Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 5
The Prayer Of The Righteous Person Has Great Power
In Revelation 5, John has a vision of God seated on his throne. In his right hand is a scroll which is sealed with seven seals. This scroll reveals God’s plans and mysteries for mankind. And this mystery can only be unlocked by the victorious Christ.
As the chapter opens, John is weeping because no one is worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5:4). Why is John weeping? In our study of Revelation 4, we saw that something was missing from the throne room scene that John saw. Though he saw God on his throne, the elders worshiping God, the four living creatures, and thousands of angels, he did not see anything related to mankind. He realized that God’s plan for mankind was contained in the scroll in God’s right hand. This was the missing puzzle piece. But no one was worthy to open this scroll and find out the mysteries of God.
John, as a human and as an elder of the church on earth, was deeply distressed because no one could unravel the mysteries of God’s plan for mankind. He was deeply distressed by the weakness and failure of the church. So one of the elders in heaven told him, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (ESV, Revelation 5:5). I have always understood that John received comfort from the fact that Jesus Christ had prevailed and was found worthy to open the seals. Recently, the Holy Spirit has given me additional insight into this passage. In verse seven, the Holy Spirit shifts the focus from the scroll in God’s right hand to the prayers that were going up like incense. I believe that these prayers played a crucial role in allowing the scroll to be opened.
As a film director shifts the focus of the camera lens, the Holy Spirit shifted the focus from the “Lamb who took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne” (vs. 7), to “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” who were “each holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (vs. 8). Why did he do so? Because the victory of Jesus Christ, together with the prayers of the saints throughout the ages, eventually brought about God’s just judgment on mankind and the ultimate revelation of His plan for man. John was not only comforted by the victory of Jesus Christ, but also by seeing how the prayers of the saints had had such an impact. John saw that the church’s weaknesses were superficial, while their prayers were deep and effective. The prayers of the saints throughout the ages had been collected by God. As the angels waved the golden censer full of prayers, God delighted in these prayers and the scroll with seven seals was finally opened. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power.” The prayers of the saints and the power of the victorious Christ finally allowed the scroll to be opened.
Why Is John Weeping?
How would you feel if God had asked you to write to seven churches and point out their problems? Although these seven letters contained words of encouragement from the Lord, they also pointed out many of the churches’ shortcomings. John, as one of the apostles, would not only have seen these shortcomings as the churches’ problems, but also as his own. As the “Beloved Disciple” and the apostle of the church, he had the spiritual responsibility of shepherding the church. When the church was weak and failed, he, as an apostle, would surely feel responsible for it. So when he finished writing the letters to the seven churches, he must have inevitably felt disappointed with their lack of progress. So why is he weeping? Because the scroll containing God’s plan for the church is sealed with seven seals, and no one can open it. And the failure and weaknesses of the church made him feel that no one—not even himself—was worthy to open this scroll. That’s why the elders came to comfort him, saying that the victorious Christ was worthy of opening the scroll. The next verse describes the golden bowls of incense, which contained the prayers of many saints. These prayers on earth promoted God’s sovereign, kingly work.
The Victorious Christ
Let’s examine John’s description of the victorious Christ. He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). Finally, humankind has shown up in the narrative! Judah is a human tribe, and David was also a man. And of course, the Lord Jesus was a hundred percent man. He, the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), had been victorious and “could open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5).
What are the seven seals? The seven seals include the seven stages of God’s dealings with mankind and the church. We will discuss the seven seals in detail in Revelation 6. But for now, we focus on understanding the victorious Christ.
Revelation 5:6 says, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” As we were studying this verse, I suddenly noticed the word “between.” This is something I’d never noticed before. What does it mean that the Lamb is “between” the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders?
Is this “between” two-dimensional or three-dimensional? I personally envision the throne room as a three-dimensional cone. The throne of God is at the top of the cone, with the four living creatures also at the top of the cone, circling around the throne of God. The four living creatures are around and on each side of the throne of God (Revelation 4:6). Then the elders’ thrones would be circling the bottom of the cone, as mentioned in Revelation 4:4. This is my personal guess.
The fact that the Lamb is in between the throne and the four living creatures has a very profound meaning. The Lamb is Jesus Christ. He is over all things, and he leads all things to God (Ephesians 1:22). The book of Hebrews says, “God appointed Christ to be the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:2-3).
In the throne room, I envision three concentric circles.
- God’s throne is in the innermost circle, like the Holy of Holies. The four living creatures can enter this area. Of course, the victorious Christ can enter it, along with we who rely on the precious blood of the victorious Christ. We can enter the Holy of Holies with confidence and come before God’s throne in order to receive mercy, grace, and timely help (Hebrews 4:16). Overcoming believers can also sit on the throne with the Lord, just as Jesus overcame and sat down with His Father on the throne (Revelation 3:21).
- The second circle is where Jesus Christ is. He is the Mediator between God and man (1 John 1:2) and is our High Priest in heaven. No one can come to God and His throne without passing through Him. Like the veil that separated the Holy of Holies and the sanctuary in the Old Testament, Jesus opened up the way to God.
- The third circle is where the 24 elders and thousands of angels are. Revelation 5:11 says, “Around the throne and the living creatures and the elders were the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” Many people seem to be envious of the position of the 24 elders, but I think we have even greater authority in Christ to draw near to God! Can the 24 elders get into the innermost circle? The Bible does not mention that they can sit on God’s throne. My personal guess is that they cannot. Either way, we know that we can approach God’s throne and even indwell God himself. Instead of focusing on the 24 elders and the thousands of angels before the throne of God, we should focus on the throne of God and the Lamb who stands among the four living creatures. The Lamb is in the outermost circle with the 24 elders, and he is with the four living creatures and on the throne.
This description depicts the tabernacle of God. To the degree that we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice and live with confidence in him, we can enter God’s tabernacle.
Verse 5:6 says, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” The seven horns and seven eyes represent the seven Spirits of God. There are many different interpretations of the seven spirits. The teaching I’m most familiar with says that the idea of the seven spirits refers to the one Holy Spirit, intensified sevenfold. They say it’s like trying to open a bottle cap. When the lid doesn’t open, you exert sevenfold pressure to try to open it. Others say that the seven spirits are angels. Revelation 1:4 mentions “the seven spirits who are before His throne.” Some people say that the seven spirits are angels standing before the throne of God.
Personally, I think there are some problems with this explanation. Revelation 5 clearly states that the seven Spirits (the seven horns and the seven eyes) are part of the Lamb. Angels cannot be part of the Lamb, so I believe the seven spirits are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly states that the “seven spirits of God” were “sent out into all the earth,” which is in line with what the Lord Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26).
In addition to the Holy Spirit, Jesus is also a spirit. The Bible says, “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17). 1 Corinthians 15:45 says, “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (NASB). This verse shows that Jesus Christ is already a spiritual being. The Father is also a spirit. Jesus Christ clearly stated, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23). This doesn’t mean that the Father is the same as the Holy Spirit, but it expresses the truth that the Father is spirit.
This does not mean that we can confuse the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Father is the Father, the Son is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. But they can enter into each other, and they are all spiritual in nature. The Holy Spirit is a spirit by nature. The Lord Jesus Christ and the Father are also spirit, but are not to be confused with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and the Son are depicted as being before the Father’s throne, on the Father’s throne, and in the Father. The Father is over all: “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). All of the members of the Godhead are spirits, and they can enter into and indwell one other.
We as humans are also spirits. We can also indwell and enter into the Triune God. We have the same nature as God, and we have divine life. These are privileges that the angels do not have. Only mankind can become God’s children. This is a great mystery. If we can understand it, we will have a new perspective on the value of mankind.
God’s Just Balance
In the Bible, God mentions his “just balance” (Job 31:6, Proverbs 16:11). I read a prophetic testimony that described how the “just balance” in heaven worked. The general idea was that our sins were on one side of the scale, and when our sins became too numerous to record, the judgment on the other side would fall. But if we were willing to repent of our sins and accept God’s redemption through Christ’s precious blood, “mercy would triumph over judgment” (James 2:13), and God’s grace would be given to us. We can clearly see how this principle works in Revelation 5.
The seven seals are God’s plan for judgment on humankind, but they are just a means to an end. God’s purpose is to bring about our salvation, applying what Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf. Through these trials, the church will grow and mature into the body and bride of Christ, leading all things back to Christ and God. The seven seals will also help unbelievers accept the redemption won by Jesus Christ. Those who refused to accept the preaching of the gospel will be exposed to judgment and discipline which will motivate them to repent. As a result, many people will humbly accept the salvation of Jesus Christ. Christ’s redemption is finished, but God in his great love will continue applying the work of redemption to individual lives. The seven trumpet judgments will accelerate this process as many people humbly accept His salvation.
In addition to God’s discipline, the prayers of the saints are also very important in the process of winning souls to Christ.
The Power of the Saints’ Prayers
Recently, many people have called their worship services “Harp and Bowl.” This name comes from Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” The harp refers to singing, praise and worship. The bowl refers to prayer. So the combination of “harp and bowl” describes the combination of worship and prayer. This is a pattern we see in many church worship and prayer meetings.
Since Jesus Christ has already been victorious, is our prayer still necessary? Do we just need to wait passively, or do we need to actively pray and cooperate with God’s work? The answer is almost undisputed. We must actively pray and cooperate with God’s work. Our prayers are very important. James said, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power.” (James 5:16). The four living creatures and the 24 elders offered worship and prayer as an incense offering before God. The prayers of all the saints throughout the ages were like a “pleasing aroma” to God (2 Corinthians 2:15). This aroma greatly pleased Him and promoted God’s sovereign work. Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can influence God’s kingly work.
I read another testimony that said that when we sing hymns to God on earth, they will be collected by the angels and stored in the angels’ harps! The angels will collect the praise and worship of saints on earth and dedicate the beautiful music to God. Therefore, not only the prayers of the saints will be collected in the incense, but the praise and worship of the saints will also be collected in the harps. What an honor that when the four living creatures and 24 elders fall down to worship the Lamb, their offering consists of the praises and prayers of the saints! (Revelation 5:8) Angels are God’s ministering spirits, and we are God’s beloved!
Remember, the driving forces behind God’s work revealed in the scroll are the prayers of the saints and the victory of the Lamb! Both are indispensable!
We Shall Reign on the Earth
Let’s look at the prayers of the four living creatures and the 24 elders. The four living creatures and the 24 elders prayed, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10). Please note that I put the word “for” in bold. The reason why the Lamb is worthy of opening the scroll is that He was killed. He redeemed us with His blood and bought us back to God. In God’s eyes, we are so precious that He gave His only begotten Son to save us (John 3:16). We must never underestimate ourselves. We will become a kingdom, priests, and kings on the earth. This is our destiny.
This is also the purpose of the seven seals. When the church submits to Christ, God will use His power to make all things submit to Christ, just as the church does. The church, as the firstfruits, leads all things to worship and surrender to God. The church will reign on earth so it can guide all of creation toward the worship of God. John says in verse 13, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” After the church surrenders to Christ and begins to reign on the earth, all things begin to worship God. Revelation 5 ends with, “The four living creatures said, Amen, and all the elders fell down and worshiped” (5:14). This provides a beautiful picture of the future time when all things will submit to God.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.