Welcome to a Revelation of Jesus. In this series we want to look beyond the beasts and symbols to see the beautiful pictures of Jesus in the Book of Revelation.
In the previous two videos, we laid some of the groundwork for understanding the Seven Seals in Revelation chapters 4-7. We saw that the Seven Seals introduce the first phase of the judgment, which is actually taking place right now.
In this phase, the angels and other inhabitants of the heavenly realm review the lives of the people that Jesus has identified as believers in Him and worthy of eternal life. It’s not that the angels are second-guessing Jesus, but as we will see, right from the onset there is a disturbing challenge that literally has John in tears.
When the prophet Daniel saw this same scene he reported, “Thrones were put in place…The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9,10). In Revelation chapter 4 we saw the court seated. God the Father was seated on His throne. The four living creatures were “in the midst of the throne, and around the throne” (Revelation 4:6). And “twenty-four elders [were] sitting on… twenty-four thrones” (Revelation 4:4). But when it came time to open the books there was a serious issue.
“I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book (probably a scroll) written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book, or to look at it” (Revelation 5:1-3).
This “strong angel” seemed to have so much authority that John felt that no one would be able to meet the challenge. And he somehow understood that there would be dire consequences if the book was not opened: “I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it” (Revelation 5:4).
But all was not lost. “One of the elders said to [John], ‘Weep no more. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5).
Surprisingly, John didn’t see a lion or a root. “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain having seven horns and seven eyes…Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:6,7).
When the Lamb took the book it prompted the greatest outpouring of praise and worship in the whole book of Revelation:
- “They sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood… Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessings!”,
- “And every creature which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them, I heard saying, ‘Blessings and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:9-13).
The whole universe was supercharged with joy and enthusiasm because the Lamb was slain and could now open the sealed book.
In order to understand this important passage, we need to determine what the sealed book is and why it is so important that it be opened. We will also need to identify the strong angel and understand the nature of his challenge. Finally, we want to understand the significance of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, and the Lamb.
There has been a lot of speculation about the sealed book, much of it involving comparisons with books or scrolls used in Roman times such as books of covenant or title deeds, or wills and testaments. But instead of guessing about the meaning, we will look at the evidence that is found right within the Book of Revelation.
First of all, we would expect that a book so important that a whole chapter is devoted to the controversy surrounding its opening would be prominent in other parts of Revelation. There are three books that are mentioned in Revelation besides the sealed book.
In Revelation 1:11 John was told to write in a book the things he saw in his vision and send it to the 7 churches. This resulted in the Book of Revelation that we have in the Bible. In Revelation 22 this same book is called the “book of this prophecy” and is mentioned 5 times.
John is specifically warned, “do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:10). This literal, unsealed book that John wrote to be read by the churches on earth could not be the same one John saw in God’s hand sealed with seven seals.
The second book is the “Little Book” of chapter 10 that John was instructed to eat. There are no links between the themes and language of chapter 5 and chapter 10; even the Greek word for book is different.
The third book is the Book of Life. It is mentioned 7 times in Revelation. Like the sealed book in Revelation 5, the Book of Life is integrally linked to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb—in Revelation 21:27. It is called “the Lamb’s Book of Life”.
It is also closely linked to judgment, which is the theme of chapter 5: “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works…And whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12,15). We will talk more about this scary verse in later videos, but the point is that the Book of Life is used to determine who will ultimately be saved into the eternal kingdom.
The Book of Life is concerned with eternal, life-and-death issues.
This makes it easy to understand John’s strong reaction: “I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it” (Rev. 5:4). Unless the Book of Life was opened, no one could be judged, which would mean that no one could be saved.
This reality is underscored in Revelation 21:27: “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).
The Revelation chiasm gives additional evidence that the book with seven seals is the Book of Life. If you are new to this series, you can look at the Revelation of Jesus 4 which explains that the Book of Revelation is set up with analogous mirror image sections.
One of the most helpful things about the chiasm is that many of the symbols in one section are also present in its mirror image section, often with additional details that help to understand the meaning. Chapter 5, which we are studying in this video, is a part of section two of the Chiasm. Its analogous section is section seven. We are studying the sealed book in section 2. Is there also a book in section seven?
Actually, we just read about it in Revelation 20:12 “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (Revelation 20:12).
This implies that the sealed book in section 2 is also the Book of Life. We can see here why God inspired John to use a chiastic structure. It is one of the tools He has given us to help unlock the Book of Revelation because He wants us to discover the precious treasure that He has hidden in what at first glance seems to be obscure language and cryptic symbols.
Let’s nail down the identity of the sealed book with a little question and answer series.
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 other book that is opened in Revelation?
A. – Yes, “Another book was opened which is the Book of Life” (Revelation 21:12).
Q. – If the Book of Life was not opened, would that be a reason for John to cry?
A. – Yes, because “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
The Bible doesn’t give a comprehensive analysis of what the Book of Life is or who is written in it. But there are a number of scriptures in both the Old and the New Testament that can help us understand.
It is clear that faithful Christians, especially those who have sacrificed to share the Gospel with others, are recorded in the Book of Life. Paul referred to “Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3).
Faithful believers in Old Testament times were also included. Moses mentioned the Book of Life when he pleaded for his people after their idolatry with the golden calf, saying, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32).
We see so far that the Book of Life records the names of those who believe in God and faithfully follow Him. The letters of Paul tell us that these are people who are not perfect, but because of their faith, righteousness is imputed or credited to them.
Abraham is a representative of those who may not know the name of Jesus but they have known Him through the Holy Spirit and have responded in faith to His promptings—”[Abraham] is the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them also” (Romans 4:11). These believers’ names are written in the Book of Life.
But the Book of Life is not simply a list of names. God considers our circumstances and does not arbitrarily disqualify people just because they were born where Bible knowledge and the gospel of Jesus are unavailable. This concept is suggested in Psalm 87: “I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me; Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there. But of Zion it shall 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” (Ps. 87:4-6).
Thus the Book of life is to a certain extent like a biography, including the historical, geographical, social, and informational context of the people who are recorded.
Indeed, many who have been seeking and responding to God in ignorance are not excluded: “He gives to all life, breath, and all things, so that they should seek the Lord, in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…for we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:25-28).
God reveals Himself to these seekers through His creation: “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” so that “The Gentiles, who do not have [God’s] Law, by nature do the things in the Law…who show the work of the law written in their hearts” (Romans 2:14,15). No doubt these seekers are also written in the Book of Life.
We can conclude that those who at one time or another have responded to the Holy Spirit have been recorded in the Book of Life. On the other hand, those who resist or refuse the promptings of the Spirit do not have their names written in it. For example, the beast of Revelation 13 is given authority over “All…whose names have not been written in the Book of Life” (Revelation 13:7,8).
Even believers must face the sober reality that names that have been written can later be removed. At the end of Revelation there is a solemn warning: “If anyone shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life” (Revelation 22:19).
Jesus told the church of Sardis, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5) This verse implies that the names of those who do not overcome may be blotted out.
Having said all this, we should remember that the judgment is not intended to exclude people from eternal life, but to save as many as possible so they can live forever in His glorious kingdom.
The opening of the Book of Life opens the door for the myriads of believers throughout the ages to be ushered in. So it is disconcerting when a strong angel with obvious great authority challenges the opening of the Book “Proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 1:2).
Who is this angel, and why does he seem to have an adversarial attitude toward the obvious desire of God who is sitting on His throne holding out the sealed Book of Life so that it can be opened? The strong angel’s challenge will be the subject of our next video.
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