Revelation 5

We have had in the preceding chapter a sight of the greatest significance and interest; God unfolding the interior, so to speak, of heaven — its thoughts and its employment, before the fall of a single blow of judgment upon the earth comes before us. But the picture would have been incomplete, if the Holy Ghost had not added the scene which we have revealed to us in this chapter. For if there was a divine manifestation, and the elders entered with spiritual intelligence into the worship of God, acknowledging His glory in creation and in providential government, yet they had no song there, much less did they sing “the new song.” Now it is the great object of the chapter before us to show this other and fuller way in which the elders are found prostrating themselves before the Lamb, and worshipping Him. The Holy Ghost tales particular pains to point out that God, as He discloses Himself, must be the object, spring, and foundation of all the adoration from the creature that follows. It is not an image conceived by the mind of man; that would be an idol. We must have a divine revelation to have divine truth and acceptable worship. The images of Rev. 4 left God in a sort of mysterious grandeur and majesty. Accordingly the worship of the elders did not go beyond recognising that God had created and sustained all things. It was His glory in creation and in providence, and theirs was suited intelligent praise.

In this chapter we have a sweeter scene. And why? Because we have the Lamb. What blessing does He not bring! He has blotted out sin — has removed the sting of death — has brought us nigh to God, and has put a song in our mouth fit for His presence on high. In this blessed portion of the word we have, as the great subject of it, the bearing of redemption on the occupation or worship of heaven, and the connection of it with the counsels and ways of God on the earth. As long as it was only the creation-glory of God, we had no book at all. But now the prophet looks, and he sees in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book-roll written within and on the back side, sealed up with seven seals (verse 1). In ancient times a book was a manuscript roll, written only in the inside in ordinary cases. But here there is a fulness of revelation. It flows over, as it were, and is inscribed on the back as well as within, and altogether is secured by seven seals.

But observe that, if God is seen with this book in His hand, it is only the Lamb who opens, and in connection with the Lamb that the contents of the book appear. How plain that there never can be any opening out of God’s mind as regards things to come without the knowledge of Christ and of His glory in respect of them! Every Christian knows that there is no such thing as being saved without Christ; but many do not perceive that there is no real understanding of prophecy without Christ, nor any right knowledge of what the church is.

Thus men easily make religious societies, and call them churches. But I do not hesitate to say that it were easier to make heaven and earth than to make the church of God. But man’s presumption has risen to such a height that the highest and holiest things of God are made the work (not to say the sport) of human hands, because they have practically divorced the church from Christ. They treat the subject as optional and external, instead of owning that it is the especial field of the deepest and purest operations of the Spirit, the dearest object of the affections and the witness of the chief glories of Christ. The ordering of the church and the ways of God therein bring out the very depths and heights of divine wisdom and grace.

Again, one main difficulty now, as ever, is that those whom the Holy Ghost brings together round the name of the Lord are apt to carry with them a load of notions out of the country from whence they come — the long-cherished thoughts and habits which they have got to unlearn. They have also the same flesh as others — the same vanity, haste, conceit, etc. We must remember that what other people have done we are in no less danger of doing ourselves. If the church fell away so soon after God had brought out His new and blessed counsels of heavenly grace here below, it is much more easy now (when Christendom has forsaken and well-nigh forgotten its best privileges) to fall again into the same error and unfaithfulness. The great root of the mischief is the tendency to look at the church as ours, not Christ’s. You never know the full truth of anything that concerns either God or ourselves apart from Christ. It remains always true that “the law was given by Moses” (and he was a most honoured servant of God), but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

It is the same with prophetical interpretations. If I connect prophecy with myself, with my country, or my time, I may find in the seventh vial the last French Revolution, or the potato disease, or the Asiatic cholera, or the Crimean war, or the more recent struggles in Germany, Italy, and France. I may read the land “bordering with wings” of Great Britain and her colonies; I may interpret the vessels of bulrushes (Isa. 18) of her iron steamers. Do you think this too absurd? Christian men do so think, and this because they connect things with themselves instead of with Christ. The moment, on the other hand, anything is viewed in relation to Christ, He is the light, and we are delivered from these thoughts of men. For what is our country or our time? Neither one nor other is Christ. If I seek communion with Him, I shall at once be free from the desire to make something connected with myself the centre of. my system. If people look with an historical eye at the fall of the Roman empire or at the rise of the Papacy, at the dark ages, or at the previous invasions of the barbarians, they think it all very interesting, and assume that God could not have left these out of His book — that He must have said something about a transition so important. Thus even the invention of gunpowder has been conceived to be anticipated in Rev. 9, the discovery of America in Rev. 10, and the political importance of Protestantism in Rev. 11. In short, what is too wild for men to think they have not found out in the Apocalypse? And these things are put forth even by godly men. Is not God warning us by all this? May we be preserved from the same snare which has led away persons naturally as sober (or as weak) as we are! He shows us that no amount of information, learning, or ingenuity — nay, that not even piety — will enable us to understand God, or His word. What then will? Christ only.

The Lamb is the key to the things of God, and not our own minds. There are many who think that, the church being the peculiar object of God’s love, all prophecy must refer to it. Most erroneous idea! The reverse is true. It would be more true to say that the church is never the subject about which prophecy occupies itself. Its proper province is to treat of earthly events; but the church has its place in heavenly glory When we come really to apprehend this book, we find that judgment is the subject of it; and the express object of these two chapters is to show that, before one of the judgments comes from the throne, the church is taken out of the scene, and is housed, we may say, in heavenly glory. The joint-heirs being then with Christ, God prepares to introduce the First-born Heir into the world. Unless this is seen, the Revelation as a whole cannot be understood. A person might derive comfort from particular parts, but this is not comprehending the book. To understand the scope of the prophecy, I must make Christ the object, and not the church; otherwise I am out of the line of vision in which the Spirit wrote it. Not the church, but Christ, is the centre of God’s kingdom. Astronomers used to think that the earth was the centre round which the other heavenly bodies revolved, judging superficially by what presented itself to the senses. Christ is the true sun and centre of God’s system.

Here then we find God about to unveil what man’s mind could not possibly discover. “A strong angel proclaims with a loud voice,” etc. (verse 2). Angels are those that “excel in strength” — not in intelligence. It is nowhere taught that they possess the same kind of spiritual understanding as the members of the body of Christ, The angels are never said, nor could they be said, to be sealed with the Holy Ghost. But He it is, witnessing to Christ, who is the power of intelligence in the feeblest child of God. If I want to know the true place of the church, the body, I must look at the place of Christ the Head; and if I desire to learn what God is going to do with the earth, I must examine God’s account of Christ as Son of David and as Son of man. If I am (unwittingly, no doubt) putting the church in His stead, I shall get all wrong. It is most true that God loves His saints, and intends that they shall share with Christ the rule over all the earth. Man draws from this the conclusion that the church must go on and prosper here below; but when the divine revelations touching Christ are weighed more fully, I learn another truth — that Christ, is coming in the way of judgment. This of course supposes that the professing body has not fulfilled its mission; for if it had, who would there be in Christendom for God to pour out His judgment upon? “That servant who knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

Look at the truth God brings before us here. First, there is the book, that is to say, the revelation of the counsels of God as to the earth. Not a creature was found worthy to open the book, neither to look thereon. The prophet weeps because of this (verses 3, 4). It should be borne in mind that in this book the apostle, John is not presented in his full place as an apostle to the church, but rather as a prophet. He was, it is true, a most honoured member of the body of Christ; but the object of the book is to not show our nearness to God in that relationship as a prophet of intermediate judgment and of final glory John writes. He is not here viewed as having perfect communion with what was passing around him. But this is very much the characteristic of what is described of the Old Testament seers; as it is said in 1 Peter 1:10, 11, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired,” etc. It may be also that the prophet John is here found in this position in the main, because the book of the Apocalypse was not merely intended for the church which was to be translated to heaven, and then symbolically seen there; but it also meant to help a body of witnesses to be found on earth after the church is removed, who will go through tremendous suffering in: the last times. He is a representative man, but rather as it seems of those who are to enjoy the Spirit of prophecy here below in Israel, after the removal of the church to heaven, than of those who as sons are entitled by grace to communion with their Father’s heart.

The elders show us the true place that belongs to the heavenly saints; and accordingly when John was weeping much, one of the elders, who thoroughly understood the matter, says to him, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and the seven seals thereof” (verse 5). There at once we find the Lord Jesus introduced. His person is brought out, but it is in connection with the earthly purposes of God. He is in relation with David here. Jesse’s son was he whom Jehovah elected King of Israel. (Psalm 78) He was emphatically David “the king” This title therefore expresses the purposes of God about Christ, as far as the earth and Israel are concerned.

Judah we know to be the tribe from which sprang the Christ or Messiah. Hence the style and character in which the elder announced the only One who could open the book — “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Majesty and power among wild beasts upon earth are conveyed by the metaphor employed. Jacob compared Judah to a lion. One great chain runs through all scripture. The Holy Ghost who spoke by Jacob on his death-bed speaks now through John, and reveals that, rejected as He may be on earth, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is owned on high, the One in whom God’s purposes all centre. He is also “the root of David.” This implies more than being David’s Son: He is David’s Lord. He might be of David’s line, but He is David’s root, the real though secret cause of all his titles and promises; just as John the Baptist said that He who came after him really was before him. But there is another remarkable intimation. It is not merely said that He is worthy, but that He hath prevailed.” That little word “prevailed” (conquered or overcame) is bound up with the whole subject of the chapter It is the victory of Jesus by His blood. The Lord Jesus had personal worthiness at any time to take the book, but if He had received and opened it on the ground of His own worthiness alone, what would this have availed for us? All must have been sealed to us still. Therefore the Lord not only proved that He had personal worthiness to open the book which contained these future counsels of God, but He prevailed, and by virtue of that prevailing we are entitled to listen and to understand the mind of God even as to the future.

“And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing as it had been slain,” etc. (ver. 6). John had heard of a Lion, but now that he came to look, it was a Lamb. When he expected to see the symbol of power, there stood before all the picture of most holy suffering and rejection. And this was the emblem of Christ as seen even on the throne in all the glory of heaven — a smitten One, guileless and unresisting “a Lamb as it had been slain.” He is clothed with perfection of power; the seven horns no doubt mean as much. The seven eyes are the symbol of perfect intelligence — the fulness of the Spirit, here in respect of earth and its government. But the One who is seen with all the power and wisdom is the Lamb. The basis I believe, of all our blessing stands in that blessed truth. The Lord of glory has become a Lamb, and as such must be known, if we are to profit by Him.

The Lamb, as in John 1:29, is what answers to the idea of redemption. Even with the Jews, when the lamb was offered up morning and evening God was showing that, if a poor sinful people had anything to do with Him, and if He could go on with them, it was because of the lamb. Those who by faith understood looked forward, however obscurely, to a better Lamb. God’s Son was to become God’s Lamb. And now that He is sent away from the world, He is the rejected One, and though glorified in heaven, He still bears there the marks of the sufferer. He is seen in the midst of the throne a Lamb as it had been slain.

Yet the sacrifice of the Lamb is not so much the subject of the Holy Ghost here as His being the holy sufferer accepted above. Only foundation for the sinner, He is also the pattern and the source of the hopes of His own, and for this reason, that if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. Here then, as everywhere, we find that the King of kings and Lord of lords was the greatest of sufferers. God brings those two thoughts into connection in Rev. 17 — the suffering and rejected Lamb, and the King of kings. Why? Because God would show us all glory resting on Christ, the earth-rejected and despised One. The very cross, which seemed to be the death-blow of all hopes for Israel, opens the way for better thoughts and higher counsels of glory than ever. If we looked at Calvary in itself, it might have appeared that all was at an end, and hope itself for ever laid in the grave; for there was the One who might have blessed them, and vanquished Satan, and terminated human misery and sin, Himself cast out and crucified! All seemed to be nipped in the bud, and prematurely closed in the death of Christ; and yet such was the very way God took that He might readily and eternally bless according to His own heart. What seemed for the time to be the victory of Satan was really the triumph of God for ever over him and his works.

Observe, it is as the Lamb that the Lord Jesus takes His place in heaven. What is the practical effect of this on our souls? The more a man enters into it, the less does he look for a place of honour and esteem in the world. He knows well that, while Satan is god of this world, and Christ hid in God, truth must be despised here below; and consequently he is not surprised if he sees prosperity crowning that which is evil. He will be prepared for all this, because it is just the history of Christ. The slain Lamb brings before us the whole moral course of the world. But one thing more let me ask, Does the Lamb bring before your soul your own history? Do you know what it is to be cast out because of Christ, not because you deserve to be rejected (though in another sense this is true), but because you desire to stand for the Lord Jesus at all cost?

But there is another side: Christ is glorified now — not indeed as yet in the eyes of the world. But heaven is opened to our view, and we find that He who was most despised here is exalted in heaven, and that God has gathered there round the Lamb that was slain others into association with Him. I ask, Has He called you? Has He given you the portion of the slain Lamb on the earth? If you are a Christian, you ought not to be happy without knowing something of this. A saint ought to be pained if he finds that, instead of realizing, he does not know what such language means. God desires that we should know it, not only about Christ, but as our own portion here on earth.

In the days of old David, though God’s anointed king, knew sorrow and rejection, while another king had the power for the time. So now, though the power of the beast is not yet fully developed, the world gets ready for him to come and govern it. David was cast out, despised, insulted — thought, or at least by insinuation said by Nabal, to be some run-away from his master; and certainly appearances looked very unpromising, surrounded as he was in the cave of Adullam by a band of the distressed and indebted in Israel. There were many of his followers who, as far as nature was concerned, may have justly deserved to be thought lightly of. But what a change grace makes! David was the special person whom God’s heart rested on, and they knew it, and gathered round the object of God’s love. There was a dignity that now accrued to them because of their companionship with David. We can hardly be more miserable and weak than we are, but as that one object gave all the value to the inmates of the cave of Adullam, so it is from association with Christ that all our blessing flows. The priests of God were even drawn there by David. But a greater than David is come, and God has sent down the Holy Ghost that we may know that the despised One is now in glory. And the Lord grant that we may have more practical acquaintance with His place of rejection here below, and not want to escape or deny it! There is nothing the flesh dislikes so much as to be despised. It is comparatively easy to buckle up one’s strength to meet persecution or determined opposition, but it is another thing to be content in being nothing at all. In us, worms as we are, this touches the will most; yet this is exactly what the Lord of glory, Jesus, condescended to be; and the enmity that despised Him rose to its climax at the cross. In spite of all the pretended enlightenment and liberalism of the present day, the spirit of the world is not really changed. I would not trust for a single moment that which arises from mere indifference toward God, or from glorifying the rights of man. Men count truth and error all as one, have no conscience toward God, and preach respect for each other. The spirit of the age that now looks and speaks so fair might at any moment rise up fiercely against God, and then we should learn the truth of our experience, that it is a slain Lamb whom we know and worship on high. We should discover the reality of it, and of fellowship with Him, and it would arouse many a saint of God from the slumber in which he is now; for even the wise virgins may sleep. “Awake! thou that sleepest” is said to Christians. If you have been asleep among dead things and persons, the Lord grant that you may not remain in this condition, but speedily clear yourself from these, “and Christ shall give you light!”

It is the slain Lamb that is evidently the great centre of heavenly worship. Now that sin is come into the world, the creative glory of God is not enough, nor even His providential government. If He is to be glorified, save in pure judgment of His adversaries, if displays of merciful goodness are to be known in such a world as this, if a new song is to be sung in heaven, there must be redemption, and this not by power only, but by suffering and blood. Hence, as the central throne in the preceding chapter was filled by the Lord God, the Almighty, so here the central object on whom all blessing for the creature depends, to whom, equally with Him who sat on the throne, worship is offered, is the Lamb. All heaven honours Him as the Father is honoured. He is the First-born, the Heir, not only by rights of creation and intrinsic personal glory, but by redemption the divinely appointed “Heir of all things.” God destines the wide universe for His sceptre. But how and on what plea would Christ take the inheritance? By power? Surely, all power was His. In the day of His humiliation the demons were subject to the least of His servants through His name. Even then He could say, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” the energy of the seventy in casting out demons being to His spirit, I apprehend, the sign and earnest of complete victory in due time. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” Why not take the inheritance then and there? After the evidence of such triumphs over the usurper, why go down unto death, even the death of the cross? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Because God must be vindicated in His majesty, love, wisdom, and righteousness. Because Christ could not accept a defiled inheritance. (Compare Col. 1:20 and Heb. 9:21-23.) Because He would not reign alone, and in this He and His Father were of one mind. In His grace He would have joint-heirs, the sharers of His glory. Such a reconciliation was only possible through death, even if the offering were the body of His flesh, all spotless flesh as it was. Peace could not be made stably and divinely save through the blood of His cross. Therefore is it that He is here seen and sung as the Lamb. God means assuredly to bring the First-begotten into the habitable world; and the book in His right hand describes, I suppose, the process whereby the inheritance is to be put into His hands; but purchase by blood, blessed be His name, is the ground on which all is taken. When He receives the book, all is in motion. As in Rev. 4, when the living creatures pay honour to God, the twenty-four elders fall down and do homage, so here, when the Lamb takes the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are prostrate before Him. Though it might be opened for the purpose of striking some blow, there was no apprehension, no trouble, no concern about themselves in particular; they fell down before the Lamb. It was not a question of merely receiving from God, but they would exalt Him. Far from taking away anything from God, on the contrary, in the very presence of the throne and of Him that sat on it, the Lamb is the object of worship, the source of its purest and deepest strains. God is best glorified when the Lamb has His meed of praise.

They had “each a harp and golden bowls32 full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” In the tabernacle service of the wilderness silver trumpets were used for holy purposes by the priests. David first introduced the harp, separating the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, for songs in the house of the Lord with cymbals, psalteries, and harps. These, like the priests, were divided into twenty-four classes; so that the allusion is obvious, with that measure of difference which is characteristic of the Apocalypse. Priestly and choral services are here blended in perfection. Does not this also serve to show that the elders only are here said to have harps and basons of incense? In Rev. 15 the four living creatures give the angels the seven golden bowls full of divine wrath. Thus all is in keeping: the elders being the heads of royal priesthood, as the cherubim wait on the execution of God’s judgments, though both unite (Rev. 5) in the fullest homage to the Lamb. But who are those “saints” that pray? The elders, or the church, were in heaven, and in full choir of praise. Whose prayers then are these,? They come from saints who will suffer when the church is above. The elders are those heavenly saints who have been removed previously, including perhaps the Old Testament saints. They are in the place of adoration and praise, whereas prayer implies reed. If they have to do with prayers, it is the prayers of others, not their own. Besides they sing a new song, that of the Lamb’s purchase by blood, saying, “Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain,” etc.

A very important change occurs in this verse, well known to every person tolerably acquainted with the original scriptures. Persons who have studied the most ancient manuscripts and other witnesses of this book, all agree that it is, “and hast made them to our God kings (or a kingdom) and priests” (ver. 10). Who are those meant by “them” and made kings and priests “to our God”? They do not speak of themselves.

Indeed, I am prepared to go farther, and am bound to state my firm impression that in the ninth verse the word “us” was put in by copyists who supposed that the elders were celebrating their own blessing.33 But the elders are so perfectly at rest about themselves, that they can be occupied about others. I believe, accordingly, that the true sense is this: “Thou art worthy to take the book, . . . . for thou wast slain, and hast bought to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth.” They are speaking about the saints whose prayers they were offering As they were occupied with their prayers, so here they were praising the Lord for His goodness to the saints still on earth. They intimate that in taking above the heavenly saints, He had not done with His rich mercy; that, even in the midst of His judgments, He would have a purchased people, who were to share the glory of the kingdom as a royal priesthood, instead of being swallowed up in the delusions of antichrist.

These anticipated companions are the same probably that we see in Revelation 6 as “souls under the altar, slain for the word of God,” etc.; and in Revelation 14, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth,” etc.; and in Revelation 15, “Them that had gotten the victory over the beast,” etc. There are other allusions also in the body of the book to the righteous. Clearly they were saints of God upon the earth in conflict or tribulation, after the elders (who, as we saw, represent the church or the heavenly saints) were translated to heaven. As to the saints who won the victory over the beast, “they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” Observe the mingled character of the scene. True, it was the song of the Lamb; but it was the song of Moses too: it was partly earthly and partly heavenly. Again, in Revelation 20:4, it is said, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” These are the elders, already risen or changed, seated upon the thrones “And I saw the souls of them, that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God” (i.e., the people whose souls he had seen in Revelation 6); and, again, those “which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads;” these last being the persons that had sung the song of victory in Revelation 15. Thus the two classes which had suffered, after the rapture of the church, are at length united with the rest in glory, and all reign together with Christ.

It will be remarked how thoroughly the whole agrees with the song in Revelation 5. The elders are in heaven, in the enjoyment of God and the Lamb; but there are saints on earth who are praying, and the elders above are occupied about their prayers, and celebrate the worthiness and work of the Lamb in behalf of others who should reign over the earth as well as themselves.34 Instead of this taking a single fraction away from us, it adds indirectly, if not in itself, to the place of glory in which the church is seen in heaven. They are so fully blest that they can heartily rejoice in the good of others. There are some too apt to be restless if they are not always listening to the gospel for themselves — not because they value it more than others, but because they are not thoroughly established in grace. When our hearts are quite satisfied, we do not feel the need of anxiously picking and choosing in the scriptures; we prefer the Lord to choose for us, and are thankful, because it may be something to His praise that we perhaps have not known before, or a weapon we may want in our next conflict with the enemy. Whatever exalts Christ and glorifies Him is that which we should delight in. Whatever detects the deceitfulness of our hearts is most salutary to us. When the elders are found thanking God, they take up His goodness to those who are suffering on the earth, and they bless the Lamb because He had been slain and had bought these also to their God. It was their delight to think of that work so rich in results for God — to think of others from every quarter who should share the kingdom over the earth.

The angels take up, not the new song in view of the Lamb’s purchase, but His worthiness to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Loudly do they proclaim His title to dominion whom man despised and slew. “Worthy [not “art thou,” but] is the Lamb that was slain” (verses 11, 12). They do not sing of His purchase, because they were not so bought; they have not to do with it, though they are sustained by the power of God; but those who have known their need as poor sinners can well sing the new song. The angels speak of His worth and His death, but they do not chant the deep and joyous notes of the blood-bought. If I look at the gift and person of Christ, I can see how God’s character comes out, and His love is manifested. if I look at the great work of Christ., and what I have in and with Him as He is, I can see how the love of God with us is perfected. But where is anything in the glory of heaven that shines so much as the cross of Christ? We may follow Jesus on the earth, and see the holiness of God; we may glance above, and see how He delights in having us happy around Him; we may look again at Jesus in His path on earth, seeking out the lost, the miserable, and laying His hands on babes, even touching the leper; but whether we think of the holiness or the love of God, of His righteousness or His grace, it is in the cross where all is found and displayed to faith, as we can get it nowhere else.

“And every creature which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth,35 and such as are on the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, Blessing, . . . to him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever” (verse 13). The chord is touched, the keynote sounded, and heard at last in heaven. If the Lamb takes the book, not a creature but responds in joy to the ear of the seer, as now the whole of the lower universe groans in sorrow because of Adam’s sin. Why should they not rejoice if God and the Lamb unite to deliver? Doubtless it is but the opening out of the Lamb’s title-deed; and much remains to be done in destroying the works of the devil. and those that destroy the earth. Still this is the sure signal, and before God every creature anticipates in sympathy.

All bow down before the Lamb. The myriads of angels join in acknowledgement of His death; but it is the place of the heavenly saints to enter into the sense of its efficacy, yea, and into the deep joy — God’s joy — in the blessing of others, and not merely their own. The four living creatures set to it their seal, and say “Amen.” but the elders fall down and do homage.36 They did not merely yield their assent to all, but their hearts went along with it. It is ever their place.

Such a subject as this may well leave one immensely behind. We must be living very much in its depths in order to feel it aright, or to give it an adequate expression. But if I have directed attention to the blessedness of Christ as the slain Lamb, and shown that God makes Him to be the key for understanding His otherwise hidden purposes, I shall be thankful. Even to understand God’s purposes about the earth, we must see the Lamb. It is only in communion with Him that we can enter into them. To appreciate what follows, we must be subject to God’s thoughts of Christ; we must no back to what God begins with; we must see and hear the Lamb. The Lord grant that such may be our better portion? We shall be near that Blessed One, in whose person and work shines all that is gracious and blessed in God, from whom we can learn in peace His most solemn judgment of man’s rebellion and apostasy.

32 The reviewer in Evangelical Christendom, August, 1860, p. 451, objects, among other departures from “the time-honoured expressions of our venerable Saxon Bible,” that I have given “bowls” instead of “vials.” But surely he must be aware that “a small bottle” is not intended by φιάλη here, or anywhere else in the book, but rather a broad open vessel or bason. Compare in the LXX. Ex. 27:3; Ex. 38:3; Num. 7 passim: also answering to other Hebrew words, Num. 4:14; 2 Chron. 4:16, etc. We ought not to sacrifice the sense to sound. The English word “vial,” though derived from the Greek, really misleads. Habit or the ear may account for such a preference.

33 It cannot be denied that the true readings of Rev. 5:9, 10, are some of them unusually hard to be decided. Out of five there are four uncial MSS. available, one of the oldest being deficient from Rev. 3:19, to 5:16. The versions too are conflicting, and so are the editors. There is no doubt, however, that we are obliged to read αὐτούς, “them” (and not ἡμᾶς, “us”) in verse 10, on the authority of the four uncials (the palimpsest of Paris being here deficient and so leaving us one short), forty cursives, and many ancient versions. But evidently that substitution, true and certain as it is, of them for “us” in verse 10, obscures or destroys the connection with the preceding verse, if “us” is supposed to hold its ground in verse 9. And this is the more noticeable, as both clauses form part of the same song in the mouth of the same personages. For what more incongruous than “redeemed us.............and made them,” when no other class has been referred to between the clauses? Hence the strangest solutions of the difficulty have been proposed. Thus Prof. 31. Stuart, who takes for granted the correctness of the text of Griesbach and Scholz, refers the αὐτούς of verse 10 to φυλῆς, γλώσσης κ.τ.λ. i.e. “thou hast made every tribe,” etc., “to be kings and priests.” Now, limit this as you may, it is a construction awkward in the extreme, and without parallel in St. John, or perhaps in any other author. Besides, it ignores, instead of solving, the enigma. For ἡμᾶς ἐκ is left out of the result, and if the same party is intended (as Prof. S. thinks), the question is, why should “us” be used in verse 9, and “them” in verse 10? The alternative to which the Professor is reduced, of portioning out this short song between the living creatures and the elders, and thus accounting for the change in the pronouns, strikes one as an evidence of the difficulty rather than of its removal. Singular to say, he alludes to the true key, as it seems to me, as if it had no authority beyond the conjecture of an eccentric German. The truth is that in one of the best manuscripts (A or the Codex Alexandrinus) which contain the passage, ἡμᾶς in verse 9 does not appear; nor is any equivalent given in one of the oldest extant versions, the Aethiopic of the fourth century. It is also wanting in a cursive MS. known in Codex Borgiae. I admit that in this case the amount of testimony is far from being considerable. Nevertheless the omission seemed probable to Griesbach; and in fact it is dropped in some of the latest editions of the Greek Testament, which appeal to ancient authority. Tischendorf omitted it from the first, as he does still: Lachmann had it in his earlier manual, but erased it in his second and more correct edition: and the younger Buttmann has it not in his recent manual Greek Testament (Leipsic, 1856): so Dean Alford. These critics have arrived at that conclusion on independent principles, and on purely external grounds. If it be sound, the construction is elliptical but frequent, especially in the writings of St. John (compare John 16:17; 2 John 4; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 3:9; Rev. 11:9). There can be no objection, therefore, on the score of phraseology, but, on the contrary, the sentence runs quite in his style without ἡμᾶς. Some scribe, ignorant of this, and supposing that the saints in heaven must needs sing there of their own redemption, as they had done on earth (Rev. 1:5, 6), may have inserted the first ἡμᾶς. This, in turn, producing a jar with the αὐτούς in the following verse, would naturally require the further demand of taking its place there; and that again would lead to the change in the person of the verb in the last clause. The internal considerations I believe to be very weighty in favour of the omission; but these have been, perhaps, sufficiently given above in the text. The reading ἠγόρασας τῳ θειῳ ἡμῶν (as in Cod. 44) appears to be the original text. The Alexandrian MS. which is the nearest among those that diverge, followed pretty closely by the Aethiopic, omits ἡμῶν in verse 9 and τῳ θεῳ ἡμῶν in verse 10. But these words are unquestionably genuine, and add much to the proof that the elders praised the Lamb for His redemption of others, distinct from themselves.

34 I cannot but think Mr. E.’s remarks and notes on this (Horae Apoc. i. pp. 86-96) confused and unsatisfactory. He reasons from vulgar readings which no, competent critic, whatever may be his bias, can entertain. It is easy to convert a preconceived opinion into a decision that our own view is much more simple. It is also a serious mistake to say that the sense is “substantially the same,” whether we have us or they in verse 10. Again, the Sinaitic and Porphyrian MSS. turn the scale in favour of the twenty-two cursives, and the better ancient versions, which support βασιλεύσουσιν against A B, eighteen cursives, etc., exhibiting the present tense. but ἡμᾶς and βασιλεύομεν are indefensible and manifestly the work of a meddling corrector. It is strange too that the question of the ellipse in verse 9 is passed over in silence, seeing that there “us” is, to say the least, doubtful; and if spurious removes the main reason for viewing the ζῶα as redeemed. Mr. E. treats this last idea as “unquestionable,” of which there is really no proof whatever. It is evident, further, that there is much embarrassment as to the condition of the elders, in one page referring their insignia to the resurrection-state, and in the next concluding that it is the division of the church consisting of the departed in paradise especially, that we must suppose depicted here. Finally, it is erroneous to speak of “the general assembly of the church;” for πανηγύρει belongs to the clause about the angels. But letting this pass (as the authorised version misleads many in Heb. 12), what is meant by the apparent distinction, in p. 94, between the church of the first-born, and the spirits of just men made perfect? I quite allow this; but I do not see its consistency with Mr. E.’s statement about the elders and cherubim.

35 Every creature “under the earth,” ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς, must be carefully distinguished, notwithstanding Bengel, from the καταχθονίων in Phil. 2:10. The former, I suppose, means the things, animate or inanimate, beneath the earth’s surface which anticipate in the vision, their deliverance from corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. They cannot of course share the liberty of grace which we enjoy; but when we are in the glory, it will be the pledge of their glorious change speedily to follow. The latter in Philippians means the infernal beings, who must bow with every knee elsewhere at (or in) the name of Jesus. I am aware that Dean Alford, with Theodoret, etc., takes καταχ. as the dead; but this, though a classical usage of the word, seems to be far from the scope of the passage.

36 It is well to note that all the reliable authorities, including all the five uncials, a vast body of cursives, and most versions, etc., omit ζῶντι εἰς τοὺς αἱῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. How admirably this omission coalesces with the context and maintains the glory of God and the Lamb as the common object of homage on the part of the elders is evident.