The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 38

When the Angels Sing

Revelation 5:8.    And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

     This was the signal the rapt assembly had been waiting for.  The Lamb who had purchased their redemption was back again, and soon would open the seals to complete the work.

     “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  Thus had the Lord taught His disciples to pray, and thus had millions of His people prayed through century after century.  Countless other prayers had ascended which had not yet been answered.  Yet the Lord had promised: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).  The believing prayers of godly saints will all be answered, though many will not see all the answers before the Lord returns.  It will be as though the prayers were stored up in bottles of precious incense, awaiting the proper time for the Lord’s personal attention.

     The daily prayers of the saints are indeed like sweet incense to the Lord.  David said: “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).  In the tabernacle in the wilderness was an altar of incense, just outside the veil before the mercy seat, and the high priest was to “burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:8).  This beautifully pictured the prayers of believers continually appearing before the presence of the Lord.  “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

     The twenty-four elders, representing all the saints, have each apparently been given a golden bowl of incense, representing all the unanswered prayers of the ages to offer before the Lamb.  They also have harps with which to praise Him in song.  In song and prayer, falling down in worship, they (that is to say, we!) will begin an eternal ministry of joyful service to their Redeemer.

     And, amazingly enough, the four “living ones” are with them in prostration before the Lamb.  Even the mightiest of all the “angels desire to look into” the great mysteries of God (1 Peter 1:12), and rejoice with the “heirs of salvation” to whom they have ministered (Hebrews 1:14) when they are revealed and fulfilled.

Revelation 5:9.    And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

     The twenty-four elders, presumably accompanied by all the saints, will then proceed to sing, and it will be a song such as the cosmos has never yet heard.  Even at the creation, when all the newly-created angelic host shouted for joy as they sang together (Job 38:7), there was nothing like this.  For now, the renewed voices of billions of redeemed saints will join in a mighty anthem of praise to their strong Redeemer and King.  Perhaps the song will even be heard on earth, as was the praise of the angels at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:13).

     The song is new not only in magnitude but in words and music.  A billion harps will accompany the golden voices of their singers, and the theme is that of gratitude to the worthy Lamb.

     That more than just twenty-four are singing is evident from the song: “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”  There are thousands of languages among men, and here is a gracious promise that God does have His elect hidden away in every tribe and people.

     It has been pointed out that the pronoun “us” is not found in one of the oldest manuscripts, thus raising a question as to whether the elders are actually human beings.  It does occur in practically all, however, so there is really no legitimate reason to question it.

     It is noteworthy, too, that the heavenly host is not embarrassed (as are many modern congregations) to sing a hymn extolling the blood of Christ.  The very price of the world’s redemption was the shed blood of the Savior.

Revelation 5:10.    And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

     Three times in the Book of Revelation it is said that believers are to be made kings and priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).  These functions apply particularly in the millennial kingdom, when there is still need for them.  This, indeed is a part of the Christian’s reward. “And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).  The people still in the flesh are on the earth, during the millennium, but the saints, in their glorified bodies, have their homes in the heavenly places, possibly in the New Jerusalem, hovering over the atmospheric heavens.  Nevertheless, they have rapid access to the earth, as needed in the course of their kingly duties.  As priests (1 Peter 2:5), they will offer up spiritual sacrifices, the sacrifice of praise continually (Hebrews 13:15).  Perhaps there will also be ministries of intercession and of evangelism, in relation to those yet unsaved during the millennium.  In any case, the promise of Christ is that we shall reign over (better than “on”) the earth.

Revelation 5:11.    And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.

     As John shared in the anthem of the redeemed multitudes, he next became aware of an even greater group joining in the heavenly chorus.  The tremendous host of heaven was there too.  The term “ten thousand” is actually “myriad,” so that the number of angels is said to be “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.”  This is not meant to be a precise count, of course, but simply to convey the thought of “innumerable.”  In fact, the same word (“myriad”) is translated “innumerable” in Luke 12:1 and Hebrews 12:22.  The latter reference, in fact, probably looks forward to this very gathering.  “But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

     Whatever the number of saved men and women there may be – quite possibly several billion at least – the number of angels must be still greater, since every believer probably has several angels assigned to his care in addition to all the angels with other ministries.  The number is no doubt a finite number, but is so great it cannot be even estimated. And all this numberless host of mighty angels, assembled from the far reaches of the cosmos there at the throne in the heavenly city, suspended high above the earth, will be united with the redeemed saints in singing beautiful praises to the worthy Lamb.

Revelation 5:12.     Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

     The great congregation, with a “loud” voice (loud indeed, with unnumbered billions of voices joining the refrain), thus sings a mighty sevenfold ascription of praise to the Lamb.  The first doxology (4:11), with a threefold ascription to the Lord, was for God’s work of creation.  This sevenfold anthem is for His work of redemption (5:9).

     For His work of creation, “glory and honor and power” were invoked.  These are all attributes of majesty.  The Lamb merits not only these, however, but also “riches, wisdom, strength and blessing.”  For additional insight into the tremendous scope of this description of the attributes of the Lamb, consider some typical parallel passages using the same Greek words:

     1.  “power” (Gr. dunamis) Revelation 1:16.  “. . . as the sun shineth in his strength.”

    2.  “riches” (Gr. ploutos) Philippians 4:19.  “But my God shall supply all your need

          according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

     3.  “wisdom” (Gr. sophia) 1 Corinthians 3:19.  “For the wisdom of this world is

          foolishness with God.”

 4.   “strength” (Gr. iskus) Mark 12:30.  “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . with all        thy strength.”

 5.   “honor” (Gr. timee) Hebrews 2:9.  “. . . crowned with glory and honour.”

 6.   “glory” (Gr. doxa) 1 Peter 4:11.  “. . . to whom be praise and dominion for ever.” 

 7.   “blessing” (Gr. eulogia) Romans 15:29.  “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of          Christ.”

Revelation 5:13.    And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

     It is not sufficient that all the angels and all the redeemed saints should join in singing praise to the Lamb.  The redemption price was adequate and the title deed established, which covered the whole earth and all its inhabitants, animal as well as man.  God had originally placed all creatures under Adam’s dominion (Genesis 1:28) and had confirmed the same to Noah, the covenant with whom was everlasting and with “every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” (Genesis 9:1, 2, 9, 10, 16).  But, because of man’s sin and Satan’s investiture of the earth, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22).

     Thus it is now, however, that the whole creation praises and rejoices in song together when the Lamb receives the scroll.  Its millennia of travail are soon to end, and every creature sings in anticipation (with the implied exception, no doubt, of those evil ones from whom the world is to be redeemed).

     Those creatures referred to as “on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea” must refer either to holy angels appointed to serve in these regions or else to the animal creation – more likely the latter.  A similar scene is depicted in Psalm 148:7-10: “Praise the Lord from the earth . . . Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl.”  The reverberations from the heavenly anthem, finding an echo in the divinely-empowered instinctive response of the vast animal creation, make it seem to John that the entire universe is praising the Lamb – as indeed it is, in a figure.

Revelation 5:14.    And the four beasts said, Amen.  And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

     When the great anthem was finished, the great assemblage of redeemed bowed down in worship (the phrase “him that liveth for ever and ever” is omitted in most manuscripts, and was possibly added inadvertently by transcribers from Revelation 4:10).  In any case, it is obvious that the object of their adoration is the mighty redeeming Lamb in the midst of the throne.

     This brief description by the Apostle John of what will be an almost indescribably magnificent gathering in the heavens in the imminent future only summarizes its high points.  No doubt much will happen there which John did not record.

     For example, there is considerable evidence that Psalm 146-150 (the last five chapters in the book of Psalms) refer to this scene.  Each of the psalms begins and ends with the exhortation: “Praise ye the Lord!”  This phrase is the Hebrew hallelujah.  In the New Testament, the word is used only four times – all in Revelation 19 (verses 1, 3, 4, 6) and all in connection with the praises of this same heavenly assemblage.

     The first of these last five psalms begins with the great exhortation “Praise ye the Lord,” and the response of each believer is: “Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being” (Psalm 146:1, 2).  Then, the final psalm concludes with the glorious exhortation: “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.  Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).

     The detailed study of these last five psalms in the context of this great future meeting in the air and the events on earth which will accompany it will yield rich insights and spiritual blessings.  A partial commentary in this vein is found in the writer’s book Sampling the Psalms (San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1978).

     The assembly at the throne in heaven is seen again from time to time in Revelation (7:11; 11:16-19; 14:3; 19:1-6).  Finally, this great congregation of the saints all will march out of the heavens with the risen Lamb, now become the conquering Lion, openly manifest as the eternal Word of God, acknowledged by all as King of kings and Lord of lords, reclaiming the earth and the whole creation for its Redeemer (Revelation 19:11-16).

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