Thursday, 5 November 2020
And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. Revelation 5:3
The scroll has been presented (5:1) and the call has gone forth, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” (5:2). With that accomplished, the answer is given. John mournfully says, “And no one in heaven.” The Greek contains an article, “And no one in the heaven.”
This means that in the highest heaven, even those with direct access to the throne of God, none is found worthy. This would include Enoch and Elijah who were both translated to heaven, and who minister before the Lord as is revealed in Zechariah 4 –
“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. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.” Zechariah 4:2, 3
“These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.” Zechariah 4:14
This would also exclude even the great angels that stood before the Lord, such as Gabriel –
“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” Luke 1:19, 20
These, and any other beings who occupy positions in the heaven, are found to be not worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals. As a point of doctrine, the KJV says, “And no man in heaven.” Saying, “no man,” instead of “no one” or “none,” could leave open the door for the allowance of Mary being considered a co-redemptrix as argued for by certain cults (such as the RCC). Using “no one” will also avoid any error of theology concerning angels being qualified. It will also ensure that the state of Christ, being the God/Man is understood as such.
Next, John says, “or on the earth.” No being on the earth is found worthy. As this is a heavenly scene, time is irrelevant. From Adam until the last human to be conceived within the stream of time, none are found worthy who dwell upon the earth. This is confirmed in the next words, saying, “or under the earth.”
This would be speaking of Hades (or Sheol of the Old Testament Hebrew). It is the place where the souls of the dead go. In that place, none are found worthy who have ever existed. Their lives were lived, they died, and they were set to remain in Hades for all eternity, unable to undo what Adam had done. As John says, “no one was able to open the scroll.”
The word translated as “able,” signifies having power, and thus ability. Even the most noble person, the most moral person, or the most intelligent person who ever existed would still not have the sufficient power to come forth into the presence of God and undo what had been done to cause the scroll to be rolled up and sealed. And further, John adds in the final words of the verse, “or to look at it.”
These words signify total unworthiness. Not only could they not take it into their hand, nor loose its seals, but they were unworthy to even take a momentary glance at the scroll. The state of either positional or moral unworthiness of all beings in creation excluded their even looking at it. Angels, for example, may be morally qualified, but their position as spirits excludes them. Humans may be positionally qualified, being of the seed of Adam, but their moral state as fallen beings who have inherited original sin excludes them. None are found worthy.
Life application: (1) No one in heaven – No human being who has ever lived and who is currently in the heavenly realms is qualified. Enoch, the seventh man from Adam, was translated directly to heaven because he “walked with God” – unworthy. Elijah, the great prophet of Israel, also went directly to heaven in a chariot of fire – unworthy. No angel in heaven as well. Due to their state in creation – unworthy.
(2) No one on the earth – Think of the people on the earth today who you may admire. Billy Graham – unworthy; the US president – Unworthy; some other noted pastor or politician – unworthy; you – unworthy; me – unworthy. Repeat this for the other 7 billion people on earth – all unworthy.
(3) No one under the earth – Every human who has ever existed since the creation of Adam and who is now resting in the dust from which they came… just think about it! Great men of God; great world leaders; missionaries; evangelists; heroes of the Bible – all unworthy.
And not only are all unable to open the scroll, we aren’t even worthy to look at it.
All humans have inherited Adam’s sin directly in three ways: Legally – we are legally in Adam because He is our federal head. Potentially – the very fact that we could exist as human beings brings us into direct contact with Adam. Seminally – all humans who actually exist (from the very moment of conception) are stained with Adam’s sin, having inherited it as a result of the fall. Death, which is the wages of sin, proves this. Even infant babies aren’t excluded.
As an important note, this verse disproves the immaculate conception of Mary. If Mary were born and had remained in a sinless state, then she would be worthy. But no one, including Mary the mother of Jesus, is worthy. This frightening passage should leave all of us humbled. We have no claim to boast before God because we are unworthy.
Lord, when we get thinking too highly of ourselves, simply looking into Your word reminds us that we are unworthy – wholly and completely. Our very existence testifies against us and we stand condemned. That You would send Jesus to cleanse us has all the more significance when we see our own fallen state. Thank You, O God, for Jesus. Amen.