Summary of passage: In Revelation 4, we see God is sitting on the throne. Here, we’re told He is holding a sealed scroll. An angel asks, “Who is worthy to break the seal?” No one in heaven or on earth can so John weeps. Then an elder cries out,”The Lion can”, meaning Jesus.
3a) “A scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.”
b) He wept because “no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” The scroll will introduce the next phase of history and if it can’t be opened, then history will not take place. Further, some scholars suggest he cried because the promise in Rev 4:1 would not be fulfilled to him. I tend toward the former, being much more significant (history not moving forward) than the latter.
4) Part personal question. My answer: Jesus is the Son of Man as he’s the predicted messiah from the tribe of Judah and from David’s line. Jacob calls Judah a lion’s cub in his prediction of the future in Genesis 49 and that the ruler will come from his line. God tells Nathan in 2 Samuel 7 that He will raise up an offspring from David who will establish the throne of God’s kingdom forever. In Isaiah we see Jesus called the “Root of Jesse”.
Both these prophecies have to be fulfilled for Jesus to be the Messiah, which Jesus meets.
I learn how God has told the people repeatedly of His plans for the future and how God has and will fulfill His words.
[The Messianic title Lion of the tribe of Judah see also Isaiah 31:4 and Hosea 11:10. The title Root of David comes from Isaiah 11:10 and Romans 15:12 and is repeated in Revelation 22:16.]
5) Part personal question. My answer: In this passage, Jesus triumphed by being able to open the scroll and usher in the new history. In the long run, Jesus triumphed over death and sin by dying on the cross for us, thus justifying us before God and allowing us to live eternally with the Father. He will also triumph at the Second Coming when he ushers in the New World where Christians shall reign eternally with Jesus here on earth.
It’s significant to me because I know where my future lies. I know I am forgiven. I know I am His.
Conclusions: I like the emphasis in Revelation on our future and Jesus’s victory. We are being bombarded with hope–something we all need. Something we all need to hear repeatedly especially when it seems everywhere we turn is evil and destruction. God wins. And because God wins, we win. There is no greater message than this.
End Notes: “And I saw”. This is the first of 39 times this phrase is used by John. It’s a reminder to us that he is reporting exactly what was revealed to him without embellishing any facts or details.
In Revelation 4, we focused on the throne. Here, we will be focusing on the scroll.
It is significant that writing was on BOTH sides of the scroll. In ancient times, only one side of the scroll was usually written on. The rolls were on both sides and the scroll was read horizontally with the left hand holding the scroll and right hand unfurling it. As it was read, the part having been read would be re-furled up in the left hand. Using the average amount of writing that would fit on a scroll at this time, the Book of Revelation would fit on a 15 foot long scroll. This scroll was unusual indeed.
After being written, a scroll would be wrapped with string and then have wax seals put on the string. Important documents were written on papyrus scrolls and sent this way. Only the proper people in the presence of witnesses could open the scroll and read it (at this time there were only few people who could read anyways). Here, there are 7 seals, all of which must be opened before it could be read.
Scholars have debated for centuries what is written on this scroll. Lots of ideas have been proposed but the best that fits is the history of the universe, God’s will. In Roman times, wills were sealed seven times. The idea: God holds in His hands everything.
Furthermore, connecting with the Old Testament (see Lev.25:25,47-49; Ruth 4:3-14), Jesus is man’s kinsman-redeemer, man having forfeited the right to rule earth in the Garden of Eden. Jesus has paid our debt through his blood (Rev 5:6), driving Satan out, and thus re-instating God’s plan for mankind. Hence, this scroll is God’s plan coming to fruition, being opened only by the Redeemer.
Was Israel the focus here? God has not forsaken His people (Ps.94:14; Rom.11:1-2) nor will He neglect His future plans and purposes for them (Rom.11:25-27). After the Tribulation, all of Israel will be saved, giving time for the Gentiles to come to Jesus. Paul makes clear in Romans 15 when he quotes Isaiah 11:10 that the Gentiles are included in God’s promises. Hence, John weeps for all Jews and Gentiles alike.
The emphasis here is who can open it not what it contains. And that is Jesus alone can open it.
This is the first of three “mighty angels” in Revelation (others are in 10:1 and 18:21). Scholars have speculated as to the identity of the angel. Again, no one knows. Their function is a duty from God; their identity is not important.
The angel issues a challenge no created creature can answer.
A lion is strong and the king of the animal world. A fitting image of Jesus.
The NIV translation has the verb in verse 5 as “triumphed.” Some have “overcome”. In actuality, in Greek a better translation is “to conquer completely.”