(5.1)    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.

 

1.   If you observe the way chapter five begins you will see that there is no real division of thought or subject matter between chapters four and five. These two chapters comprise one logical unit in John’s Revelation. They set the stage, in heaven, for Christ’s judgment to rain down upon a Hell-bound world which will not acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior until they are forced to do so. But when they are forced to do so, it will not be as a result of any willing submission to Him as Lord, and their destiny will remain unchanged. Their destiny will be the lake of fire.

 

2.   “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book

 

a.   John brings our attention to a book. The book must be of great importance, simply because it is in the hand, specifically the right hand, of Almighty God. The right hand of God is always the hand of favor, the hand of prominence. The book, which is actually a scroll, is written on both sides of the parchment or sheepskin.[1]  “Jewish books of antiquity were usually sheepskin scrolls.”[2]

 

b.   I am convinced that a right understanding of this book, this scroll, is       extremely important to the interpretation of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Verse 9 gives us a clue: “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.” From what we know of the Mosaic Law, the book that God holds in His right hand is what is called a book of redemption.

 

c.   Listen carefully. In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, provision was made for the redemption of servants, the redemption of wives, and the redemption of land. Let me explain:

 

i.    When a man, during those times, was in deep debt or in poverty to such an extent that he could not support himself, he could sell himself into servitude for enough money to pay off his debts and obligations. Different than today, people in those days would rather be slaves than not pay their debts. The master he then served would be responsible to feed and clothe him in exchange for his labor. To end the servitude, the slave could be redeemed from bondage by a redeemer. That is the first redemption scenario.[3]

 

ii.    When a woman was widowed and left childless by her husband, provision was made for her well-being and for the preservation of her deceased husband’s name and heritage. This would occur when the woman was redeemed by a man whom she would marry and bear children by. However, the children born in her second marriage would be considered her first husband’s children and they would inherit her first husband’s inheritance.[4]

 

iii.   The third provision for redemption had to do with the land. The land given to Israel by God was not to be permanently sold to anyone, but could, in effect, be “leased” for up to 49 years. During the year of jubilee, which came every 50 years, all land was to revert to its ancestral family owner. If the land was sold, or “leased” in this way, it could only be recovered prior to the year of jubilee if it was redeemed.[5]

 

iv.   I want you to note that in each case redemption involved the paying of a price to recover that which needed redemption to return to its original owner or to its original state. In many cases, the original transfer of the property involved legal paperwork that specified the monetary amount for which the property could be redeemed prior to the year of jubilee. In other words, nothing was left to chance.

 

d.   But there were qualifications that the redeemer had to meet before he could redeem a servant, before he could redeem a childless widow, or before he could redeem land. According to Leviticus chapter 25, the following stipulations had to be met:

 

i.    The redeemer must first be a near kinsman. Next, the redeemer must be willing to redeem. Finally, the redeemer must be able to redeem.

 

ii.    Those of you who have read that marvelous love story of Ruth and Boaz in the book of Ruth will remember that Boaz redeemed both the wife and the land of Ruth’s first husband, who had died leaving her childless. Boaz was her first husband’s near kinsman. Boaz was willing to redeem Ruth and the land. Finally, Boaz was able to redeem Ruth and the land, meaning he had the price to pay for it.[6]

 

iii.   Remember, however, that there had been a nearer kinsman who was unwilling to redeem Ruth and the land. Boaz, then, is a picture of the Lord Jesus, both able and willing to redeem that which was sold into bondage.

 

e.   Turn to Jeremiah chapter 32. As you read verses 6-12, notice that Jeremiah’s kinsman desires to sell his land, knowing that the Babylonians are about to invade:

 

6     And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

7     Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.

8     So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

9     And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.

10   And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.

11   So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

12   And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

 

f.    To show the Jews that God will someday return His people to Palestine, and to show them that the land will again be valuable to posses, Jeremiah redeemed the land. He was qualified to do this because he was Hanameel’s kinsman, because he was willing to redeem it, and because he had the price . . . he was able. But notice! Jeremiah used a book, a scroll actually, to record the transaction. It is this type of scroll that I believe John describes to us in Revelation 5.1.

 

3.   If you will remember, chapter 5 is written from the perspective of church age Christians having already been raptured and in heaven. This gives us a clue as to what specific kind of redemption is referred to by this scroll.

 

a.   Can it refer to the redemption of a servant? No, because the servants are already in heaven (referring, of course, to Christians), and their redemption is completed with their glorified bodies.

 

b.   Can it refer to the redemption of a wife? No. With the church, as the bride of Christ, already in heaven, her redemption is complete.

 

c.   What redemption is awaiting fulfillment, then? The land. It is the land that is to be redeemed during the tribulation period.

 

4.   As we journey through our study of the Revelation, then, remember what happens as the scroll is opened. As the scroll is opened, and as the judgments are poured out upon the earth, we need to pay heed to the fact that through it all God is retaking His whole creation from the bonds and defilement of sin. In Romans 8.18-23, we read what Paul says about that future time:

 

18   For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19   For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20   For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21   Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22   For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23   And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

 

5.   That book which God holds in His right hand, then, is a redemption book for the land! The breaking of those seven seals, which seal that redemption book, will reveal the provisions that are written in it for the reclamation of God’s creation.

 

6.   But that is not all that this book is. We must always remember that so much of John’s revelation has significance that can be traded back to the Old Testament, which seems to be the case here. Notice how much of what is found in this verse is remarkably similar to Ezekiel 2.9-10:

 

9     And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;

10   And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

 

7.   “sealed with seven seals

 

a.   “Romans sealed their wills seven times-on the edge of each roll-to prevent unauthorized entry. Hebrew title deeds required a minimum of 3 witnesses and 3 separate seals, with more important transactions requiring more witnesses and seals.”[7]

 

b.   “As seven is a number of perfection, it may mean that the book was so sealed that the seals could neither be counterfeited nor broken; i.e., the matter of the book was so obscure and enigmatical and the work it enjoined and the facts it predicted so difficult and stupendous, that they could neither be known nor performed by human wisdom or power.”[8]

 



[1] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 113.

[2] L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 70.

[3] Leviticus 25,47-55

[4] Deuteronomy 25.5-10

[5] Leviticus 25.25

[6] Ruth 4

[7] See footnote for Revelation 4.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1999.

[8] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

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