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Grant Osborne: The third καὶ εἶδον (kai eidon, then I saw) after 5:1, 2 leads into the centerpiece of the whole chapter. Because 5:5 is grammatically linked to 5:2–4, we must place 5:6 in the next section; but in reality the two verses are inextricably linked. When John looks further, he sees ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσϕαγμένον (arnion hestēkos hōs esphagmenon, a Lamb standing as if slain). This is one of the most beautiful mixed metaphors in all the Bible—the lion (5:5) is a lamb! The direction of the transformation is very important; the final stage is the lamb, not the lion. The paragraph of 5:6–10 tells how the lion of Judah has conquered, not through military power (though that will come) but through paschal sacrifice. . .  It is impossible to overstate the magnificent transformation in 5:5–6: the lion is transformed into a lamb that becomes the slain paschal lamb that is again transformed into the conquering ram (the seven horns)! There is even a certain chiasm: lion—lamb—slain lamb—conquering ram.

John MacArthur: The appearance of the Lamb as He moves to take the scroll causes praise to break out from everywhere in the universe. The praise accelerates in an ascending crescendo of worship as the oratorio of redemption reaches its climax. To the two majestic doxologies of chapter 4 are added three more in chapter 5. The spontaneous outburst of worship results from the realization that the long-anticipated defeat of sin, death, and Satan is about to be accomplished and the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth in triumph and establish His glorious millennial kingdom. The curse will be reversed, the believing remnant of Israel will be saved, and the church will be honored, exalted, and granted the privilege of reigning with Christ. All of the pent-up anticipation of millennia finally bursts out at the prospect of what is about to take place. . .  Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse once observed that there are four things out of place in the universe: the church, which should be in heaven; Israel, which should be living in peace occupying all the land promised to her; Satan, who belongs in the lake of fire; and Christ, who should be seated on His throne reigning. All four of those anomalies will be set right when Christ takes the scroll from His Father’s hand.

Gordon Fee: These are the kinds of moments that should give any interpreter reason for pause, since these words hardly need commentary, but rather affirmation and acclamation. Readers of this passage who themselves fail to join in with the heavenly host are listening to the text only cerebrally, and not with the exhilaration intended by John, so that his readers are themselves drawn into the heavenly scene as part of the worship. Indeed the reader who fails in the present to enter into the heavenly worship, which for them is still to come, will have missed John’s purpose by several leagues. John’s original readers may indeed be excused if they held back in joining the worship noted in our chapter 4, but they will have little excuse for holding back here. Whatever may be the present circumstances in the seven churches immediately in purview, here they are being drawn to join in the worship being described.

Daniel Akin: When we come to verse 6, we encounter an enigma in the drama of redemption. We are not prepared for what we see. We have been told to look for the Lion from the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. We are looking for a great and mighty King. This, however, is not what we see in the surprising story of salvation. John is slow and dramatic in his presentation. He builds suspense! We are not disappointed in what unfolds.


A.  (:6) Apparition of the Slain Lamb

  1. Location of the Slain Lamb

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders

Robert Thomas: the Lamb stood in the center of all the beings named (Charles).

Warren Wiersbe: Jesus is in heaven. He is not in the manger, in Jerusalem, on the cross, or in the tomb. He is ascended and exalted in heaven. What an encouragement this is to suffering Christians, to know that their Savior has defeated every enemy and is now controlling events from glory! He too suffered, but God turned His suffering into glory.

But where is Christ in heaven? He is in the midst. The Lamb is the center of all that transpires in heaven. All creation centers in Him (the four living creatures), as do all of God’s people (the elders). The angels around the throne encircle the Savior and praise Him.

  1. Paradox of the Slain Lamb

a Lamb standing, as if slain,

Buist Fanning: This constitutes the most dramatic surprise of the vision: John hears about the victorious regal Lion, but when he turns to look, he sees a sacrificed Lamb. As noted above, this is completely contrary to expectations. It compels deeper consideration and raises the issue of how exactly Christ accomplished God’s purpose and showed himself worthy above all others.

Robert Thomas: A slain lamb is perfectly appropriate to the intended paradox. On one hand, the elder has described this Person as the lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5), depicting supreme power. On the other, His appearance is that of “a lamb standing as having been slain,” which speaks of supreme self-sacrifice (Swete). These figures draw attention to the unique characteristics combined in the life of Christ. His supreme self-sacrifice leads to His supreme power, so there is no contradiction between the two (Charles).

Richard Phillips: We know from experience that a person is usually either lionlike, strong and dominating, or lamblike, meek in servanthood. But Christ joins these virtues in perfect balance and harmony. In a sermon titled “The Excellency of Christ,” Jonathan Edwards marveled at this combination of apparent contradictions. Christ “is thus above all, yet He is lowest of all in humility. . . . In the person of Christ meet together infinite majesty and transcendent meekness.”8 As the Lion, Jesus wields God’s sovereign power to rule. As the Lamb, he exercises a spirit of obedience. Jesus, alone among all mankind, could declare: “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). Jesus is thus worthy as true God and perfect Man, Lion and Lamb, Lord and Servant.

Daniel Akin: He Is Victorious Because He Is Standing (5:6)

Slaughtered” speaks of His death. “Standing” speaks of His resurrection. This word is also in the perfect tense. There is permanence to the resurrection. There was a day when His dead body got up and left the tomb, and it will never die again! Jesus of Nazareth began to stand in resurrection life at a point and time in history, He stands today, and He will stand forever.

  1. Characteristics of the Slain Lamb — Omnipotent and Omniscient

having seven horns and seven eyes,

which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

Grant Osborne: the Lamb is described as having “seven horns,” and this theme is stressed in the military function of the Lamb in 6:16; 17:14. In short, in Revelation the Lamb of God has two aspects, the sacrificial lamb and the military ram, and they are interconnected, standing at the heart of the book and depicting the two sides of God’s activity, his mercy and his justice. As Aune (1997: 368–73) traces the background behind the lamb image, he argues that there are two primary motifs: the lamb as a metaphor for a leader or ruler, and the lamb as a sacrificial metaphor. It is clear that the two are combined here.

William Barclay: In the Old Testament, the horn stands for two things.

First, it stands for sheer power. In the blessing of Moses, the horns of Joseph are like the horns of a wild ox, and with them he will drive the people to the ends of the earth (Deuteronomy 33:17). Zedekiah, the prophet, made iron horns as a sign of promised triumph over the Syrians (1 Kings 22:11). The wicked are warned: ‘Do not lift up your horn’ (Psalm 75:4). Zechariah sees the vision of the four horns which stand for the nations who have scattered Israel (Zechariah 1:18).

Second, it stands for honour. It is the confidence of the psalmist that in the favour of God our horn shall be exalted (Psalm 89:17). The horn of the good shall be exalted with honour (Psalm 112:9). God exalts the horn of his people (Psalm 148:14).

We must add still another strand to this picture. In the time between the Testaments, the great heroes of Israel were the Maccabees; they were the great warriors who were the liberators of the nations; and they are represented as horned lambs (1 Enoch 90:9).

Robert Thomas: In the OT the horn is a symbol of strength or power. As a Hebrew metaphor, it occurs in Num. 23:22 and Deut 33:17 (cf. also 1 Sam. 2:1; 2 Sam. 22:3; 1 Kings 22:11; Pss. 75:4; 132:17; Dan. 7:20-21; 8:5). In the later books of the OT it symbolizes dynastic force or kingly dignity and is thus used in the Apocalypse several times (cf. Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 12).  The horns are seven in number, indicating the fullness of Christ’s power, because seven is the perfect number. The Lamb with seven horns is, then, an all-powerful warrior and king.

The interpretation of the symbol that takes the eyes as representing sight, intelligence, and wisdom in their fullness, in other words, omniscience, is preferable.  This brings out more clearly the Zecharian emphasis upon the eyes of the Lord that range to and fro throughout the earth.  Nothing escapes the notice of the Lamb. Not only is He omnipotent, as indicated by His seven horns, He is also omniscient.

Van Parunak: An animal with seven horns would have all power. No one can stand against the judgment that this Lamb will bring.

But power alone is not sufficient to judge. So is an understanding of the facts of the case, and the Lamb bears this qualification as well. . .

Kendell Easley: In Revelation 4:5, the seven spirits of God (the Holy Spirit) had already appeared as blazing lamps in close connection to the Lord God Almighty on his throne (God the Father). Now the same Holy Spirit appears in equally close connection to the slaughtered Lamb (God the Son). This text, along with others in the New Testament, became the basis for the Christian theological statement that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit was sent out into all the earth by the Lord Jesus beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:8; 2:4; 10:44).

B.  (:7) Activity of the Slain Lamb = Taking the Scroll of Judgment from the Father

And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Grant Osborne: Due to his sacrifice on the cross, only the Lamb is “worthy” to take the scroll. The emphasis is on the shift from God to the Lamb, who will now execute the divinely mandated plan. Opening the scroll means the judgment of the world and the vindication of the saints.

Robert Thomas: By permitting the Lamb to take the scroll, the one sitting upon the throne authorizes Him in a symbolic way to execute His plan for the redemption of the world. The Lamb and only the Lamb is qualified to do this because of His victorious death on the cross and the redemption secured thereby (Johnson). In other words, the exchange of the scroll from the Father to the Lamb fulfills Rev. 1:1, “the revelation … which God gave Him to show” (Beckwith).

G.K. Beale: The Lamb now approaches the throne and takes the book from God (He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne), even as the Son of man came before God in Dan. 7:13-14 and received authority to rule over all the nations of the earth. The resurrected and ascended Lamb takes His seat beside the Father (3:21) and begins to rule. More precisely, He exercises the Father’s reign which has now been handed over to Him, as 6:1-8 shows (and as elsewhere in the NT, e.g., Acts 2:32-36; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:20-22; Heb. 1:1-5).

James Hamilton: Crucified, dead, buried, raised, now he assertively takes the reins of history. That’s what this symbolizes. Jesus takes the scroll that describes the events of the end, whereby all the wrongs will be set right, all injustices accounted for, all crimes avenged. He takes it from the right hand of the Father, and the Father doesn’t resist him, the four living creatures don’t object, and the twenty-four elders do not stand in his way. This symbolic action shows that Jesus has taken control of history.

Jesus is the central figure in the history of humanity. He is without question the most important person who has ever lived. He is King. He is Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and he has taken the scroll. Jesus controls your destiny. He controls the destiny of every individual on the planet.

And the response to this action that begins in 5:8 and continues through the rest of the chapter should be our response: the worship of Jesus. The four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (v. 11) join with every creature to declare the rightful praise of the world’s true King.


A.  (:8) Physical Demonstration of Worship

  1. The Normal Response of Worship Is Inward and Outward Prostration

And when He had taken the book,

the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb,

Robert Thomas: When the Lamb took the book, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell before Him in worship (Swete). His taking of the scroll marks the initiation of proceedings to convert its contents into reality and eventually usher in the promised kingdom, the determined opposition of all foes notwithstanding. This is more than sufficient to evoke overflowing praise from this heavenly company (Lenski).

G.R. Beasley-Murray:  We are evidently expected to understand that on receiving the scroll the Lamb took his seat on the throne with God (cf. 3:21).  The enthronement-ceremony, therefore, now reaches its climax.  Having taken his place on the throne with God, the Lamb receives the worship of heaven.

  1. Music and Prayer Are Important Elements of Worship

a.  Significance of Music

having each one a harp,

Robert Thomas: The musical instrument of the elders, kitharan (“a harp”), is the traditional one associated with psalmody in the OT. It, like the lyre, is associated with joy and gladness (cf. 1 Chron. 25:1, 6; 2 Chron. 29:25; Pss. 71:22; 92:3; 149:3) (Swete; Bullinger). It also is regularly connected with prophecy (cf. 1 Sam. 10:5; 1 Chron. 25:3; Ps. 49:4). More than any other musical instrument, the harp is employed in Scripture in direct praise and worship of God (Scott). Later in the Apocalypse, it is used to describe celestial music in 14:2 and 15:2 (Swete; Ladd).

Kendell Easley: The harp in ancient times was a hand-held stringed instrument, functioning in those days much like a guitar does in modern times.

David Thompson: The two praise themes for which the harp was used:

1)  Israel’s enemies would one day be destroyed (Ps. 33:10, 19-20).

2)  Israel’s prosperity and blessings would one day exist (Ps. 33:12).

b.  Significance of Prayer

and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Robert Thomas: The grounds are better for seeing them as specific prayers of saints from this future time of trial—prayers that seek the sending forth of judgment and the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom (cf. Luke 18:7-8).  The connection of similar prayers with the vindication of martyrs of this future time in 8:3-5 argues for such specificity. A reference to the coming reign of the saints in 5:10 lends support from the immediate context (Johnson). In 6:10, the martyrs petition God for His judgment on their murderers. This adds to the case for restricting these prayers to specific goals of vindication (Johnson).

Kendell Easley: These bowls were shallow or saucer-like. Billowing incense was offered at the Israelites’ tabernacle (Exod. 30:7). David the psalmist compared his prayers rising to God to the smoke of incense: “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:2). The same symbolism is developed in Revelation 8:3–4. The point, of course, is that when saints on earth praise and pray to Christ, their worship is received by Christ in heaven. Scripture constantly teaches that the prayers of God’s people impact the throne of heaven, but here is a vivid, visual representation of this truth.

Van Parunak: In the OT, this fragrant composition was burned on a special altar in the holy place, right before the Holy of Holies.

Diagram of the Jewish Tabernacle:

Consider how this daily offering of incense ranks in terms of proximity to the Lord.

  • Most animal sacrifices were made at the brazen altar in the outer courtyard. This would include the offering of the passover lambs.
  • In the holy place, the showbread on the north side, changed weekly (Lev 24:5-8) was closer than the brazen altar. • The closest piece of furniture to the ark of the covenant was the golden altar, where the priests offered incense each day (Exod 30:7, 8).
  • Only the blood of the day of atonement came closer to the Lord, and that only once a year.

Thus the incense was the frequent offering that the Lord ordained to be closest to him, suggesting that it brings him special pleasure. . .

It is most consistent with the context to see the elders, representative of the people of God, bringing incense in the form of prayer to God—their own prayers.

Donald Barnhouse: Today, prayer consists of confession, intercession, and worship. When we confess we are occupied with our sins; when we intercede, we are occupied with human needs, ours and others’ but when we worship we are occupied with Him alone. The day will come when prayer will be emptied of its need of confession. There will be no more laver. Prayer will be emptied of its need for intercession. There will be nothing remaining but that which may be symbolized under the bowls of incense, and all our prayer shall be praise and worship.

B.  (:9-10) Verbal Demonstration of Worship

1.(:9a)  Singing a New Song

And they sang a new song, saying,

Grant Osborne: The leaders of angelic worship (the living creatures and elders) ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινήν (adousin ōdēn kainēn, sing a new song) in 5:9. The idea of a “new song” to celebrate the sovereignty and worthiness of God is frequent in the Psalms (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1), where it expresses a new worship inspired by the mercies of God. In Isa. 42:10, however, the “new song” is eschatological and connected to the appearance of the “servant of Yahweh” and the “new things” (Rev. 5:9) God was about to introduce. In 14:3 the “new song” is linked to the coming of the final kingdom, and here the new song celebrates the basis of God’s final act, the sacrificial death of the Lamb. The use of καινός (eight times in the book) rather than νεός (not found in this book) stresses the qualitative rather than the temporal, that is, it is new in kind. This is the adjective used of the “New Jerusalem” and the “new heaven and new earth” throughout the book. For the “new” age soon to appear, there is a “new” kind of song to celebrate its coming.

Charles Swindoll: Notice that the cherubim and elders sang a “new song.” This was a chorus never heard before (Rev. 5:9): fresh lyrics, a fresh melody, a fresh experience of worship. Now look at the purposes for their praise in 5:9-10. In chapter 4 the four living creatures and twenty-four elders praised God for His work of creation (4:11). In chapter 5 they praised Christ for His work of redemption.

  1. (:9b)  Seranading a Worthy Savior

Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals;

Kendell Easley: The first line of the song answers directly the question of verse 2, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”

Robert Thomas: first word of the song, axios (“worthy”), captures the theme of the whole song, the worthiness of the Lamb to receive the scroll and open its seals (cf. 5:4-5).  It is significant that here Christ is addressed as worthy in the same manner as the Father was in 4:11 (axios ei, “You are worthy”) (cf. also 5:12) (Sweet). He who takes the scroll and puts its contents into effect exercises the divine function of judgment and sovereignty. He too is God (Beasley-Murray).

  1. (:9c-10)  Specifying the Specific Blessings Secured by the Slain Lamb

a.  (:9c)  Blessing of Redemption

for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood

men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Richard Phillips: The Greek word (agorazo) has the general meaning of purchasing, but often had the specific connotation of ransoming a prisoner or slave out of bondage. Here we see the essence of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross: at the cost of his own blood, which evidenced his death, Jesus delivered his people from the bondage and condemnation of sin. Many writers, especially in the early church, envisioned Jesus as paying a ransom to Satan. This is a mistaken idea, however, since the devil never had the true right to possess God’s people. Rather, Jesus made payment to the justice of God, which demanded death as the penalty for sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). Jesus foretold that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Paul therefore wrote, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7).

Warren Wiersbe: The word translated slain means “violently slain” (Rev. 5:6). Heaven sings about the cross and the blood! I read about a denomination that revised its official hymnal and removed all songs about the blood of Christ. That hymnal could never be used in heaven, because there they glorify the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.

Craig Keener: an audience immersed in the Old Testament would be most struck by the fact that this new act of redemption encompassed believers from all peoples. John’s fourfold formula describing all peoples (“tribe and language and people and nation”) occurs in varying sequences seven times in Revelation and matches a threefold formula that occurs six times in Daniel (Dan. 3:4 [cf. LXX here], 7; 4:1; 5:19; 6:25; 7:14). Daniel announced the rule of the Son of Man over all these peoples (7:14), and John sees a literal fulfillment of this promise in the church.

Robert Mounce: The Lamb is worthy to open the book for three reasons:

  1. he was slain (a historical fact),
  2. he purchased people for God (the interpretation of that fact),
  3. and he made them to be a kingdom and priests (the result of the fact).

That the same ascription of worth is directed both to the One upon the throne (4:11) and to the Lamb (5:9) indicates the exalted Christology of the Apocalypse.

The worthiness of the Lamb does not at this point stem from his essential being, but from his great act of redemption.

b.  (:10)  Blessing of Elevated Status of Priests and Rulers

And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;

and they will reign upon the earth.

Robert Thomas: As God’s possession, the redeemed will not merely be God’s people over whom He reigns, but will also share God’s rule in the coming millennial kingdom (cf. 1 Cor. 4:8; 6:3) (Charles; Ladd). This kingdom is the goal toward which the program of God is moving as emphasized by basileusousin (“they shall reign”) later in v. 10 (cf. Rev. 20:4). The idea of priesthood found in hiereis (“priests”) means full and immediate access into God’s presence for the purpose of praise and worship (Ladd). It also includes the thought of priestly service to God (Mounce). Though believers are currently viewed as a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; cf. Ex. 19:6), this is only preliminary to the fullness of the way they will function alongside Christ in the millennial kingdom.

Van Parunak: We have access to heaven, where we are now seated with Christ, but our proper domain of activity is the earth, first during the Millennium, and then through eternity when God creates a new heaven and a new earth.

The transition from we to they, marking the shift from the elders to the living creatures, shows how our praise as the redeemed starts a cascade of worship that continues through the chapter.

Richard Phillips: The elders’ song teaches a salvation theology of restoration. Adam was placed into the garden to be king and priest in service to God, but lost this office through his fall into sin. Israel in the exodus was established by God to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Israel’s calling was to live out the rule of God in obedience to his Word and bear a priestly testimony of God to the nations. Instead, the Israelites turned from God’s Word to follow the idols of the nations around them. But whereas Adam and Israel failed, Jesus Christ triumphed. Jesus succeeded not only through his own ministry as King of kings and true High Priest, but also in making his church “a kingdom and priests to our God” (Rev. 5:10). . .

Christ is enthroned, having redeemed us by his blood. We are now a kingdom of priests to serve him on earth. Knowing that the Savior who loved us reigns over all, let us get on with the work he has given us and devote ourselves to the cause of his glory. Let us not be daunted by the winds of earthly change or the vain threats of evil powers against the gospel. Christ is sovereign, reigning over all things for our good. Let us press on in faith with the priestly work of worship, witness, and prayer for the sake of his kingdom of salvation here on earth.