The Scroll and the Lamb.* 1I saw a scroll* in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. It had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals.a 2Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. 4I shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. 5One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David,* has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”b
6Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders a Lamb* that seemed to have been slain. He had seven horns and seven eyes; these are the [seven] spirits of God sent out into the whole world.c 7He came and received the scroll from the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. 8When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. 9They sang a new hymn:
“Worthy are you to receive the scroll
and to break open its seals,
for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.
10You made them a kingdom and priests for our God,
and they will reign on earth.”d
11I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless* in number,e 12and they cried out in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing.”
13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out:
“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever.”
14The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
* [5:1–14] The seer now describes a papyrus roll in God’s right hand (Rev 5:1) with seven seals indicating the importance of the message. A mighty angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll, i.e., who can accomplish God’s salvific plan (Rev 5:2). There is despair at first when no one in creation can do it (Rev 5:3–4). But the seer is comforted by an elder who tells him that Christ, called the lion of the tribe of Judah, has won the right to open it (Rev 5:5). Christ then appears as a Lamb, coming to receive the scroll from God (Rev 5:6–7), for which he is acclaimed as at a coronation (Rev 5:8–10). This is followed by a doxology of the angels (Rev 5:11–12) and then finally by the heavenly church united with all of creation (Rev 5:13–14).
* [5:1] A scroll: a papyrus roll possibly containing a list of afflictions for sinners (cf. Ez 2:9–10) or God’s plan for the world. Sealed with seven seals: it is totally hidden from all but God. Only the Lamb (Rev 5:7–9) has the right to carry out the divine plan.
* [5:5] The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David: these are the messianic titles applied to Christ to symbolize his victory; cf. Rev 22:16; Gn 49:9; Is 11:1, 10; Mt 1:1.
* [5:6] Christ is the Paschal Lamb without blemish, whose blood saved the new Israel from sin and death; cf. Ex 12; Is 53:7; Jn 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Pt 1:18–19. This is the main title for Christ in Revelation, used twenty-eight times. Seven horns and seven eyes: Christ has the fullness (see note on Rev 1:4) of power (horns) and knowledge (eyes); cf. Zec 4:7. [Seven] spirits: as in Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5.
* [5:11] Countless: literally, “100,000,000 plus 1,000,000,” used by the author to express infinity.
b. [5:5] Is 11:1, 10; Rom 15:12.
d. [5:10] 1:6; Ex 19:6; Is 61:6.
e. [5:11] Dn 7:10; Jude 14–15.