The vision of God and the Lamb, 4:1-5:14

ii] Adoration of the Lamb


Preparations for the full realization of the kingdom of God continue. John sees in the right hand of the Ancient of Days a scroll sealed with seven seals, and hears an angel call for someone to break the seals and open the scroll. When it seems that there is no one to undertake the task, one of the elders declares that the Lion of Judah is well able. John then spots the Lamb, the slain one with seven horns and eyes, step forward and take the scroll. On seeing this, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders do obeisance before the Lamb and then join in a song of praise: worthy is the Lamb who has redeemed a people through his own sacrifice, a people of kings and priest set to reign with him.


The Kingdom of God is at hand: God's reign in Christ is absolute and its realization is now.


i] Context: See 4:1-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8


iii] Structure: The Adoration of the Lamb:

The Ancient of Days holds up the sealed scroll, v1;

Finding someone worthy to open the scroll, v2-5;

"do not weep! See, the Lion of Judah ..... he is able."

The Lamb takes the scroll and prepares to open it, v6-7;

The praise of the heavenly host, v8-10;

Worthy is the slain Lamb,

"you ransomed people for God from every tribe .....

and they shall reign on the earth."


iv] Interpretation:

The realization of the kingdom is a good news / bad news story; it brings blessing and cursing. First comes the bad news, judgment, cf., Paul's gospel proclamation to the Athenians that God "has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed", Acts 17:31. John, in his vision, is witnessing the unfolding of that day - the kingdom has come.

The Ancient of Days holds a scroll in his hand; it is full to overflowing with text. We are not told what is written on the scroll, but from Ezekiel 2:9-10 we can guess - "words of lamentation and mourning and woe", cf., Zech.5:1-3. The scroll is sealed with seven seals, sealed for future judgment, Dan.12:4-9, cf., Deut.32:34-35. Yet, that future is now! The time has come to break the seals, but who is worthy of this task? The Lion of Judah, the messiah, he is both worthy and able, Hos.5:14-15. As it turns out, the Lion is the Lamb, a Lamb bearing the marks of its slaughter / sacrifice, a Lamb that stands in the place of utmost authority beside the throne of the Ancient of Days. This Lamb has horns which represent power, cf., 1Sam.2:1, again with the number seven representing perfection. The Lamb also has seven eyes which represent wisdom / knowledge, cf., Jer.23:24, Zech.4:10, eyes which are "the seven spirits of God"; see v6 below. As the Lamb takes the scroll in his hands, "the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders", representing "God's people and God's world", Wilcock, offer obeisance to him in the words of a new song which proclaims his worthiness. God is the source of new songs (Ps.96:1) and this song is the gospel: the kingdom is come; in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has redeemed a people to himself from the nations of the world, a people who [will] reign with Christ for eternity.


The purpose of John's realized eschatology: The use of apocalyptic visions in the Revelation serves to draw the future into the present; the not yet becomes the now. Yet, what is the purpose of John's realized eschatology? It is usually argued that John is addressing a church facing serious persecution and that the visions of what is and what will be serve to alter the perspective of a suffering church. The powers of this age may rant and rave, but their time is up, glory will soon replace suffering and to this end the church must persevere. Yet, suffering is not dominant in the letters to the churches. Smyrna is afflicted, but this is primarily Jewish opposition, and Pergamum stands under the threat of martyrdom, but there is little else in the way of persecution. Yes, the church is a struggling church, but not really as a persecuted church.

John seems more focused on the problem of syncretism than persecution. The letters to the seven churches evidence a church stepping back from the cutting edge of the gospel and adjusting itself to the shibboleths of secular / pagan society - anything for a quiet life! The fire, the passion, that drove the founding of the churches is now but a memory. So, the Revelation is more like a wake-up call achieved by a confrontation with reality. Reality is not the shenanigans of a godless world to which we must adjust for the sake of that nebulous mantra known as gospel ministry. This is not about imitating the Hare Krishna in setting aside orange robes for suits to better access devotees. Reality is John's vision of heaven - the Great Day of the Lord is upon us, the kingdom is come, the reign of God begun. Faced with this reality, the church must repent, refocus and press forward in faith, for what we see is not what IS. What we see is but a fading shadow, what IS amounts to God's reign in Christ, and it is good news and bad news. So, John's realized eschatology generates a sense of urgency and thus the need for immediate action - metanoew, "repent" (turn around in trust to Christ), cf., 2:5, 16, 21, 22, 3:3, 19.

Text - 5:1

The Adoration of the Lamb, v1-10: i] The Ancient of Days holds up the sealed scroll, v1. Within the awesome splendor of the heavenly court, the action now focuses on the Ancient of Days who is holding a securely sealed scroll or codex filled with text. This is not a static image, rather, the time has come when the scroll must be opened. Again, John's imagery alludes to the OT prophets, here Isa.6:1, 29:11, Ezk.2:9b-10, Dan.12. We can't help wanting to know what's in the scroll and commentators certainly have their theories, eg., Smalley, "God's salvific plan." Osborne actually lists six possibilities and ends up aligning with Smalley, "God's redemptive plan." Koester's suggestion certainly has merit; He argues that it contains the visions that are later revealed in the Revelation because in 10:1-11 the angel gives the open scroll to John who then reveals its contents in the prophecies that follow, ie.,"words of lamentation and mourning and woe", Ezk.2:9-10.

kai "Then" - and. With a step in the narrative we would expect de, but John rarely uses de, instead relying on kai.

epi + acc. "in [the right hand]" - [i saw a scroll] in/on [the right hand of the one sitting on the throne]. Spacial, and note again its second use in this verse with the gen., "on [the throne]. It is really not possibly to identify a particular sense when followed by either the acc., or the gen., or the dat. The spacial sense can only be a guess. If we are looking at a scroll it is "in the right hand", but if a codex then we are looking at it laid flat "on the right hand."

tou kaqhmenou (kaqhmai) gen. pres. mid. part. "of him who sat" - of the one sitting. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being possessive.

gegrammenon (grafw) perf. mid. pas. part. "with writing" - having been written [inside and on back, having been sealed up the book by seven seals]. The participle, as with "having been sealed", is adjectival, attributive, limiting "scroll"; "a scroll ...... which had text on both sides and sealed with seven seals."

sfragisin (iV ewV) dat. "with [seven] seals" - The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "seal up the book with / by seven seals"


ii] Finding someone worthy to open the scroll, v2-5. In apocalyptic literature, an angel usually conveys the revelation to the prophet. This is the angel's first appearance, although he (she??) is mentioned in 1:1; some commentators argue he related the first vision to John. He calls for someone worthy in heaven to open the scroll / codex, but no one in the universe is found who can open it and examine its contents. John bursts into tears, but one of the elders tells him that the victorious messiah is well able to open it.

kai "and" - As in v1, standing in for de, indicating a step in the narrative; "and then ....."

khrussonta (khrussw) pres. part. "[a mighty angel] proclaiming" - [i saw a strong, powerful angel] proclaiming, preaching. Accusative complement of the direct object "angel" standing in a double accusative construction.

en + dat. "in [a loud voice]" - Here the preposition is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the proclamation; "Then I saw a strong angel and heard him announcing for all to hear", Barclay. Probably "loud" carries weight; this is an important announcement.

tiV "who" - Here as an interrogative; "'who is there', he exclaimed, 'worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?'", Cassirer. Note how Cassirer maintains the order of the Greek text where the more important part of the action (ie., opening the scroll) precedes the less important action, although the action which is sequentially first. The NIV expresses the sequential action, to break and then open.

lusai (luw) aor. inf. "to [break the seals]" - [who is worthy to open the scroll / codex and] to loosen, release = break [the seals of it]. If a verb to-be is assumed with the adj. axioV, "worthy", it produces a verbal construct which is completed by the infinitives "to open" and "to release", ie., the infinitives are complementary. If we ignore the assumed verb to-be we would classify the infinitives as epexegetic, specifying axioV, "worthy". We may have expected "who is able?", indicating physical strength, cf., v3, but we have "who is worthy" in the sense of moral authority. We may have a combination of both ideas, so "who is fit to open the book and break the seals?", Phillips. Cf., Dan.7:10. Note that both "scroll" and "seals" are articular serving to refer back to the "scroll" and "seals" of v1, ie., an anaphoric construction where the article points back to a previous noun. So we could say "this scroll" and "these seals." Note also the hysteron-proteron, last-first, the reversal of a logical order; a person would break the seals before they opened the book. This Gk. feature is used to emphasize the first noted element, namely, opening the book - its all about the book!


kai "but" - The NIV opts for an adversative sense.

en .... epi .... uJpokatw ... "in [heaven or] on [earth or] under [the earth]" - Spacial prepositions. We have here an example of the way the cosmos is viewed by Jews of the first century. There is sheol / hades, the place of the dead under the earth, then the earth, and then the heaven's above. The heavens can have a number of division, but basically there is the dome housing the heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars, and above that the domain of the heavenly beings. By the first century the "waters under the earth" had become the waters around the earth, a domain of dark and evil powers. "There was no one - no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld - able to break open the scroll and read it", Peterson.

anoixai (anoigw) aor. inf. "[could] open [the scroll]" - [and no one was being able .........] to open [the scroll or to see it = look into it]. The infinitive, as with blepein, "to see", is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "was being able." Note that blepein, "to see, look", is a durative present, so an ongoing study of the text may be in mind.


eklaion (klaiw) imperf. "I wept [and wept]" - [and] i wept [muchly]. The imperfect may carry an inceptive sense, "I began to weep ..." The modifying adverb polu, "much", is modal, expressing manner.

oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why John was weeping.

oudeiV adj. "no one [was found who was worthy]" - [he found] no one [worthy]. Here serving as a substantive, "no person", modified / limited by the adjective "worthy"; "he found no worthy person."

anoixai (anoigw) aor. inf. "to open" - to open [the scroll nor to look into it]. The infinitive, as for "to look", is epexegetic, specifying / explaining "no worthy person", but see lusai v2; "he found no worthy person to open .... or look into it." Note that "to open" is aorist ,and "to look" is present. Presumably aspect is at work, with "open" being a perfective / completive action, and "look" an imperfective / ongoing action.

oute "or [look inside]" - Virtually an oute ..... oute construction, a negated coordinate construction; "He found no worthy person, neither to open the scroll, nor to look into it."


kai "then" - and. See v1.

ek + gen. "[one] of [the elders]" - Partitive use of the preposition.

moi dat. pro. "[said] to [me]" - [says] to [me]. Dative of indirect object. The present tense legei, "says", serves as a narrative present, so "said", as NIV.

mh klaie (klaiw) pres. "do not weep!" - do not weep [behold, the lion has conquered]. Although it is no longer held as a syntactical rule, mh + pres. here may well express a command to cease an action already underway, "stop weeping", so Plummer, DDG.

oJ "-" - the one [from the tribe of judah]. The article may be treated as a nominalizer turning the prepositional construction "from the tribe of Judah" into a substantive standing in apposition to "the Lion", or better as an adjectivizer, attributive, limiting "the Lion", "the Lion which is from the tribe of Judah." The preposition ek serves here to express source / origin; "the Lion that comes from the tribe of Judah", Cassirer. "He has overcome / conquered" what? Osborne gives weight to the aorist enikhsen, "conquered", reading it as punctiliar such that it refers "to his (Christ's) sacrificial death as the victory over Satan." It is probably more gnomic, a victory over the powers of evil, but given v9 and the reference to the Lamb's sacrifice, John may have in mind the victory of the cross.

Iouda gen. "[the tribe] of Judah" - The genitive proper is epexegetic, specifying what tribe is in mind.

hJ pJiza (a) "the root [of David]" - Nominative standing in apposition to "the Lion." The genitive proper "David" would express source / origin. Both "the Lion of Judah" and "the root of David" are messianic titles.

anoixai (anoigw) aor. inf. "he is able to open" - to open [the scroll and the seven seals of it]. Again the infinitive is complementary with an assumed verb, here "he is able." Mathewson (so also Smalley) suggests it may be adverbial, expressing result; "the Lion from the tribe of Judah ........ has won the right to open the scroll and its seven seals", REB.


iii] The Lamb takes the scroll and prepares to open it, v6-7. On closer inspection, John sees that the Lion is a Lamb. Jesus has won the victory, not by the power of a Lion, but "by enduring hostility and dying (like a paschal lamb)", Osborne. Christ has endured the cross, defeated the powers of darkness and won the victory, so the coming Armageddon is but the last nail in Satan's coffin. This is particularly represented by the image of seven horns; Jesus is the warrior messiah who destroys his enemies. He also possess the eyes of God, the spirits of the all-seeing God, the Holy Spirit through whom and in whom he ministers to his church. So, the Lamb steps forward, receives the scroll, and prepares to open it.

kai "then" - and. See v1.

arnion (on) "[I saw] a lamb" - "Lamb" here is anarthrous, without an article. Following references will have the article indicating an anaphoric function, ie., they will refer back to this Lamb. The Lamb is surely the paschal lamb, cf., Isa.53:7, "a lamb led to the slaughter", referring to the suffering servant, so Swete. Other possibilities have been suggested: a conquering ram; the passover lamb, the atoning lamb, a vulnerable lamb. Aune suggests a suffering lamb, but also a leader / ruling lamb; "a sacrifice that not only redeems, but conquers." The word "Lamb" appears 28 times in Revelation, ie., 4 times 7. These numerical coincidences can be misleading, but John my be telling us something. He does go to great pains to underline the number 7.

wJV "[looking] as if" - [and i saw in middle of the throne and of the four living beings and in middle of the elders a lamb having stood] as [having been slain]. Here expressing manner, and with the concessive participle esfagmenon, "having been slain", gives the sense "I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain", ESV. The accusative participle eJsthkoV, "having stood", serves as the complement of the direct object "a lamb", standing in a double accusative construction; "I saw ...... a lamb standing." "So I looked, and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals and Elders, was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall", Peterson. The spacial sense of the Lamb standing en mesw/, "in the middle, midst", of the throne, cherubim and elders, is impractical, but makes the point that Jesus is central to the unfolding drama.

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "[the Lamb] had [seven horns and seven eyes]" - having [seven horns and seven eyes]. The participle may be treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "the Lamb; "a Lamb standing which had seven horns ....", but note that the participle does not agree with "the Lamb" in person, "lamb" being neuter, the participle being masculine. See 1:16 for John's use of this participle. John is surely making a point - the Lamb is Jesus. John's image of the kerata, "horns", is probably drawn from 1Enoch 90:9, 37-38, an image which is used of the Messiah, a warrior who destroys his enemies. "Horns" in Daniel are used as a symbol of power and strength, cf., Dan.7:7, 20, 8:3, 5. The image of the seven ofqalmouV, "eyes", is probably used to describe the all-seeing nature of the Lamb / messiah, cf., 4:6 - Zech.4:10, "the eyes of the Lord that see everything on the earth." The Lamb possesses eyes representing "completeness of vision which leads to perfect knowledge", Mounce.

oi{ pro. "which [are the seven spirits]" - The antecedent of this nominative subject of the verb to-be is obviously "the seven eyes", although just because they agree in person is not always a guarantee in the Revelation. It seems very likely that the "seven eyes which are the seven spirits" are the "seven lamps", 4:5, and the "seven spirits", 1:4, 3:1, ie., "the Sevenfold Holy Spirit", Osborne = the Holy Spirit, cf., Zech.4:2, 10, the lampstand with seven lamps identified as the eyes of God representing the spirit of God carrying out his purposes in the world, Zech.4:6. At one level the imagery tells us that God sees all things, "no one is exempt from his scrutiny", Koester. Beale goes further when he argues that "as a result of the death and resurrection, these spirits (= the eyes) also become Christ's agents throughout the world, who figuratively represent the Holy Spirit himself. The Spirit carries out the sovereign plan of the Lord."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be adjectival, possessive or relational, or ablative, source / origin, "the seven spirits from God."

apestalmenoi (apostellw) perf. mid./pas. part. "sent out" - having been sent [into all the earth]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "spirits". Again we note how John construes person by sense, here the participle is masculine while modifying the neuter noun "spirits". The perfect tense well expresses the past act of the "Sevenfold Spirits" / the Holy Spirit having been sent out into the world and maintaining an ongoing presence in the world. Smalley's "now, as a result of the exaltation of the Lamb, the Spirit-Paraclete is sent out into the world, to be at work in and through the church in the present and final stages of human history" catches the sense of the image, but not its timing. John's eschatology is realized; the seven eyes of the Lamb = the seven spirits = the Holy Spirit, "has been sent out into all the earth", has been and is at work, but now that work is complete. John is witnessing the folding up of the Monopoly Board, not an ongoing game - It's "Game over boys!"


eilhqen (lambanw) perf. "[he went and] took the scroll" - [he came and] has taken the scroll. The verb "to come" here is aorist, but then John uses a perfect for "he took." Beale suggests it is an aoristic use of the perfect tense, but Mathewson suggests that "the perfect tense functions to draw attention to this action as the highpoint of the vision." The Lamb is worthy to take the scroll and open it, and so sets out to do so. "The Lamb went and received the scroll", Barclay.

ek + gen. "from" - Expressing separation, "away from the right hand ...."

tou kaqhmenou (kaqhmai) gen. pres. part. "of him who sat" - of the one sitting [on the throne]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being possessive. The spacial use of epi again; "on, upon [the throne].


iv] The praise of the heavenly host, v8-10. This scene, describing the worship of the Lamb, a scene further developed in v11-14, is, according to Smalley, "the Lamb's investiture, and the acceptance of his Lordship." It is shaped by three doxologies, the first being found in v9-10. The living creatures (the creation) and the elders (God's people) offer praise to the Lamb. Representing the worshipping community of believers on earth, the elders accentuate their worship with harps and golden thuribles (turibulum) / incense burners, with the clouds of incense representing the prayers of God's people. In a song of praise they celebrate the realization of the kingdom of God - a new song to celebrate its coming. The song / hymn has a threefold focus: The worthiness of the Lamb - only he has the power and or moral authority to open the scroll and instigate the final judgment; the redemptive work of the Lamb - he redeemed a people for God by his sacrifice; and finally in v10, the blessings upon God's people - we become kings and priests, set apart to reign with Christ.

oJte "when [he had taken it]" - [and] when [he received the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty four elders]. This temporal conjunction serves to introduce a temporal clause; "when he had taken the book", Phillips. As Smalley notes, the role of the elders here reflects that of the twenty-four orders of Levites "trained in singing to the Lord", 1Chron.25:1-31.

enwpion + gen. "[fell down] before [the Lamb]" - Spacial. The act of falling down expresses an act of obeisance, and thus of worship; "the four living creatures and the twenty four elders dropped to their knees before the Lamb", Junkins.

exonteV (ecw) pres. part. "[each one] had [a harp]" - [each person / each of them] having [a harp]. The participle is masculine, so in concord with the masculine "twenty four elders" and not the neuter "four living creatures." "Most probably the participle is another example of a participle serving as a finite verb, classified technically as a paraphrastic construction missing the verb to-be, probably a paraphrastic imperfect emphasizing durative aspect; "each of them held / had with them a harp and golden bowls."

gemousaV (gemw) pres. part. + gen. "[golden bowls] full of [incense]" - [and golden bowls] being full of [incense]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bowls"; "golden bowls which are full of incense." The noun qumiamatwn, "incense", is a genitive of direct object / content, after the participle "being full of." A thurible may be full of the waxes, spices and herbs that produce the incense smoke when burnt, but "full of", "filled with", TEV, the white smoke itself is a somewhat strange image. John surely has in mind a fulsome cloud of incense (white smoke) coming from the thurible / golden bowl. TH goes with "the bowl was filled with sweet-smelling herbs", but surely it is the fragrant smoke floating upward that John has in mind.

ai{ eisin "which are [the prayers]" - This construction introduces as a parenthetical explanation; "full of incense (that is, full of the prayers of the saints), singing a new song", Moffatt. Note that the pronoun ai{ is feminine such that it is technically in concord with the feminine "bowls" and not the neuter "incense", but John surely has "incense" in mind. In the OT there is a liturgical link between the wafting cloud of incense in the temple and the prayers of the worshipers, cf., Ps.141:2. As already noted, it seems likely that the elders represent the community of believers, here, with their harps and the wafting incense from their golden thuribles, representing the worshiping people of God. The prayers of the people are not specified, given that all our prayers find their place before God's throne, but Blount may be right to note that in the present context they serve as "a challenge to God to begin the process of vindicating God's people."

twn aJgiwn gen. adj. "of God's people" - of the holy, saints. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, subjective; "the prayers offered up by God's people." "The holy ones" is a title often applied to believers and is even used of God's people in the OT, cf., Ps.34:9. Aune suggests that the title reflect a believer's relationship with God, not their sanctity. In ourselves, we are anything but holy, but in our relationship with Christ we are made (considered, counted as??) holy.


legonteV (legw) "saying" - [they sang a new song] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to sing", "they sang ..... and said", redundant so left out, as TEV, or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their singing, as NIV. "They sang a new song: 'You are worthy .....'", TEV. See legwn 1:17 for John's tendency to introduce what is seen or heard in a vision with a participle. For the realization of the kingdom of God there is a new song to celebrate its coming.

labein (lambanw) aor. inf. "[you are worthy] to take [the scroll]" - [worthy are you] to take [the scroll and to open the seals of it]. The infinitive, as with "to open", is epexegetic, specifying / explaining in what way Christ is worthy.

oJti "because [you were slain]" - because [you were slain and purchased the holy / saints for god with the blood of you]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus is worthy; "for you were slain and by your blood you bought for God people of every tribe and language, nation and race", REB. The verb sfazw, "to slay", is only used of Jesus' death in the Revelation, obviously driven by the image of Jesus as a sacrifice lamb, cf., Isa.53:7. This with the verb agorazw, "to buy, purchase", expresses the idea of emancipation from slavery by the payment of a price, here the sacrifice of the Lamb.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "for God" - Dative of interest, advantage.

en + dat. "with [your blood]" - Instrumental dative, expressing means; "by means of your blood." The NIV "with your blood" is leaning toward a dative of material / price, a subset of the instrumental dative.

ek "persons from" - from [every tribe and tongue and people and nation]. Here expressing source / origin, although Mathewson classifies the preposition here as partitive (ie., standing in the place of a partitive genitive). The fourfold listing of nations, peoples etc., makes the point that believers are drawn from all peoples and all nations, so Bauckham.


basileian kai iJereiV acc. "to be a kingdom and priests" - [you made them] a kingdom and priests. Here serving as the complement of the object "them" in a double accusative, primary and secondary, construction; "you made them into a kingdom and priests." The NET Bible suggests a hendiadys for "kingdom and priests" = "a priestly kingdom"; "you have made them a royal house of priests", REB, Interesting, but probably not the intended sense. As a worshipping community, represented by the elders and their harps and incense, we are in a sense a corporate priesthood, able to approach the throne of God on behalf of others and ourselves. As well as being priests we are corporately a kingdom, ie., we are royalty. So, believers are royalty as well as priests; "royalty and priests for God", Berkeley, or simply "you have made them kings and priests in service to God."

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to serve [our] God" - to the god [of us]. Dative of interest, advantage; "for our God", Moffatt. The genitive pronoun hJmwn, "our", is adjectival, relational, or subordination, "God over us." TH opts for idiomatic, "the God whom we worship."

basileusousin (balileuw) fut. "they will reign" - [and] they will reign. Variant present tense exists. Since it is the more difficult reading it may well be original although most translations opt for the future tense. Of course, the present may well be a future present. Given John's realized eschatology, a present tense is by no means a problem - even now we reign with Christ!

epi + gen. "on [the earth]" - John's favorite spacial preposition, usually with the sense "upon / on [the earth]", but possibly here "over [the earth]", Plumber DDG.


Revelation Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]