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The Doxologies of the New Testament Epistles (4): Revelation

H A Barnes, Bromborough

We have a fascinating progress of the ascription of glory to divine persons in the book of Revelation:

  • Twofold: 1.6, "glory and dominion"
  • Threefold: 4.9 & 11, "glory and honour and thanks", and "glory and honour and power"
  • Fourfold: 5.13, "blessing, and honour, and glory, and power"
  • Sevenfold: 7.12, "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might"!

Obviously, as most of the references show, doxologies occupy a prominent place in heaven, where they seem to be the equivalent of prayers on earth. The form of the doxologies is similar, e.g. the mention of "glory" and "for ever and ever" (cp. the doxology-like expressions in Rev 4.9 & 11 which have no concluding "Amen"). Similarly, in Revelation 5.12 we read that the many voices of heaven join in a loud voice to proclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (v.13), showing us that earth’s doxologies are fully in accord with those of heaven! This sevenfold attribution is very similar to the one being considered here and reminds us, once again, of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb. Later in the book of Revelation we have further heavenly and earthly ascription of praise (Rev 19.1; 21.24,26).

"Jesus Christ…to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev 1.5-6)

The first doxology in this book speaks about the Lord Jesus and could well have arisen just because of what He is in Himself, "the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth". However, added within the doxology is also the fact that He "loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father". John is so struck by this that he says, "to him…glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen". This is literally "the glory and the might"; these are His alone, even though later we hear that they are in the wrong hands, but only until He comes again. How wonderful, not only to acknowledge what He is, but also what He has done - loved us, washed us, made us!

"Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen" (Rev 5.13-14)

The Lord Jesus was declared in the saints’ new song to be worthy to open the seven-sealed book because He was the slain Lamb and the Redeemer (v.9). Many more join their voices, and John heard "the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (vv.11-12). This is followed by a universal doxology spoken by "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", with the four beasts supplying the "Amen". In their turn, the "four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever" (vv.13-14). The fourfold doxology is followed by "the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever". The Lord Jesus was rejected and slain upon earth, but He is praised by all in heaven!

"Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev 7.12)

This last doxology of the book and the Bible is in every sense the fullest, being a characteristic sevenfold attribution to God, seven being the number typical in the book of Revelation (see the dozens of occurrences of the word "seven") and the symbolic number in Scripture in general of perfection and completeness. This sevenfold doxology goes beyond even the sixfold declaration of David - blessing, greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty (1 Chr 29.10-11). The doxology is uttered unitedly by the inhabitants of heaven, and it begins as well as ends with "Amen", and follows the last doxology from earth (see above). It is expressed in response to the loud cry of the saved Gentile multitude "of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" - "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" (vv.9-10). "Our God" is now for both to cry in echoing unison, but, unlike the Gentiles, the angels do not sing about salvation.

Last, we note that while the use of "the" is variable in the epistles generally, in Revelation (in the original Greek version) all the attributes are preceded by the definite article, so we could read, "The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honour, and the power, and the might…", suggesting that "quality of the highest order is implied" (J Allen). This gives even greater emphasis to the statement that these attributes belong to God!

Conclusions

The doxologies of the New Testament epistles arise from the spiritual exultation that the writers experienced in joying in God (Rom 5.11) and His Son. Ten of the doxologies refer to God and seven to the Lord Jesus: the former confirms the Christian’s belief and affirmation that God is sovereign, and the latter that Christ is divine. One doxology refers to "him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" (Rev 5.13-14). Are our responses as spontaneous and so spiritually intelligent and fulsome?

May we too, like the doxology writers, reflect on the attributes of divine persons, and bring forth spontaneous, spiritually intelligent praise!

Concluded.

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