“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals, and I saw a might angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’” (Revelation 5:1-2, NIV).
In Revelation Chapters 4 and 5 John received a sneak-peek into the heavenly throne room of God prior to viewing the apocalyptic events he will describe in Chapters 6-20.
Chapter 4 established that redemption is the grand master plan of God for the universe. Chapter 5 revealed the Worthy Redeemer, the One who consummates the redemption master plan.
Chapter 4 declared the worthiness of God for conceiving the great redemption plan. Chapter 5 proclaimed the worthiness of the Redeemer for accomplishing the great redemption plan!
After seeing God sitting on a throne continuously worshiped by twenty-four elders and four living creatures who surrounded the throne, John noticed that God was holding a scroll sealed with seven seals and with writing on both sides (inside and outside).
The symbolism here is fairly straightforward. The double-sided scroll represents the title deed to the inhabited world with the legal, signed title written and sealed on the inside and the abstract or description of the document written on the outside.
The seven seals signify the absolute inviolability of the scroll. Only the ones who had their seals engraved on a document were allowed to open it. And, the seals had to be broken before the contents of the scroll could be revealed.
The seven-sealed scroll establishes God’s intention to reclaim the world as the final act in his redemptive purpose. And, it becomes apparent that God’s redemptive efforts will include not only the final redemption of His people but also the judgment and overthrow of evil, specifically, the Devil or Satan, who has been in control of the world since the Fall in Genesis 3.
If we stand by this interpretation that the seven-sealed scroll represents the title deed to the world, then the opening of the seven seals represents precursors to the end of the world. God intends to reclaim a world which has been infiltrated by evil and the final stage of this reclamation will come with the climactic events described in Revelation 6-20.
Because it was a double-sided scroll with its description on the outside, John likely understood what the scroll contained. He was, therefore, deeply saddened as it seemed to him that no one had the supreme qualifications to execute it (vs. 3-4).
Then, one of the elders worshiping at the throne told John that there was One who was worthy to open the scroll.
What’s interesting here is what establishes the supreme qualifications of the One who is worthy. First, He’s described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. Of course, we know that these are prophetic titles for the Jewish Messiah. But who shows up to open the scroll is not a Lion King but rather a Slaughtered Lamb!
Jesus Christ, identified as the Old Testament Ancient of Days in Chapter 1, is now represented in Chapter 5 as the Wounded Warrior who has procured salvation for all humans through the cross, death and resurrection. Because of His unique qualification as the God/Man “that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, NIV), only Jesus has the redemptive ability to open the seals that will herald the consummation of the world and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Finally, we hear again the worship coming from the living creatures and elders, this time proclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb to open the scroll. Each of the living creatures and the elders have “a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” ( vs. 8). Harps are frequently associated with worship in the Old Testament, and the incense represents the prayers of New Testament believers.
Taken together, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders hold in their possession before the throne God all that was ever prophesied in the Old Testament and all that New Testament believers ever prayed for—all about to come to pass.
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, NIV)