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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and RevelationNewell's Commentary

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Verses 1-14

The Slain Lamb Takes the Book of Judgment

(Read Revelation, Chapters 4 and 5, over and over. They are one passage. They contain the key to the rest of Revelation.)

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon. And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon: and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. And he came, and he hath taken it out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying,

Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they (shall) reign upon the earth.

And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a great voice,

Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying,

Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.

And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped.

Note these seven facts in chapter five:

1. The seven-sealed book: fully written, ready to be opened, close-sealed, indicating finality and privacy.

2. All creation's utter inability even to look upon this book.

3. John's overwhelming sorrow at apparent delay of God's longed-for kingdom.

4. The Lion of Judah declared to have "overcome" and be ready to open the book.

5. The slain Lamb revealed in the midst of the throne, with seven horns of perfect power, and seven eyes, "the seven Spirits of God," sent forth into earth's affairs in utter discernment.

6. His formal coming and taking the book from the hand of God. This is that taking over of governmental power by the Mediator which is the burden of Old Testament prophecy, (and of all our hearts!) and all creation's celebration thereof! (Revelation 5:7-14)

7. Worship now founded not merely upon creation, but upon redemption. "Worthy art thou … for thou wast slain" (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:12).

The second character in which our Lord is seen in the book of Revelation is that of the Slain Lamb, now invested and exalted, opening the seven-sealed book written with the divine order of events, by which Christ is put in actual possession and active exercise of the kingdom denied Him when He was on earth before.

These two chapters (4 and 5) naturally become the most majestic and overwhelming of any portion of Scripture up to this point. They reveal that tremendous event toward which God the Father has been bending all events of the history of creation-the investiture of Jesus (who obeyed Him even unto death, yea, the death of the cross), with that inheritance of glory, honor, dominion and power which brings "every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them" to acknowledge aloud His place and majesty (Revelation 5:13).

If we have followed the "spirit of prophecy" from the beginning of Scripture until this book of Revelation, and have found that Jesus is its constant testimony, we are prepared for the blessed scene of chapter 5. Because all creation has utterly failed to take over the business of carrying out the due judgment of God written in the sealed book, we hail with great delight this public (and that an absolutely universally public!) handing over of this book of judgment, to our Lord as the Lamb that was slain.

"A Lamb … as though it had been slain." Do we wonder that the One who was so devoted to the will of God as to die in obedience to it,-so committed to holiness and righteousness as to be slain rather than submit to sin, should now be deemed worthy to take this book of judgment and open its seals? This thought of the wounds of Christ, blessed comfort to His own, (John 20:20) will strike stark terror to His enemies! For the slain Lamb cannot compromise with the iniquity they love!

Why are harps and bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8), connected with the Lamb's taking the book of the inheritance? Did the prayers of the saints bring about this scene? Would our Lord have commanded His disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," if (a) God had not meant to bring this to pass, and (b) if the prayers of the saints were not a vital factor in bringing about this glorious result? Follow through the book of Revelation whatever is said about the prayers of the saints. Some day it will be found that every soul that has been saved, every blessing any saint has received, every thwarting of Satan, every victory for God, as well as this final consummation of our Lord's taking over the book of the kingdom-all have been brought about through the saints' prayers, inspired of God, as essential elements in His great, all-comprehensive purpose.

How, in Revelation 5:9, is the worth of the Lamb brought out by His having been slain? We ask this again. Just why should our Lord's obeying the Father even unto death make Him the One to take over from the hand of His God and Father all judgment? Please study this. Do not pass it lightly.

John "wept much" when no one was found worthy even to look on this book. [Note that the preposition in the first verse is "upon" (epi) and not in, the right hand. The book was not grasped by God, but offered for any one to take who could.]

It was as if sin and Satan were to go on forever in the usurped control of affairs in this world. It was as if it must still be written:

Right forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne.

The apostle was broken-hearted about this. The Greek indicates that he burst into tears of sorrow. The same word is used of our Lord in His weeping over Jerusalem. It would be well if we had the intense longing of the apostle John that the kingdom of God should come, that His will should be done on earth as it is in heaven; it would be well if even the thought of the continuation of evil should give us deepest anguish!

It is to be feared that oft our knowledge that our Lord is to return to earth to "straighten things out" has been the occasion of the temptation to a kind of spiritual patience with iniquity, that is hardening and deadening. We need to "vex our righteous souls" as Lot did, as we see their "lawless deeds." And we need to long and pray for the great denouement of Revelation 5:1-14!

It should be noted that the four living beings and the four and twenty elders have each a harp (verse 8) which indicates glad celebration of victory; and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. That is, it is the prayers of the saints of all ages that have brought about this taking over of the kingdom at last by God. "Thy kingdom come" has been the heart cry of every believer since Abel the righteous. Our Lord taught the disciples to pray this prayer with the express desire that His Father's will should be done on this earth as it is in heaven. It is the prayers of the saints which in divine providence bring about this "returning of judgment to righteousness."

Another fact, in Revelation 5:9 : they sing this new kingdom song to the Lamb: "For thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth." Notice that these beings are not in ecstasy over their own salvation (the word "us" in Revelation 5:9, in the old version, should not be there) but their rejoicing is that redeemed men have been made a kingdom and priests and are to reign upon the earth. It is not the escape to heaven by redemption that is being rejoiced over here, but the near-at-hand establishment upon earth of a reign of God by means of these redeemed ones, that gives joy before the throne of God. We should keep this in mind throughout The Revelation. God is at last setting His hand to interfere with the earthly sinful order of things to the extent of completely setting aside earthly authority, after overturning it by dire judgments: then causing certain saints to reign with Christ on earth with a divine absolutism for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-15), and then bringing in final judgment and the disappearance from the scene of the present heavens and earth. The objective of God is the new heavens and new earth wherein righteousness will be at home (Greek of 2 Peter 3:13). This should be our objective in thought, hope and prayer.

At last the angels are admitted into the circle (where the Church has ever been) of worshippers and celebrators of the Lamb that had been slain! What were the angels hitherto? (Hebrews 1:14). In Revelation 5:11-12 we find Hebrews 1:6 fulfilled: "When he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, let all the angels of God worship him." This glorious advancement should be rejoiced in by us, for the angels have evermore been giving glad service in our behalf; and they have ever "desired to look into" the blessed things of grace connected with the gospel (1 Peter 1:12).

The number of the angels is stated as one hundred millions, to begin with, and then millions and millions! When they see the Lamb that they saw slain, (knowing that He was the Eternal Son of God) now take over the book of the kingdom, do you wonder that they say with a great voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain"? Have you spoken thus about the Lamb of God? No other theme is really worth shouting over!

When every created thing in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things that are in them say, "Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, unto the ages of the ages," all infidels will be included, and all "modernist" preacher-infidels, all rejecters of Christ, all your family-saved or unsaved, all your loved ones-saved or lost alike! No creature will be left out. This great universal confession will not be for salvation, but it will be the fulfilling of Philippians 2:9-11 : "Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name, which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."[Contrast this passage carefully with that glorious prospect of the new creation recorded in Colossians 1:20, where "the things under the earth" are significantly omitted!]

Why was the book sealed? Why was it written within and on the back? Remember, it requires lawful authority to break a seal. You seal a private communication to your friend when you have written it and are ready to deliver it.

Each seal as it is broken by the Lamb will have a revelation from God therein; a revelation of His divine purpose toward Christ and through Christ. It certainly will be a blessed day when one after another we see Him break the seals of the written book and bring to pass what is written under each seal.

Bibliographical Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Revelation 5". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wnc/revelation-5.html. 1938.
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