Imagine, for a moment, your favorite movie or tv show. How much of it can you quote? How many references have you made to your friends who have seen it with you a thousand times? How many times have you watched, acted it out, or recited memorable lines?
Revelation 5 is one of the most theologically packed chapters of the Bible. Why is that? Because the Bible is a complete, unified story that spans thousands of years and dozens of authors, and they all point to a single narrative. The author of Revelation, John, knows his Bible like a movie that he’s watched hundreds of times. In Revelation 5, my Bible shows 49 cross references to other verses. John really knows his Bible!
What’s the purpose, then? When we read Revelation 5, we’re reading the fulfillment of lots of God’s promises. In just 5:1, for example, we’re reminded of the throne room of God in Ezekiel 1, and the sealed scrolls in Daniel 12:4 and Isaiah 29:11. (Tip: when a biblical author makes a clear reference to a different spot in the Bible, they usually want you to go back and read it to see what they mean!!)
What is this scroll, anyway? And why is it that no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open it? We have to keep reading to find out. And here lies the secret behind all of Revelation 5: God’s written plan, which he held in his own hand, could only be carried out by one very, very, very worthy individual. And his name is Jesus.
The rest of Revelation 5 lists off the many qualifications that Jesus holds. He is the lion of Judah. (See Genesis 49:8-12, when God says that the ruler of Israel is like a lion, and he will be of the tribe of Judah). Jesus is the Root of David (see 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promises that one of David’s descendants would rule forever). Jesus is the lamb that was slain (read about the passover lamb in Exodus 12, and how Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7). We see how these immensely powerful creatures, who dwell constantly in the presence of God, sing about this important role of Jesus– that he can open the scrolls because he was slain, ransomed us for God, and made us a kingdom of priests to God, so we can reign on the earth.
I hope you’re starting to see the story of redemption that God had been planning since Genesis. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads and thousands of thousands of angels of heaven, are all “in on” this great story and its many references and quotes from history. They know that Jesus is the climax of God’s great story.
So when we read Revelation 5, let us sing along with all of God’s angelic host in proclaiming that to God and the Lamb “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”