1, 10). Not merely "a sucker come up
from David's ancient root" (as Alford
limits it), but also including the idea of His being Himself the root
and origin of David: compare these two truths brought together, Mt
22:42-45. Hence He is called
not merely Son of David, but also David. He is at once
"the branch" of David, and "the root" of David, David's Son and David's
Lord, the Lamb slain and therefore the Lion of Juda:
about to reign over Israel, and thence over the whole earth.
absolutely, as elsewhere (Re 3:21):
gained the victory: His past victory over all the powers of
darkness entitles Him now to open the book.
to open—that is, so as to open.
One oldest manuscript, B, reads, "He that openeth," that is, whose
office it is to open, but the weight of oldest authorities is with
English Version reading, namely, A, Vulgate, Coptic, and
6. I beheld, and, lo—One oldest
manuscript, A, omits "and, lo." Another, B, Cyprian, &c., support, "and, lo," but omit, "and
in the midst of the throne—that is,
not on the throne (compare Re 5:7), but
in the midst of the company (Re 4:4) which
was "round about the throne."
always found in Revelation exclusively, except in Joh 21:15 alone: it expresses endearment,
namely, the endearing relation in which Christ now stands to us, as the
consequence of His previous relation as the sacrificial Lamb. So
also our relation to Him: He the precious Lamb, we His dear
lambs, one with Him. Bengel thinks
there is in Greek, "arnion," the idea of taking the
lead of the flock. Another object of the form Greek,
"arnion," the Lamb, is to put Him in the more marked contrast to
Greek, "therion," the Beast. Elsewhere Greek,
"amnos," is found, applying to Him as the paschal,
sacrificial Lamb (Isa 53:7,
Septuagint; Joh 1:29, 36; Ac 8:32; 1Pe
as it had been slain—bearing marks of
His past death wounds. He was standing, though bearing the marks of one
slain. In the midst of heavenly glory Christ crucified is still the
seven horns—that is, perfect
might, "seven" symbolizing perfection; "horns,"
might, in contrast to the horns of the Antichristian
world powers, Re 17:3; &c.; Da 7:7, 20; 8:3.
seven eyes … the seven Spirits …
sent forth—So one oldest manuscript, A. But B reads,
"being sent forth." As the seven lamps before the throne
represent the Spirit of God immanent in the Godhead, so the seven
eyes of the Lamb represent the same sevenfold Spirit profluent from
the incarnate Redeemer in His world-wide energy. The Greek for
"sent forth," apostellomena, or else apestalmenoi, is
akin to the term "apostle," reminding us of the Spirit-impelled labors
of Christ's apostles and minister throughout the world: if the present
tense be read, as seems best, the idea will be that of those labors
continually going on unto the end. "Eyes" symbolize His
all-watchful and wise providence for His Church, and against her
7. The book lay on the open hand of Him that
sat on the throne for any to take who was found worthy [Alford]. The Lamb takes it from the Father in token
of formal investiture into His universal and everlasting dominion as
Son of man. This introductory vision thus presents before us, in
summary, the consummation to which all the events in the seals,
trumpets, and vials converge, namely, the setting up of Christ's
kingdom visibly. Prophecy ever hurries to the grand crisis or end, and
dwells on intermediate events only in their typical relation to, and
representation of, the end.
8. had taken—Greek, "took."
fell down before the Lamb—who shares
worship and the throne with the Father.
harps—Two oldest manuscripts, A, B,
Syriac and Coptic read, "a harp": a kind of guitar,
played with the hand or a quill.
vials—"bowls" [Tregelles]; censers.
prayers of saints—as the angel offers
their prayers (Re 8:3) with
incense (compare Ps 141:2).
This gives not the least sanction to Rome's dogma of our praying to
saints. Though they be employed by God in some way unknown to us
to present our prayers (nothing is said of their interceding for
us), yet we are told to pray only to Him (Re 19:10; 22:8,
9). Their own
employment is praise (whence they all have harps): ours is
9. sung—Greek, "sing": it is
their blessed occupation continually. The theme of redemption is
ever new, ever suggesting fresh thoughts of praise, embodied in the
us to God—So manuscript B, Coptic,
Vulgate, and Cyprian. But A omits
"us": and Aleph reads instead, "to our God."
out of—the present election-church
gathered out of the world, as distinguished from the peoples
gathered to Christ as the subjects, not of an election, but of a
general and world-wide conversion of all nations.
kindred … tongue … people …
nation—The number four marks world-wide extension: the
four quarters of the world. For "kindred," translate as Greek,
"tribe." This term and "people" are usually restricted to
Israel: "tongue and nation" to the Gentiles (Re 7:9; 11:9;
13:7, the oldest reading;
Re 14:6). Thus there is here marked the
election-Church gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In Re 10:11, for "tribes," we find among the four
terms "kings"; in Re 17:15,
10. made us—A, B, Aleph, Vulgate,
Syriac, and Coptic read, "them." The Hebrew
construction of the third person for the first, has a graphic relation
to the redeemed, and also has a more modest sound than us,
unto our God—So B and Aleph
read. But A omits the clause.
kings—So B reads. But A, Aleph,
Vulgate, Coptic, and Cyprian, read,
"A kingdom." Aleph reads also "a priesthood" for priests.
They who cast their crowns before the throne, do not call themselves
kings in the sight of the great King (Re 4:10, 11); though their priestly access has
such dignity that their reigning on earth cannot exceed it. So in Re 20:6 they are not called "kings" [Bengel].
we shall reign on the earth—This is a
new feature added to Re 1:6.
Aleph, Vulgate, and Coptic read, "They shall
reign." A and B read, "They reign." Alford takes this reading and explains it of the
Church EVEN NOW, in Christ her Head,
reigning on the earth: "all things are being put under her feet, as
under His; her kingly office and rank are asserted, even in the midst
of persecution." But even if we read (I think the weightiest authority
is against it), "They reign," still it is the prophetical
present for the future: the seer being transported into the future when
the full number of the redeemed (represented by the four living
creatures) shall be complete and the visible kingdom begins.
The saints do spiritually reign now; but certainly not as they shall
when the prince of this world shall be bound (see on Re 20:2-6). So far from reigning on the earth now,
they are "made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all
things." In Re 11:15, 18, the locality and time of the kingdom
are marked. Kelly translates, "reign
over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is
justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Jud 9:8; Mt
2:22). The elders, though
ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this
passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is
justified by Re 3:10. "The
elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is
much larger" [Bengel].
11. I beheld—the angels: who form the
outer circle, while the Church, the object of redemption, forms the
inner circle nearest the throne. The heavenly hosts ranged around gaze
with intense love and adoration at this crowning manifestation of God's
love, wisdom, and power.
ten thousand times ten
thousand—Greek, "myriads of myriads."
12. to receive power—Greek,
"the power." The remaining six (the whole being seven,
the number for perfection and completeness) are all, as
well as "power," ranged under the one Greek article, to mark
that they form one complete aggregate belonging to God and His
co-equal, the Lamb. Compare Re 7:12,
where each of all seven has the article.
riches—both spiritual and earthly.
blessing—ascribed praise: the
will on the creature's part, though unaccompanied by the
power, to return blessing for blessing conferred [Alford].
13. The universal chorus of creation,
including the outermost circles as well as the inner (of saints and
angels), winds up the doxology. The full accomplishment of this
is to be when Christ takes His great power and reigns visibly.
every creature—"all His works in all
places of His dominion" (Ps 103:22).
under the earth—the departed spirits
such as are—So B and Vulgate.
But A omits this.
in the sea—Greek, "upon
the sea": the sea animals which are regarded as being on the surface
all that are in them—So Vulgate
reads. A omits "all (things)" here (Greek, "panta"), and
reads, "I heard all (Greek, "pantas") saying": implying
the harmonious concert of all in the four quarters of the universe.
"the blessing, the honor, and the glory, and
the might to the ages of the ages." The fourfold
ascription indicates world-wide universality.
14. said—So A, Vulgate, and
Syriac read. But B and Coptic read, "(I heard)
Amen—So A reads. But B reads,
"the (accustomed) Amen." As in Re 4:11, the four and twenty elders asserted
God's worthiness to receive the glory, as having created all
things, so here the four living creatures ratify by their "Amen"
the whole creation's ascription of the glory to Him.
four and twenty—omitted in the oldest
manuscripts: Vulgate supports it.
him that liveth for ever and
ever—omitted in all the manuscripts: inserted by commentators
4:9. But there, where the
thanksgiving is expressed, the words are appropriate; but here
less so, as their worship is that of silent prostration. "Worshipped"
(namely, God and the Lamb). So in Re 11:1, "worship" is used absolutely.