2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.
John saw an angel who was called a mighty angel (ἄγγελον ἰσχυρὸν). This probably, although we cannot be certain, simply means a high-ranking angel in terms of the heavenly hierarchy (it may be one of the angels known to us by name from other biblical narratives, but visually unknown to John the Seer). It was to him, this angel, that the sacred task of announcing the great message was given. He did so in a loud voice – the basic idea is that this message would be heard by everyone. No one, on or under the face of the earth could say that they did not hear the call for the one who is worthy. No stone was left unturned. No one was found.
4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;
John saw himself in the vision. He was not simply reacting to what he sees, but he saw himself reacting as part of this heavenly dramatic moment. He too, was a part of this great heavenly show, unfolding before his very eyes and with his full participation. When we read the words of vs. 1-3 we are not moved to tears and weeping as if we had lost all hope. John, however, was in heaven when this happened. He was, therefore, able to experience the moment on a wholly different level. He cried bitterly. It is our non-heavenly perception that is unrealistic. John’s was authentic in every way.
5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David…
Normally in Jewish apocalyptic visions the seer asks questions of the revealer, but in the letter of Revelation this usual technique is completely absent. Anything that John needed to know was being shown and told him by others. One of the elders who seemed to function as a special spokesmen for the twenty-four elders seated upon the thrones (Dan.7:9; Rev. 4:4) announced the word of hope to John. He was told that he must stop his natural display of utter grief and look towards someone who had escaped his attention – someone who within himself combined qualities that are worthy of the royal epithet “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Gen.49:9) and “the Root of David” (Is.11:1, 10).
We read in Genesis 49:8-10:
Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
We read in Isaiah 11:1-10:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him… and He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked… Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
Both the Genesis and Isaiah texts here (Revelation 5) form one picture of Christ Jesus as the descendent both of Judah and David, and who is fully qualified to rule Israel and the nations, because he has shown himself to be victorious and prevail over all the enemies, both his own and God’s. How he did this will be clearly spelled out in vs. 6.
…has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
It is important to note that the worthiness of the one who could break the seals and open the book was actually not based on his person. In other words, he was defined as the one who overcame. This idea of overcoming comes up repeatedly, not only in the letter of Revelation itself (Rev.2-3), but also in the letters of John (1 John 2:13-14, 5:4-5). It is also present in John 16:33:
33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
It is common in New Testament scholarship to reject, or at best to doubt, the authorship of the book of Revelation as being the same person who was responsible for writing the Gospel of John. While I also doubt it, my doubt is, with time, losing its grip; as I see more and more evidence that it may have been in fact one and the same person who authored the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. The differences in the levels of Greek grammar and vocabulary can be explained by different scribes working with John on the Island of Patmos. A different scribe who was less proficient in Greek would no doubt leave his linguistic imprint on the book of Revelation.
So far in this study there are two points of evidence that make me think positively about the one authorship position:
- The importance of Daniel and Ezekiel for both the Gospel of John and Revelation (see the Jewish Gospel of John book) and
- The idea of overcoming.
While it is not a strong motif in John’s Gospel, it is however evident as a very strong theme in John’s letters. This by itself is a very important argument. So, if the connection between John’s letters and Revelation can be established, then the connection between Revelation and John’s Gospel should also not be rejected, since no one really seriously doubts that John’s Gospel and his letters were authored by one and the same person.