Revelation 5.

THE THRONE AND THE SLAIN LAMB

CONNECTION BETWEEN CHAPTERS 4, 5, and 6

In the previous chapter is witnessed the vast and glorious throne of the Eternal, the symbol of the governing power of God throughout the universe. Round it all persons and things are grouped in their respective positions. The main thought of the chapter is God the sovereign Ruler of all creation governing according to His nature and on the basis of eternal righteousness. It is not a portion of the divine Word which calls forth the affections of the soul. It is a vision which absorbs rather our being as creatures. The vision remains, the scenery is not changed, nor is the glory in anywise dimmed as the additional truths contained in chapter 5 come before us.

There is an intimate connection between chapters 4, 5, and 6. The first series of judgments is noted in Revelation 6. The great actor is the Lamb, while the throne as seen in chapter 4 is the source of the judgments. We have here a continuation of the vision already beheld by the Seer, with two prominent and additional features, namely, the seven-sealed book, and a Lamb as slain. We may remark that in this chapter, preparatory to the proper action of the book, namely, JUDGMENT, the majesty of the lion and the meekness of the Lamb are combined, and centre in Him Who alone is worthy to bear these double glories.

This grand chapter is divided into four parts, the first two being introduced by the words “I saw” (vv. 1, 2); the second two parts are each prefaced with “I beheld” (vv. 6, 11). In brief, the subjects are: first, the book; second, the challenge; third, the song; fourth, the worship.

THE SEVEN-SEALED BOOK

Rev. 5:1. — “And I saw on the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne a book, written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” This book or roll is, of course, a symbol. The book of life (Rev. 3:5; Rev. 13:8) is a register of names; the books of works (Rev. 20:12) are the divine records of human actions. But the book beheld by the Seer contains in full THE REVELATION OF GOD’S PURPOSE AND COUNSEL CONCERNING THE WORLD. It contains the history of the future, and gives us the successive steps needful for the inauguration of the world-kingdom of Christ. God is about to bring again His First-Begotten into the world amidst the acclaim of angels (Heb. 1:6), and the seven-sealed roll unfolds how this will be brought about. The contents of the book cover the period from the breaking of the first seal (Rev. 6) till the close of the kingdom reign and commencement of the eternal state (Rev. 11:18).

The book lay on the right hand of the Eternal. The position of the roll was in fitting accord with the proclamation of the angel (v. 2); in itself a challenge to the universe to produce one of sufficient worth to approach the place of distinguished honour (Ps. 110:1; Eph. 1:20) and take the book.

The book or roll was “written within and on the back,”* thus signifying that the whole counsel of God respecting this world was herein unfolded; no further revelation of God’s purposes was to be vouchsafed. This book was fully written (compare with Ezek. 2:10).

{*Some would punctuate the clause thus: “written within, and on the backside sealed with seven seals,” but where else could it be sealed save on the back? Why state that? It was customary to fill up a scroll and continue the writing on the back. The roll beheld by Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:10) was, we are expressly informed, “written within and without” The fulness and completeness of the prophetic announcements about to be unfolded seem the thought designed in the scroll being written on both sides.}

1. — “Sealed with seven seals.” Each seal closes a certain portion of the book; hence the contents are successively revealed as the seals are opened in order. But the whole is absolutely hidden from men and angels till opened by the Lamb. The “seven seals” express the perfection with which the hidden counsels of God are securely wrapped up in the divine mind till their open disclosure by the Lamb. The prophet Daniel (Dan. 12:4) was instructed to “shut up the words and seal the book even to the time of the end;” whereas the Seer of Patmos (Rev. 22:10) is told the exact opposite, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.” The former was to seal; the latter was not to seal. Even Daniel, distinguished above all his contemporaries for the many and far-reaching revelations and visions granted him, says: “I heard, but I understood not” (Dan. 12:8, 9). Now, however, that we have reached “the time of the end,” not exactly “the end,” all is open. The book of prophecy is completely and openly revealed. For us the seven-sealed book, with its full and minute disclosure of the future, is no longer a hidden mystery. Prophecy, once a secret, is so no longer.

THE CHALLENGE OF THE ANGEL.

Rev. 5:2, 3. — “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who (is) worthy to open the book, and to break its seals? And no one was able in the Heaven, or upon the earth, or underneath the earth, to open the book, or to regard it.” The attention of the moral and intelligent universe is to be directed to the book resting on the open palm of the Throned One. The angels “excel in strength” (Ps. 103:20), but their might is exercised only in the path of instant obedience to the will of the Creator. Each one of the countless myriads of the angelic hosts is held in dependence upon Him Whose will is their happy service. All angels are strong, but there are measures, and ranks, and orders amongst them. There are prominent angels amongst their fellows, as Gabriel, Michael, etc.* The loud voice of one of those angels of power penetrates to the utmost bounds of the universe, searching “the Heaven,” the dwelling place of God; “the earth,” the dwelling place of men; and “underneath the earth,” the abode of other intelligent beings. Those three terms indicate the extent of the universe. Everywhere and to every being the angel’s voice reaches.

{*“Michael the Archangel” (Jude 9). Scripture never speaks of “Archangels.” Jewish writers divide the angelic hosts into orders and classes as “Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Princedoms, Powers,” to which division Ephesians 1:21 evidently alludes. In the region of the supernatural the unseen ministers of the divine will guide, control, and in every way influence human affairs. They are God’s ministers.}

2. — “Who is worthy to open the book, and to break its seals?” Moral competency to answer to the angelic proclamation there was not. The universe in all its parts — “The three kingdoms of creation” (Phil. 2:10) — does not possess one being competent to disclose and execute the counsels of God; “no man,” reads the Authorised Version; “no one,” a term of much wider import, rightly reads the Revised. To “open the book and to break its seals” are regarded as separate actions. The natural order would have been to first break the seals in order that the book might be opened. The import of the angel’s proclamation, however, is to open the book so as to unfold its contents; and the breaking of the seals, their execution as in Revelation 6. The moral force of the acts is the point in question. The challenge is unanswered. The undertaking required moral worth and a proved capacity not found in any created being.

THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB.

Rev. 5:4, 5. — “And I wept much because no one had been found worthy to open the book nor to regard it. And one of the elders says to me, Do not weep. Behold, the Lion which (is) of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome (so as) to open the book and its seven seals.” The grief of the Seer is emphasised by the use of the pronoun “I,” which is emphatic in the Greek. “I wept much.” John is here regarded as the representative of the prophetic feeling at “the time of the end,” or “the last days.” His soul is stirred within him as his eye rests on the sealed scroll lying on the open hand of the Sitter on the throne, with no one in the vast creation of God competent to disclose its contents and carry them into execution. The tears of John have been termed “the weakness of the creature,” but if “wept much” is sometimes the expression of weakness, it is equally the expression of a right and godly feeling. It has been remarked, “Without tears the Revelation was not written, neither without tears can it be understood.” But the book was to be opened. And since worship of the highest order and an intimate knowledge of the mind of God are characteristics of the crowned and glorified elders or representatives of the redeemed, it is one of these elders who consoles the weeping Seer by directing his attention to One in every respect qualified to unfold the divine counsels and carry them to a triumphant issue. Who is He? The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. What has He done? He has overcome every spiritual power by His death on the cross. Thus He has an unchallenged right in Himself, and because, too, of what He has done, to advance to the right hand of the Eternal, take the book, and effectuate the counsels of God.

Rev. 5:5. — “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Gen. 49:9). The dying patriarch, however keen his spiritual vision, could not have dreamed that his glorious prediction (vv. 8-10) pointed to the advent of the Messiah nearly 4000 years afterwards, Who in irresistible might, majesty, and sovereignty would secure the blessing of Israel and of the whole earth. In His lion-like character He crushes every opposing force, and establishes His universal kingdom on the ruin of all opposition. Here worth and might are combined.

5. — But another title is here used of our Lord: “The Root of David.” Why David? Why not Moses, or Abraham? David is the representative of Royalty. Moses the expression of Law. Abraham the depositary of Promise. Now these two chapters (4 and 5) have as their main subject the kingdom rights and glories of Christ. Thrones and crowns are frequently referred to, and in fact characterise this sublime portion of the Apocalypse. Hence, the introduction of the kingdom being the question, David is fittingly named. Christ is both the Root and Offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). He is the former as Divine, and the latter as Man. He is both Root and Branch (Isa. 11).

In verse 4 the words in the Authorised Version “and to read” are rightly omitted in the Revised.

VISION OF THE SLAIN LAMB.

Rev. 5:6, 7. — “And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a Lamb standing as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God (which are) sent into all the earth: and He came and took (it) out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” The Seer “wept much.” The elders, heads of the heavenly priesthood, knew and could divinely interpret the mind of God. What was dark to John was light to them; what was cause of sorrow to him was gladness to them. One of the elders directed the attention of the weeping Seer to One who, in majesty and resistless might, had besides personal and acquired rights which would entitle Him to disclose and effectuate the counsels of God. But when John looked he beheld a “lamb” instead of a “lion.” Seeming weakness instead of majesty.

{*The term lamb occurs in the Apocalypse twenty-eight times: the word employed signifies a diminutive animal Arnion, not Amnos, as in the Gospel (John 1:29, etc.). The word lion is only once applied to Christ in this book.}

In the midst of the heavenly scene stood a Lamb as slain. The wound prints in Him as risen beheld by the disciples (John 20:20, 25, 27) are now seen by John in Him glorified. The memories of Calvary are treasured in Heaven*. John the baptist first pointed out Jesus on earth as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29-36); John the apostle now beholds Him in that same character on high. But how different the position! There, wounded and slain (Isa. 53); here, the centre of Heaven’s strength and glory, yet bearing in His Person the marks and scars of the cross.

{*We see no difficulty in supposing that in the glorified body of our blessed Lord the indelible marks and scars of the cross will be seen (John 20:20-27).}

The “Lamb standing” between the throne and the elders is the first step to the assumption of the inheritance. He is about to take to Himself His great power and reign. At present He sits with His Father in His throne (Rev. 3:21), and with Jehovah at His right hand (Ps. 110:1). But the session of patience is seen by the Seer to be at an end. The Lamb vacates the “throne” and “right hand,” and stands ready to act. Standing intimates readiness for action: sitting refers to a state of quiescence.

6. — “Having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent into all the earth.” Here the mystic number “seven,” denoting perfection, is thrice repeated. Strength and intelligence are denoted by the “horns” and “eyes,” and the fulness of administration of the Holy Spirit in government in the “seven Spirits of God.” All are perfect, and all connected with the government of the earth which is about to be assumed by the Lamb in His redemption character “as slain.”

The Lamb advanced and took the book “out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” What a combination of glories and rights centre in God’s beloved One! The majesty and might of the Lion, the meekness and sacrificial character of the Lamb, combined with all power and intelligence, are conspicuously displayed in the Person of the glorious One beheld by the Seer. Then how severely simple the words in which the majestic action is narrated. The opening of the seven-sealed roll on the hand of Jehovah intimates an undertaking of such a momentous character that the cross alone surpasses it, a work involving the glory of God and the blessing of creation, and one in which the whole universe is directly interested (vv. 11-14). “He came and took (it) out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” Neither the pencil of the artist nor the pen of the historian is needed here. The artless simplicity of the account is God-like. “Simple and majestic, without any pomp of words, or any effort to decorate the scene,” writes Moses Stuart. “How calm and sublime!” says F. W. Grant. And with these testimonies we are in full accord.

THE LIVING ONES AND ELDERS; THE NEW SONG

Rev. 5:8-10. — “And when He took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals, because Thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them to our God kings and priests, and they shall reign over the earth.” In the previous chapter Jehovah in the greatness and eternity of His Being, as also in His relation to all creation as its Lord, its Sustainer, and Creator, evokes the profound worship of the living ones and elders. No angels are mentioned as taking part in the worship. But here we have as the centre of Heaven’s worship THE SLAIN LAMB, and accordingly all creation is stirred to its depths. There are additional features of heart interest, added grounds and reasons of worship, not found when Jehovah, as such, is in view. The slain Lamb brings before us the holy Sufferer of earth given up to insult and wrong, rejected and crucified, uttering no word of reproach, nor exercising power on His own behalf save the passive might to suffer. Now all is blessedly changed. The Lamb once stood in the midst of the ribald band (Matt. 27:27-31) silent, meek, unresisting, alone in holiness, in calm dignity, enduring to the utmost the mean and cruel contempt of the ferocious men around Him, who rained their blows on His defenceless head, bowed before Him the mocking knee, covered Him with their disgusting spittle, crowned and pierced Him with the prickly thorn, thrust a reed into His bound hands, stripped Him, and with blow and taunt indulged their vile and depraved nature. Silent and patient in His agony He stood in the midst. Now the self-same Lamb bearing in His Person the marks of His passion is here seen as the object of Heaven’s worship. No voice is, nor can be, silent when the slain Lamb appears.

Here the living ones unite with the elders in profound prostration before the Lamb. Observe, too, the moment and occasion. How fitting! “When He took the book” they “fell before the Lamb.” That supreme moment to which the ways of God all tend, for which creation groans, Israel yearns, and saints hope and pray, has come. Its first action is the transference of the reins of government to the slain Lamb. The kingdom is to be mediatorial in character. The sceptre will be wielded by Christ in association with His heavenly saints, here represented by the eiders, and with other redeemed but martyred companies subsequently translated.

8. — “Having each a harp and golden bowls” applies to the elders, not to the living ones. These latter are of the executive government of God, and as that government is to be administered by Christ, the slain Lamb, they own His right and title to universal dominion. The living ones and elders worship Jehovah in Revelation 4, they equally worship the Lamb in Revelation 5. What does this prove but that the Son is equal with the Father, and that whatever added glories He acquired by incarnation and atonement, yet He, the Son, is God, and as such entitled to the worship of every created being.

8. — “A harp.” In earth’s millennial praise various musical instruments are named (Ps. 149, Ps. 150). But the choral praise of the heavenly hosts is represented by the harp only. The harp and song correspond as in that of the martyred company of Judah (Rev. 15:2). In the direct praise and worship of Jehovah of old the harp seems more frequently employed than any other musical instrument, owing to its rare combination of solemn, grand notes with soft and tender strains under the hand of a skillful player (Isa. 24:8; Ps. 33:2; Ps. 43:4; 1 Chron. 25:6). Song and harp are generally named together.

8. — “Golden bowls* full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints.” Priestly praise (the harp) and service (the bowls) are here united. In 2 Chronicles 3 and 4, the temple and its holy vessels prefigure the millennial scene in some of its highest aspects. What the gold basins were in the temple (2 Chron. 4:22), such with their own characteristic differences are the golden bowls in the hands of the heavenly saints. “Golden bowls” mark their value and attest the high and holy service for which they are used. “Full of incenses.”* It is not one perfume, but many. The fragrance is full and diversified. The “incenses are the prayers of the saints.” Prayer on earth is incense in Heaven. We sometimes deem our prayers as worthless. Ah! it is not so. God in His own inimitable way and rich grace values our cries and intercessions, and they ascend to Him as incense.

{*“A broad open vessel or basin;” see useful footnote, p. 158, “Lectures on the Book of Revelation,” by William Kelly.

**“I have ventured to make a plural to suit the original, which implies a variety of sweet odours.” — Hooper. See also “New Translation.”}

But who are the praying company of saints in whom the heavenly priesthood are so deeply interested? The central part of the book clearly enough points to the existence of a witnessing company on earth during the course of the apocalyptic judgments, a company saved from amongst Jews and Gentiles (Rev. 11:3; Rev. 12:17; Rev. 13:7-10). These holy sufferers under the apostate civil power (the Beast), and under the religious apostate power (the Antichrist), will have the rage of Satan let loose upon them working through his chiefs on earth. All suffer in the awful week of seven years (Dan. 9:27) preceding the millennial dawn. Many are martyred, and thus have a heavenly place and portion assigned them; others survive and form the nucleus of the millennial inhabitants who will joy in the public advent and righteous reign of Christ, Lamb of God, and Son of Man. The prayers of these saints are incense.* But carefully note that the elders neither act as mediators nor intercessors. They do not present these supplications to God, nor add by mediation to their value. The elders in Heaven are the brethren of those holy sufferers on earth. Strange, therefore, that they should not be interested in the struggles and conflicts here in which they formerly had their part. But theirs, while deeply sympathetic, is a passive attitude. The angel-priest who adds incense to the prayers of the saints is no created being (Rev. 8:3, 4); Christ, and He alone, is competent to do this. He alone is the Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and Intercessor (Rom. 8:34). One Mediator, Who is “the Man Christ Jesus.” Two Intercessors, Christ in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit in us now.

{*Many writers on the Apocalypse contend that the harp and bowls of incense signify the praise and prayers of the redeemed in Heaven. The former is true, but certainly not the latter. Prayer as the expression of need would be out of place in Heaven. It is idle to cite Revelation 6:9 to the contrary. “Under the altar” and a waiting the resurrection of the body is not the same as raised and glorified in Heaven and beyond need as the elders undoubtedly are.}

Rev. 5:9. — “They (the elders) sing a new song.” There is no song recorded in the book of Genesis. The patriarchs were men of deep thought and of serious, not joyous mind. The first song on earth of which we have any account is narrated in Exodus 15. The deliverance which had been wrought for Israel (Ex. 14) formed the ground and material for both song (Ex. 15:1-19) and refrain (v. 21). The old song is God celebrated in creation glory (Job 38:7). The song in our text is termed “new” because of its theme — redemption, not typically, but actually accomplished; “new” because sung in Heaven on the eve of the full burst of millennial joy. We may observe that there is no song in Revelation 4, nor is it said in Scripture that angels sing. The song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3) unite to celebrate God’s past ways with Israel and His present grace in and through the Lamb. “The song over creation must give place, in compass and melody, to the song over the triumphs of Jesus” (J. G. B.), and this is the new song which has as its burden and theme the conquering Lamb of God; a song which embraces the past and the future, the cross and the kingdom. Grand as the song of Israel was when sung on the eastern bank of the Red Sea, this in its character and occasion is incomparably greater. The redeemed sing of Him and to Him.

9. — “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals.” It is remarkable how the introduction of the Lamb shuts out all else. In that character which presents Him as slain He absorbs the attention of Heaven. Where is the Lion of the tribe of Judah? The Lion gives place to the Lamb. Under the former title, which is one of might and power, He will defend the cause of His oppressed people of Israel, and in His career of victory He rests not till the triumph of that people is secured. But that title of assertive power is meantime in abeyance, and the Lamb is all the glory in Heaven and earth. Of course the power of the Lion and the grace of the Lamb centre in Jesus. Here the Lamb is personally addressed in song. His worthiness to disclose and to execute the counsels of God are celebrated. Next, the ground of the Lamb’s worthiness to carry out the purposes of God into full and glorious result is stated.

9. — “Because Thou hast been slain and hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.” As the Lion of the tribe of Judah He acts in power, but as the Lamb He was slain. Here the accomplishment of God’s counsels of grace and glory is traced to the cross as the basis. “Because Thou hast been SLAIN.” Without the cross, Christ would have entered into spheres of glory alone; without it there could have been no redemption for sinners. The cross is the grandest counsel of eternity and the grandest fact of time. It is the immovable basis on which rests the blessing of Israel and creation, as also the glory of the Church and of saints in the heavens.

The redemption of the race is a figment of the theological brain, and absolutely destitute of scriptural authority. Do Philippians 2:10, 11; Colossians 1:20; Acts 3:21 lend the slightest support to the notion that all things, persons, and demons shall be redeemed, or restored to their pristine condition? We emphatically answer, “No!” Philippians 2:10, 11 asserts the subjection of the universe to Christ, but subjection is not redemption. Colossians 1:20 limits the reconciliation of all things (not persons) in Heaven and earth, the under world being exempted. Acts 3:21 refers to the fulness of millennial blessing, the testimony of prophecy. But instead of proclaiming the redemption of all men, the prophets of old expressly refute it (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 66:24). What, too, of the solemn testimony of the Seer of Patmos? (Rev. 19:19, 20; Rev. 20:7-15). There is no redemption of the race, but of persons out of it, and this distinction is quite in accord with the ancient testimony of Moses in Psalm 90:3. “Thou turnest man (the race) to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men” (individuals). Purchase is universal, and intimates a change of ownership. Redemption is special, and refers to a change of state. “Redeemed to God,” then we are His. Not only so, but, writes the apostle, “We also joy in God” (Rom. 5:11), the highest moral state compatible with creaturehood. At what an infinite cost has our blessing been secured! “By blood.” The past redemption of Israel was effected by power (Ex. 15:13; Ps. 106:10); the redemption of sinners out of the race is by blood (1 Peter 1:18; Rom. 3:24). The distribution of the human family is under its usual and well-known significant factor four, i.e., tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. Out of these God gathers and redeems a people for Himself.

Rev. 5:10. — “And made them to our God kings and priests, and they shall reign over the earth.” The pronouns “them” and “they,” instead of as in the Authorised Version “us ” and “we,” mark an important distinction in the interpretation of this important passage. The elders do not sing of their own redemption, but that of a people on earth. Their priestly service was on behalf of others, so here their song is of the redeemed then on earth. They sing and celebrate the blessing of others, not their own. How unselfish! How unjealous! How intense the interest in God’s work of grace in the earth during the interesting interval between the Translation (1 Thess. 4:17) and the Advent of the Lord in power (Rev. 19:11-14). The redeemed in Heaven delight to declare the blessing of the redeemed on earth. “Made them to our God kings and priests,” royal dignity and priestly nearness. “They shall reign over the earth.” Jerusalem will become the capital seat of government on earth during the blessed coming era (Jer. 3:17), and the Jewish people, then all saved, take the headship of the nations (Ezek. 48:15-35; Isa. 52:1-10; Ps. 47). But the heavenly saints shall reign “over,” not on, the earth. The kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Son (Matt. 13:41, 43) intimate respective spheres of blessing. All saints who die, along with those changed at the Coming (1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52), reign over the earth in blessed association with Christ. They are not subjects of the kingdom; they are kings, and are in full number presented as about to assume royal functions in Revelation 20:4. Our reign as to its character takes its pattern from His, the union of royal authority and priestly grace (see Zech. 6:13, “He shall be a priest upon His throne”).

THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB.

THE INTELLIGENT UNIVERSE IN PRAISE TO GOD AND TO THE LAMB.

Rev. 5:11-14. — “And I saw, and I heard (the) voice of many angels around the throne, and the living creatures and the elders; and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands: saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that has been slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in the Heaven, and upon the earth, and under the earth, and (those that are) upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might to the ages of ages. And the four living creatures said, Amen: and the elders fell down and did homage.” “I saw” and “I heard” are expressions which denote the rapt attention of the Seer.* The introduction of angels into the heavenly scene and the place which they occupy is of profound interest. They announced the birth of Jesus and praised God in words of never-dying fame (Luke 2:8-14); an angel ministered to Him in the gloomy garden as the dark shadow of the cross and agony rested on His spirit (Luke 22:43); two angels witnessed to His resurrection (John 20:12, 13); and two also testified of His ascension (Acts 1:10, 11). When He re-entered His heavenly home, then was made good that article of the Christian faith “seen of angels” (1 Tim. 3:16). The whole system of Christianity is a matter of inquiry and interest to the heavenly hosts (1 Peter 1:12). They delight to serve the heirs of salvation now (Heb. 1:14), even as it will be their joy to serve them in glory (Rev. 21:12). They accompany the Lord in innumerable hosts in His triumphal entry into this world (Matt. 25:31; Heb. 1:6). It is not predicated of angels that they love or are loved.

{*The former, i.e., “I saw,” occurs forty-four times; the latter, i.e., “I heard.” twenty-seven times. They are found in conjunction in the closing section of the book. In the fifth and last mention of John as the writer of the Apocalypse he twice assures us that he “saw these things and heard them” (Rev. 22:8). The testimony of the apostle to the fact that these visions were actually seen and the various voices and sounds actually heard is personal and decisive.}

In the centre stands the slain Lamb, around the throne the living ones and the redeemed, while the outer circle is formed of angels whose numbers are beyond human computation (see Dan. 7:10).* In the response of the angelic hosts to the song of the redeemed they say, whereas the elders sing. There is more than a verbal difference in this, for while angels know the Lamb they cannot say “He was slain for us.” We know Him in a deeper, fuller, more personal way than do angels. He died for us, not for them; hence the difference, we sing, they say. Angels are never said to sing. Observe, too, that the elders in their song directly address the Lamb, whereas the angels, in keeping with their place and service, adopt a more distant form of address. The former sing to Him, the latter speak of Him. The full burst of praise from the angelic hosts is grand. The symphony is unmarred by one discordant note. They ascribe to Him the fullest number (seven) of attributes,** as they also do in Revelation 7:12; in the former, however, the slain Lamb is the burden of their testimony, whereas in the latter it is “our God,” the God of angels and of men. The order in which the attributes are named in the two respective angelic strains differs. There are also other minor points worth noting in these ascriptions of praise. The seven terms denote the highest and most perfect expression which a creature can offer. They embody the full and perfect praise of the most exalted of God’s creatures.

{*In the relation of the numbers by the Seer and Prophet the order observed is not the same. John first names the larger number. Daniel first mentions the smaller number. But substantially there is no difference.

**“Power” is first named because the circumstances call for its immediate exercise. “Power” in its widest and most comprehensive character is ascribed to Him. “Riches,” the wealth of the universe, physical and moral, is His due. “Wisdom,” as seen in all the ways and works of God next follows in the list. “Strength” is that quality which enables one to execute what the will determines to be done. “Honour” implies that every mark of public distinction is worthy to be conferred on the Lamb. “Glory” refers to public and moral display, of which the Lamb is deemed alone worthy. “Blessing,” every form and character of blessedness or happiness is here ascribed to the Lamb.}

But the full tide of praise is not yet exhausted. It rolls on, gathering force and volume, till the whole universe is embraced. “Every creature which is in the Heaven, and upon the earth, and under the earth, and (those that are) upon the sea, and all things in them,” the vast universe of God in all its parts. Jehovah on His throne and the Lamb are the objects of universal adoration. The fourfold ascription of praise — “blessing, and honour, and glory, and might” — marks the universality of this spontaneous burst of worship. The praise is never ceasing — “to the ages of ages.”

The living creatures add their “Amen,” whilst the elders again “fell down and did homage.” In drawing our comments to a close on this peculiarly precious page of divine revelation we would observe that the song and its accompanying responses are anticipative. Millennial and eternal themes are celebrated and spoken of as accomplished. The past tense is generally employed. The slain Lamb is the object round which all are grouped. In the person of the Lamb we have the firm guarantee for the glorious display of all God’s counsels. Hence, ere the work is performed, faith exultingly cries, “It is done.

Important Emendations from the Authorised Version in Revelation 4 and 5.

Rev. 4:1, “After this.” — “After these things.”

Rev. 4:1, “Hereafter.” — “After these things.”

Rev. 4:4, “Four and twenty seats.” — “Four and twenty thrones.”

Rev. 4:6 etc., “Four beasts,” — “Four living creatures.”

Rev. 4:9, 10, “Ever and ever.” — “Ages of ages.”

Rev. 5:6, 8, 11, 14, “Four beasts.” — “Four living creatures.”

Rev. 5:8, “Golden vials full of odours.” — “Golden bowls full of incenses.”

Rev. 5:9, “Redeemed us to God.” — “Redeemed to God.”

Rev. 5:10, “Made us.” — “Made them.”

Rev. 5:10, “We shall reign.” — “They shall reign.”

Rev. 5:10, “On the earth.” — “Over the earth.”

Rev. 5:12, “Power.” — “The Power.”

Rev. 5:13, 14, “Ever and ever.” — “Ages of ages.”

Delete in verse 14 the words “that liveth for ever and ever” (see the “Revised” and other critical helps).