Songs of Heaven (2)

Songs of Heaven (2)

Songs of Heaven (2).

Please read Revelation 5:8-10.

“And when the Lamb took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the people. And they sang a new song with these words:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and break its seals and open it.

For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God,

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

And you have caused them to become a  kingdom of priests for our God.

And they will reign on the earth.’

Here we are in the heavenly throne room, and we hear music, we see worship in another sphere. There is a new song being sung, a song that has never been sung, a heavenly original. This new song also signifies that a new era has begun. The Father on the throne is holding the scroll which contains His final plans for the world. The scroll reveals what God has in store for the end of days. And only the Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb, is worthy to open the scroll. Only this one Lamb that was slain to atone for the sins of the world. (John 1:29).

The 24 elders each had a harp in one hand and a golden bowl of incense in the other. What a great picture of worship… musical praise and holy prayers. It’s interesting that heavenly worship evidently includes the prayers of believers here on earth. As we think about the smoke of the burning incense wafting upward toward heaven, a beautiful picture of prayer emerges. If you’ve ever wondered why so many churches love to use incense, remember this passage. Incense symbolizes the prayers of believers that make their way to heaven’s throne room. It’s comforting to know that our prayers have a sweet fragrance to the King, like the finest incense.

The Lamb being celebrated in the song has been slaughtered. It’s clear to the worshipers that this Lamb had been slain, slaughtered, because the scars and wounds are still noticeable. It’s obvious to those around the Lamb that He was bloodied, grievously wounded in the Passion of the Lord. This Lamb indeed had shed the blood of ransom for the people of God. The people ransomed include every language, every people group, every nation. There is no race or ethnic group that has a monopoly on the Truth of Jesus. The Christian Faith is an equal opportunity operation, it does not tilt in favor of a particular people. Jesus’ salvation is universal, His body covers the earth, and He has gathered His believers into a Kingdom.

The body has become a Kingdom, a body of believers transformed into a kingdom of priests. Believers are priests. Priests, who are “channels of blessing” between God and His people. Priests, who advocate for the needs of the people. Priests, who are set apart to serve God. The priests in the Hebrew Bible served God and the people by offering sacrifices on the altar at the Temple. What kind of sacrifice does this new priest offer, the new priests being every believer in God, every follower of Jesus? As the new line of priests, we are called to sacrifice ourselves, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, the kind of sacrifice He will find acceptable. This is truly the best way to worship Him. (Romans 12:1). As St. Peter tells us in his first letter, all who join God’s family are His holy priests, members of His royal priesthood. (I Peter 2:5, 9).

“And they will reign on the earth.” The elders and the creatures are singing here about the priests being king-priests, about reigning on the earth. No one in Scripture unpacks that idea to a satisfying degree. We know from Paul in I Cor. 6:2 that “the saints will judge the earth.” We hear from Jesus the mystifying idea that disciples of Christ “will reign over the 12 tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:30; Matt. 19:28). And Jesus seems to confirm that idea in Rev. 3:21, when He states “those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on His throne.” What does all this mean? Maybe at some point the world will stand before a jury made of believers. Or maybe we will sit side by side with Christ in a place of honor as He fulfills His role as Sovereign Judge. Or it could be that martyrs will occupy special honorary positons as a reward for sharing in the persecutions of Christ. After all, the hymn in II Timothy 2:12 states, “If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him.”

To make this  even more interesting, Bible translator Dr. Brian Simmons noted that “reign on earth” in this Rev. 5 song is actually in the present tense of the Greek verb. It literally means “they are reigning.” This seems to indicate that the reign of believers on earth has already begun! It does seem that in some mysterious way Jesus is going to share the throne. He is going to delegate some level of governance and judgment to His followers. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in the end as we trust that God has everything under control.