Weekly Bible Study – 2024 Apr 25 – Revelation 5:1-4

Let me say that I expect this study to be a little shorter because of the way I grouped the major portions of Chapter 5.  I did it because this is the way it makes the most sense to me.  I hope you will see this as well as we deal with the chapter as a whole.

Last time, we considered that this was a kind of heavenly cantata, with songs being sung in worship to the creator for who He is and what He has done.  This is the very next act, which takes place sequentially and immediately after the last scene.  Most theologians, and I am one, consider chapters 4 and 5 as a contiguous set of events.  One of the sisters here came up afterwards and remarked how our Bible study was such a great worship time.  Initially, that struck me as odd until I remembered a few seconds later that everything we do is a form of worship.  This evening continues that theme, though without another movement in our cantata per se.  This is not a pause, but the entrance to the second act, and it is specifically about who is worthy to sit on the throne of the earth.

There have been many pretenders to that throne throughout history.  The biggest of these is of course Lucifer, that great Satan, the accuser of the saints.  He stole the throne of earth with lies and lust and was thrown out of heaven (then and later will be thrown down for the rest of eternity) for his efforts.  He convinced a third of the angels to go with him.  Then he inspired many sinful men to attempt it throughout history.  Starting with Nimrod, with many stops along the way with men like Nebuchadnezzar (who I don’t think he got to keep), Alexander the Great (who was successful but died young of fever), Caesar (or a number of them), Herod (who in an attempt to eliminate the Saviour as a child killed all of the children in His hometown), through Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol-Pot, down to the present day Klaus Schwab of the WEF.  All of these men want to dominate the earth and rule it at everyone else’s expense. 

Yet even with that list of what I believe would now be called “threat actors,” all of the created earth does call out for One who is worthy to sit on that throne.  This is the story of the search for that worthy One.  Those of you who have been here for a while or have been a Christian for any length of time already know that this is our Lord Jesus Christ, and we eagerly wait for that day.  That search is over, though he has not yet taken up the throne, but sits with His Father on His throne.  Here is where His ascension to the throne is established by showing that there is no other person from among the heavenly host or from among men that is worthy to sit on that throne.

I broke the text into the following thought units:

KV2:  The Search for the King

2:  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”

1:  The Sealed Scroll of Ownership

2:  The Strong Angel’s Call for the Worthy

3:  Is No One Worthy to Sit on the Throne?

4:  The Great Weeping because No One Is Found

It has seemed for all the time that this was an open call, but I think we as the assembled church of God know that only our Lord Jesus Christ is the One worthy to sit on that throne.  He is the only One wise enough.  He is the only One that can bring peace to a splintered humanity.  He is the only One smart enough.  He is the only One who has the ability and will to execute the document because it will mean cleaning up the mess that we have made of it as we have attempted to look after our own affairs.  We have failed.  He will not, and we will see that as we read through this history of the future beyond this chapter.

KV2:  The Search for the King

2:  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”

I called it a “search” because I really didn’t know how else to put it.  It isn’t really a search, because the One who is Worthy is well known.  I suppose the Lord left it as a kind of competition to show that none from heaven (particularly the great pretender Lucifer) and none from among fallen man are able or worthy to sit on the throne and rule the earth.  There is always something that disqualifies us, and that something is SIN. 

Sin is a violation of God’s Holy Standard, which as Creator God, He is the only one that is allowed to set.  I say that because we are NOT like Him, and we do not have the right to stand in judgment of Him or His standard or will for us.  So often today we hear phrases like, “My god is a loving god and he loves me for who I am.  He realizes that He made a mistake and put me in the wrong body.”  Like that.  God does not make mistakes, Beloved.  He allows us to come to the end of ourselves so that we will turn to Him.  He really does love us.  He loves us so much that He gave His only Son to bear the punishment of OUR sins on a Roman cross 2000 years ago.  Or we hear how much of a psychopath God is for killing the whole world in a flood, or other such blasphemous pronunciations.  The fact is, God is completely righteous to kill all of us and send us to a very real place where people will suffer forever called hell.  The amazing part is that He saved any of us at all.  And yet He did and still does.

No, Beloved, we can look on our Lord and see God’s love, which is so unlike our love as humans.  Our “love” is fickle, His love is altruistic, and that is the simplest comparison I can make.  Ours is based solely on affection in the best case and lust and desire in the worst case.  His is based on His will and nature, Himself being love by definition.  Affection is involved but is not the defining factor for God.  It is this love for a planet that is reflected by this “search” for the One True King.  Let’s jump in and see what the Lord is saying through John.

1:  The Sealed Scroll of Ownership

Right here we have an introduction of a sealed scroll.  As with everything of any value in Scripture, there is some debate as to what it really is, so I will engage in an analysis of what I think it is.  Some have called this the title deed to the earth.  Whatever it really is, the Greek word is biblion, and that means “book” or “scroll.”  This must be a scroll because it has seals on it, seven of them.  There is some historical evidence of this.  They were common during the Roman occupation of Israel in those days and usually sealed a will, but it was expanded quickly to include all manner of legal documents from business deals to marriage contracts.  The closest thing in the Hebrew culture of the day and from more ancient times was that this was used to seal a title deed of ownership.  I suspect this is where they get the idea that it is the title deed to the earth that will convey all of the benefits to the One who will (must, legal prerequisite) meet the conditions.  A characteristic of these title deeds is that the main document that conveys the legal rights and the outside of the scroll had all the conditions that needed to be carried out to gain the rights.  Let’s get into the text.

1:  I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.

  • In the right hand of God, that scroll is contained.  It is written on the inside and the outside, and each privilege on the inside is sealed with a condition on the outside.  This would have been in a consecutive order, and in whatever order the creator of the document placed all the rights and responsibilities of the document.  There were seven seals, and if you have managed to locate a copy of F. W. Grant’s The Numerical Structure of the Scriptures, you will know that seven is the number of completion by God.  I’m not talking about something called “gematria,” which is math doing things in Scripture which is bunk, but the symbolism of how God’s perfect will is going to be brought to perfect completion.  The entire book is said to be written with a heptadic structure, that is in groups of sevens.  What does that mean?  It means that God is doing it for His own interests and benefit. 
  • I also should point out that John’s first words here are “I saw.”  Whatever we may think about the other details, John was not a writer of fiction; John was an eyewitness to the events that were unfolding right in front of Him.  He saw the Lord when He was here the first time, and He will get to see His return.  There is a kind of a nod at this in John 21, but I may be over-ironizing that, so we will leave that alone.

There it is, the sealed scroll.  This will contain all of the benefits and responsibilities of the throne of the earth.  And there is only One who will be able to carry it out to completion, but more about that when we get there.

2:  The Strong Angel’s Call for the Worthy

Remember that list of pretenders in my introduction this evening?  They all tried.  They all failed or will fail, although for a period of time, it may have looked like they were ruling the world or at least their part of it.  All of those who think they are capable, deserving, have the resources, and the needs of the entire earth in mind, really do not.  Over the course of my life, I have pursued the rulership of things, some of them legitimately and some of them not legitimately.  I am mostly ashamed and had all kinds of egg on my own face because of this.  A real leader really does have the good of the world in mind.  Everyone else is pursuing power, gain, or whatever else can be attached to the rule of [fill in the blank].  Ask this:  What makes someone worthy of this?  Is it power?  Is it ability?  Is it personality? Or is it something else entirely?

2:  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”

  • Some have tried to name the angel.  Some have said it is Michael.  Some have said Gabriel.  But no name is given, and so we do not know.  Don’t just make stuff up.  It’s like who wrote the book of Hebrews.  I stand with Origen:  “We do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews.”  Of course, he said it in Latin.
  • It is an open challenge, the angel’s question.  Are YOU worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?  No, you are NOT.  How do I know?  You are not a king, and even if you ARE a king, you are not the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  You are NOT the Lord Jesus Christ!  In fact, I suggest to you that if you DO think anyone but Him is worthy, you don’t really know Him at all.  But that can change…

You must understand that all people have sinned to some degree or other.  God is holy and will not look on or tolerate ANY sin.  Do you think you’re a good person?  We can test that with the “good person test.”  I have to tell you that sin is a violation of God’s holy standard.  He personally wrote the main 10 down for Moses – twice!  These commandments are known as the moral law.  If you really are a good person, you will know all the right answers.  Be honest, it’s the best for you.

[Shortened version as reminders for study points]

How many lies have you told in your life?

Have you ever stolen anything, even if it was small?

Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain?

Do you love your mother?

Would you ever use her name as a curse word?

Have you ever committed adultery?  [Redefine as Jesus in Matt 5]

Have you ever committed murder?  [Same redefinition according to Jesus]

And that’s only half of them.  [finish the gospel]

The point here is that you are not a good person.  There is only one person who has ever lived that kept all of the commandments, and then at the right time He gave up that perfect life to die on a Roman cross to perfectly pay the penalty for your sins, that is to perfectly atone for your sins, to perfectly justify you before God, and perfectly escape the perfect wrath of God.  That person is Jesus, the Christ of God.

3:  Is No One Worthy to Sit on the Throne?

Well, we just went through this.  No, there is NO ONE except Jesus who IS worthy.  See what the verse says.

3:  And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.


No one in heaven.  No angelic being, and at least one has tried.

No one on earth.  No person, living or dead, can pass muster.  Rom. 3:23.

No one under the earth.  No demon, no devil, no infernal being (thank God).

No one is worthy to open the scroll or even look into it.  No one at all.

Only Jesus, but we won’t get there in this study.

4:  The Great Weeping because No One Is Found

Review the last verse here, Beloved.  [read verse]

No infernal being, no earthly being, and no celestial being can be found who is worthy to open the scroll or break its seals.  No one.  No one can meet God’s standard.  Not even the angels.  Not even Michael or Gabriel.  Why not an angel?  Because they are not God.  Only God can rule the earth in righteousness.  That is God’s standard if you have not understood that by this point.  No man can be called righteous.  Romans 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”  That includes all of us, every man that ever lived.  There is NONE who is worthy.  This causes great sorrow to John.

4:  Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;

  • John here is not just made sorrowful for himself.  In at least my opinion, he is feeling the sorrow of the loss and frustration of the whole human race. 
  • Listen to Wallie Criswell on this:  “[John’s tears] represent the tears of all God’s people through all the centuries.  Those tears of the Apostle John are the tears of Adam and Eve driven out of the Garden of Eden, as they bowed over the first grave, as they watered the dust of the ground with their tears over the silent, still form of their son, Abel.  Those are the tears of the children of Israel in bondage as they cried unto God in their affliction and slavery.  They are the tears of God’s elect through the centuries as they cried unto heaven.  They are the sobs and tears that have been wrung from the heart and soul of God’s people as they looked on their silent dead, as they stand beside their open graves, as they experience in the trials and sufferings of life, heartaches and disappointments indescribable.  Such is the curse that sin has laid upon God’s beautiful creation; and this is the damnation of the hand of him who holds it, that usurper, that interloper, that intruder, that alien, that stranger, that dragon, that serpent, that Satan-devil.  “And I wept audibly,” for the failure to find a Redeemer meant that this earth in its curse is consigned forever to death.  It meant that death, sin, damnation, and hell should reign forever and ever and the sovereignty of God’s earth should remain forever in the hands of Satan.”
  • Beloved, that’s as serious as a heart attack.  Moreso even!  The redeemed mind cannot fathom that set of conditions!  It would mean that our God LOST the victory!  THAT is why John is weeping.

However, we are about to find out that John’s sorrow was, how shall we say it, premature.  Or perhaps we should say, completely and totally unnecessary.  There is One who is worthy and we shall see His identity NEXT study, where we will be looking at Rev. 5: 5-10.

That’s what I saw in this evening’s text.  I could have added verse 5 here, but there is a way I like to handle that text, and it is the reason for my division of the text.  You’ll see when we get there.

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