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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Revelation 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-14

Chapter 5

THE ROLL IN THE HAND OF GOD (Revelation 5:1)

5:1 And in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne I saw a roll written on the front and on the back, and seated with seven seals.

We must try to visualize the picture which John is drawing. It is taken from the vision of Ezekiel: "And, when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me; and lo, a written scroll was in it; and he spread it before me; and it had writing on the front and on the back; and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe" (Ezekiel 2:9-10).

We must note that it was a roll and not a book which was in the hand of God. In the ancient world, down to the second century A.D., the form of literary work was the roll, not the book. The roll was made of papyrus, manufactured in single sheets about ten inches by eight. The sheets were joined together horizontally when a great deal of writing had to be done. The writing was in narrow columns about three inches long, with margins of about two and a half inches at the top and at the bottom, and with about three-quarters of an inch between the columns. The roll commonly had a wooden roller at each end. It was held in the left hand, unrolled with the right, and, as the reading went on, the part in the left hand was rolled up again. We may get some idea of the dimensions of a roll from the following statistics. Second and Third John, Jude and Philemon would occupy one sheet of papyrus; Romans would require a roll 11 1/2 feet long; Mark, 19 feet; John, 23 1/2 feet; Matthew, 30 feet; Luke and Acts, 32 feet. The Revelation itself would occupy a roll 15 feet long. It was such a roll that was in the hand of God. Two things are said about it.

(i) It was written on the front and on the back. Papyrus was a substance made from the pith of a bulrush which grew in the delta of the Nile. The bulrush was about fifteen feet high, with six feet of it below the water; and it was as thick as a man's wrist. The pith was extracted and cut into thin strips with a very sharp knife. A row of strips was laid vertically; on the top of them another row of strips was laid horizontally; the whole was then moistened with Nile water and glue and pressed together. The resulting substance was beaten with a mallet and then smoothed with pumice stone; and there emerged a substance not unlike brown paper.

From this description it will be seen that on one side the grain of the papyrus would run horizontally; that side was known as the recto; and on that side the writing was done, as it was easier to write where the lines of the writing ran with the lines of the fibres. The side on which the fibres ran vertically was called the verso and was not so commonly used for writing.

But papyrus was an expensive substance. So, if a person had a great deal to write, he wrote both on the front and on the back. A sheet written on the back, the verso, was called an opisthograph, that is, a sheet written behind. Juvenal talks of a young tragedian walking about with the papyrus manuscript of a tragedy on Orestes written on both sides; it was a lengthy production! The roll in God's hand was written on both sides; there was so much on it that recto and verso alike were taken up with the writing.

(ii) It was sealed with seven seals. That may indicate either of two things.

(a) When a roll was finished, it was fastened with threads and the threads were sealed at the knots. The one ordinary document sealed with seven seals was a will. Under Roman law the seven witnesses to a will sealed it with their seals, and it could only be opened when all seven, or their legal representatives, were present. The roll may be what we might describe as God's will, his final settlement of the affairs of the universe.

(b) It is more likely that the seven seals stand simply for profound secrecy. The contents of the roll are so secret that it is sealed with seven seals. The tomb of Jesus was sealed to keep it safe (Matthew 27:66); the apocryphal Gospel of Peter says that it was sealed with seven seals. It was so sealed to make quite certain that no unauthorized person could possibly open it.

GOD'S BOOK OF DESTINY (Revelation 5:2-4)

5:2-4 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming in a great voice: "Who is good enough to open the roll, and to loosen its seals?" And there was no one in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth, who was able to open the roll or to look at it; and I was weeping sorely because there was no one who was found to be good enough to open the roll or to see it.

As John looked at God with the roll in his hand, there came a challenge from a strong angel. A strong angel appears again in Revelation 10:1 and Revelation 18:21. In this case the angel had to be strong so that the challenge of his voice might reach throughout the universe. His summons was that anyone worthy of the task should come forward and open the book.

There is no doubt that the book is the record of that which is to happen in the last times. That there was such a book is a common conception in Jewish thought. It is common in the Book of Enoch. Uriel the archangel says to Enoch in the heavenly places: "O Enoch, observe the writing of the heavenly tablets, and read what is written thereon, and mark every individual fact." Enoch goes on: "And I observed everything on the heavenly tablets, and read everything which was written thereon, and understood everything, and read the book of all the deeds of men and of all the children of flesh that will be upon the earth to the remotest generations." (I Enoch 81:1-2). In the same book Enoch has a vision of the Head of Days on the throne of his glory, "and the books of the living were opened before him" (I Enoch 47:3). Enoch declares that he knows the mystery of the holy ones, because "the Lord showed me and informed me, and I have read in the heavenly tables" (I Enoch 106:19). On these tables he saw the history of the generations still to come (I Enoch 107:1). The idea is that God has a book in which the history of time to come is already written.

When we are seeking to interpret this idea, it is well to remember that it is vision and poetry. It would be a great mistake to take it too literally. It does not mean that everything is settled long ago and that we are in the grip of an inescapable fate. What it does mean is that God has a plan for the universe; and that the purpose of God will be in the end worked out.

God is working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year:

God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near--

Nearer and nearer draws the time--the time that shall surely be,

When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the

waters cover the sea.

In response to the challenge of the angel no one came forward; none was good enough to open the roll. And at this John in his vision fell to weeping sorely. There were two reasons for his tears.

(i) In Revelation 4:1 the voice had made the promise to him: "I will show you what must take place after this." It now looked as if the promise had been frustrated.

(ii) There is a deeper reason for his sorrow. It seemed to him that there was no one in the whole universe to whom God could reveal his mysteries. Here, indeed, was a terrible thing. Long ago Amos had said: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secrets to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). But here was a world so far from God that there was none able to receive his message.

For John that problem was to be triumphantly solved in the emergence of the Lamb. But behind this problem lies a great and a challenging truth. God cannot deliver a message to men unless there be a man fit to receive it. Here is the very essence of the problem of communication. It is the problem of the teacher; he cannot teach truth which his scholars are unable to receive. It is the problem of the preacher; he cannot deliver a message to a congregation totally incapable of comprehending it. It is the eternal problem of love; love cannot tell its truths or give its gifts to those incapable of hearing and receiving. The need of the world is for men and women who will keep themselves sensitive to God. He has a message for the world in every generation; but that message cannot be delivered until there is found a man capable of receiving it. And day by day we either fit or unfit ourselves to receive the message of God.

THE LION OF JUDAH AND THE ROOT OF DAVID (Revelation 5:5)

5:5 And one of the elders said to me: "Stop weeping. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has won such a victory that he is able to open the book and its seven seals."

We are now approaching one of the most dramatic moments in the Revelation, the emergence of the Lamb in the centre of the scene. Certain things lead up to it.

John has been weeping because there is none to whom God may reveal his secrets. There comes to him one of the elders, acting as the messenger of Christ and saying to him: "Weep not." These words were more than once on the lips of Jesus in the days of his flesh. That is what he said to the widow of Nain when she was mourning her dead son (Luke 7:13); and to Jairus and his family when they were lamenting for their little girl (Luke 8:52). The comforting voice of Christ is still speaking in the heavenly places.

Swete has an interesting comment on this. John was weeping and yet his tears were unnecessary. Human grief often springs from insufficient knowledge. If we had patience to wait and trust, we would see that God has his own solutions for the situations which bring us tears.

The elder tells John that Jesus Christ has won such a victory that he is able to open the book and to loosen the seals. That means three things. It means that because of his victory over death and all the powers of evil and because of his complete obedience to God he is able to know God's secrets; he is able to reveal God's secrets; and it is his privilege and duty to control the things which shall be. Because of what Jesus did, he is the Lord of truth and of history. He is called by two great titles.

(i) He is the Lion of Judah. This title goes back to Jacob's final blessing of his sons before his death. In that blessing he calls Judah "a lion's whelp" (Genesis 49:9). If Judah himself is a lion's whelp, it is fitting to call the greatest member of the tribe of Judah The Lion of Judah. In the books written between the Testaments this became a messianic title. 2 Esdras speaks of the figure of a lion and says: "This is the Anointed One, that is, the Messiah" (2 Esdras 12:31). The strength of the lion and his undoubted place as king of beasts make him a fitting emblem of the all-powerful Messiah whom the Jews awaited.

(ii) He is the Root of David. This title goes back to Isaiah's prophecy that there will come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a root of Jesse who shall be an ensign to the people (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10). Jesse was the father of David, and this means that Jesus Christ was the Son of David, the promised Messiah.

So, here we have two great titles which are particularly Jewish. They have their origin in the pictures of the coming Messiah; and they lay it down that Jesus Christ triumphantly performed the work of the Messiah and is, therefore, able to know and to reveal the secrets of God, and to preside over the working out of his purposes in the events of history.

THE LAMB (Revelation 5:6)

5:6 And I saw a Lamb standing in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders. It still bore the marks of having been slain. It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God despatched to all the earth

Here is the supreme moment of this vision--the emergence of the Lamb in the scene of heaven. It is possible to think of this scene in two ways. Either we may think of the four living creatures forming a circle around the throne and the twenty-four elders forming a wider circle with a larger circumference, with the Lamb standing between the inner circle of the four living creatures and the outer circle of the twenty-four elders; or, much more likely, the Lamb is the centre of the whole scene.

The Lamb is one of the great characteristic ideas of the Revelation in which Jesus Christ is so called no fewer than twenty-nine times. The word he uses for Lamb is not used of Jesus Christ anywhere else in the New Testament. John the Baptist pointed to him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; John 1:36). Peter speaks of the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). In Isaiah 53:7, in the chapter so dear to Jesus and to the early Church, we read of the lamb brought to the slaughter. But in all these cases the word is amnos (Greek #286), whereas the word that the Revelation uses is arnion (Greek #721). This is the word that Jeremiah uses, when he says: "I was like a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 11:19). By using arnion (Greek #721) and using it so often, John wishes us to see that this is a new conception which he is bringing to men.

(i) The Lamb still bears the marks of having been slain. There we have the picture of the sacrifice of Christ, still visible in the heavenly places. Even in the heavenly places Jesus Christ is the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

(ii) There is another side to this. This same Lamb, with the marks of sacrifice still on it, is the Lamb with the seven horns and the seven eyes.

(a) The seven horns stand for omnipotence. In the Old Testament the horn stands for two things.

First, it stands for sheer power. In the blessing of Moses the horns of Joseph are like the horns of a wild ox and with them he will push the people together to the ends of the earth (Deuteronomy 33:17). Zedekiah, the prophet, made iron horns as a sign of promised triumph over the Syrians (1 Kings 22:11). The wicked is warned not to lift up his horn (Psalms 75:4). Zechariah sees the vision of the four horns which stand for the nations who have scattered Israel (Zechariah 1:18).

Second, it stands for honour. It is the confidence of the Psalmist that in the favour of God our horn shall be exalted (Psalms 89:17). The good man's horn shall be exalted with honour (Psalms 112:9). God exalts the horn of his people (Psalms 148:14).

We must add still another strand to this picture. In the time between the Testaments the great heroes of Israel were the Maccabees; they were the great warriors who were the liberators of the nations; and they are represented as horned lambs (I Enoch 90:9).

Here is the great paradox; the Lamb bears the sacrificial wounds upon it; but at the same time it is clothed with the very might of God which can now shatter its enemies. The Lamb has seven horns; the number seven stands for perfection; the power of the Lamb is perfect, beyond withstanding.

(b) The Lamb has seven eyes, and the eyes are the Spirits which are despatched into all the earth. The picture comes from Zechariah. There the prophet sees the seven lamps which are "the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:10). It is an eerie picture; but quite clearly it stands for the omniscience of God. In an almost crude way it says that there is no place on earth which is not under the eye of God.

Here is a tremendous picture of Christ. He is the fulfilment of all the hopes and dreams of Israel, for he is the Lion of Judah and the Root of David. He is the one whose sacrifice availed for men, and who still bears the marks of it in the heavenly places. But the tragedy has turned to triumph and the shame to glory; and he is the one whose all-conquering might none can withstand and whose all-seeing eye none can escape.

Few passages of Scripture show at one and the same time what Swete called "the majesty and the meekness" of Jesus Christ and in the one picture combine the humiliation of his death and the glory of his risen life.

MUSIC IN HEAVEN (Revelation 5:7-14)

5:7-14 And the Lamb came and received the roll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. When it had received the roll, the four living creatures fell before the Lamb and so did the twenty-four elders, each of whom had a harp and golden bowls laden with incenses, which are the prayers of God's dedicated people. And they sang a new song and this is what they sang:

Worthy are you to receive the roll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and so at the price of your life blood you bought for God those of every tribe and tongue and people and race and made them a kingdom of priests to our God. and they will reign upon the earth.

And I saw, and I heard the voice of many angels, who were in a circle round the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders; and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands, and they were singing with a great voice:

The Lamb which has been slain is worthy to receive the power and the riches and the wisdom and the strength and the honour and the glory and the blessing.

And I heard every created creature which was in the heaven and upon the earth and beneath the earth and on the sea and all things in them saying:

Blessing and honour and glory and dominion for ever and ever to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.

And the four living creatures said, Amen; and the elders fell down and worshipped.

It is necessary to look at this passage as a whole before we begin to deal with it in detail. R. H. Charles quotes Christina Rossetti on it; "Heaven is revealed to earth as the homeland of music." Here is the greatest chorus of praise the universe can ever hear. It comes in three waves. First, there is the praise of the four living creatures and of the twenty-four elders. Here we see all nature and all the Church combining to praise the Lamb. Second, there is the praise of the myriads of angels. Here is the picture of all the inhabitants of heaven lifting up their voices in praise. Third, John sees every created creature, in every part of the universe, to its deepest depth and its farthest corner, singing in praise.

Here is the truth that heaven and earth and all that is within them is designed for the praise of Jesus Christ; and it is our privilege to lend our voices and our lives to this vast chorus of praise, for that chorus is necessarily incomplete so long as there is one voice missing from it.

The Prayers Of The Saints (Revelation 5:8)

The first section in the chorus of praise is the song of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders; and, as we have seen, they represent all that is in nature and in the universal Church.

The picture of the elders is interesting. They have harps. The harp was the traditional instrument to which the Psalms were sung. "Praise the Lord with harp," says the Psalmist (Psalms 33:2). "Sing praises to the Lord with the harp; the harp, and the sound of melody" (Psalms 98:5). "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God upon the harp" (Psalms 147:7). The harp stands for the music of praise as the Jews knew it.

The elders also have golden bowls full of incense; and the incense is the prayers of God's dedicated people. The likening of prayers to incense comes also from the Psalms. "Let my prayer be before thee counted as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice" (Psalms 141:2). But the significant thing is the idea of intermediaries in prayer. In later Jewish literature this idea of heavenly intermediaries bringing the prayers of the faithful to God is very common. In the Testament of Dan (Daniel 6:2) we read: "Draw near unto God and to the angel that intercedeth for you, for he is a mediator between God and man." In this literature we find many such angels.

Chief of them all is Michael, the archangel, "the merciful and long-suffering" (I Enoch 40:9). He is said daily to come down to the fifth heaven to receive men's prayers and to bring them to God (3 Baruch 11). In Tobit it is the archangel Raphael who brings the prayers of men to God; "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, who present the prayers of the saints, and who go in and out before the glory of the Holy One" (Tobit 12:15). It is Gabriel who tells Enoch: "I swear unto you that in heaven the angels are mindful of you before the glory of the Great One" (I Enoch 104:1). Sometimes it is the guardian angels who bring the prayers of men to God; and it is said that at certain times each day the doors are open so that the prayers may be received (Apocalypse of Paul 7: 10). Sometimes all the angels, or, as Enoch calls them, The Watchers, are engaged in this task. It is to "the Holy Ones of Heaven" that the souls of men complain with their cry for justice (I Enoch 9:3). It is the duty of the Watchers of heaven to intercede for men (I Enoch 15:2). As we have seen, the angels are mindful of men for good (I Enoch 104:1). Sometimes, it would seem, the blessed dead share in this task. The angels and the holy ones in their resting-places intercede for the children of men (I Enoch 39:6). There are certain things to be said about this belief in heavenly intermediaries.

(i) From one point of view it is an uplifting thought. We are, so to speak, not left to pray alone. No prayer can be altogether heavy-footed and leaden-winged which has all the citizenry of heaven behind it to help it rise to God.

(ii) From another point of view it is quite unnecessary. Before us is set an open door which no man can ever shut; no man's prayers need any assistance, for God's ear is open to catch the faintest whisper of appeal.

(iii) The whole conception of intermediaries arises from a line of thought which has met us before. As the centuries went on, the Jews became ever more impressed with the transcendence of God, his difference from men. They began to believe that there never could be any direct contact between God and man and that there must be angelic intermediaries to bridge the gulf. That is exactly the feeling that Jesus Christ came to take away; he came to tell us that God "is closer to us than breathing, nearer than hands or feet" and to be the living way by which for every man, however humble, the door to God is open.

The New Song (Revelation 5:9)

The song that the four living creatures and the elders sang was a new song. The phrase a new song is very common in the Psalms; and there it is always a song for the new mercies of God. "Sing to him a new song," says the Psalmist (Psalms 33:3). God took the Psalmist out of the fearful pit and from the miry clay and set his foot on a rock and put a new song in his mouth to praise God (Psalms 40:3). "O sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done marvellous things? (Psalms 98:1; compare Psalms 96:1). "I will sing a new song to thee, O God" (Psalms 144:9). "Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful" (Psalms 149:1). The nearest parallel in the Old Testament comes from Isaiah. There God declares new things and the prophet calls upon men to sing to the Lord a new song (Isaiah 42:9-10).

The new song is always a song for new mercies of God; and it will be noblest of all when it is a song for the mercies of God in Jesus Christ.

One of the characteristics of the Revelation is that it is the book of new things. There is the new name (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12); there is the new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2); there is the new song (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3); there are the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1); and there is the great promise that God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).

One most significant thing is to be noted. Greek has two words for new, neos (Greek #3501), which means new in point of time but not necessarily in point of quality, and kainos (Greek #2537), which means new in point of quality. Kainos (Greek #2537) describes a thing which has not only been recently produced but whose like has never existed before.

The significance of this is that Jesus Christ brings into life a quality which has never existed before, new joy, new thrill, new strength, new peace. That is why the supreme quality of the Christian life is a kind of sheen. It has been said that "the opposite of a Christian world is a world grown old and sad."

The Song Of The Living Creatures And Of The Elders (Revelation 5:9-10)

Let us begin by setting down this song:

Worthy are you to receive the roll, and to open its seals, because you were slain, and so at the price of your life blood you bought for God those of every tribe and tongue and people and race, and made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.

The praise rendered to the Lamb by the four living creatures and the elders is rendered because he died. In this song there is summed up the results of the death of Jesus Christ.

(i) It was a sacrificial death. That is to say, it was a death with purpose in it. It was not an accident of history; it was not even the tragic death of a good and heroic man in the cause of righteousness and of God; it was a sacrificial death. The object of sacrifice is to restore the lost relationship between God and man; and it was for that purpose, and with that result, that Jesus Christ died.

(ii) The death of Jesus Christ was an emancipating death. From beginning to end the New Testament is full of the idea of the liberation of mankind achieved by him. He gave his life a ransom (lutron, Greek #3083) for many (Mark 10:45). He gave himself a ransom (antilutron, Greek #487) for all (1 Timothy 2:6). He redeemed us--literally bought us out from (exagorazein, Greek #1805)--from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). We are redeemed (lutrousthai, Greek #3084) not by any human wealth but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus Christ is the Lord that bought us (agorazein, Greek #59) (2 Peter 2:1). We are bought with a price (agorazein, Greek #59) (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23). The New Testament consistently declares that it cost the death of Jesus Christ to rescue man from the dilemma and the slavery into which sin had brought him. The New Testament has no "official" theory of how that effect was achieved; but of the effect itself it is in no doubt whatever.

(iii) The death of Jesus Christ was universal in its benefits. It was for men and women of every race. There was a day when the Jews could hold that God cared only for them and wished for nothing but the destruction of other peoples. But in Jesus Christ we meet a God who loves the world. The death of Christ was for all men and, therefore, it is the task of the Church to tell all men of it.

(iv) The death of Jesus Christ was an availing death. He did not die for nothing. In this song three aspects of the work of Christ are singled out.

(a) He made us kings. He opened to men the royalty of sonship of God. Men have always been sons of God by creation; but now there is a new sonship of grace open to every man.

(b) He made us priests. In the ancient world the priest alone had the right of approach to God. When an ordinary Jew entered the Temple, he could make his way through the Court of the Gentiles, through the Court of the Women, into the Court of the Israelites; but into the Court of the Priests he could not go. It was thus far and no farther. But Jesus Christ opened the way for all men to God. Every man becomes a priest in the sense that he has the right of access to God.

(c) He gave us triumph. His people shall reign upon the earth. This is not political triumph or material lordship. It is the secret of victorious living under any circumstances. "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). In Christ there is victory over self, victory over circumstance and victory over sin.

When we think of what the death and life of Jesus Christ have done for men, it is no wonder that the living creatures and the elders burst into praise of him.

The Song Of The Angels (Revelation 5:11-12)

5:11-12 And I saw, and I heard the voice of many angels, who were in a circle round the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands; and they were saying with a great voice:

The Lamb, which has been slain, is worthy to receive the power and the riches and the wisdom and the strength and the honour and the glory and the blessing.

The chorus of praise is taken up by the unnumbered hosts of the angels of heaven. They stand in a great outer circle round the throne and the living creatures and the elders and they begin their song. We have repeatedly seen how John takes his language from the Old Testament; and here there is in his memory David's great thanksgiving to God:

Blessed art thou, O Lord, the God of Israel, our Father, for

ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power

and the glory and the victory and the majesty; for all that is

in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom

O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches

and honour come from thee, and thou rulest over all. In thy

hand are power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great,

and to give strength to all (1 Chronicles 29:10-12).

The song of the living creatures and of the elders told of the work of Christ in his death; now the angels sing of the possessions of Christ in his glory. Seven great possessions belong to the Risen Lord.

(i) To him belongs the power. Paul called Jesus, "Christ the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). He is not one who can plan but never achieve; to him belongs the power. We can say triumphantly of him: "He is able."

(ii) To him belongs the riches. "Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Paul speaks of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). There is no promise that Jesus Christ has made that he does not possess the resources to carry out. There is no claim on him which he cannot satisfy.

(iii) To him belongs the wisdom. Paul calls Jesus Christ "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). He has the wisdom to know the secrets of God and the solution of the problems of life.

(iv) To him belongs the strength. Christ is the strong one who can disarm the powers of evil and overthrow Satan (Luke 11:22). There is no situation with which he cannot cope.

(v) To him belongs the honour. The day comes when to him every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:11). A strange thing is that even those who are not Christian often honour Christ by admitting that in his teaching alone lies the hope of this distracted world.

(vi) To him belongs the glory. As John has it: "We beheld his glory, from glory as of the only Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Glory is that which by right belongs to God alone. To say that Jesus Christ possesses the glory is to say that he is divine.

(vii) To him belongs the blessing. Here is the inevitable climax of it all. All these things Jesus Christ possesses, and every one of them he uses in the service of the men for whom he lived and died; he does not clutch them to himself.

Therefore, there rises to him from all the redeemed thanksgiving for all that he has done. And that thanksgiving is the one gift that we who have nothing can give to him who possesses all.

The Song Of All Creation (Revelation 5:13-14)

5:13-14 And I heard every created creature which was in the heaven, and upon the earth, and beneath the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, saying:

Blessing and honour and glory and dominion for ever and ever to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.

And the four living creatures said, Amen; and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Now the chorus of praise goes so far that it cannot go farther, for it reaches throughout the whole of the universe and the whole of creation. There is one vast song of praise to the Lamb. We may note one very significant thing. In this chorus of praise God and the Lamb are joined together. Nothing could better show the height of John's conception of Jesus Christ. In the praise of creation he sets him by the side of God.

In the song itself there are two things to note.

The creatures which are in the heaven add their praise. Who are they? More than one answer has been given and each is lovely in its own way. It has been suggested that the reference is to the birds of the air; the very singing of the birds is a song of praise. It has been suggested that the reference is to the sun, the moon and the stars; the heavenly bodies in their shining are praising God. It has been suggested that the phrase gathers up every possible being in heaven--the living creatures, the elders, the myriads of angels and every other heavenly being.

The creatures which are beneath the earth add their praise. That can only mean the dead who are in Hades, and here is something totally new. In the Old Testament the idea is that the dead are separated altogether from God and man and live a shadowy existence. "In death there is no rememberence of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?" (Psalms 6:5). "Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth? What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit?" (Psalms 30:9). "Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" (Psalms 88:10-12). "For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee; those that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness" (Isaiah 38:18).

Here is a vision which sweeps all this away. Not even the land of the dead is beyond the reign of the Risen Christ. Even from beyond death the chorus of praise rises to him.

The picture here is all-inclusive of all nature praising God. There are in Scripture many magnificent pictures of the praise of God by nature. In the Old Testament itself there is Psalms 148:1-14 . But the noblest song of praise comes from the Apocrypha. In the Greek Old Testament there is an addition to Daniel. It is called The Song of the Three Children and it is sung by Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are there called, before they enter the fiery furnace. It is long, but it is one of the world's great poems, and we must quote in full the part in which they call upon nature to praise God.

O ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O every shower and dew, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye winds, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye winter and summer, bless the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye dews and storms of snow, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye nights and days, bless the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye light and darkness, bless the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye cold and heat, bless the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye ice and cold, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye frost and snow, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O let the earth bless the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye mountains and little hills, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye herbs of the field, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all things that grow on the earth, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye fountains, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye seas and rivers, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the

Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye creeping things of the earth, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord:

Praise and exalt him above all for ever.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/revelation-5.html. 1956-1959.

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