Chapter 5: Christus Victor

David Chilton

Narrated By: Daniel Sorenson
Book: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of The Book of Revelation


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Chapter Text

The Lamb and the Book (5:1-14)

  1. And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the Throne a Book written on the front and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.
  2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the Book and to break its seals?
  3. And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, 
was able to open the Book, or to look into it.
  4. And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the Book, or to look into it;
  5. and one of the elders says to me, Stop weeping; behold, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so as to open the Book and its seven seals.
  6. And I saw in the middle of the Throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
  7. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the Throne.
  8. And when He had taken the Book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
  9. And they sing a New Song, saying:
Worthy art Thou to take the Book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase us for God with Thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
  10. And Thou hast made them to be kings and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.
  11. And I looked, and I heard as it were 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:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power
and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory
and blessing.

  1. And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying:

To Him who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be

blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever

and ever. Amen.

  1. And the four living creatures kept saying, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshiped.

1-4      St. John sees the One sitting on the Throne holding a Book… sealed with seven seals. As Theodor Zahn observed, the seven seals indicate that this document is a testament. While this is not the entire explanation, it is important for a proper understanding of the Book. Zahn wrote: “The word biblion [book] itself permits of many interpretations, but for the readers of that time it was designated by the seven seals on its back beyond possibility of mistake. Just as in Germany before the introduction of money-orders everybody knew that a letter sealed with five seals contained money, so the most simple member of the Asiatic churches knew that a biblion made fast with seven seals was a testament. When a testator dies the testament is brought forward, and when possible opened in the presence of the seven witnesses who sealed it; i.e., it was unsealed, read aloud, and executed…. The document with seven seals is the symbol of the promise of a future kingdom. The disposition long ago occurred and was documented and sealed, but it was not yet carried out.”[1]

The Book was also written on the front and on the back. Any Christian reader[2] would immediately have understood the significance of this description, for it is based on the description of the Ten Commandments. The two tablets of the Testimony, which were duplicate copies,[3] were inscribed on both front and back (Ex. 32:15). An analogue of this is found in the suzerainty treaties of the Ancient Near East: A victorious king (the suzerain) would impose a treaty/covenant upon the conquered king (the vassal) and all those under the vassal’s authority. Two copies of the treaty were drawn up (as in modern contracts), and each party would place his copy of the contract in the house of his god, as a legal document testifying to the transaction. In the case of Israel, of course, the LORD was both Suzerain and God; so both copies of the Covenant were placed in the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deut. 10:2).

Meredith Kline explains: “The purpose of Israel’s copy of the covenant was that of a documentary witness (Deut. 31:26). It was witness to and against Israel, reminding of obligations sworn to and rebuking for obligations violated, declaring the hope of covenant beatitude and pronouncing the doom of the covenant curses. The public proclamation of it was designed to teach the fear of the Lord to all Israel, especially to the children (Deut. 31:13; cf. Ps. 78:5ff.)…. Considered in relation to the divine oath and promise, Yahweh’s duplicate table of the covenant served a purpose analogous to that of the rainbow in his covenant with Noah (Gen. 9:13-16). Beholding this table, he remembered his oath to his servants and faithfully brought to pass the promised blessing.”[4]

We have seen that St. John has organized this prophecy in terms of the established covenant structure. More than this, much of the specific information in Revelation has indicated that the idea of covenant is central to its message. The book presents itself from the outset as part of the Canon, primarily written to be read in the liturgy (1:3). Tabernacle imagery is used in the opening Doxology (1:4-5), and the Church is declared to be constituted as the new Kingdom of priests, as Israel had been at Sinai (1:6). The theme of the book, stated in 1:7, is Christ’s coming in the Glory-Cloud; then, almost immediately, St. John uses three words that almost always occur in connection with covenant-making activity: Spirit, Day, and Voice (1:10). The following vision of Christ as the glorious High Priest (1:12-20) combines many images from the Old Testament – the Cloud, the Day of the LORD, the Angel of the LORD, the Creator and universal Sovereign, the Son of Man/Second Adam, the Conqueror of the nations, the Possessor of the Church – all of which are concerned with the prophecies of the coming of the New Covenant. The vision is followed by Christ’s own message to the churches, styled as a recounting of the history of the Covenant (Chapters 2-3). Then, in Chapter 4, St. John sees the Throne, supported by the Cherubim and surrounded by the royal priesthood, all singing God’s praises to the accompaniment of Sinai-like lightning and voices and thunder. We should not be surprised to find this magnificent array of covenant-making imagery culminating in the vision of a testament/treaty document, written on front and back, in the hand of Him who sits on the Throne. The Book is nothing less than the Testament of the resurrected and ascended Christ: the New Covenant.

But the coming of the New Covenant implies the passing away of the Old Covenant, and the judgment of apostate Israel. As we saw in the Introduction, the Biblical prophets spoke in terms of the covenantal treaty structure, acting as prosecuting attorneys on behalf of the divine Suzerain, bringing covenant lawsuit against Israel. The imagery of the document inscribed on both sides is used in the prophecy of Ezekiel, on which St. John has modeled his prophecy. Ezekiel tells of receiving a scroll containing a list of judgments against Israel:

Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day….” Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and 10, a Book was in it. When He had spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back; and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe. (Ezek. 2:3-10)

As St. John sees the opening of the New Covenant, therefore, he will also see the curses of the Old Covenant fulfilled on the apostate Covenant people. This conclusion becomes clearer as we look at the overall movement of the prophecy. The Seven Seals of the Book are broken in order to reveal the Book’s contents; but the breaking of the Seventh Seal initiates the sounding of the Seven Trumpets (8:1-2). The final vision of the Trumpets – section closes with a horrifying scene of a great Vintage, in which human “grapes of wrath” are trampled and the whole Land is flooded with a torrent of blood (14:19-20). This leads directly into the final section of Revelation, in which St. John sees the blood from the Winepress being poured out from the Seven Chalices of wrath (16:1-21). It would seem, therefore, that we are meant to understand the Seven Chalices as the content of the Seventh Trumpet, “the last Woe” to fall upon the Land (cf. 8:13; 9:12; 11:14-15; 12:12). All of these – Seals, Trumpets, and Chalices – are the contents of the seven-sealed Book, the New Covenant.

But there is a crisis: No one in all of creation – in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth – is able (or, as St. John explains, worthy) to open the Book, or to look into it. No one can fulfill the conditions required of the Mediator of the New Covenant. All previous mediators – Adam, Moses, David, and the rest – had ultimately proved inadequate for the task. No one could take away sin and death; for all have sinned, and continually fall short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The sacrifice of animals could not really take away sins, for such a thing is impossible (Heb. 10:4); and the high priest who offered up the sacrifices was a sinner himself, “beset with weakness” (Heb. 5:1-3; 7:27) and having to be replaced after his death (7:23). No one could be found to guarantee a better covenant. With the prophetic yearning and sadness of the Old Covenant Church, St. John began to weep greatly. The New Covenant had been offered by the One sitting on the Throne, but no one was worthy to act on behalf of both God and man to ratify the Covenant. The seven-sealed Book would remain locked.

5-7      St. John is comforted by one of the elders, who says (as it reads literally): Stop weeping; behold, He has conquered! The Church thus preaches the Gospel to St. John; and it seems as if the elder is so excited about his message that he blurts out the climax before he even explains who has conquered. He goes on to describe Christ the Conqueror: the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the strong and powerful fulfillment of Jacob’s ancient prophecy to his fourth son:

You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;
You return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
Like a lioness – who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until He comes to whom it belongs,
And the obedience of the nations is His. (Gen. 49:9-10)

It was David, the conquering Lion of Judah of the Old Covenant, to whom God revealed both the plan of the Temple (I Chron. 28:11-19) and the plan of the everlasting covenant, the “Charter for Humanity” by which the coming Priest-King would bring the blessing of Abraham to all nations (2 Sam. 7:18-29; 23:2-5; 1 Chron. 17:16-27; Ps. 16; 110; Acts 2:25-36).[5] At last David’s greater Son came and conquered, establishing everlasting dominion and opening the Covenant. Embodying and fulfilling all its promises, He is the One “to whom it belongs.”

Christ is also called the Root of David – a strange expression, to our way of thinking. We can more easily understand Isaiah’s term: “a shoot from the stem of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1). As a descendant of Jesse and David, Jesus could be called a “branch” (Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8); but how could He be called the Root? Our perplexity originates in our non-Biblical views of how history works. We are accustomed to thinking of history as if it were a cosmic Rube Goldberg machine: Trip a lever at one end, and a series of domino-like thingamajigs and whatsits bang into each other, at long last producing a whatchamacallit at the far end of the machine. By pure cause and effect, each event causes other events, in direct chronological succession.

Now, this is true – but it is not the whole truth. In fact, taken alone and autonomously, it is not true at all, for such a thesis is evolutionary in its assumptions, rather than Biblical. History is not simply a matter of the past causing the future; it is also true that the future causes the past, as R. J. Rushdoony explains: “The movement of time, according to the Bible, is from eternity, since it is created by God and moves out of and in terms of His eternal decree…. Because time is predestined, and because its beginning and end are already established, time does not develop in evolutionary fashion from past to present to future. Instead, it unfolds from future to present to past.”[6]

A simple illustration might help us understand this. Let us say someone finds you packing a sack lunch on a warm Saturday morning, and asks the reason for it. You answer, “Because I’m going to have a picnic at the park today.” What has happened? In a sense, the future – the planned picnic – has determined the past. Because you wanted a picnic at the park, you then planned a lunch. Logically, the picnic preceded, and caused, the making of the lunch, even though it followed it chronologically. In the same way, God desired to glorify Himself in Jesus Christ; therefore He created Jesse and David, and all the other ancestors of Christ’s human nature, in order to bring His Son into the world. The Root of David’s very existence was the Son of David, Jesus Christ. The “effect” determined the “cause”![7]

The Lord Jesus Christ is thus presented in the most radical way possible as the Center of all history, the divine Root as well as the Branch, the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega. And it is as the conquering Lion and the determining Root that He has prevailed so as to open the Book and its seven seals.

St. John turns to see the One who is described in this way – and, instead of seeing a Lion or a Root, he sees a Lamb standing before the Throne. This is the pattern we first noticed at 1:11, in which John first hears, then sees. Obviously, the One St. John heard about in verse 5 is identical with the One he now beholds in verse 6. The Lion is the Lamb.

In what sense is Jesus Christ a Lamb? The passage is not referring to Jesus in His Nature – He is not “lamblike” in the sense of being gentle, sweet, or mild, as some would falsely understand this text.[8] Christ is called a Lamb, not in view of His Person (which pop-theology degrades to the modern concept of “personality” anyway), but in view of His work. He is the Lamb that was slain, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Thus, the center of history is the finished, sacrificial work of Christ. The foundation for His mediatorial kingship (Christ as the Lion) is His mediatorial atonement (Christ as the Lamb). It is because of His sacrifice that He has been exalted to the place of supreme rule and authority. Christ has attained victory through His sacrificial suffering and death on our behalf.

St. John emphasizes this by his specific language: a Lamb standing, as if slain. Philip Carrington suggests that the Greek word standing (hestēkos) is “a rough Greek translation of the Hebrew Tamid, which means ‘standing’ or ‘continual,’ and refers to the daily burnt-offering in the Temple. It is the regular technical term, and forms the title of the section of the Mishnah which deals with that sacrifice. The Lamb of the Tamid is an intelligible expression, which might well have been turned into the Arnion Hestēkos of the Greek. The Greek word Hestēkos does not mean ‘continual,’ but only ‘standing’ in the literal sense; but it might be a rough equivalent like Christos (smeared), which stands for Messiah. Arnion Hestēkos might thus be ‘baboo’ Greek for Lamb of the Sacrifice.

“The word Arnion has also aroused discussion. Our Lord is called Lamb of God in the fourth gospel (1:29), just as he is here called Lamb of the Tamid; but the two words are different, Arnion here and Amnos in the gospel. It is possible that while Amnos is the more common and natural word for Lamb, Arnion Hestēkos might be a technical term of the Jewish Temple….”[9]

St. John continues the symbolic imagery: Christ the Lamb has seven horns. The horn in Scripture is an understandable symbol for strength and power (cf. Ps. 75:10); more than this, however, the thinking of the Biblically literate reader would have been jogged into recalling the seven rams’ horns that were used to herald the judgment of God on His enemies and the victory and salvation of the covenant people in the historic battle of Jericho (Josh. 6:2-5). In the same way, the great Sacrificial Lamb, to whom all other sacrifices pointed, now provides power and strength and victory for His people in their war for dominion over the earth. It is the definitive victory of Christ that guarantees the Church’s progressive victories and ultimate dominion of all the territory assigned to her – which, in this age, is not merely Palestine but the entire world (Matt. 28:18-20).

The Lamb also has seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth (cf. Zech. 6:5). In order to understand this, we have to go back to Genesis 1, where we find the first mention of the Spirit: hovering over the earth, brooding over it, forming and filling it, calling forth life. As the creation progresses, the Spirit performs seven acts of seeing – the sevenfold Spirit’s eyes, if you will. Seven times we are told that “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). As God was creating His world, He was also judging it, assessing and approving it, until the final, climactic judgment was made as the prelude to the beginning of the seventh day.[10] Here in Revelation Christ is presented as the Center of history, the Overcomer who receives the New Covenant for men; and, as such, He is seen to be both Creator and Judge, with fullness of knowledge through His immeasurable possession of the seeing and discerning Spirit (Jn. 3:34). Even in the beginning, when the Spirit went forth to fashion the earth and to assess it, He “proceeded from the Father and the Son.” Christ’s understanding of creation and history originates not from history itself but from the fact that He is both the Creator and Redeemer of the world. Thus, on the basis of His Person, His work, and His exalted position as Savior and World-Ruler, Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, stepped forward to the Throne of His Father, and took the Book out of the right hand of Him who sat upon the Throne. This is how the prophet Daniel described it:

I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a Kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His Kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14)

The central message of the Bible is salvation through Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant. Apart from His work, through which He acquired and eternally possesses the Covenant, there is no hope for mankind. He has overwhelmingly conquered so as to open the Treaty of the Great King; and through Him we too are more than conquerors.

8-10    At this, the company of saints and angels in heaven burst forth into praise: The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, prostrating themselves in adoration as they prepare to worship Him in song, having each one a harp. Another important aspect of the scene involves the golden bowls full of incense, which are (i.e., which represent, or set forth symbolically) the prayers of the saints (cf. Ps. 141:2; Luke 1:10). Geerhardus Vos explained: “The symbolism lies partly in that the smoke is, as it were, the refined quintessence of the offering, partly in the ascending manner of the same. That the altar of incense has its place nearest to the curtain before the ‘holy of holies’ signifies the religious specificness of prayer as coming nearest to the heart of God. The offering was of a perpetual character. The notion of the grateful smell of the burning incense in the nostrils of Jehovah is somewhat removed from our own taste of religious imagery, but should not on that account be overlooked, since it is not in the slightest degree felt to be inappropriate by the Hebrew sense of religion.”[11]

The living creatures and the elders then sing a New Song, and again a choral section is used to explain the symbols. Indeed, our interpretation is confirmed by the expression St. John uses here. The New Song is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10), always in reference to God’s redemptive/creative acts in history. The New Song celebrates the making of the Covenant and foretells the coming of Christ to bring salvation to the nations and universal victory to the godly:

O sing to the LORD a New Song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The LORD has made known His salvation:
He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to
the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
(Ps. 98:1-3)

Sing to the LORD a New Song,
Sing His praise from the end of the earth!…
Let them give glory to the LORD,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.
The LORD will go forth like a warrior,
He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.
He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.
He will prevail against His enemies. (Isa. 42:10-13)

Each time a new stage in redemptive history is reached in the Bible (such as the Exodus, the founding of the theocratic kingdom, etc.), there is a corresponding period of canonical revelation; as Geerhardus Vos said, “Revelation follows events.”[12] More specifically, the appearance of canonical Scripture attends God’s victorious redemption of His people, as Meredith G. Kline points out with regard to “the birth of the Bible”: “In the midst of a fallen world and in the face of Satanic hostility manifested in various historical guises, an elect people of God could not attain to kingdom status apart from redemptive judgments delivering them from the power of the adversary. Only when the Lord God had accomplished this soteric triumph would the way be prepared for him to promulgate his kingdom-treaty, setting his commandments among his elect people and ordering their kingdom existence under the dominion of his sovereign will….

“Covenantal revelation was already addressed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their households, offering them the kingdom in promise. But Scripture required for its appearance more than merely the promise of a kingdom. It was necessary that the promise and oath given to the patriarchs be fulfilled; the chosen people must actually attain to nationhood. Not until God had created the kingdom-community of Israel brought forth from Pharaoh’s tyranny to the Sinai assembly could he issue canonical covenant of the biblical type. The appearance of canonical Scripture thus had to await the exodus victory of Yahweh. That victory signalized the fullness of time for the birth of God’s treaty Word.

“The scheduling of the nativity of the written Word at precisely that historical juncture points us to the peculiar quality of canonical Scripture. Originating as it does in consequence of an awesome display of Yahweh’s power in salvation and judgment, in accordance with prophetic promises given to the patriarchs, Scripture from the outset bears the character of a word of triumphal fulfillment. It is the incontestable declaration that the name of Israel’s God is Yahweh, mighty Lord of the covenant. Although the Mosaic kingdom established at Sinai was itself still only provisional and promissory in relation to the Messianic realities of the New Testament age, yet unmistakably the Old Testament Word of God which heralded the Israelite kingdom was for the pre-Messianic stage of redemptive history a word of promises manifestly fulfilled and of Yahweh’s triumphant kingship decisively and dramatically displayed. From its first emergence in the sequel of victory, therefore, canonical Scripture confronts men as a divine word of triumph.”[13]

What Sinai showed in provisional form, Calvary and Olivet revealed definitively: the victorious redemption of God’s elect people in the New Covenant, when the Lion of the Tribe of Judah conquered so as to open the Book. And because Jesus Christ obtained the New Covenant for His people, He commissioned the writing of the canonical Scriptures of the New Testament as the decisive and dramatic display of His triumphant kingship, His “divine word of triumph.”

Along with the new written revelation, this new and final stage of redemptive history brought by the New Covenant called for a New Song, a new liturgical response by God’s worshiping assembly. Just as the previous epochs in covenantal history evoked a New Song,[14] the definitive establishment of the new nation with its new kingdom-treaty necessitated a new worship, one that would be a true fulfillment of the old, a transcending of all that it foreshadowed. The new wine of the New Covenant could not be contained in the wineskins of the Old; the new redemption required for its full and proper expression the New Song of the Christian liturgy. This is exactly what the New Song proclaims as its basis:

Kingdom-Treaty: Worthy art Thou to take the Book, and

to break its seals.

Redemption: For Thou wast slain, and didst purchase us for

God with Thy blood.

Nationhood: Thou hast made them to be a Kingdom and

priests to our God.

Dominion: And they will reign on the earth.

One aspect of the Song has raised a serious interpretive issue: As we noted at 4:4, Ned Stonehouse (with a host of others) held that the twenty-four elders are a class of angels. The basis for Stonehouse’s opinion boils down to the fact that one Greek New Testament manuscript contains a textual variation which, he claimed, indicates this. Whereas most manuscripts read that Christ purchased us, the variant reading preferred by Stonehouse says that Christ purchased men. The difference, obviously, would be that the singers in the first case are definitely identified as among the redeemed, while the singers in the second reading are not necessarily including themselves among those purchased by Christ’s blood.

Unfortunately for Stonehouse’s interpretation, there are two facts which, at the outset, argue against it. In the first place, even if all the manuscripts contained Stonehouse’s preferred reading, it would not prove his case; Stonehouse was simply making an assumption that may (but does not necessarily) follow from his premise. (After all, any believer could still pray for “the Church” or “God’s people” without excluding himself; the mere fact that the elders thank God for redeeming “men” would not necessarily mean that they are not redeemed themselves’)

Secondly, however, of the hundreds of manuscripts containing the Book of Revelation, only one carries this extremely dubious reading. The variant is not found in any “family” of manuscripts, and certainly not in anything that could be called a manuscript “tradition”; it occurs in only one solitary manuscript. To base an interpretation on such a shaky foundation is, to say the least, an exceedingly subjective and precarious method of Bible study.

Without a doubt, the traditional reading (“us“) is the true one. But saying this seems to raise two further problems: (I) The four living creatures, who do not seem to represent the Church, are said to be singing this song; (2) the song shifts to the third person between verses 9 and 10. In verse 9 we read: “Thou didst purchase us“; and in verse 10 we read: “Thou hast made them to be kings… and they will reign.” Actually, these two problems solve each other. It is apparently an example of what we have already seen in this book, and what will become more familiar as we progress through it: antiphonal praise. This pattern of choral responses continues in this chapter (cf. v. 11-14). A probable outline of this portion of the heavenly liturgy would be as follows:

Elders and Living Creatures: Worthy art Thou to take the Book and to break its seals.


Elders: For Thou wast slain, and didst purchase us for God with Thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.


Living Creatures: And Thou hast made them to be kings and

priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.[15]

Christ has purchased His people out of the nations, not only to redeem them from sin, but to enable them to fulfill God’s original Dominion Mandate for man. As the Second Adam, Christ sets His New Creation the task Adam forfeited – this time, however, on the unshakeable foundation of His death, resurrection, and ascension. Salvation has a purpose, a saving to as well as a saving from. Christ has made His people to be kings and priests to our God, and has guaranteed their destiny: They will reign upon the earth. This shows us the direction of history: The redeemed of the Lord, already a nation of kingly priests, are moving toward the complete dominion God had planned as His original program for man. In Adam it had been lost; Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, has redeemed us and restored us to our royal priesthood, so that we will reign upon the earth. Through the work of Christ the definitive victory over Satan has been won. We are promised increasing victories, and increasing rule and dominion, as we bring the Gospel and law of the great King to fruition throughout the world.

11-14 In response to the praise of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, the entire choir of angels, composing myriads of myriads,[16] and thousands of thousands, joins in with a loud voice, proclaiming that the Lamb that was slain is, on the basis of His Person and work, worthy to inherit all things (the seven enumerated items indicating fullness) in heaven and earth: power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. And, as if in joyful answer to this great declaration of Christ’s universal inheritance, the whole (fourfold) creation responds with praise, as a climax to this section of the liturgy. Every created thing that is a) in heaven and b) on the earth and c) under the earth and d) in the sea, and all things in them – all of created reality becomes part of the cosmic chorus, singing: To Him who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be a) blessing and b) honor and c) glory and d) dominion forever and ever. One day, all of creation will acknowledge Christ as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11); in principle, however, this is already established by the sacrifice and victory of the Lamb. Again, St. John has revealed to us the goal of history as the universal recognition of Christ’s Lordship and the eternal glory of God through Jesus Christ.

The Church in St. John’s day was about to experience a time of severe testing and persecution. Already they were seeing what, in a sane age, could scarcely be imagined: a union between Israel and the antichristian Beast of Rome. These Christians needed to understand history as something not ruled by chance or evil men or even the devil, but ruled instead from God’s Throne by Jesus Christ. They needed to see that Christ was reigning now, that He had already wrested the world from Satan’s grasp, and that even now all things in heaven and earth were bound to acknowledge Him as King. They needed to see themselves in the true light: Not as forgotten troops in a lonely outpost fighting a losing battle, but as kings and priests already, waging war and overcoming, predestined to victory, with the absolute assurance of conquest and dominion with the High King over the earth. They needed the Biblical philosophy of history: that all of history, created and controlled by God’s personal and total government, is moving inexorably toward the universal dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The new and final age of history has arrived; the New Covenant has come. Behold, He has conquered!

[1] Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, Vol. III, pp. 393f.; quoted in G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., revised ed., 1978), p. 121.

[2] In saying this, I am assuming that the average Christian of the first century had more sense than the average commentator of the twentieth. There is hardly a single commentary that even gives the Ten Commandments a passing glance in this connection.

[3] See Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 13ff.; idem, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., second ed., 1975), pp. 113ff.

[4] Kline, Treaty of the Great King, pp. 21, 24; The Structure of Biblical Authority, pp. 123f., 127.

[5] See Walter C. Kaiser Jr.,”The Blessing of David: The Charter for Humanity,” in John H. Skilton ed., The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974), pp. 298-318.

[6] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969), p. 11; cf. Rushdoony, The One and the Many, p. 145; St. Augustine, The City of God, Bk. XII, Chap. 13-15: Nathan R. Wood, The Secret of the Universe (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., [1936] 1955), pp. 43-45.

[7] One of the clearest statements of this idea is in Gordon H. Clark, Biblical Predestination (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969), esp. pp. 18-30.

[8] Hal Lindsey speaks in this connection of Christ’s “lamblike meekness and gentleness” in There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1973), p. 94.

[9] Philip Carrington, The Meaning of The Revelation (London: SPCK, 1931), pp. 119f.

[10] See Meredith G. Kline, Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), pp. 107ff.

[11] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948), p. 168.

[12] Ibid., p. 203.

[13] Meredith G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., second ed., 1975), pp. 77ff.

[14] Songs produced by the Exodus redemption include those recorded in Ex. 15, Deut. 32, and Ps. 90; the new organization of the theocratic kingdom under a human ruler, and the events leading to the establishment of the Temple, resulted in the Psalter (the definitive collection of “new songs” under the Old Covenant).

[15] This outline is also suggested by Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, 2 vols. (Andover: Allen, Morrill and Wardwell, 1845), Vol. 2, p. 134.

[16] Literally, a myriad is 10,000; but it is often, especially in the plural, used in a more vague sense to mean “a very large number.” Myriads of myriads obviously means simply “countless thousands.”