"Who are these in bright array,
This innumerable throng
Round the altar night and day,
Tuning their triumphant song?
"These through fiery trials trod,
These from great affliction came;
Now, before the throne of God,
Sealed with His eternal name.
"Clad in clothing pure and white,
Victor-palms in every hand,
Through their great Redeemer's might
More than conquerors they stand.
"Hushed all sadness and all sighs,
Perfect love dispels their fears,
And forever from their eyes
God has wiped away their tears."
Then I looked again, and I heard the singing of thousands
and millions of angels around the throne and the living beings and the
elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: "The Lamb is worthy—the Lamb
who was slain. He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and
strength and honor and glory and blessing." Rev. 5:11-12
Here is the Song of Heaven! It is sung by a mighty
chorus—concentric ranks of redeemed and unredeemed: the angels, archangels,
cherubim, seraphim. The prophet of Patmos gets only a distant glimpse of the
vast multitude—he sees a few twinkling lights, as it were, in the suburbs of
the eternal city. But the voice borne to his ear is "as the noise of many
It is one section of that myriad throng on which the eye
is most intently fixed—"THE ELDERS;"—that is, the ransomed from the
How diverse and varied their antecedent histories! Some
are there, who had died in infancy. Some, who on earth had grown gray in the
service of their heavenly Master. Some, who had been arrayed in worldly
greatness, but who were yet "clothed with humility"—into whose lap had been
poured the full cup of prosperity, but whose lives had been consecrated as a
perpetual thank-offering of praise to the Giver. Others again, whose only
earthly heritage was the beggar's hovel—whose path had been strewn with
thorns, and their eyes dimmed with tears—yet who had borne all with
unmurmuring submission. Some, who were champions of the faith—their names in
all the churches. Others, "the Lord's hidden ones"—their deeds of faith, and
love, and charity, unknown to all save to Him who sees in secret.
(1.) This vision speaks of the UNITY
pervading the vast multitude.
All unite in one song, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!" No one
worshiper will look with disdainful eye on another. The angels great in
might—the cherubim burning with devotion—the seraphim soaring in
intellectual power—will be bound to the lowliest saint in heaven by the one
cementing principle of love! These "redeemed from the earth" may have
lived in diverse periods of the world, different epochs of the Church—they
may have dwelt in different climates—they may have lisped the name of Jesus
in different tongues, they may have belonged to varied denominations—wearing
on earth different attire, and though looking to one Shepherd, may have
clung to separate sheepfolds. Now, they are drawn into holy unity by the
sweet attraction of the same cross. Having no longer any separate
interests, each member of the glorified throng is actively employed in
promoting the interests and happiness of his fellows. "Whether there be
tongues, they shall cease," (1 Cor. 13:8.) Language is now on earth,
a greater barrier between church and church, than are mountains and rivers,
continents and oceans; but these different dialects of earth shall then be
merged into the one sublime language of eternity.
Well may the gifted author of the "Saint's Rest" say,
"What a blessed society will the family of heaven be, and those peaceful
inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, where there is no division, nor differing
judgments, nor disaffection, nor coldness; no deceitful friendship—no, not
one unkind expression, nor an angry look or thought; but all are one in
Christ, who is one with the Father, and all live in the love of Him who is
(2.) The sublime vision of John seems further to
indicate, that the Church triumphant will then be COMPLETE.
Not one heir of glory will be missing—not one stone of the stupendous
temple missing—not one sheaf of the glorious harvest lost. The number is
"ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands!"
That was an hour of deep interest in the past, when the
spirit of Abel entered Heaven, and stooped solitary and alone before
the throne of God. He sung his song alone; he was the sole representative of
the redeemed Church—the first sheaf in the future teeming harvest of
ransomed immortals! But now the Great Husbandman gathers the wheat
into His garners, and, lo! it is "a multitude which no man can number!"
(Rev. 7:9.) How gladdening to think that vast convocation is every day,
every year increasing. When John was on earth it was a feeble band. He said,
"We are of God and the whole world lies in wickedness!" (1 John
5:19.) The Church then was like a spark in chaos—a tiny ark tossed on a
great flood of evil; but before long, the number of His elect will be "as
the sand on the sea-shore." "The children of God" now "scattered abroad"
will be brought in—"the whole building, fitly framed together," will stand
complete and glorious—a "holy temple in the Lord," (Eph. 2:21.)
But (3.) the "top-stone" will be brought forth
"with shoutings," and the cry will be "Grace, grace unto it," (Zech.
4:7.) The song of this great multitude is an ascription of praise to a
Redeeming God—"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!"
Yes! this will be the sweet bond of union—"all one in
Christ Jesus." The hallelujah chorus of eternity will be the glorifying
of His adorable Person and Name! How painful on earth it is to a generous
heart, to see a kind and devoted friend unjustly calumniated and scorned.
The believer is in this world constantly compelled to see his adorable
Redeemer despised, rejected, slighted, blasphemed. Then, he will
behold Him, honored, lauded, "crowned Lord of all!" Jesus glorified!—we
shall be "eye-witnesses of His majesty." If, even here, we delight to see
honor conferred on those we love—how shall we exult in joining our feeble
ascriptions with those of the great multitude, in celebrating the glory of
Him whose love will there shine forth in all its peerless and transcendent
"The Lamb"—"the Lamb who was slain." It seems,
at first, a strange name and a strange theme, in a place where suffering is
unknown and where pain never enters! But it significantly tells, that the
work of Christ is to be the theme of eternity; that it is the heights of
Redeeming Love the saints are to be engaged in scaling—the depths of grace
they are to be engaged in fathoming. They will ever have the wondrous truth
recalled, "But for that dying, bleeding Lamb, we must have been
eternally lost—but for that wondrous grace of His, ours must now, and
forever, have been a portion in the restless surges of that fiery burning
lake!" "Doubtless," says Baxter, "this will be our everlasting admiration,
that so rich a crown should fit the head of so vile a sinner. Let DESERVED
be written on the door of Hell; but on the door of Heaven and life, the
Reader! prepare for this lofty society—the presence of
angels—the presence of Jesus. Oh surpassing honor! the prospect of being
linked through everlasting ages with every glorious Being in the universe—a
brotherhood with seraphim, cherubim, saints, martyrs—yes, union and
communion with God Himself!
If there be "joy in heaven among the angels of God over
one sinner that repents;" what will be that lofty burst of jubilee
resounding from a ransomed Church, when all its members shall be
gathered in; and when the crowns of "ten thousand times ten thousand, and
thousands of thousands," shall be cast at the feet of "Him who sits upon the
throne" and "the Lamb, forever and ever!"