The Songs Of Heaven
March 11th, 1962 @ 10:50 AM
THE SONGS OF HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-11-62 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled, The Songs of Heaven. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the climactic book, the Apocalypse. And, in preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 5, the last part of the chapter. And if you will turn to it in your Bible, you can easily follow the message in the Words of the Holy Scriptures. Revelation, chapter 5, beginning at verse 7:
And the Lamb came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.
And when He had taken the book, the four cherubim and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.
And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the cherubim and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
And they said with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.
And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth forever and ever.
This is the worship of God in heaven, and these are the doxologies of the redeemed creation and of the hosts of angels.
Now, a little summary of the messages of the last two Sundays, which are the messages delivered from the first part of this chapter 5 in the Revelation. The scene in heaven opens with God upon the throne; and around the throne of God, the enthroned redeemed, the four and twenty elders; and in the midst of the throne on the steps upward on each side, the four cherubim. And then, in the right hand of God, on the palm of the hand of the Almighty, lies a seven-sealed book. That book is a sign of a forfeited inheritance. It is sealed with seven seals significant of the encumbrances upon that inheritance. Then there is a voice of a strong angel, whose trumpet-heralding question penetrates to the farthest corners of God’s universe – in heaven, in earth, in the unseen world. "Where is there one," says the angel, "who is able to come and to take that book of the forfeited inheritance that lies in the hand of God and open the seals thereof? Where?" [Revelation 5:2]. Search was made in heaven, in earth, under the earth, in the unseen world, and no one was able – oudeis – not even one. And no one in heaven, in earth, in the unseen world was able to open the book or to loose the seals thereof. And when that tragedy faced the divine and holy seer, the sainted apostle John, he bursts into lamentations and open crying. That meant that the inheritance God made for Adam’s seed was forever forfeited, forever lost. No redeemer could be found to buy it back. Sin, death, hell, Satan are to reign forever. But in the midst of the weeping and the audible lamentation of the holy seer, there came one of the elders, one of the redeemed who said, "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb of God, hath prevailed to take the book" [Revelation 5:5], to break the seven seals, to cast out the usurper, sin and death and hell and Satan, and to give to Adam’s lost race the lost inheritance, our redemptive creation, the new heaven and the new earth.
And when the Lamb of God comes, He alone who is worthy and able, our Kinsman-Redeemer, when He comes to take the book, then all creation burst into exuberance and triumphant joy. And there follows the worship of glory, the song of heaven, here in chapter 5, encompassed in three incomparable doxologies. First, the cherubim and the four and twenty elders lead off. Then they are joined by the hosts of heaven, the angels. One of the most expressive Greek phrases you will find in the Book; the angels and the number of them was chiliades chiliadon muraides muraidon – the innumerable thousands upon ten thousands, multiplied by tens of thousands and thousands of thousands [Revelation 5:11]. And then the paean of praise rose on and gathers force and momentum, and wider and wider did it extend, until everything that God has created joins in the paean of praise and adoration. And every created thing in heaven, and every created thing on earth, and every created thing in the sea, and every created thing that God made I heard I say, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever" [Revelation 5:13] – into the always of the always. "And the four cherubim said, Amen, and the redeemed of God, the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped Him that liveth [forever and ever] – world without end" [Revelation 5:14]. What a remarkable scene! Now we are going to speak of it three ways: first the worship of the redeemed, then the worship of the angels, and third the songs, the doxologies they sing. First, the worship of the redeemed: "And the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having everyone of them harps, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" [Revelation 5:8]. That is, at this climactic, and all-meaningful and significant moment in all human story, when the Lamb of God is invested with the kingship of the universe, and when the inheritance is to be bought back for Adam’s fallen race, and the usurper cast out, when the Lamb who only is worthy, takes the book to break the seven seals and to cast out Satan and sin and death, then these four and twenty elders God’s redeemed, bring to remembrance before the Almighty God all that the prophets have spoken, and all that God’s saints have prayed – the burden of their intercession through the years, the harp and the golden bowl of incense, the prophet with his harp and the high priest with his bowl of incense, the sayings and the promises and the utterances of the prophets, and the prayers and burden of longing and intercession of God’s people.
Now, I want to show you these things if ever I have time. And, so many times peopled will say to me, "Preacher, you say things and then you just go off and leave us. We don’t know where you get those things." Well, I can’t stop or we would be here forever. And I am afraid I am going to die as it is before I get through preaching through the Book. And certainly as one of my teenagers said, "The Lord Jesus is going to come for sure before you get through the Revelation." But just to show you where I get that, the harp is a sign of the prophet. For example, in 1 Samuel 10:5, the prophet Samuel says to Saul:
And it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shall meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with the psaltery,with a harp before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and thou shalt be turned into another man.
[1 Samuel 10:5-6]
The prophets coming with harps. All right – again, in 2 Kings, chapter 3, the spirit of prophecy was not upon Elisha. And as he stood before the two kings, Elisha said, "And now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass when the minstrel played upon his harp, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the Lord," [2 Kings 3:15-16].
There is a ministry in the prophetic deliverance of God’s message. There is a ministry in the singing that is ordained of God. Elisha said, "The Spirit of prophecy is not upon me; bring a minstrel, bring a minstrel." And it came to pass as the minstrel played, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon His prophet. The singing, God ordained that in the sounding of those notes, and in the plucking of those chords, and in the making of that melody, God’s Spirit would move.
Then again, we must hurry. In 1 Chronicles 25:1: "Moreover David" as he divided them into courses, and then he speaks of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, "who should prophesy with harps." Isn’t that remarkable? In that incomparably glorious service that David prescribed for the worship of God in the temple, these courses, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun should prophesy with harps. Then in the third verse, "Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to give praise to the Lord" [1 Chronicles 25:3]. Just once again. In the forty-ninth Psalm: "I will incline Mine ear to a parable: I will open My dark saying" – I will open these things God has given me to say – "upon the harp" [Psalm :4].
Isn’t that remarkable, God’s Spirit moving in the songs of the minstrel? Why, a man would have to be a dead man, a man would have to be made out of brass, a man would have to be composed out of solid iron, not to be moved in his spirit when God’s unction falls upon the choir as they sing the praises and the glory of God. "And unto Him be power, and honor, and blessing, and glory, and to Him that sitteth upon the throne" [Revelation 5:13]. These things are marks of the Spirit of prophesy. And that’s why here in the hands of the elders, every one of them had a harp. It calls to mind all that God has spoken as they prophesied through His prophets, and as He gave visions to His seers, and as He delivered His word and His message through His God-filled and God-anointed servants. So there in these doxologies – there are the elders having in their hand each one a harp, that is bringing before the remembrance of God all that the Lord God hath said through His holy prophets.
And then, and each one with a golden bowl full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and I don’t need to speak of that. As the high priest went in and the people outside praying, the high priest went in and carried his bowl of incense; and as the smoke of it and the perfume of it ascended up to heaven, so the prayers of God’s people poured out before the great throne of the Almighty. In that bowl, in that golden bowl, the intercessions, the pleadings, the burdens, the agony of all God’s children through all of the centuries; For didn’t He teach us to pray, "Thy kingdom come"? And these prayers are not lost. Apparently, they fall to the ground: "Thy kingdom come" [Matthew 6:10], and the kingdom doesn’t come; and "Thy will be done," and everyone’s will in the earth is done except the will of God; and violence is rampant and darkness and error fills the land; but still God’s children praying, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done."
It is a part of the elective purpose of God that His children pray. And it is a part of the effectiveness of prayer that at this great and final and consummating moment, every prayer of every saint is brought anew and afresh before the Lord God, as the four and twenty elders pour out before the throne of the Almighty these bowls of the incense, of the intercession, and the burden and the agony of God’s sainted children through the centuries and through the ages [Revelation 5:8]; so in heaven, as they worship, and as they pour out their bowls of prayer, and as they bring to God’s mind the promises that He has made to the prophets.
I often marvel at these modern spiritualizers, liberals, who stand up in their professor’s chairs and who stand up in their pulpits, and they say, "All of those things spoken by the prophets, we are not to expect God to fulfill them. Those great things that the men of God said back there in the Old Testament under the aegis and unction and power and baptism of the Holy Ghost, we are not to expect them to be fulfilled!" Ah, how different is our covenant-keeping God who remembers every promise that He made and who, in this great and final and climatic hour, will bring to pass every word that He said. That’s the part of the adoration and the worship in glory, bringing to the remembrance of the Almighty the harp that prophesied and the golden bowl full of prayers.
Then the worship of the angels: "And I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne,and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands" [Revelation 5:11]. Everywhere in the Word of God, angels are unnumbered. They are innumerable. In the center of the throne, the Lamb of God, and around the throne, the four cherubim and the four and twenty elders. And then beyond, beyond, beyond as far as eye could see, the innumerable and celestial host of glory and it is significant. Their introduction here, this is the first time the heavenly host, the angels are mentioned. And it is unusual how it is done. For look, when the elders sing, they sing directly to the Lamb: "Thou art worthy,Thou art worthy,For Thou hast redeemed us,And Thou hast made us,kings" [Revelation 5:9-10], and directly they sing to the Lamb. The angels, in keeping with their inferior – isn’t that an astonishing thing? God’s redeemed, greater than the angels – the angels, in keeping with their inferior station of service, the angels do not address the Lamb directly. But they speak of Him. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" [Revelation 5:13].
And another thing which is an astonishing thing to me! Angels never sing. Never. Now, I thought that through. I’m going to preach on that for a little bit. For when I stumbled into that, it was an amazing discovery! And, I’ve already made up my mind before I say these things that I’m going to keep on saying about angels singing just the same, even though it isn’t true. It just kind of fits. So from now on, as from here past, I’m going to speak of angels singing, the celestial choirs – talking about the angelic host. But actually, angels never sing. Well, I just never was so surprised in my life! And I said, now that’s not so. So I turn in my Book and I said, "They sang when Jesus was born." Isn’t that right? All of my life, and all of everybody’s lives that I have ever known about, have always spoken about the angels singing when Jesus was born: "Glory to God in the highest." You know, the angel’s song. So I turned, and I say, if it isn’t there again. "And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace" [Luke 2:13-14], just like it is over here in the Book of the Revelation. And there was a great host of angels, "saying with a loud voice" [Revelation 5:12]. Never in the Bible, never in the Bible do the angels sing. Never. They always say. They’re in a doxology, they’re in a chorus, they’re in a recitative, they are all together saying. But never in the Bible do the angels sing. Well, that was an astonishing thing to me!
So I got to reading, and Ia got to studying, and I got to probing, and I got to trying to find out, and this is the best that I can find. Always, the redeemed sing; God’s blood washed sing; God’s children sing; but angels don’t sing. About the best I can find out is this: music is made up of major chords and minor chords. And the minor chords speak of the wretchedness, and the death, and the sorrow of this God-fallen creation. And most of nature moans and groans in a plaintive and minor key. The sound of the wind through the forest; the sound of the storm; the sound of the wind around the house – always in a minor key. It wails – the sound of the ocean, moaning in its restlessness, in its ceaseless trouble. Even the nightingale, the sweetest song of the birds, is also the saddest. Most of the sounds of nature are in minor key; the wretchedness, the despair, the hurt, the agony, the travail of this fallen creation. But an angel knows nothing of it; nothing of the wretchedness, nothing of the despair, nothing of the fallen. The angels know nothing of it. The major key and the major chorus and the major chords are chords of triumph and victory. He hath taken us out of the miry pit. He hath taken us out of the stubborn clay. He hath set our feet upon the rock, and He has put a new song in our souls and new praises on our lips. An angel has never been redeemed. An angel has never been saved. An angel has never fallen and then bought back to God. That’s the only thing that I could think of or find, why angels never sing. It’s God’s people who sing.
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught.
["To a Skylark," by Percy Bysshe Shelley]
Just thinking in my mind of a stanza out of Shelley that I haven’t thought of since I was a boy. Our sweetest songs with deepest sorrows are fraught. Somehow, it is the sorrows of life, and the disappointments of life, and the despair of life that make people sing. Either in the blackness of its hour or in the glory of His deliverance; that’s why the redeemed sing and the angels just speak of it. They see it. They watch it. But they know nothing about it. For it takes a lost and fallen man who’s been bought back to God, who’s been forgiven of his sins, who’s been redeemed; it takes a saved soul to sing!
Now we must hurry. May I speak lastly of the songs that they sing; the three doxologies here in this chapter? Now I want to show you something in the Book. Leaving out the doxology of the angels who don’t sing, and following just the songs of the redeemed, I want to show you how they grow, and they grow, and they grow, and they grow. All right, the first one is in the first chapter of Revelation and the sixth verse, and it is a twofold doxology: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever" [Revelation 1:6]. A twofold doxology – "To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever." Now, the next doxology will be threefold. Turn to Revelation, chapter 4. Revelation chapter 4 and the last verse: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power" [Revelation 4:11]. The next doxology that the redeemed sing is threefold: "Glory and honor and power." Now the next doxology that the redeemed sing is fourfold, in Revelation 5 – the one we are speaking of now – [verse] 13, "All did I hear saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power," a fourfold doxology. Now in chapter 7 and verse 12 is a sevenfold and final doxology; "Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto God, our God forever and ever. Amen." As the Revelation progresses, and as the redeemed are made more aware of what God hath done for them, the doxologies grow and grow and grow in glory, in majesty, in adoration, in wonder, in reverential awe and worship.
Now let’s look at these three here just for a moment. The first one, and you have it translated, "and they sung" – present tense, emphasizing the intensity of that singing: "And they sing a new song" [Revelation 5:9]. There are two Greek words for "new" – neos is new in type; kaine, kainos, is new in character, in kind. And this word is kainen – they sing a "new kind" of a song. They sing a song the world has never heard before. Song – you know there are three Greek words for "song"? A psalmos is a psalm; a humnos – isn’t it strange how these Greek words are in our language? – a humnos is a sacred song; and an ode, o-d-e, they pronounce it "ode"; and an ode is a song in general, and this is it. "And they sing a new ode, they sing a new song, saying…" And, there are four things in their song. They sing – "this thing is for the glory of God" – redeemed us to God. That’s the first chapter of Ephesians. I wish you would read that and see how all of this, the redemption of us, the saving of our souls, the new creation, for the glory of God. And second, it’s by the cross – "Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us by Thy blood" [Revelation 5:9]. And third: it is illimitable – "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" [Revelation 5:9]. And last, "And Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" [Revelation 5:10]. And yet, when I say that there are so many, and practically all of the liberals, there are so many that say how crass, and how crude, and how carnal, and how sensual, and how unspiritual that we should look for a kingdom and that we should be real people in it, and that we should be kings and priests unto our God, and that we should reign upon this earth – a real resurrection, a real body, a real redemption, a real earth, a real Christ, a real kingdom and God’s people living in His presence, a real life! "How crass," they say, "and how carnal and crude and how unspiritual." Yet, on my word, as I study the Book, these things are the avowed disclosures and revelations of the Lord God Almighty. We’re going to be real people, real people. You’re going to be you; and you’re going to be you; and you’ll be you; and all of us will be ourselves. And we shall live in redeemed bodies, like the body of our Lord; and we shall be real people; and we shall reign upon the earth – the song of the redeemed; then the great doxology of the angels.
And now I close with the ascription of praise. Look at it. The number four is the number of the world. And these four ascriptions here are very significantly and signally set apart. Each one has an article in front of it. "And I heard everything in heaven and earth and in the sea and under the earth, I heard all creation say, ha eulogia,"you’ve got an English word "eulogy" – ha eulogia. And I heard them say, "blessing" – ha eulogia. And then the second one – ha time, honor. Then the third one – he doxa, and you have got a doxology – he doxa. And then, he kratos – blessing and honor and glory – kratos, power. Each one set apart. That is, all creation praising God. "Every creature in heaven, in earth, under the earth, and under the sea, heard I them saying, Honor, and glory, and power, and blessing unto Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever and ever" [Revelation 5:13].
And, hereafter in the book, it will be the Lamb and the Lord God Almighty, together here in praise. In the next chapter, together in wrath; in the next chapter, chapter 7, together in consolation; in chapter 19, together in triumph, and in chapters 21 and 22, for the Lamb and the Lord God are the light of it, and they are in the temple of it in this celestial city. And they are the refreshment of it and the sovereignty of it.
And I’ve often said – I hope sometime I will have opportunity, I’ll have opportunity to defend this, to explain this – the only God you will ever see is the Lord Jesus. The only God you’ll ever feel is the Holy Ghost. And the only God there is, is the one great Lord God Almighty. And when you get to heaven, don’t you get in your mind you’re going to see three Gods. You are not going to do it. When you get to heaven, you’re going to see the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. And, we’re going to worship Him and adore Him, and we’re going to look into His face, and He is going to be our Lord and our King. And, we shall love Him, and worship Him, and sing to Him, and serve Him, world without end.
‘Tis the church triumphant singing,
Worthy the Lamb.
Heaven throughout with praises ringing,
Worthy the Lamb.
Thrones and powers before Him bending,
Incense sweet and voice ascending.
Swell the chorus never ending,
Worthy the Lamb.
Every kindred, tongue and nation,
Worthy the Lamb.
Join to sing the great salvation,
Worthy the Lamb.
Loud as mighty thunder roaring,
Floods of mighty waters pouring,
Prostrate at His feet adoring,
Worthy the Lamb.
Harps and song forever sounding,
Worthy s the Lamb.
Mighty grace o’er sin abounding,
Worthy the Lamb.
By His blood He dearly bought us,
Wandering from the fold He sought us,
And to glory faithful brought us,
Worthy the Lamb.
Sing with blest anticipation,
Worthy the Lamb.
Through the veil of tribulation,
Worthy the Lamb.
Sweetest notes, all notes excelling,
On the theme forever dwelling,
Still untold, though ever telling,
Worthy the Lamb.
[Anonymous, "’Tis the Church Triumphant Singing"]
"And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign upon this earth" [Revelation 5:9-10]. That’s what they sing in glory. God sanctified to us that love, that adoration, that worship, even now, even now.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give your heart in trust to Jesus. A family you coming into the fellowship of the church, while we sing the song, would you come? Come and stand by me. "Pastor, I give you my hand; my heart I give to God." "Here’s my wife, pastor, and these are our children, all of us are coming." As the Spirit shall open the door and lead the way, would you make it this morning, while we stand and while we sing?
– the seven-sealed book on the hand of God, the sign of a forfeited inheritance(Revelation 5:1-7)
Seven seals the weight of the encumbrance upon it
No one worthy to open the seals, qualified to redeem the inheritance – Christ
the Lion and the Lamb prevails to take the book, open the seals
When the Lamb of God comes to take the book, all creation bursts into
triumphant joy, expressed in three doxologies
cherubim and 24 elders lead off (Revelation
by the hosts of heaven, the myriads of angels(Revelation
gathers momentum, extending wider until everything God has created joins in (Revelation 5:13-14)
II. The worship of the redeemed(Revelation 5:8-10)
harp of the prophet(1 Samuel 10:5-6, 2 Kings
3:15-16, 1 Chronicles 25:1-3, Psalm :4)
before remembrance of God all He hath said through His holy prophets
incense of the priest – the prayers of the people
Bowls of incense full of the intercessions of all God’s children through the
centuries poured out before God(Matthew 6:10)
is part of the elective purpose of God that His children pray
III. The worship of the angels(Revelation 5:11-12)
the center on the throne is the Lamb of God, then around it the 4 cherubim and 24
elders, and beyond the innumerable host of glory
is the first mention of the host of angels, and unusually done
sing directly to the Lamb (Revelation 5:9-10)
angels, in keeping with their inferior station of service, do not address the
Lamb directly, but speak of Him (Revelation
never sing – they always say(Luke 2:13-14,
is made up of major and minor chords
Major chords speak of victory
Minor chords speak of sorrow, death
The angels know nothing of despair, of the fallen, and have never been redeemed
Poem, "To a Skylark"
IV. The doxologies
choruses of the redeemed grow and grow as they are made more aware of what God
has done for them
Twofold doxology (Revelation 1:6)
Threefold doxology (Revelation 4:11)
Fourfold doxology (Revelation 5:13)
Sevenfold doxology (Revelation 7:12)
The three here in chapter 5
song of the redeemed(Revelation 5:9-10)
Sing a new song, one the world has never heard before
Four things in their song
For the glory of God (Ephesians 1:5-6, 12, 14)
It is by the cross, the blood
It is unlimited
We are made kings and priests to reign with Him
response of the angels(Revelation 5:11-12)
chorus of the universe (Revelation 5:13)
Number 4 is the number of the world
Four-fold ascription of praise – signally set apart, each has an article in
front of it
Hereafter addressed to the Lamb and the Lord God together