Revelation 5:8 MEANING

Revelation 5:8
(8) And when he had taken . . .--Better, And when He took the roll, the four living beings and the twenty four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp, and golden vials (or, censers) full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (or, the holy ones). It is not the Church alone which is interested in the revelation which will throw light on life's mysteries and the delay of the kingdom: the whole creation groaneth, waiting for the reign of righteousness; and therefore the four living beings, who represent creation, join with the elders, who represent the Church, in the adoration of the Lamb who holds the secret of life's meaning in His hand. The vials (which seem to be censers, as they hold the incense) and the harps, it is perhaps more natural to suppose, were in the hands of the four-and-twenty elders, and not of the living creatures. Here, then, we have the praises (represented by the harps), and the prayers (represented by the censers) of the world-wide and age-long Church of Christ. The comparison of prayer with incense is in strict accordance with Old Testament language. "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense" (Psalm 141:2). The incense held a conspicuous place in the ritual of the Temple. The greatest care was to be taken in the composition of the incense, and the same compound was not to be used anywhere but in the sanctuary. These precautions suggest its typical character. The true odours are the heart-prayers of God's children. "Of these three sweet ingredient perfumes," says Archbishop Leighton, alluding to the composition of the Temple-incense, "namely, petition, confession, thanksgiving, is the incense of prayer, and by the divine fire of love it ascends unto God, the heart and all with it; and when the hearts of the saints unite in joint prayer, the pillar of sweet smoke goes up the greater and the fuller." Every prayer which broke out in sob from an agonising heart, every sigh of the solitary and struggling Christian, every groan of those groping God- ward, mingles here with the songs of the happy and triumphant.

Verse 8. - And when he had taken the book. "Had taken" (ἔλαβε) is here aorist, not perfect, as in ver. 7. The text should probably read, when he took the book; that is to say, the adoration offered coincides in point of time with the act of taking the book. The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb. The four beasts as representing animated creation; the four and twenty elders as representative of the Church (see on Revelation 4:4, 6). Having every one of them harps. (On the difficulty of how each one could hold harps and bowls, see on ver. 6.) It is possible that the phrase refers only to the elders; for these seem more suitably employed in offering the prayers of the saints than the representatives of all creation. If, however, as Wordsworth considers, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders together symbolize the Church, the phrase would apply to both. The κινύρα of 1 Samuel 16:16, 23 (the κιθάρα of this passage) was played with the hand, and the instrument indicated was probably more of the nature of a guitar than the modern harp. And golden vials full of odours. The Revised Version "bowls" is better than "vials." The idea is, no doubt, taken from the shallow bowls which were placed upon the golden altar (Exodus 30:1-10), and in which incense was burned. The odours are the incense. In the same chapter of Exodus directions are given concerning the preparation and use of the incense, which was always a symbol of prayer, and always offered to God alone (cf. Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense;" also Luke 1:9, 10; Isaiah 6:3, 4). Which are the prayers of saints. The saints; that is, the members of the Church of God. Some authorities consider "vials" the antecedent of" which;" but it seems best to refer "which" to "odours," though the sense is not materially different, since the former includes the latter.

5:8-14 It is matter of joy to all the world, to see that God deals with men in grace and mercy through the Redeemer. He governs the world, not merely as a Creator, but as our Saviour. The harps were 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. Christ has redeemed his people from the bondage of sin, guilt, and Satan. He has not only purchased liberty for them, but the highest honour and preferment; he made them kings and priests; kings, to rule over their own spirits, and to overcome the world, and the evil one; and he makes them priests; giving them access to himself, and liberty to offer up spiritual sacrifices. What words can more fully declare that Christ is, and ought to be worshipped, equally with the Father, by all creatures, to all eternity! Happy those who shall adore and praise in heaven, and who shall for ever bless the Lamb, who delivered and set them apart for himself by his blood. How worthy art thou, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of our highest praises! All creatures should proclaim thy greatness, and adore thy majesty.And when he had taken the book,.... The Vulgate Latin version reads, "when he had opened the book", very wrongly; for the opening of it by unloosing the seals, one after another, is hereafter mentioned, in Revelation 6:1, but when it was observed, that the Lamb took the book, and his commission to open, unseal, and fulfil it,

the four beasts, and four and twenty elders, fell down before the Lamb; by way of religious worship and adoration of him; which shows that he was not a mere creature, who assumed human nature, suffered, and died, and is the Mediator between God and men, but is truly God, and is the proper object of worship; and so he is regarded by all his faithful ministers, and true churches, which are here signified by the four living creatures, and four and twenty elders; who are represented as

having everyone of them harps; which were instruments of music, and with which the saints formerly used to praise God, Psalm 33:2; and so may here intend the praises and thanksgivings of the saints, of everyone of them, greater or lesser, upon the present occasion; having their hearts in right tune, making melody with them to the Lord, and giving thanks unto him for all their blessings, temporal and spiritual, and particularly for the Lamb, and his worthiness to open the book, and unloose the seals:

and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints; this is said in allusion to the golden censers full of incense, which ascended upwards, and was of a sweet smell; the vessels on the shewbread table, in which incense was put, are by Josephus (h) called "golden vials", as here; his words are, upon the loaves were put two , "golden vials", full of incense: the prayers of the saints are compared to "odours", or "incense", as the word may be rendered, and as they are called, Psalm 141:2; partly because as incense goes upwards, so do they go up to God, and are received, regarded, and had in remembrance by him; and partly because as incense is of a sweet smell, so the prayers of the saints, put up in the name and faith of Christ, are very grateful and acceptable to God: the "golden vials" said to be "full" of them, may design the hearts of believers, in which they first are, and from whence they proceed; true prayer is that which is inwrought in the soul, and comes from the heart, even from a heart pure like gold, purified by faith in the blood of Christ, a true heart, that asks in faith, nothing wavering; such as are really saints, true believers in Christ, are praying souls; they are full of prayers for themselves and others; they pray always, and for all saints: this makes nothing for praying to angels and saints departed; for these prayers were their own, and not others; and besides, these four living creatures, and four and twenty elders, were not angels, for they are said to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, and are distinguished from angels in the following verses; nor the saints in heaven, but ministers and churches on earth, and who were to reign with Christ on earth, Revelation 5:10; it may be observed, that the Jews sometimes represent prayer in such like figures as here;

"prayer (they say) ascends with those spices which are mentioned in Sol 4:14; and at the time that prayer ascends it is perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, and of this the holy blessed God asks, "who is this that comes up", &c. (i) Sol 3:6;''

and they say, prayer is greater than all offerings (k). See Revelation 8:3.

(h) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 6. sect. 6. (i) Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Exod. fol. 48. 3.((k) Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 40. 3.

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