Revelation 5:8
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

King James Bible
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

Darby Bible Translation
And when it took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints.

World English Bible
Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Young's Literal Translation
And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each one harps and golden vials full of perfumes, which are the prayers of the saints,

Revelation 5:8 Parallel
Commentary
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts ... - The acts of adoration here described as rendered by the four living creatures and the elders are, according to the explanation given in Revelation 4:4-7, emblematic of the honor done to the Redeemer by the church, and by the course of providential events in the government of the world.

Fell down before the Lamb - The usual posture of profound worship. Usually in such worship there was entire prostration on the earth. See the Matthew 2:2 note; 1 Corinthians 14:25 note.

Having every one of them harps - That is, as the construction, and the propriety of the case would seem to demand, the elders had each of them harps. The whole prostrated themselves with profound reverence; the elders had harps and censers, and broke out into a song of praise for redemption. This construction is demanded, because:

(a) the Greek word - ἔχοντες echontes - more properly agrees with the word "elders" - πρεσβύτεροι presbuteroi - and not with the word "beasts" - ζῶα zōa;

(b) there is an incongruity in the representation that the living creatures, in the form of a lion, a calf, an eagle, should have harps and censers; and,

(c) the song of praise that is sung Revelation 5:9 is one that properly applies to the elders as the representatives of the church, and not to the living creatures - "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."

The harp was a well-known instrument used in the service of God. Josephus describes it as having ten strings, and as struck with a key (Ant. Revelation 7:12, Revelation 7:3). See the notes on Isaiah 5:12.

And golden vials - The word "vial" with us, denoting a small slender bottle with a narrow neck, evidently does not express the idea here. The article here referred to was used for offering incense, and must have been a vessel with a large open mouth. The word "bowl" or "goblet" would better express the idea, and it is so explained by Prof. Robinson, Lexicon, and by Prof. Stuart, in loco. The Greek word - φιάλη phialē - occurs in the New Testament only in Revelation Rev 5:8; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1-4, Revelation 16:8,Revelation 16:10, Revelation 16:12, Revelation 16:17; Revelation 17:1; Revelation 21:9, and is uniformly rendered "vial" and "vials," though the idea is always that of a "bowl" or "goblet."

Full of odours - Or rather, as in the margin, full of incense - θυμιαμάτων thumiamatōn. See the notes on Luke 1:9.

Which are the prayers of saints - Which represent or denote the prayers of saints. Compare Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." The meaning is, that incense was a proper emblem of prayer. This seems to have been in two respects:

(a) as being acceptable to God - as incense produced an agreeable fragrance; and,

(b) in its being wafted toward heaven - ascending toward the eternal throne.

In Revelation 8:3, an angel is represented as having a golden censer: "And there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. The representation there undoubtedly is, that the angel is employed in presenting the prayers of the saints which were offered on earth before the throne. See the notes on that passage. It is most natural to interpret the passage before us in the same way. The allusion is clearly to the temple service, and to the fact that incense was offered by the priest in the temple itself at the time that prayer was offered by the people in the courts of the temple. See Luke 1:9-10. The idea here is, therefore, that the representatives of the church in heaven - the elders - spoken of as "priests" Revelation 5:10, are described as officiating in the temple above in behalf of the church still below, and as offering incense while the church is engaged in prayer.

It is not said that they offer the prayers themselves, but that they offer incense as representing the prayers of the saints. If this be the correct interpretation, as it seems to be the obvious one, then the passage lays no foundation for the opinion expressed by Prof. Stuart, as derived from this passage (in loco), that prayer is offered by the redeemed in heaven. Whatever may be the truth on that point - on which the Bible seems to be silent - it will find no support from the passage before us. Adoration, praise, thanksgiving, are represented as the employment of the saints in heaven: the only representation respecting prayer as pertaining to that world is, that there are emblems there which symbolize its ascent before the throne, and which show that it is acceptable to God. It is an interesting and beautiful representation that there are in heaven appropriate symbols of ascending prayer, and that while in the outer courts here below we offer prayer, incense, emblematic of it, ascends in the holy of holies above. The impression which this should leave on our minds ought to be, that our prayers are wafted before the throne, and are acceptable to God.

Revelation 5:8 Parallel Commentaries

Library
The Song of the Redeemed
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou ... hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ... T he extent, variety, and order of the creation, proclaim the glory of God. He is likewise, ^* Maximus in Minimis . The smallest of the works, that we are capable of examining, such for instance as the eye or the wing of a little insect, the creature of a day, are stamped with an inimitable impression of His wisdom and power. Thus in His written Word, there
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

Departed Saints Fellow Servants with those yet on Earth.
"I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets." That the saints do not remain insensible, while their bodies are in the dull, but become angels, * see and serve God and bear his messages, and minister to the heirs of salvation, hath been argued from several considerations, in the preceding discourse; but we chiefly depend on revelation. The text and several other scriptures, we conceive to be our purpose, and sufficient to establish our theory, and that the same is illustrated and confirmed
Andrew Lee et al—Sermons on Various Important Subjects

Of Self-Annihilation
Of Self-Annihilation Supplication and sacrifice are comprehended in prayer, which, according to S. John, is "an incense, the smoke whereof ascendeth unto God;" therefore it is said in the Apocalypse that "unto the Angel was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all Saints'' (Chap. viii. 3). Prayer is the effusion of the heart in the Presence of God: "I have poured out my soul before God" saith the mother of Samuel. (1 Sam. i. 15) The prayer of the wise men at the feet of
Madame Guyon—A Short and Easy Method of Prayer

The Glory of Jesus and Mary.
Before entering upon the contemplation of the excellent glory which surrounds the blessed in heaven, we must endeavor to form a correct idea of God's grace, which enabled them to perform the great and noble actions we are now to consider. They were all, except Jesus and Mary, conceived in sin, and, therefore, subject to the same temptations that daily assail us. They never could have triumphed and reached the supernatural glory which now surrounds them, had they been left to their own natural strength,
F. J. Boudreaux—The Happiness of Heaven

Cross References
Numbers 7:62
one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense;

Psalm 141:2
May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

John 1:29
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Revelation 4:4
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.

Revelation 4:6
and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.

Revelation 4:10
the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Revelation 5:6
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

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