[A classic commentary on Revelation gives this exposition of 5:9-14–the concluding praise choruses of an apocalyptic vision of the exalted Son of God in heaven. May we sincerely echo this worship of our glorious Redeemer.]
“Worthy are You
To take the Book,
And to open the seals thereof,
Because You were slain
And did purchase a people for God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation
And didst make them to our God
A kingdom and priests,
And they reign over the earth” [Rev. 5:9].
This is the theme of the New Song. The worthiness of the Lamb [Jesus Christ] to take the Book [the prophetic scroll], because of the Redemption He had accomplished. The People had been once redeemed from Egypt, for it is in connection with the Exodus that Redemption is first mentioned in the Bible, in the Song of Exodus 15:13.
“You in Your mercy have led forth the people which You have redeemed:
You have guided them by Your strength unto Your holy habitation.”
But now the People have been scattered among “every kindred and tongue, and people and nation,” and therefore they must be redeemed from these, “the second time,” “like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt” (Isaiah 9:11,16)…
But the payment of the price is only one part of the work of redemption. If the price be paid and there be no power to take possession and eject the [previous] holder the payment is in vain. And if power be put forth and exercised in casting out the usurper, without the previous payment of the redemption price, it would not be a righteous action. So that for the redemption of the forfeited inheritance two things are absolutely necessary, price and power. The first redemption song [Rev. 5:9] has for its theme the payment of the price. The second [Rev. 5:11,12] celebrates the putting forth of the power.
We are first told by whom this second utterance is made. Revelation 5:11,12:
“And I saw and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and of the Zoa [living creatures], and of the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads saying with a loud voice
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, To receive
They give this sevenfold ascription as to the Lamb’s worthiness … These are all marked off by the Figure Polysyndeton (i.e., the use of “many ands”) which bids us consider each of these seven features of the Lamb’s worthiness separately. In doing this we are to note that the great theme is Redemption power and strength. Revelation 5:13:
“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and beneath the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them heard I saying
‘To Him that sitteth upon the throne And to the Lamb [be]
…For ever and ever.'”
This is the ascription of the whole creation. Hence it is four-fold because it is in connection with the earth (of which four is the [symbolic] number) and because He who sits upon the Throne is there in relation to the earth. Whereas the ascription to the Person of the Lamb slain [v.12] is seven-fold because Redemption blood was offered “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) [Isaiah 11:2 lists seven qualities of God’s Spirit].
“And the four Zoa [living creatures] said
and the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped” (Rev. 5:14).
It seems almost profane to attempt to explain, and comment on these heavenly utterances. They are Heaven’s own comment on the wondrous facts seen and heard by [the apostle] John, and brought before us in this first vision seen “in heaven.” When again He brings the First-born into the world, He said “And let all the angels of God worship Him” (Heb. 1:6). This is the Septuagint rendering of Deuteronomy 32:43, the closing words of the Song of Moses. And why are all the nations there called on to “Rejoice,” and why are all the angels of God called on to worship Him? Because He is about to fulfill the threat He there pronounced and records:
“For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And will render vengeance to His adversaries,
And will be merciful to His Land,
And to His people.”
These are the concluding words of “the song of Moses.” Now, “the whole creation groans and travails in pain together” (Rom. 8:22), but then, [after the Second Coming of Christ] when the day to sing this song of Moses shall have come, and the glory of the Lord shines once more upon Israel, then the song will be in the words written:
“His way will be known upon earth
And His saving health will be made known among all nations:
Then shall the nations be glad and sing for joy.
Then shall our land yield her increase” (Psalm 67).
“The trees of the wood shall rejoice” (Psalm 96).
“The floods shall clap their hands
And the hills shall be joyful together” (Psalm 98).
“The beast of the field:
The fowl of the air:
And the fish of the sea:
And whatever passes through the paths of the sea, shall say,
‘Oh Jehovah Adonai, how excellent is Your name in all the EARTH'” (Psalm 8).
“And everything that hath breath” shall praise the Lord (Psalm 150) and say
E.W. Bullinger (1837-1913), Apocalypse (The First Vision in Heaven: Chapters 4-5). The biblical text is the author’s translation from the Greek text. Coutersy of: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bullinger/apocalypse.vi.html
Old English updated,Roman numerals interpreted, and content in parentheses added – JBW.