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Q: Would you please explain Revelation 5:8-10?

In the book of Revelation, John is transported "in the spirit" to God's throne in heaven, from where he observes events which will take place shortly in heaven and on earth. The passage in Revelation 5:8-10 describes what John sees in heaven; it reads in the New King James Bible:

"(Verse 8) Now when He [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Verse 9) And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For you were slain, And have redeemed us to God by your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (Verse 10) And have made us kings and priests to our God, And we shall reign on the earth.'"

As we explain in our free booklets, "Angels, Demons and the Spirit World," the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are angelic beings in heaven:

"The Bible speaks about 'four living creatures' in the book of Revelation that appear before the throne of God. Although their description is, to an extent, similar to that of seraphim, there are nevertheless distinctions, implying that these angelic beings belong to a separate category or order. Revelation 4:6–9 explains that they have six wings, and that all of them look different. One looks like a lion, one looks like a calf, one looks like a flying eagle, and one has the face of a man. In addition, they have voices of thunder (Revelation 6:1) and they carry out God’s Will by directing other angels (compare Revelation 15:7)...

"The book of Revelation also speaks about twenty-four high-ranking spirit beings within the angelic realm, called the 'twenty-four elders.' They are in heaven, clothed in white robes, wearing crowns of gold on their heads and sitting on twenty-four thrones before the throne of God, whom they worship and serve (Revelation 4:4, 10–11). The high rank of the 'four living creatures' and the 'twenty-four elders' is expressed in Revelation 5:11: 'Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne [of God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ], the living creatures, and the elders…' (Compare, too, Revelation 7:11.)."

But are these angelic beings saying in Revelation 5:8-10 that Christ redeemed THEM by His blood, and that He made THEM kings and priests, and that THEY shall reign on earth?

If so, wouldn't this statement contradict many other passages in the Bible? For instance, please note that God will not give the world tomorrow to angels, but to man. Hebrews 2:5-6 states: "For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying, 'What is MAN that you are mindful of HIM...?'" In addition, we read that man will judge the world AND angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Finally, please remember that Christ did not die for angels, but for man, by becoming a human being (Hebrews 2:14-16). Since the penalty for man's sins is death (Romans 6:23), Christ died for man and thereby paid the penalty of human sin. He became a man (John 1:14), to die for man's sins, so that man could become members of the God Family (1 John 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:49).

Angels are spirit beings who cannot die (Luke 20:35-36) --and since the penalty for the sin of rebellious angels (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) is not eternal death, but first the "everlasting [Gehenna] fire" (compare Matthew 25:41; see also Revelation 20:10) and finally the "blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13), Christ's death as a man would not have paid for their sin, and His shed blood would not have redeemed them to God. In addition, there is no indication whatsoever that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders had been SINNING angels and that they had to be REDEEMED by Christ--by His blood or otherwise.

There might be different explanations for the passage in Revelation 5:8-10. We must always recognize, to begin with, that the Bible does not contradict itself; so any apparent contradiction must be evaluated and understood in the light of the principle of harmonizing all Scriptures (John 10:35).

(1) The first possible explanation is that the passage in Revelation 5:8-10 was mistranslated.

Notice how the New International Version renders the passage, beginning with verse 9:

"(Verse 9) And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased MEN for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Verse 10) You have made THEM to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and THEY will reign on the earth.'"

This translation is adopted by the overwhelming majority of renditions. Very similar are the renderings of the Revised Standard Version; the New Revised Standard Version; the Living Bible; the Revised English Bible; the New American Bible; the New Jerusalem Bible; the Amplified Bible; Phillips; the Moffatt Bible; and many German translations, including the German Elberfelder Bible; the German Neue Evangelische Uebertragung; the Zuercher Bible; the Menge Bible; the revised Luther Bible; and the German Schlachter Bible.

Following those translations, the answer to the potential conflict of Revelation 5:8-10 with other Scriptural passages would be obvious. There would not be any conflict at all. Rather, according to these renditions, the angelic beings sang a song to God, in which they reiterated the fact that Christ died for MAN to redeem THEM, and that redeemed and converted MEN made IMMORTAL--the "saints"--would rule on this earth as a kingdom of priests.

(2) Not everybody agrees with this alternate rendering.

(a) Some claim that even though in verse 10, the correct words are, "them" and "they," rather than "us" and "we" (i.e., that Christ made THEM--MEN--kings and priests, and THEY shall reign on earth), they maintain that in verse 9, the correct translation is "us," not "them" (stating that Christ redeemed "us"--ANGELS--to God, based on the understanding that the angels are singing the new song.) Translations which prefer these renderings are Lamsa; the Analytical Literal Translation; and the Margin of the New King James Bible.

However, several translations, including the annotation in the New Revised Standard Version; the Zuercher Bible; the Menge Bible and the Elberfelder Bible, maintain that the word "us" in verse 9 was supplied by the translator and is not found in the original; and that verses 9 and 10 should be rendered as follows (adopted from the New Revised Standard Version and its annotation):

"... by your blood you ransomed for God from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth..."..." (Compare also Vincent's Word Studies and the annotation by the Ryrie Study Bible).

(b) Other translations render the passage in Revelation 5:8-10 in the way, as quoted from the New King James Version at the beginning of this article; that is, that the message of the new song states in essence: "Christ has redeemed US with His blood, and WE will reign, as kings and priests, on the earth." Additional translations which render the passage in such a way include the Authorized Version; the Englishman's Greek New Testament, giving the Greek Text of Stephens 1550; and the old German Luther Bible.

(3) Although the overwhelming majority supports the view that the words should be rendered correctly in the "third," and not in the "first" person, would the rendering in the first person, as used in the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible, among a few others, in fact contradict other Scriptural passages? There would be clearly a contradiction if (sinning) angels were saying of themselves that THEY were redeemed by the blood of Christ and that THEY would become kings and priests, ruling this earth; on the other hand, what if the rendering in the first person would be correct, but it would not be the angels that SING?

Notice carefully that Revelation 5:8 introduced the new song in the way that the angels (four living creatures and twenty-four elders) fell down before the Lamb, having a harp, and golden bowls of incense, "which are the prayers of the SAINTS." Verse 9 continues: "And THEY sang a new song..." Grammatically and contextually (in the original Greek, there is no punctuation and segmentation into verses), the phrase, "They sang a new song," at the beginning of verse 9, could refer to the end of verse 8; that is, to the "saints" in "... prayers of the saints." Viewing it this way, it is the SAINTS--not the angels--who are singing this new song.

This understanding would also be in harmony with the fact that Revelation 14:1-5 speaks of 144,000 redeemed saints, who have harps and sing a new song. It says in Revelation 14:3 that these saints who were redeemed from among men (compare verse 4) are singing a new song before the four living creatures and the elders; in other words, before the same angelic beings that are mentioned in Revelation 5:8. We state the following about the 144,000 redeemed saints in chapter 17 of our booklet, "Is That in The Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation":

"144,000 servants of God are mentioned in Revelation 14:1–5. They are depicted standing with Christ on Mount Zion, here on earth. The time setting is after Christ’s return. They sing a new song, a song that reaches God’s throne in heaven (verse 3), as do our prayers today (compare Revelation 5:8; 8:2–5). God has found no fault in them (Revelation 14:5). This description reminds us of Christ’s message to the angel of Philadelphia (compare Revelation 3:7–12)."

In conclusion, the Bible does not contradict itself. The teaching of the Holy Scriptures is clear: Christ died for man; it is men--not angels--who will inherit the kingdom of God; and men made immortal will rule on this earth as kings and priests.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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