Tuesday, 3 November 2020
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. Revelation 5:1
Chapter 5 begins with a scene that reveals an instance that was previously described in Chapter 4. There it said –
“Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne…” Revelation 4:9, 10
As noted then, the word “Whenever” signifies “at the time when the condition is met.” Thus, this doesn’t indicate a rote form of worship, but rather it comes at different occasions. Also, it indicates that it occurs periodically but continuously. All of Chapter 5 is such a scene, fulfilling the meaning of “whenever.” This is seen in the last verse of Chapter 5 –
“Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever” (5:14).
Understanding this, the heavenly scene begins with, “And I saw in the right hand of Him.” The Greek reads epi, or upon. “And I saw upon the right hand of Him.” One can think of someone with a scroll in their hand. As an offer to another to take it, the hand is extended forward, and the fingers relax from holding it. Thus, it is now “upon” the hand and offered without restraint.
The imagery of this is important for what will continue to be said in this heavenly scene. That which is offered is open and accessible to be taken. This is in the hand of the One “who sat on the throne.” This is God in Christ making an offer available to be taken. There is nothing from His aspect that will restrain what is in His hand. The scroll is upon the hand, and all that needs to happen is for someone to take it.
And that which is offered is “a scroll written inside and on the back.” This scroll is what is known in the times of John as an opisthograph, meaning a scroll written on both sides. This is reflective of what is stated in Ezekiel 2 –
“Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 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.” Ezekiel 2:9, 10
For other options besides this being an opisthograph, and for some of the possible meanings of what this scroll is, Reading Acts provides a detailed analysis of it at this link – https://readingacts.com/2018/04/15/revelation-5-what-is-the-scroll/
Of this scroll, it then says that it is “sealed with seven seals.” Of this arrangement, Vincent’s Word Studies notes –
“Sealed (κατεσφραγισμένον). Only here in the New Testament. The preposition κατά denotes sealed down. So Rev., close sealed. The roll is wound round a staff and fastened down to it with the seven seals. The unrolling of the parchment is nowhere indicated in the vision. Commentators have puzzled themselves to explain the arrangement of the seals, so as to admit of the unrolling of a portion with the opening of each seal.”
In the link provided above from Reading Acts, several viewpoints on what the scroll and what its contents signify are given. The important point to consider is not merely the seals themselves, nor what is written upon the scroll, but equally so is what is stated about it here in Chapter 5. In taking in what is said concerning it here, the symbolism becomes evident.
This is especially so in the doxology of praise found in verses 5:9, 10. It explains what is contained within the scroll, and its significance goes back to the Garden of Eden itself, but the typology is beautifully revealed in the book of Ruth. To understand that book, and what it is typologically picturing, you are invited to watch the 13-part series (written or on YouTube) presented by the Superior Word. In understanding that, the contents of the scroll are made clear. In short, and as an acceptable explanation, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown states –
“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.”
Life application: As noted, the One seated on the throne – the Lord God Almighty, is Jesus. It is He who continuously reveals the unseen God to us. As we continue, other representations of Him will be interacting with each other, but all of them are Jesus. There is no contradiction here. Rather, each is simply one aspect or another of God revealing Himself to us through Him.
The scroll being in the right hand of the One on throne signifies the position of authority. It is where Jesus rules from (see Acts 2:33 for example). This indicates that He has the authority over what is in the scroll. The scroll is “written inside and on the back.” Normally, scrolls only had writing on one side, especially if they were papyrus scrolls. This is because of the way they were made. The pen used for writing would easily catch on the vertical cracks of the back side of a scroll. This scroll then is of great importance because John specifically notes that it has writing on both sides.
Concerning the scrolls, ancient Roman wills were sealed with seven seals, and this is certainly what is being referred to here – a will or title deed. A parallel from the Old Testament comes from Jeremiah 32 where Jeremiah is told to purchase land and the deed is recorded on a scroll –
“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.’” Jeremiah 32:14
This account occurred when the land of Israel would be lost due to their rebellion and the forces of evil Babylon would take control of it. But Jeremiah was given a sure promise –
“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.’” Jeremiah 32:15
Just as fallen man lost the right to the title deed of the land he was given, Jesus regained that right, having purchased it with His own death after fulfilling the Law in Himself (the earthen Vessel where the law was kept). “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. Hebrews 9:16
O God! That You had a plan, even from the very beginning to restore us to Paradise through the life, death, and resurrection of Your own precious Son, our Lord Jesus – it is beyond marvelous. He came and dwelt in an earthen vessel so that we might be reconciled to You. How amazing are Your ways, O God. Glory to You in the highest! Amen.