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The Sabbath and Worship Music


they sing before the Lamb a hymn accompanied by harps about His redemptive accomplishments: “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and thou made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth” (Rev 5:8-9).

Finally, the twenty-four elders sing before God about the vindication of the redeemed and the inauguration of the eternal kingdom: “We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that thou has taken thy great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev 11:16-18; cf. 19:4). One notices a thematic progression in the hymns of the 24 elders, from the praising of God’s creation to that of Christ’s redemption and the final vindication of His people.

Similar ascriptions of praises are found in the hymns sung by the countless multitude of angels (Rev 5:11-12) and by the redeemed (Rev 7:9-12; 14:2-3; 19:1-3; 19:6-8). “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9-10).

In his dissertation, published under the title A Theology of Music for Wor- ship Derived from the Book of Revelation, Thomas Allen Seel finds a crescendo in the participation of the heavenly choirs. “The chorus of the 24 elders appears to lead the larger choirs as the action in the text builds in a mighty crescendo of participation and sound; it initiates with the chorus of the 24 elders singing, followed by an antiphonal response of the creatures of heaven, and culminates when these antiphonal forces participate in a joined response with the remain- der of creation, including the Redeemed. Together they corporately direct their praise to the Godhead.”17

The dynamics of the antiphonal and responsorial responses of the various groups reveal an amazing unity. “They respond in an orderly and balanced man- ner which witnesses the totally complete, uncompromising unity of all of the Godhead’s creation. Worship in the Apocalypse is ‘genuinely congregational’ and inclusively unites variegated levels of creation into a sea of doxological praise to the Godhead.”18

Triumphant Music Without Beat. A careful study of the various hymns of Revelation reveals that in spite of all the references to the suffering of God’s people, the book still may prove to be one of the happiest compositions ever written. As The Interpreter’s Bible comments: “The music of eternity [in Rev-

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