All this is interesting; some of it intense in interest. But it is only a setting. It is incidental. The chief thing is yet to be told. John had been told that he would be shown the things that would come to pass some time in the future. We come now to the beginnings of these "things."
The One who is sitting on the throne has a carefully sealed book or document in his hand. An angel calls out loudly for any one who is qualified to do so to step forward and take the document and break its seals. And as John watches intently no one comes forward. No one can be found, either in the heaven, in earth, or in the region spoken of as under the earth.
At this John is greatly distressed, and weeps much, so he must have understood at once just what this meant. And one of the elders comforts him with the assurance that there is One who has "overcome to open the book, and the seven seals thereof," "the lion of the tribe of Judah." This word "overcome" suggests that this one has been in some great conflict and has gotten the victory and overcome all opposition. And this qualifies Him to take and open the document. He is the only one among untold numbers so qualified.
And now John sees this One. He is standing in the very midst of the throne surrounded by creatures and elders. We easily recognize this as our Lord Jesus. He is a lion in leadership and strength. He is a lamb in gentleness of character, and in the sacrificial experience He has been through. The marks of death are plainly seen on His person.
As He comes forward He reaches and takes the book out of the hand of the One on the throne. He is allowed to take it. His qualification to take the document and break its seals is acceptable to the One on the throne.
And as He takes the book there is a remarkable burst of praise and adoration that must have made all heaven ring. And those on earth in touch of spirit with the scene and its purpose and the Chief Actor would surely feel some thrill in the spirit currents of earth.
The outburst of worship is led by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who fall down before the Lamb and sing a song. What music that must be when the untold thousands sing as only redeemed ones can sing. Then countless hosts of angels join in and lift the chorus. And then there is the creation chorus, every created thing in heaven and earth, under the earth, in the sea, absolutely everything seems to join in this indescribable music. And the four living creatures say, "Amen." And again the elders fall down and worship.
John's distress at the beginning, and now this indescribable outburst of praise, tell us that this is something thrilling and significant beyond ex pression. What does this mean, our Lord Jesus taking the sealed document preparatory to breaking its seals?
It has been said in a previous talk that every thread woven into the fabric of the Old Testament can be found in the fabric of this Revelation book. So that if one goes to work patiently he can trace every allusion here to something back in these older leaves. This gives us the clue to the significance of this remarkable scene.
That clue seems in this case to be found in the book of Jeremiah, chapter thirty-two. There is found an allusion to a simple primitive custom of the Hebrew people in the exchange of real estate and in taking possession of property to which one is entitled.
The old Hebrew custom seems to have been as follows: When property was purchased the deed to the new owner was made out in duplicate, an open copy and a sealed copy. The open copy was clearly for public information, open to all. The sealed copy as clearly belonged only to the owner of the property as his evidence of ownership. So it identified him as the one named in the open copy.
If a new heir comes to take possession of an estate, or in case of a dispute over ownership, the claimant who was adjudged the rightful heir or owner would be given the possession of the sealed document or deed. And as so attested by the judge or court, he only would be properly qualified to "take" the sealed roll, break its seals, read its contents, and so formally take possession of the estate, or property.
Now under the symbolism of this old bit of Hebrew custom, our Lord Jesus is represented here as stepping forward to take possession of the earth, and begin His reign over it. A Hebrew immersed in the old primitive customs of his people in Palestine would understand this allusion at once, however startled or sceptical he might be as to its significance in this connection.