God wrote a book at the beginning of time, before he even created this present world. That book is the official register of the people who will be the citizens of the New Jerusalem, in the future world. It is called the book of life.
Bible teachers do not agree whether John is referring to that book in Revelation chapters 5 and 6. However, we can clearly see that the book (scroll) in those chapters is extremely important. Like the book of life, God himself wrote it. Like the book of life (20:12), God intended for it to remain a closed book until the proper time. Like the book of life (21:27), Christ has the right to open it.
Revelation chapters 5 to 8 describe the process to open the seals of this important book. However, the passage does not say that Christ opened the book itself at that time. It merely says that he broke open each of its 7 seals. Until he had opened the last seal, it would be impossible to open the book itself. Seals were pieces of a hard substance called wax. They held the book firmly closed until someone broke them open.
If this important book is not the book of life, then John gives no clear explanation of its contents. John also does not record that Christ opened the actual book. Maybe the book is just a word-picture by which John explains the events in this passage.
However, perhaps this important book really is the book of life. John refers to the book of life often in the Book of Revelation. If it is the book of life, that explains Johnís reaction in verse 4. John believed that nobody had the right to open the book, so he wept bitterly.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.