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 (Revelation 5:1).
The sealed scroll is the first sign of trouble in Revelation vision of God in His heavenly throne room. (Read it here.)
A sealed scroll figures in Isaiah 29, in which a sealed scroll is useless because, well, it’s sealed. Unless the reader has the authority to open it, the information is inaccessible. (Think of it as the taboo against reading someone else’s mail. One could physically open that envelope, but technically that’s stealing.)
A sealed scroll also figures in Daniel 12, in which Daniel has a vision of the future, but the Lord tells him to seal it ‘until the time of the end.’
What does this sealed scroll in Revelation mean? I think it’s a symbol of man’s precluded future, the future he cannot have because sin and death dominate the world. Think of it in terms of being stuck. Human history is an endless cycle of wars and oppression; as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Humanity is stuck in patterns of behavior that we can’t seem to break out of. And human lives are the same way: how often do you find yourself during the confession at church thinking, “I’m confessing the same kinds of sins I was confessing 5, 10, 25 years ago”? We’re stuck in personal habits and sins that we can’t break out of, too. No wonder, then, that John weeps and weeps to see the sealed scroll!
The good news comes tomorrow, when Jesus is declared worthy to open the scroll.