Who is worthy to open the book?
Jan 19, 2016
The fifth chapter of Revelation correlates with the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the hey, which is the breath of God. It also serves as their number five, which is the number of grace or favor. As I wrote in my book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty, p. 6,
“Hey at the beginning of a Hebrew word means ‘the’ or ‘behold.’ In the middle of a word it signifies inspiration or revelation. At the end of the word it signifies ‘what comes from’.”
The letter is pronounced by breathing out (expiration), because God is the one who breathes the breath of life into us. He exhales so that we may inhale. His expiration gives us inspiration. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16,
16 All Scripture is inspired by God [theopneustos, “God-breathed”] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
The Greek word for the phrase “inspired by God” comes from a compound word made up of theo, “God,” and pneustos, “breath, wind.”
Hence, the fifth chapter of Revelation gives us the key inspiration of all Scripture—that which God has breathed to inspire us with the mind of Christ from the beginning. This chapter reveals the core nature and scope of divine grace, which reaches its culmination in the restoration of all creation.
The Case of the Sealed Book
Revelation 5:1-3 begins with a heavenly court case to determine if anyone was worthy to open the sealed book.
1 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it.
It is plain that this book contained the divine plan for heaven and earth, showing the path by which the creation was to be restored so that God could be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Yet the book was sealed so that no one could read it and discover its prophetic secrets. Opening this book was important, because this was to be the revelation given to John himself. It is for this reason that the book had seven seals and that these seals began to be broken in Revelation 6:1.
The Council of the Lord met to discuss and to determine who was worthy to break the seals and to reveal the divine plan. John was invited to this Council meeting as an earthly witness to heavenly events.
We can understand why no one “on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book,” for mankind was in no condition to know the mind of Christ, nor was any man qualified. But why was “no one in heaven” qualified to open the book? No angel was qualified, and the One seated on the throne made no effort to reveal the book’s contents.
At first, it was established that no one was worthy to open the book. For this reason, John found himself weeping uncontrollably as he observed the heavenly dilemma. Revelation 5:4 says,
4 And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it;
John was greatly distressed. So why would this scene include a period of time in which no one was found worthy to open the book? Was not Jesus Christ worthy from the beginning of time? Yet no one in heaven was found worthy for a season. The answer, I believe, is found in the fact that Jesus had to come to earth, die on the cross, rise from the dead, and ascend to the throne before He was found worthy to open the book. He was always worthy insofar as His righteous character was concerned. However, to qualify to open the book required something more of Him.
Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified because, as the Son of God, He represented the beginning of the merger between heaven and earth. This is what was unique about Him, and only a Son of God was qualified to know (and to reveal to others) the divine plan in its fulness. So we read in Revelation 5:5,
5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
He was qualified because He had “overcome.” Overcome what? Well, everything, the world. Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33,
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
During His life, He overcame by living a perfect life. He overcame temptation at the start of His ministry. He overcame the urge to avoid His calling as the Lion of the tribe of Judah—which was to die. (His calling as the dead lion is pictured in Genesis 49:9 and again in Judges 14:5, 6, where the dead lion became the answer to Samson's prophetic riddle.) In other words, Jesus was obedient even unto death, overcoming all things, and this qualified Him to be raised from the dead and to ascend to the throne.
He is both a lion and a lamb at the same time. He is a lion in that He overcame all things. He is a lamb in His peace-loving nature, by which He rules His beloved creation.
After John was comforted by the words of the elder, the apostle took note of a strange-looking “Lamb” standing between the throne and the 24 elders. We read in Revelation 5:6,
6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb [arnion] standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
This Lamb was not dead, but “standing as if slain.” How does one stand “as if slain”? The idea is to convey the idea that Christ had risen from the dead, having all the marks proving that He had been killed at one time. This Lamb had not just two horns, but seven, to indicate divine perfection of power, for a horn is a symbol of power and strength.
Likewise, He had “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God.” The eyes of God are the eyes of omniscience, knowing all that happens in heaven and in earth. By my own experience, I have learned that there is an angel named “The Eyes of God,” who empowers all seers and watchmen, giving them what knowledge and revelation is needed to carry out their callings.
We all know that the Lamb of God is Jesus Christ, for John the Baptist identified Him plainly in John 1:29 and 36. However, the book of Revelation is the story of history leading to the manifestation of the sons of God as God’s Kingdom merges with and emerges in the earth. This is in accord with the Lord’s Prayer that His will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Thus, the Lamb can at times be thought of as Jesus by Himself; but at other times as a collective body of Christ with Jesus Himself serving as the Head of that body. Psalm 23 is about the Lord being our Shepherd. Psalm 100:3 says, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Jesus is not only the Great Shepherd, but also is the Lamb. Likewise, there are earthly shepherds who should also be lambs.
The New Testament uses two different Greek words that are both translated “lamb.” One is amnos, which is used of literal sacrificial lambs and figuratively applied to Jesus in that role. The second is arnion, which is a “little lamb” and applies figuratively to God’s people.
The Amnos is Jesus
First, let us look at the word amnos. In John 1:29, we read,
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold the Lamb [amnos] of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
This is repeated in verse 36, where again John uses the word amnos to describe Jesus. The word is again used in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:32,
32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb [Greek: amnos] before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth.”
This is a quotation from Isaiah 53:7. The word is again used to describe Jesus Christ in 1 Peter 1:19,
19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb [amnos] unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
All of these examples apply to Jesus Christ Himself. No one else died for our sins, and so no one else is the Amnos of God. Jesus holds that position exclusively, and for this reason He is the only one through whom salvation can come.
The word arnion is also translated “lamb.” This word is a diminutive form of amnos. The Concordant Version translates it “lambkin,” an outdated English word meaning a little lamb. The only New Testament use of this term outside of the book of Revelation is found in John 21:15,
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend my lambs” [arnion].
When Jesus told Peter, “tend my lambs,” it is obvious that Jesus did not expect Peter to feed or take care of Jesus Himself, but rather His body, the little lambs. The word is used to mean the body of Christ—certainly not separate from Christ, but included with Him even as the Head and Body are one.
The book of Revelation uses only arnion, never amnos. It is the story of the little lambs that Peter was supposed to tend, or feed. The book of Revelation reveals how the lambs grow into spiritual maturity not only by the spiritual food that they eat, but also through suffering in tribulation as their faith and patience is exercised. It is the prophetic story of the overcomers becoming lambs like the Lamb before them.
These lambs are the ones willing to be sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel, that others may be enlightened with the truth. Why? Because they already “died with Christ” (Romans 6:8) and were raised with Him to life. The blood Jesus shed on the cross was also their blood. The blood of the Head is the also the blood of the body.
The Son and the Sons of God
John’s use of the word arnion shows that the Lamb that is worthy to break the seals on the book is the New Creation Man, having Jesus Christ as his Head and the overcomers as his Body. This Body is made up of Amen people, those in agreement with Him, those who are fully reconciled to Him and have no resistance to God or His plan. This is what it means to “abide” in Christ.
The purpose of history has always been to bring forth this New Man in the image of Christ. Hence, as the seals are broken, history moves steadily toward this climactic event.
For this reason, not only did Jesus say, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), but we also overcome by faith. We read in 1 John 5:4 (from The Emphatic Diaglott),
4 Because all that has been begotten by God overcomes the world; and this is that victory which overcomes the world—our faith.
That which is begotten by God is a son of God and a part of the collective New Creation Man. John saw this collective Lamb and understood that He was worthy to open the book. Yes, it is Jesus Himself, but not apart from His Body, for the Head is not complete without a Body. For this reason, the “Lamb” is not referred to as the Amnos, but as the Arnion.
This is your destiny as the arnion of God.
This is part 45 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones