A New Song
In what seems to have been a stream of movement, John experienced a climactic moment of heaven-wide worship and exultation. From the depths of despond, heaving wracking sobs, John soared to the heights of jubilation as the slain Lamb, Who was also the Lion of Judah, came into his view.
The touch of an elder’s hand and words of reassurance dried John’s tears, and perhaps his eyes followed the elder’s gaze and thrust-out hand, marking the remarkable amidst the grand scene before him.
The scene was not static, for even as John stared in wonder at the fantastic image before him, the Lamb moved to the throne and took the scroll from the One sitting there. When that happened, an eruption of Sensurround experiences poured forth.
Then [the Lamb] came and has taken it out of the right hand of the One sitting upon the throne.
And when He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell prostrate before the Lamb, each having a harp and broad shallow golden bowls being full of incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones―
And they sing a new song of praise, saying “Worthy are You to take the scroll and open the seals of it, for You were slain and You redeemed for God within Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and ethnicity,
“And You created them for our God, a kingdom and priests, and they will reign upon the earth.”Revelation 5:7-10
At first glance, this seems a fairly straightforward part of John’s vision, though the center of attention keeps shifting.
- The One seated upon the rainbow throne (Revelation 4:2-3)
- The twenty-four elders (Revelation 4:4)
- The Sevenfold Sprit of God (Revelation 4:5)
- The transparent sea surrounding the throne (Revelation 4:6)
- The four living creatures praising God (Revelation 4:6-8)
- The responsive praise of the elders (Revelation 4:9-11)
- The Seven-Sealed Scroll (Revelation 5:1)
- The mighty messenger angel (Revelation 5:2)
- Bitter grief that there was none worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5:3-4)
- The elder’s surprising reassurance (Revelation 5:5)
- The even greater surprise of the seven-horned, seven-eyed Lamb (Revelation 5:6)
I count eleven shifts, and now the twelfth shift becomes the true center: The Lamb about to open the seals of the scroll.
What are you and I seeing through John’s eyes?
The heavenly hosts’ paeon of praise points out the worthiness and also the power of Christ to reveal and make real all the mysteries of God. Therefore, the great celebration of the Lamb’s worthiness and power is ineluctably linked with what the Lamb has already done.
Jesus has proven his worthiness and power by His death and His resurrection.
The blood of the Lamb redeems every person who is “within” (ἐν | en) Christ’s blood. There is no barrier of ethnicity or kind to this redemption. In the Greek text, there is also no indication of “all,” “many,” “some,” or “few.” The way I translated it is practically a transliteration. Whole theologies are built around the supposed number of the redeemed, but here, in this text, John gives no amount.
Nevertheless, Christ’s blood is the key: those within Christ’s blood are the redeemed.
Jesus’s resurrection created out of these redeemed ones an entirely new kingdom, a kingdom established for God filled with priests to God. And it is the redeemed who either will reign, or right now are reigning upon the earth.
Historicists holding this perspective see Christianity spreading from nation to nation until all the rulers of earth claim Christ as Savior. At the culmination of bringing every domain under Jesus’s ascendancy, Christ will return.
In this view, all the redeemed are no longer enslaved to sin and death, but may now have the rule of themselves in a spiritual sense.
The focus in this view is on the difference between the old song in the previous chapter and the new song in this chapter.
Old Versus New
“Worthy are You, O Lord, and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, for You created all things, and through Your will they were existing and they were created.”Revelation 4:11
“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open the seals of it, for You were slain and You redeemed for God within Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and ethnicity,
“And You created them for our God, a kingdom and priests, and they will reign upon the earth.”Revelation 5:9-10
- The old song praised God for all the Lord has already created—the entire cosmos and all that exists, all heavenly and earthly things seen and unseen.
- The new song praises God for what is even now being created, the redeemed into a new kingdom, the earth receiving a new rule, the worship of God entirely renewed by newly sanctified priests.
Prayers of the Holy Ones
Now the golden bowls of aromatic incense come into the frame as the prayers of the “holy ones” fill heaven with rich scent. The word ἅγιος | hagios, translated “holy ones,” is used throughout the Greek scriptures to refer to believers (there are over sixty examples—wherever the word “saints” appears). The new song speaks of these prayers offered up by the redeemed on earth who were crying out for deliverance from bitter persecution.
Deliverance came when the new kingdom of priests – created by the redeemed – began to reign on earth, replacing the old kingdom of priests who would soon come under judgment as the Lamb broke open each of the seals.
Theologians in this circle see a dramatic change from everything having been written so far. John’s experiences and visions have been leading up to this very moment, as the opening of the scroll marks the beginning of the end of everything as we now know it.
End of the Age
Whenever Jesus spoke about the signs of the end of the age, He also enjoined believers to watch for and understand these signs.
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places:
all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.Jesus, Matthew 24:3-8 (NRSV)
This explains why futurist commentators pay such close attention to current events.
They have taken literally Jesus’s counsel to
Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.Matthew 24:42-44 (NRSV)
The golden bowls of prayers lifting up to God represent the entire two thousand years and counting of the church age. God’s redeemed long for Christ’s return, and for Jesus’s Millennium reign, when God’s kingdom of priests will literally reign with Him over all the earth.
The fulfillment of Daniel’s vision comes to pass, where the Son of Humanity receives dominion and a kingdom from the Ancient of Days. The prayers of the holy ones,
Let my prayer be counted as incense before youPsalm 141:2 (NRSV)
are represented, and the new song is the response of those redeemed in Christ to the establishing of the New Covenant.
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg