The Sealed Scroll

Revelation 5:1-5

Click on the reference above to read the whole passage. I will quote them as I explanint hem below. 

Context of the Chapter to the overall Section

This chapter is a part of the section which begins in 4:1 and ends in 8:1. The center of the scene in this chapter is the Lamb who takes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne. 

1 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. 

Asia Minor believers in the first century would have seen the scroll in the hand of God the Father as presenting all of history within the decree of God the Father.

I. The Lord judges his and our enemies and redeems us as His people. 

The Greek word for “scroll” is biblion (from which we derive the English word “Bible”). However, it was not a book like we use for reading literature in the 21st century. It was a papyrus roll. 

Scrolls are fine for reading from front to back in one sitting; however, the benefit of the codex is that a desired passage can be easily found anywhere with the “book format” of the codex. 

What the Scroll Means


Most likely, the above photograph is the kind of scroll that John writes about in Revelation 5.

The scroll in Rev. 5 has been the subject of much inquiry on the part of the commentators down through the years. It is the book containing the sentence of judgment on the foes of the faith—e.g. Ezekiel 2: 9-10 records “words of lament and mourning and woe” concerning the future judgment of the world. Daniel 12:9 says the future prophecies are sealed until the time of the end. 

The scroll in Revelation 5 is a “Last Will and Testament” — Each witness would set his personal seal on the will and only the executor could open it. It is the testament of God concerning the promise of the inheritance of his future kingdom. It is the book of God’s purposes and providence in behalf of His people. (see Ellicott, below)

By using allusions to the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel, John is saying these prophesies are beginning to be fulfilled. They will be completely fulfilled in the end at the return of Christ. 

God’s testament or will signifies that he rules the world for the benefit of his Church and all will result in God’s glory. In the right hand of the Father lies a scroll (cf. 6:14). It represents God’s eternal plan. His decree…is all-comprehensive.” (see Hendriksen, p. 89, below). 

We like first century believers should see God is Sovereign over all creation and His decree determines the circumstances in which we live. 


A depiction of Aeneas Carrying Anchises from Troy. He left all and carried his father on his back. His father carries the household gods who protect hearth and home. This is often cited as a picture of pietas — “duty”, “religious behavior”, “loyalty”, “devotion”, or “filial piety” (the English word “piety” derives from the Latin) — which was one of the chief virtues among the ancient Romans. (Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598; Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy; WikiMedia Commons). 

Rome Claimed its Empire Benefited the Conquered — Imperial Propaganda 

The decrees of the Emperor are the ultimate and must be carried out by all people in the Empire. 

This passage from Virgil’s Aeneid is Imperial spin at its best—

“Others [that is, Greeks] shall hammer forth more delicately a breathing likeness out of bronze, coax living faces from the marble, plead causes with more skill, plot with their gauge the movements in the sky and tell the rising of the constellations.

“But you, Roman, must remember that you have to guide the nations by your authority, for this is to be your skill, to graft tradition onto peace, to spare those who submit, but to crush those who resist.”

Every statue, money, public building would have cried out to the citizens of Asia Minor — “Though you are Ephesian by birth, you are Roman by the grace of the gods!” 

The truth was less appealing. The Romans enriched the elite class and forced common people to labor to grow wheat to be shipped back to Rome. They gave the masses Roman baths, theaters, and temples. “Eat, drink. and make merry, for tomorrow we die!” The epicurean mantra was for the masses under Roman rule. 

The Sealed Scroll’s Significance for us 

It is indeed beneficial for those being persecuted to see One seated on the Throne of the Cosmos in control of all things for one’s benefit and His glory! God alone is worthy of our prayers in time of need. We do not look to government under the control of elitists today who do the same as their Roman counterparts in the days of John the Apostle. 

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.

II. God’s people have the Risen, Ascended Christ as their champion to execute God’s degrees. 

The mention of these boundaries indicates that literally no one in the inhabited universe was worthy to open the scroll or to look upon its contents. He did not say that brute strength was enough. The requirement was moral fitness. 

4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.

John knew the significance of the scroll and its importance to redeemed humanity. The earth is the rightful place of mankind. God’s will has always been for redeemed man to live on a redeemed earth. If no one can open the scroll, the redemption cannot take place. John senses this and begins weeping profusely. 

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.”

In vs. 5 one of the elders commands him literally to “stop weeping.” He uses the negative particle plus the present imperative of klaiô to indicate that the weeping was in process and John was commanded to cease immediately.


“The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.” By referring these two titles to Jesus, the elder connects Jewish Messianic hopes to the Person and Work of Jesus. The image is taken from Gen. 49:9-10 — “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Note: the marginal reading = “until Shiloh comes”). 

root of david

The image of “the Root of David” is taken from Isaiah 11:1. The Messiah is said to be “a shoot from Jesse’s stem.” Jesus is said to have overcome (nikaô). This occurred at
Calvary. (cf. Col. 2:13-15) The result of Jesus’ overcoming is that he is worthy to open the
scroll and to look upon its contents. At last One has come to the fore who has the right, as well as the ability, to open the seven-sealed document. John has no reason to
continue his weeping any further.

More about Christ as God’s worthy executor and our champion next time. 


Ellicott, C. J. Ellicott’s Bible Commentary For English Readers, Volume 3 (Fort Collins, CO: Delmarva Publications.) Kindle Edition.

Faulkner, Neil. The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire. Accessed 25 October 2019 from

Hendriksen, W. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.) Kindle Edition.

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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