The KEY and central issue is:
Text: Rev. 5:1-7
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. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?" And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look at it.
And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it, But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth., Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne."
As we open our Bibles to Revelation 5 we notice that something is happening in heaven which is rather puzzling. John sees a glorious scene of heaven; of angel's and other glorious beings in awesome adoration before God. The focus is upon God's throne, the seat of authority over the whole universe. He is the ONE who "created all things, and by Whose will they exist and were created. In God’s hands he saw a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.
The puzzling part about this, is that no one can open the book. Remember, this is in heaven, and God is holding this scroll, yet no one can open it. This is a very serious situation. As John watches he actually starts to weep because no one can open the scroll.
But then one of the elders tells him, “Stop crying, The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed and He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.
Have you ever wondered about that very important book? To understand what is happening let’s go back and look in the old testament to see what this means.
We know that sin has been a problem for mankind ever since the serpent beguiled Eve. The penalty for sin is death, but God offers a plan of redemption, whereby mankind can have salvation. In this plan we see that God makes a covenant with His people. This covenant stated in simple terms; God will provide a means for salvation and deliverance from sin, and call people to repentance of their sins and obedience to HIM, to which they are to respond with all their hearts, living according to His commandments.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart...You shall not go after other gods, to serve them...You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes...For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people unto Himself...because the Lord loves you, and because He keeps the covenant sworn to your fathers...therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.... But if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. " (Duet. 6:4-6,14,17; 7:6-9, 8:19)
But what does David have to do with all this. Remember our verse said, "The lion of the tribe Judah, the root of David," triumphs and is able to open the book. What does all that mean?
Now comes the interesting part-- We know the covenant was written out for them by Moses. The book of Deuteronomy is a summary of that covenant. And in Deuteronomy we find the command that all the kings of Israel are to take a scroll of a copy of this covenant and have it with him and read it every day of his life so that he may learn to revere God and follow carefully all the words of this covenant with it’s laws and decrees. (Deut. 17:19)
David was the first king of Judah. He was chosen by God, but for years he was a fugitive, not a king. After Saul died in battle and a brief period of uncertainty prevailed, we see all the tribes of Israel coming to David and asking him to be their king.
Priests and elders, clothed in the garments of their sacred office, officers and soldiers with glittering spear and helmet, and thousands of common people, stood to witness the coronation of the chosen king. David was arrayed in the royal robe. The sacred oil was put upon his forehead by the high priest, for the anointing by Samuel had been prophetic of what would take place at the inauguration of the king. The time had come, and David, by solemn ceremony, was consecrated to his office as God's vicegerent. The sceptre was placed in his hands. The scroll of the covenant in which was written God’s directions on righteous sovereignty was placed in his hands for him to follow and read daily, and the people gave their pledges of loyalty. The crown was placed upon his head, and the coronation ceremony was over. Israel had a king by divine appointment. (See 2 Samuel 5:3, 2Kings 11:10-12, 2 Cor. 23:10-11)
Do you see the parallels-- the elders, the witnesses, a scroll--- do you know what the scroll was all about? The scroll that the kings were to receive and read every day to follow in their execution of kingly duties? What was that scroll? It was the scroll of the covenant--- the covenant of God with them that the king was to follow. (See Duet. 17:18)
So what happened-- well Israel somehow lost that book and started doing exactly what the book told them was not to be done. We begin to see a lot of problems obscuring the true worship of God.
We could chose several stories, but let’s look at the story of king Josiah In 1 kings 13.2 we hear an interesting prophecy:
Years before king Josiah was even born a prophet cried out, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and he will execute judgment against the false worship and restore the true.
Let’s just stop there. Do you hear any parallel words here? Do you sort of recognize those words? “Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David---
Yes, --- those same words were used by Isaiah to prophecy the birth of Christ
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”
Keep those words in mind as we continue with the story of Josiah.
For a prophet declared that a child would be born named Josiah, and he would get rid of the false worship and try to restore true worship.
And so it was that approximately 300 years after the prophecy was made, Josiah was born a prince. However, his grandfather and his father, both kings, were probably the worst kings Israel ever had. Mannasseh brought in all manner of heathen practices. He even placed idols in the temple of God, persecuted those who protested, and lead the people into much error. His son Amon did even worse, till even the Israelites were disgusted. They needed help-- they needed it badly.
Josiah was only eight years old when his father Amon died. He must have had a good mother, for, from the start, “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. And he walked in the way of David”
When he was twenty Josiah began to clean up things in the his kingdom. He ordered the idols to be broken down. Then he set about restoring the temple which had been badly damaged during the reign of Manasseh and Amon.
As the work progressed a discovery was made. Hilkiah the high priest found a scroll. Picking it up, he saw that it was the “book of the covenant of the Lord given to Moses” . Somehow the kings had not followed the command that they were to receive this book at their inauguration, for it seems there was considerable excitement and anguish over it’s discovery.
Hilkiah rushed over to Shaphan the scribe and announced, “I have found the book of the covenant in the house of the Lord!” Shaphan could hardly believe his ears. This was too good to be true. Everybody thought the books of Moses had been destroyed long ago. He eagerly took the book from the high priest’s trembling hands and started to read.
Yes! It was indeed the long-lost Temple copy of the sacred book! Clutching the scroll, Shaphan hurried to tell Josiah the news.
Josiah asked him to start reading it to him. As King Josiah listened he was deeply moved. Suddenly he realized how far the children of Israel had wandered away from being in a covenant relationship with God..
Josiah humbled himself before God and wept for the transgressions of his people. He then sent messengers throughout the land and called everyone to the temple. When they arrived “he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found In the house of the Lord.” Publicly he declared that he wanted to follow the Lord with all His heart, soul, and mind and reign as true king under God, upon the throne of David. Then he asked everyone to stand who would join him in this rededication to God.
The people responded and Josiah told them he was going to re-institute the Passover festival. They were glad. “And there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet. However, the people did not stay true to their promise, after Josiah died, even though the temple continued to provide services, the people slipped back into their sinful lifestyles. Just 20 some years later, their temple was destroyed by the Babylonian armies.
Now what does all this have to do with Revelation 4-6.
Revelation describes the enthronement and inauguration into the Royal Priesthood of Christ, “the slain Lamb” the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. (Rev. 5:5,6)
Here we see Christ, the Son of God declared worthy to receive honor and power and glory. Because He has overcome, an now He is set down with Father on is Father’s throne as coregent. (See Rev. 3:21)
The chapters give us a glimpse into heaven. Jesus has just returned to heaven, after His life upon earth. He had veiled His divinity and accepted humanity with all it’s liabilities in order to redeem mankind. He had been taken and cruelly placed upon the cross. The all sufficient atoning blood of Christ had been shed, that all who respond to His call, might live! He had died that sinners might have life. Now he ascended back into heaven. Now all heaven is witnessing the opening of Christ’s heavenly priestly ministry as the administrator of the covenant of salvation.
The sealed scroll has the same meaning and significance as the Covenant Book in the enthronement ceremony of Israelite Kings. It deals with the law and prophetic messages and covenantal stipulations. Jesus, as the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, is seen here as the end-time administrator, who, on the basis of the saving work of His death, and priestly ministry now receives the authority to administer the specifications of the covenant upon His church.
This is the New Covenant being set in place. Here is revealed the sanctuary of the new covenant. This sanctuary is in heaven, not on earth. The chapter begins with the statement that a door in heaven was open. The heavenly sanctuary for salvation can begin it’s work for the atoning blood has been shed. There were the 24 elders and the seven lamps and bowls of incense. And there is God Himself, holding the scroll. The scroll that must be given to someone who is worthy to administer the covenant promises and provisions outlined therein.
Because of His death and resurrection, Christ is the ONLY ONE worthy to administer that covenant. Why did John start crying when he thought no one could open that book. Why was it so important? Was it just curiosity frustrated? No-- that book is the book of the covenant which contains the full provisions, commands, stipulations, and blessings in the plan of salvation.
Zech. 6:12,13 says “Behold the Man, whose name is the Branch: He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne.”
“Christ's ascension to heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised blessing. For this they were to wait before they entered upon their work. When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people.” AA 38
This is a momentous event in the history of salvation! This is the New Covenant inaugurated, with Christ as the ONLY ONE worthy to administer it because HE has proved the all important atoning blood that makes the covenant possible.
But now you may ask--
WHAT DO THE SEALS HAVE TO DO WITH THIS-- how do they relate?
First of all we must clarify one thing, The seals are not the scroll, and the scroll is not the seals. Did that make sense? Revelation tells us that the book or scroll was written on both sides and that it was sealed with seven seals. So the seals are not the book itself.
What are the seals?
Let me take you back to Israel and the covenant again.
You will remember of course that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. You know the story. How God delivered them with a mighty hand from slavery. You remember the Passover when they put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost and were spared the destruction that fell on those who did not have the blood. You remember how they were delivered from the bondage of Egyptian slavery.
Fifty days later, they were at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Where God made a covenant with them as a nation. Giving them the sanctuary service depicting the gospel, and giving them His commandments.
Now listen closely to these words in Deut. 29:12
Moses tells them:“You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers.Did you catch it.
The people are entering into a covenant relationship with God.
Whose covenant is it?
It is a covenant the LORD is making with them.
And what is being done to confirm that the people have agreed to the covenant?
Sealing it! What does that mean?
Well let’s just see what took place.
We see Moses gathering all the people together. (Deut. 1:1-3)
First he recounted all the blessings of God, how He had delivered them. He goes over their history. He repeats the commandments and instructions from the God, including the sanctuary services which we understand was, the gospel type of forgiveness through the blood of a lamb, typifying Christ. He pronounced the blessings to those who served God, and the curses for serving other gods.
Then the whole congregation entered into a covenant to keep all the commandments of God. So that the transaction might be as effectual as possible, this covenant was written out, and those who were sincere affixed their names and seals. This was a legal transaction. In those days it was usually the officials, or leaders who had seals. So it would seem that they took the scroll containing all the information of the covenant, and each leader came forward and put his seal on that scroll. They were affirming that God was their God and they were His people. (Deut. 29:10-15)
Now let’s look at the New Covenant.
When did Christ die?
Christ died on the Passover--- providing the blood of deliverance!
When did the Holy Spirit descend upon His followers?
On the day of Pentecost-- 50 days after Christ’s death!
Do you see the parallels?
Christ's ascension to heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised blessing. For this they were to wait before they entered upon their work.
They waited-- and yes-- 50 days after Christ’s resurrection the Holy spirit came.
Up in the heavenly sanctuary, Christ was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, to establish the new covenant--
To write God’s law upon the hearts and minds of God’s people and enable them to live according to God’s ways.
Here the new covenant is established
Here is where the wonderful provisions of “Christ’s blood” and the “holy Spirit’s power” ore offered to the church and it’s people.
But the seals deal with the way people relate to that covenant.
How will people relate to this marvellous covenant?
As the years roll on, each generation of peoples add their “seal” or claim-- to the covenant. So the Christian era add their seals to the book claiming to be “members of God’s covenant”.
The truth of Christ’s death and resurrection-- the truth that Christ has provided for the salvation for all moves forward--- on the white horse-- proclaiming the victory of the cross---
BUT the covenant people of the new covenant forsake the covenant:
Daniel 11:22-32 tells the story of the “new covenant people”.
Daniel 11 says:
These “new covenant people’s hearts are against the holy covenant…they have indignation against the holy covenant …they shall forsake the holy covenant…they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength and take away Christ’s daily” they will do wickedly against the covenant…”
And so we watch as the seals are lifted and it is revealed how people claiming to be God’s people are relating to the covenant. You’ve all heard the evangelists tell the story of the white horse, the red horse, the black horse, the deathly pale horse. We don’t have to go into all the details and we don’t have time for all the symbols. But the main idea shows the Christian church, on a whole, didn’t do any better with the new covenant then the Israelites did with the old covenant. Those horses show the steady decline and turning the true gospel into deadly falsehoods,
Indeed, by the time the fifth seal comes along, we see that there are many martyrs condemned by the so called Christian church. In the fifth seal those martyred, where killed in the “name of Christ”, by the very ones claiming to be living under God’s covenant. Their blood is cry out symbolically, “How long O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge? What is portrayed here is that the four horses of Christianity have galloped across the world under the new covenant, supposedly carrying the gospel news of Christ’s new covenant with mankind to the world, BUT they have ended up reversing truth and are actually “judging “ Christ’s true followers as worthy of death!
The unspoken question arises--
Lord, you have the power and authority-- why don’t you DO SOMETHING? How can you allow truth to come to such a low level? Why don’t you overturn the evil judgment of those who judge in your name. When will YOU COMMENCE judgment and “avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Notice what happens next! “Then a white robe was given to each of them.” Judgment had NOT been going on before this. But NOW their cases are investigated. They are judged and vindicated. The sentences of the carnal, earthly courts are reversed. They are declared righteous! But they are still dead. For “it was said that they should rest a little longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”
When Christ comes to execute judgment they will no longer be told to "rest a little longer"!
This shows that the investigative judgment began after the 1260 year tribulation, after the four horsemen have ridden forth. The blood of those martyred during the ages past is crying for judgment. When God's judgment commences in heaven (see Daniel 7)God's saints are vindicated, but this is not the second coming.
The fifth seal demonstrated the need for an investigative judgment. Who were the true Christians-- who are the true Christians. Both the persecuted and the persecutors had affixed their seal to the covenant claiming to be God’s people. But who are really God’s people?
The sixth seal reveals the time period beginning with the signs which signalled that the time of investigative judgment was near (Earthquake in 1755, dark day in 1880, star shower in 1833, signs which will be more graphically repeated just before the execution of judgment).
The sixth seal brings people face to face with the reality of the verdict of that investigative judgment and what it will mean to them when the sentences will be executed. It shows the sad picture of the condemned trying to escape the “wrath of the Lamb”. The cry goes forth “The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Yet in chapter 7 we see the great mercy of our Priest. For before that great day HE will place HIS seal on those who “have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. It is only through the blood of Christ that any of us can stand in that judgment.
For it is only in Christ’s righteousness that we can be accounted as worthy of heaven. In other words-- without the covenant, NONE will stand--no not one--
Revelation 14 also tells us those who escape the punishment of the wicked are they that KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and have the FAITH OF JESUS. That is the covenant relationship.
Being redeemed by the blood of the lamb, having faith in Jesus and keeping His commandments. Walking in His ways. For He is the merciful and just HIGH PRIEST who calls all to enter into a covenant relationship with HIM!
ARE WE IN A COVENANT RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST?
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you....that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. (Duet. 4:2,1)
The NT covenant book--Revelation has these words:
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city and from the things which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly....Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." (Rev. 22:18-19,14)
Another Study on Revelation 4 and 5 in the Light of Isreal's Festivals