Throughout this book of letters and visions, numbers play an important role. Numbers and their multiples are signs of great mysterious realities. The Son of Man moves among seven lampstands and holds seven stars in His right hand because the number “seven” represents perfection and completeness. Another important number is “twelve” because it represents the people of God. The children of Israel consisted of twelve tribes, and Jesus called “the twelve” to follow Him and embody the new covenant. The number “twelve” and multiples of “twelve” recur throughout the book to signify the people of God, so here the twenty-four elders (12 + 12) signify the people of God, both the old and new covenants.
5 And then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One seated upon the throne, a scroll written both on the inside and on the outside. It had been sealed with seven seals. 2 Then a mighty heavenly messenger proclaimed with a loud voice,
Mighty Messenger: Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?
3 No creature of creation in all heaven, on all the earth, or even under the earth could open the scroll or look into its mysteries. 4 Then I began to mourn and weep bitterly because no creature of creation was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into its mysteries. 5 Then one of the elders consoled me.
One of the 24 Elders: Stop weeping. Look there—the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. He has conquered and is able to break its seven seals and open the scroll.
6 I looked, and between the throne and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders stood a Lamb who appeared to have been slaughtered. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes (the eyes are the seven Spirits of God sent out over all the earth).
John hears that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has arrived and will open the seals to reveal the scroll’s mysteries. But when he turns to see the Lion, he sees a Lamb instead. Not everything is as it appears. The Lamb stands, even though He has been slaughtered as a sacrifice, because He has been resurrected from the dead. And now in his vision, John sees things as they truly are: the Lamb-King has seven horns and seven eyes, signifying the perfect power and perfect sight He possesses to rule the world.
7 The Lamb came and took the scroll from the right hand of the One seated upon the throne. 8 And when He took it, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell prostrate before the Lamb. They worshiped Him, and each one held a harp and golden bowls filled with incense (the prayers of God’s holy people). 9 Then they sang a new song.
Four Living Creatures and 24 Elders: You are worthy to receive the scroll,
to break its seals,
Because You were slain. With Your blood, You redeemed for God
people from every tribe and language, people from every race and nation.
10 You have made them a kingdom; You have appointed them priests to serve our God,
and they[a] will rule upon the earth.
11 When I looked again, I heard the voices of heavenly messengers (numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands). They surrounded the throne, the living creatures, and the elders.
12 Thousands of Messengers (with a great voice): Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.
Worthy is the Lamb to receive authority and wealth and wisdom and greatness
And honor and glory and praise.
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and beneath the earth and in the sea and all things in them echoing the messengers.
Every Creature: To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be blessing and honor and glory and power
Throughout the ages.
14 And the four living creatures kept on repeating:
Four Living Creatures: Amen. Amen.
And the elders fell down and worshiped [Him who lives forever].[b]