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Revelation 5:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

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.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 393

Verse 5

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, “Weep 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.” 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 “Lion of the tribe of Juda.” Why called a lion? and why of the tribe of Judah? — 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. “Of the tribe of Juda.” Doubtless he receives this appellation from the prophecy in Genesis 49:9, 10.DAR 393.3

The Root of David. — The source and sustainer of David as to his position and power. That David’s 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. David’s throne and reign over Israel was a type of Christ’s 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 David’s 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. — 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 — triumphed! Hence the four living beings and the four and twenty elders sing, “Thou 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.”DAR 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. — Doddridge translates thus: “And 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,” 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. — Woodhouse, as quoted in the Comprehensive Commentary, says: “The Greek implies that the Lamb appeared with a wounded neck and throat, as if smitten at the altar as a victim.” On this phrase, Clarke says: “As 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.”DAR 395.2

Seven Horns and Seven Eyes. — 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. — 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 Christ’s 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

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, a roll of parchments in the form usual in those times, and sealed with seven seals. This represented the secret purposes of God about to be revealed. The designs and methods of Divine Providence, toward the church and the world, are stated, fixed, and made a matter of record. The counsels of God are altogether hidden from the eye and understanding of the creature. The several parts are not unsealed and opened at once, but after each other, till the whole mystery of God's counsel and conduct is finished in the world. The creatures cannot open it, nor read it; the Lord only can do so. Those who see most of God, are most desirous to see more; and those who have seen his glory, desire to know his will. But even good men may be too eager and hasty to look into the mysteries of the Divine conduct. Such desires, if not soon answered, turn to grief and sorrow. If John wept much because he could not look into the book of God's decrees, what reason have many to shed floods of tears for their ignorance of the gospel of Christ! of that on which everlasting salvation depends! We need not weep that we cannot foresee future events respecting ourselves in this world; the eager expectation of future prospects, or the foresight of future calamities, would alike unfit us for present duties and conflicts, or render our prosperous days distressing. Yet we may desire to learn, from the promises and prophecies of Scripture, what will be the final event to believers and to the church; and the Incarnate Son has prevailed, that we should learn all that we need to know. Christ stands as Mediator between God and both ministers and people. He is called a Lion, but he appears as a Lamb slain. He appears with the marks of his sufferings, to show that he pleads for us in heaven, in virtue of his satisfaction. He appears as a Lamb, having seven horns and seven eyes; perfect power to execute all the will of God, and perfect wisdom to understand it, and to do it in the most effectual manner. The Father put the book of his eternal counsels into the hand of Christ, and Christ readily and gladly took it into his hand; for he delights to make known the will of his Father; and the Holy Spirit is given by him to reveal the truth and will of God.
Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 294

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 294.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 589

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 589.2

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 215

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 215.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 243

But it was not simply the absence of outward glory in His life that led the Jews to reject Jesus. He was the embodiment of purity, and they were impure. He dwelt among men an example of spotless integrity. His blameless life flashed light upon their hearts. His sincerity revealed their insincerity. It made manifest the hollowness of their pretentious piety, and discovered iniquity to them in its odious character. Such a light was unwelcome. DA 243.1

If Christ had called attention to the Pharisees, and had extolled their learning and piety, they would have hailed Him with joy. But when He spoke of the kingdom of heaven as a dispensation of mercy for all mankind, He was presenting a phase of religion they would not tolerate. Their own example and teaching had never been such as to make the service of God seem desirable. When they saw Jesus giving attention to the very ones they hated and repulsed, it stirred up the worst passions of their proud hearts. Notwithstanding their boast that under the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), Israel should be exalted to pre-eminence over all nations, they could have borne the disappointment of their ambitious hopes better than they could bear Christ's reproof of their sins, and the reproach they felt even from the presence of His purity. DA 243.2

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 236

The crowning blessings of the birthright were transferred to Judah. The significance of the name—which denotes praise,—is unfolded in the prophetic history of this tribe: PP 236.1

The lion, king of the forest, is a fitting symbol of this tribe, from which came David, and the Son of David, Shiloh, the true “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” to whom all powers shall finally bow and all nations render homage. PP 236.3

For most of his children Jacob foretold a prosperous future. At last the name of Joseph was reached, and the father's heart overflowed as he invoked blessings upon “the head of him that was separate from his brethren”: PP 236.4

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 109

All that God has in prophetic history specified to be fulfilled in the past has been, and all that is yet to come in its order will be. Daniel, God's prophet, stands in his place. John stands in his place. In the Revelation the Lion of the tribe of Judah has opened to the students of prophecy the book of Daniel, and thus is Daniel standing in his place. He bears his testimony, that which the Lord revealed to him in vision of the great and solemn events which we must know as we stand on the very threshold of their fulfillment. 2SM 109.1

In history and prophecy the Word of God portrays the long continued conflict between truth and error. That conflict is yet in progress. Those things which have been, will be repeated. Old controversies will be revived, and new theories will be continually arising. But God's people, who in their belief and fulfillment of prophecy have acted a part in the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages, know where they stand. They have an experience that is more precious than fine gold. They are to stand firm as a rock, holding the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end. 2SM 109.2

A transforming power attended the proclamation of the first and second angels’ messages, as it attends the message of the third angel. Lasting convictions were made upon human minds. The power of the Holy Spirit was manifested. There was diligent study of the Scriptures, point by point. Almost entire nights were devoted to earnest searching of the Word. We searched for the truth as for hidden treasures. The Lord revealed Himself to us. Light was shed on the prophecies, and we knew that we received divine instruction.... 2SM 109.3

After the great disappointment there were few who set themselves to seek the Word with all their heart. But some souls would not settle down in discouragement and deny that the Lord had led them. To these the truth was opened point by point, and entwined with their most hallowed recollections and sympathies. The searchers after truth felt that the identification of Christ with their nature and interest was complete. Truth was made to shine forth, beautiful in its simplicity, dignified with a power and invested with an assurance unknown before the disappointment. We could then proclaim the message in unity. 2SM 109.4

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 404

The great crisis is just before us. To meet its trials and temptations, and to perform its duties, will require persevering faith. But we may triumph gloriously; not one watching, praying, believing soul will be ensnared by the enemy. 6T 404.1

In the time of trial before us God's pledge of security will be placed upon those who have kept the word of His patience. Christ will say to His faithful ones: “Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” Isaiah 26:20. 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 cloud which speaks wrath and terror to the transgressor of God's law is 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. Every faithful one will surely be gathered. “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. 6T 404.2

Brethren, to whom the truths of God's word have been opened, what part will you act in the closing scenes of this world's history? Are you awake to these solemn realities? Do you realize the grand work of preparation that is going on in heaven and on earth? Let all who have received the light, who have had the opportunity of reading and hearing the prophecy, take heed to those things that are written therein; “for the time is at hand.” Let none now tamper with sin, the source of every misery in our world. No longer remain in lethargy and stupid indifference. Let not the destiny of your soul hang upon an uncertainty. Know that you are fully on the Lord's side. Let the inquiry go forth from sincere hearts and trembling lips, “Who shall be able to stand?” Have you, in these last precious hours of probation, been putting the very best material into your character building? Have you been purifying your souls from every stain? Have you followed the light? Have you works corresponding to your profession of faith? 6T 404.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 115

“And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.…But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” TM 115.1

It was the Lion of the tribe of Judah who unsealed the book and gave to John the revelation of what should be in these last days. TM 115.2

Daniel stood in his lot to bear his testimony which was sealed until the time of the end, when the first angel's message should be proclaimed to our world. These matters are of infinite importance in these last days; but while “many shall be purified, and made white, and tried,” “the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand.” How true this is! Sin is the transgression of the law of God; and those who will not accept the light in regard to the law of God will not understand the proclamation of the first, second, and third angel's messages. The book of Daniel is unsealed in the revelation to John, and carries us forward to the last scenes of this earth's history. TM 115.3

Will our brethren bear in mind that we are living amid the perils of the last days? Read Revelation in connection with Daniel. Teach these things. TM 115.4

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