John looks at the vision yet again, and the more he looks the more he sees.

First, in the centre he had seen a throne with someone sitting on it [4:2]; encircling this, a rainbow [4:3]; surrounding this, the four living creatures and what looked like a sea of glass [4:6]; encircling that, the twenty-four elders [4:4]. The four glorious living creatures and twenty-four elders were constantly affirming that God is holy, and that God is worthy of glory and honour and power because he created all things [4:8-11].

The next time John looked he saw standing in the centre of the throne a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain [5:6]. The praise and worship of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders shifted from the one who sits on the throne to the Lamb. The Lamb, Jesus Christ, is praised for his saving work: that by his blood he purchased for God people from every tribe, nation, language and people; that he has made them a kingdom and priests to serve God; that because of his redeeming work they will reign on the earth [5:9,10].

Then he looked again and saw yet another group encircling all that he has seen so far – this time a group so large that it cannot be numbered – thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand [5:11].

The number ten signifies completeness. Here we have multiples of ten:

A thousand is the cube of 10 – 10 x 10 x 10. There are ‘thousands upon thousands of angels’.
Ten thousand is 10 x 10 x 10 x 10, and we are looking at ten thousand times ten thousand.

By these numbers John communicates not the exact number of angels, but the completeness of the angelic hosts gathered here: all the hosts of heaven are here assembled giving praise to the Lamb. With one voice they declare his worthiness. He, the Lamb who was slain, is worthy of the same praise and acknowledgement as God the Creator [compare 4:11]. By these words the authority and position and worth of the Lamb are recognised and extolled. He is given the honour, glory and praise that is his by right, his by conquest and his by worth [5:12].

John had barely time to process the song of the angels when another song bursts forth. Every created thing in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them joins in the song. Here the whole universe joins the new song of praise to the Lamb. This victory of the Lamb is what the whole universe has been waiting for since Genesis 3.

In the past the heavens and the earth have been called upon to witness with horror the sinful rebellion of humans against their Maker [Deuteronomy 4:26; Psalm 50:4; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 4:28].

But now the whole of creation rejoices because of the victory of the Lamb and his exaltation [5:13]. This praise, this honour, this glory coming from all of creation had always been the expected and commanded outcome [1Chronicles 16:23-33; Psalm 96:1-13; 98:7-9; Isaiah 44:23; 49:13; 55:12].

This praise is affirmed by the ‘Amen!’ of the four living creatures and the worship of the elders [verse 14].

The Son of God, the Lamb who was slain, triumphed, conquered, overcame, by his death and resurrection. He has returned to his Father and there has been restored to the eternal glory that he shared with the Father before the world began. This is what he prayed for:

‘Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’ [John 17:5].

‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world’ [John 17:24].

Here in Revelation 5 John was given a vision of the divine glory of Christ, not for himself alone, but to write down for us, the church of the Lamb. Here we see his glory, and it is nothing less than the glory of God. This is the One walking in the midst of the church on earth [1:12-20]: the One who shares the throne and the glory of the Father. Both are present realities.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015