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1 I saw a scroll

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that had writing on both sides

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and was sealed with seven seals;

it was in the right hand

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of the one seated on the throne.


I saw an important message [but I couldn’t read it]; I could tell it was perfect and complete, nothing could be added to it to make it more complete than it already was, and it was so important that only a person with unlimited authority could reveal its contents; it could be shared only through the one who had gained favor and it was guarded with all the power of the One who possesses all authority.


1: The purpose of the scroll

In ancient times things were written down for two reasons, as an enduring record, or as a message that the sender did not want to be altered in any way. Upon its first mention we do not know if this scroll is a record or a message, but we shall soon discover it is a message. In my paraphrase above I have chosen to not mention both possibilities so as to avoid being cumbersome.


The Greek says “Written within and without.” We would say “front and back” or “on both sides.” The fact that this scroll deviated from the norm and was written on both sides was a symbol to the people of that day that nothing could be added to make it more complete.


The right hand was a symbol of favor and strength. If the one with all power and authority has something held in His right hand, that means no one can take it from Him for His great power will protect it. However, that hand of power can also be used to bless and grant favors. Here I see both strength and favor. God will refuse to give the scroll to the wrong person, but He desires to give it to the properly qualified person, and we shall soon see what “qualified” means.

Seven Seals

One seal was enough to require the proper amount of authority to read the message on a scroll. I don’t know of any time in scripture when more than one seal was actually used in a real-life situation.

A good example of the practice of sealing a message is found in the story of David and Uriah (II Samuel chapter 11). After David had sinned by taking Uriah’s wife he sent a message to his general, Joab, through Uriah. The Bible does not tell us the message was sealed, but we know from common practice of the day, and from basic logic, that is was. The message said that Uriah should be left vulnerable and killed by the enemy army so that it looked like it was not planned. Thus Uriah carried his own death sentence. But there was no way Uriah would have broken the seal and opened that scroll, even if he suspected what was in it. He did not have the right authority to break that seal, therefore, doing so would have meant certain death.

In the case of Revelation chapter 5 we see seven seals, meaning complete, unlimited authority is required to break the seals, open the scroll and reveal its contents. It may have been overkill in a technical sense, but to those who understood the symbolism, it made its point quite clearly.

Later we will see things that happen as each seal is broken, however, it is not about those events, it is a symbol of required authority. The events that happen as each seal is broken are not the focal point, rather they serve to punctuate the authority issue and to make the final reading of the message on the scroll even more important. It is implied that the authority of the one opening the seal is causing these things to happen, as if to demonstrate His great power and authority.