“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” Rev 5:1-2
We have come to the most dramatic moment in all of time, short of the White Throne Judgment. It is the moment that all of creation collectively has groaned for centuries in anticipation of. This is the moment that the incarnation, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ pointed toward.
A “strong” angel expresses the question of all ages. Any one of the angels could ask this question. In fact, this question has been on the lips of the human race since the dawn of history. “Who is worthy to open the book?”
Rather than rush through the scene of chapter five, I want to slow down and let the gravity of this moment sink in. To understand why this moment is so important to all of creation, we must see exactly what this seven-sealed book is. We must understand the question of worthiness regarding this book. And finally, we must know what the breaking of the seals of this book means. The interpretation of the remainder of Revelation depends on our understanding of these three issues.
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.” Rev 5:1
Verse one speaks of a book in terms that sound rather odd to us today. We commonly think of a book as a stack of pages that are bound on the left side. One can turn the pages of our modern books and see the contents rather easily. But John lived in a day before the invention of the printing press. Books in Bible days were single pieces of parchment that were rolled up instead of being individual pieces of paper bound on one edge.
The book of Revelation chapter five speaks of a scroll written on either side and sealed with seven seals. Being written within and on the “backside” meant that when rolled up, a person could see a certain portion on the outside near the edge of the single page. This is where ancient books often had a title or a short table of contents written, so a reader could know what the contents were without unrolling the scroll. Also, it was sealed with seven seals. A large scroll could be rolled up to a certain point, and a glob of wax would be dropped inside and then rolled up in the scroll. This could happen multiple times so that a person could break the outside seal and read the contents to a certain point. Then he would have to break another seal to continue reading. Perhaps the writing on the backside of this scroll told John that inside the outside seal were six other seals. However he knew, John tells us that this book had seven seals.
Dr. Harry Ironside has called the seven-sealed book of Revelation, “the title deed to this world.” I believe the book is indeed that, but it is much more. It is the title deed of redemption. And because of its nature, it is not enough to hold this book, one must be worthy to claim, to open it, and to loose the seals of this book. In order to understand what I mean by the term “title deed of redemption” we need to go back through a little history.
A) The Original Title Granted to Adam
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Gen 1:26
When God counseled with Himself at the creation, His plan was to create the perfect environment for one that would be made in His own image. And so man was given dominion over not only the animal kingdoms, but also over “all the earth.” Earth was his planet, created for his benefit, including everything in it. As the Creator, God granted the title deed to Adam. Everything belonged to man and was to benefit man - all except one thing. The forbidden fruit was the only thing withheld.
Along came the deceiver, who tried to swindle man out of his claim. In order to partake of what God had forbidden, Adam had to disobey God and thus jeopardize his claim. A lien was placed on the deed to this property because of man’s sub. God cursed the serpent, the man, the woman, and the earth itself.
Since that time, all of creation has groaned and travailed in anticipation of the day when the curse would be removed.
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Rom 8:22-23
No one was found who could pay the price to remove the lien and break the curse. Even Christian believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, are still under the curse of sin to a certain extent. This is because we are housed in a carnal, fleshly body and struggle with the carnal nature. The Lord Jesus redeemed our soul and spirit, but our body is still in the balance. We are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14). The redemption of the purchased possession for the Christian takes place at the rapture, when the Lord Jesus comes back to claim what He purchased at Calvary. Then the bodies of believers will be changed and the curse of sin removed. Of course, the sting of sin is death. So when the purchased possession of the Church is claimed, death will be defeated.
But the rest of creation is not redeemed at the rapture. The rapture is a catching away of the Church, so that the saints can participate and observe the rest of the redemptive program as it unfolds. The price of the lien on creation was paid in full at Calvary. But that lien must be removed and the title deed claimed and exercised by the purchaser.
This deed will be contested by Satan. This is the story of the remainder of Revelation. As each seal is opened, a new chapter in the final contest begins.
Who Is Worthy?
“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” Rev 5:2
Knowing the nature of the book, you understand now the nature of the question. The question is regarding worthiness. Who is worthy to possess, to open, and to loose the seals of the title deed of redemption?
He must be sinless -
- Because in order to cover the lien caused by sin, He must be without sin.
- Many can die for their own sins, but to pay the price for another’s sin one must be without sin.
He must be part of Adam’s family -
- He must be what the Hebrew people called a kinsman-redeemer.
- We have two examples of this in the Bible - Boaz in the Book of Ruth and Jeremiah redeeming property belonging to his cousin.
- Property was supposed to stay in the same family. When your property was encumbered, it became the privilege of your closest relative to redeem it, or to pay the price to remove the encumbrance.
- How could a member of Adam’s family not inherit the sin that is common to all humanity?
- Only if His blood relation to the human family was through His mother and not his father!
- He must be born of a virgin.
- He must be without an earthly father - a virgin conception!
- He would be the only human that could truly be called “the seed of woman.” Every other human being is the seed of man.
He must die -
- Death was the penalty for man’s sin.
- God Himself pronounced this sentence upon sin.
Yet He must live -
- How else can He redeem the encumbered property and exercise the privileges of ownership?
- He must die, yet He must live.
- He must be of Adam’s family, yet without sin.
- He must be born, but without inheriting what all born from men inherit.
Who is worthy? Who can take the book and open it? I can’t take it. I can’t open it. Can you? What an incredible, paradoxical dilemma the world was in! Search was made for one who was worthy.
“And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” Rev 5:3
The most critical time in the history of creation. Would anyone be able to remove the curse? Would the suffering never end?
“And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” Rev 5:4
John wept to think that after all the centuries of suffering, war, hatred, sickness, pain, and tears, no one would be able to straighten out the planet. No one in heaven filled the bill. No one in earth could do it. No one in the underworld qualified. Other than the Great White Throne Judgment, this is the most critical moment in all of time. Would God’s creation end like this? Would the human race end in shame and misery?
Let me pause here to mention to you the hopelessness of those who don’t know the Lamb of God. Without the Lamb of God life is a pointless exercise in futility. Without the Lamb of God all of creation is hopelessly out of balance. Without the Lamb of God the future means nothing. If you don’t know the Lamb of God you are yet in sin and under the curse of God’s judgment.
Breaking the Seals
“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” Rev 5:5
But now hear the words from a child of God - the Lion of Judah is worthy. The plan of God prevails. The four and twenty elders represent the raptured Church and the Church knows that there is no cause to weep. God has made arrangements. The price has been paid, and the title deed will be claimed.
Breaking the seals of the book means exercising full ownership over the property. Satan will contest the Lord Jesus’ claim. But He will be deposed. One after another, the seals will be loosed and the Lion of Judah will loose his judgment upon wickedness. Those in rebellion against His dominion will be put down. His kingdom will be established. And the Church will live and reign with Him on earth. One by one, every obstacle to His dominion will fall. One by one, every event that was planned since the beginning will come to pass.
Those who do not know the Lord Jesus have every cause to weep. Without Jesus your life has no real meaning and there is no answer to these questions. Without Jesus there is no hope of ever overcoming the curse of sin. The reason this is true is because He is the only One worthy. No one else can measure up to the requirements.
© 2008 Nevin Bass. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced for the purpose of resale without written permission.
Theme image at top is by Ilian Rachov. The Lamb of God in Heaven on the ceiling of the Vatican Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. www.ilianrachov.com
 Quoted by McGee in Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee