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Song of Solomon
Revelation 5 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw.
, this phrase introduces a new incident in the vision. That which had been witnessed remained, but a further development now takes place.
. relates the revelation of the glory of the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2) surrounded by his Church and creation. The glory of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, is now set forth, since he is the only One worthy to receive and declare to his Church the mystery contained in the sealed book.
In the right hand
upon the right hand
). That is, lying upon the hand, as it was extended in the act of offering the book to any one who should be able to open and read it.
Of him that sat on the throne
. The Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2).
A book written within and on the back side
Ezekiel 2:9, 10
the "roll of a book" is "written within and without;" another of the numerous traces in the Revelation of the influence of the writings of this prophet upon the writer of the Apocalypse, though the picture of the Lamb, which follows in this chapter, imparts a new feature peculiar to St. John's vision. The roll was inscribed on both sides. Mention is made of such a roll by Pliny, JuVenal, Lucian, Martial, though Grotius connects
, "on the back," with
, "sealed," thus rendering, "written within and sealed on the back." The fulness of the book, and the guard of
seals which are opened in succession, denote completeness of revelation (on the number
as denoting full completion, see on Revelation 1:4). This book contained the whole of "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (
). It is noteworthy that - so far as we can gather from the Revelation - the book is never read. The breaking of each seal is accompanied by its own peculiar phenomena, which appear to indicate the nature of the contents. And the opening of the seventh seal especially is attended by a compound series of events; but nowhere are we explicitly informed of the contents of the book. Alford well remarks, "Not its contents, but the gradual steps of access to it, are represented by these visions." This view seems to be held also by Schleiermacher. Dusterdieck considers that the roll is never read, though the incidents attending the opening of each seal portray a portion of the contents. Wordsworth and Elliott understand that, as each seal is broken, a part of the roll is unrolled and its contents rendered visible; and these contents are symbolically set forth by the events which then take place. According to this view, the whole is a prophecy extending to the end of the world. The popular idea is that the roll was sealed along the edge with seven seals, all visible at the same time. If, as each seal was broken, a portion of the roll could be unfolded, of course only one seal - the outermost - could be visible. This is not, however, inconsistent with St. John's assertion that there were
seals - a fact which he might state from his knowledge gained by witnessing the opening of the seven in succession. The truth seems to lie midway between these views. We must remember that the Revelation was vouchsafed to the Church as an encouragement to her members to persevere under much suffering and tribulation, and as a support to their faith, lest they should succumb to the temptation of despair, and, unable to fathom the eternal purposes of God, should doubt his truth or his ability to aid them. But we are nowhere led to believe that it was the intention of God to reveal
things to man, even under the cloak of symbolism or allegory. There is much which must necessarily be withheld until after the end of all earthly things; and, just as no mortal can possibly know the "new name" (
), so no one on earth can receive perfect knowledge of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," which were symbolically contained in the book, and which, through the intervention of the Lamb, may one day be published; though a portion - sufficient for the time - was shadowed forth, at the opening of the seals; which portion, indeed, could never have been given to us except through the Lamb. We understand, therefore, that the book is symbolical of the
of the mysteries of God; that, as a whole, the contents of the book are not, nor indeed can be, revealed to us while on earth; but that some small but sufficient portion of these mysteries are made known to us by the power of Christ, who will eventually make all things clear hereafter, when we shall know even as we are known (
1 Corinthians 13:12
). The events attending the opening of the seals are therefore a prophecy of the relations of the Church and the world to the end of time. Many opinions have been held as to the antitype of the book. Victorinus thinks it to be the Old Testament, the meaning of which Christ was the first to unlock. And Bede and others consider that the writing within signified the New Testament, and that on the back, the Old. Todd and De Burgh think the roll denotes the office of our Lord, by virtue of which he will judge the world.
Sealed with seven seals
sealed down with seven seals
(Revised Version). Grotius connects
, "behind," with
, "sealed down," thus reading, "written within and sealed down on the back."
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And I saw
(see on ver. 1).
A strong angel
, rendered "mighty" in
. Possibly, as De Wette and others think, so called because of higher rank - De Lyra says Gabriel; but probably on account of the
, which sounded "as a lion roareth" (
). Proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
with a great voice.
, fit morally, as in
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon
no one in the heaven, or on the earth
(Revised Version). That is, no one in all creation - in heaven, or on earth, or in the place of departed spirits. No one was able "to look thereon" (that is, "to read therein") as a consequence of no one being fit to open the book.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much
burst into tears, and continued weeping. A
strong expression in the imperfect tense.
Because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereo
n. The words, "and to read? should be omitted. They are found in few manuscripts. The equivalent phrase follows, "neither to look thereon."
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not
. One of the elders, as representing the Church (see on Revelation 4:4), bids St. John to take heed to him who was about to disclose to some extent the future of that Church. There is, of course, no indication that any particular individual is signified, though some have striven to identify the elder. Thus De Lyra mentions St. Peter, who was already martyred; others, referred to by De Lyra, say St. Matthew, who, in his Gospel, declares Christ's power (
). Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda. The title is accorded to Christ, in illustration of the following act. The Representative of the royal and victorious tribe of Judah was he who had prevailed to open the book, where others had failed (cf.
, "Judah is a lion's whelp;"
, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah").
The Root of David
. The Root of David is a synonym for
, "There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots;" and
, "Esaias saith, There shall be a Root of Jesse"). Further, Christ may be said to have been the Root of David, by virtue of his pre-existence and his creative power. It is one of the paradoxes of the Incarnation, that he who is the Root of David should also be a Branch.
Hath prevailed to open the book
). Not, as the Authorized Version appears to read, that the act of victory consisted in the opening of the book, but the ability to open was a consequence of a former act of victory, viz. the redemption. So in ver. 9 the ascription of praise runs, "Thou art worthy
thou wast slain" (on the infinitive epexegetic, see Winer). Some see a reference here to
, "He that openeth, and no man shutteth."
And to loose the seven seals thereof;
and the seven seals thereof
(Revised Version). Omit "to loose?"
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
And I beheld
. Again a new feature of the vision is indicated (see on ver. 1).
And, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders
. For a description of the position of the throne and the living beings and the elders, see
. The passage would, perhaps, be more plainly rendered, "Between the throne and the four living creatures on the one hand, and the elders on the other, stood," etc. The repetition of "in the midst" is a Hebraism (cf.
Genesis 1:4, 6, 7
, LXX.). The Lamb would thus occupy a central position, where he would be visible to all. Stood a Lamb. The Greek word
, which is here employed, and which is constantly used throughout the Apocalypse, occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in
. This word has therefore been brought forward as an evidence that the writer of the Gospel was not also the writer of the Apocalypse, since, when the word is applied as a title of our Lord, the term differs. But the passage
is a quotation from Isaiah, and the writer naturally adheres to the form found in the LXX. version in that place. But on other occasions, when he is free to employ his own diction, as in
and in the Apocalypse, he invariably employs the term
. Some have found in the fact that
) is originally a diminutive form of
), a reference to, the lowliness and meekness of our Lord; and they see a contrast in the
indicated by the seven horns. But such interpretations, however helpful and suggestive, are not warranted by anything in the grammar of the word; since, although no doubt originally a diminutive, the word had lost all such force in St. John's time; so much so, that the varying cases were formed from both words. As it had been Main. We are here confronted with what Stuart calls an "aesthetical difficulty." How could the Lamb, which was alive, standing, and active, exhibit any appearance which would give St. John the idea that it had been slain? Similarly, in the following verses, how could the Lamb
the book, or the four living beings handle harps and bowls, or the elders play on harps while also holding bowls? In the first place, it is perfectly immaterial to inquire. St. John is not giving a circumstantial narrative of certain historical facts which occurred in the material, sensible world; but he is reproducing ideas conveyed to him in some way (certainly not through the senses), which ideas are symbolical of events occurring in the natural and spiritual worlds, and of the condition of men or bodies of men. Therefore, if we can ascertain what these mental pictures are intended to portray to us, it matters not in what way the ideas were conveyed to the mind of the seer. In the second place, it must be remembered that the whole is a vision; and that although St. John says, "I saw," in point of fact none of the mental impressions which he obtained were conveyed through the senses. Just as a person relating a dream says, "I saw," when in reality his eyes had been shut and his senses asleep, so the writer here says, "I saw;" and just as in a dream we receive distinct ideas concerning an object without knowing how or why we know the particular fact, and that, too, when such qualities seem contradictory to others with which the object is invested, and yet no incongruity is apparent to us, so St. John realized that these objects possessed qualities which, in the sensible world, would have been impossible. Having seven horns. Throughout the Bible an emblem of power. Moses blessed the tribe of Joseph in the words, "His horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth" (
). Hannah sang, "Mine horn is exalted" (
1 Samuel 2:1
denotes perfection (see on Revelation 1:4; 5:1, etc.). The symbol, therefore, attributes to the Lamb complete power (cf. the words of Christ in
, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth").
And seven eyes.
The seven eyes symbolize perfect knowledge - omniscience (cf.
, "They shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth;" and
2 Chronicles 16:9
, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him").
Which are the seven Spirits of God.
"Which" refers to the
, "The seven Spirits which are before his throne;" and
, "He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;" and
, "Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God"). The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, with his sevenfold gifts, is indicated by these symbols of illumination. For he illuminates and makes brighter those in whom he dwells, and renders clearer to them those things outside themselves, and enables them more fully to appreciate the manifold wisdom of God. Sent forth into all the earth. That is, the seven Spirits are sent forth (
; though, as
, "the spirits," are also
, "the eyes," A reads
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
And he came and took the book;
and he came and he hath taken it.
"Hath taken" is perfect (
), while "came" is the aorist (
). If the differ-once is intentionally significant, it renders the description somewhat more vivid. (For the consideration of the question
the Lamb could do this, see on ver. 6.) Wordsworth contrasts the spontaneous act of the Lamb in taking the book of his own accord as his right, with the call to St. John to take the little book (
Out of the right hand.
The position of power and honour. He to whom all power was given in heaven and in earth (
.) is the only One who can penetrate the mysteries and dispense the power of God's right hand.
Of him that sat upon the throne;
of him that sitteth.
That is, the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2). The Son in his human capacity, as indicated by his sacrificial form of the Lamb, can take and reveal the mysteries of the eternal Godhead in which he, as God, has part.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four
twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
- And when he had taken the book. "Had taken" (
) is here aorist, not perfect, as in ver. 7. The text should probably read,
when he took the book
; that is to say, the adoration offered coincides in point of time with the act of taking the book.
The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb.
four beasts as
representing animated creation; the
four and twenty elders as
representative of the Church (see on Revelation 4:4, 6).
Having every one of them harps.
(On the difficulty of
each one could hold harps and bowls, see on ver. 6.) It is possible that the phrase refers only to the elders; for these seem more suitably employed in offering
the prayers of the saints
than the representatives of all creation. If, however, as Wordsworth considers, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders together symbolize the Church, the phrase would apply to both. The
1 Samuel 16:16, 23
of this passage) was played with the hand, and the instrument indicated was probably more of the nature of a guitar than the modern harp.
And golden vials full of odours
. The Revised Version "bowls" is better than "vials." The idea is, no doubt, taken from the shallow bowls which were placed upon the golden altar (
), and in which incense was burned. The
the same chapter of Exodus directions are given concerning the preparation and use of the incense, which was always a symbol of prayer, and always offered to God alone (cf.
, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense;" also
Luke 1:9, 10
Isaiah 6:3, 4
Which are the prayers of saints.
; that is, the members of the Church of God. Some authorities consider "vials" the antecedent of" which;" but it seems best to refer "which" to "odours," though the sense is not materially different, since the former includes the latter.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And they sung a new song, saying
; the worship is unceasing. The song is
because it is only now, subsequent to the accomplishment of Christ's work of redemption, that the song can be sung. It is not" Thou art worthy, for thou
"thou didst redeem."
Victorinus says, "It is the preaching of the Old Testament together with that of the New which enables the world to sing a new song." Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof. (For a consideration of
, and the opening of it, see on ver. 1.) For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. The reason why Christ is worthy.
And didst redeem unto God by thy blood out of every kindred
, etc. Though the reading "us" is supported by various manuscripts, and similarly the first person is used in ver. 10. yet, on the whole, it seems better to omit it, the phrase being taken in a partitve sense - "Thou didst redeem unto God by thy blood
out of every kindred, etc., and hast made
, etc., and
shall reign." Again, "Thou didst purchase us
at the price of
thy blood" would, perhaps, give the sense more correctly; for such is the force of the words, "in thy blood" (
). The words point to a particular act performed at a definite time, viz. the death of Christ, by which he repurchased men from sin and Satan for the service of God; the price of the purchase being the shedding of his own blood. The words show, too, that the fruits of the redemption are intended for the whole world; not limited to any chosen nation, though some are excluded by their own act.
Out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation
. This fourfold classification continually recurs in the Revelation. It includes all the bases of classification of mankind, all the circumstances which separate men, the barriers which were overthrown by the redeeming work of Christ.
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests;
and didst make them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests.
Of those whom thou didst redeem from every nation, thou didst make a kingdom and priests. Wordsworth remarks that these honours conferred upon the redeemed imply duties as well as privileges. They receive the princely honours conferred upon them only on condition that they also become priests, presenting themselves, their souls and bodies, a living sacrifice to God (
Romans 12:1, 2
), and, being a
priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (
1 Peter 2:5
). (On the person of "us," see on previous verse.)
And we shall reign on the earth;
and they reign on the earth
(see on ver. 9). The interpretation of this passage will necessarily be influenced to some extent by the view adopted of the millennium (see on Revelation 20.), Those who expect a personal reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years naturally consider that in this verse reference is made to that period. And if the thousand years be understood to denote the time which elapses between the first and second comings of Christ, that is to say, the present time, the two passages - that in
and the one before us - may be connected, and intended to refer to the same time. We have, therefore, to inquire in what sense the word "reign" is used, and how the redeemed can be said to reign on the earth at the present time. In the first place, nothing is more plainly taught us than that Christ's reigning, his power, and his kingdom on earth are a spiritual reign, a spiritual power, a spiritual kingdom; though the Jews and our Lord's disciples themselves frequently erred by supposing that his kingdom would be a visible, worldly power. It seems natural, therefore, that if such is the meaning of Christ's reigning, that of his servants should be of the same nature; and we ought not to err in the same way as the Jews did, by expecting to see the redeemed exercise at any time visible authority over their fellowmen. The redeemed reign, then, spiritually. But it will be well to inquire more fully and exactly what we intend to signify by this expression. The word "reign" is not often used of Christians in the New Testament. In
we read, "Much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." And in
1 Corinthians 4:8
. "And I would to God ye did reign." In both these places St. Paul seems to intend a reigning over self - an ability to subdue personal passions; a power which comes from the "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness" which are mentioned, and which are possessed only by the redeemed, through Jesus Christ. This ability to subdue personal passions and ambitions is what the apostle wishes for the Corinthians, and of which many of them had shown themselves to be destitute, or only possessing in an inadequate degree. It is the truth which is expressed by Solomon in the words, "Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (
); and in the words of the Collect for Peace in the Morning Prayer of the Church of England, "Whose service is perfect freedom;" or, as it should be rendered, "Whom to serve is to reign." The representatives of the Church and of creation, then, adore the Lamb, through whose redeeming act grace may be given to men of every kindred and tongue, to enable them to overcome sin and Satan, and in the freedom of God's service to reign on earth as kings and conquerors over all unworthy passions. In this way, too, we account for the present tense of the verb, which is most probably the correct reading.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
And I beheld
marks a new feature of the vision, viz. the introduction of the angelic host as taking part in the adoration of the Lamb (see on Revelation 4:1).
And heard the voice of many angels
The angels who have "desired to look into" the mystery of the redemption of the world (
1 Peter 1:12
) have now had declared to them "by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (
Ephesians 3:10, 11
); and are thus enabled to join in the song of the redeemed.
Round about the throne and the beasts and the elders.
The innumerable company of angels encircle the throne and the beasts and the elders. Thus the throne is in the vision seen as occupying the centre, the four living creatures are placed round it in different directions; the elders form the next circle, and the angels enclose the whole. The Lamb is in the midst before the throne (see on Revelation 4:6). "Thus," says Bisping, "the redeemed creation stands nearer to the throne of God than even the angels (see
And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.
The readings vary here, though the sense of the passage is not affected. After
the Authorized and Revised Versions, following
, A, B, P, etc., render as above;
1, Erasmus, Stephens edit. 1550 (though the last probably
), omit "and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand;"
Vulgate, both manuscripts and Clementine edition, simply omit "ten thousand times ten thousand;"
38, Andreas (one manuscript) omit only the last words, "and thousands of thousands." The number is, of course, not to be taken literally, but as expressive of an exceeding great multitude.
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Saying with a loud voice;
, "saying," is irregular construction, and to be referred to
as being a nominative understood.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain;
that hath been slain
(Revised Version). Again, as in ver. 9, the worshippers give the reason for considering Christ worthy to receive their adoration. It is because he had been slain and thus redeemed the world.
To receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
The sevenfold nature of the adoration attributed to the Lamb is probably indicative of its complete and perfect nature. (On the meaning of
, "to receive," to take as a right what is offered, see Thayer-Grimm.)
the ability to perform which is inherent in one's nature.
) is the attribute by which that power is put into operation; it frequently denotes physical strength.
, "And of his fulness have all we received;" also
, "The unsearchable riches of Christ;" also
, "Every good gift and every perfect gilt is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights;" also
, "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things "). The whole sevenfold ascription is spoken as one, only one article being prefixed. In this respect it differs from
, where we have
glory" and "
honour," etc. (see on Revelation 4:11).
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power,
unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them;
and every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them
(Revised Version). All animated creation now joins in the ascription of praise. Those
under the earth
are probably the
in prison" of
1 Peter 3:19
, though Vitringa understands the expression to be used of the devils
unwillingly obey Christ," and even declare his glory, as in
, "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God."
is meant literally; the apostle's object being to include all animated beings wheresoever existing. It has been remarked that St. John's exile at Patmos would render him familiar with the appearance of the sea, and account for its frequent use in the Apocalypse, both literally and symbolically. The things on
would signify, not merely ships with their inhabitants, but also those animals in the sea which are known to men by dwelling near the surface. "All things that are in them" serves to render emphatic the universality of the description, as in
Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is."
Heard I saying.
"Saying" is masculine,
in 10, 13, P, Vulgate, Andr.
, Arethas, Primasius. But the neuter,
, is read in
, 12, Andr. p, bay.
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power;
the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion
(Revised Version). The Revisers have wisely rendered
, "the dominion," by a different word from
, "power," of ver. 12, both of which in the Authorized Version are rendered "power." The article, too, serves to give greater emphasis, making the expression tantamount to "all blessing," etc. (see on Revelation 4:11). Nothing is signified by the omission of three attributes. The number four is symbolical of the complete creation, and may be used on that account; but probably the omission is to avoid repetition, the four attributes given being typical of the seven just previously uttered.
Be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.
That is, unto the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2). Christ, as having part with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Godhead, sits upon the throne, and is worthy with them to receive adoration. But in his special character as the Redeemer, he is also singled out to receive the praises of the redeemed.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four
twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth forever and ever.
(On the signification of the four beasts as representative of creation, and the four-and-twenty elders as typical of the Church, see on Revelation 4:4 and 6.) Three stages are marked in the hymn of adoration before this concluding verse:
the four living beings and the four and twenty elders worship the Lamb, and commemorate their redemption by him; they are able to sing "a new song" - the song of the redeemed;
the angels join in the worship of the Lamb, ascribing to him the consummation of all perfection;
then all created things praise God and the Lamb. In conclusion, the representatives of redeemed creation once more join in the eucharistic hymn, and prostrate themselves in worship before the Triune God. This forms the end of one act of the heavenly drama. The opening of the seals now follows, and a description of the attendant circumstances is given.
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