All authority in heaven and on earth rests in the palm of God’s hand. No one and nothing can alter the course of God’s will for human history. That authority, represented by the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation 5, could be transferred to anyone worthy enough to break the seals and open the scroll. But who could be found?
The Lamb stood in the midst of the heavenly host, ready to complete His work of redemption, bearing the marks of His death—His wounds and scars, just as John said, “as if slain” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus’s self-sacrifice led to His supreme power. The paradox is that the Lamb bears the scars of seeming defeat, but is endowed with the might of God.
But once the Lamb was revealed and took the scroll from the Father’s hand the scene suddenly changes from weeping to worshipping (Revelation 5:5).
The transfer of divine authority—the enthronement of Messiah—triggered an immediate outpouring of praise and worship of the Lamb.
When the Son takes the scroll from the Father, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders immediately prostrate themselves before the Lamb. And John described the elders as carrying harps—the only other instrument mentioned in heaven besides the trumpet and bowls (Revelation 5:8-10).
To aid in their worship of God, priests used harps and bowls in the temple. Since the function of the four living creatures isn’t priestly, we assume the harps and bowls were only held by the twenty-four elders, who at the enthronement ceremony sing songs of praise with instrumental accompaniment and offer incense to God (Numbers 16:6–7).
The golden bowls of incense probably represent the prayers of the saints. David asked the Lord to accept his prayers “as incense before You” (Psalm 141:2) and Luke describes what was taking place in the temple as incense was being offered on the altar—“the whole multitude of the people were in prayer” (Luke 1:10). Our prayers are like sweet incense to the Lord. He never turns His nose up or holds His nose whenever we pray to Him.
However, the specific reference to the golden bowls of incense in Revelation 5:8 probably refers to prayers yet to be answered, prayers for justice on the unrighteous (Luke 18:7–8), including “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
And the twenty-four elders “sang a new song” (Revelation 5:9). They sing a new song because something new is about to happen—the sinless Lamb sacrificed Himself for sinful humanity. And now that Lamb is about to unseal the book of redemption, it begins the final steps that will lead to His taking possession of the people and the earth He has redeemed with his blood.
While the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are worshipping the Lamb, John suddenly notices additional voices—angelic voices—joining the chorus of praise. John described these voices as “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11).
If we take John’s number literally—“myriads of myriads”—that would be 200 million angels. The cacophony of praise must be overwhelming; nothing like it has ever been heard on earth.
The angels praise the Lamb for seven perfect attributes. Look at them in Revelation 5:12:
- Power – There is no plan or purpose that Jesus Christ cannot carry out.
- Riches – There is no promise that Jesus Christ does not have the resources to fulfill.
- Wisdom – There is no problem that Jesus Christ cannot solve.
- Might – There are no powers of evil that Jesus Christ cannot defeat.
- Honor – There are no princes that Jesus Christ does not rule above.
- Glory – There are no principalities that Jesus Christ does not have divine rights to.
- Blessing – There are no privileges that Jesus Christ has not used in the service of others.
The Lamb possesses each of these attributes in abundance—completely and perfectly.
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are joined by the untold company of angels in their praise of the Lamb. Then John’s focus shifts again because to those countless voices are add the worship of all creation. “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” is how John put it (Revelation 5:13).
What is curious is John mentions those who are “under the earth.” This is a clear metaphor for the dead—for those who are in hades or Sheol. Speaking to the Lord, David wrote, “There is no mention of You in death; in Sheol who will give You praise?” (Psalm 6:5; see 30:9:88:10–12; Isaiah 38:18) But when it comes to the enthronement of the Lamb, all that is swept away, because not even the land of the dead is beyond the lordship of the living Christ. Even beyond the grave, the dead praise Christ.
Until that day comes, we have a choice. We can be a part of the heavenly crowd that falls down and worships Christ the Redeemer Who has restored us to a rightful position in Creation. Or we can choose to endure the awful judgments on earth of Christ the Righteous Judge and an eternity of separation from that God in hell.