And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they were singing a new song saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open the seals of it, because you were slain and you purchased to God by your blood men out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you have made us kings and priests to the our God, and they shall reign upon the earth.” And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worth is the Lamb having been slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” And every creature in heaven and upon the earth and under the earth and on the sea and everything that is in them I heard saying to the One sitting upon the throne and to the Lamb, “Blessing and honor and glory and might to the ages of the ages.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped him who lives for the ages of the ages.
In this last scene before the Lamb begins to open the seals, we find the worship of heaven and earth to the Lamb who has been slain. We find first that the heavenly beings all have harps and golden bowls of incense. We see in Psalm 141:2 this same concept: “May my prayer be set before you like incense…” We can also see Revelation 8:3 where the incense and prayers are distinguished, but are still paralleled with one another.
The “new song” is found in Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1, and Isaiah 42:10. This is a Hebraic concept. In Isaiah 42, we find that it is the “new things” that result in the “new song”. Thus, the “new song” here might be result of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). However, equally plausible seems to be that the new song is resulting from the new heaven and new earth that is about to be broken in, for the worship of these beings seem to speak to a future time when there will be people from every tribe, nation, language, and people to come into the Kingdom, and not the known world of that time. Even today we know of hundreds, if not thousands, of people groups who have not been reached with the message of Jesus Christ.
Compare the song of praise with Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 11:9, 13:7, and 14:6. Also see 10:11 and 17:15. They come from Daniel 3:4, 7, 29, 5:19, 7:14, and 6:25. In this, we see that the phrase, “every tribe and language and people and nation” is used consistently in reference to the Antichrist kingdom – represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Whether it be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, or the Antichrist’s kingdom, they are all the same satanic kingdom – the kingdom of darkness manifest upon the earth.
Και ειδον (And I saw) begins the new feature in the vision: innumerable angelic hosts. Daniel 7:10 records the μυριαι μυριαδες (μυριαδες μυριαδων in our text) and the χιλιαι χιλιαδεσ (χιλιαδεσ χιλιαδων in our text), but in reverse order. Psalm 68:17 has a partial parallel, and Genesis 24:60 also has a partial parallel.
We can compare verse 12 with 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, from which many of the New Testament benedictions have root.
We have in verse 13 the climax of both Revelation 4 and 5. In chapter 4 the focus is upon God, and in chapter five the focus is upon the Lamb, but in this verse praise is given unto both. This is the cojoined glory of God and the Lamb. This is the final statement before we begin our venture into the end time schema. For this reason, I thought it might be necessary to map out the basic timeline from Daniel that John is using throughout the rest of this book. We’ll then be able to refer back to this timeline to understand where we are at in the narrative.