They Sang a New Song: Charles Spurgeon’s Reflections on the Heavenly Hymn in Revelation 5
In a sermon on “The Heavenly Singers and Their Song,” Charles Spurgeon wrote this:
“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). I must take away the poetry for a moment and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn.
The first doctrine is that Christ is put in the front; His deity is affirmed. They sing, “Worthy are you.” A strong-winged angel speeds his way over Earth and Heaven and down the deep places of the universe, crying with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). But no answer comes, for no creature is worthy. Then came One of whom the church cries in its song, “Worthy are you.”
Yes, beloved, He is worthy of all the praise and honor we can bring to Him. He is worthy to be called equal with God; He Himself is God, very God of very God. And no man can sing this song, or ever will sing it, unless he believes Christ to be true deity and accepts Him as his Lord and God.
Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice that it was when He had taken the scroll that they said, “Worthy are you to take the scroll” (Revelation 5:9). To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. We could never reach up to God except that Christ has come to bridge the distance between us. He places one hand on man and the other upon God. He is the mediator who can lay His hand upon both, and the church greatly rejoices in this.
Remember that even the working of providence is not apart from the mediation of Christ. I rejoice in this, that if the thunders be let loose, if plagues and deaths around us fly, the child of God is still under the mediator’s protection. No harm shall happen to the chosen, for Jesus always guards us. All power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth, and the church rejoices in His role as mediator.
But now notice: in the church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a mediator? The church says, “Worthy are you . . . for you were slain” (Revelation 5:9). Ah, beloved, when Christ undertook to be her mediator, this was the extreme point to which His pledge to be her substitute could carry Him—to be slain! Jesus is never more glorious than in His death. His substitutionary atonement is the culmination of His glory, as it was the very utmost depth of His shame. Beloved, we rejoice in our mediator because He died.
A thing that is redeemed belonged originally to the person who redeems it, and the redeemed of the Lord were always His. “Yours they were,” said Christ, “and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). They always were God’s. You cannot go and redeem a thing that does not belong to you. You may buy it, but you cannot redeem it. Now that which belonged originally to God became indebted through sin. We, having sinned, came under the curse of the law. And though God still held to it that we were His, we were yet under this embargo: sin had a claim upon us.
Christ came and saw His own, and He knew that they were His own. He asked what there was to pay to redeem them, to restore His ownership. It was His heart’s blood, His life, Himself that was required. He paid the price and redeemed them, and we tonight sing, “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
He has, by redeeming us, separated us to Himself and made us a holy people, bought with blood in a special sense out of all the rest of mankind.
This redemption is the grounds for the distinction of God’s holy people: “By your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).
God never wearies of the precious blood, nor will His people who know where their salvation lies. They do not, even in Heaven, say that it is a dreadful word to mention. I heard a man the other day say of a certain minister, “Oh! We want another minister; we are tired of this man. He is always talking so much about the blood.” In the last great day, God will be tired of the man who made that speech.
Randy again: Spurgeon wrote some hymns and published a new collection of worship songs in 1866 called Our Own Hymn-Book. It was mostly a compilation of Isaac Watts’s psalms and hymns. Spurgeon paid close attention to the doctrines contained in hymns. He was publicly critical of a particular hymnbook that portrayed God as distant and uninvolved in human affairs. As usual, his criticism gained him a great deal of negative press in return.
It is the hymn of Revelation 5 that Spurgeon chooses as his passage in this sermon, expressing that the entire physical universe was created for God’s glory. But humanity rebelled, and the universe fell under the weight of our sin. Yet the serpent’s seduction of Adam and Eve did not catch God by surprise. He had in place a plan by which He would redeem mankind—and all of creation—from sin, corruption, and death. Just as He promises to make men and women new, He promises to renew the Earth itself. How? By the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. There is no other way.
If, due to the Fall, God would have given up on his original purpose for mankind to fill the Earth and rule it (Genesis 1:28), He surely wouldn’t have repeated the same command to Noah after the Flood: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1, NIV). Still, until sin and the Curse are permanently removed, people are incapable of exercising proper stewardship of the Earth. Redemption buys back God’s original design.
“God never wearies of the precious blood,” Spurgeon says, “nor will His people who know where their salvation lies.” The gospel is far greater than most of us imagine. It isn’t just good news for us—it’s good news for animals, plants, stars, and planets. It’s good news for the sky above and the Earth below. Albert Wolters says, “The redemption in Jesus Christ means the restoration of an original good creation.”
God’s redemptive plan climaxes not at the return of Christ nor in the millennial Kingdom but on the New Earth. Only then will all wrongs be made right. Only then will there be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1-4). And only then will we all begin to see the breadth and depth of the universe-piercing power of the blood of God.
Excerpted from We Shall See God, in which Randy Alcorn has compiled profound spiritual insights on Heaven from the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest theologians of all time.