Ellen White and the Sealed Scroll of Revelation 5 (EWB 12)

One of the most challenging concepts in Revelation is the sealed scroll of chapter five. In researching his dissertation on the sealed scroll of Revelation, Ranko Stefanovic identified more than a hundred different views on the meaning of the scroll in the history or Revelation’s interpretation. As I remember it, he concluded that the scroll of Revelation was the covenant scroll (Deuteronomy) delivered to the king at the time of his inauguration as king of Israel. He saw the time of that event as the ascension of Jesus to heaven after His resurrection. Needless to say, not every scholar of Revelation is fully convinced that Stefanovic has settled the matter.

Ellen White makes a handful of brief statements with regard to the sealed scroll of Revelation 5. In Testimony to Ministers, 115 she appears to suggest that the sealed scroll is the book of Daniel. After quoting Dan 12:8-13 she says: “It was the Lion of the tribe of Judah who unsealed the book and gave to John the revelation of what should be in these last days.” After restating the Daniel passage in her own words for some lines she states: “The book of Daniel is unsealed in the revelation to John, and carries us forward to the last scenes of this earth’s history.” The possibility that John may have intended an allusion to Daniel in Revelation 5 has been discussed by scholars, so such a view of the text is certainly possible. Her main point in these comments is, however, to encourage people to “Read Revelation in connection with Daniel. Teach these things” (last lines of TM 115). Rather than settling exegetical issues in the text, her intention is to encourage direct study and teaching of these texts.

Ellen White’s statement in Christ’s Object Lessons 294, on the other hand, suggests that she understood the scroll of Revelation 5 to contain much more than the book of Daniel. There she describes the scene at the trial of Jesus where Pilate washes his hands and the priests cry out, along with the mob, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then she writes: “Thus the Jewish leaders made their choice. Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision will appear before them in the day when this book is unsealed by the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Here the scroll contains historical records that will be revealed when it is fully unsealed.

The statement in COL seems to align with volume six of the Testimonies, page 17: “The light we have received upon the third angel’s message is the true light. The mark of the beast is exactly what it has been proclaimed to be. Not all in regard to this matter is yet understood, nor will it be understood until the unrolling of the scroll; but a most solemn work is to be accomplished in our world.” Both statements suggest that Ellen White understood the full unrolling of the scroll as a matter for the future, not the past (such as AD 31 or 1844).

More recently, a letter has come to light which contains a fairly clear statement on the identity of the scroll (letter 65, 1898, manuscript release #667.). After quoting Revelation 5:1-3 she states: “There in His open hand lay the book, the roll of the history of God’s providences, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Herein was contained the divine utterances, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the Eternal, and the history of all ruling powers in the nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue, and people from the beginning of earth’s history to its close. This roll was written within and without. John says: (Rev 5:4-5; 6:8-11; 8:1-4).”

This explicit statement about the scroll of Revelation 5 indicates that it contains the entire sum and substance of the Great Controversy as it pertains to the earth, including the acts of both God and His created beings throughout history. It is the record book of heaven. There are only two events in human history which contain in themselves such a summary of all things. One is in Christ at the cross. At the cross Christ embodied in Himself both the character of God and the sins of a fallen creation. The other event is at the close of the millennium, when all of history is laid open to view (GC 666-671). Since the judgment associated with the year 1844 is limited, in Ellen White’s thinking, to those who have professed Christ (GC 483), this statement does not pinpoint the year 1844 as the time when the Lamb took the book.

The most likely reference point for this statement is Christ’s enthronement in heaven in AD 31. Note that the scroll contains “the roll of the history of God’s providences,” an appropriate designation for the Old Testament, and “the prophetic history of nations and the church,” a statement most appropriate at the beginning of the Christian era, not near its close.

Combining all of the above, it appears that Ellen White understood the scroll of Revelation 5 to be the sum and substance of history, prophecy, and the entire plan and purpose of God. As such, it contains that to which both Daniel and Revelation point and more. It is anticipated in John’s vision, but is not fully opened to view until the end of history. It is truly the “book of destiny.” The statements of Ellen White illuminate our reading of Revelation 5, but they are not specific enough in themselves to settle the exegetical issues related to the sealed scroll of Revelation 5.

3 thoughts on “Ellen White and the Sealed Scroll of Revelation 5 (EWB 12)

  1. Stephen D Mulder

    I’d like to note the suffering of Jesus, the injustice of his condemnation, the brutality and violence of those involved, are all recorded in that scroll handed to what the Elder calls, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Ellen White’s statement in Christ’s Object Lessons 294, on the other hand, suggests that she understood the scroll of Revelation 5 to contain much more than the book of Daniel. There she describes the scene at the trial of Jesus where Pilate washes his hands and the priests cry out, along with the mob, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open.

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  2. Stephen D Mulder

    Sorry, the above post was not intended to be sent. This is what I wanted to say:

    According to COL 294, the suffering of Jesus, the injustice of his condemnation, the brutality and violence of those involved, are all recorded in that scroll handed to what the Elder calls, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” John turns and sees a lamb. From this passage I am impressed that there is a record of all the suffering, pain, and anguish–not of Jesus alone, but for everyone of us. It seems to me, the text is saying, “Jesus knows exactly what is has all been like for us to live on a planet like this one.”

    The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a term that reflects a God who is fully accountable, completely aware, and has all authority in rectifying the catastrophic consequences of the rebellion. But we don’t lose sight in the passage, and neither does John, that the One with the authority and power to know all, and to set things right again has the character of a Lamb. We don’t need to be afraid.

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