What does Revelation 5:1 mean?
ESV: Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
NIV: Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.
NASB: I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.
CSB: Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals.
NLT: Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals.
KJV: And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
NKJV: And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse John tells us he saw God holding a scroll in his right hand. It was likely a papyrus document that was rolled up tightly. The verse tells us it contained writing inside and on the back and it was closed with seven seals. It had the appearance of an official document, although most first-century official documents had writing only on one side and bore a title and address. Scrolls written on both sides were called opistographi. The scroll was likely wound around a staff and fastened to the staff by seven seals.

Likely the scroll in God's right hand contained official verdicts and sentences against unbelievers on earth, and the number seven symbolizes God's judgments as perfect. The sentences or judgments would have to be carried out before Jesus could inaugurate His kingdom on earth. Revelation 6—8 describes those judgments, one at a time, as each seal is broken.
Verse Context:
Revelation 5:1–5 continues John's description of what he saw, while in the Spirit, in heaven. John saw a scroll in God's right hand. It was sealed shut with seven seals. A mighty angel shouted ''Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?'' We learn from chapters 6—8 that when the scroll's seals are opened, judgment falls on the earth. John wept loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, but one of the elders comforted him because Jesus was worthy to open it.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 5 tells us John saw a scroll in God's right hand. The scroll had writing in it and on its back. Also, the scroll was sealed with seven seals. A search uncovered no one who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. However, one of the elders told John that Jesus could open the scroll, as the only one with the legal and moral right to do so. When Jesus accepted the scroll, universal praise in heaven and on earth rose to Jesus. He alone was found worthy to open the scroll because, as God's Lamb, He had shed His blood for all mankind.
Chapter Context:
Jesus commanded John to write ''the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.'' The first three chapters of Revelation contained those things which ''were'' and ''are,'' at the time John wrote. Chapters 2 and 3 provided the contents of Jesus' letters to seven churches. Chapter 4 begins the largest and last section of Revelation, regarding events yet to take place when John wrote (Revelation 1:19). John introduced God seated upon His throne, with twenty-four elders and four angelic creatures nearby. Chapter 5 focuses on a scroll containing God's judgments on sin, and a search for someone to open it. Only Jesus is worthy to open it. When Jesus receives the scroll from God, He receives praise from every creature in heaven and on earth.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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