It is clear from Revelation 5 that not only is the scroll in God’s right hand a big deal, but the inability to open it is of such paramount importance that John cries and cries when no one is found who can open the seals. Yet, the content of the words written on the scroll are not specifically disclosed. This seems to imply that the content of the scroll is not nearly as important as the scroll itself and the ability to break the seals.
First, there are some things we know historically about scrolls and seals. First, a scroll is a made up of a long piece of what we would consider paper. They were normally made of plant material such as parchment or papyrus, stripped, dried, and pressed together in a weave pattern. These sheets where then adhered (glued) to each other to form a long sheet, sometimes as long as 30 feet. Scrolls were used for important documents, such as the written word of the Torah as well as the recording of events and decisions in the courts of Kings. A scroll differs from a roll in length, with a roll being a shorter document. Each were used for legal documents such as deeds, contracts and wills, but mostly for the classes of nobility (think land-owners).
A seal was affixed by the scribe (the one recording the words). It was a method of preventing the premature disclosure (or tampering) of terms, events, actions or other information on the scroll. The scribe would begin writing then roll the section up to that point and affix a seal. He would then continue writing and rolling periodically affixing another seal. These intact seals signified that the legal document was intact and binding. As the document was unrolled, another seal would appear, when that was broken, then the reader could proceed in unrolling the document.
In the case of a legal document, such as a deed or will, when the final seal was affixed, the terms of the redemption or reading of the document was written on the outside of the document (to specified what the document contained and the terms for its execution.)
7 seals would have signified a very important document. The wills of both Emperor Vespasian and Caesar Augustus were secured with seven seals.
The fact that God held the document indicates that God held ownership. The lender, not the borrower, would hold the legal document. The Father, not the children, would hold the will. The land owner would hold the deed. But the fact that the document was sealed indicates it was indentured or bound up. Think back to Jacob and Laban, where Jacob purposefully indentured his work product (time and materials) enslaving himself to Laban. There were conditions (end of 7 years) under which that agreement was broken and he was no longer bound by its terms.
God had withheld judgement of His creation after the fall of man into sin. Creation still belonged to God. God was not indebted to us or to Satan, but by choosing to delay judgement, He bound up an agreement for which redemption of the property (His creation) may someday come. He allowed Satan a position of rule on the Earth as the Prince of the Air and Father of Lies, but ownership never transferred to the fallen angel. There was always a legally binding written document by the execution of which this state would no longer continue. The All Knowing God would not have needed to write this down, but it was written for the benefit of mankind the angels and all creation.
John cried and cried, the appropriate response, because no one was found in all created things who met the conditions specified on the outside of the document to be able to break the agreement and redeem creation from being bound in its current state forever. This would be a situation without hope because the current state of a fallen earth and people would continue for all eternity and separation from God would continue (something John could not bear).
But the elder informed John that one did exist who is able to open the scroll and break the seals. This one is, however, was not part of God’s creation for He existed before and in creation itself. The Messiah, the promised one of God (God with us), is and was God (as part of the Trinity) and the one who fulfilled the Jewish prophecy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. (more on that tomorrow).
a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals
He wept and wept – no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or look inside it
It means Jesus, the one who fulfilled the messianic prophecies
1st by being slain, then standing in the center of the throne in heaven. By fulfilling the prophecies He showed and revealed that He (Jesus) was and is God incarnate – it is significant because without Him there is no salvation from sin