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Revelation chapter 5 - The Book with Seven Seals - J Stewart Gillespie  


We may expect something secret, something special, some deep and mysterious purpose in the book we discover inside the book of the bible. Not without significance do we discover in the final book of the bible, the book of Revelation, a book hidden within the book and kept secret till the very end. Of all the books external to the bible referenced by it, the book found in Revelation chapter 5, is one of the few whose whereabouts we know of. Many enquire as to what this book contains. Is it the title deeds of the world or universe? Probably not since the earth has no title deeds! The earth is the Lord's and then fullness thereof. No special qualification of redemption is needed by God to claim what is rightfully His! Does this book contain the details of future events? Does it detail what is to be revealed in chapters 6 to 19? It is not the reading of the scroll which provides the content of subsequent chapters but rather the losing of the seals. Not until all 7 seals are broken can the scroll be opened and read!

Perhaps a better question would be not so much what do we find in the scroll but why do we have the scroll? What purpose is there here in the scroll? Is the scroll here for mere dramatic effect? What purpose is there in the progressive breaking of each successive seal?

The meaning of the symbolism appears to rest in this simple observation that for the scroll to be opened the seals must be broken! From these broken seals, all of the subsequent events of Revelation flow. The reason behind the 4 riders of the apocalypse, the sounding of the 7 trumpets, the pouring out of the 7 vials of judgement, global destruction, the loosing of the locusts from the pit, the release of the 200 million horseman, the rise of the antichrist, Armageddon and the fall of Babylon, lies here in Revelation chapter 5. All of these catastrophic events find their cause not in man and not purely as a reaction or response to man's sin but rather in the eternal purposes of God. All of the judgements and events of Revelation chapters 6 to 19 are triggered by the opening of these seals. These seals are broken that the book might be opened. Gods purpose is to be found not in destruction but construction, not in grief but in the eternal glory beyond the judgements of this world, in the new heaven, the earth and the new Jerusalem, in the eternal glory of His Son. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

Complete notes from this message:

The Book with 7 seals: 

Book within a book 
Scroll within the seals 
Meaning within the Mystery 

Book within a book: 

Revelation chapter 5 presents us with a book 

It is a book on the hand of God 

It is a book in the hand of the lamb 

This is an interesting and strange phenomenon 

Here we are reading God’s book – the Bible, in God’s book the Bible we read of a book in the hand of God! 

That is rather strange! 

Herein is a book within a book! 

That of course is not completely unique in the Bible, the Bible does contain a number of references to ‘external’ books: 

The Book of the prophet Shemaiah 
The Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani 
The Book of Gad the Seer 
The Book of Nathan the Seer 
The Book of the acts of Solomon 
The Book of the Wars of the Lord 
The Book of Jasher 
The Books of the Kings of Babylon (Ezra 4:15) 
The Books of the Chronicles of Media and Persia (Esther 6:1; 10:2) 

Often of course a book or piece of literature will cross reference other works to give validity to it’s own thesis or ideas; as if the author is saying; ‘here you can go away and check the facts for yourself.’ 

Intriguingly of course of all of those external books referenced by the Bible, none are still in existence. If you were to place your inter library loan request it would be returned as ‘volume unavailable’. 

The Bible has no real need of external validation in any shape nor form! The Bible is the absolute source of validation itself. 

It is interesting too, to reflect upon the unique character of the Bible we hold in our hands. That whilst all of these other books have been lost, some that perhaps we might think ought to have been preserved; the histories and chronicles of the Kings of Persia and Babylon, the histories and records of the greatest empires in the world, this book the Bible has bee preserved. Down through the centuries and generations, men and women have been persuaded of the unique value and content of this book and through fire and flame have preserved the Bible at great personal cost. 

In the archives of Yad Vashem are scrolls from the synagogues of Eastern Europe, texts of the Torah, preserved through the holocaust, scrolls stained with blood and burned by fire. 

Even for those who perhaps do not have faith in the Christ of the Bible, they must surely acknowledge the uniqueness of His book. 

Within the pages of this unique book; the bible, there is hidden another book; a book within a book, almost like the Russian dolls of old, a doll within a doll. 

We open the safe of the Bible, a book of phenomenal interest in and of itself and within it we find a locked safety deposit box! 

Perhaps we ay suspect that this book within a book will contain something of even greater and deeper interest? Some hidden mystery? Some deeper secret? 

In fact the hidden character of this book of Revelation chapter 5 is even deeper than that. The bible as we know it, is a title taken from the Greek ‘ta biblia’ which literally means the ‘books’ or the ‘scrolls’ plural. 

In our hands we not only have God’s book, but within that book we have 66 of God’s books; ‘ta biblia.’ 

The book on the hand of God in Revelation chapter 5 is thus: 

A book within 
A book within 
A book 

That makes it of course a very interesting book indeed! 

It is perhaps also worth noting that what is translated as a ‘book’ in Revelation chapter 5 verse 1 is in reality a ‘scroll’ – a rolled up parchment or papyrus. 

The ancient word for book was of course ‘biblos’ which was the same as the word for a scroll. The word came from the Lebanese port of ‘biblos’ through which the exportation of papyrus came. 

The Book here in Revelation chapter 5, sealed with the 7 Seals would have been in the historical context and from the description given, in reality a scroll. That would be significant to notice for later. 

This is not only a book with a book but it is also: 

A Scroll within 7 seals: 

What may that inidicate? 

Many over the years have been very caught up on what the contents of this book may be but perhaps an even better or more fundamental question lies in the very existence or description of this scroll with 7 seals. 

Why should the unfolding of the subsequent chapters of Revelation be dependent upon the loosing of the seals of this scroll? 

Why are chapters 6 to 19 dependent directly and indirectly on these scrolls being broken? 

Chapter 5 is positioned strategically within the book of Revelation 

It would be easy to miss the significance of the transition between from chapter 4 to chapter 6. 

In chapter 1 John has a vision of the Lord Jesus 

In chapters 2 to 3 – We are presented with practical and prophetic and personally ministry on teh 7 churches. 

Chapter 4 brings us into heaven and a glimpse of: 

Where God is 
Who God is – the Son of God – Reuben and Benjamin 
What God is like – sovereign, covenant making and covenant keeping, a God of absolute holiness 

In chapters 6 to 19 we see what God will do. 

Why bother then with chapter 5 and the book with 7 seals. 

Why break these seals? 

Why make everything else in the book of Revelation dependant upon the breaking of these seals? It is the breaking of these seals one by one that triggers: 

The 4 riders of the apocalypse 
The judgment upon the son, moon and stars 
The sounding of the 7 trumpets 
The destruction of 1/3 grass, sea, rivers and stars 
The release of the locusts from the pit 
The 200 million horseman of the apocalypse 
The rise of antichrist 
The pouring out of the 7 vials on man, sea, rivers, sun, moon and stars. 
The battle of Armageddon 
The fall of Babylon 

All of these catastrophic events are dependant upon the opening of the 7 seals! 

Had we no chapter 5 we would see: 

Who God is (chapter 4) 
What God does (chapter 6 to 19) 

But we would have no idea as to Why God did it! 

It is chapter 5 that teaches us that all of the events of chapters 6 to 19 are not simply reactive, ie their ultimate cause and purpose does not lie with man, these chapters are not solely focused on the subject of man’s sin and judgement, there is a bigger picture and a grander theme and goal. 

The cause of these global and universal events lies here in chapter 5. All of these subsequent chapters unfold, as a consequence of the breaking of the seals. These seals are broken that the scroll might be read. All subsequent events have this as their cause – the reading of the scroll. 

It is this scroll with its ultimate glory that demands the grief oo chapters 6 to 19, it is this scroll ultimately of salvation that requires the suffering of subsequent chapters. 

This is perhaps too a truth I can apply to my own life and experience. That the grief and the suffering are in the hands of the Lord the unwrapping of Divine blessing! 

These chapters are not solely the means of judgment 

These chapters are in fact the path to glory. 

Christ with a security and guarantee which comes from Him. Christ promised that we are safe and secure, in His hand and in His Father’s hands (John 10:28-31). Our salvation is signed, sealed and delivered. For our security we have the Word of Christ, we have His Word for it, ‘heaven and earth shall pass away but my Word shall not pass away.’ In these chapters we will see that Destiny is so secure, that in order to open and declare it, this world must indeed pass away and having passed away His eternal Word and purposes remain immutable. 

Here is a scroll passed from the hand of God to the lamb (5:1) 

This scroll in ‘On the right hand of Him that sat on the throne’(5:1), offered out for the lamb to take from His hand. 

From Revelation chapter 5 onwards, the story of this scroll reads like a mystery novel, like a cliff hanger film, or a children’s book that constantly teases the reader with, ‘but what’s in the scroll.’ 

The story of Revelation from chapter 5 to chapter 19 is essentially the story of the unsealing of this scroll. The breaking of the 7 seals occupies chapters 5 to 6, the 7th seal includes the sounding of the 7 trumpets which is the subject of chapters 8 to 10, the 7th trumpet announces the transfer of the kingdoms of this world to Christ (chp 11) which results in the outpouring of the 7 vials, occupying chps 15 to 16 with the consequent fall of Babylon in chapters 17 to 18. 

The bulk of the book of Revelation pertains to the opening of this scroll. 

The question then remains – what does this scroll contain? 

What is in it? 

Title deeds of the world 
The future plans and purposes of God for the world 
The subsequent events of Revelation 
The book of Daniel chapter 12 
The lamb’s book of life 

hat is in it? 

Title deeds of the world 

Seems like a reasonable suggestion 

Whatever is in the hands of God must be important after all, that seems pretty important. 

By the time all of the seals are open the world is now ready for Christ to receive His Kingdom (11:15); so it may seem reasonable that these are the title deeds to the inheritance that Christ is about to receive. 

We also know that title deeds in Jeremiah were recorded on a scroll and sealed. 

We know historically that title deeds recorded on a scroll were sealed and witnessed and the names of the witnesses were written on the scroll, which may well relate to Rev 5:1. 

But: 

There is no clear statement in Revelation that these are title deeds. 

Certainly title deeds could be written on a scroll as they were in Jeremiah, but go along to any Roman museum such as the one outside Hexham and you will find that party invitations were written on them too! 

The identification of this scroll as a title deed seems greatly dependant on extra biblical knowledge and the serendipity of archaeology, a means of interpreting scripture with which I would take issue. Is not the child of God indwelt by the Spirit of God able to interpret the Word of God? John 14:6; 1 John 2:27. 

Why is it that in order to open the scroll one must be found who is ‘worthy’? Surely if this is the title deeds for the world then the only qualification to open the scroll is that of Deity? 

​ ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.’(Psalm 24:1) 

Why are redemptive rights needed take the book (5:8-9); do the deeds for the earth need to be redeemed? Do they need bought back? Were they lost? Were they not always Gods? Who can steal the deeds of the whole earth from God? 

The future plans and purposes of God for the world 

Certainly a reasonable suggestion and more or less the same as (3) 

The problem here of course is that it is the opening of the seals, blowing of the trumpets from the 7th seal and the pouring out of the vials which actually occupy the bulk of the book of revelation, no specific reference is made to the contents of the book referencing a plan as such. 

It seems a good suggestion but lacking substantial evidence. 

The subsequent events of the book of Revelation 

See above 

The book referenced in Daniel chapter 12 verse 4? 

I would consider this to be the book of Daniel itself, corresponding not to the book of Revelation chapter 5 but to the book of Revelation itself, cf. Rev 22:10. 

The lamb’s book of life 

Let me make another suggestion, unusual amongst the commentators, although not unknown. 

By the time the seals are opened, trumpets have sounded and the vials have been poured out we reach the closing chapters of Revelation, in fact the repercussions of those events take us to the threshold of chapter 20. The book appears to have been forgotten about if the previous interpretations are correct. No further mention of any of the contents of that scroll despite the fact that the unsealing of the scroll had global and universal repercussions throughout the book of Revelation. All of that pre amble and expectation, then according to the views that this is the deeds of the earth or the future plans for the earth, this all seems to evaporate in the most massive anticlimax of the entire book of Revelation, if not the bible. 

Details are added and developed regarding this book through the book of Revelation: 

Rev 13:8 : ‘And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ 

Rev 17:8 : “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.’’ 

These 2 verses appear to be transitional, stepping stones from the ‘book’ taken by the lamb freshly slain in Revelation chapter 5 to the ‘book of life’of Revelation 20:12, 15. 

This would explain the need for one worthy to open the book in Revelation chapter 5 and that the qualifications of redemption. This is the Book of Life, only possible because of the work of redemption. 

As these seals are opened and the book of Revelation unfolds this qualification of Rev 5:9 is critical in the opening of the scroll. The unfolding purpose of God in Revelation is not primarily that of judgment upon a lost world but rather this book concludes with a new heaven and a new earth and a redeemed people. The emerald rainbow of Revelation 4 sets the scene for the subsequent chapters. Grace informs government, the elect are sealed, preserved and saved (Rev 7, 13, 14) and ultimately brought to the Kingdom (Rev 20) and to eternity (Rev 21-22).

Photos by kind permission of Tony Shaw (New Cumnock)

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