The Revelation of John: Chapter Five

10 Mar

I have been doing a series of posts on the Revelation of John. In this series I have been comparing John’s vision with books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST – given in read).

Revelation FiveRevelation 5

 In this chapter we read about the book sealed with seven seals. John sees the Father holding the book and an angel asks, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (verse 2) No man is found to open the seals, and when John sees this he weeps.

Before we continue we should first ask what this book represents. There are many ideas regarding it, but we have the blessing of a direct interpretation from God himself. We looked at section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants when we looked at Revelation chapter four. We again turn to that section for an explanation of this book (in verses 6-7).

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?

A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?

A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.

So, we can see that John’s revelation was much more encompassing than many people think. It quite literally reveals the history of the world, from the fall to the millennium and final judgment.

 

At this point the vision becomes a little interactive, for one of the 24 elders, mentioned in the previous chapter, turns to John and reassures him.

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. (verse 5)

Before we say what John saw let us consider this statement. The Lion of the tribe of Judah alludes back to Genesis 49: 9 when Jacob describes Judah as a lion’s whelp, indicating that sometime in the future that full power of the tribe would be realized. This happened through Christ, who was of Judah, and thus Christ is here called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

After the elder makes this declaration John then tells us he saw “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having twelve horns and twelve eyes, which are the twelve servants of God, sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.” (verses 6-7) Now, the Lamb is an obvious reference to Christ, who is commonly referred to as a lamb and was symbolized in ancient sacrifices by a lamb without blemish. However, you may note that the JST changes the KJV from the number seven to the number twelve, and once again changes spirits to servants. I am inclined to think that this is a reference to the twelve apostles that served under Christ, who were first given the commission to take the gospel to the world, and who will judge Israel.

The rest of the chapter consists of the four beasts and the 24 elders praising Christ. There are only a couple of things I want to note in these last seven verses.

First, in verse eight the KJV says that they each held a vial full of ‘odours.’ An alternate Greek translation would render this ‘incense.’ In either case it is described as ‘the prayers of the saints.” I think the use of Incense would be a better translation because it takes ones mind back to the burning of incense in the ancient temple, which was to symbolize the prayers of the people going up to God.

Secondly, the reason given for Christ being worthy to open the book is important. “…thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (verse 9) We know that the book contains the history of the world from the fall, and yet Christ’s atonement makes him worthy to open all the seals, even those that came before him. To me this is an indication of the retroactive power of the atonement. I have heard some outside the church say that those who lived before Christ were saved by their own works, while the atonement is only for those who lived after Christ. To me this declaration that the Atonement gives him power and authority over all history shows clearly that His atonement is truly for everyone at everytime.

 

See also chapter one,  two, three, four

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