Revelation chapters 4 and 5 use language, symbols and Old Testament references to make it clear that this section is an introduction to the judgment, which will determine who will be granted eternal life. The central scene in this drama depicts God the Father seated on His throne holding a book which is sealed with seven seals.
A “strong angel” challenges, “Who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 5:2). Whatever is written in this book is obviously of vital importance, because John “wept much because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll” (Revelation 5:4). But as usual, God has a solution. “A Lamb as though it had been slain” (obviously Jesus) is found worthy “to open the book and to loose its seven seals” and this results in all the angels of heaven erupting into the greatest outpouring of praise found in the Book of Revelation. Whatever is being depicted is obviously a very big deal.
The most important question is, what is this book, and why is it so important that it be opened? There are a number of scriptural comparisons that can help us narrow in. First of all, the Old Testament passage that has the most similar language and themes to Revelation 4 and 5 is Daniel chapter seven. In that passage there is also a courtroom scene and there is also a reference to books being opened. The key scripture is Daniel 7:10, “The court was seated and the books were opened.” From this scripture we can see that the opening of books has to do with the court and the judgment.
This is confirmed in Revelation 20. “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books…And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:12-15.
The book “A Revelation of Jesus” (which this website is based on) compares these scriptures and several others to show that the sealed book which the Father gives to the Lamb is the Book of Life. Satan is the “mighty angel” who challenges the opening of the book. John weeps inconsolably at the thought that it might not be opened, because only the evidence of faith found in the Book of Life can allow a verdict of “not guilty” and the granting of eternal life. In other words, unless the Book of Life is opened, no one can be saved, even though Jesus died to save everyone.
Naturally God does not need to open any books in order to know what His judgments will be—the opening of books is not for God but for the sake of the “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” angels who are gathered around the throne (Revelation 5:11). Because they will be eternal “neighbors” of those who are redeemed, they have a vested interest in making sure that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).
This brief article only scratches the surface of the fascinating and critical themes found in Revelation chapters 4 and 5. You can read the specific sections about the sealed book by clicking on 5:1 The Sealed Scroll. Or you can read the entire book “A Revelation of Jesus” from the beginning by clicking on the link “Book” at the top of this page. And you can find out how to order a hard copy by clicking on the link “order the book” at the top of this page.