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17 June 2020

Scroll Sealed with Seven Seals

SynopsisThe One Sitting on the Throne holds a Scroll sealed tight by seven seals. A search is made for someone in the Creation who is “worthy” to open the Sealed ScrollRevelation 5:1-4.  

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash
By Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash
After the description of the glorious Throne, John sees a Sealed Scroll held in the “right hand” of the One Sitting on the Throne. Since God is the absolute sovereign over the Cosmos, by definition, He is able and worthy to open the scroll. Yet He sends out a “mighty angel” to summon someone “worthy” to do so. A search is made throughout the created order for such a person. However, at least for the moment, no one “worthy” is found.

(Revelation 5:1-4) – “And I saw upon the right hand of him that was sitting upon the throne a scroll; written within, and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a mighty messenger, proclaiming with a loud voice—Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to unloose the seals thereof? And no one was able in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth, to open the scroll or to look thereon. And I began to weep much, because no one worthy was found to open the scroll, or to look thereon.” – (From the Emphasized Bible).

The summons to find one “worthy” to open the Sealed Scroll is sent throughout the Cosmos. This means the person sought is from the created order. There are four main interpretations of what the Sealed Scroll represents: 
  1. The “Lamb’s book of life” - (Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:27). 
  2. The book of Revelation itself. 
  3. The Old Testament. 
  4. The Scroll reveals and implements what was “sealed shut” in the book of Daniel (Daniel 12:4).
The first option does not fit what occurs when the seals are broken, and the Lamb’s book of life is not said to be sealed. It determines life or death for men and women based on their standing with the Lamb. In contrast, the seven seals unleash judgments.

The Sealed Scroll is not identical to the book of Revelation - The Lamb achieved the authority to open the Scroll by his death some decades before John received his vision. John is commanded to write down what Jesus is now unveiling and to send it to the “seven churches of Asia.” What the book of Revelation unveils is the content of what was previously sealed in a scroll by the prophet Daniel (Revelation 1:4-5, 3:21).

The Sealed Scroll is not the Old Testament. Revelation uses Old Testament passages in innovative and unexpected ways, often combining language from different passages to make a point. And it does so before, during, and after the opening of the “seven seals” and the scroll itself. As will become clear, the fourth option fits best.

Written within and without.” The clause alludes to a passage from the book of Ezekiel, but with a key difference (“Behold, a scroll was in it, and he spread it before me. And it was written within and without; lamentations and mourning and woe”) - In Ezekiel, the scroll was opened already, whereas, in the book of Revelation, it is sealed shut (Ezekiel 2:9-10).

The main scriptural background for the image of the Sealed Scroll is the “scroll” the prophet Daniel was commanded to seal shut:

(Daniel 12:4-9) - But, thou, Daniel, close up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end,—many will run to and fro, and knowledge shall abound. Then I, Daniel, looked and lo! two others standing,—one on this side of the bank of the river, and one on that side of the bank of the river. And one said to the man clothed with linen, who was upon the waters of the river, How long shall be the end of the wonders? And I heard the man clothed with linen who was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left unto the heavens, and sware by him that liveth unto times age-abiding,—For a set time and times and a half, and when the dispersion of a part of the holy people is brought to an end, then shall come to an end all these things. And I heard but could not understand—so I said, O my lord! what shall be the issue of these things? Then said he, Go thy way, Daniel; for closed up and sealed are the words until the time of the end” - (The Emphasized Bible).

The connection between this passage and Revelation was made already in the book’s prologue, and is confirmed further in its epilogue:

(Revelation 1:1-3) – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants the things which must needs come to pass with speed,—and he shewed them by signs, sending through his messenger unto his servant John; who bare witness as to the word of God, and the witness of Jesus Christ,—whatsoever things he saw.  Happy! he that readeth, and they who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things therein written; for the season is near.
(Revelation 22:10) – “And he saith unto me—Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, for the season is near.

What Daniel was commanded to seal was intended for a distant future. In Revelation, the promised season of fulfillment has arrived, and the contents of the “revelation of Jesus” are revealed. The same passage from the book of Daniel also provides the background in the vision if the little scroll in Chapter 10:

(Revelation 10:1-6) – “And I saw another, a mighty messenger, descending out of heaven,—arrayed with a cloud, and the rainbow, was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet were as pillars of fire, and [he was] holding in his hand a little scroll, opened; and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the land…And the messenger whom I saw standing upon the sea and upon the land lifted up his right hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth unto the ages of ages, who created heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, [and the sea, and the things that are therein,] Delay no longer shall there be.
The contents of Daniel’s prophecy were written and sealed in a scroll until the time of fulfillment arrived. In Revelation, that time has arrived, therefore, the contents of the scroll are to be revealed, assuming a “worthy” person can be found to break open its “seven seals” and unveil its contents. 

Written within and without.” The critical aspect is not that John saw the writing on the outside and inside of the Scroll. Logical questions about how he could see the writing on the inside of a sealed scroll are not pertinent in this symbolical world and they miss the point.  The Greek verb rendered “written” uses a perfect verb tense, signifying competed action.  That is, what has been written is not subject to change; it represents God's predetermined plan for creation and humanity. This is the reason why anyone who adds or subtracts words from the scroll will be excluded from New Jerusalem.

(Revelation 22:10, 18-19) – “And he saith unto me—Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, for the season is near…I bear witness unto every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this scroll:—If anyone shall lay aught upon them, God will lay upon him the plagues which are written in this scroll; And if anyone shall take away from the words of this prophetic scroll, God will take away his part—from the tree of life, and out of the holy city,—[from] the things written in this scroll.

Seven seals.” Daniel was ordered to “seal” his scroll shut until the determined time. Precisely how he “sealed” it or with how many seals is not stated in the book of Daniel. The book of Revelation has serialized Daniel’s “seal” into “seven seals” - It is the first of three series of sevenfold judgments in Revelation (the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls of wrath).

The numbers in Revelation are figurative, with seven signifying fullness or completion. The number seven is not the actual number of the seals about to be opened but, instead, represents the completeness of the process that is about to be put into motion when the Sealed Scroll is opened.

Sealed shut” translates a Greek compound verb, katesphragismenon (Strong’s - #G2696). The verb means, “to seal down,” that is, to seal something tight. The contents of the scroll have been hermetically sealed, so to speak. No one can view them until they are disclosed by the one “worthy” to do so. The opening of the Sealed Scroll will put its contents into action.

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