5:1 THE SEALED SCROLL
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1). There has been a great deal of speculation about the sealed book, much of it involving comparisons with books or scrolls used in Roman times such as books of covenant deeds or wills and testaments. However, we would expect that a book so important that a whole chapter is devoted to the controversy surrounding its opening would be mentioned elsewhere in Revelation.
Besides the sealed book of Revelation 5 there are three other books mentioned in Revelation. In Revelation 1:11 John was directed to write in a book the things which he saw in vision and send it to the 7 churches, which resulted in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 22 this same book is called the “book of this prophecy” and is mentioned five times. John is specifically warned, “do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book” (v. 10). This literal book which was to be read by the churches on earth could not be the same one John saw in heaven sealed with seven seals.
The second “book” is the “little book” of chapter 10. There are no links between the themes and language of chapter five and chapter 10; even the Greek word for book is different.
The third book is the Book of Life. This book is mentioned 7 times and, like the Book of Revelation 5, is closely linked to Jesus in His role as the sacrificial lamb (it is given to the lamb in Revelation 5 and in Revelation 21:27 it is called the “Lamb’s Book of Life”). It is closely linked to judgment: “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 whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:12, 15). As we saw in chapter 4, the whole scene of Revelation 4-7 has to do with the “investigative judgment” and the Day of Atonement. Just as the judgment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement determined who ultimately would be included among the people of God (Leviticus 23:27-30), so the Book of Life is the means used to determine who will ultimately be saved into the eternal kingdom (Revelation 20:15). God's enemies who follow the beast are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8, 17:8). God’s people are exhorted to live in such a way that their names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5, 22:19).
Thus the Book of Life is concerned with eternal, life-and-death issues. This makes it easy to understand John’s strong reaction—“And I wept much because no one was found worthy to open and to read the book, or to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4). Without the opening of the Book of Life no one could be judged, which would mean that no one could be saved—“there shall by no means enter [the Holy City] 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).
A little “catechism” helps identify the sealed scroll.
Q. After the One “who sat on the throne” gave the book to the Lamb, whose book was it?
A. The Lamb’s book.
Q. Is there any book in Revelation that is called “the Lamb’s book”?
A. Yes, “the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).
Q. Why did the Lamb take the book?
A. So that He could open it (Revelation 5:5).
Q. Is there any book that is opened in Revelation?
A. Yes, “another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (Revelation 20:12)
Q. If the Book of Life was not opened, would it be cause for John to cry?
A. Yes, "Anyone not fond written in the Book of Life [will be] cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
The names in the Book of Life appear with their social, circumstantial and historical context. People are judged with consideration of the light they have received and the circumstances of their lives: “I will make mention of Rahab [Egypt] and Babylon to those who know Me: Behold O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there’. And of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her;…The Lord will record, when He registers the peoples: ‘This one was born there” (Psalm 87:5,6). The trials we encounter (Psalm 56:8), our attempts to improve our spiritual condition (Malachi 3:16), and in fact all that we have said and done (Revelation 20:13) are considered.
The Book of Life is not the only book that is opened in the judgment: “The court was seated and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10). These include the book of God's Law (Galatians 3:10, Deuteronomy 28:58,61), the book of the covenants God has made with His people (2 Chronicles 34:30,31), and the book with God’s plans for each of our lives (Psalms 139:16). That which is written in the Book of Life is “compared” with what is in the other books.
Naturally God does not need to open any books in order to know what His judgments will be, and in fact the whole concept of “books” (records) that could include information about the whole human family makes more sense today in the digital age when mass information can be stored and manipulated. The reality of heavenly “technology” will be incredible. But the point is that the books are not opened for God, but for the “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” who are gathered around the throne. Because they will be eternal “neighbors” of those who are redeemed, the angels have a vested interest in making sure that no one will enter the eternal kingdom who would reactivate sin and grief.
 It has been argued by some commentators that the ceremony depicted in Revelation 5 is the coronation of Christ as King of the Universe and His inauguration into His high priestly ministry, and the sealed book is the equivalent of the book of the law which the kings of Israel were to have (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). This view is examined in appendix 2.
 The Greek word for “little book” in chapter 10 is biblaridion, whereas the word for “book” in chapter 5 is biblion.
 Revelation 3:5. 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27, 22:19.