Who is worthy to open A mighty angel shouts out a challenge for anyone to come forth who is worthy to open the great scroll and its seals. All creation in heaven and earth and under the earth stood motionless and speechless. . . . no one had the authority and virtue for such a task.1 As the echoes of his cry recede there is only silence. The powerful archangels Michael and Gabriel do not answer. Uncounted thousands of other angels remain silent. All the righteous dead of all the ages, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter and the rest of the apostles, Paul, and all the others from the church age, say nothing.2
The question of worthiness hinges on several factors. Only Christ has the necessary qualifications:
- Perfect Judgment - A combination of perfect justice and perfect compassion. One who extends perfect mercy while not flinching from exacting perfect justice (Deu. Deu. 7:16; Deu. 13:8; Deu. 19:13, Deu. 19:21; Deu. 25:12; Isa. Isa. 11:4; John John 7:24). Rev. 19:11+] He must discharge His office as judge, not shrinking from the administration of discipline or punishment where it is needed. Because He is true [Rev. Rev. 19:11+] He cannot alter the standards of God which condemn sin. Favoritism and laxity cannot be found in Him, for He is the perfect administrator of justice in a world where injustice has long since reigned.3
- Relationship to Mankind - Dominion of the earth was originally given to Adam (Gen. Gen. 1:26-28) from whence it was lost to Satan due to sin. Luke 4:5-6); Satan declared that it had been delivered (perfect passive verb) to him by someone else (Adam, Luke Luke 4:6); Jesus called Satan the prince of this world (John John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11); and Paul called him the god of this age (2Cor. 2Cor. 4:4).4 Dominion is to be restored by a man. Not just any man, but the perfect man (2Cor. 2Cor. 5:21; Heb. Heb. 4:14; 1Pe. 1Pe. 2:22; 1Jn. 1Jn. 3:5). Just as the Israelite redeemer had to be a kinsman (a relative from the same clan and tribe) of the person who lost the tenant possession, so the Redeemer of mankind and their forfeited tenant possession of the earth had to be a kinsman (a relative of the same kind) of mankind. He had to be a human. No angel or any other kind of being would qualify.5
- Right of Possession - Possession of that which was lost required the payment of a redemption price. The price to redeem a world lost to the ravages of sin was the shedding of truly innocent blood (Rev. Rev. 5:6+, Rev. 5:9+).
- Ability to Possess - The right to possess is meaningless without the might to possess. Martin Kiddle wrote: The strong angels challenge to find some one worthy to open the scroll and to break its seal was much more than to ask for some one capable of revealing the worlds fate. The demand was for one able not only to disclose Gods plan, but to set it in motion, accomplish it, bring it to pass.6
The possession of this book and the execution of the purpose can be entrusted only to one who is completely worthy. No ordinary man can accept the responsibility of opening its sealed pages. Paradoxically, the person who undertakes this tremendous task must be absolutely courageous and absolutely compassionate.7
1 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositors Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 71.
2 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 5:2.
3 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 130.
4 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 84.
5 Ibid., 85.
6 Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 53.
7 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 126.