We come then to this grand celebration of consummation of all things which has now been given to the Mediator to perform. The greatest celebration yet is reserved for the person of Jesus Christ. When He takes the book to begin the consummation the angels will lead the glorified saints to sing about their grand salvation. As we see in our text this snowballs into the whole host of heaven singing the praises of Christ and the whole of creation bowing before Him.
First, we see the response of the angels and elders. “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” We have already spoken about the significance of Jesus taking the book. He has indeed appeared victorious here in this scene. He is the only one that is worthy to approach God on the behalf of men and therefore the only one that can bring history to its grand conclusion. When He thus appears the four beasts, the cherubim, are the first to see and appreciate what has happened. They cannot logically sing the new song that is to follow for they are not redeemed but they can lead the saints in singing it. That is the best way I believe to take our text. The saints are still learning of the angels how to worship and are still being led by the angels in the proper means of worshipping God. Here they are led to adore Christ the Redeemer of men; the grand victor of all history.
Their response is to fall down before the Lamb. The same worship and reverence that was due to the Father on the throne is here given to the Son. They are one. Jesus thought it not robbery to be equal with God because He is God in the flesh. Those who deny His deity have a real problem trying to explain how Christ is worthy of the same reverence that is given to the Father. We have no such difficulty. They saw Christ high and lifted up and they therefore wanted to humble themselves beneath Him; to take the lowest possible position when presented with His majesty. Not only did they prostrate before Christ but they also fulfill two stations of worship. We have already compared the scene in the fourth and fifth chapters to the earthly tabernacle or the earthly temple. Here the believers are seen as the singers in the temple with their harps and as priests in temple with their incense (II Chr. 29:25). They are not only falling before Christ but they are offering the best of their worship up to Him here as well. We get the wrong idea in our Christian culture of having harps in heaven as being symbols of tranquility and rest. It is not so. The harps are symbols of worship. Music is worship of one sort another; we should remember that when we attempt to worship the Lord with the same sounds that fill the party houses of the world (I Chr. 13:8, Ps. 33:2). And the harp represents the most skilled formed of worship one can offer. We see this scene then as not just spontaneous worship of Christ but ordered and skilled worship toward Christ. We should do our best to emulate that kind of worship here on earth. They came before His presence with singing (Ps. 100). They came with singing and with prayers. A vial is a small flask sometimes referred to as a bowl, as we shall see later, which is used to carry precious oil or incense. Here it tells us what was in the vials. Just as Mary broke her alabaster box these were pouring forth the best they had and their odors will fill heaven. It tells us that the incense that they are offering up, in their priestly office is the prayer of the saints (note again that this does not teach that we are to pray to the saints which is idolatry but that the saints in heaven still pray). The saints have prayed for the kingdom to come and here those prayers come again. They have prayed for the will of God to be done in earth as it is in heaven and those prayers again ring. So, the sight of Christ causes the angels to lead the saints in humbled and skilled worship of the Savior.
Secondly, we see the new song of the saints. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” It was a new song in that it had never yet been sung in heaven. We while on earth have sung variations of this song while on earth but we will sing it new in heaven one day. In the same way we have ate the bread and drank the wine here on earth to remember Christ but one day we will eat and drink it new with Christ in heaven.
The song centers on the worthiness of Christ. We will speak a little more about that worthiness in a few minutes. The saints sing that Christ is worthy to take the book and to loose its seals. He is worthy to be the mediator between God and men and worthy to handle the secret counsels of God and bring history to its conclusion. He is worthy to rule and reign. But, the song goes further than His worthiness and it gives a reason for His worthiness. He is worthy because He was slain. This again is past tense. He was slain but yet He lives. He is worthy because He has conquered through his death. His death though accomplished all that proceeds. First, because Christ was slain He has redeemed us to God. I like that phrase “us to God” used here. That sums up the role which they are celebrating. It is Christ the Mediator that took the book and it is Christ the Mediator that is praised. He is able to save “all who come to God by Him” and no man can come to the Father but by Him (Heb. 7:25, John 14:6). He is the only way to God and that is celebrated here. He is worthy because by His death He paid the price for us. He is worthy because He stood as our Redeemer between God and men. And, let us not overlook the importance of the blood here as well. He redeemed us by His blood. The Lamb had to be slain and the blood had to be applied in order for the atonement to be made (Lev. 17:11) Redemption only comes from the shedding of blood (Eph. 1:14, Heb. 10:22). He had to shed His blood. His death would have been useless unless His blood had been spilled. “What can wash away my sins? Nothing, but the blood of Jesus!” And, His blood is universal in its ability. When we get to heaven we can sing that we, the glorified saints, have been saved from all corners of the globe. Every tribe, language, and nation will be represented among the saved in heaven. Four divisions are given; four being the number of this earth. One missionary rightly said that you can never take the gospel to the wrong address. No other religion is more inclusive than Christianity for the gospel does not belong to any single race, language, caste, or class of men. The redemption that made Christ worthy in this song is for whosever will.
His death not only redeemed us but it transformed us. He made us into something for our God. He made us kings to reign with Christ and priests. We have already dealt with what it means to be kings in priests in the first chapter. We are part of a royal priesthood through Christ if we are saved. The point is that Chirst did not redeem us only but also made something out of us. He made us to reign and He made us to worship. He also by His death has ensured that we will reign with Him. What a worthy Mediator He is when He has exalted the lowly sinner and hath given the lowly sinner the grand hope that he shall reign on the earth.
Thirdly, we see the unconstrained rejoicing of the host. “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” The angles could not hold their tongue when the saints glorified the Son. Just as they could not restrain themselves from singing at His birth, so they could not restrain themselves when He stands up for the consummation of all things. The angels according to Job sang at the creation, according to Luke they sang at the incarnation, and according to John here the angels sing at the consummation. John tried to give an estimate of the number of the angels he estimated 100,000,000 but was not satisfied with such a low number and added thousands of thousands to that. He could not number them himself and must have been in awe of the heavenly host (Dan. 7:10, Ps. 68:17). Remember that the declaration for all the angels of the hosts of heaven to worship is a matter of prophecy (see Ps. 148). Here the angels are singing “worthy is the Lamb.” They are attributing the same worthiness which belonged to God to the Lamb of God. They are singing to the Lamb a similar song that was sung to the one that sat on the throne. All glory indeed belongs to Christ and we rightly fall down to worship Him. There is a seven fold doxology of Christ here (seven being the number of perfection or completion). He is worthy to receive all power for He is the Almighty. He is worthy to receive all riches for though He was rich yet for our sakes He was made poor. He is worthy to receive all wisdom for He is the wisdom of God. He is worthy to receive all strength for He through weakness redeemed us. He is worthy to receive all honor because He is exalted above the heavens. He is worthy to receive all glory for He is the very glory of God. All that we have and more Christ is worthy to receive. “Were the whole realm of nature mine that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Fourthly, we see the breaking forth of all creation. “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Again, the same praise is given to the Father and the Son. The divinity of Christ is implicit throughout this text. Here there are four elements to the praise for it is centered on things in or surrounding this earth. It takes in the whole of creation as commanded in the psalm (Ps. 148). Jesus said that if men would not praise Him the rocks would cry out. I am not sure how this ties into the events on earth but there will be a moment that all the earth will glorify Christ and every knee shall bow. It may be that this was the premonition of John based on this event. It is prophetic as well. But, this scene in heaven does affect the earth. This is one worship service that will shake the whole earth.
Lastly, we see the act of worship. All of this has led us to worship at the feet of Christ. “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.” The end of this scene is a hardy Amen from the cherubim. When it was done all the glorified saints could do is fall down worshipping the one that lives forever and ever; that is Christ.