Thursday, January 11
In John’s lengthy encounter with heaven he witnesses a deed of ownership of the earth so top-security that only One has the right to hold and open it.
1 Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.
- What is described would have been recognised as a contract or deed in the first century. The legal details were written on the inside, and on the outside was a summary of the document. Hebrew title deeds required a minimum of three witnesses and three seals. Romans sealed their will seven times. This is a vision of the title deed to the earth!
4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
- The language and imagery in Revelation is charged with symbolism.
- The Root of David, a messianic title that recalls Isaiah 11:1-10
- The Lion of Judah, one of the earliest titles of the Messiah, which looks back to the tribe of Judah in Genesis 49:8-12. It speaks of his strength and fierce qualities, glimpsed during the gospel period of Jesus’ first time on earth, seen more strongly here.
- By contrast, The Lamb is a little pet lamb, bearing scars, which symbolises Jesus’ servant nature and sacrifical role, however not powerless – horns always symbolise power.
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
- Seven horns symbolises not just power, but complete power. The seven spirits of God, 4:5 the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.
7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
- Harps were used for praise, but also as accompaniment for prophecy. Here they symbolise the prophetic validity of all the prophets that had spoken out, which was about to be fulfilled.
- Incense was used in the OT twice-daily temple worship ritual where priests burned incense before the inner veil so that the smoke would carry into the Holy of Holies, symbolising the people’s prayers rising to Him.
- “The prayers of God’s people” – specifically, every prayer that the redeemed have ever prayed about final redemption.
9-10 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because You were slain,
and with Your blood
You purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom,
and priests to serve our God
and they will reign on the earth.”
- A new song is symbolic of praise for deliverance or redemption – here anticipating the glorious redemption that is about to begin.
- Only Christ, having been put to death sacrificially on behalf of sinners, is worthy to take the deed-scroll.
• For further study 1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Cor. 7:23, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Peter 1:18
All spiritually birthed believers share a dual role: to represent the order and just rule of God on the earth – His kingdom domain – and to both represent not-yet Christians to God in prayer, and to represent truth about the goodness and mercy of God to them. All share the kingdom rule, and all share the priestly role. The Jewish priesthood came to an end at the time of Jesus’ full and final sacrifice and the N.T. knows of no separate order of priesthood but rather the equippers of the saints who are called apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, Eph. 4:11-13. Those sent on an apostolic mission to establish a new work may combine these roles, but generally those who lead churches major in one or two and work with others, sometimes under a traditional title such as vicar or pastor.
This arresting glimpse into the praise of heaven and its order, which is outside time, is a awesome reminder of the majesty and authority of Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, a fearsome figure to the wicked, and the ultimate advocate for all those who have suffered injustice at their hands. At the same time it is a reminder that the affairs of earth and the affairs of heaven are not separate or disconnected. The body of believers on earth have responsibility together to prayerfully assert the kingdom of God. We also stand before almighty, holy God to intercede on behalf of those who do not yet know Him, whose sins are still being counted against them, and who are not yet seeing the spiritual dimension of their lives and taking responsibility for it.
We are told that the golden bowls contain the prayers of God’s people. Having read this passage, what kinds of prayers do you want to offer to fill these golden bowls and be brought before the Lamb?