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. 10:1 – Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like fiery pillars, 2and he had a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, 3and he cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”
5Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6He swore an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, 7but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”
8Now the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “God, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
10Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter. 11And I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (HCSB)
There will no longer be an interval of time (vv. 6-7)
The angel standing with one foot on land and one in the sea now raises his right hand to heaven and swears an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as he announced to His servants the prophets” (vv. 5-7).
Rev. 5:8 – When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song: You 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. 10You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth (HCSB).
And they sang a new song
Matthew Henry argues that the remainder of chapter 5 consists of a song in three parts: 1) the song of the church; 2) the song of the church and the angels; and 3) the song of all creatures. The church sings about its redemption by the slaughtered Lamb.
His blood has purchased people from every tribe and language, people and nation. Imagine the scene in heaven when the Arapaho joins the Armenian in praise, the Chilean lifts her voice in harmony with the Chinese; and the Hebrew worships Yahweh with the Hmong. There are no forgotten people in God’s economy, no lost civilization on earth. The same God who created all people sent His Son to redeem them, and no matter how diverse the human population becomes, it is well represented in the throne room of heaven.
Warren Wiersbe writes: “John affirms that the Lamb died for the whole world! (John 1:29) The more you meditate on the power and scope of Christ’s work on the cross, the more humbled and worshipful you become. This song was also a missionary song. Sinners were redeemed ‘out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Rev. 5:9). Kindred refers to a common ancestor and tongue to a common language. People means a common race, and nation a common rule or government. God loves a whole world (John 3:16) and His desire is that the message of redemption be taken to a whole world (Matt. 28:18–20)” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Re 5:1).
A textual challenge
It should be noted that there is a textual problem in these verses. The King James Version says, “Thou … has redeemed us to God … and hast made us unto our God kings and priests” (v. 9), while modern translations such as the New International Version say, “You purchased men for God … You have made them to be a kingdom and priests …”
If the song is impersonal, as the NIV suggests, then it’s possible that the 24 elders are not men but angels. If, however, the correct translation is personal in nature, then the elders most certainly are human, and either the four living creatures represent mankind or only the elders are singing. In any case, angels are not redeemed and could not legitimately sing personally about being purchased by Christ’s blood.
“While scholars differ on this point, it would seem that since the elders are on thrones and are crowned as victors, they represent the church rather than angels. Angels have not been judged and rewarded at this point in the program of God. But angels soon join the creatures and the elders in praising the Lamb (5:11-12). The two different interpretations here should not mar the beauty of the picture and the wonder of this song of praise” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Re 5:9-10).
A slaughtered Lamb
Two words come into play repeatedly in chapter 5: worthy and slaughtered. In verse 6 John sees Jesus as “a slaughtered lamb.” In verse 9 He is “slaughtered.” And in verse 11 He is “slaughtered.” These words take us back to Isaiah’s prophecy more than 700 years earlier: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
While the slaughter of Jesus remains the most heinous crime ever committed, it is not a senseless loss of life but a purposeful payment for the sins of fallen people. Because Jesus is slaughtered – get this, because He is slaughtered – He is worthy: Worthy to take the scroll (the title deed to earth); worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. A Messiah who is only a conquering king is not worthy to take the scroll, but a slaughtered Lamb is worthy to become a conquering king and receive all things from His Father.
Take note of what Matthew Henry writes about the redeemed being made kings and priests unto God: “Every ransomed slave is not immediately preferred to honour; he thinks it a great favour to be restored to liberty. But when the elect of God were made slaves by sin and Satan, in every nation of the world, Christ not only purchased their liberty for them, but the highest honour and preferment, made them kings and priests – kings, to rule over their own spirits, and to overcome the world, and the evil one; and he has made them priests, given them access to himself, and liberty to offer up spiritual sacrifices, and they shall reign on the earth; they shall with him judge the world at the great day” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Re 5:6–14).
The new song of Revelation 5 is simply and profoundly a new chapter in the old, old story. The slaughtered Lamb is proclaimed worthy to take the scroll from the right hand of the same Father who sent Him to die. The sending itself was neither cruel nor reactive; it was foreordained and carried out in love, securing eternal life, priesthood and kingship for people from every tribe, language, people and nation. Indeed, worthy is the Lamb.
Next: The voice of many angels (Rev. 5:11-12)
LISTEN: Isaiah 54 – I Will Take You Back (mp3)
Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
Chapter 54 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.
Isa. 54:7-8 – “I deserted you for a brief moment, but I will take you back with great compassion. In a surge of anger I hid Myself from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting love,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
Israel is encouraged to burst into song because her punishment is over and the Lord, like a loving husband, is taking back His wayward bride and showering her with blessings. Her exile in Babylon was necessary because of her grievous sin, but it was only a temporary banishment because the Lord is faithful to His promises. Just as God honored His covenant with Noah, He will honor His “covenant of peace” with Israel. These verses await their complete fulfillment in the messianic kingdom.
The imagery throughout this chapter is that of Yahweh, the faithful husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, restoring her to her home and bestowing her with undeserved blessings. Warren Wiersbe comments: “Isaiah has used the marriage image before (50:1–3) and will use it again (62:4). Jeremiah also used it (Jer. 3:8), and it is an important theme in both Hosea (chap. 2) and Ezekiel (chaps. 16 and 23). The nation was ‘married’ to Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, but she committed adultery by turning to other gods; and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, the prophets promise that Israel will be restored when Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom” (Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).
Israel’s Numerical Growth (Isa. 54:1-3)
Israel is likened to a barren woman who experiences the shame of childlessness and knows full well the void it brings to her life. But the Lord promises that days of gladness lie ahead and that her tents will be expanded to accommodate the children who will be born to her. The image of expanding the tent reminds the people of God’s covenant with Abraham, who dwelled in tents and was called outside to count the stars as a sign of the Lord’s promise of offspring. In similar fashion, this ragtag band of post-exilic Jews will re-inhabit the Promised Land and fill it. God will do for them what He did for Abraham and Sarah (Isa. 49:18-21; 51:1-3).
“Jerusalem, once desolate and mourning (Lam. 1:1-5), will be revitalized and teeming with people. Also like a nomad who has so many children he has to enlarge his tent to accommodate them all, Israel’s descendants will increase and even settle in the cities of foreign nations because there will not be enough room for them in their homeland” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1109). The complete fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the messianic kingdom.
Paul quotes Isa. 54:1 in Gal. 4:27 and applies the spiritual principle to the church. As God blesses Sarah and the Jewish remnant with children, He will bless His church, even though at present it is only a small company of faithful followers in a wayward world.
Israel’s Regathering (Isa. 54:4-8)
The Lord promises Israel He will take her back the way a gracious husband takes back an unfaithful wife. The people are urged not to fear for they will not be put to shame, and not to be humiliated for they will not suffer disgrace. While deserving of such consequences for their spiritual adultery, the Israelites will be welcomed into the arms of a faithful and forgiving Husband. And who is this Husband? Their “Maker – His name is Yahweh of Hosts … the Holy One of Israel … Redeemer … the God of all the earth” (v. 5).
Yahweh will not destroy the people He has created for His own glory. “He is their Redeemer and cannot sell them into the hands of the enemy. He is their Husband and will not break His covenant promises. As an unfaithful wife, Israel had forsaken her Husband; but He had not permanently abandoned her. He only gave her opportunity to see what it was like to live in a land where people worshiped false gods. God would call her back and woo her to Himself (Hosea 2:14–23), and she would no longer be ‘a wife deserted’ (Isa. 54:6, NIV). She felt forsaken (49:14), but God did not give her up” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).
The husband / wife analogy is used frequently in Scripture to describe God’s relationship with Israel. Israel is the unfaithful wife who runs after pagan deities. In anger, God abandons Israel, but only for a time (see Jer. 31:31-34). He is faithful and compassionate. He will remain true to His promises. He will restore His people. In much the same way the New Testament writers refer to Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride. Unlike Israel, the church is not yet married to Christ. Rather, she is espoused, or engaged, and is expected to remain chaste and pure until the Bridegroom comes for Her. The apostle Paul, as a friend of the groom, urges his fellow believers to resist false teachings so they will not be enticed to embrace “another Jesus” and thus commit spiritual adultery (2 Cor. 11:4). Ultimately, a great day is in store for Christ and His church when they sit down together at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
Israel’s Security (Isa. 54:9-10)
The Lord reminds Israel that His love, mercy and covenant promises remain even though the stinging memory of exile is fresh in the people’s minds. Yahweh has kept His word not to destroy the earth by flood again (Gen. 9:11-17), so His people may count on Him to faithfully carry out His promises of future national blessing. “Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” He assures them (v. 10). This does not mean the Lord will withhold future discipline from Israel, for we see the temple destroyed again in 70 A.D. and the Jews dispersed among the nations as a result of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. But even then, the Lord has preserved a believing remnant, restored the Jews to their homeland (in 1948) and will bring about a spiritual revival in the land when the people He has chosen finally trust in Jesus as His Son and their Savior.
Israel’s Peaceful Future (Isa. 54:11-17)
Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has experienced many sorrows, prompting the Lord to call her “storm-tossed, and not comforted” (v. 11). However, in coming days the Lord will build up the city with stones made of precious gems as a symbol of her great value. This also may be seen as foreshadowing the New Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven and is beautifully adorned with precious jewels (Rev. 21:9-27). The children will be taught by the Lord, experience great prosperity and stand securely on a foundation of righteousness. The people no longer will fear oppression from without or corruption from within, for the Lord will protect them.
No doubt this is a preview of the Millennium, during which time no nation will be allowed to defeat Israel. “If anyone attacks you, it is not from Me,” says Yahweh in verse 15, contrasting God’s use of Assyria to punish the northern kingdom (722 B.C.) and Babylon to discipline the southern kingdom (587 B.C.). Further, the Lord assures His people that “whoever attacks you will fall before you.” He continues in verse 17: “No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me.” It is always the righteousness of God that saves, not man’s own “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). We see this stated plainly and illustrated beautifully in the New Testament. In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14), an invited guest is bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness because he has refused to wear the wedding garment providing by the king. This shows that no one’s own righteousness merits entrance into the kingdom, only the righteousness of Christ. And in Rev. 7:9-17, an innumerable host of people, robed in white, stands before the throne and the Lamb. Their robes are white because “they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
D.A. Carson writes that “the righteousness of v 14 and the impregnability of vs 15–17 are deep rooted in personal discipleship, which is one of the marks of the new covenant. This is the true strength of God’s city, which is promised not immunity from attack but the unanswerable weapon of truth” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 54:11).
Lawrence O. Richards comments about the covenant of peace in verse 10: “[T]he focus of this covenant is on security. God throws a protective covering over His people so that they will be safe. While this is an eschatological covenant, it has present application to you and me. God’s protective covering has been thrown over us as well. God the Holy Spirit is Himself ‘a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ (Eph. 1:14). Because we are God’s own we are safe and secure” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., Logos Research Systems, S. 440).
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with numerous other sources, which are cited.
Reason 5: The testimony of structure
- Even though the Bible was recorded by some 40 different authors – from different backgrounds, occupations and levels of education; who spoke in three different languages; who wrote over a period of 1,500 years – there is remarkable unity amid the vast diversity of scripture’s 66 books.
- There is throughout scripture the unfolding drama of redemption, with Jesus Christ as its central person, seen in the Old Testament by way of anticipation and in the New Testament by way of revelation.
- The Bible proclaims a unified message: Mankind’s problem is sin, and the solution is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:16-19; Luke 19:10; John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 3:10, 23; 4:4-5; 6:23; 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
Next – Reason 6: The testimony of the stones
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips