REVELATION: DIVISION III
THE PICTURE OF THINGS HEREAFTER, 4:1-5:14
Front Matter Book Intro
Detailed Outline Index
B. The Book of Destiny is Sealed: The Future of the World, 5:1-4
(5:1-4) Introduction: there should be no break between chapters four and five. The same scene of God's throne is being covered. God is seen sitting upon His throne and holding a sealed book in His right hand. Note again, the book is sealed. It has never been opened. The importance of the sealed book cannot be over-emphasized. The book is the key to understanding the rest of Revelation. The book or scroll is the official document of the last days of human history, the climactic events of the universe. The world's future is about to be unfolded before one's very eyes (cp. Rev. 1:1) (Note: a person might want to combine this outline and the next if he has time in his teaching session.)
1. The book itself (v.1).
2. The search for one worthy to open the Book of Destiny (v.2-4).
1. (5:1) Destiny, Book of: there is the book itself.
1. John sees God holding the book in the palm of His right hand. The picture is this: God is extending the book outward, poised to hand it to someone if a person can be found worthy enough to open it. The fact that God Himself is holding the book in His right hand shows us several things:
God is the supreme Authority over the end of the world. He governs all the events of history both upon the earth and throughout the universe. God holds the future in His hands, the destiny of the world.
"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever" (1 Tim. 1:17).
"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6).
"The lord shall reign for ever and ever" (Exodus 15:18).
God is ready to carry out and execute the events. He is ready for the end time to begin, ready for the end of the world to be launched. It is simply a matter of finding someone worthy to carry out and oversee the events for God.
2. The book is written on both the front and back of the pages. The book was actually a roll or a scroll. Remember: there were no printing presses or books as we know them back then. They wrote on small sheets of paper (papyrus) about ten inches by eight inches, close to the size of our eleven by eight and one half inch sheets. If a large amount of writing was to be done, they joined or taped sheets together. When the writing was completed, they rolled the sheets up and tied some thread or ribbon around the roll. This is what is meant by the book being sealed. They seldom wrote on the back side, for whatever was written on the back side would be exposed when the last sheet was rolled up and tied.
Again, note that the book or scroll held by God was written on both the front and back. This shows us...
that the events of the end time are many and that it will take some time, a great deal of time, for all of them to take place.
that God is going to reveal a great deal about the end time to man. When? As soon as He can find someone worthy enough to open the book.
3. The book is sealed with seven seals. This shows us three things.
a. The seven seals show us that the book is the last will and testament of God. In the Roman world a man's will had to be witnessed by seven persons, and each attached his own personal seal to one of the threads of the document. The will could be opened only when the recipient came to claim the will. This book in God's right hand may mean that it is His last will for the earth; the book contains what He wills for those who have rejected and cursed Him and what He wills for those who have accepted and worshipped Him. The book is His last will and testament for the consummation of the world.
b. The seven seals show us that the book is large; it has a great deal of material in it. It has so much that seven seals are required to bind and hold it together. Again, this means...
that there are a lot of events that are included in the end time; that many events are to take place.
that God is going to reveal much to man as soon as someone is found worthy enough to open this book.
c. The seven seals also show us the secrecy of the book. God has sealed the book with seven seals in order to keep the events of the end time from being known. They are not to be known by man until God Himself is ready to reveal them. Man can never figure out the events, not by his own intellect.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).
2. (5:2-4) Destiny, Book of: there is the search for one worthy to open the book. Note four significant facts.
1. John saw a strong angel an angel so strong that he could shout throughout the universe and be heard by all in both heaven and earth. He shouted out the most penetrating question of human history: "Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" This shows us how supreme and majestic God really is. He is so far above all creatures even the creatures in heaven as well as those on earth that a search has to be conducted to find someone who is worthy to approach Him and carry out His will.
2. The search fails. There just is no being any place that is worthy to approach God and to execute His will throughout the universe.
a. No person in heaven was found worthy to open the book. Imagine! The glorious angels, the seraphim and cherubim, the four living creatures privileged to surround the throne of God, the twenty four elders, all the redeemed no being in heaven was worthy enough to approach God and open the book.
b. No person on earth was found worthy to open the book: no statesman, no educator, no scientist, no minister, no prophet, no astrologer, no magician.
c. No person under the earth: no person from among the dead as great as some have been in past history no person from the past was found worthy to open the book.
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:7-8).
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Cor. 4:4).
"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephes. 4:18).
3. The search fails, and John breaks down and cries bitterly. Why? There were two reasons. Because John saw something that he had never seen before:
John saw the greatness of God, the supreme majesty and glory of God, how far superior God is to all living creatures.
There was not a single person or being any place that could be found worthy to approach God and open the book and carry out the events of human history. All creatures were too short of God's glory all creatures, both of heaven and earth were so far short of God's glory and majesty they just could not approach God, not apart from His glorious mercy and grace. As stated, John saw as never before the greatness of God, the glory and majesty, the dominion and power of God, how high and how far superior God is to all creatures. God broke John in humility and with a sense of his own unworthiness. John wept bitterly at his own unworthiness before God who is so high and lifted up.
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew 3:11).
"The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed" (Matthew 8:8).
"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38).
"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Luke 3:8).
"And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants....And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:19, 21).
"And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all"
But John wept for another reason as well: he was not going to be able to see the future of the world, the events of the end time. The promise had been made to him that he would see these things which "must be hereafter," but now he was not going to see them. And why? Because there was no person worthy to approach God and open the book. He and all the other beings of heaven and earth were too far short of God to understand and execute the will of God for the end time.
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).
"Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7).
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12).
4. The reason no person is worthy to open this book is because of its contents. The book is the destiny of the world what is to happen in the end time at the end of the world. Rev. 6-21 show this clearly. It is the book of redemption (cp. Luke 21:28; Romans 8:22-23; Ephes. 1:13-14). God's people are to be redeemed and the evil and corrupt people are to be overthrown and judged. Human history and all matter throughout the universe all that is corrupt, deteriorating, decaying, and dying is to be overthrown and consumed. And a new earth and a new heaven are to be created. All the redeemed are to inherit and inhabit the new earth and heavens. This is both the fate and the redemption of the world. This is history written before it happens. Therefore, the person who opens this book must be a person who can grasp exactly what the book is saying, and then he must be able to carry out God's will and execute the events. The person must have the very mind and power of God. Who can execute and rule over the events of the end time? There is only one such Person: the Son of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ and Christ alone is worthy to open the book. This is the book of redemption, the book of historical optimism. The same book is referred to in Daniel 12:8-9 and Ezekiel 2:9-10. The message of this book is now prophesied as the seals are broken and the events of the last days are seen. Note the size and thickness of this particular scroll. It takes seven seals to bind it. All that is in the rest of Revelation is contained therein.
Note also, the book is in God's hand. History is in God's hand. He is in charge. He has a plan, a purpose for the universe. Who is worthy to carry out this plan, this purpose? Who can rule and reign over these events? The idea is that Christ and Christ alone is worthy.
Thought 1. Note that the same book is referred to by Ezekiel and Daniel.
"And when I looked, behold, a hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; and he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mounring, and woe" (Ezekiel 2:9-10).
"And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:8-9).
Thought 2. Note three significant lessons for us.
1) The book is in God's hand. He is in charge of human history, and He has a definite plan and purpose for the universe. The fear of the bomb, an unstable economy, the environment, the drugs, the criminal society, and the other massive problems of the world seem to have no answer. But God does: He is going to bring history to a climax and establish righteousness throughout all the earth. The believer is to be the most optimistic person on earth.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
"Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).
2) We should all bow in utter humility and dependency upon God, for He is higher above us than even the outer reaches of space. His glory is set above the heavens. We are nothing before Him; consequently, we should live in the reverence and fear and worship of Him, praising Him day and night while we have breath.
"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker" (Psalm 95:6).
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth" (Psalm 96:9).
"Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10).
"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
"Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14:7).
"Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren, the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God"
3) We should pay close attention to the book of Revelation, study and live in its message. It is the revelation of God's will for the end time, the events that are yet to take place throughout the universe.
"[The mystery of God] which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Ephes. 3:5).
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Peter 2:2-3).
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).