The Lion of the tribe of Juda - Jesus Christ, who sprang from this tribe, as his genealogy proves; see on Matthew 1:2; (note), Matthew 1:3; (note) and Luke 3:23; (note). There is an allusion here to Genesis 49:9, Judah is a lion's whelp; the lion was the emblem of this tribe, and was supposed to have been embroidered on its ensigns.
The Root of David - See Isaiah 11:1. Christ was the root of David as to his Divine nature; he was a branch out of the stem of Jesse as to his human nature.
Hath prevailed - By the merit of his incarnation, passion, and death.
To open the book - To explain and execute all the purposes and decrees of God, in relation to the government of the world and the Church.
And one of the elders saith unto me - See the notes on Revelation 4:4. No particular reason is assigned why this message was delivered by one of the elders rather than by an angel. If the elders were, however (see the notes on Revelation 4:4), the representatives of the church, there was a propriety that they should address John in his trouble. Though they were in heaven, they were deeply interested in all that pertained to the welfare of the church, and they had been permitted to understand what as yet was unknown to him, that the power of opening the mysterious volume which contained the revelation of the future was entrusted particularly to the Messiah. Having this knowledge, they were prepared to comfort him with the hope that what was so mysterious would be made known.
Weep not - That is, there is no occasion for tears. The object which you so much desire can be obtained. There is one who can break those seals, and who can unroll that volume and read what is recorded there.
Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah - This undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus; and the points needful to be explained are, why he is called a Lion, and why be is spoken of as the Lion of the tribe of Judah:
(a) As to the first: This appellation is not elsewhere given to the Messiah, but it is not difficult to see its propriety as used in this place. The lion is the king of beasts, the monarch of the forest, and thus becomes an emblem of one of kingly authority and of power (see the notes on Revelation 4:7), and as such the appellation is used in this place. It is because Christ has power to open the seals - as if he ruled over the universe, and all events were under his control, as the lion rules in the forest - that the name is here given to him.
(b) As to the other point: He is called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” doubtless, with reference to the prophecy in Genesis 49:9 - “Judah is a lion‘s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion”; and from the fact that the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah. Compare Genesis 49:10. This use of the term would connect him in the apprehension of John with the prophecy, and would suggest to him the idea of his being a ruler, or having dominion. As such, therefore, it would be appropriate that the power of breaking these seals should be committed to him.
The Root of David - Not the Root of David in the sense that David sprung from him as a tree does from a root, but in the sense that he himself was a “root-shoot” or sprout from David, and had sprung from him as a shoot or sprout springs up from a decayed and fallen tree. See the notes on Isaiah 11:1. This expression would connect him directly with David, the great and glorious monarch of Israel, and as having a right to occupy his throne. As one thus ruling over the people of God, there was a propriety that to him should be entrusted the task of opening these seals.
Hath prevailed - That is, he has acquired this power as the result of a conflict or struggle. The word used here - ἐνίκησεν enikēsen- refers to such a conflict or struggle, properly meaning to come off victor, to overcome, to conquer, to subdue; and the idea here is, that his power to do this, or the reason why he does this, is the result of a conflict in which he was a victor. As the series of events to be disclosed, resulting in the final triumph of religion, was the effect of his conflicts with the powers of evil, there was a special propriety that the disclosure should be made by him. The truths taught in this verse are:
(1)that the power of making disclosures, in regard to the future, is entrusted to the Messiah; and,
(2)that this, so far as he is concerned, is the result of a conflict or struggle on his part.
Not long is John permitted to weep. God is not willing that any knowledge which can benefit his people, shall be withheld. Provision is made for the opening of the book. Hence one of the elders says to him, âWeep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.â Why one of the elders should impart this information to John in preference to some other being, does not appear, unless it is that having been redeemed, they would be especially interested in all that pertained to the welfare of the church on earth. Christ is here called the âLion of the tribe of Juda.â Why called a lion? and why of the tribe of Judah? â As to the first, it is probably to denote his strength. As the lion is the king of beasts, the monarch of the forest, he thus becomes a fit emblem of kingly authority and power. âOf the tribe of Juda.â Doubtless he receives this appellation from the prophecy in Genesis 49:9, 10.DAR 393.3
The Root of David. â The source and sustainer of David as to his position and power. That Davidâs position was specially ordained of Christ, and that he was specially sustained by him, there can be no doubt. David was the type, Christ the antitype. Davidâs throne and reign over Israel was a type of Christâs reign over his people. He shall reign upon the throne of his father David. Luke 1:32, 33. As Christ appeared in the line of Davidâs descendants when he took upon himself our nature, he is also called the offspring of David, and a root out of the stem of Jesse. Isaiah 11:1, 10; Revelation 22:16. His connection with the throne of David being thus set forth, and his right thus shown to rule over the people of God, there was a propriety in intrusting to him the opening of the seals.DAR 394.1
Hath Prevailed. â These words indicate that the right to open the book was acquired by a victory gained in some previous conflict; and so we find it set forth in subsequent portions of this chapter. The very next scene introduces us to the great work of Christ as the Redeemer of the world, and the shedding of his blood for the remission of sin and the salvation of man. In this work he was subjected to the fiercest assaults of Satan. But he endured his temptations, bore the agonies of the cross, rose a victor over death and the grave, made the way of redemption sure â triumphed! Hence the four living beings and the four and twenty elders sing, âThou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.âDAR 394.2
John looks to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and beholds a Lamb in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings and the elders, as it had been slain.DAR 394.3
In the Midst of the Throne. â Doddridge translates thus: âAnd I beheld in the middle space between the throne and the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders there stood a Lamb,â etc. In the center of the scene was the throne of the Father, and standing in the open space which surrounded it was the Son, set forth under the symbol of a slain lamb. Around these there stood those saints who had been redeemed: first, those represented by the four living creatures, then the elders forming the second circle, and the angels (verse 11) forming a third circle. The worthiness of Christ, as he thus stands forth under the figure of a slain lamb, is the admiration of all the holy throng.DAR 395.1
As It Had Been Slain. â Woodhouse, as quoted in the Comprehensive Commentary, says: âThe Greek implies that the Lamb appeared with a wounded neck and throat, as if smitten at the altar as a victim.â On this phrase, Clarke says: âAs if now in the act of being offered. This is very remarkable. So important is the sacrificial offering of Christ in the sight of God, that he is still represented as being in the very act of pouring out his blood for the offenses of man. This gives great advantage to faith; when any soul comes to the throne of grace, he finds a sacrifice there provided for him to offer to God.âDAR 395.2
Seven Horns and Seven Eyes. â Horns are symbols of power, eyes of wisdom; and seven is a number denoting completeness, or perfection. We are thus taught that perfect power and perfect wisdom inhere in the Lamb, through the operation of the Spirit of God, called the seven Spirits of God, to denote the fulness and perfection of its operation.DAR 395.3
He Came and Took the Book. â Commentators have found an incongruity in the idea that the book was taken by a lamb, and have had recourse to several expedients to avoid the difficulty. But is it not a well-established principle that any action may be attributed to a symbol which could be appropriately performed by the person or being represented by the symbol? And is not this all the explanation that the passage needs? The lamb, we know, is a symbol of Christ. We know there is nothing incongruous in Christâs taking a book; and when we read that the book was taken, we think of the action, not as performed by the lamb, but by the one of whom the lamb is a symbol.DAR 395.4
Thus the Jewish leaders made their choice. Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision will appear before them in the day when this book is unsealed by the Lion of the tribe of Judah. COL 294.1
The Jewish people cherished the idea that they were the favorites of heaven, and that they were always to be exalted as the church of God. They were the children of Abraham, they declared, and so firm did the foundation of their prosperity seem to them that they defied earth and heaven to dispossess them of their rights. But by lives of unfaithfulness they were preparing for the condemnation of heaven and for separation from God. COL 294.2
In the parable of the vineyard, after Christ had portrayed before the priests their crowning act of wickedness, He put to them the question, “When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” The priests had been following the narrative with deep interest, and without considering the relation of the subject to themselves they joined with the people in answering, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons.” COL 294.3Read in context »
John saw the mercy, the tenderness, and the love of God blending with His holiness, justice, and power. He saw sinners finding a Father in Him of whom their sins had made them afraid. And looking beyond the culmination of the great conflict, he beheld upon Zion “them that had gotten the victory ... stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God,” and singing “the song of Moses” and the Lamb. Revelation 15:2, 3. AA 589.1
The Saviour is presented before John under the symbols of “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” and of “a Lamb as it had been slain.” Revelation 5:5, 6. These symbols represent the union of omnipotent power and self-sacrificing love. The Lion of Judah, so terrible to the rejectors of His grace, will be the Lamb of God to the obedient and faithful. The pillar of fire that speaks terror and wrath to the transgressor of God's law is a token of light and mercy and deliverance to those who have kept His commandments. The arm strong to smite the rebellious will be strong to deliver the loyal. Everyone who is faithful will be saved. “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31. AA 589.2Read in context »
These questions were not without effect. Doubts which otherwise would never have arisen were suggested to John. Satan rejoiced to hear the words of these disciples, and to see how they bruised the soul of the Lord's messenger. Oh, how often those who think themselves the friends of a good man, and who are eager to show their fidelity to him, prove to be his most dangerous enemies! How often, instead of strengthening his faith, their words depress and dishearten! DA 215.1
Like the Saviour's disciples, John the Baptist did not understand the nature of Christ's kingdom. He expected Jesus to take the throne of David; and as time passed, and the Saviour made no claim to kingly authority, John became perplexed and troubled. He had declared to the people that in order for the way to be prepared before the Lord, the prophecy of Isaiah must be fulfilled; the mountains and hills must be brought low, the crooked made straight, and the rough places plain. He had looked for the high places of human pride and power to be cast down. He had pointed to the Messiah as the One whose fan was in His hand, and who would thoroughly purge His floor, who would gather the wheat into His garner, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Like the prophet Elijah, in whose spirit and power he had come to Israel, he looked for the Lord to reveal Himself as a God that answereth by fire. DA 215.2
In his mission the Baptist had stood as a fearless reprover of iniquity, both in high places and in low. He had dared to face King Herod with the plain rebuke of sin. He had not counted his life dear unto himself, that he might fulfill his appointed work. And now from his dungeon he watched for the Lion of the tribe of Judah to cast down the pride of the oppressor, and to deliver the poor and him that cried. But Jesus seemed to content Himself with gathering disciples about Him, and healing and teaching the people. He was eating at the tables of the publicans, while every day the Roman yoke rested more heavily upon Israel, while King Herod and his vile paramour worked their will, and the cries of the poor and suffering went up to heaven. DA 215.3Read in context »