1Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.5Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”
The Book of Revelation or Revelation or The Apocalypse of John is so named because the first word of the text is the Greek, apokalypsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation". The Book of Revelation is the central text in the NT dealing with eschatology, -logy "the study of" eschatos "last." We usually think of "end times," "end of the world," or final events of history.
"End Times" or "Last Days" as technical terms refer to the Kingdom Inauguration in Jesus' coming. So, the disciples of Jesus while He was on earth were living in the "last days," just as we are living in the "last days." This term also refers to the future, the time immediately preceding Jesus' second coming. Therefore "end times" or "last days" as used in the Bible is the broad time frame between the first and second coming of Jesus the Messiah.
These comments are good to keep in mind as we reflect on Revelation since the book is not just about futurology but about how the church should live for the glory of God through all ages. Visions, scenes, and events in Revelation have multiple references: the past (think of the seven churches in Asia Minor), the present (think of the seven churches as representatives of types of churches), and the future (think of the ultimate triumph of the Lamb of God and the new heavens and new earth).
In verse 2, what is the scroll? The actual word is biblion "book." What is this book? There have been various proposals: a book of redemption ("the lamb's book of life" containing the names of all true believers); the Old Testament; a book containing events of the future "great tribulation"; a book containing God's plan of judgment and redemption.
Probably the best description of the "book" is the last: God's plan of judgment and redemption has been set in motion by Christ's death and resurrection. The full plan has not been completed however. The angelic spokesman asks who in the created order has sovereign authority over this plan. The book -- the opening of the book -- represents the authority to unseal the divine plan of judgment and redemption.
There is One who is worthy to open the book: Christ Jesus. He alone has authority to redeem His people and establish them as kings and priests. He alone has authority to execute both judgment and redemption.
Strictly speaking, redemption in the Scriptures does not come alone, meaning salvation is not without judgment. The overall sensibility in our age is redemption without judgment. The God of love but not the God of justice. The God of mercy but not the God of holiness. When judgment is talked about, it's usually reserved to the the very end. Our minds so want to see God in "loving" light that anything "negative" is pushed out. 'Loving' is in quotes because the Bible's definition of love includes justice and judgment, whereas our definition excludes justice and judgment. Of course we shouldn't be encouraged to swing to the other side where everything bad that happens is God's "judgment." That's a dangerous ground from which to see things, especially when we live in state of hurt, anger, and bitterness. The bigger point is not about us and our views of redemption and judgment. The bigger point is that Jesus the Messiah sits already in the throne room of heaven unsealing events of redemption and judgment. He is worthy to do this.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we confess your sovereign authority to unseal the book of judgment and redemption. We confess that you are indeed in charge. We acknowledge that your ultimate, grand plan for the world has been set in motion by you. May we find solace in this truth, may we even tremble (in a good way) that you are so mighty and holy and wise and worthy to release upon this earth your redemption that includes justice and judgment. In your fearsome name, amen.