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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Revelation 5

 

 

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Verse 1

Revelation 5:1. And I saw — (This is a continuation of the same vision;) in the right hand of him that sat on the throne — The emblem of his all-ruling power; a book — Which he held openly, in order to give it to him that was worthy and able to make known its contents. Future events are supposed by St. John, as well as by Daniel, and other prophets, in a beautiful figure, to be registered in a book for the greater certainty of them. This book is here represented as being in the right hand of God, to signify that, as he alone directs the affairs of futurity, so he alone is able to reveal them. It is hardly needful (after what was observed on Revelation 4:2) to say that there is not in heaven any real book, of parchment or paper, or that Christ does not really stand there, in the shape of a lion or of a lamb. Neither is there on earth any monstrous beast with seven heads and ten horns. But as there is upon earth something which, in its kind, answers to such a representation; so there are in heaven divine counsels and transactions answerable to these figurative expressions. Writings serve to inform us of distant and of future things. And hence things which are yet to come, are figuratively said to be written in God’s book. The book here spoken of, through the abundance of the matter, is said to be written within and without, or on the back side — As the roll of the book which was spread before Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:10) was written within and without. This book was also sealed, to signify that the counsels of God are inscrutable; and to be sealed with seven seals, referring to so many signal periods of prophecy. In short, we should consider this book as being such a one as the ancients used, whose books were not like ours, but volumes, or long pieces of parchment, rolled upon a stick, as we frequently roll silks. Such was this volume or roll, consisting of seven volumes all sealed. Not as if the apostle saw all the seals at once, there being seven volumes wrapped up one within another, each of which was sealed: so that upon opening and unrolling the first, the contents only of one volume were laid open, and the second appeared to be sealed up till that was opened, and so on to the seventh. All the contents of this book are included and exhibited in the following chapters. The seals, successively opened, show the state of the church under the heathen Roman emperors, and predict the judgments coming on that empire, (which had so cruelly persecuted the Christians,) and the events whereby it should be brought to the profession of Christianity. By the trumpets, contained under the seventh seal, the kingdoms of this world are shaken, that they may at length become the kingdom of Christ. By the vials, (under the seventh trumpet,) the power of the beast, and whatsoever is connected with it, is broken. This sum of all we should have continually before our eyes. It was all represented to St. John, at Patmos, in one day, by way of vision; but the accomplishment of it extends from that time throughout all ages.


Verse 2-3

Revelation 5:2-3. And I saw a strong angel, &c. — I beheld in my vision an angel of chief power, as attendant upon the heavenly court, making proclamation, with a strong audible voice, to every creature; a proclamation too great for a man to make, and yet not becoming the Lamb himself, and therefore made by an angel, and one of uncommon eminence. Who is worthy to open the book, &c. — Is any being able and fit to reveal and make known the counsels of God registered in this book, and to bring them into execution? And no man — Greek, ουδεις, no one, no creature; no, not the Virgin Mary herself; in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth — That is, none in the universe; for these are the three great regions into which the whole creation is divided; was able to open the book — To declare the counsels of God; neither to look thereon — So as to understand any part of it.


Verse 4-5

Revelation 5:4-5. And I wept much — Being greatly affected with the thought that no being whatsoever was to be found able to understand, reveal, and accomplish the divine counsels, fearing they would still remain concealed from the church. This weeping of the apostle sprang from greatness of mind. The tenderness of heart which he always had, appeared more clearly now he was out of his own power. The Revelation was not written without tears: neither without tears will it be understood. How far are they from the temper of St. John, who require after any thing rather than after the contents of this book! Yea, who applaud their own clemency, if they excuse those that do inquire into them! And one of the elders — One of the four and twenty mentioned chap. Revelation 4:4; saith unto me, Weep not — He relieved my fears, and comforted me, saying, Behold, the Lion, &c. — Though no one is yet found able to reveal and execute these purposes of God, respecting future events, there is one person described in ancient prophecy as the Lion of the tribe of Juda — The victorious Prince, who is, like a lion, able to tear his enemies in pieces; the Root of David — As God, the root and source of David’s family Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; hath prevailed to open the book — Hath overcome all obstructions, and obtained the honour and the power to disclose the divine counsels to the church, and ensure their accomplishment.


Verse 6-7

Revelation 5:6-7. And I beheld, and lo, &c. — Upon this I observed, in my vision, a new representation; in, or on, the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures — Within the circle which they made round him; and in the midst of the elders — Making a larger circle round him and them; stood a Lamb — αρνιον εστηκος, a lamb standing. He no more falls on his face; the days of his weakness and mourning are ended! He is now in a posture of readiness to execute all his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; as it had been slain — For sacrifice; bearing the recent marks of slaughter, in the wounds and blood on its throat and breast. And because he was slain, he was now worthy to open the book, (Revelation 5:9,) to the joy of his own people and the terror of his enemies. Nor was this lamb only represented as a sacrifice; but having seven horns and seven eyes — Emblematical of perfect power and perfect knowledge, whereby he is able to accomplish what is contained in the book; namely, by his almighty and all-wise Spirit, even to reveal future events respecting the world and the church, and to accomplish all God’s designs of providence and grace. To these seven horns and seven eyes answer the seven seals and the seven-fold song of praise, Revelation 5:12. In Zechariah, likewise, (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10,) mention is made of the seven eyes of the Lord, which go forth over all the earth. Which (both the horns and the eyes) are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth — They represent that divine wisdom and energy which operate everywhere; or that effectual working of the Spirit of God, which goes through the whole creation: and that in the natural as well as spiritual world. For could mere matter act or think? Could it gravitate or attract? Just as much as it could think or speak. And he came — Here we have an instance of the accomplishment of the words recorded Psalms 2:8, Ask of me and I will give thee, &c: and took the book, &c. — It is one state of exaltation that reaches from our Lord’s ascension to his coming in glory, yet this state admits of various degrees. At his ascension, angels, and principalities, and powers, were subjected to him. Ten days after he received from the Father, and sent, the Holy Ghost. And now he took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne — Who gave it to him as a signal of his delivering to him all power in heaven and earth. He received it in token of his being both able and willing to fulfil all that was written therein.


Verses 8-10

Revelation 5:8-10. And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures fell down — Now is homage done to the Lamb by the whole Christian Church and all its members, represented by these four living creatures. These, together with the elders, make the beginning, and afterward (Revelation 5:14) the conclusion. They are together surrounded with a multitude of angels, (Revelation 5:11,) and together sing the new song, as they had before praised God together, Revelation 4:8, &c. Having every one — That is, each of the elders, not of the living creatures; harps — κιθαραν, a harp, which was one of the chief instruments of thanksgiving in the temple service; a fit emblem of the melody of their hearts; and golden vials — Cups or censers; full of odours — Or incense, producing odours; which are the prayers of the saints — That is, fit representations of them. As if the apostle had said, As I understood these elders to be the representatives of the church, I apprehended that, in allusion to the incense offered in the temple, while the people were praying, this circumstance had a reference to prayer, and was intended to show how acceptable it is to God, when it proceeds from a holy and an upright heart. And they sung — Or, rather, sing, αδουσιν, a new song — One which neither they nor any others had sung before; saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, &c. — That is, to undertake the work of revealing and accomplishing the designs of God’s providence toward the world, and of his grace toward his church; for thou wast slain — A sacrifice of propitiation; and by thy blood hast redeemed us to God — So the living creatures also were of the number of the redeemed; but this does not so much refer to the act of redemption, which was long before, as to the fruit of it; namely, deliverance from the guilt and power of sin; the tyranny of Satan; the curse of the law; and the wrath of a justly offended God, whose servants and favourites they were now become. Out of every kindred; &c. — That is, out of all mankind. And hast made us, who are thus redeemed, unto our God kings and priests — Consecrated to his service, and honoured with the liberty of a near approach to his presence, to offer up prayers and praises acceptable in his sight; and we shall reign on the earth — The Christian cause shall prevail through all ages, while those happy persons who have passed courageously through their trials on earth shall, at the appointed season, share the honours of thy triumphant kingdom in the new heavens and new earth.


Verses 11-14

Revelation 5:11-14. And I beheld — The many angels; and heard the voice — And the number of them; round about the throne — Of the Divine Majesty; and the living creatures and the elders — So forming the third circle. It is remarkable that men are represented, through the whole vision, as nearer to God than any of the angels. And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands — An innumerable multitude. And yet these are but a part of the holy angels; afterward, (Revelation 7:11,) St. John heard them all. Saying, with a loud voice — With united ardour and harmony, there not being a cold and languid mind in the whole assembly; Worthy is the Lamb — The elders said, Revelation 5:9, Worthy art thou; being more nearly allied to him, and addressing him with greater familiarity than the angels; to receive power, &c. — The seven-fold praise answers the seven seals, of which the four former represent all visible, the latter all invisible things made subject to the Lamb. And every creature — In the whole universe; which is in heaven — on the earth — under the earth — in the sea — “As the inhabitants of the watery elements are necessarily mute, we are not to understand by this that they seemed to grow vocal in the praises of Christ, upon this occasion, but rather that heaven, earth, and sea are used to signify that all nature, in its different ways, concurred in the praise; that is, the whole constitution of it contributed to furnish out matter of praise; just as inanimate, as well as rational creatures, are called upon to praise God, in several of the Psalms, especially in Psalms 148.” — Doddridge. And all that are in them — In every varied form of nature; heard I saying, Blessing, &c. — This praise, from all creatures, begins before the opening of the first seal; but it continues from that time to eternity, according to the capacity of each. His enemies must acknowledge his glory, but those in heaven say, Blessed be God and the Lamb. And the four living creatures said, Amen — To this hymn, to testify their hearty concurrence. And the four and twenty elders, at the same time, fell down before the throne, and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever — Acknowledging him to be infinitely superior to all those services which the most exalted powers of created nature are capable of rendering. This royal manifesto is, as it were, a proclamation, showing how Christ fulfils all things, and every knee bows to him, not only on earth, but also in heaven, and under the earth. This book exhausts all things, (1 Corinthians 15:27-28,) and is suitable to a heart enlarged as the sand of the sea. It inspires the attentive and intelligent reader with such a magnanimity, that he accounts nothing in this world great; no, not the whole frame of visible nature, compared to the immense greatness of what he is here called to behold; yea, and in part to inherit. St. John has in view, through the whole of the following vision, what he has been now describing; namely, the four living creatures, the elders, the angels, and all creatures, looking together at the opening of the seven seals.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/revelation-5.html. 1857.

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