Revelation Chapter 5
Notes are based in part on a sermon preached by Pastor John Piper, at Desiring God Ministries. [Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. They are based mostly on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]
Henry Morris, in agreement with many dispensational interpreters (e.g. Ironside, Criswell, Lindsey), wrote, ‘But what is this remarkable scroll? It is nothing less than the title deed to the earth itself.’ Walvoord notes, ‘Roman law required a will to be sealed seven times as illustrated in the wills left by Augustus and Vespasian for their successors.’ The mighty judgments of the Tribulation period that are unleashed by the opening of the document all are part of God’s reclaiming for Himself the control of the earth, which was forfeited to Satan by the fall of Adam and Eve long ago. The ‘redemption of the purchased possession’ (Eph. 1:14) is accompanied by long-overdue punishments upon the usurpers who have ‘destroyed the earth’ (Rev. 11:18).
The taking of the scroll by the Lamb provokes an outburst of worship and praise in heaven, and a new song (v. 9) is introduced. In Revelation 4:11, they had sung an “old song” of praise to God for His older work of creating all things. The new song praises Him for His new work of redemption in Christ. This worship is accompanied by the priestly worship form of the offering up of incense (v. 8), which here represents the prayers of the saints—most likely the Christians who are being persecuted and are pleading for deliverance (cf. 6:10). This deliverance comes when their persecutors in Jerusalem are judged, after the seven seals of the scroll are broken. Making the redeemed kings and priests (v. 10), or, as some manuscripts have it, “a kingdom of priests,” implies that the original kingdom of priests, Israel (Ex. 19:5-6), has been done away with and replaced by the Church (cf. Heb. 7:12; 8:13).
The Futurist view of verse 10 is expressed this way in Gregg’s book (p. 99):
The reign of the saints on the earth (v. 10)—as opposed to “in heaven”—is a reference to the millennial reign of the saints with Christ after He has returned to earth to establish His kingdom. Henry Morris writes: “Three times in the book of Revelation it is said that believers are to be made kings and priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). These functions apply particularly in the millennial kingdom, when there is still need for them.” According to dispensational expectations, many unsaved people will live on earth during the Millennium, and the saints will reign over these people from their headquarters in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:17).
I highlighted part of Morris’ quote above because I find it rather astonishing. To be fair, he didn’t say the functions of believers as kings and priests apply exclusively to a future Millennium, so I suppose he leaves room for them to apply now. I certainly hope so. Revelation 1:6 was written beyond the shadow of a doubt to a group of first-century churches, and they were very much a kingdom of priests then just as believers are now: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia…Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:4-6). This has been a present reality for all believers ever since Jesus died and rose again. Peter, writing to a different first-century audience, concurs: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
It seems that Morris made his statement based on the common Premillennialist idea that sacrifices will be carried out in a physical temple in Jerusalem during a future Millennium period. Thus, for Morris, there would be a need for believers to function as priests, apparently just as there was once such a need under the Old Covenant. This would suggest a regression back to the types and shadows that have been fulfilled by Christ’s first coming. Whether or not this is the idea intended by Morris’ statement, let it be clear that followers of Jesus are, in this present age, that kingdom of priests which John and Peter wrote about.
–Verses 11-14: “The song of 4:11 was sung by the 24 elders alone. In the song of 5:9-10, they were joined by the four living creatures. Now many angels (v. 11), numbering into millions, add their voices in attributing glory to the Lamb” (Steve Gregg, p. 100). They cry out:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
Our study of Revelation 6 (Part 1) can be found here.
All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.