The Great Paradox

Revelation 5

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2022

Today, we come to an amazing chapter in Revelation.  It is one of the great chapters in the Bible.  This chapter is the foundation for the the Book of Revelation.  The rest of the book of Revelation is built on what happens in this chapter.

In this chapter, Jesus takes the scroll.  Then, he opens it and once he opens it, judgments fall on the earth and after the judgments take place, Jesus returns.  This chapter is important for three reasons.

One, this chapter is important because it contains one of the great mysteries of the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation contains many mysteries.  That is why so many people like to study it. Everyone wants to find out what they mean.  They want to know what the Mark of the Beast means.  What is the meaning of the number 666?

The latest foolishness is that the Mark of the Beast is the COVID vaccine and if you take the COVID vaccine for medical reasons that you have somehow taken the Mark of the Beast.  If you want to learn more about the Mark of the Beast, you need to come back in a few months when we study Revelation 13.

In Revelation 5, we have a mystery.  There is this cosmic throne scene and the one sitting on the throne has a book in His hand.  Seven times in the chapter it mentions this mysterious book.  What was in the book?  We will find out.

Two, this chapter is important because it is all about Jesus.  Revelation 4 was all about the Father receiving worship.  This chapter is all about the Son receiving worship.

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12 NIV).

Revelation 5 is proof that Jesus is God, because He is worshiped.  In Revelation 5, Jesus is worshipped, not by one or two people but by every creature in heaven and earth.

If Jesus was just a creature, this would be idolatry. When John tries to worship an angel, they say, “Don’t worship me.  Worship God.”  When Jesus is worshipped in heaven, He doesn’t say, “Don’t worship me.  Worship God instead.”

We get some new titles of Jesus in this chapter. So far in Revelation, Jesus has been called the Son of God and Son of Man.  He is called the faithful and true witness (Revelation 3:14), the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14).

He is called the First and the Last (Revelation 1:17).  He is called the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5).  He is called the ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5).

In this chapter, Jesus is given three new titles and they are all Jewish.  Jesus is called the lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  He is called the root of David (Revelation 5:5) and He is called the Lamb (Revelation 5:6).

The lion of the tribe of Judah goes back to Genesis.  The root of David goes back to Isaiah.  Jesus being our lamb goes back to the Book of Exodus.  Jesus is our Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Three, this chapter is important because it contains some of the greatest paradoxes in the Bible.  There are many paradoxes in the Bible.  A paradox is two contradictory statements that may be true.  It contains two things that seem to be contradictory but are not.

If I get closer to a fire, I get hot and yet if I climb on top of a mountain, I am closer to the Sun, and yet I am cold.  That is a paradox.  In the Bible, there are some paradoxes as well

The way to become first is to become last.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:30 NIV).

The way to get is to give.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 8:38 NIV)

The way to become great is to serve.  Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (Matthew 20:26-27 NIV).

The way to become strong is to become weak. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIV).

There are some amazing paradoxes in this chapter as well.  Jesus is called the root of David (Revelation 5:5).  The root comes before a planet.  Jesus is both the root and descendant of David.  He is both.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16 NIV).  Jesus came from David, but David came from Jesus.

We will see more incredible paradoxes as we go through this chapter.  Revelation four and five go together.  They begin the second part of the Book of Revelation.

The first part of the book deals with present events.  Revelation 1-3 deals with the present.  In Revelation 4, Jesus invites John up to heaven to see the future.  John is given a vision of the future.

The Gospels give us an eyewitness account of past events.  John gets to be an eyewitness to future events and writes them down but before he gets a vision of the future, he gets a vision of God.

John has an out-of-body experience.  His body stays on earth, but his spirit goes to heaven, and he is taken right into the throne room of God.  The word “throne” is one of the key words in Revelation 4.  It is used twelve times in the chapter.

John not only sees God on a throne, he sees some ugly looking angelic being with eyes all over their bodies and strange heads.  He sees twenty-four elders.  He does not see Jesus, but he does see a worship service taking place.

Mystery of the Scroll

Revelation is the same scene.  God is still on the throne but there is a pause in the worship.  John sees a book (βιβλίον) in God’s hand.  That is good news for booklovers.

There will be books in heaven but don’t worry.  There won’t be any trashy novels in heaven.  When we hear of a book, we think of hardback or a paperback.

They did not have any books like that in John’s day.  Their books were all scrolls.  John knew all about scrolls.  He had written some.  He wrote the Gospel of John on a scroll.  When you unrolled it, it was over twenty-three feet long.

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. (Revelation 5:1 NIV)

This was a heavenly book.  It was a long book.  It had a lot of writing in it on both sides.  You normally did not write on both sides of a papyrus. It was also sealed, not with one seal but with seven seals.

Important documents in John’s day, like wills, were sealed with wax.  This was a long book.  It was an important book.  It was a mysterious book.  It was secret.  No one can read it.  It was a sealed book.

What is the scroll?  Many believe this book is the title deed to the universe.  A deed is a piece of paper that gives you ownership to something (like a house).  The idea is that this scroll gave Jesus ownership to the because he bought it.  That is a very common view.

It seems to make sense on one level.  Satan is the god of this world.  He is in control of this world.  That is why so many bad things happen every day and Jesus is redeeming the world back.  He is taking control and it all starts with Jesus getting the title deed to planet earth.

It is true that one day the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of Christ (Revelation 11:15) but Jesus doesn’t need a piece of paper or a scroll to become the owner of the earth.  He already owns it.  He created it and He does not take the title deed away from Satan.  He takes it from God the Father.

It is better to see this as a book of destiny, a book of decrees or a book of judgment.  This was a judgment scroll.  It contains the judgments of God on earth.  How do we know?

When the seals are opened by Jesus in Revelation 6 one at a time, terrible judgment falls on the earth.  Each seal brings another judgment on the earth, but this scroll contains more than just Revelation 6.  Remember, this is a big book with a lot of words in it.

Many people believe that there are three separate series of judgments in the Book of Revelation.  After the seven seals come the seven trumpets.  After the seven trumpets come the seven bowls.

In reality, the seven trumpets are part of the seventh seal and the seven bowl judgments are part of the seventh trumpet judgment. What does this mean?  It means that they are all part of the seal judgments.  That means when the last seal judgment takes place, all of these judgments are over.

To understand what this book is, you have to go back to the Book of Ezekiel.  Sometimes, you might want to read Ezekiel 1-2.  Ezekiel and John had a lot in common.

Both wrote Scripture.  Both were captives.  John was on the Island of Patmos for his faith.  Ezekiel was sent to Babylon.  He was in exile in a pagan land.

Both had an amazing vision.  Both saw the heavens opened.  Both had a vision of God sitting on His throne.  Both saw brilliant light surrounding the throne and a rainbow.  Both saw angels.

Both saw the four living creatures.  Both saw the lion, ox, eagle and man heads.  Both also saw a scroll.  Both scrolls were written on both sides.  Ezekiel’s scroll was not sealed but notice what was in the scroll.

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On BOTH SIDES of it were written words of LAMENT and MOURNIING and WOE. (Ezekiel 2:9-11 NIV).

Some believe that this scroll in Revelation is broader than just judgment.  Some believe that it contains God’s plan for establishing His kingdom on earth.  It is God’s plan for bringing salvation and judgment to earth.[1]  That is a good possibility.

Angelic Proclamation

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. (Revelation 5:2-3 NIV)

The next scene in the chapter is a proclamation by an angel.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2 NIV)

I don’t know if there are any weak angels but this was a strong angel.  It was not a Pee Wee Herman Angel.  It gave a challenge to anyone in the universe who was able to take the book and break the seals.  Who was the right person for the job?  That was the question.

The angel did not ask, Who is WILLING to open the book?  Many might be willing to do it.  He did not ask who is STRONG ENOUGH to open it? It did not take much strength to remove the seals. He asks who is WORTHY to open it?

John’s Search

John went on a search looking for the person who could open this scroll.  He searched in heaven.  He searched on earth and under the earth.

It reminds me a little of Dante’s book, The Divine Comedy.  It is a three-volume book.  In that book, a guide takes Dante to heaven, hell and purgatory.

Here John goes to heaven, earth and under the earth.  We all know what heaven and earth refer to but what is under the earth?  This is most likely a reference to Sheol or Hades (the underworld).

These are the three parts to biblical cosmology (heaven, earth and hades).  I guess there is no life on other planets.  Every knee is one day going to bow to Jesus.  Every knee in heaven.  Every knee on earth and every knee under the earth will all bow to Jesus (Philippians 2:10).

John went on a hunt to find who was worthy to do this.  What he found was that no one was worthy.  That is a little shocking.

No one on earth could open it.  No celebrity could open it.  No movie star could do it.  No politician could one it.  No philosopher could open it.  Aristotle and Plato couldn’t open it.  No scientist could open it.  Einstein couldn’t do it.

No Christian could open it either.  The godliest saint could not open it.  Mother Theresa couldn’t open it.  The greatest apostle could not open it.  No apostle, no pastor or missionary could open it.  No martyr could open it.  Joan of Arc couldn’t open it.

No scholar could open it either and that includes biblical scholars.  No theologian could open it.  No seminary professor or eminent Bible teacher could open it.  People on earth are all sinful.

No angel could open it either and angels are sinless.  The greatest angel could not open it.  Gabriel could not open it.  His name means “strength.”

Michael the Archangel could not open it.  The Cherubim could not do it.  The Seraphim could not do it.  No demon in hell could open it either.  Satan could not open the seals.

John’s Response

I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside (Revelation 5:4 NIV).

There are two words used for weeping in the New Testament. One is used in John 11:35, where the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” That word (δακρύω) refers to “silent weeping”.  This word (κλαιω) refers to “uncontrollable sobbing” (Luke 19:41).

This old apostle had an emotional response.  He wept.  He not only wept; he wept loudly.  You have heard of the weeping prophet (Jeremiah). John was the weeping apostle.

John’s Rebuke

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.” (Revelation 5:5 NIV)

John was told to stop crying, because Jesus is worthy to open the book.  Later, John is going to write in Revelation that there is no crying in heaven.  Who told him that there was someone who could take the scroll?  Not the angels but the twenty-four elders.  The elders represent believers in heaven.

They told John that Jesus the lion of the tribe of Judah can open it.  This is where it gets interesting.  It leads to another paradox.

One of the elders told John that he would see a lion.  He expected to see a lion, but he saw a lamb instead.  In Greek, it is a baby lamb (ἀρνίον).  If I said, “look at that big cat over there” and you turned and saw a little dog, you might wonder about me.

A lion and lamb are completely opposite animals.  A lamb is a weak, innocent and harmless animal. It is completely submissive in suffering, even to the point of death.  It is silent when brought to the slaughter. It does not resist or even complain.

A lamb is a picture of weakness, but a lion is a picture of strength. Lions are built for strength. They like to fight and are good at it. They are killing machines. They are predators.

Lions are powerful and dangerous. Some of them weigh six hundred pounds and have sharp teeth and sharp claws.  Lions are kingly animals.  They are called “kings of the beasts.”  They are completely opposite animals but Jesus is both.

He is the Lion and the Lamb.  He is not a literal lamb.  He is not a literal lion. He does not have seven literal eyes.  He does not have seven literal horns.  These are all symbols. They are metaphors.  They are pictures.  They are images.

The lamb refers to the First Coming.  The lion refers to the Second Coming.  Jesus is both a crucified Lamb and a conquering Lion.  Why is this important?  If you do not see Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb, you do not have a full picture of who Jesus is.

Some only see Jesus was weak, passive and submissive.  He does not conquer by force.  He did not conquer the Romans by force.  Some Christians believe that Jesus was a pacifist.

According to them, Jesus had a message of nonviolence.  He taught people to love their enemies, forgive people, not resist evil people and to turn the other cheek when someone slaps you in the face.

The problem is that they have only read half of the Bible.  Many people do that today.  They have their favorite Bible verses.  They have their favorite topics and hobby horses.  They do not teach or preach the whole counsel of God.

I have seen this in many churches.  They are not balanced.  They emphasize part of the Bible.  They are really strong in some areas but do not talk about other areas at all.  How do you stay balanced?  Teach the whole Bible.

Revelation 5 presents a full picture of Jesus.  He is both the lion and the lamb.  In the First Coming, we saw him as the Lamb, offering a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  During the Second Coming, He will return riding a white horse as a Lion.

He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).  He will not return as Savior but as Ruler and Judge.  His robe will be dipped in the blood of His enemies (Revelation 19:13).

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center 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. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne (Revelation 5:6-7 NIV)

John was told not to worry that the lion from the Tribe of Judah has triumphed and is able to open the scroll, but the Lion does not open it.  The Lamb does.

The one who overcomes was not a ferocious lion, but a lamb.  It was not an ordinary lamb.  This lamb had seven horns, which represents strength, and it did not overcome by his life but by his death.  It overcame by being slaughtered.  If the lamb is butchered, how could it overcome anything?

When lambs are slaughtered, they fall over.  This lamb had its throat cut but it was standing at the center of the throne (Revelation 5:6).  This lamb did not just die but rose from the dead.  Why was the lamb worthy to take the scroll?

“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. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 NIV)

Jesus was worthy to do this because of what he did.  He earned the right to take this scroll by his actions.  He purchased people.  He redeemed people by his blood, and he made them a kingdom of priests.  Where does that idea and language come from?

It comes right out of the book of Exodus.  The Jews were in slavery for hundreds of years.  They were in slavery to Pharaoh. God redeemed the Jews out of slavery.  He redeemed them from the land of Egypt and made them a kingdom of priests.

In the Bible, this is a picture of salvation. It is an OT picture of the gospel.  You have terrible bondage and slavery.  You have blood atonement, and you have miraculous deliverance.

In fact, when the Jews went through the Red Sea, Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today” (Exodus 14:13 ESV).

There is another slavery that many people are in all over the world.  It is a slavery to sin.  It is a slavery to Satan, a greater Pharaoh.  It is a greater slavery than the Jews in Egypt faced.

Jesus redeemed us out of that slavery.  The Passover lamb died so that the firstborn son could live.  The lamb died in his place.  He died as a substitute.  Jesus was out substitute.  He died in our place.  He is our Passover Lamb.  He did not just redeem Jews from Egypt but people all over the world in every country.

An Explosion of Worship

Jesus walks over, takes the scroll out of the Father’s hand and, as soon as He does that, an explosion of worship breaks out in heaven.  Universal worship breaks out by all kinds of different beings in heaven.  All of heaven will publicly recognize Jesus’ work on earth as the Redeemer.

This worship builds.  If you do the math, it started in Revelation 4 with four angels (the four living creatures).  They worshipped the one on the throne and said “holy, holy, holy” day and night.  When they begin to worship, the twenty-four elders begin to worship.  Now, there are twenty-eight worshiping.

After Jesus took the scroll the father’s hand, an innumerable host of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, begin to worship.  In Revelation 4, twenty-eight beings were worshipping God.  In Revelation 5, millions of angels were worshipping with Jesus in the center.

They worshipped with musical instruments (harp) and with singing.  The choir keeps getting bigger and the doxology gets longer.  They are worshipping Him in a loud voice.  They are not whispering it.

By the end, all of creation is worshiping, “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them” (Revelation 5:13 NIV).

Life Lessons

1) Trust that God is in control

God rules the entire universe.  He is the one sitting on the throne of the universe.  He is the one in control.  He is in control of history.  He is in control of the future of our planet.  He is in control of our future as well.  Nothing takes God by surprise.  As one preacher said, He rules the world with his feet up.

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne (Psalm 47:8 NIV)

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19 NIV)

When the world looks like it is going crazy, it does not look like God is in control, but He is.  You say, “I thought Satan was running this world.”  He is but God is still in control.  He is still seated on his throne.

2) Worship Jesus passionately

There is no one like Him in all of the universe.  There is no one like him in heaven, on earth or in hell.  He is worthy of our worship and our praise.  He is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing.  He is worthy to receive our entire lives.  We can worship Him now.  One day, we will be in this choir in heaven when all creation worships Him.

3) Pray daily

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. (Revelation 5:7-8 NIV).

Prayers are symbolized by bowls of incense.  They go up as incense to God.  He likes it when we pray.  When prayers go up to God, it is like incense going up to God.  It is like perfume.

God wants us to pray to Him regularly.  The Bible says we have not because we ask not (James 4:2).  How many things do not have because we never asked.  God wants a relationship with His people.

4) Serve God in your divinely appointed role

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10 NIV).

Right now, we can function as priests.  Every believer is a priest.  In the OT, you had to be born into a particular tribe and family to be a priest.  If you were not born into the tribe of Levi and if you were not a descendant of the family of Aaron, you could not be a priest.

Now, believers are priests.  It does not matter who your ancestors were.  Every believer is a priest.  Priests in the OT offered sacrifices in the temple.  We can offer spiritual sacrifices to God (Hebrews 13:15).

In the future, we will reign on the earth, according to this chapter.  We are not just going to have some spiritual kingdom.  One day, we will reign on the earth in the Messianic Kingdom.


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