The two most important questions in the book of revelation
In the book of Revelation everything meets and ends. It gives us a panoramic picture of the events transpiring on this earth, and events taking place in heaven, from the first century till the final restoration of all things.
The last two chapters of Revelation picture this earth renewed with the beauty it originally possessed before the fall and entrance of sin. It is interesting to note that the very last two chapters of the Bible are strikingly similar to the first two chapters. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, introduces us to a God that creates everything very good. The perfect touch of a perfect God rests on everything. But Genesis chapter 3 plunges us into a world devastated and marred by sin. All the way from Genesis chapter 3 to Revelation chapter 20 we have the story of a world stained by sin and separated from God. But thankfully the story closes with the assurance of a final restoration in the last two chapters.
We refer to this picture as the Eden-to-Eden perspective. The original paradise, called Eden, that was lost through sin, will one day be restored through the removal of sin. The removal of sin was accomplished through the one who became sin for us, Jesus Christ. In this picture Jesus becomes the bridge from one Eden to the other. His death on behalf of us reconciles and unites us with our Creator. The penalty for sin has been paid and our faith in Christ secures us a place in Eden restored. The price that was paid was high and beyond anything we can imagine. This earth, hijacked by the enemy, was purchased back by the blood of Jesus. He is the rightful owner and soon the entire universe will know this. This brings us to the two most important questions in the book of Revelation. The answers to these two questions reveal Christ as the rightful owner of this world, and by faith, you and I, as the rightful inheritors of this promised restored world. The first important question is found in Revelation chapter 5.
“Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” —Revelation 5:2
You might wonder what this question has to do with Jesus Christ being the rightful owner of this world in which we live. In order to understand both the question and the answer we need to take a careful look at the scene, which passed before the aged disciple John on the Island of Patmos. After having a closer look at the vision that John has recorded in the book of Revelation we will push the rewind button and go all the way back to ancient stories in the Old Testament that will in a remarkable way help us to understand what is happening in Revelation. Many of the stories of the past are typologies that find a larger fulfilment in the prophecies pointing to the restoration of all things. So let’s start our journey by taking a closer look at the scene of the sealed scroll.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.” —Revelation 4:1-4
Can you imagine the dazzling beauty of the scene? It’s almost like words fail to really describe this glorious appearance. There is a throne and God the Father sits on it! Around Him are 24 elders. The chapter continues to describe how the 24 elders, together with other heavenly creatures, worship the almighty Creator. But then the scene transitions and suddenly John sees a sealed scroll in the hand of the one sitting on the throne.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.” —Revelation 5:1-4
Here again we have our most important question. The question is; “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” First no one is found and John begins to weep. His tears have profound meaning and significance that we can only discover by entering into the world of Judaism. We need to take a look at the past to really grasp the significance of the picture that passed before John. The scene unfolding before John was not unfamiliar to him. The Old Testament contains typologies, which are stories that like a shadow point to something greater, that unlock the mysteries of the great controversy between light and darkness, between Christ and Satan. John, being a first century Jew, had seen sealed scrolls in the presence of elders and witnesses before. He knew what it meant and he knew that if such a scroll could not be opened it had overwhelming implications. Let’s continue our journey into the Biblical and historical world of the Jews in order to discover the significance of this fascinating scene of a sealed scroll. We push the rewind button and go all the way back to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He is also known as the rejected prophet. To say his life was hard is an understatement. His main prophetic message was the invasion of the king of the north, Babylon, and the overthrow of Judah as a judgement from God for the continual apostasy and sins of the Jews. Tired of his predictions the people locked him in prison. While in prison his predictions came to pass and the king of Babylon surrounded the city.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.” —Jeremiah 32:1-2
At this time of universal apostasy and judgment the Word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and asks him to do something that humanly speaking would seem nonsensical at such a time as this.
“And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”’ Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.” —Jeremiah 32:6-8
Buying land when the land was invaded by Babylon seemed ludicrous and senseless. Yet God was giving an important message to His people through this transaction.
“For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them. And fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for I will cause their captives to return,’ says the LORD.” —Jeremiah 32:42-44
The very act of Jeremiah purchasing the land from his cousin was a sign of God that one day after a long captivity the land of Judah would again be possessed by God’s chosen people and that they would buy and sell properties once more. Jeremiah had prophesied that the people would spend 70 years in Babylon, which came to pass. After the 70 years they indeed returned and again possessed the land. Once again they bought and sold properties just as was predicted. It is interesting to notice the details of how the land is sold to Jeremiah. It was a very common scene for the Jews at that time. A careful look will remind us of the similar scene we looked at in Revelation. The proof of the purchase was written in a scroll and sealed in the presence of witnesses.
“So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison.” —Jeremiah 32:9-12
It all happened according to the law and custom of those days. The purchase was recorded on a scroll, which was sealed. This familiar scene must have come to the mind of John as he beheld God the Father on the throne, surrounded by 24 elders, holding a sealed book. John realizes that the scroll contains the evidence of who owns and possesses the land. This time we are not just looking at the ownership and possession of one piece of land but the entire earth. John hears the question: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” First no one is found and John begins to weep. Why? He understands that if the scroll is not unsealed and opened we will never know who is the owner of this earth and who will posses this land! To further grasp the scene of Revelation we need to again push the rewind button and travel further back in time. We are going all the way back to the early days of the Jewish nation as they possessed the land of Canaan. Their culture and way of life revolved around the writings of Moses, which we have in the first 5 books of the Bible. The Jews referred to these books as the Torah. Leviticus, the third of these books, records how the Jews were to go about selling and buying land. For six years the Jews would grow food and reap their harvest, but not the seventh year. It would be a year of rest and they exercised faith in Gods provision. This cycle continued for 49 years and then came another special year. The 50th year was the year of Jubilee. What happened in the year of Jubilee?
“And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field. In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession.” —Leviticus 25:10-13
In the year of Jubilee possessions would be returned. Land could be sold, but it would be given back in the year of jubilee to secure the inheritance of families. When a poor family needed to sell their land there first choice would be a close relative. The Jews would refer to this as the relative “redeeming” the land.
“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land. If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.” —Leviticus 25:23-28
All property would automatically revert to the original owner in the year of jubilee, but it might be redeemed at any time by the owner, or by one of his relatives, upon payment of that which was due. The amount due was to be reckoned by the number of harvests between the time of redemption and the year of jubilee. The one who had bought the property paid for it according to the number of harvests until the year of jubilee, omitting of course the sabbatical years, when there was no harvest. When the land was bought back he was to be repaid accordingly. This provision enabled a man to recover his property at any time. This legislation favored the poor and encouraged him to work for the recovery of his property. God sought to prevent some people from becoming very rich and others very poor. Had God’s original plan for the land and for servitude been followed, extremes of poverty and wealth would have been unknown. In the instance of Hanamel and Jeremiah, it is Jeremiah who “redeems” his cousin’s property. Jeremiah as a close relative purchases the land to secure it. In the year of Jubilee it would return to Hanamel. This is all written on a scroll as evidence to be revealed when appropriate. How do these typologies unfold in the great plan of redemption? This earth was originally given to man. It was given to Adam and Eve and we as their children inherit it.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” —Genesis 1:26-28
Originally this perfect world, created by God, was entrusted to mankind. The first man, Adam, was the representative of planet earth. But this perfect story took a drastic turn when Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit and sinned against God. Satan now claims ownership of this world! In the story of Job Satan appears before God obviously claiming this earth as his territory.
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” —Job 1:6-7
Satan claims this earth as his! But praise God for Jesus Christ who became one of us, a close relative, in order to redeem this earth back! He purchased this earth with His own blood! At His death the ruler of this world, Satan himself, was cast out of his position as owner of this earth.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” —John 12:31-33
When Jesus was lifted up on the cross he cast down all the arguments of Satan and before all the witnesses of un-fallen worlds He paid the price necessary to redeem this earth and to redeem you and me from sin! When Jesus comes again the second time we enter the figurative year of Jubilee. Just as every six years was followed by a seventh year of rest, which continued for 7 cycles of 7 years culminating in the 50th year of Jubilee rest, so this earth is about 6000 years removed from creation. When Jesus comes back we enter into the millennium of spending 1000 years of rest in heaven. According to Revelation chapter 20 the redeemed will reign with Christ during this period. After the 1000 years are finished the New Jerusalem descends from heaven and is described as a bride adorned for her husband.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” —Revelation 21:1-3
There is another typology that gives us a picture of this final wedding between Christ and His people. It is the story of Ruth. This typology also reiterates the Jewish customs of buying and selling land, and gives us some more clues to the meaning of the sealed scroll and the rightful owner. Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, as a Jewish family, go to live in Moab because of a famine in Israel. They stay there and their two sons get married to two Moabites, Ruth and Orpah. Then over the course of years Elimelech and his two married sons die. Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah are left. Naomi decides that she will go back to her country Israel. Ruth persists to join her and together they arrive in Bethlehem. Ruth starts working on the field of Boaz, who was a relative of Elimelech, the former husband of Naomi. Naomi sets up a plan for Ruth to become his wife. The Jewish Talmud explains Ruth’s action, in the book of Ruth chapter 3, as a proposal for marriage. Boaz responds favorably and wants to marry Ruth, but he knows that according to Jewish custom she will be given in marriage together with the purchase of a land that belonged to Elimelech, her father in law. Boaz as relative has the right to purchase, or redeem, the land, but he is not the closest relative. In Jewish custom it appears that close relatives have the first rights to purchase a land that was for sale, just as in the case of Jeremiah who bought the land from Hanamel his cousin. Boaz wanted to buy the land of Elimelech and marry Ruth, but he first had to know that the closer relative would pass the right to him. A remarkable scenario unfolds.
“Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” —Ruth 4:1-6
The fact that the land was to be sold, leased, we would say today, to a near relative who would marry Ruth and hold it in trust for her offspring by this union, called for the application of two provisions of the Mosaic civil code. The laws on the transfer of land (Lev. 25:23–28) and the marriage of a widow to a near relative (Deut. 25:5–10) both applied to this case, with the latter placing a limitation upon the former. In other words when purchasing and redeeming the land Boaz also took the responsibility to raise offspring through Ruth who would inherit the land. When the close relative, who had the first right to purchase the land, hears that he also must take Ruth to wife he declines and immediately Boaz steps in as the next in line. He purchases the land and Ruth becomes his bride. It all happens before witnesses. A picture is beginning to emerge from these fascinating typologies. Jeremiah bought the land as a sign that one day in the future the Jews would again inherit the Promised Land. We, as spiritual Israel, are looking forward to the Promised Land, a new heaven and a new earth. Satan has claimed this earth since the fall of man, but Jesus Christ became one of us, a close relative, to purchase this world back with His own life! The evidence is written in a scroll, which is sealed with seven seals. Boaz bought land and with it came a bride. Boaz is a type of Christ and Ruth is a type of God’s people. Christ is the bridegroom and God’s Church is the bride. Christ bought back this world and wants to unite himself with His people, His bride! Who would reject such a proposal! Let’s fast forward all the way to Revelation! Now the puzzle pieces start coming together. One of the most important questions in the book of Revelation is asked.
“Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” —Revelation 5:2
The answer following portrays Christ as one of us, a close relative!
“But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” —Revelation 5:5
Jesus is from the tribe of Judah and He is of the root of David. He became a close relative of humanity and redeemed this earth! He is found worthy to open the scroll! He has paid the ultimate price with His own life.
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” —Revelation 5:6
The next scene is a slain lamb typifying the death of Jesus. Jesus has met all the criteria to be the one who is worthy to open the scroll. John understands, as the seals are peeled back one after the other that finally the rightful owner of this world will be made know. This answers the first most important question of Revelation; “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” It’s Jesus since He made the purchase! But there is another question yet to be answered. We could refer to it as the second most important question in the book of Revelation. Under the sixth seal the question is asked; “Who is able to stand?”
“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves 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 who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” —Revelation 6:14-17
Those who will stand in that great day when Christ returns will be those who will inherit this earth made new! They together with Christ will be the rightful owners. Their names are written in the scroll to be revealed when the final seventh seal is removed.
Revelation chapter 6 records the seals being removed one after the other in succession. The seals reveal events that are to transpire with the people of God leading to the second coming. As Jesus removes the seals His faithful people are tested and tried whether they will be written in the book of life and inherit the promised and purchased land. A panorama of history passes before our eyes. The first seal is removed and the gospel is preached with power by the early church. The second seal reveals a time a severe persecution by the pagan powers of the second and third century. The third seal brings us to a time of compromise in which Gods truth is set aside for mans philosophies, reflected in the forth century. This results in utter darkness and again persecution in the forth seal, known as the middle ages. The fifth seal is then removed and a cry is heard from those that are subjected to this destructive apostate power. Then the sixth seal is slowly, but gradually, removed bringing on the final scenes of earths history. Signs take place upon earth and in the heavens as the earth shakes, the sun becomes black, the moon appears as blood, and stars fall. Then suddenly the sky seems to just roll back making way for the coming of Christ in great power and glory. Then the question sounds through the skies; “Who shall be able to stand?” The answer to that question follows with Revelation chapter 7 describing the 144000, who have the seal of God in their foreheads and are alive at the coming of Jesus, and the great multitude who have died in the faith of Jesus and are now raised to life by the voice of Jesus. These are the ones redeemed by Jesus, those who have put their faith in His death on their behalf. He has become their bridge from the Eden lost to the Eden restored. Just before the mighty resurrection takes place the seventh and final seal is removed.
“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” —Revelation 8:1
In the book Early Writings, Ellen White, gives an account of a vision she had of the coming of Jesus. She recalls the question being asked: “Who shall be able to stand?” Right after the question is asked there is a time of awful silence as all wait in suspense.
“Soon our eyes were drawn to the east, for a small black cloud had appeared, about half as large as a man’s hand, which we all knew was the sign of the Son of man. We all in solemn silence gazed on the cloud as it drew nearer and became lighter, glorious, and still more glorious, till it was a great white cloud. The bottom appeared like fire; a rainbow was over the cloud, while around it were ten thousand angels, singing a most lovely song; and upon it sat the Son of man. His hair was white and curly and lay on His shoulders; and upon His head were many crowns. His feet had the appearance of fire; in His right hand was a sharp sickle; in His left, a silver trumpet. His eyes were as a flame of fire, which searched His children through and through. Then all faces gathered paleness, and those that God had rejected gathered blackness. Then we all cried out, “Who shall be able to stand? Is my robe spotless?” Then the angels ceased to sing, and there was some time of awful silence, when Jesus spoke: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand; My grace is sufficient for you.” At this our faces lighted up, and joy filled every heart. And the angels struck a note higher and sang again, while the cloud drew still nearer the earth.
Then Jesus’ silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried, “Awake! awake! awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise.” Then there was a mighty earthquake. The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, “Alleluia!” as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.” —Early Writings, page 16
Just as there was a moment of silence and awe when the first most important question was asked; “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” so there is a solemn silence when the second most important question is asked; “Who shall be able to stand?” as the seventh and final seal is removed. Great joy follows! The faithful throughout the ages have been found worthy because Christ is worthy! Chapter seven, which is right in between the sixth and seventh seal, describes those that have put their faith in Jesus Christ. The 144000 and the great multitude are able to stand in His presence. Why? Because they have knelt in His presence, worshipped in His presence, lived in His presence. It is the most natural thing for them to now spend eternity in His presence! This earth restored and renewed will be their home throughout eternity. Once the center of sin claimed by a fallen foe, but now a new earth claimed by Jesus Christ!
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” —Revelation 21:4-7
May we all be among those who inherit this earth and spend eternity with our Creator and Redeemer!