Don’t have to look too far in current news to find reports on issues of authority: does governor have authority to remove mural from public building (Maine)? Does legislature have authority to reduce collective bargaining rights of state workers (Wisconsin)? Does a world body or coalition of nations have authority to intervene in affairs of a sovereign nation (UN/Libya)? Does national leader have authority to govern against the will of the governed (Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, etc.)?
Not to be confused with power which deals with issues of strength, and authority which addresses right or fitness to do something. Countless number of people have power to write checks on your checking account – only you have authority to do so, only you have the right credentials. Credentials based on who you are, what you have done – account owner, one who has earned income to deposit in account, have right to make withdrawals.
John’s vision of heavenly throne room (cosmic control center) continues: the Father still on the throne, seen holding a scroll. Issue of monumental importance brought to attention: who has credentials to open scroll? Until this point only two of three Persons have been visible; third Person, the Son has not come to John’s attention. This about to change, with far-reaching consequences.
A. the scroll v.1
The one seated on the throne holding a scroll – focus changes from the one on the throne and worship given him. Remember how scope of Revelation was introduced: Write what you have seen: the things that are and those that will take place after this. (Rev. 1:19) John has seen things which are; things to come have yet to be revealed.
Two things of immediate significance about the scroll:
written inside and outside – whatever subject matter is addressed in scroll, it is treated comprehensively. No room for additional writing, no details missing, to be added later, to be left for another to cover. “There were no blanks in it, — no vacant spaces that would admit of new entries.” MacDuff
sealed with 7 seals – whatever time period is addressed is treated completely. It not only leaves out no details pertinent to era being considered, it includes all details from beginning to end. Just what we would expect of revelation from God: comprehensive and complete, providing all that reader needs to know to live pleasing to God.
Is it possible to determine subject and time period? Scroll in first century often either official document or last will and testament. Held by one seated on throne indicates its official purpose would be record and reveal his will for time period covered. As last will and testament, would be opened upon death of testator and cover period from his death onward. That is, scroll represents will and plan of God for period from Christ’s first advent until second advent.
B. the problem v.2-4
Prophet Daniel was told to take words he had been given and seal them up in a scroll “until the time of the end” (Dan 12:4-9). That time had come, strong angel calls for someone who is worthy, who has the proper credentials, to break the seals. Sealing was necessary to allow time for progress of revelation; difficult enough for us to understand God’s plan after the fact, would have been impossible for OT saints to do so. Proper grasp of redemptive plan for present age requires knowledge of person and work of Lord Jesus.
Summons fromstrongangel heard throughout creation: who is worthy? Who is qualified to open the scroll, reveal what it contains? In a sense, redemptive plan of God on hold until scroll is opened; saints are “in the dark”, unable to discern what they are to expect until further revelation is given. Contents of scroll describe nature of covenant relationship between God and man between John’s day and the end. Tells about blessings in store for God’s people and their coming inheritance; also describes judgments that will be meted out on those who have broken the covenant and remain under God’s curse.
Since promises contained in scroll relate to God’s promise of a redeemed people and their inheritance, must be a human who opens it. One who has ability to earn inheritance by fulfilling God’s demands of his people. No angel is qualified because they do not participate in redemption; no human can earn the qualifications or naturally possesses them. Thus no one appears who is worthy.
C. the solutionv .5-7
God in his infinite wisdom and knowledge had provided a solution from before time. He sent the God-Man who would earn the eternal inheritance on behalf of his people by satisfying God’s demands for obedience under the law, paying the penalty for sin by his substitutionary death on Calvary, gaining the victory over death by his resurrection. The Lord Jesus’ death activated his testament (Heb. 9:16-17); his resurrection and exaltation gave him final credentials necessary to unseal the document. He alone in all of creation is worthy for the task at hand.
John does not leave us to wonder how the Lord Jesus is qualified, worthy to open the seals. It is the Lion, promised Messiah from tribe of Judah, who has prevailed. By John’s day he had already conquered, won the victory over Satan; all that is left is carrying out the sentence of doom on defeated enemy. Described in terms the world could never comprehend, the Lion conquered by being the Lamb who died.
It wasn’t just that he died, it was his death and following resurrection that gave him victory. It wasn’t just any death, it was the offense of the cross which purchased his credentials – “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33) By horns and eyes it is apparent the Lamb has the power and wisdom necessary to carry out terms of testament found in scroll – establish his Kingdom in all the earth.
D. the response v.8-10
When it becomes clear one worthy to open scroll truly is present and is going to act, response is immediate and profound worship. Representatives of all creation as well as the church offer praise (harps) and prayer (incense) to the Lamb. Is it any wonder that all creation praises the conquering Lion-Lamb since means of redemption and restoration has been made plain?
Praise to the Lamb for his worthiness, his work of redemption, scope of that work – people from the whole world have been redeemed – “Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”. Effects of his redemptive work actually experienced by the redeemed beginning in this life, extending to future. Hard to imagine depth of encouragement this portion of vision would have given to 1st century persecuted church. Same for 21st century church, especially when they understand this is not reserved in its entirety for a future time.
Pattern provided here for contemporary worship: harp – musical accompaniment; prayer; singing; praise. Focus on character and attributes of God, work and reign of Christ, response and responsibility of saints.
E. the significance v.11-14
The longer John watches worship in heaven’s sanctuary, the larger congregation becomes. Countless angels surround living creatures and elders; then, not just representatives of creation but every creature adds its voice to hymn of praise to God and to the Lamb. John’s vision spans the period from first to second coming, closing with a view of worship as it will be in the new creation.
Isaiah and Ezekiel and Daniel all were given visions of the throne but those visions were incomplete. Yes, Daniel saw the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man; he did not see the Lamb that was slain and the extent of his victory. Consequently, even though he heard he did not understand (Dan. 12:8) That degree of understanding was reserved for saints after Jesus’ resurrection; only then would the saints grasp the meaning of the new song.
Much of their joy comes from the confidence that, according to the contents of the scroll, God assuredly has a plan for the rest of this age and will assuredly bring it to pass. That plan encompasses complete redemption for all the saints; also includes righteous judgment for persistently and willfully rebellious. Both truths of vital importance to persecuted church: saints will persevere and overcome, their tormenters will be judged for their persecution of Christ through his church (Acts 9:4-5).
We pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. John’s vision assures us that our prayer will indeed by answered – his kingdom has been established, he is ruling over it; his will is presently being done in heaven, it will some day be done on earth in the same way. Regardless of how things might appear from our limited perspective, all creation is progressing toward that final day precisely according to God’s plan. For that we can add our praise along with the heavenly chorus to the Lamb who is worthy to receive our worship.