Revelation 5 continues the vision of the Court of Heaven in session. Whenever God is ready to render a judgment, he calls “the council of the holy ones” to assemble (cf. Ps 82:1; 89:5-7). Here in John’s vision, God is holding a scroll sealed with seven seals. In many ways, the scroll is the key to understanding the rest of the book of Revelation.
Let’s begin with Daniel because he saw this incredible scene in a vision back in the sixth century BC. “As I looked,” said Daniel, “thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat … the court sat in judgment … and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man … and to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom … which shall not pass away” (Dan 7:9-14).
Considering both visions, the scroll appears to be earth’s title deed. The only one worthy to open it and carry out God’s action plan for the world is the risen King (Rev 5:1-7). By taking the scroll, King Jesus accepts responsibility to cleanse the cosmos of evil in preparation for the new earth. Only Jesus is worthy and capable to take on such a massive task. He alone has the wisdom, love, humility, and power to rule in a way that produces righteousness, justice, grace, and mercy across the universe. Jesus has the fierce fearlessness of a lion and the tender humility of a lamb.
To open that scroll means to release righteous judgments and set things right.
When Jesus takes the scroll, the Court of Heaven grabs their harps and golden bowls of the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). Why? Worship and prayer influence world affairs (cf. Rev 8:3-4)! Worship and prayer are vital components of setting things right. This causes all of creation to burst out in a “new song” of praise (Rev 5:8-14)! What is this new song? It is the new creation song! We sing the song of rescue and renewal to be put into effect in “the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). The good news song sings about—not just going to heaven—but about the rescue, restoration, and renewal of creation (Rom 8:19-21; Acts 3:20-21).
In anticipation of the new earth in the Age to Come, God’s people sing the new (creation) song: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe … and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9-10). King Jesus redeemed us so that we may reign on earth as a kingdom of priests now and forevermore.
Daniel summed it up well. “Judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom … And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Dan 7:22, 27). All the infinite resources and power of heaven are committed to the big plan. It cannot fail. It will come to pass.