And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain. — Rev. 5:5-6
The visions and revelations the apostle John had of the future events of God’s providence, are here introduced with a vision of the book of God’s decrees, by which those events were fore-ordained. This is represented (Revelation 5:1) as a book in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, “written within and on the back side, and sealed with seven seals.” Books, in the form in which they were wont of old to be made, were broad leaves of parchment or paper, or something of that nature, joined together at one edge, and so rolled up together, and then sealed, or some way fastened together, to prevent their unfolding and opening. Hence we read of the roll of a book Jer. 36:2. It seems to have been such a book that John had a vision of here; and therefore it is said to be “written within and on the back side,” i. e. on the inside pages, and also on one of the outside pages, namely, that which it was rolled in, in rolling the book up together. And it is said to be “sealed with seven seals,” to signify that what was written in it was perfectly hidden and secret; or that God’s decrees of future events are sealed, and shut up from all possibility of being discovered by creatures, till God is pleased to make them known. We find that seven is often used in Scripture as the number of perfection, to signify the superlative or most perfect degree of anything, which probably arose from this, that on the seventh day God beheld the works of creation finished, and rested and rejoiced in them, as being complete and perfect.
When John saw this book, he tells us, he “saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” And that he wept much, because “no man was found worthy to open and read the book, neither to look thereon.” And then tells us how his tears were dried up, namely, that “one of the elders said unto him, “Weep not, Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed” etc. as in the text. Though no man nor angel, nor any mere creature, was found either able to loose the seals, or worthy to be admitted to the privilege of reading the book, yet this was declared, for the comfort of this beloved disciple, that Christ was found both able and worthy. And we have an account in the succeeding chapters how he actually did it, opening the seals in order, first one, and then another, revealing what God had decreed should come to pass hereafter. And we have an account in this chapter, of his coming and taking the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne, and of the joyful praises that were sung to him in heaven and earth on that occasion.