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The Apologists  Bible Commentary

 

 

Revelation 5

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13

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

 

Grammatical Analysis...

Other Views Considered...

For Further Reading...

 

Commentary

In this glorious scene before the throne of God in heaven, all creatures throughout all creation are shown worshipping and giving praise to God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  In verse 12, the "loud voice" declares that the Lamb is worthy to receive, "power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."  These terms of praise would be familiar to John's audience as common elements in doxologies to God and to Christ in other New Testament writings (e.g., 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; 1 Peter 4:11; Jude 1:15).  What is remarkable, here - indeed unique in the New Testament - is the number of terms (seven in all).  John is being expansive in his list to show that the Son is worthy of all possible praise.  In placing a single article (Greek: ho) before the list of nouns, John is wrapping them together and presenting them as a unit (see Grammatical Analysis, below).  This complete listing of individual elements of praise, then, constitutes one paean of worship; the Lamb is worthy of all this, and more!

In verse 13, the praise and worship of which the Lamb is fully deserving, is offered to Him by all creation.  Whether "all creation" here is to be taken literally (so Gill) or as hyperbole (so Bauckham) is not important.  The inspired author is drawing a distinction between "creation" that gives praise, and God and the Lamb who receive it.  John is drawing a line across the universe and placing God and the Lamb on one side, and all creation on the other.  

What is striking is that the worship offered to the Lamb is the same worship offered to "the One who sits on the throne."  Unlike verse 12 where John unites the terms of praise under a single article, here he places an article before each noun:  the blessing, the honor, the glory, the dominion.  While these articles are not significant with regard to translation, they are with regard to exegesis.  They particularize each abstract noun (see Grammatical Analysis, below).  It is not a general "blessing and honor" that is given to Christ in praise - it is specific blessing and specific honor.  It is the blessing and the honor just mentioned that the Lamb is worthy to receive - and it is this blessing and this honor that is given equally to God and the Lamb!  

One must ask: What kind of blessing and honor and glory and dominion must creation render to God in praise and worship?  Bible believers must answer, "the very highest of each of these:"  

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,

ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.

Bring an offering and come before him;

worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. (1 Chronicles 16:28-29)

It is precisely this praise and worship that is offered by all creation to God and the Lamb together.

Worthy is the LORD!  Worthy is the Lamb!

All creatures in their way praise God, and are subservient to the glory and interest of Christ, and are the occasion of glorifying of both; and even the enemies of Christ, wicked men and devils, will be obliged to own Christ to be Lord, to the glory of God the Father, as well as angels and saints; and the same glory and honour which are given to the one are ascribed to the other, which shows the proper deity of Christ, and his equality with the Father. (Gill)

Not that the worship paid to the Lamb is of another nature, an inferior worship, for the very same honour and glory are in the same words ascribed to the Lamb and to him that sits on the throne, their essence being the same; but, their parts in the work of our salvation being distinct they are distinctly adored. We worship and glorify one and the same God for our creation and for our redemption. (Henry)

Grammatical Analysis

 

thn dunamin kai plouton kai sofian kai iscun kai timhn kai doxan kai eulogian

 

TN DUNAMIN KAI PLOUTON KAI SOFIAN KAI ISCHUN KAI TIMN KAI DOXAN KAI EULOGIAN

 

the power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing

 

A single article (ho) prior to a list of nouns tends to bind them together as a unit 1.  Thus, in verse 12, John is uniting the list of seven praises into a single triumphant song of worship.  The Lamb is fully worthy of this kind of worship - worship that consists of praise on all possible levels and to all possible depths.

 

 

kai twi arniwi

 

KAI TI ARNII

 

And the Lamb

Dative case. Praise and worship are rendered to the Lamb precisely as to God on the throne. Note separate articles here in the doxology as in Rev 4:11 and the addition of to kratos (active power) in place of ischus (reserve of strength) in Rev 5:12. (RWP).

 

h eulogia kai h timh kai h doxa kai to kratoV

h EULOGIA KAI h TIM KAI h DOXA KAI TO KRATOS

the blessing and the honor and the glory and the power

Articles before abstract nouns tend to particularize them 2.  Thus, in verse 13, the four elements of praise are not general or of several kinds; but are made specific.  The articles are anaphoric (that is, they specify the "blessing and honor," etc., that have been previously mentioned in verse 12).  These are the same praises of which the Lamb is worthy, and these very praises are here offered equally to the One on the throne and to the Lamb.3

Other Views Considered

 

Jehovah's Witnesses

 

objection:  Some Jehovah's Witnesses have suggested that 1 Chronicles 29:20 should inform the way we understand Revelation 5:13.  This verse reads as follows:

 

And David said to all the assembly, Now bless Jehovah your God. And all the assembly blessed Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped Jehovah, and the king (ASV).

Witnesses contend either:

1.  That the king is rendered the "worship" he deserves ("homage" or "obeisance") while God is rendered the full, religious devotion he deserves; or,

2.  That both God and the king are together rendered the "homage" or "obeisance" proper to a man.

Witnesses suggest that Revelation 5:13 should be read in the same way: namely, that either Christ is given the "blessing and honor" that is rightfully His, while God is given "the blessing and honor" proper to Him; or that both are rendered the lesser praise and worship proper to Christ.  In either case, Christ does not receive the same praise and worship the Father does, and thus this verse cannot be used to demonstrate Christ's true Deity.

Response:  Linking 1 Chronicles 29:20 with Revelation 5:13 is not exegetically valid.  While we must "let Scripture interpret Scripture," this does not mean that we should discount immediate context in favor of a distant alleged parallel.  Our interpretation of Revelation 5:13 must take immediate context as our primary source of meaning.  Our interpretation cannot contradict other Scriptures, and if there were some ambiguity in Revelation 5:13, we might legitimately use other Scriptures to guide us.  But there is no contradiction between the traditional view of Revelation 5:13 and 1 Chronicles 29, regardless of how we understand the latter.  Furthermore, there is no ambiguity in Revelation 5:13.  The meaning appears quite clear:  All of creation offers God and the Lamb the same worship and praise.

Witnesses argue that using this logic, we must conclude that Israel offers God and the king the same 'worship' - the same 'bowing down' appropriate only to God, which of course contradicts both Witness and Evangelical beliefs.  But this is not the case. 

In other contexts, Witnesses argue (correctly) that the Hebrew shchh, rendered "worship" in the ASV ("did homage" in the NASB), does not necessarily mean "religious devotion" or the "genuine worship" rightfully rendered to God alone (though it certainly does mean this in many examples).  It can mean simply, "bowing down," or "rendering obeisance."  This nuance is brought out nicely in the NIV:

Then David said to the whole assembly, "Praise the LORD your God." So they all praised the LORD , the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king.

Similarly, the Hebrew word translated "bowed low" (qdad; "to bow down" - BDB) is not used exclusively of cultic devotion to God, but can simply mean reverence, rightly offered to men in moments of great emotion (e.g., Genesis 43:28).  

Thus, in 1 Chronicles 29, we cannot say with certainty that "worship" in the strict sense is being offered to David.  The bowing down may be an act of reverence, appropriate to both the King and God.  Indeed, this is likely, given the numerous warnings in the OT that worship of anyone or anything other than God is the gravest of sins (e.g., Exodus 20:5).  If it is argued that bowing before God must be an act of worship, it will be remembered that worship is a matter of the heart, and thus the Israelites in bowing before God rendered to Him what is proper, while bowing before David they rendered him what is also proper:

and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord and the king; the one with religious worship, the other with civil (Gill).

In Revelation 5:13, however, we are not dealing outward signs of reverence or hidden matters of the heart.  We actually see and hear the praises offered to God and the Lamb by all creation.  This is no mere shchh / proskuneo ("bowing down"), properly offered in some cases to a creature.  This "worship" is an entire symphony of praise, sung to God in the very throne room of Heaven.  'Bowing down" is certainly a part of this religious devotion (verse 14), but only part.  John is expansive and specific about the praise that is offered - "blessing, honor, glory, power, dominion."  These terms of praise are never bound together and offered to kings or angels as "worship" alongside God. Indeed, even in 1 Chronicles 29:20, while the assembly prostrated themselves before both God and the king, they offered "praise" (Hebrew: brak; LXX: euloge)4 to God alone.  To do otherwise would constitute idolatry.  When offered to God, "blessing" must the the highest possible blessing; "honor" the highest possible honor; "glory" the highest possible glory; "dominion" the most expansive of all dominions.  And these are the very praises (signified by the use of the Greek article) that are offered to both God and the Lamb.  Unlike 1 Chronicles 29, there is simply no "wiggle room" to allow any limitation whatsoever in the praise offered to the Lamb.  It is the same as that offered to God.

If we were told in Revelation 5:13 that all of creation merely "worshipped" (Greek: proskuneo ) both God and the Lamb, 1 Chronicles 29:20 might provide a legitimate parallel.  However, Revelation 5:13 offers us far more than that.  To take a verse that depicts Israel "falling prostrate" before both God and king and conclude that the expansive praises offered God and the Lamb in Revelation 5 constitute some lesser form of "worship" is without warrant.  

 

objection:  The Watchtower argues that Jesus may properly receive "praise" and "worship" in a relative sense, because such praise ultimately is directed through Jesus to the Father.  One source puts it this way:

...if what we understand as "worship" is apparently directed to the Son by angels, it is in reality being directed through him to Jehovah God, the Sovereign Ruler, "the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters."Rev. 14:7; 4:10, 11; 7:11, 12; 11:16, 17; compare 1 Chronicles 29:20; Revelation 5:13, 14 (Insight, Vol 2, "Obeisance").

Response:  There is no hint whatsoever of 'relative worship' in Revelation 5:13 (or 1 Chronicles 29:20, for that matter).  The praise and worship offered the Father is also offered to the Lamb.  Appeals to other verses in which praise is offered the Father alone does not prove that the praise in Revelation 5:13 is "in reality" directed to the Father - particularly since the text says it is offered directly to the Son.  Furthermore, the previous verse explicitly declares that the Son is "worthy to receive" such praise!

Witnesses sometimes point to Philippians 2:10-11, arguing that "bowing" to the Son is done "to the glory of God the Father."  They see this as demonstrating that worship or honor given the Son is actually directed to the Father.  It is a wonderful truth that honoring the Son honors the Father (John 5:23) and worshipping the Son brings the Father glory.  But this truth does not negate the fact that the Son is to be honored "just as" the Father is honored; that "every knee will bow" and "every tongue confess" that Jesus is Lord in the same way "every knee will bow" and "every tongue swear allegiance" to YHWH (Isaiah 45:23); and that every creature in heaven and on earth will praise and glorify the Lamb just as they do the Father.  This is the plain teaching of Scripture and the natural response of those who come to saving faith in Jesus and develop a personal relationship with Him.

 

objection:  Jehovah's Witness author, Rolf Furuli, says of Revelation 5:13:

Let us first of all point out the unique position of Jesus according to the Bible, as almost being on par with God himself in different situations.  The words of Revelation 5:13, that the blessing and honor and glory and might belongs to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, would have been pure blasphemy in the ears of an orthodox Jew.  And the reference in Revelation 22:1, 3, to the throne of God "and of the Lamb," would not be less offensive (Furuli, p. 194; emphasis in original).

Response:  I agree that such language would have been idolatry to an orthodox Jew; the question is why?  In the verses Mr. Furuli cites, there is no almost about it.  Jesus is placed completely on par with God in terms of worship and sovereign power.  As Larry Hurtado points out, this equality of God and the Lamb in Revelation is all the more remarkable because the author's concerns about proper worship indicate that he was most likely reflecting a common practice among early Christians:

The author of Revelation shows a sternly negative attitude toward other Christians who advocated what look like innovations in liturgical practice or in scruples about worship, such as those he accuses of 'the teaching of Balaam' (2:14) and the woman prophet whom he names 'Jezebel' (2:20), all of whom he denounces as advocating 'fornication and eating food sacrificed to idols.'  Throughout Revelation, the author warns about worship of 'the beast' (9:20; 13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4), and calls for worship of God alone (14:7; 19:10; 22:9).  In the context of the author's strict scruples about worship, the approval he give to reverence to the Lamb is remarkable, and also without precedent in the Jewish background.  But the author's very conservative attitude about worship makes it likely that his portrayal of worship as directed to God and to Jesus reflected traditional attitudes and understanding" (Hurtado, Worship, p. 92; emphasis in original).

The author of Revelation emphasizes again and again that proper worship is directed to God alone.  But John also includes Jesus equally in that worship without fear of blasphemy or idolatry:

The circle expands and the myriads of angels join the living creatures and the elders in a form of worship (5:12) clearly parallel to that offered God (4:11).  Finally, the circle expands to include the whole of creation in a doxology addressed to God and the Lamb together (5:13).  It is important to notice how this scene is so structured that the worship of the Lamb (5:8-13) leads to the worship of God and the Lamb together (5:13).  John does not wish to represent Jesus as an alternative object of worship alongside God, but as one who shares in the glory due to God (Bauckham, Revelation, p. 60).

Thus, Mr. Furuli's assertion that Revelation 5:13 places Jesus "almost on par with God" is not supported by the context or the overall theology of the book of Revelation.  Jesus is portrayed as fully God's equal in receiving worship and sitting upon His throne.  Orthodox Jews would have considered this blasphemy because indeed it was - unless Jesus was nothing less than equal in power and glory with God Himself.

 

objection:  Some Jehovah's Witnesses contend that simply because "praise" is offered equally to God and the Lamb, this does not prove that they are equally worshipped.  They suggest that while praise may be a part of worship, praise in and of itself is not the same thing as worship.5

Response:  The first point is to note that Witnesses making this argument are not in agreement with current Watchtower teaching on this subject:

An expression of commendation, of admiration, even of worship when the praise is directed to God (Insight, "Praise")

But more importantly, the Bible itself portrays praise as a form of worship time and time again.  We need look no further than the book of Revelation:

And all the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell upon their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength [be] to our God forever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 7:11-12, NWT).

Notice that "saying" (Greek: legonts) is appositional to "worshipped God" (Greek: prosekunsan t The), that is, it further explains the expression.  As John Gill put it:

"and worshipped God; by celebrating the perfections of his nature, and ascribing to him the glory of all his works" (Gill).

The "worship" consists of the praise which follows, and this praise is verbally very similar to that in Revelation 5:13.  This is just one of several parallel passages in the book of Revelation in which worship is offered to God through the praises and adoration of the saints and the heavenly host.  Throughout the Bible, God is worshipped by those who sing His praises, who ascribe to God the glory and power which are "due His name" (1 Chronicles 16:28-29).  Indeed, it seems only those with an apologetic agenda could argue otherwise.

 

Notes                                    

1.  "One article before a number of nouns indicates that they are conceived as forming a certain unity, if not as identical" (Zerwick, 184)

2.  "With abstract nouns, which of themselves express qualities, attention should be paid to the presence of the article, which gives the quality a determined concrete application" (Zerwick, 176).  "Abstract substantives in Greek often appear with the article, probably performing its particularizing function" (Porter, p. 107).  See also Young, p. 66 and Wallace, p. 226).

3.  Commentators and scholars who recognize that the Lamb receives the same worship and praise as God include Henry; Jamieson, Fausset, Brown; Walvood and Zuck; Robertson; Hurtado, Bauckham, Barnes, Clarke, Gill, and the author of "Revelation" in the Expositor's Bible Commentary.

4.  Interestingly, the Greek euloge is the same in 1 Chronicles 29 (LXX) and Revelation 5, where it means praise or blessing offered to God.

5.  In his public debate with James White, Greg Stafford argued that because "worship" (Greek: proskuneo) does not occur in this passage until verse 14, and is not specifically directed to the Lamb, evangelicals cannot claim that the Lamb is being truly worshipped alongside God.  One need only point out that true worship may be reflected in more than the use of a single word, as the following Answer makes clear.

Further Reading

   Is it Proper to Worship Jesus? Examining a Jehovah's Witness Doctrine Edmond Gruss and Jay Hess

   Jesus Christ - The Lamb of Revelation James White

   Jesus and Latreuo Sam Shamoun

   

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