Revelation 5:11-14


The Apostle John was told to write down the letters to the seven churches and to convey these messages to the seven churches.  These letters are found in chapters 2 and 3.  In 4:1 John is told:  "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."  From this point on to the end of the Book we have prophecy both of the judgements and of the mercies of God.  The Book ends with a vision of heaven.

The letters to the seven churches are beautiful examples of Law and Gospel, necessary for all congregations throughout the New Testament era.  To each letter a promise is attached:

  1. To the Church at Ephesus: To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

  2.  To the Church at Smyrna: He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

  3.  To the Church at Pergamos: To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."

  4.  To the Church at Thyatira: He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.

  5. To the Church at Sardis: He who overcomes shall be clothes in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

  6. To the Church at Philadelphia: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

  7. And to the Church of the Laodiceans: To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Two things about these seven letters are noted:  In each case the letter is addressed  "to him who overcomes." This reminds us of the fact that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God.  The Book of Revelation has much to say about these tribulations.  The second point is that in each case of the seven letters, these words are added:  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."  For the first three letters these words precede the promise to him who overcomes. for the last four letters these words follow the promise.  It is clear from chapter 1 that the Lord Jesus Himself is giving these words to John. but in chapters 2 and 3 they are called the words of the Spirit.  This is according to the promise of Jesus in John 14-16 concerning the sending of the Holy Spirit.

Beginning with chapter four Revelation speaks about matters which lie in the future.  A voice says:  "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."  Then John tells us, verse 2:  "Immediately I was in the Spirit."  He said the same things of himself in 1:10.

He is granted five scenes of adoration in heaven:

  1.  The four living creatures at 4:8-9;

  2.  The twenty-four elders at 4:10-11;

  3.  The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders at 5:8-9;

  4.  The many angels at 5:11-12;

  5.  All the creatures in the universe at 5:13.

This section closes with the four living creatures saying  "Amen"  and the twenty-four elders falling down and worshipping the Lord Jesus.

In 5:2 the question is asked:  "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?"  No one could be found to do so.  Finally one of the elders says:  "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."  To open the scroll and to loose its seven seals means to know the future and to govern it as well.  The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is the glorified Jesus Christ.

In the third song of adoration, 5:9, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing a new song to the exalted Lord Jesus:  "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood."  On these words Franzmann remarks:

He who now has in His hand the destines of all creation has that power and authority because He came to serve and expended Himself in that service, even to the shedding of His redeeming blood, thus paying the ransom that liberated doomed and desolate men and set them free for God.
We are reminded of Jesus' own words:  "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth."  Matthew 28:18.  And His words at John 17:1-2  "Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him."  The glorified human nature of Christ holds the destinies of all men in His hand.  For the Christians, central to all his doing, thinking and believing is Jesus' person and work.

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

No symbolical terms are used in the Book of Revelation for God's good angels.  The angels encircle the throne of God, the living creatures and the elders.  The term  "living creatures"  has been called the sphinx of Revelation, because no one is certain as to whom they represent.  Halley says that they are heavenly beings and are thought to be Cherubim, spoken of in Genesis 3:24 and Ezekiel 1:10 and 10:14.  Franzmann thinks that they are representatives of all created beings.  Bengel suggests that they are the celestial symbols of creation.  Swete says that they represent creations and the Divine immanence in Nature.

There is difference of opinion as to who is meant by the elders.  Halley remarks that some think they represent the glorified Church while others think they represent heavenly intelligence, princes of heaven, or angels.  Franzmann remarks that they represent the people of God as they are in God's intent, as His new creations in Christ, made alive, raised up, seated in heavenly places and glorified.  Bengel thinks that they are the most excellent of the human race.  He gives a number of examples.  The old  Concordia Bible with Notes  suggests that they are the representatives of God's people under the Old and the New Testament dispensations, twelve for each, answering to the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles of Christ.  Lenski thinks that the term  "elder"  points to the ministry of the Word.  The Word that is committed to the holy ministry as God's own Word rules the whole world and thereby glorifies God.

In the second part of the verse we read:  "And the number of them, angels was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands."  Compare Daniel 7:10.

Lenski: The greatest number in current use among the ancients was the myriad. When this greatest number is multiplied by itself, even this does not exhaust the number of angels, there are still thousands of thousands.
Kretzmann: The very angels go into ecstasies over the work of redemption as performed by the Lamb that was slain.
Compare the term  "myriads of angels"  in Hebrews 12:22. The KJV translates  "living creatures"  with  "beasts."  All other versions render it  "living creatures,"  a much better translation.

Revelation 5:12 In a loud voice they sang:  "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

To be worthy to receive means to be accorded that which is given to Him.  The results of His being slain and crucified remain and are visible on the Lamb.  The angels ascribe seven attributes to the exalted Jesus because these seven truly now belong to His human nature.

Lenski: Omnipotent power and strength are synonymous like honor, glory, and blessing.  The first four: power, riches, wisdom, strength, are objective, the last three, honor, glory and blessing, are subjective as being offered to the Lamb by others.  Riches are all possessions.  All seven pertain to the opening of the book and its seven seals, the infinitely glorious work of bringing the prophecies of the book to triumphant realization in the consummation of the kingdom.
Franzmann: To the Victor-Victim they ascribed wealth and wisdom, inexhaustible resources and the wit to use them rightly, which befit the Rule of history, compare Romans 11:33, the power and might which enable Him to execute what His wisdom has decreed, and the honor and glory and blessing that shall be His when His right arm has gotten Him the victory.
Kretzmann: The angels themselves have a desire to look into the depths of God's love shown in the salvation of the world.  They declare the Lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of the world to be worthy of all the great gifts and blessings which came upon Him, were given to Him, at the time of His exaltation to the right hand of God.  Honor and glory and praise are due to Him whose victorious death has won Him the power of bestowing incalculable riches on His people, and of lifting the veil of the future, where He finds this in the interest of His Church.
Swete:  The Angels stand outside the mystery of Redemption, though they are far from being uninterested spectators, Ephesians 3:10, 1 Peter 1:12, and recognize both the grandeur of the Lord's sacrificial act, and its infinite merit.  The doxology which they offer to the Lamb is even fuller than that which in 4:11 is offered by the Elders to the Creator, for to glory and honor and power it adds riches, wisdom, strength, and blessing.
Note that only one article is used for the seven nouns.  In a word, this verse is saying that there is nothing that our exalted Redeemer cannot give us and for this reason He receives all the praise and honor which can possibly be accorded Him.

Revelation 5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:  "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

This verse is exhaustive.  It includes every created being.  See Philippians 2:10.

Lenski: Shall we try to enumerate the creatures found in these four places? Who is able to do so?  'Honor and glory' are alike in 4:11; 5:12; and here in verse 13 in this doxology of the creatures which consists of four items.  In all three doxologies the repeated use of 'and' heaps up the ascriptions like a great tower of praise.
Kretzmann: Whether willingly or unwillingly, every creature is obliged to acknowledge the deity, the divine godhead, of Christ, the exalted Son of Man, to praise, magnify, and bless Him, to yield itself to His dominion, to confess that to Him all the strength and wealth and wisdom of life rightly belong.  And thus God is glorified, also in the glorification of His Son.  The praise of God the Creature and the praise of Christ the Redeemer are blended in one final song which will continue to be chanted throughout eternity.
Old Concordia Bible with Notes : In paying divine honors to Christ, Christians on earth imitate saints and angels in heaven, and prepare to mingle in their society, join in their employments, and partake of their joys forever.
New Concordia Bible with Notes:  There is hope in One only, in the slain and triumphant Messiah; he can take the book and reveal and execute the counsels of God. His appearance evoked a triple chorus of adoration from the living creatures and elders, from myriads of angels, and from every creature in God's world.  The last song, that of the creatures, unites praise for the Lamb with praise for God the Enthroned, thus marking the Lamb as in majesty coequal with God and linking chapter 5 closely with chapter 4.
Swete: While the Angels' doxology was sevenfold, the Creation's is fourfold. This fourfold attribution of praise agrees with the character of those who offer it, for four is the number of the creature.  The exaltation of the Lamb is not temporary but enduring.

Revelation 5:14 The four living creatures said,  "Amen,"  and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Here we return to the four living creatures and the elders mentioned in verse 8.  They say one word: Amen.  They affirm that what was said in verse 13 is true.  Both the KJV and the NKJV add these words at the end of the verse:  "Him that liveth for ever and ever."

Those who consider the  "elders"  as representatives of the Church view this verse as Christians on earth joining the hosts of heaven and of creation in praise for the Lamb.

Franzmann: We are joining in one worship with the living creatures before God's throne, with the twenty-four crowned and white-robed elders, with the angelic hosts, and with every creature under the sun.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 106-110. Used with permission.

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