“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”
King James Version (KJV)
5:8 And when he took the book, the four living creatures fell down - Now is homage done to the Lamb by every creature. These, together with the elders, make the beginning; and afterward, #Rev 5:14|, the conclusion. They are together surrounded with a multitude of angels, #Rev 5:11|, and together sing the new song, as they had before praised God together, #Rev 4:8|, &c. Having every one - The elders, not the living creatures. An harp - Which was one of the chief instruments used for thanksgiving in the temple service: a fit emblem of the melody of their hearts. And golden phials - Cups or censers. Full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints - Not of the elders themselves, but of the other saints still upon earth, whose prayers were thus emblematically represented in heaven.
Re 5:8 When he had taken the book. The deliverance to him of the book was a signal for the four living creatures and the elders to fall before the Lamb, as they had fallen before the throne. They recognize in the fact that he has the book "that all power in heaven and earth is given into his hands" (see Mt 28:18 Joh 13:3). Hence, they offer him homage as Divine. Having every one of them harps. For praise. The grammatical construction seems to include both living creatures and elders. And golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. These symbolize the prayers of the saints. The imagery represents these heavenly assistants presenting these in heaven in behalf of the saints on earth. The comforting thought is that these prayers are not lost, but are presented at the throne of God and before the Lamb.