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Revelation 5:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

A book written within and on the back side - That is, the book was full of solemn contents within, but it was sealed; and on the back side was a superscription indicating its contents. It was a labelled book, or one written on each side of the skin, which was not usual.

Sealed with seven seals - As seven is a number of perfection, it may mean that the book was so sealed that the seals could neither be counterfeited nor broken; i.e., the matter of the book was so obscure and enigmatical and the work it enjoined and the facts it predicted so difficult and stupendous, that they could neither be known nor performed by human wisdom or power.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne - Of God, Revelation 4:3-4. His form is not described there, nor is there any intimation of it here except the mention of his.” right hand.” The book or roll seems to have been so held in his hand that John could see its shape, and see distinctly how it was written and sealed.

A book - βιβλίον biblionThis word is properly a diminutive of the word commonly rendered “book” ( βίβλος biblos), and would strictly mean a small book, or a book of diminutive size - a tablet, or a letter (Liddell and Scott, Lexicon). It is used, however, to denote a book of any size - a roll, scroll, or volume; and is thus used:

(a)to denote the Pentateuch, or the Mosaic law, Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 10:7;

(b)the book of life, Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27;

(c)epistles which were also rolled up, Revelation 1:11;

(d)documents, as a bill of divorce, Matthew 19:7; Mark 10:4.

When it is the express design to speak of a small book, another word is used ( βιβλαρίδιον biblaridion), Revelation 10:2, Revelation 10:8-10. The book or roll referred to here was what contained the revelation in the subsequent chapters, to the end of the description of the opening of the seventh seal - for the communication that was to be made was all included in the seven seals; and to conceive of the size of the book, therefore, we are only to reflect on the amount of parchment that would naturally be written over by the communications here made. The form of the book was undoubtedly that of a scroll or roll; for that was the usual form of books among the ancients, and such a volume could be more easily sealed with a number of seals, in the manner here described, than a volume in the form in which books are made now. On the ancient form of books, see the notes on Luke 4:17. The engraving in Matthew 27:66; compare the notes on Job 38:14. The fact that there were seven seals - an unusual number in fastening a volume - would naturally attract the attention of John, though it might not occur to him at once that there was anything significant in the number. It is not stated in what manner the seals were attached to the volume, but it is clear that they were so attached that each seal closed one part of the volume, and that when one was broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten was unrolled, a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind the whole; but when that was broken it would not give access to the whole volume unless each successive seal were broken. May it not have been intended by this arrangement to suggest the idea that the whole future is unknown to us, and that the disclosure of any one portion, though necessary if the whole would be known, does not disclose all, but leaves seal after seal still unbroken, and that they are all to be broken one after another if we would know all? How these were arranged, John does not say. All that is necessary to be supposed is, that the seven seals were put successively upon the margin of the volume as it was rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as far as the next seal, when the unrolling would be arrested. Anyone, by rolling up a sheet of paper, could so fasten it with pins, or with a succession of seals, as to represent this with sufficient accuracy.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 391

Verse 1

A NEW chapter here opens, but not a new scene. The same view is still before the mind of the apostle. By the words, “him that sat on the throne,” is evidently meant the Father, as the Son is subsequently introduced as “a Lamb as it had been slain.” The book which John here saw, contained a revelation of scenes that were to transpire in the history of the church to the end of time. Its being held in the right hand of him that sat on the throne may signify that a knowledge of the future rests with God alone, except so far as he sees fit to reveal it to others.DAR 391.2

The Book. — The books in use at the time the Revelation was given were not in the form of books as now made. They did not consist of a series of leaves bound together, but were composed of strips of parchment or other material, longer or shorter, one or more, and rolled up. On this point, Wesley remarks: —DAR 391.3

“The usual books of the ancients were not like ours, but were volumes, or long pieces of parchment, rolled upon a long stick, as we frequently roll silks. Such was this represented, which was sealed with seven seals. Not as if the apostle saw all the seals at once; for there were seven volumes wrapped up one within another, each of which was sealed; so that upon opening and unrolling the first, the second appeared to be sealed up till that was opened, and so on to the seventh.”DAR 391.4

On the same point, Scott remarks: “It appeared as a roll consisting of several parchments, according to the custom of those times; and though it was supposed to he written within, yet nothing could be read till the seals were loosed. It was afterward found to contain seven parchments, or small volumes, each of which was separately sealed; but if all the seals had been on the outside, nothing could have been read till they had all been loosed; whereas the loosing of each seal was followed by some discovery of the contents of the roll. Yet the appearance on the outside seems to have indicated that it consisted of seven, or at least of several parts.”DAR 392.1

Bloomfield says: “The long rolls of parchment used by the ancients, which we call books, were seldom written but on one side; namely, that which was in rolling turned inward.” So, doubtless, this book was not written within and on the back side, as the punctuation of our common version makes it read. “Grotius, Lowman, Fuller, etc.,” says the Cottage Bible, “remove the comma, thus: ‘Written within, and on the back (or outside) sealed,’ etc.” How these seals were placed, is sufficiently explained in the notes from Wesley and Scott, given above.DAR 392.2

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
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, 267

The fifth chapter of Revelation needs to be closely studied. It is of great importance to those who shall act a part in the work of God for these last days. There are some who are deceived. They do not realize what is coming on the earth. Those who have permitted their minds to become beclouded in regard to what constitutes sin are fearfully deceived. Unless they make a decided change they will be found wanting when God pronounces judgment upon the children of men. They have transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant, and they will receive according to their works. 9T 267.1

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:12-17. 9T 267.2

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.... These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17. 9T 267.3

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