Here, I. The apostle beholds this book taken into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to its being unsealed and opened by him. Here Christ is described, 1. By his place and station: In the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and of the elders. He was on the same throne with the Father; he was nearer to him than either the elders or ministers of the churches. Christ, as man and Mediator, is subordinate to God the Father, but is nearer to him than all the creatures; for in him all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The ministers stand between God and the people. Christ stands as the Mediator between God and both ministers and people. 2. The form in which he appeared. Before he is called a lion; here he appears as a lamb slain. He is a lion to conquer Satan, a lamb to satisfy the justice of God. He appears with the marks of his sufferings upon him, to show that he interceded in heaven in the virtue of his satisfaction. He appears as a lamb, having seven horns and seven eyes, perfect power to execute all the will of God and perfect wisdom to understand it all and to do it in the most effectual manner; for he hath the seven Spirits of God, he has received the Holy Spirit without measure, in all perfection of light, and life, and power, by which he is able to teach and rule all parts of the earth. 3. He is described by his act and deed: He came, and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne (Rev. 5:7), not by violence, nor by fraud, but he prevailed to do it (as Rev. 5:5), he prevailed by his merit and worthiness, he did it by authority and by the Father’s appointment. God very willingly and justly put the book of his eternal counsels into the hand of Christ, and Christ as readily and gladly took it into his hand; for he delights to reveal and to do the will of his Father.
II. The apostle observes the universal joy and thanksgiving that filled heaven and earth upon this transaction. No sooner had Christ received this book out of the Father’s hand than he received the applauses and adorations of angels and men, yea, of every creature. And, indeed, it is just matter of joy to all the world to see that God does not deal with men in a way of absolute power and strict justice, but in a way of grace and mercy through the Redeemer. He governs the world, not merely as a Creator and Lawgiver, but as our God and Saviour. All the world has reason to rejoice in this. The song of praise that was offered up to the Lamb on this occasion consists of three parts, one part sung by the church, another by the church and the angels, the third by every creature.
1. The church begins the doxology, as being more immediately concerned in it (Rev. 5:8), the four living creatures, and the four-and-twenty elders, the Christian people, under their minister, lead up the chorus. Here observe, (1.) The object of their worship—the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ; it is the declared will of God that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father; for he has the same nature. (2.) Their posture: They fell down before him, gave him not an inferior sort of worship, but the most profound adoration. (3.) The instruments used in their adorations—harps and vials; the harps were the instruments of praise, the vials were full of odours or incense, which signify the prayers of the saints: prayer and praise should always go together. (4.) The matter of their song: it was suited to the new state of the church, the gospel-state introduced by the Son of God. In this new song, [1.] They acknowledge the infinite fitness and worthiness of the Lord Jesus for this great work of opening and executing the counsel and purposes of God (Rev. 5:9): Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, every way sufficient for the work and deserving the honour. [2.] They mention the grounds and reasons of this worthiness; and though they do not exclude the dignity of his person as God, without which he had not been sufficient for it, yet they chiefly insist upon the merit of his sufferings, which he had endured for them; these more sensibly struck their souls with thankfulness and joy. Here, First, They mention his suffering: “Thou wast slain, slain as a sacrifice, thy blood was shed.” Secondly, The fruits of his sufferings. 1. Redemption to God; Christ has redeemed his people from the bondage of sin, guilt, and Satan, redeemed them to God, set them at liberty to serve him and to enjoy him. 2. High exaltation: Thou hast made us to our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth, Rev. 5:10. Every ransomed slave is not immediately preferred to honour; he thinks it a great favour to be restored to liberty. But when the elect of God were made slaves by sin and Satan, in every nation of the world, Christ not only purchased their liberty for them, but the highest honour and preferment, made them kings and priests—kings, to rule over their own spirits, and to overcome the world, and the evil one; and he has made them priests, given them access to himself, and liberty to offer up spiritual sacrifices, and they shall reign on the earth; they shall with him judge the world at the great day.
2. The doxology, thus begun by the church, is carried on by the angels; they take the second part, in conjunction with the church, Rev. 5:11. They are said to be innumerable, and to be the attendants on the throne of God and guardians to the church; though they did not need a Saviour themselves, yet they rejoice in the redemption and salvation of sinners, and they agree with the church in acknowledging the infinite merits of the Lord Jesus as dying for sinners, that he is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (1.) He is worthy of that office and that authority which require the greatest power and wisdom, the greatest fund, all excellency, to discharge them aright; and, (2.) He is worthy of all honour, and glory, and blessing, because he is sufficient for the office and faithful in it.
3. This doxology, thus begun by the church, and carried on by the angels, is resounded and echoed by the whole creation, Rev. 5:13. Heaven and earth ring with the high praises of the Redeemer. The whole creation fares the better for Christ. By him all things consist; and all the creatures, had they sense and language, would adore that great Redeemer who delivers the creature from that bondage under which it groans, through the corruption of men, and the just curse denounced by the great God upon the fall; that part which (by a prosopopoeia) is made for the whole creation is a song of blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, (1.) To him that sits on the throne, to God as God, or to God the Father, as the first person in the Trinity and the first in the economy of our salvation; and, (2.) To the Lamb, as the second person in the Godhead and the Mediator of the new covenant. Not that the worship paid to the Lamb is of another nature, an inferior worship, for the very same honour and glory are in the same words ascribed to the Lamb and to him that sits on the throne, their essence being the same; but, their parts in the work of our salvation being distinct they are distinctly adored. We worship and glorify one and the same God for our creation and for our redemption.
We see how the church that began the heavenly anthem, finding heaven and earth join in the concert, closes all with their Amen, and end as they began, with a low prostration before the eternal and everlasting God. Thus we have seen this sealed book passing with great solemnity from the hand of the Creator into the hand of the Redeemer.