The vision of John as recounted in Revelation 5 is about developments in the heavenly courts that set the stage for the opening of the seals in the next chapter. The vision of this heavenly scene had its beginning in chapter 4 where the prophet saw the setting of thrones in place as if a judgment sitting or tribunal is about to be in session. It seems as if the opening of the book was the center of attention in this sitting and that somebody who is worthy to open that book must be found.
This book in question was seen in the hand of the Father and based on Johns reading of the situation heaven seemed to be in a crisis because no one was found worthy to open the book and look thereon. So serious was the situation that John, who was not even apart of the proceedings, got emotionally involved and began to weep. Based on how the prophet conveyed the message, it was if a search was made in heaven, on earth, and under the earth and none was found worthy to take the book out of the Father’s hand.
When I was studying this particular chapter in Revelation for the first time, the question that often comes to mind is, what are the qualities that God was really looking for in a person that would make him worthy to open this book? I understand why it is said that no man on earth was found worthy because we are all sinners at least by inheritance. But why couldn’t anyone be found in heaven? In heaven there are the angels who have never fallen, why couldn’t that be enough to make them worthy to open the book?
As the scene unfolds, one of the 24 elders that were seen sitting around the throne of God came to John with the comforting words saying,
“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.” Rev. 5:5 (KJV)
After the prophet was greeted with the comforting news he saw Jesus under the symbol of a Lamb that had been slain. The introduction of Christ under this symbol points us to His work as Saviour and Redeemer and this is mainly what qualifies Him to undertake this function. It seems to indicate that the work of losing the seals and opening the book in the context of a tribunal has to do with those for whom He died. This is the sentiment that was expressed in a show of gratitude to the Lamb:
“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.” Rev. 5:9 (KJV)
The characteristic value of the Lamb that makes Him worthy to open the book can be broken down into two distinct categories:
1. His identification with the human family:
2. He has personally prevailed in the conflict with evil
THE HUMANITY OF THE LAMB: In the announcement that the Lamb was found worthy to open the book, He was introduced as coming from the tribe of Judah. As a member of an earthly tribe, it clearly identifies Him with the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. When I recognize this fact, it helps me to see why angels do not qualify. It takes someone who knows what it is like to be human, someone who understands the weaknesses and imperfections in the human experience to be able to empathize with humanity.
The critical importance of the humanity of Christ to us is clearly expressed in the following statement from the book of Hebrews:
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his bretheren., that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” Heb. 2:17, 18 (KJV)
Because Jesus was “made like unto his bretheren”, we can be assured that we have someone in heaven on our side; who alone is found worthy to approach the Father on our behalf. The act of looking on the book is not just a mere glance at words but an examination of matters as it relates to the eternal destiny of man. It is for this reason why the Son of man had to be chosen to deliberate on these cases and to make a ruling.
With regard to the authority that will be vested in the Son of man in matters of judgment, Jesus has made the following declaration: “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” Jn 5:22 (KJV). Thus we are seeing the exercise of this authority in the opening of the seven seals.
THE LAMB HAS PREVAILED: It was said that the Lamb has prevailed to open the book. How did he prevail? He prevailed because of two things. Firstly, he lived a sinless life by the means of which He was victorious over Satan. One of the qualities that made Christ able to deliver us from the power of sin is the fact that He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” Heb. 7:26. Secondly, He prevailed in that He has accomplished the plan of salvation and gave assurance of eternal redemption to penitent sinners.
Satan in his desperate attempt thwart the plan of salvation had made numerous attempts to get Christ to yield to temptations but they all failed. In claiming victory over the prince of this world, Jesus made the following statement: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” Jn 14:30.
And again He said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33
In Revelation chapter 5 we have the comforting assurance that the only one that was found worthy to take the book and to look thereon is a human being like us. He is made worthy because he is our sinless Redeemer who can identify with our situation on earth. Because of this, we too are assured of victory over sin and the privilege of being considered worthy to open the books in the millennial judgment of Revelation 20 (See Rev. 20:4, 12).