Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5
Stacks Image 5
I just want to remind you that we are looking at how John pulled from the context of knowledge of his day and the knowledge of Old Testament Scripture to describe what he was seeing in his letter to the seven churches of Asia minor about hope so that we can see how to understand the text for our hope in our day (How to Study Revelation). New Testament authors would pull from cultural contexts in order to make a point (Apocrypha).

There are many claims that are made about scrolls in the first-century. Due to the writing instruments and the lambs skin written on, these scrolls were quite large. Scrolls were not unique to the Jewish people. These were the normal way of recording history and religious text along with any other transfer of information. It's said that a scroll with writing on each side would be referring to the greatness of a king that was so great you couldn't fit it on one side. Much of this is speculation.

One thing that is not speculation is the reference to worthiness. Looking at the following picture of the synagogue of Sardis, one of the seven churches Revelation is written to, we see the opening on the left of the door. This is where the Moses seat would have sat. The right side of the door is where the Torah closet would have sat. When they excavated the ruins, they found a plaque that sat above the Moses seat that read,
"Only he who is worth, take, open, read"
Stacks Image 9
The statement made by John would have rang out in the minds of the readers of this letter. Every scroll had a wax seal placed across the opening so that only the proper person, in the presence of witnesses, could open the scroll and the audience of Revelation would have been familiar with this idea.

The references to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Root of David are intentional references to Messiah from Hebrew Scriptures. They are intended to speak to the reader about their situation. In Genesis 49, Judah's father, Jacob, blesses Judah on his deathbed, stating that Judah is like a "…lion's whelp", or lions cub. This symbol would go on to represent the House of Judah throughout history.

John could not find anyone worthy but one, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. This statement would be a play on the minds of the readers back to the book of Exodus when the lambs were slain and the blood placed on the door post. The slain lamb had become the symbol of revolution, calling them back to their deliverance. This would be a wonderful recall of the readers who were in the depths of persecution by the Roman Empire and hope given to them of their deliverance.

When not being able to find one worthy to open the scroll, John refers to an elder knowing one worthy. This draws the attention back to Exodus of the twenty-four elders that have to examine the Passover lamb to make sure it was worthy (Exodus 12:1-6).

John also refers to the prayers of God's people which seem to be taken from Psalm:

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2

There's a song that will continue to come up in Revelation, even if indirectly, and that is the song of Moses from Exodus 15. When the Israelites found themselves safe on the other side of the Red Sea, they danced along to the song of Moses.

In Revelation 5, we have a NEW song. John stated a NEW song but the references around the Exodus and a song brings the people of the churches of Asia Minor back to the time that God rescued Israel from their slave masters, their tormentors, and they sang of God's deliverance. This new song is a new song of hope for the people in God's deliverance for them from their persecution.

The entire chapter of Revelation 5 is about worthiness draped in a context of flying figures with many wings and circling the throne. This reaches back to looking at Isaiah 6, communicating the message of hope to these persecuted people.