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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Revelation 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-14

EXPOSITION

Revelation 5:1

And I saw. As in Revelation 4:1, this phrase introduces a new incident in the vision. That which had been witnessed remained, but a further development now takes place. Revelation 4:1-11. relates the revelation of the glory of the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2) surrounded by his Church and creation. The glory of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, is now set forth, since he is the only One worthy to receive and declare to his Church the mystery contained in the sealed book. In the right hand; upon the right hand ( ἐπί). That is, lying upon the hand, as it was extended in the act of offering the book to any one who should be able to open and read it. Of him that sat on the throne. The Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2). A book written within and on the back side. In Ezekiel 2:9, Ezekiel 2:10 the "roll of a book" is "written within and without;" another of the numerous traces in the Revelation of the influence of the writings of this prophet upon the writer of the Apocalypse, though the picture of the Lamb, which follows in this chapter, imparts a new feature peculiar to St. John's vision. The roll was inscribed on both sides. Mention is made of such a roll by Pliny, Juvenal, Lucian, Martial, though Grotius connects ὄπισθεν, "on the back," with κατεσφραγισμένον, "sealed," thus rendering, "written within and sealed on the back." The fulness of the book, and the guard of seven seals which are opened in succession, denote completeness of revelation (on the number seven as denoting full completion, see on Revelation 1:4). This book contained the whole of "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11). It is noteworthy that—so far as we can gather from the Revelation—the book is never read. The breaking of each seal is accompanied by its own peculiar phenomena, which appear to indicate the nature of the contents. And the opening of the seventh seal especially is attended by a compound series of events; but nowhere are we explicitly informed of the contents of the book. Alford well remarks, "Not its contents, but the gradual steps of access to it, are represented by these visions." This view seems to be held also by Schleiermacher. Dusterdieck considers that the roll is never read, though the incidents attending the opening of each seal portray a portion of the contents. Wordsworth and Elliott understand that, as each seal is broken, a part of the roll is unrolled and its contents rendered visible; and these contents are symbolically set forth by the events which then take place. According to this view, the whole is a prophecy extending to the end of the world. The popular idea is that the roll was sealed along the edge with seven seals, all visible at the same time. If, as each seal was broken, a portion of the roll could be unfolded, of course only one seal—the outermost—could be visible. This is not, however, inconsistent with St. John's assertion that there were seven seals—a fact which he might state from his knowledge gained by witnessing the opening of the seven in succession. The truth seems to lie midway between these views. We must remember that the Revelation was vouchsafed to the Church as an encouragement to her members to persevere under much suffering and tribulation, and as a support to their faith, lest they should succumb to the temptation of despair, and, unable to fathom the eternal purposes of God, should doubt his truth or his ability to aid them. But we are nowhere led to believe that it was the intention of God to reveal all things to man, even under the cloak of symbolism or allegory. There is much which must necessarily be withheld until after the end of all earthly things; and, just as no mortal can possibly know the "new name" (Revelation 3:12), so no one on earth can receive perfect knowledge of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," which were symbolically contained in the book, and which, through the intervention of the Lamb, may one day be published; though a portion—sufficient for the time—was shadowed forth, at the opening of the seals; which portion, indeed, could never have been given to us except through the Lamb. We understand, therefore, that the book is symbolical of the whole of the mysteries of God; that, as a whole, the contents of the book are not, nor indeed can be, revealed to us while on earth; but that some small but sufficient portion of these mysteries are made known to us by the power of Christ, who will eventually make all things clear hereafter, when we shall know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12). The events attending the opening of the seals are therefore a prophecy of the relations of the Church and the world to the end of time. Many opinions have been held as to the antitype of the book. Victorinus thinks it to be the Old Testament, the meaning of which Christ was the first to unlock. And Bede and others consider that the writing within signified the New Testament, and that on the back, the Old. Todd and De Burgh think the roll denotes the office of our Lord, by virtue of which he will judge the world. Sealed with seven seals; sealed down with seven seals; close sealed (Revised Version). Grotius connects ὄπισθεν, "behind," with κατεσφραγισμένον, "sealed down," thus reading, "written within and sealed down on the back."

Revelation 5:2

And I saw (see on Revelation 5:1). A strong angel; ἰσχυρόν, rendered "mighty" in Revelation 10:1. Possibly, as De Wette and others think, so called because of higher rank—De Lyra says Gabriel; but probably on account of the great voice, which sounded "as a lion roareth" (Revelation 10:3). Proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? with a great voice. "Worthy" is ἄξιος, fit morally, as in John 1:27.

Revelation 5:3

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon; no one in the heaven, or on the earth (Revised Version). That is, no one in all creation—in heaven, or on earth, or in the place of departed spirits. No one was able "to look thereon" (that is, "to read therein") as a consequence of no one being fit to open the book.

Revelation 5:4

And I wept much ( ἔκλαιον); I burst into tears, and continued weeping. A strong expression in the imperfect tense. Because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. The words, "and to read? should be omitted. They are found in few manuscripts. The equivalent phrase follows, "neither to look thereon."

Revelation 5:5

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not. One of the elders, as representing the Church (see on Revelation 4:4), bids St. John to take heed to him who was about to disclose to some extent the future of that Church. There is, of course, no indication that any particular individual is signified, though some have striven to identify the elder. Thus De Lyra mentions St. Peter, who was already martyred; others, referred to by De Lyra, say St. Matthew, who, in his Gospel, declares Christ's power (Matthew 28:18). Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda. The title is accorded to Christ, in illustration of the following act. The Representative of the royal and victorious tribe of Judah was he who had prevailed to open the book, where others had failed (cf. Genesis 40:9, "Judah is a lion's whelp;" Hebrews 7:14, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah"). The Root of David. The Root of David is a synonym for Stem or Branch (cf. Isaiah 11:1, "There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots;" and Romans 15:12, "Esaias saith, There shall be a Root of Jesse"). Further, Christ may be said to have been the Root of David, by virtue of his pre-existence and his creative power. It is one of the paradoxes of the Incarnation, that he who is the Root of David should also be a Branch. Hath prevailed to open the book; hath conquered ( ἐνίκησεν). Not, as the Authorized Version appears to read, that the act of victory consisted in the opening of the book, but the ability to open was a consequence of a former act of victory, viz. the redemption. So in verse 9 the ascription of praise runs, "Thou art worthy because thou wast slain" (on the infinitive epexegetic, see Winer). Some see a reference here to Revelation 3:7, "He that openeth, and no man shutteth." And to loose the seven seals thereof; and the seven seals thereof (Revised Version). Omit "to loose?"

Revelation 5:6

And I beheld. Again a new feature of the vision is indicated (see on Revelation 5:1). And, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders. For a description of the position of the throne and the living beings and the elders, see Revelation 4:6. The passage would, perhaps, be more plainly rendered, "Between the throne and the four living creatures on the one hand, and the elders on the other, stood," etc. The repetition of "in the midst" is a Hebraism (of. Genesis 1:4, Genesis 1:6, Genesis 1:7, LXX.). The Lamb would thus occupy a central position, where he would be visible to all. Stood a Lamb. The Greek word ἀρνίον, which is here employed, and which is constantly used throughout the Apocalypse, occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in John 21:15. The Lamb of John 1:29 is ἀμνός. This word has therefore been brought forward as an evidence that the writer of the Gospel was not also the writer of the Apocalypse, since, when the word is applied as a title of our Lord, the term differs. But the passage John 1:29 is a quotation from Isaiah, and the writer naturally adheres to the form found in the LXX. version in that place. But on other occasions, when he is free to employ his own diction, as in John 21:15 and in the Apocalypse, he invariably employs the term ἀρνίον. Some have found in the fact that ἀρνίον (avalon) is originally a diminutive form of ἀμνός (amnos), a reference to, the lowliness and meekness of our Lord; and they see a contrast in the power indicated by the seven horns. But such interpretations, however helpful and suggestive, are not warranted by anything in the grammar of the word; since, although no doubt originally a diminutive, the word had lost all such force in St. John's time; so much so, that the varying cases were formed from both words. As it had been Main. We are here confronted with what Stuart calls an "aesthetical difficulty." How could the Lamb, which was alive, standing, and active, exhibit any appearance which would give St. John the idea that it had been slain? Similarly, in the following verses, how could the Lamb take the book, or the four living beings handle harps and bowls, or the elders play on harps while also holding bowls? In the first place, it is perfectly immaterial to inquire. St. John is not giving a circumstantial narrative of certain historical facts which occurred in the material, sensible world; but he is reproducing ideas conveyed to him in some way (certainly not through the senses), which ideas are symbolical of events occurring in the natural and spiritual worlds, and of the condition of men or bodies of men. Therefore, if we can ascertain what these mental pictures are intended to portray to us, it matters not in what way the ideas were conveyed to the mind of the seer. In the second place, it must be remembered that the whole is a vision; and that although St. John says, "I saw," in point of fact none of the mental impressions which he obtained were conveyed through the senses. Just as a person relating a dream says, "I saw," when in reality his eyes had been shut and his senses asleep, so the writer here says, "I saw;" and just as in a dream we receive distinct ideas concerning an object without knowing how or why we know the particular fact, and that, too, when such qualities seem contradictory to others with which the object is invested, and yet no incongruity is apparent to us, so St. John realized that these objects possessed qualities which, in the sensible world, would have been impossible. Having seven horns. Throughout the Bible an emblem of power. Moses blessed the tribe of Joseph in the words, "His horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth" (Deuteronomy 33:17). Hannah sang, "Mine horn is exalted" (1 Samuel 2:1). The seven denotes perfection (see on Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:1, etc.). The symbol, therefore, attributes to the Lamb complete power (cf. the words of Christ in Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"). And seven eyes. The seven eyes symbolize perfect knowledge—omniscience (cf. Zechariah 4:10, "They shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth;" and 2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him"). Which are the seven Spirits of God. "Which" refers to the seven eyes (cf. Revelation 1:4, "The seven Spirits which are before his throne;" and Revelation 3:1, "He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;" and Revelation 4:5, "Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God"). The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, with his sevenfold gifts, is indicated by these symbols of illumination. For he illuminates and makes brighter those in whom he dwells, and renders clearer to them those things outside themselves, and enables them more fully to appreciate the manifold wisdom of God. Sent forth into all the earth. That is, the seven Spirits are sent forth ( ἀπεσταλμένα; though, as πνεύματα, "the spirits," are also ὀφθαλμοί, "the eyes," A reads ἀπεσταλμένοι).

Revelation 5:7

And he came and took the book; or, and he came and he hath taken it. "Hath taken" is perfect ( εἴληφε), while "came" is the aorist ( ἦλθε). If the differ-once is intentionally significant, it renders the description somewhat more vivid. (For the consideration of the question how the Lamb could do this, see on Revelation 5:6.) Wordsworth contrasts the spontaneous act of the Lamb in taking the book of his own accord as his right, with the call to St. John to take the little book (Revelation 10:8). Out of the right hand. The position of power and honour. He to whom all power was given in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:1-20.) is the only One who can penetrate the mysteries and dispense the power of God's right hand. Of him that sat upon the throne; of him that sitteth. That is, the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2). The Son in his human capacity, as indicated by his sacrificial form of the Lamb, can take and reveal the mysteries of the eternal Godhead in which he, as God, has part.

Revelation 5:8

And when he had taken the book. "Had taken" ( ἔλαβε) is here aorist, not perfect, as in Revelation 5:7. The text should probably read, when he took the book; that is to say, the adoration offered coincides in point of time with the act of taking the book. The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb. The four beasts as representing animated creation; the four and twenty elders as representative of the Church (see on Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:6). Having every one of them harps. (On the difficulty of how each one could hold harps and bowls, see on Revelation 5:6.) It is possible that the phrase refers only to the elders; for these seem more suitably employed in offering the prayers of the saints than the representatives of all creation. If, however, as Wordsworth considers, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders together symbolize the Church, the phrase would apply to both. The κινύρα of 1 Samuel 16:16, 1 Samuel 16:23 (the κιθάρα of this passage) was played with the hand, and the instrument indicated was probably more of the nature of a guitar than the modern harp. And golden vials full of odours. The Revised Version "bowls" is better than "vials." The idea is, no doubt, taken from the shallow bowls which were placed upon the golden altar (Exodus 30:1-10), and in which incense was burned. The odours are the incense. In the same chapter of Exodus directions are given concerning the preparation and use of the incense, which was always a symbol of prayer, and always offered to God alone (cf. Psalms 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense;" also Luke 1:9, Luke 1:10; Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 6:4). Which are the prayers of saints. The saints; that is, the members of the Church of God. Some authorities consider "vials" the antecedent of" which;" but it seems best to refer "which" to "odours," though the sense is not materially different, since the former includes the latter.

Revelation 5:9

And they sung a new song, saying. They sing; the worship is unceasing. The song is new because it is only now, subsequent to the accomplishment of Christ's work of redemption, that the song can be sung. It is not" Thou art worthy, for thou wilt redeem," but "thou didst redeem." Victorinus says, "It is the preaching of the Old Testament together with that of the New which enables the world to sing a new song." Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof. (For a consideration of the book, and the opening of it, see on Revelation 5:1.) For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. The reason why Christ is worthy. And didst redeem unto God by thy blood out of every kindred, etc. Though the reading "us" is supported by various manuscripts, and similarly the first person is used in Revelation 5:10. yet, on the whole, it seems better to omit it, the phrase being taken in a partitve sense—"Thou didst redeem unto God by thy blood some out of every kindred, etc., and hast made them, etc., and they shall reign." Again, "Thou didst purchase us at the price of thy blood" would, perhaps, give the sense more correctly; for such is the force of the words, "in thy blood" ( ἐν τῷ αἵματι). The words point to a particular act performed at a definite time, viz. the death of Christ, by which he repurchased men from sin and Satan for the service of God; the price of the purchase being the shedding of his own blood. The words show, too, that the fruits of the redemption are intended for the whole world; not limited to any chosen nation, though some are excluded by their own act. Out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. This fourfold classification continually recurs in the Revelation. It includes all the bases of classification of mankind, all the circumstances which separate men, the barriers which were overthrown by the redeeming work of Christ.

Revelation 5:10

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and didst make them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests. Of those whom thou didst redeem from every nation, thou didst make a kingdom and priests. Wordsworth remarks that these honours conferred upon the redeemed imply duties as well as privileges. They receive the princely honours conferred upon them only on condition that they also become priests, presenting themselves, their souls and bodies, a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1, Romans 12:2), and, being a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). (On the person of "us," see on previous verse.) And we shall reign on the earth; or, and they reign on the earth (see on Revelation 5:9). The interpretation of this passage will necessarily be influenced to some extent by the view adopted of the millennium (see on Revelation 20:1-15.), Those who expect a personal reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years naturally consider that in this verse reference is made to that period. And if the thousand years be understood to denote the time which elapses between the first and second comings of Christ, that is to say, the present time, the two passages—that in Revelation 20:4 and the one before us—may be connected, and intended to refer to the same time. We have, therefore, to inquire in what sense the word "reign" is used, and how the redeemed can be said to reign on the earth at the present time. In the first place, nothing is more plainly taught us than that Christ's reigning, his power, and his kingdom on earth are a spiritual reign, a spiritual power, a spiritual kingdom; though the Jews and our Lord's disciples themselves frequently erred by supposing that his kingdom would be a visible, worldly power. It seems natural, therefore, that if such is the meaning of Christ's reigning, that of his servants should be of the same nature; and we ought not to err in the same way as the Jews did, by expecting to see the redeemed exercise at any time visible authority over their fellowmen. The redeemed reign, then, spiritually. But it will be well to inquire more fully and exactly what we intend to signify by this expression. The word "reign" is not often used of Christians in the New Testament. In Romans 5:17 we read, "Much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." And in 1 Corinthians 4:8. "And I would to God ye did reign." In both these places St. Paul seems to intend a reigning over self—an ability to subdue personal passions; a power which comes from the "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness" which are mentioned, and which are possessed only by the redeemed, through Jesus Christ. This ability to subdue personal passions and ambitions is what the apostle wishes for the Corinthians, and of which many of them had shown themselves to be destitute, or only possessing in an inadequate degree. It is the truth which is expressed by Solomon in the words, "Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32); and in the words of the Collect for Peace in the Morning Prayer of the Church of England, "Whose service is perfect freedom;" or, as it should be rendered, "Whom to serve is to reign." The representatives of the Church and of creation, then, adore the Lamb, through whose redeeming act grace may be given to men of every kindred and tongue, to enable them to overcome sin and Satan, and in the freedom of God's service to reign on earth as kings and conquerors over all unworthy passions. In this way, too, we account for the present tense of the verb, which is most probably the correct reading.

Revelation 5:11

And I beheld marks a new feature of the vision, viz. the introduction of the angelic host as taking part in the adoration of the Lamb (see on Revelation 4:1). And heard the voice of many angels; a voice. The angels who have "desired to look into" the mystery of the redemption of the world (1 Peter 1:12) have now had declared to them "by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:11); and are thus enabled to join in the song of the redeemed. Round about the throne and the beasts and the elders. The innumerable company of angels encircle the throne and the beasts and the elders. Thus the throne is in the vision seen as occupying the centre, the four living creatures are placed round it in different directions; the elders form the next circle, and the angels enclose the whole. The Lamb is in the midst before the throne (see on Revelation 4:6). "Thus," says Bisping, "the redeemed creation stands nearer to the throne of God than even the angels (see Hebrews 2:5)." And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. The readings vary here, though the sense of the passage is not affected. After πρεσβυτέρων, "elders,

Revelation 5:12

Saying with a loud voice; a great voice (Revised Version); λέγοντες, "saying," is irregular construction, and to be referred to angels as being a nominative understood. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; that hath been slain (Revised Version). Again, as in Revelation 5:9, the worshippers give the reason for considering Christ worthy to receive their adoration. It is because he had been slain and thus redeemed the world. To receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. The sevenfold nature of the adoration attributed to the Lamb is probably indicative of its complete and perfect nature. (On the meaning of λαβεῖν, "to receive," to take as a right what is offered, see Thayer-Grimm.) Power ( δύναμις) is the ability to perform which is inherent in one's nature. Strength ( ἰσχύς) is the attribute by which that power is put into operation; it frequently denotes physical strength. Riches (cf. John 1:16, "And of his fulness have all we received;" also Ephesians 3:8, "The unsearchable riches of Christ;" also James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gilt is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights;" also Acts 17:25, "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things "). The whole sevenfold ascription is spoken as one, only one article being prefixed. In this respect it differs from Revelation 4:11 and Revelation 7:12, where we have "the glory" and "the honour," etc. (see on Revelation 4:11).

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; and every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them (Revised Version). All animated creation now joins in the ascription of praise. Those under the earth are probably the "spirits in prison" of 1 Peter 3:19, though Vitringa understands the expression to be used of the devils "who unwillingly obey Christ," and even declare his glory, as in Mark 1:24, "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God." The sea is meant literally; the apostle's object being.to include all animated beings wheresoever existing. It has been remarked that St. John's exile at Patmos would render him familiar with the appearance of the sea, and account for its frequent use in the Apocalypse, both literally and symbolically. The things on the sea would signify, not merely ships with their inhabitants, but also those animals in the sea which are known to men by dwelling near the surface. "All things that are in them" serves to render emphatic the universality of the description, as in Exodus 20:11 and Psalms 146:6, "The Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Heard I saying. "Saying" is masculine, λέγοντας in 10, 13, P, Vulgate, Andr. a, c, Arethas, Primasius. But the neuter, λέγοντα, is read in A, 1, 12, Andr. p, bav. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power; the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion (Revised Version). The Revisers have wisely rendered κράτος, "the dominion," by a different word from δύναμις, "power," of verse 12, both of which in the Authorized Version are rendered "power." The article, too, serves to give greater emphasis, making the expression tantamount to "all blessing," etc. (see on Revelation 4:11). Nothing is signified by the omission of three attributes. The number four is symbolical of the complete creation, and may be used on that account; but probably the omission is to avoid repetition, the four attributes given being typical of the seven just previously uttered. Be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. That is, unto the Triune God (see on Revelation 4:2). Christ, as having part with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Godhead, sits upon the throne, and is worthy with them to receive adoration. But in his special character as the Redeemer, he is also singled out to receive the praises of the redeemed.

Revelation 5:14

And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth forever and ever. (On the signification of the four beasts as representative of creation, and the four-and-twenty elders as typical of the Church, see on Revelation 4:4 and Revelation 4:6.) Three stages are marked in the hymn of adoration before this concluding verse:

This forms the end of one act of the heavenly drama. The opening of the seals now follows, and a description of the attendant circumstances is given.

HOMILETICS

Revelation 5:1-14

Continuation of vision.

In the preceding homily we noted that the apostle records five songs. We have already referred to two of them. We now have the three remaining ones before us.

1. The third song is the new song—of redemption. Creation being effected, what is to be done with it? Of what events is earth to be the scene and the witness? and what are the developments which Providence has in store? See. In the right hand of him who sits upon the throne there is a book—a roll, written within and without (a rare thing, except through pressure of matter, to write on the back of a roll). Written—by whom? Surely we are left to infer that the writing was that of Jehovah; that the book was his; that in the writing were indicated the things which were to come hereafter, yea, what was to take place on this globe! But this book, with the writing of Jehovah in it as to what shall come to pass, is fast sealed. Seven seals. They must be opened ere the mystery of the future can be told. As yet it is fast wrapped and folded up. Who shall open that book and interpret what is there? The apostle (Revelation 5:2) saw a mighty angel, and heard him proclaim "with a loud voice, Who is worthy," etc.? And no one was worthy—for no one was able, either in heaven or on the earth, neither under the earth—to open it or to look into it. No one in all creation! The task is too great for man or angel. Must the roll be ever closed? Is the secret will of God expressed therein to be forever an insoluble riddle? No one responds. There is awful silence; till later on it is broken, but only by the sobs of the weeping John! At length, one of the elders comes. The tears of an apostle are a magnet to him. He can tell more of trials and triumphs than even he who had leaned on Jesus' breast. "Weep not! The Lion … hath prevailed." Hath conquered? Has there, then, been a conflict ere the book could be opened? At this point a new form, before unnamed, appears. "And … a Lamb, standing, as it had been slain" (verse 6). This John had long before heard another point him out, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Since then, that Lamb of God had been made an offering for sin; and now the traces of that self offering are seen in heaven. He, the offered Lamb, comes, full of strength; with an authority all his own he approaches right up to the throne, nearer than all created ones, and takes the book, etc. (verse 7). When he in majesty and might takes the book into his own hands, then the apostle's tears are dried, and heaven's silence gives place to song. In the hands of Jesus the seals will give way, and under his mediatorial reign will the will of God be disclosed; i.e. in the hands of Jesus the developments of providence become disclosures of redemption. And lo! at this stage new music is heard. "They are singing a new song" (verse 9). New, for it celebrates a new revelation of God, a new work of God, and a new unfolding of the plans of God. New—ever new. It can never become old. It is a song of praise from the living creatures and the redeemed ones £ to him who was slain for them. £ Such a song is this as creation could not inspire. Still there is more to follow.

2. The fourth is the "assenting chorus of the host of angels" £ to the Lamb that was slain (verses 11, 12). We are taught clearly enough, in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, that angels sympathize in the redeeming work of our Lord, and witness his joy when one sinner is saved. How fully in accord with this it is to find them joining with the ransomed and taking up the song, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain"—although from angel voices we miss the most tender, the most touching feature of the heavenly song! Their praise may be more sublime; their love cannot be like ours. Still, the song swells in grandeur.

3. The fifth is the song of all creation to God and the Lamb. (Verse 13.) "Every creature … heard I saying … unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." All intelligent and holy beings, everywhere, join in a grand concert of praise, alike to the Father and the Son. The love of the Father devised all. The love of the Son undertook, effected, and administered all; and to him, with the Father, shall endless honour be given by an admiring and adoring universe. One burst of harmony fills the courts of heaven. We cannot but feel that we are in the presence of the sublimest scenes that can ever in this state be unfolded to mortal view. In fact, we could not bear more. A fuller disclosure would overwhelm us. As it is, there is enough concealed to quicken our eager expectations; enough revealed to give us several practical principles to work with in the light thereof. £

WHAT MAY WE LEARN FROM THIS SUBLIME VISION? Or rather, What are the truths concerning the Divine Being and his plans which lie couched therein? They are many.

1. We see that gathering round the throne, hymning like songs, interested in like themes, are the inhabitants of heaven and the redeemed on and from the earth. There is a oneness of sympathy between them, and all are in full sympathy with God. This is the thought of the fifteenth chapter of Luke.

2. We see that the first and foremost Object of their adoring song is the Triune Jehovah; the Thrice-Holy One. He who sitteth upon the throne is the adorable Centre in whom all holy beings find their everlasting home. God is adored for what he is, as well as praised for what he does. He himself is infinitely greater than all his works.

3. By the highest orders of beings there is seen in creation matter for adoring praise. It is a revelation of God. It is a witness for him. His perfections are written there.

"He formed the seas, he formed the hills,

Made every drop and every dust,

Nature and time with all their wheels,

And pushed them into motion first."

And whether, in our theories of how things came to be as they are, we are evolutionists or non-evolutionists, whether we side with convulsionists or anti-convulsionists, either way we see matter for jubilation and song. "Thou hast," etc. There is no atheism in beings higher than we are. The host men on earth are not to be found in the atheists' camp. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God" everywhere.

4. Creation expresses only in part the Divine mind. There is a book written, in which are recorded both purpose and plan; and where the earth is looked on as the dwelling place of man, where man is known to have sinned against God, it cannot but be a question of absorbing interest—How will God deal with man? What will be the Divine treatment of sin?

5. It is in our Lord Jesus Christ alone that we are furnished with a key to the workings of providence. He alone can take the book and open its seals. He has accomplished a vast redemptive work. He has undertaken a trust. He has all power in heaven and on earth. In the administration of his work, he unfolds and carries out the plan of God. "The Father loveth the Sou, and hath put all things into his hand."

6. Through Christ's prevailing to open the seals, the history of this globe comes to be the history of redemption. Our Lord Jesus Christ presides over all governments, empires, kingdoms, and thrones. He is "Head over all things to his Church," and subordinates all to the inbringing of his everlasting kingdom to the regeneration of earth, to "making all things new." Thus creation is but the platform on which redemption stands, and it is destined to witness its crowning glory in the recreation of men in the image of their God! "We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Finally, owing to redemption's work, a new song of praise is heard in heaven, in which angels and men and "every creature" join. Redemption is the new song for them all.

"The highest angel never saw

So much of God before."

In creation there is seen the work of his hands. In providential government, the wisdom that controls. In redemption, the grace that saves and the out gushing fulness of a mighty heart that loves! "That was not first which was spiritual, but that which was natural, and after that which was spiritual." The first creation vivified earth; the second vivified man. And not only so, but the song will be ever new. Its theme will never tire. Its strains will never weary the ear. So long as saved men love to recall how much they owe unto their Lord, so long as they love to contrast what they receive with what they deserve, the song will be ever new to them. And as long as holy beings in all worlds delight to celebrate the noblest disclosures of the heart of God, so long will redemption's song be new to them all! Note: We need not, we ought not to wait till we get to heaven ere we begin that song. Nay, we cannot. We cannot help singing it now.

"E'er since by faith I saw the stream

Thy flowing wounds supply,

Redeeming love has been my theme,

And shall be till I die!"

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Revelation 5:1-14

The adoration of the Lamb.

The theophany of Revelation 4:1-11. is continued in this. We are permitted to see more of the high court of heaven, and to witness the purpose of its session, the centre of its adoration, and the transactions in which its members share. We have surveyed the throne and him that sat thereon, the rainbow above the throne, the crystal sea, the burning torches, the elders and the cherubim, and their worship of God. But now the vision is enlarged, and we behold the seven-sealed book, or scroll, held in the right hand of him that sat on the throne; then the coming forth of a mighty angel, who challenges all in that august assembly, and all everywhere, be they who they may, to open the book. Then follows the hush of awful silence, which is the only response the angel's challenge receives; whereat St. John weeps much. Then is heard the voice of one of the elders, bidding him "Weep not," and at once the chief portion and purpose of the whole vision is disclosed. St. John sees, fronting the throne and attended, as was he who sat thereon, by the living ones and the elders, the "Lamb as it had been slain." Strange, incongruous, and almost inconceivable is that figure, with its seven horns and seven eyes. Great painters, as Van Eyck, have tried to portray it, but they have rather lessened than enlarged our conceptions of the truths which the symbol as it stands here in this vision so vividly sets forth. Here, as everywhere in this book, it is the ideas, and not the forms which symbolize them, which are of consequence. And, then, the Lamb is represented as coming and taking the book out of the hand of him that sat upon the throne; whereupon the first adoration of the Lamb takes place. The "living ones" and the elders, each now seen with harp and censer of gold full of odours—they, together, sing the "new song." And, lo, on the outskirts of this heavenly scene, gathering round and enclosing the whole, appear now myriads of angels, and they lift up their voices in like holy adoration of the Lamb. And now a third burst of praise, and from a yet more varied and multitudinous choir, is heard by the enraptured seer. From the heavens above, from the earth beneath, and from the regions of the departed—from those whom the earth covered over in the quiet grave, and those whom the sea had swallowed up,—there arose their anthem of praise to God and to the Lamb. And with the united "Amen" of the four living ones and the elders, as they prostrate themselves in worship, this vision of the adoration of the Lamb ends. Observe Christ as—

I. THE CENTRE OF ALL REVELATION. We behold him:

1. In his premundane glory. We cannot know, and yet less comprehend, much of this. Only that he came forth from God, was in the beginning with God; that he dwelt in the bosom of the Father, in glory which he had with the Father before the world was. But what words could make this clear to our minds? We wait to understand.

2. In his Incarnation. We trace him from the manger at Bethlehem, all through his earthly life and ministry, to Gethsemane, Calvary, and the tomb. And we see him rising from the dead and afterwards ascending to the right hand of God. But we are permitted also to see him as—

II. THE CENTRE OF HEAVENLY ADORATION. See where he is—"in the midst of the throne," standing on that central space immediately in front of the throne, the Centre of all that holy throng, on whom all eyes rest, to whom every knee bows, and every tongue confesses. And what a circle that is! See its members. But he is the Centre; to him their adoring worship is given. Are we in sympathy with this? Is he the Centre of our heart's worship and love?

III. THE REVEALER AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE PURPOSES OF GOD.

1. God has such purposes. The book held in his right hand is the symbol thereof. It contains his mind, his will, his decrees. Nothing is left to chance. All is ordered and settled.

2. But that book is sealed. Completely, absolutely; this is the meaning of the seven seals. If one seal were removed, which by man it can never be, but a portion of those purposes would be disclosed. "His ways are past finding out."

3. But it is essential that that book should be taken and opened. Hence the angelic challenge, and St. John's tears when none was found to accept that challenge. What would the world be without the revelation of God? We know; for "the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." Would that we thought more of our own obligation to the revelation of God's will, that we might, as we ought to, be more eager that others should possess it who now have it not!

4. The Lord Jesus Christ comes forward. There can be no manner of doubt that he is meant. Though described as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," yet he is seen as a Lamb—a little Lamb ( ἀρνίον), and with the marks of its slaughter yet upon it, the scars and wounds of his sacrifice yet visible. He advances and takes the book. And so we learn that he is the Trustee, the Depositary, the alone Revealer of the Divine will. All truth is in his keeping.

5. But he is not only the Revealer, but the Administrator of the Divine purposes. As he opens each seal that which he discloses is at once accomplished. He is seen controlling and ruling all. What joy to think of this! For he is—

IV. PERFECTLY QUALIFIED TO BE ALL THIS. Observe in the vision his seven horns. This means:

1. He has fulness of power. The horn is the symbol of strength. Hence "seven horns" mean fulness of strength. Christ is "mighty to save." The gates of hell shall not prevail against him. They will, they do try, as they have long tried, but in vain. For:

2. He has also the fulness of the Spirit. The Lamb was seen with "seven eyes," and these are explained as denoting the same as the seven torches (Revelation 4:5), the seven, that is, the perfect, full, complete power, though diverse in working, of the Spirit of God. For Christ's victory is to be achieved, not over human bodies, but over human spirits, and his power must and does correspond to the opposition he has to meet. And over all the earth his Spirit goes: has not that Spirit come to us, and when he comes the human spirit ceases to resist, and is blessed in yielding?

3. And he has all right. "Thou art worthy:" so sing all the heavenly choirs.

4. And his is fulness of lore. "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us by thy blood"—this is the overwhelming thought which prostrates the souls of all his redeemed ones in an agony of insolvent gratitude; that he, Son of God, who was with God and was God, that he should have been content to come hither to this thorn-strewn earth of ours, and to live here the life of a poor, meek man, and then to die upon the cross for us—"herein is love;" and herein is also his supreme qualification to reveal and administer the will of God.

V. THEREFORE IS THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB. Let us join in it. We shall do so if we remember what he has revealed, and that he is the Administrator of all our affairs.—S.C.

Revelation 5:5

The mediatorial power of Christ.

"And one of the elders saith," etc. St. John is first shown Christ as Head of his Church, ruling here on earth. This his first vision. Then he is transported to heaven, and sees the throne set there, and its attendants and their worship. Then the coming forth of the Son of God, and the representation of his mediatorial sovereignty. But first there is the vision of the throne of God, for he is the Source and End of all authority. God was and shall be "all in all." But his power is seen in this vision as delegated to Christ as Mediator. For this vision—

I. SYMBOLIZES THE MEDIATORIAL POWER OF CHRIST. It does this by representing:

1. The Lamb in the act of taking the book out of the hand of him that sat on the throne. Note the book in God's hand; the challenge of the angel, unanswered; and St. John's distress thereat. But now the Lamb prevails, etc. The meaning of the book, or roll, is the plan or policy of a state, the will and purpose of a ruler. God speaks of his book; of blotting out names therefrom. Scribes were important personages because of their agency in preparing such decrees. The taking of the book, therefore, is as when a minister of state in our days receives his portfolio; it signifies his commission to know, comprehend, and execute the counsels and decrees therein contained. Thus, as receiving his commission, the vision represents our Lord.

2. The origin of his mediatorial power. It was derived from the Father. Christ ever afiirmed that he "received of the Father," that he came "not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him;" Christ was "the Man whom he had ordained;" "God hath spoken unto us by his Son;" "All things are committed unto me of my Father," etc. The mystery of the Trinity is perhaps insoluble by us, but as to the truth of the doctrine, it pervades, not this vision only, but the whole Bible.

3. The nature of it. The vision represents Christ as One that was capable of, and had suffered, death. He was, therefore, human as well as Divine. His human origin as well as his Divine glory are both shown, and because he was the God-Man he became Mediator between God and man.

4. The exercise of his mediatorial power. This by his taking the book and loosing the seals thereof, whereupon, as each seal is opened, that which he thus discloses is at once begun to be accomplished. The Apocalypse discloses the fate and fortunes of the Church, and of the world as related to it. Information and reserve characterize these disclosures. They tell of a great struggle, in which all creatures engage; that it is for moral ends, and centres round man. Hell and its plans and apparent triumphs are shown; also her overthrow, and at last the full redemption of the Church and the establishment of the kingdom of God. Now, all this Christ not only reveals, but executes. For this he has the seven horns of omnipotent might, and the seven eyes of omniscient wisdom. But it is in their execution that the Divine purposes are fully revealed. As yet we know but parts of them. The apostles only knew the Scriptures when, not before, they were fulfilled. And how vast is:

5. The extent of his power! It is over all physical and all moral natures; over the present and the future; over the grave and death; over angels and devils; over every soul in every land, age, and condition. All are subject unto him. God "left nothing that is not put under him" (1 Corinthians 15:1-58.). And:

6. Its final end and completions. It has such an end. The very idea of a "book" is that of something which comes to an end, which is for a definite and limited purpose. Christ must reign, not forever, but "till he bath put all things under his feet." Then cometh the end (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). The book is a definite thing. The existing systems of grace and providence are not everlasting; they subserve ends beyond and higher than themselves; they are but preliminary and initiative; their completion is yet hidden, and will fill and brighten eternity. Further, the vision—

II. EXHIBITS THE BASIS ON WHICH HIS MEDIATORIAL POWER RESTS, He "prevailed," but by right, not by force; in virtue of his being:

1. The Lion of the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:9.) Hence his right was from his office, the position it was predicted he should fill. And his life and his conquest over Satan, sin, man, death, all verified the truth of Jacob's dying prophecy.

2. The Root of David. Hence, by descent also, as Heir of him to whom God's promises of universal rule had been given. But chiefly because he was:

3. The Lamb slain. Thus the pre-eminent right secured by his atonement is set forth. The Lamb is the Centre of heaven. Hence his cross claims his crown; the sufferings of Christ, the glory that should follow. The term "worthy" is used in reference to this right thus obtained. The cross affirms every principle of moral law. As all creation is for moral ends, so supremely is the cross of Christ. He is worthy because he was slain.

III. REVEALS THE RESULTS CONTEMPLATED BY HIS MEDIATORIAL POWER. They are four.

1. To set forth the glory of the Son of God. See the adoration of the Lamb, how intense, how universal, how unceasing. All things are for him, as they are by him. All men are to "honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." And by his mediation this glory is secured. He had glory before the world was. But he has far more now, and yet more shall be his. He is seen amid all the confusions and calamities of life to be our one Hope and Stay. "Christ is all and in all," and so is he glorified.

2. To secure the accomplishment of man's redemption. "Thou hast redeemed us:" so the heavenly choirs sing over and over again. And Christ has his redeemed. See how the Church is described: as the bride; heir; joint heir with Christ; kings; priests unto God; his body, etc. Yes, Christ hath redeemed us.

3. To demonstrate the unity of the Divine counsels and the progressive character of the Divine works. The mediatorial system is not external to, but part of the system of, the universe. It is essential to its moral order and bound up with all its history. Sin was an inroad upon, and an invasion, violation, and disruption of, the Divine rule. Inevitable if the gift of free will was to be granted as it was; and hence some means for the reparation of this great disaster had to be found, and for the demonstration of the consistency of the wise, the holy, and the all-loving God. All human sin, protracted so awfully and so wearily age after age, is yet but an episode in the course of the Divine administration; like as a war is but an episode in the history of a nation. And the mediation of Christ is the method of God for undoing the evil man's sin has wrought.

4. To issue in the glory of the Father and to show this as the end and aim of all things. "That God may be all in all:" such is its chief end; as for each one of us, so for all human history, and all the Divine dealings with us in Christ our Lord. Let us by self surrender to Christ fall in with that blessed purpose, and so one day rejoice in its perfect fulfilment. (Adapted from notes of sermon by late Rev. G. Steward, of Newcastle.)—S.C.

Revelation 5:6

The goings forth of the Holy Ghost.

"The seven Spirits of God which are sent forth," etc. In all possible ways the Church declares her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemption. By the name, Christian; by the sacrament of the Holy Supper; by symbols—the cross everywhere; by her literature, etc. And all this is right; the example of it is given in Scripture, for Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible: "Him first, him last, him midst, and without end." But this is not all the truth. For it is equally true that the holy and perfect Spirit of God is sent forth into all the earth—working in, upon, for, and around us everywhere. The doctrine is most blessed, and an essential part of the gospel of Christ, though it has not the prominence in our thought or speech that "the truth as it is in Jesus" receives. We do not realize as we should that the Holy Spirit is the Christ within us, and whose coming made it "expedient" that the Christ who in our nature died. for us upon the cross "should go away." Note—

I. THE EVIDENCE FOR THE GOING FORTH OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We see the Spirit striving with men in the days of Noah; as yet earlier and more successfully—because the striving was with matter, not with mind—we see him bringing order out of chaos at the Creation. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?" asks the psalmist; "or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" David piteously pleads, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me!" His presence is recognized in every part of the sacred history, and in the New Testament Pentecost is told of, and the truths concerning him are dwelt upon still more at large. In this Book of Revelation we read once and again of his gracious work (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6. Cf. also conclusion of all the letters to the seven Churches, Revelation 2:1-29 and Revelation 3:1-22.). At Revelation 19:10 we are told that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The Holy Spirit confirms the "voice from heaven" (Revelation 14:13), which declares, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit," etc. It was under the influence of the Spirit the book was written: "I was in the Spirit," St. John repeatedly affirms. And at the end of the book the Spirit is heard along with the bride and others, bidding all come and take the water of life freely. Scripture, therefore, does plainly tell of a Spirit—the Spirit of God, "sent forth into all the earth."

II. THE MANNER OF HIS GOING FORTH. This seen:

1. In nature.

2. Amongst men. Here it is that the Divine Spirit's work may be most manifestly seen.

3. In the Church. Here, of course, it is most of all to be seen. Let the waters of a lake be agitated by any cause, the greatest movements will be seen nearest the point where that which stirred the waters came into contact with them, although the movements will not stay until the whole body of the lake has been more or less affected thereby. And so, because the Church is the point of contact, amid the wide extent of humanity at large, with the blessed power of the Spirit of God, therefore in the Church will his power most of all be seen, though his power goes forth far beyond. In the Church it is seen in all stages of the spiritual life—in conviction, conversion, inward peace, bright hope, growing holiness. And in all the manifestations of that life—trust, fidelity, charity, zeal, self-denial, love, joy, peace, etc. It is more evidently seen in great spiritual movements like that at Pentecost, in which vast numbers of human hearts are touched, moved, and saved thereby. Then everybody notes it, and asks, "What strange thing is this?" But it may be seen, also, in equally real operation in the case of individuals who, one by one, the Holy Spirit draws to God. And this going forth shall be seen again:

4. At the resurrection. "The Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies," etc. (Romans 8:11). Each spring season is God's perpetual parable of the resurrection. The whence, the whither, and the cause are all portrayed when

"The spring-tide hour

Brings leaf and flower."

CONCLUSION. If we be asked—Why, if it be so that the Spirit of God thus goes forth, why is the world no better? we can only reply:

1. The higher the life the longer its development demands. What wonder, then, that "the end is not yet"?

2. The Spirit may be resisted; is so. The old fable of the sirens is of everyday fulfilment. The sweet, seductive song of the siren-like world lures souls in myriads to abandon the leading of the Spirit of God. Is it not so? The wonder is, not that so few escape, but that any do. No wonder, therefore, that his work is slow.

3. But it is sure. The Spirit is likened to fire—to torches of fire (see Revelation 4:1-11.), which will stand the rough blasts of the world and the tempests of sin, and yet burn on. And as fire transforms and strives strenuously till it gains its ends, so we believe the Spirit will, for we "believe in the Holy Ghost."

4. What reception has he from us? Doubt him not, resist him not, but seek his aid for yourselves, for others, and, as you so do, you will increasingly believe in, see, and rejoice in, the goings forth of the Spirit of God.—S.C.

Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:12-14

The triple doxology.

In these sublime chapters these doxologies stand out prominently. Note concerning them—

I. WHAT IS COMMON TO THEM ALL. They are all ascribed to the Lamb. Exclusively in the first two; united with "him that sitteth on the throne," in the third; but in all the Lamb is prominent. From this we learn:

1. We cannot render too much honour to Christ. He is seen "in the midst of the throne," and the Centre of all that heavenly circle, and the Object of their united adoration. We therefore cannot exceed in our worship of him. We scarce know how, we need not know how, to distinguish between him that sitteth on the throne and between him that is in the midst of the throne. The worship of one is the worship of the other, and of the other of the one. Christ is everything to us—"all and in all," as St. Paul affirms, and as this vision shows. The fact is, we cannot worship God without worshipping Christ. No man cometh or can come to the Father but by him. The very thoughts and ideas that we have of God we gain through him. Those varied human expressions concerning God which we find in the Old Testament are but anticipations of the confirmation they were to receive through him who, coming from the Father, should take our nature and so reveal the Father to us.

2. Nor can we think too much of the cross of Christ. It is to him as to the Lamb, the Lamb slain and who hath redeemed us by his blood, that this adoration is given. It is the cross of Christ that speaks peace to the contrite heart, that assures of perfect sympathy the sad and distressed mind, that gives new strength and resolve to the tempted soul. Well does Watts sing—

"Oh, the sweet wonders of that cross

On which my Saviour groaned and died!

Her noblest life my spirit draws

From his dear wounds and bleeding side."

II. WHAT IS PECULIAR TO EACH.

1. The first doxology.

(a) The four living ones. Representative (see previous homily) of perfectly redeemed humanity—the condition in which man shall be when Christ has drawn all men unto him; when he shalt have put all enemies under his feet. They are represented as "four," to signify the worldwide scope of Christ's redemption: "They shall come from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west."

(b) The twenty-four elders. These represent the Church of God. They are twenty-four because of the twenty-four courses of priests (1 Chronicles 24:3-19). They are the instruments by which mankind at large shall be won for God. The manifold wisdom of God is to be made known through, the Church.

(a) The outward homage of the body: "they fell down." The attitude of the body not merely symbolizes, but often assists, the worship of the mind. The posture of reverence is helpful to the feeling of reverence, and therefore is not to be regarded as unimportant.

(b) Music and song. They had "harps," and they "sung a new song." Music alone of all the arts is to be perpetuated m heaven. We read not of painting or sculpture, but music and song are there. For music is the utterance of thoughts too deep for words. Much is given to us besides language, to express our thoughts—tones, looks, tears, cries, and music also. Moreover, music is symbolical of the life of heaven. As in music so there, there is no self will. Music is only possible by absolute obedience to the laws of harmony. Obedience is its life. And how glorious is that music which is consecrated to God's praise!

(c) Intercessions for those on earth. This seems to me the significance of the incense-laden censers, the "vials full of odours," which are spoken of. How can the Lord of love be more truly worshipped than by sympathies, thoughts, and deeds of love? Is it to be imagined that the blessed in heaven cease to care for their poor troubled brethren on earth?—that the love they had for them is all gone, evaporated? God forbid! And here it is shown that as here on earth they loved to pray for and with them, so in heaven they do the same (cf. Revelation 6:10; cf. also Luke 1:10; Exodus 30:36-38). In such intercession Christ sees the fruit of the Spirit he has given them.

(a) The worthiness of Christ.

(b) The redemption he has wrought—so real, so universal, so costly.

(c) The results of it: "made us kings," etc. (Revelation 5:10).

Such is the first doxology; it is the praise of the redeemed for their redemption. We do not now seem to value it so highly; many other things seem to us more precious—wealth, friends, success, pleasure. But when we see things as they really are, then this gift of gifts, all gifts in one, our redemption, will be prized and praised as now it too seldom is.

2. The second doxology. This, though joined in—as how could it be otherwise?—by those who sang the first, is more especially that of the angels. In myriads upon myriads they gather round and cry, "Worthy is the Lamb." Unto these "principalities and powers in the heavenlies" is made known, "by means of the Church," the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). These "things" they "desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). How, then, can they, who rejoice over one sinner brought to repentance (Luke 15:1-32.), fail to be filled with rapture when they behold that which the Lamb slain has done? Therefore to him to whom all this is due they render praise, affirming the certain truth that all the power, the riches of grace, the wisdom, and might, which were conspicuous in man's redemption, and the honour and glory on account thereof, are to be ascribed to the Lamb. "By grace are ye saved, not of yourselves"—such is the reminder the angels give. We are slow to recognize this, and too ready to attribute overmuch to ourselves.

3. The third doxology. (Revelation 5:13.) The Church, the angels, have uttered theirs; and now creation, in all her forms—man living and dead not excluded, for" those under the earth" (cf. Job 10:21, Job 10:22; Isaiah 14:9), those who have departed this life and are now in the realm of the shadow of death—are named, and they all unite in this praise (cf. Philippians 2:10). St. Paul seems to teach (Romans 8:19-23, and especially Romans 8:21), that there shall be a redemption for it also—a deliverance "from the bondage of corruption." When we think of the sorrows and sufferings of those creatures of God who have no sins of their own to answer for, being incapable of sin, though not of suffering, it is a blessed revelation that in some form or other unknown to us they shall share in the blessings Christ hath brought. The psalms are full of invocations to creation in its various forms—the seas, the trees, "everything that hath breath," "all creatures"—to "praise the Name of the Lord." And here in this vision we behold creation, along with angels and redeemed men, uniting in this praise. Who that has heard the marvellous echo of shout or horn amid the Alps does not remember how the sound spreads and travels on further and further, till height and crag and soaring summit seem to hear, and at once give back the sound? So with the adoration of the Lamb, the doxologies of which this chapter tells. They begin, they should, with the redeemed Church and saved man; they are caught up by the myriads of angels, they are heard and repeated by the whole creation of God. How is the reflection forced upon us of the relation in which we stand to this all-glorious redemption. In the fibre of this universal praise dare we reject or trifle with it? What madness! Shall we not embrace it with our whole heart, and seek to know the joy and every blessedness of it more and more, so that at the last, with all the saved, we may fall "down and worship him that liveth forever and ever"? And if we are trusting in Christ, let there be in our lives and on our lips more of praise. Let us not be forever wailing our litanies, but let us learn more of the language of praise. We have been too remiss in this. But whenever we have caught the blessed spirit of these doxologies, how good it has been for us! The devil is eager enough to dishonour Christ: all the more let us be eager to praise.—S.C.

HOMILIES BY R. GREEN

Revelation 5:1-7

The sealed book.

The homily must be based upon the interpretation. For our guidance we take the view which regards this sealed book as a title deed, the background of the figure being found in Jeremiah 32:6-16. It is the title deed of the purchased possession—the redeemed inheritance—which noone has a right to touch or open but him to whom it belongs; concerning whom it may be said, "The right of redemption is thine to buy it." Concerning "the Lamb," this is recognized by the song of "the elders:" "Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation." The redemption of men is therefore the ground of the worthiness, the ability, the right to open the book, to loose the seals, to look thereon. "The Lamb that was slain" alone may take the book "out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne."

I. THE BOOK.

1. Not the book of "the Revelation."

2. But the roll of the covenant—the title deed.

3. A sealed document. Not representing the hidden nature of its contents. The breaking of the seals not a disclosure. The breaking of the seals coincident with stages in the process of taking possession of the purchased inheritance.

4. The book pertains to the Lamb. To him who is the Lamb—the Redeemer—belongs the possession. To him belongs the title deed. He takes possession of his own.

II. THE REDEEMER.

1. The Lamb. "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" is also the Lamb. The latter symbolically representing his sacrificial character. He is the Lamb, as he is the Offering and a Sacrifice.

2. The Lamb appeared "as though it had been slain." "We have redemption in his blood." Whatever the Lamb of sacrifice represented he was in the utmost degree—a means and a pledge of salvation, an Offering, a Propitiation.

3. But the Lamb liveth again. Thus is presented to the eye of the seer the most cheering of all objects—the crucified and slain but risen Lord, the Conqueror of death, then of sin and of all that side with sin.

4. He has perfect power: "seven horns."

5. Perfect, sevenfold, spiritual grace: "seven eyes which are the seven Spirits of God." He is perfect as a Redeemer. The price of his own blood he has paid: "With thy blood;" "A death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first" and second "covenants;" "How much more shall the blood of Christ!" "Having obtained eternal redemption."

III. THE REDEEMED INHERITANCE.

1. Men "of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."

2. Redeemed from alienation, from sin and dispersion.

3. To be a kingdom.

4. Also a priesthood.

5. Exalted to honour: "they shall reign," even on the earth.

This the one work of him who goeth forth conquering and to conquer. The true Redeemer by price of his blood, by power of his Spirit. Of this redeemed possession he holds the title deed. He only is worthy. He is the rightful heir.—R.G.

Revelation 5:8-10

The song of the redeemed host.

The triumphant host, the redeemed possession, purchased unto God, give their glory. The whole Church in their representatives give ceaseless praise to him who in humility bare their sins in his own body on the tree.

I. THE SONG OF THE CHURCH IS EVER UNTO, AND IN PRAISE OF, THE LAMB. Never can those harps be unstrung; never can the song of redemption cease to mingle with the song of the universe. Ever will he be "matter of all their praise."

II. THE SUBJECT OF THE SONG IS THE WORTHINESS OF THE LAMB. "Thou art worthy" to receive and hold the title deed of the inheritance. The possession he has purchased. It is his. His be the title to it. He claims, and justly claims, a redeemed race as his. To this the sealed book is the title deed. The taking possession by power of that which he had purchased by price is the work represented throughout the Revelation.

III. THE SONG IS THE TRIBUTE OF THE REDEEMED HOST TO HIM TO WHOM THEIR REDEMPTION IS DUE. The lowly song of the redeemed stands over against the humiliation of "the Lamb." His "worthiness" takes the place of the "curse" which he bore. The jeers of the multitude on earth are exchanged for the song of the thankful host in heaven, tie who was slain now liveth forever. Truly he sees the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.

IV. THE SONG REVERTS TO THE GRACIOUS PROCESS OF REDEMPTION.

1. The acknowlodged need. He who confesses Jesus to be a Saviour thereby acknowledges his lost condition.

2. Sacrificial death of the Redeemer: "Thou wast slain."

3. The redemptive character of his work: "And didst purchase with thy blood."

4. The redeemed a Divine possession. They are purchased "unto God;" they are made a kingdom and priests "unto God."

V. THE SONG RISES INTO A JOYFUL RECOGNITION OF THE EXALTED STATE OF THE REDEEMED. Seen:

1. In their relation to God.

2. In their compact union as a kingdom under Divine rule.

3. In their universal priesthood holding its privileged and acknowledged approach unto God.

4. In their elevation to highest dignity in the dominion assigned to them on earth. This last a secret comfort to the persecuted and downtrodden Church. In the final triumph, honour, and glory, the suffering host of God to find its reward.—R.G.

Revelation 5:11-14

The angelic and universal chorus.

Now the song bursts out beyond the circles of the redeemed host. "The voice of many angels," even "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands," bears onwards the same burden of song, "Worthy is the Lamb," and the chorus is completed only when it is taken up by "every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea;" and the song ascribes "the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion" unto "him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb," and that "forever and ever."

"The whole creation join in one

To bless the sacred Name

Of him that sits upon the throne,

And to adore the Lamb."

The vision is prophetic—it anticipates the final condition, the ultimate triumph of redemption, the ultimate acknowledgment of it. It is the song from the redeemed, and declares the widespread influence of redemption. It is creation's song. All creatures, "every created thing," praises the creating and redeeming Lord.

I. IT IS THE UNIVERSAL RECOGNITION OF THE BLESSINGS OF REDEMPTION.

1. The angelic host, forming a semi-chorus, exult in the gracious work of the Lamb—in which figure must be seen represented the total idea of redemption by "the Lamb of God." Angels, who desired to "look into" these things, have found in them matter for praise. High above the incidents of the human history rises the image of him to whom all is due.

2. The "great voice" of the many angels "and the living creatures and the elders" is exceeded by that of "every created thing" in heaven, earth, and sea, even "all things that are in them." This voice of the entire, the grand chorus, the holy seer heard. It was his to discern the beneficent effect of redemption, his to catch the re-echoing song of all things as they praised the holy Name. It stands as the counterpart to "God cursed the ground for man's sake." All is ordered and readjusted. The disturbance by sin gives place to the harmony of all creation "in him" in whom all things are "gathered together in one."

3. All is followed by the solemn "Amen," the reverent assent of the four living creatures—representatives of all creature life, not excluding the Church.

II. IT IS CREATION'S TESTIMONY TO THE GLORY OF GOD IS THE REDEMPTION OF MEN.

III. IT IS DECLARATIVE OF THE UNIVERSAL INTEREST IN THE HISTORY OF THE REDEEMED RACE. The angels, who rejoiced over one sinner repenting, rejoice now in the completed work of the universal redemption. They who saw "first the blade," and sang over it, now behold "the full corn in the ear," and offer their loudest praise to the Lord of the harvest. Herein is signified the unity of the entire creation. Subtle links bind all in one. Each part is helpful to the other. There is mutual harmony, and there are mutual dependence and relationship. The whole finds its termination in a new act of adoring worship: "The four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped." As is most meet, the praise of all is paid to him "of whom and to whom and for whom are all things."

The Church below may learn:

1. The certainty of the final triumph of the Lamb in his own conquering work of redemption.

2. The identification of the work of redemption with the purposes of creation.

3. The duty of praise to God for this his unspeakable gift.

4. The sympathy of the angelic and universal life in the spiritual career of the redeemed.—R.G.

HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS

Revelation 5:1-5

The government of God.

"And I saw," etc. Concerning the government of God, observe—

I. THAT IT IS CONDUCTED ACCORDING TO A VAST PRECONCERTED PLAN. There was a book, seven pieces of parchment rolled together, and each one sealed, in the hand of him that "sat on the throne." The Almighty never acts from impulse or caprice, but ever from plan or law. And this plan is truly vast, wonderfully comprehensive. It is "written within" and on the "back side." This book contains the germs of all books—the archetypes of all existences, the outlines of all histories. "In thy book all my members were written, when as yet there were none of them." All that shall happen through the vast futures of individuals, families, nations, worlds, are mapped out on the pages of this wonderful book. The universe in all its parts and complicated movements is but the practical and palpable working out of its contents. The world is God's great will in action. Predestination is no special doctrine of the Bible; it is written on every part of nature. It includes as truly the motions of an atom as the revolutions of a world—the growth of a plant as the conversion of a soul. True philosophy, as well as Christianity, resolves everything but sin into the predestination of Infinite Love.

II. THIS VAST PRECONCERTED PLAN IS SEALED IN MYSTERY, Two thoughts are here suggested concerning its mystery.

1. That it transcends all finite intelligence. Some high spirit in the Divine empire is here represented as exclaiming, "Who is worthy to open the book, and too lose the seals thereof?" The question falls on the ear of universal mind, and produces no response; the challenge rings through the creation, and no one accepts it. "No man in heaven; nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon." I refer this mystery, not to the Creator's intention, but to the creature's incapacity. His glory is not in concealing only, but in manifesting. Concealment arises not from any effort on his part, but from the necessary limitations of finite intellect. The deep purposes of the Infinite can never be unsealed and deciphered by the finite. "His judgments are a great deep."

2. That it is frequently the source of great mental distress. "I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." The most earnest thinkers in all ages have shed many tears in wrestling with some of the

. Man is but the trustee of his wealth; Christ is the Proprietor.

II. BECAUSE HE HAS ENABLED YOU TO PROCURE IT, Why have you wealth more than others? Has it come to you through heirdom, legacy, or your own industry? In either case you have it through Christ. Perhaps you ascribe it to your shrewdness, your industry, your management: but whence came these? All business aptitudes and opportunities are the gift of Christ. All the conditions by which your wealth has been attained are according to his arrangement.

III. BECAUSE HE GIVES YOU THE QUALIFICATIONS TO ENJOY IT. Do you enjoy your wealth?—enjoy all the conveniences, comforts, and powers which it imparts? If so, why? All do not. The miser does not, the invalid does not, the idiot does not. Who gave you the unmiserly spirit, the bodily health, the mental capacity, by which you enjoy your riches? All the qualifications that you have for enjoying your property are his gifts.

IV. BECAUSE HE WILL MAKE THE BEST USE OF IT.

1. The best use of it for yourselves. There is no better investment. In truth it is for your sake that Christ wishes you to give it to him. He could have planted churches on every hill, schools in every valley, written his Bible on the broad heavens; but he knew right well that you would be better blest by contributing of your property to the diffusion of his truth. Your contributions to him serve you in many ways.

2. The best use of it for the world. When you are gone, Christ's Church will be here working with the means you have entrusted to it, and working to spread truth, virtue, and happiness through the world. "Worthy is the Lamb to receive riches." Don't shirk collections, don't regard them as trials. Hail them as blessings, and remember that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."—D.T.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 5:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/revelation-5.html. 1897.

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