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Chapter 4 of Revelation introduces the theme of the “Investigative Judgment”, a judgment which takes place before the Second Coming of Christ and which determines who will be granted eternal life. In chapter 5 John saw “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1). Since chapter 5 is a continuation of the same scene that began in chapter 4, we can assume that the scroll has something to do with the Investigative Judgment.

A “strong angel” challenges, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 5:2). Whatever is written in this scroll is obviously of vital importance, because John “wept much because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll” (Revelation 5:4). Evidence is presented in section 5:2-4 Who is Worthy that the “strong angel” is Satan, who does not want the scroll to be opened because it contains the names of believers and the evidence of their faith that will allow them to be saved.

One of the 24 elders tells John not to weep: “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). These two titles refer to Jesus, but surprisingly, Jesus does not appear as a lion or a king, but as “a Lamb as though it had been slain”. The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross gives Him the right to open the scroll and to provide salvation to those whose names are written inside. 

There has been a great deal of speculation about the sealed scroll, much of it involving comparisons with books or scrolls used in Roman times such as books of covenant deeds or wills and testaments.  However, it would be expected that a scroll so important that a whole chapter is devoted to the controversy surrounding its opening would be mentioned elsewhere in Revelation. The crucial book (book and scroll are the same word in the original Greek) that is mentioned in Revelation is the Book of Life.  

The Book of Life is mentioned 7 times [1]and, like the book of Revelation 5, is closely linked to Jesus in His role as the sacrificial lamb (in Revelation 21:27 it is called the “Lamb’s Book of Life”).  It is closely linked to the judgment:  “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). The enemies of God’s people who follow the beast are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8, 17:8) and God’s people are exhorted to live in such a way that their names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5, 22:19).  

Thus the Book of Life is concerned with the vital life-and-death issues that are the subject of the book of Revelation.  This makes it easy to understand why John was weeping so much.  Without the opening of the Book of Life no one could be judged, which would mean that no one could be saved.

A little “catechism” helps in the identifying of the sealed scroll.
Q.  After the One “who sat on the throne” gave the book to the Lamb, whose book was it?
A.  The Lamb’s book.
Q.  Is there any book in Revelation that is called “the Lamb’s book”?
A.  Yes, “the Lamb’s Book of Life”  (Revelation 21:27).
Q.  Why did the Lamb take the book?
A.  So that He could open it (Revelation 5:5).
Q.   Is there any book that is opened in Revelation?
A.  Yes, “another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (Revelation 20:12).

The Book of Life is not the only book that is opened in the judgment:  “The court was seated and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10).   No doubt these include the book of the Law of God (Galatians 3:10, Deuteronomy 28:58,61), the book of the covenants God has made with His people (2 Chronicles 34:30,31), the books that present Jesus and His teachings (John 12:47,48) and the book with God’s plans for each of our lives (Psalms 139:16). That which is written in the Book of Life is “compared” with that which is in the other books.

Naturally God does not need to open any books in order to know what His judgments will be— the opening of books is not for God but for the sake of the “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” angels who are gathered around the throne.  Because they will be eternal “neighbors” of those who are redeemed, they have a vested interest in making sure that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).

Some of these ideas may be new or different from what you have learned before. For a more detailed explanation with scriptural support read section 5:1 The Sealed Scroll and the following sections in The Book.

[1]  Revelation 3:5. 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27, 22:19.

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