Rev. 14:3 –They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (HCSB)
They sang a new song
John records in verse 3, “They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” Is this the same “new song” that the elders sing in chapter 5? And why are its melody and words limited to the 144,000?
Some commentators argue that the song here is different from the elders’ song in Revelation 5 because no one can learn it except the 144,000. Others contend it is the same song, which the elders, who represent both Old and New Covenant believers in Revelation 5, are able to teach the 144,000 in Revelation 14.
We are given the words to the elders’ song in Revelation 5: “You [the Lamb] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed [people] for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). Perhaps these are the same words of the “new song” in Revelation 14, which those redeemed from the earth sing before heaven’s throne.
In any case, it appears this “new song” is a song of redemption, and the reason it’s confined to the 144,000 is because they are redeemed people. Unbelievers cannot legitimately sing this song because they have not experienced the salvation purchased with Christ’s blood. They may mouth the words, but their lip-synching will never exalt them to heavenly portals or entitle them to join the heavenly choir of equally vile sinners who have been wonderfully transformed by the blood of the Lamb.
Rev. 7:9 – After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! 11All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength, be to our God forever and ever. Amen. 13Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them: 16no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat. 17Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (HCSB)
All the angels stood around the throne
In verse 11, John sees all the angels standing around the throne, the elders and the four living creatures. Now it is their turn to offer praise. They fall on their faces before the throne and worship God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength, be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (v. 12).
There are three brief observations to share. First, the angels’ position. They stand “around the throne, the elders and the four living creatures,” in close proximity to both their Creator and their fellow servants. The Lord created angels higher in power and intelligence than people, and they stand in His presence, worshipfully reverent and ready to respond immediately to His commands. At the same time, angels do not lord their position over men and women. Twice in the Book of Revelation, John falls at the feet of an angel to worship, and both times he is sternly rebuked. In Rev. 19:10, the angel says, “Don’t do that [worship me]! I am a fellow slave with you and your brothers who have the testimony about Jesus. Worship God.” And in Rev. 22:9, after John tries to worship at the feet of the angel who showed him things to come, the angel says, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you, your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
Even more interesting, angels lack something given exclusively to people: salvation. The holy angels have no need of it, and the rebellious angels are never offered it, but face a certain eternity in hell, which was created for them (Matt. 25:41). Paul, in fact, reminds believers that we will judge angels – presumably evil angels since there is no biblical reference to a judgment day for the holy ones. Last, in 1 Peter 1:12, we are told that just as the prophets of old did not understand how and when the Messianic prophecies would be fulfilled, even angels “desire to look into these things.”
A second observation is the angels’ posture. First, we see them standing before the throne, attentive to God and ready to respond immediately to His commands. But then, they fall on their faces before the throne and worship God. “Behold the most excellent of all the creatures, who never sinned, who are before him continually, not only covering their faces, but falling down on their faces before the Lord! What humility then, and what profound reverence, become us vile frail creatures, when we come into the presence of God! We should fall down before him; there should be both a reverential frame of spirit and a humble behaviour in all our addresses to God” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 7:1-12).
A third observation is the angels’ praise. They begin with the word “Amen!” This is the transliteration of a Hebrew word signifying that something is certain, valid, truthful, or faithful. It often is used at the end of biblical songs, hymns, and prayers, and is repeated at the end of the angels’ praise in verse 12. It is likely that the angels, in beginning their praise with the word “Amen,” are agreeing with the cries of the vast multitude that honors God the Father and the Lamb in verse 10. The angels then acknowledge the glorious attributes of God – His wisdom, power and strength – and declare that for these divine qualities He is to be blessed, glorified, thanked and honored forever and ever. They close their words of praise with, “Amen,” signifying that their testimony is true.
Next: One of the elders asked me
Rev. 4:4 – Around that throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones sat 24 elders dressed in white clothes, with gold crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and thunder. Burning before the throne were seven fiery torches, which are the seven spirits of God. 6Also before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal. In the middle and around the throne were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion; the second living creature was like a calf; the third living creature had a face like a man; and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying:
Lord God, the Almighty,
who was, who is, and who is coming.
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, 10 the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say:
11 Our Lord and God,
You are worthy to receive
glory and honor and power,
because You have created all things,
and because of Your will
they exist and were created (HCSB).
An overview of Rev. 4:4-11
These verses introduce us to some fascinating beings: 24 elders, the seven spirits of God, and four living creatures. Who are they? And what is the significance, if any, to their numbers? No doubt they are important beings, for they inhabit the throne room of heaven and are busy with their unique ministries. Bible students over the years have differed widely in their views about these heavenly occupants.
For example, some see the 24 elders as representing the church; others, the first 24 ancestors of Christ, from Adam to Pharez; still others, celestial representatives of all the redeemed. Some interpret the elders as angelic representatives of the 24 priestly and 24 Levitical orders, or the 12 patriarchs and 12 apostles.
There also is diversity in scholars’ views of the seven spirits of God. Some see these as angels, while others argue these are the seven churches of Asia Minor (chapters 2-3) now taken up into heaven. Most, however, see the seven spirits as the seven-fold Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit.
And what of the four living creatures? Some commentators argue that they represent the whole of creation, or the ministers of the gospel, or angels, archangels, cherubim or seraphim. Others say these heavenly beings symbolize the attributes or qualities of God. One writer compares the four faces with the middle signs in the four quarters of the zodiac, namely Leo (the lion), Taurus (the bull or calf), Aquarius (the man), and Scorpio (the eagle). Not that this scholar embraces astrology; rather, he argues that as the heavens declare the glory of God, so do these creatures (Ps. 19:1).
Next: 24 thrones, 24 elders