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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Revelation 5

 

 

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Verse 1

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

In , [ epi (Greek #1909)] - '(lying) upon the right hand,' etc.: upon His open right hand lay the book. On God's part there was no withholding of His future purposes in the book: the obstacle to unsealing it is stated, Revelation 5:3 (Alford).

Book - rather, as the ancient form of books, and the writing on the back side require, 'a roll.' The writing on the back implies completeness, so that nothing needs to be added (Revelation 22:18). The roll, 'the title deed of man's inheritance' (DeBurgh), redeemed by Christ (cf. Jeremiah 32:11-14), contains the successive steps by which He shall recover from its usurper possession of the kingdom already 'purchased' for Himself and His elect. However, no portion the roll is unfolded and read; simply the seals are successively opened; giving final access to its contents as a perfect whole, when the events symbolized by the seals shall have been past; then Ephesians 3:10 shall receive its complete accomplishment, and the Lamb reveal God's providential plans in redemption in their manifold beauties: a theme for all-satisfying and adoring praise through eternity. The opening of the seals means the successive steps by which God in Christ clears the way for the final reading of the book at the visible setting up of Christ's kingdom. Compare, at the grand consummation, Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:19. None is worthy to do so except the Lamb; for He alone has redeemed man's forfeited inheritance, of which the book is the title deed. The question (Revelation 5:2) is not, Who should reveal the destinies of the Church (this any inspired prophet might do)? but, Who has the WORTH to give man a new title to his lost inheritance? (DeBurgh.)

Sealed with seven seals , [ katesfragismenon (Greek #2696)] - 'sealed up,' etc. Seven (divided into four, the worldwide number, and three, the divine) often recurs, expressing completeness. Thus, the seven seals, representing all power given to the Lamb; the seven trumpets, by which the world-kingdoms are overthrown, and the Lamb's kingdom ushered in; and the seven vials, by which the beast's kingdom is destroyed.


Verse 2

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

Strong - (Psalms 103:20.) His voice penetrated heaven, earth, and hades (Revelation 10:1-3).


Verse 3

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

No man - `no one.' Not merely no man, but also no one of all created beings.

In earth - `upon the earth.'

Under the earth - namely, in hades.

Look thereon - upon the contents, so as to read them.


Verse 4

And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

And to read. B, 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Origen, Cyprian, Hilary omit. To read would be awkward between 'to open the book' and "to look thereon." John, having been promised a revelation of "things which must be hereafter," weeps at his earnest desire being frustrated. He is a pattern to all, as an eager, teachable learner of the Apocalypse.


Verse 5

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. One of - `one from among.' The 'elder' is, according to some (in Lyra), Matthew. With this accords the description, "the Lion, which is of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David:" the royal, David-descended, lion-aspect of Christ being prominent in Matthew, whence the lion among the fourfold cherubim is assigned to him. Gerhard thought Jacob meant, and that he was one of those who rose with Christ and ascended to heaven (Matthew 27:52-53): cf. his words, "Judah is a LION'S whelp," etc. The elders round God's throne know better than John, still in the flesh, Christ's far-reaching power.

Root of David - (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10.) Not mealy 'a sucker from David's ancient root' (as Alford), but also Himself the root and origin of David. Compare these two brought together, Matthew 22:42-45. Hence, He is not merely Son of David, but also David (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25). He is at once "the branch" and "the root" of David, David's Son and David's Lord, the Lamb slain, therefore the Lion of Juda: about to reign over Israel, and thence over the whole earth.

Prevailed - `conquered' absolutely, as Revelation 3:21 : His past victory over all the powers of darkness entitles Him to open the book.

To open. So A, Vulgate, Coptic, Origen; but B, 'he that openeth' - i:e., whose office is to open.


Verse 6

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

And I beheld, and, lo. So Vulgate; but A omits "And I beheld;" B, Cyprian, etc., omit "and, lo."

In the midst of the throne - not on the throne (cf. Revelation 5:7), but in the midst of the company (Revelation 4:4) "round about the throne."

Lamb , [ arnion (Greek #721)] - in Revelation exclusively, except John 21:15 : expressing endearment; the endearing relation which Christ bears to us: the consequence of His previous relation as the sacrificial Lamb [ amnos (Greek #286)]. So our relation to Him: He the precious Lamb, we His dear lambs, one with Him. [Bengel thinks arnion (Greek #721) implies, taking the lead of the flock. Another object of form arnion, the Lamb, is to mark the contrast to therion, the Beast. Elsewhere amnos (Greek #286) is found, the paschal, sacrificial Lamb (Isaiah 53:7; Septuagint; John 1:29; John 1:36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19).] Christ is "the Lion," yet "the Lamb" (Revelation 5:5): combining opposites.

As it had been slain - bearing marks of His past death-wounds: standing, though bearing the marks of one slain. In the midst of heavenly glory, Christ crucified is still prominent.

Seven horns - i:e., perfect might; "seven," perfection; "horns," might. In contrast to the horns of the anti-Christian world-powers, (Daniel 7:7; Daniel 7:20; Daniel 8:3; Zechariah 1:19; Zechariah 1:21; Revelation 17:3, etc.) Seven eyes ... the seven Spirits ... sent forth. So 'Aleph (') [ apestalmena (Greek #649)]; A [ apestalmenoi (Greek #649)]; but B [ apostellomena (Greek #649)], 'being sent forth.' As the seven lamps before the throne represent the Spirit immanent in the God-head, so the seven eyes of the Lamb represent the same sevenfold Spirit profluent from the incarnate Redeemer in worldwide energy. "Sent forth" [ apestalmenoi (Greek #649)] is akin to apostles, whose labours for Christ throughout the world flowed from His Spirit's impulse. If the present be read, those labours are regarded as continually going on unto the end. "Eyes" symbolize His all-watchful providence for His Church, and against her foes (Zechariah 4:10).


Verse 7

And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

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 presents, 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, and dwells on intermediate events only in their typical relation to, and representation of, the end.


Verse 8

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

Had taken - `took.'

Fell down before the Lamb - who shares worship and the throne with the Father.

Harps - A B, Syriac, Coptic, read, 'a harp:' a guitar, played with the hand or a quill.

Vials - `bowls:' censers.

Odours - `incense.'

Prayers of saints - as the angel offers them (Revelation 8:3), with incense (cf. Psalms 141:2): not the least sanction to Rome's dogma of 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 (Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9). Their own employment is praise (whence they all have harps): ours is prayer.


Verse 9

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Sung - `sing:' their blessed occupation continually. The theme redemption is ever new, suggesting fresh thoughts of praise, embodied in "new song."

Us to God. So 'Aleph (') B, Coptic, Vulgate, Cyprian. But A omits "us."

Out of - the present election-church gathered out of the world; distinguished from the peoples gathered to Christ as subjects of a worldwide conversion of all nations.

Kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Four marks worldwide extension: the four quarters of the world. [ Fulees (Greek #5443), "kindred," 'tribe.'] This and [ laos (Greek #2992)] "people" are usually restricted to Israel: "tongue" and "nation" to the Gentiles (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 11:9; Revelation 13:7, the oldest reading; Revelation 14:6), marking the election-church gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In Revelation 10:11, for 'tribes,' we find among the four "kings:" in Revelation 17:15, "multitudes."


Verse 10

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Made us - A B 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, read 'them.' The Hebrew, third person for the first, has a graphic relation to the redeemed, also a more modest sound than us, priests (Bengel).

Unto our God. So B 'Aleph ('); but A omits.

Kings. So B but A 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Coptic, Cyprian, 'a kingdom.' 'Aleph (') reads also 'a priesthood' for priests. They who cast their crowns before the throne do not call themselves kings before the great King (Revelation 4:10-11); though their priestly access has such dignity, that their reigning on earth cannot exceed it. So in Revelation 20:6, they are not called "kings" (Bengel).

We shall reign on the earth - a new feature added to Revelation 1:6. 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Coptic, read, 'they shall reign.' A B read, 'they reign;' which Alford explains 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 is asserted, even in the midst of persecution.' But even 'they reign' is the prophetic 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 (notes, Revelation 20:2-6). So far from reigning on the earth now, they are "made as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things" (1 Corinthians 4:8-13). In Revelation 11:15; Revelation 11:18, the locality and time of the kingdom are marked. Kelly translates, 'reign over the earth' [ epi (Greek #1909) tees (Greek #3588) gees (Greek #1093)]; justified by Septuagint (Judges 9:8; Matthew 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily remain on the earth. The English version is grammatically possible (Revelation 3:10). 'The elders were meek (Matthew 5:5); but the flock of the meek is much larger' (Bengel).


Verse 11

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

I beheld - the angels forming the outer circle; the Church, the object of redemption, the inner circle newest the throne. The heavenly hosts around gaze with intense adoration at this crowning of God's love, wisdom, and power.

Ten thousand times ten thousand - `myriads of myriads.'


Verse 12

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

To receive (the) power. The remaining six (the whole being seven, implying perfection) are under the one Greek article, before "power," as they form one complete aggregate belonging to God and His coequal, the Lamb. Compare Revelation 7:12, where each of all seven has the article.

Riches - 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).


Verse 13

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

The universal chorus of creation, the outermost circles as well as the inner (of saints and angels), winds up the doxology. The full accomplishment is to be when Christ takes His great power and reigns visibly.

Every creature - (Psalms 103:22.)

Under the earth - the departed spirits in Hades.

Such as are. So B, Vulgate; but A 'Aleph (') omit.

In the sea , [ epi (Greek #1909)] - 'upon the sea:' the sea animals regarded as on the surface (Alford). 'Aleph (') manuscript has: [ ta (Greek #3588) en (Greek #1722) tee (Greek #3588) thalassee (Greek #2281)], 'those in the sea.'

All that are in them. So A 'Aleph ('), 'all (things)' [ panta (Greek #3956)]. B, Vulgate, 'I heard all [masculine: pantas (Greek #3956)] saying' [ legontas (Greek #3004)]: the harmonious concert of all in the four quarters of the universe.

Blessing ... - `the blessing, the honour, and the glory, and the might to the ages of the ages.' The fourfold ascription indicates worldwide universality.


Verse 14

And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

Said. So A 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac, read; but B, Coptic, read [ legonta (Greek #3004)], '(I heard) saying.'

Amen. So A but B, 'the (accustomed) Amen.' As in Revelation 4:11, the 24 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 A B 'Aleph (').

Him that liveth forever and ever. Omitted in A B C 'Aleph ('); inserted from Revelation 4:9. There, where the thanksgiving is expressed, the words are appropriate; here less so, as their worship is silent prostration. "Worshipped" (God and the Lamb). So Revelation 11:1, "worship" absolutely.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-5.html. 1871-8.

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