Notes on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 5, Part 2

The Revelation of St John: 5. Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals  by Albrech Dürer // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

The Revelation of St John: 5. Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals

by Albrech Dürer

v. 3: Those under the earth may be the dead or they may be creatures that live under the earth.  Verse 13 notes that those under the earth sing with the rest of creation.  Regardless of who those under the earth are, the main point of this verse is that no creature of God’s making was capable of opening the scroll.  Only the Son of God, who is God himself and not a creature of God’s making, was capable.  Even so, it is not just the fact that he is the Son of God that makes him capable of opening the seals; it is also the fact that he was sacrificed for humanity’s sake (v.9).

v. 4: I believe the fact that John weeps indicates that he was more than simply curious about the contents of the scroll.  With his waking mind, John would have known that Christ had saved humanity, and he also would have known (from hints such as Christ gave in Matthew 24) the general course of the events leading up to our ultimate redemption at the end of time.  But in dream states we often forget things, or see things differently.  Perhaps John was in such a dream state when he had this vision.  Maybe, when he saw that nobody could open the scroll, he felt the hopelessness that humanity would have been doomed to suffer without God’s mercy.  Since the scroll pertains to the future[5] (relative to John at least) this seems like a reasonable conclusion.

v. 6: I like the paradoxical description of Christ: he is a conquering Lion in v. 5, but a seemingly slaughtered Lamb in v. 6.

All the commentaries agree (citing Biblical references like Psalm 89:17) that horns represent power.  They also agree that seven represents completeness, perfection.  How ironic that this seemingly slaughtered lamb carries (on his head?) the symbol of omnipotence.  John himself interprets the seven eyes:  they are “the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”  Being sent into all the earth could be a reference to the mission of the church to evangelize the earth.  I believe that these seven spirits are the seven spirits of 1:4.

v.9: A new song to commemorate a new event: Christ’s ability to accept and open the scroll.[6]

v. 13: All of creation rejoices, not just humanity.  Those in heaven rejoice because they love us, we rejoice because we will be freed from death and sin, and the rest of creation (animals with the breath of life, etc.) rejoices because it too will be redeemed.  Even though animals have not sinned as we have, they still suffer pain and death as we do and will benefit from our redemption just as they have suffered from our downfall.[7]

[5] See 1:1 and 4:1.  I do not believe they symbolize anything in John’s past, especially not the crucifixion.  It is Christ’s past crucifixion that gives him the right to open these scrolls at this point in the vision.

[6] For another new song, see Revelation 14:3.

[7] See notes on Genesis 2:7.


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