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. 5:11 – Then I looked, and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures, and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousand. 12They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (HCSB).
In verses 9-10 we hear the song of the church, a song of redemption through the blood of the Lamb. Now, in verses 11-12, angels join in with the elders and the living creatures to proclaim the worthiness of the Lamb to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing – seven possessions the Messiah most certainly had in His pre-incarnate life, all set aside and risked as the eternal Son of God became man. But because He is victorious on the cross and over the grave, He is worthy to redeem a sinful and lost human race and reclaim what is rightfully His – the former trappings of a great and righteous king.
Many angels around the throne
We don’t know how many angels there are, but John tells us there are “countless thousands,” or “myriads of myriads” as the Greek puts it. One commentary translates it “hundreds of millions.” In any case, there is an innumerable host of holy angels around the throne. And while angels do not experience personal redemption – the holy angels have no need of it and the demons are not offered it – they rejoice with the church in Christ’s work on behalf of sinful people.
The phrase “countless thousands” seems to be a reference to Dan. 7:9-10 in which Daniel is given a glimpse into heaven’s throne room: “As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of His head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire; its wheels were blazing fire. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from His presence. Thousands upon thousands served Him; ten thousand time ten thousand stood before Him. The court was convened, and the books were opened.”
While angels go obediently out of heaven’s throne room to fulfill God’s commands to protect, rescue and visit people, and even to battle demons in the unseen realm, they are most at home in the immediate presence of the Creator, joining with the saints around the throne in voicing praises to the Lamb who is worthy.
One interesting side note: John records that while the elders “sang” (Gr. adousin), the angels “said” (Gr. legontes). Some commentators argue that angels are never recorded singing in the Bible; this is a pleasure reserved for people. Whether that’s true is hard to know with certainty. Even if angels don’t sing in scripture, that doesn’t mean they never raise their voices in melodious praise.
Next: The Lamb is worthy (Rev. 5:12)