Previous: Revelation 5:5-7

The Song 5:8-10

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:
"You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth." - Revelation 4:8-10

It was such a great relief when He [the Lamb-the Lord Jesus Christ] had taken the scroll. Now, at last, the future could be revealed. In response, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.

Many Christians have never had the experience of such a complete adoration of the Lord. We may raise our hands, or kneel, but at a time like this, the human and angelic beings literally "fell down" before the Lamb.

It is said about these worshippers that each one had a harp, probably like the hand-held instruments often used in worship in Old Testament times.(1 Kings 10:12; 1 Chronicles 25:1-6; Nehemiah 12:27; Psalm 43:4; Psalm 98:5; etc.). It was the first musical instrument mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 4:21).

This is where some people get the idea that when we go to heaven we will be bored, with nothing to do but float around on a cloud, playing a harp. People who have this narrow vision of our future with the Lord should read Randy Alcorn's "Heaven," or Lewis Sperry Chafer's systematic theology volumes on angelology and eschatology. Still, with all the information marshaled by such books, it is true that we barely have an idea of how incredibly good the place is that Jesus has prepared for us.

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. - John 14:1-3

During my college days at Biola, I remember one of the Bible professors saying, "If Jesus created the whole world in just six days, just imagine what He has built for us during the past 2000 years!"

The Apostle Paul spoke of an experience when he (or possibly someone else) was "caught up to the third heaven and experienced "inexpressible words" which could not be repeated (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

The worshippers also held golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. These bowls [Greek phiale-from which we get the word "vial"] were shallow containers. The word is used 12 times, but only in this Book of Revelation. Incense is mentioned frequently in the Bible, and it is always used in worship, usually to symbolize the prayers of the faithful.

The fact that the twenty-four elders, who represent the whole Church, are presenting these prayers reminds us of the priestly role of intercession that Christians have. It is a privilege to pray in the behalf of others. We are not the mediator between God and man, for now Jesus alone fulfills that function (1 Timothy 2:5), but we join our hearts with others and agree with them in prayer.

Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord collects our tears in a bottle! This is a word picture to show how He cares about our needs and our requests.

All true Christians are considered saints (Greek hagiois - "holy, sanctified, or set apart"). Paul used this word to designate the recipients of his letters. Even the Corinthians, who needed to be corrected about their behavior, were called "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints "(1 Corinthians 1:2)

Prayer is the most valuable resource we Christians have. Various writers have identified more than 20 categories of prayer, but they can be summarized more concisely in these categories: Confession, Praise, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and Intercession. In confession, we admit our failures and ask for God's forgiveness. Praise is recognition of how wonderful God is. Thanksgiving is the response for the good things He has done. Supplication is asking God to provide for our needs. Intercession is a special privilege in which we pray for God to meet the needs of other people.

And they sang a new song. Singing is the natural response of a petitioner when his or her prayers are answered. Songs of praise and thanksgiving are found throughout the Bible. Miriam sang about the amazing power of the Lord to deliver His people from Egypt (Exodus 15). David wrote the Psalms [Songs] to commemorate God's greatness, even during trials. Mary sang in gratitude for being chosen as the privileged mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:46-55).

Singing is a significant activity in this book of Revelation (Revelation 5:9; 14:3; 15:3) We might ask, "Why is this a new song?" As we will see next, it is a song about salvation and redemption. Salvation never becomes an old subject. In addition, there are always new people joining the family of God. Luke 15:10 says that the angels rejoice whenever one sinner repents!

The lyrics of this heavenly song begin: Saying, "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals." The worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ has already been discussed in this chapter. In verse 6 it had been established that He was worthy because He was the Lamb who was sacrificed for our sins. Here the concept is repeated: For You were slain.

The main idea behind animal sacrifice-which was begun for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21- First death of an animal ), and passed on to their progeny (Genesis 4:1-5), eventually becoming codified by the laws given to Moses (Exodus chapters 20 to 31)--was that humans deserve to die for their sins (Genesis 2:16; Romans 5:6-11; 6:23; ), but God would allow sin to be covered (temporarily paid) by the death of an innocent animal in the sinner's place. The ultimate and final payment would be by the sacrificial atonement of Christ's own death on the cross (Hebrews 2:8-10; 4:15; 7:26-28; 9:11-28.):

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, - 1 Peter 3:18

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood. Here the additional marvelous concept of redemption is introduced. From the standpoint of this Old Testament law, sinners have become slaves to sin, but because of Jesus' death on their behalf they were bought back from the slave market of sin(Leviticus 25:25-28, 47-55).

The story of Ruth is another Scriptural variation on the redemption theme. In her case, she was not a slave, but a foreigner who had married an Israelite. When her husband died young, she would have been left without support, but because of a law about redeeming widows in her situation, she was brought back into the family, and ultimately became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus! (See the book of Ruth)

This great redemption was made available to all people. To emphasize this fact this new song about salvation specifies that it is available to people out of every tribe (Greek phule) and tongue (Greek glossa) and people (Greek laos) and nation (Greek ethnos)! It is interesting that none of these descriptions are the same as the divisive term "race." The Bible does not classify people this way.

The final declaration of this song is a fitting climax to this doxology. Notice that the result of this great salvation is a position of greater privilege than any sinner could ever have imagined for himself.

And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

The singers personalize this chorus by referring to themselves ("us," "our," and "we") as the beneficiaries of redemption. As priests they (and we) will have the privilege of intercessory prayer--praying in behalf of others. As kings, we will rule with Jesus when He returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We will study this later when we get to Revelation chapters19 to 22.

This privileged role of both kings and priests is reminiscent of Peter's description of believers:

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. - 1 Peter 2:9-10

Postscript: One of the most popular choruses being sung in churches is "Revelation Song" by Phillips, Craig, and Dean. It is based on this passage and some of the other doxologies in Revelation (Revelation 1:6; 4:8-11; 5:11-13; 7:9-10; 11-12; 14:7; 19:1-2, 7). Take time to listen to this beautiful song and read its lyrics, or watch the beautiful rendition by Kari Jobe. Another powerful song and video that is partly inspired by these verses is "He Reigns" by the Newsboys.

Next: Revelation 5:11-14


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