Summary: This is a chapter from the author’s book on Revelation.


Text: Revelation 5:8-14 W. Max Alderman

INTRODUCTION: The worthy Lamb has taken the book that He alone could open. Immediately upon His receiving of the book the atmosphere changed. The weeping has now turned to singing. The tense environment that had marked the place before, that seemed to spell tragedy, now spells triumph. The Apostle John is only beginning to write what he will be seeing. The mood and the temper will be changing almost immediately from one scene to the next. The thunder and lightning that had been described as being around the throne could symbolize the events soon taking place just as the lightning and thunder signals a violent and an angry storm. The only thing, no storm will be anything like that which John will be describing while the Lamb is pouring out His judgment against sin.

The scene now is not that of judgment being poured out upon the saints, but extreme gratitude by the saints for having been spared. The twenty-four elders are picturing the saints as they fall down before the throne with harps and golden vials full of odours, “which are the prayers of saints”. When I saw the latter expression, “which are the prayers of saints”, I began to yearn for the Lord to give me the proper interpretation of this passage. I had been taught that this was the bottled prayers of the saints of all ages, but this teaching did not satisfy me, not that the prayers of all the saints are not precious and valuable to the Lord, but within the context of what is taking place there seems to be something different taking place. I read a paragraph in Donald Grey Barnhouse’s commentary on Revelation that seemed to drive my thinking in the direction of finding a proper interpretation. Listen to what he says, “It should be noticed in passing that there is incidental teaching concerning prayer. The literal translation is that the golden vials are full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. Today, prayer consists of confession, intercession and worship. When we confess, we are occupied with our sins; when we intercede, we are occupied with human needs, others; and ours but when we worship, we are occupied with him alone. The day will come when prayer will be emptied of its need for confession. There will be no more laver. Prayer will be emptied of its need for intercession. There will be nothing remaining but that which may be symbolized under the bowls of incense, and all our prayer shall be praise and worship.”

Just as the twenty-four elders symbolize all of the redeemed; it seems that the vials having the prayers of the saints would be the prayers of worship. The previous prayers of the saints while on earth would have contained the prayers of confession of some wicked deed, or the failures confessed while living in sin. There would be also intercessory prayers that were prayed for someone else who may have been living in deep sin. These prayers will no longer serve any purpose. The incense, which is the prayers of the saints, will be the prayer of worship and praise that will be prayed throughout eternity.

Thank God, We will not need to pray for one more lost person or person with cancer nor will we ever need to pray for the backslidden. In heaven, both the prayer of intercession and confession will serve no purpose.


Singing is a very common means of expression. We sing songs just as we recite our poetry. Poetry has a message that is communicated in words with the emphasis upon both the sound and the meaning of the sounds. Not all poetry contains rhyme and meter but poetry is basically the work of the poet, just as a song is the work of the singer. Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of poetry, “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm”. The reason for which I give you this definition is that much of the singing in the Bible is in poetic form. Yet our Text speaks of a “new song” being sung. In the Old Testament, we have an entire Book of the Bible that is a songbook. The early church for the purpose of retention especially sang the Psalms. Any student of the Scriptures can detect the poetic quality of the Psalms. The Psalms have a spiritual purpose to be served when they are either read or sung. The Psalms are inspired, as is any other part of the Bible. The Lord used confluent inspiration just as He did with the rest of the Bible. Confluent inspiration just means that God used the personality of the writer when inspiring the Word. Likewise, He did the same with the Psalms. The new song in heaven is not from the Psalms nor were they taken from the Hymns that were sung upon the earth.

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