Revelation 5:1 and the Identity of the Scroll

(1)  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.

    In the right hand of God was a biblion, a book. Its description shows the book to be written on
a scroll, sealed with seven seals. It seems that every commentator has their own spin on what this scroll represents. I believe the best way to understand this is to consider the details given about this scroll and examine them in light of the rest of the scriptures. Now there is no doubt as to the contents of this scroll, they will be revealed in the coming chapters of Revelation. Soon we shall see that the opening of this scroll has deadly consequences, not to those in Christ, but to the Jews who had rejected their Messiah. The covenant which God made with them at Sinai was to declare the Messiah to them and establish within them their dire need for him (Galatians 3:21-24). The prophets, beginning with Moses, and continuing to John the Baptist and Jesus, all warned the people not to reject their God. In terrifying language, they all described the dreadful consequences of being fallen children of God. Moses was the first prophet to deal specifically with the warnings in the law, which were called the curses of the Law. Everyone should take the time to read Deuteronomy 28:15-68, if you haven’t lately. Every prophet after Moses warned the people against the doom of their disobedience. When John the Baptist beheld the Jewish teachers coming to him to “check him out,” he said to them “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Then he proceeded to address the nearness of the wrath of God upon that generation: “now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” He then spoke of the coming of Jesus, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, but he would also immerse the unfaithful Jews in fire. He followed that up with this statement: “whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12). When Jesus came teaching, he continued the message of all the prophets before him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34).

Coming back to Revelation, we can see that the following chapters will reveal the curses brought upon the Jewish people, who God had often attempted to gather them back to him (through the counsel of the prophets), but they were unwilling. Notice the resemblance of the scroll in the right hand of God here, and in Deuteronomy, we see the law held in the right hand of God: “The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came with ten thousands of saints; From His right hand Came a fiery law for them.” Coincidence? I can’t argue against it. It is doubtful that this scroll could represent anything less than a Testament in the right hand of God. In this case, the testament in hand is the old covenant, which contained promises of cursing’s yet to be fulfilled in the disobedient people but would be fulfilled very soon in their generation (1:1). Revelation 10:7 explains that by the end of this scroll, the “mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” What Jesus, John the Baptist, and all the Old Testament prophets had warned the disbelieving Jews about, was soon to be finished (accomplished).

    The will and testament of God (the old covenant) was delivered for all the people to hear (Exodus 24:7), and it was sealed up by the signature signets of “seven” witnesses (i.e. perfectly sealed, perfectly witnessed, perfectly testified). And the reference to the writing being both within the scroll and on the backside, immediately takes my mind to the ten commandments (the representation of the testament), which were written on one tablet of stone, five commandments on the front and five on the back (it was complete!). The finger of the Lord God inscribed these commandments on one stone and then on a second stone, indicating the fellowship of the covenant between God and the people. One copy was for him (the ruler), and the other copy was for the people.

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