Rev. 5:13 – I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! 14The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped (HCSB).
We have seen the 24 elders (who likely represent redeemed humanity) sing a new song about the worthiness of the slaughtered Lamb, and we have listened to the crescendo of the countless angels joining the elders and living creatures proclaim the Lamb’s worthiness to receive seven-fold tribute. Now, all of creation – “every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them” – joins in a chorus of praise to the Father and the Son. But really, every creature?
John records hearing “every creature” offer a four-fold doxology – blessing, honor, glory and dominion – to God the Father and the Lamb. We know that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Generally, we conclude from this passage that all humans one day will acknowledge Jesus as Creator, Savior and Lord – even those who have gone to their graves rejecting Him and bound for eternity in hell. There seems to be no reason to include animals in this activity since they do not sin, have eternal spirits or need a Savior. Some animals don’t even have knees, let alone reasoning capabilities or voices. So, does every creature really have a stake in honoring the Lamb?
In a sense, yes. If it’s possible for the heavens to declare the glory of God, and for the sky to proclaim the work of His hands (Ps. 19:1), then the animal kingdom can demonstrate the Creator’s power and goodness in myriad ways. The humming bird can generate a vibrant baritone with its wings; the humpback whale, an awe-inspiring spin as it emerges from the ocean depths; the hawk, a piercing cry as it hovers in the updrafts. In ways we have yet to discover, the creatures of the earth, sky and sea pay fitting homage to God, who is “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them” (Ps. 146:6). As David wrote in Ps. 145:21, “My mouth will declare the Lord’s praise; let every living thing praise His holy name forever and ever.” And as the Psalmist implores in Ps. 150:6, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”
We can identify the creatures in heaven because John sees them: redeemed people, angels, and living creatures (perhaps cherubim and/or seraphim). And we may conclude that the creatures “on earth” include those that fly, while the creatures on the sea include those in fresh and salty waters. But who are the creatures “under the earth?” Likely, this is a reference to departed spirits in Hades: unbelievers of all time awaiting resurrection and final judgment, and perhaps Old Testament saints, although scholars disagree as to whether believers under the Old Covenant were taken to heaven after Jesus’ resurrection. In any case, there is united and universal agreement that the Father and His Son are worthy to receive blessing, honor, glory and dominion.
Matthew Henry comments: “The whole creation fares the better for Christ. By him all things consist; and all the creatures, had they sense and language, would adore that great Redeemer who delivers the creature from that bondage under which it groans, through the corruption of men, and the just curse denounced by the great God upon the fall” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Re 5:6–14).
Next: Blessing, honor, glory and dominion
Previously: A mighty angel – Rev. 5:2-4
Rev. 5:5 – Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. 7He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne (HCSB).
John’s cries of anguish are about to end. Just when he despairs that the hidden plans of God are about to remain hidden, one of the 24 elders – probably representatives of redeemed people throughout the ages – steps forward and simply says, “Stop crying.” Literally, John has described himself as one who “kept on shedding many tears.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “No wonder John wept, for he realized that God’s glorious redemption plan for mankind could never be completed until the scroll was opened. The redeemer had to be near of kin, willing to redeem, and able to redeem. Jesus Christ meets all of the qualifications. He became flesh, so He is our Kinsman. He loves us and is willing to redeem; and He paid the price, so He is able to redeem” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Re 5:1).
But what tone does the elder take in addressing John? Is he annoyed, as if the apostle is a sniveling crybaby? Is he grieved because John lacks faith that a worthy kinsman will step forward? Or is he an over-excited observer who happens to be the first to catch a glimpse of the glorified Messiah? Probably neither of these explanations will do. It’s more likely that the elder, understanding John’s desperate sorrow, seeks to comfort and encourage him. “The elders in heaven round God’s throne know better than John, still in the flesh, the far-reaching power of Christ” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Re 5:5).
We might imagine the elder’s voice as firm but gentle. We can almost see him lay a warm and steady hand on John’s convulsing shoulder. His rebuke – if there even is one – is mild, followed quickly by the imperative to “look!” What follows quickly turns John’s sense of foreboding into unspeakable joy. The elder identifies the Redeemer as the lion from the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. John then describes Him as one like a slaughtered lamb. In our next post, we will look more closely at these three descriptive titles for Jesus.
Next: The lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)