Revelation 5:1-14 . THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS: NONE WORTHY TO OPEN IT BUT THE LAMB: HE TAKES IT AMIDST THE PRAISES OF THE REDEEMED, AND OF THE WHOLE HEAVENLY HOST.
8. had taken--Greek, "took."
fell down before the Lamb--who shares worship and the throne with the Father.
harps--Two oldest manuscripts, A, B, Syriac and Coptic read, "a harp": a kind of guitar, played with the hand or a quill.
vials--"bowls" [TREGELLES]; censers.
prayers of saints--as the angel offers their prayers ( Revelation 8:3 ) with incense (compare Psalms 141:2 ). This gives not the least sanction to Rome's dogma of our praying to saints. Though they be employed by God in some way unknown to us to present our prayers (nothing is said of their interceding for us), yet we are told to pray only to Him ( Revelation 19:10 , Revelation 22:8 Revelation 22:9 ). Their own employment is praise (whence they all have harps): ours is prayer.
9. sung--Greek, "sing": it is their blessed occupation continually. The theme of redemption is ever new, ever suggesting fresh thoughts of praise, embodied in the "new song."
us to God--So manuscript B, Coptic, Vulgate, and CYPRIAN. But A omits "us": and Aleph reads instead, "to our God."
out of--the present election-church gathered out of the world, as distinguished from the peoples gathered to Christ as the subjects, not of an election, but of a general and world-wide conversion of all nations.
kindred . . . tongue . . . people . . . nation--The number four marks world-wide extension: the four quarters of the world. For "kindred," translate as Greek, "tribe." This term and "people" are usually restricted to Israel: "tongue and nation" to the Gentiles ( Revelation 7:9 , 11:9 , 13:7 , the oldest reading; Revelation 14:6 ). Thus there is here marked the election-Church gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In Revelation 10:11 , for "tribes," we find among the four terms "kings"; in Revelation 17:15 , "multitudes."
10. made us--A, B, Aleph, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "them." The Hebrew construction of the third person for the first, has a graphic relation to the redeemed, and also has a more modest sound than us, priests [BENGEL].
unto our God--So B and Aleph read. But A omits the clause.
kings--So B reads. But A, Aleph, Vulgate, Coptic, and CYPRIAN, read, "A kingdom." Aleph reads also "a priesthood" for priests. They who cast their crowns before the throne, do not call themselves kings in the sight. of the great King ( Revelation 4:10 Revelation 4:11 ); though their priestly access has such dignity that their reigning on earth cannot exceed it. So in Revelation 20:6 they are not called "kings" [BENGEL].
we shall reign on the earth--This is a new feature added to Revelation 1:6 . Aleph, Vulgate, and Coptic read, "They shall reign." A and B read, "They reign." ALFORD takes this reading and explains it of the Church EVEN NOW, in Christ her Head, reigning on the earth: "all things are being put under her feet, as under His; her kingly office and rank are asserted, even in the midst of persecution." But even if we read (I think the weightiest authority is against it), "They reign," still it is the prophetical present for the future: the seer being transported into the future when the full number of the redeemed (represented by the four living creatures) shall be complete and the visible kingdom begins. The saints do spiritually reign now; but certainly not as they shall when the prince of this world shall be bound reigning on the earth now, they are "made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things." In Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:18 , the locality and time of the kingdom are marked. KELLY translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Judges 9:8 , Matthew 2:22 ). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Revelation 3:10 . "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [BENGEL].
11. I beheld--the angels: who form the outer circle, while the Church, the object of redemption, forms the inner circle nearest the throne. The heavenly hosts ranged around gaze with intense love and adoration at this crowning manifestation of God's love, wisdom, and power.
ten thousand times ten thousand--Greek, "myriads of myriads."
12. to receive power--Greek, "the power." The remaining six (the whole being seven, the number for perfection and completeness) are all, as well as "power," ranged under the one Greek article, to mark that they form one complete aggregate belonging to God and His co-equal, the Lamb. Compare Revelation 7:12 , where each of all seven has the article.
riches--both spiritual and earthly.
blessing--ascribed praise: the will on the creature's part, though unaccompanied by the power, to return blessing for blessing conferred [ALFORD].
13. The universal chorus of creation, including the outermost circles as well as the inner (of saints and angels), winds up the doxology. The full accomplishment of this is to be when Christ takes His great power and reigns visibly.
every creature--"all His works in all places of His dominion" ( Psalms 103:22 ).
under the earth--the departed spirits in Hades.
such as are--So B and Vulgate. But A omits this.
in the sea--Greek, "upon the sea": the sea animals which are regarded as being on the surface [ALFORD].
all that are in them--So Vulgate reads. A omits "all (things)" here (Greek, "panta"), and reads, "I heard all (Greek, "pantas") saying": implying the harmonious concert of all in the four quarters of the universe.
Blessing, &c.--Greek, "the blessing, the honor, and the glory, and the might to the ages of the ages." The fourfold ascription indicates world-wide universality.
14. said--So A, Vulgate, and Syriac read. But B and Coptic read, "(I heard) saying."
Amen--So A reads. But B reads, "the (accustomed) Amen." As in Revelation 4:11 , the four and twenty elders asserted God's worthiness to receive the glory, as having created all things, so here the four living creatures ratify by their "Amen" the whole creation's ascription of the glory to Him.
four and twenty--omitted in the oldest manuscripts: Vulgate supports it.
him that liveth for ever and ever--omitted in all the manuscripts: inserted by commentators from Revelation 4:9 . But there, where the thanksgiving is expressed, the words are appropriate; but here less so, as their worship is that of silent prostration. "Worshipped" (namely, God and the Lamb). So in Revelation 11:1 , "worship" is used absolutely.