Preterist view sees this passage as a courtroom and the scroll as the sentence of judgment, as the scroll represents God’s judgments against apostate Jerusalem for shedding the blood of the righteous (such as James) and its conquest and destruction by the Romans (Matt. 23:35). The One who is Worthy is the one who should execute this sentence¾and that is Christ. John is grieved because it seemed, until the end of the trial, that no one was able to judge and carry out the sentence and that the martyrs would go un-avenged. This view misses the main point of His redemption and only focuses on the judgment aspect as being already completed, which it is not. Jerusalem’s judgments have been partially carried out, but not the ones for the rest of creation that this passage attests to and is further explained in chapter six. The Lion and the Lamb refer to Christ, who is the victim of Jerusalem’s injustice, but who is now the hero who prevails and rescues us even when we had already given up and avenges the righteous (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14).
Futurist view sees the scroll as the title deed of earth and God’s will as His plan is to be opened and God’s long, overdue judgments are to be carried out. This passage is about God reclaiming and redeeming His world from Satan’s grasp and the coming tribulation (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The “elder” they see as Judah himself is speaking to John (Gen. 49:9). The seven sprits are seen as the fullness of God or seven angels. The horn is seen as a symbol from Jericho’s walls coming down. More of this is shown in chapter eight.
Idealist view sees this passage as the redemptive plan of God, and God’s last will and testament. Since it is written on both sides, this indicates that nothing can be added to His plan.
Historicist view sees this passage as God’s providence, and depicting the purpose, method, and design of God for creation and redemption and His governing of the universe and the Church. This view also concludes that no one other than Jesus is capable, able, or willing to fulfill the providence of God. John’s weeping is seen as his disappointment that it seems redemption cannot take place, as he had hoped, unless the One who is worthy can open the scroll. The Lion and the Lamb refer to Christ’s duel nature as Judge and Redeemer.