Revelation 5 – Seal and Scroll, Harp and Bowl

Read Revelation 5

Of all the things that we see throughout the book of Revelation, the events of chapter 5 may feel the most familiar.  Images of “the lamb that was slain” and references to the “Root of David” are common references to Jesus.  The reference to the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” is also a somewhat familiar reference, dating back all the way to Jacob’s blessing on Judah in Genesis 49.

The scroll that has writing on both sides would be reminiscent of the giving of the law; God wrote on both sides of the tablets of stone that Moses brought down the mountain.  Ezekiel saw a similar scroll in one of his visions; that scroll contained words of lament and woe.  We are not told the contents of this scroll, only that it is seven times sealed.

There is a great deal of reference to the number seven throughout Scripture.  It is the number of God, the number of perfection, and the number of completion.  God created the world in seven days; there are always seven lampstands which represent God’s presence.  The seven seals on the scroll are possibly a reference to the perfection of God’s Word.  Perhaps one of the more confusing references, though, when it comes to the number seven, is that of the “seven spirits of God.”

As I am unfamiliar with this reference, I have done a bit of research.  There seem to be some mixed thoughts on what this is a reference to.  In Isaiah 11, the prophet references the “Spirit of the Lord” which will be on the prophesied Messiah.  Including the reference to the “Spirit of the Lord”, there are also the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  Together these could reflect the “seven spirits of God” that we see many times in the book of Revelation.

Others have referenced the seven gifts of the Spirit that Paul references in Romans 12:6-8.  He writes,

 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

There have also been some references to these seven Spirits being a special class of heavenly being.  Scripture references the Archangels, the most powerful of heavenly beings next to God.  In the canonical books of the Bible, we meet two such Archangels, Gabriel, the messenger of God, and Michael, who leads the armies of heaven.  In the book of Enoch, a non-canonical text which is referenced by the book of Jude, the Archangels  Raphael (also mentioned in the book of Tobit), Uriel, Raguel), Remiel, and Sariel are mentioned.  I guess it bears mentioning here that Lucifer, also known as Satan, the devil, is thought to have once been an Archangel, but fell victim to pride, according to tradition, and was cast out of heaven.  That said, and 8th Archangel does cast a bit of doubt on the “Seven Spirits” = Archangels idea.

One other probable explanation for the “seven Spirits of God” reference is that it is simply pointing to the perfect work of God and the perfect ministry of God the Holy Spirit.  While this may not be quite as entertaining an explanation, it certainly is a probable one that would fall in line with the symbolism of Revelation.  Perhaps it’s a combination of several of these ideas.  What do you think?

One other thing that bears mentioning in chapter 5: a challenge goes out for someone worthy to open the scroll.  The search encompasses heaven, earth, and under the earth, a common phrase in Scripture that references the universal nature of the challenge.  John makes it very clear here that there is no one anywhere, at any time that is worthy to open the scroll… except the Lamb that was slain.

The praise and worship the erupts when the Lamb comes forward is also universal in nature, bringing wonderful imagery of the whole of humanity and all creation joining in.  For many, this is evidence of the mandate of the Great Commission being fulfilled and of the universality and unity of the Body of Christ, the Church, as she joins with all creation and the heavenly beings (10,000 x 10,000 = 100,000,000 angels) worshipping the Lord.  This is truly an image of worship without boundary, something we can take our cue from as we think about worship in our churches today.  Their only concern was to worship the Lamb.  Is that our only concern in worship?

4 thoughts on “Revelation 5 – Seal and Scroll, Harp and Bowl

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