A New Song!: Introduction
While we often think of the book of Revelation in terms of God’s judgment being brought upon his enemies, one of the major themes of Revelation is that of worship. In fact, nearly half (24 of 60 uses) of the New Testament uses of the verb proskunew (proskuneo), which means “to worship,” are found in the book of Revelation. It is a book that depicts both proper worship in heaven in the here and now and proper worship in heaven when all of the elect are finally gathered around the throne of Christ.
With that in mind, Revelation is also a book that contains quite a few songs to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (and especially to the Son for his redeeming work). It is as if the Apostle John can’t help but break out in joyful song as he relates his theophany to us.
In the church today, there are (and I expect will always be) debates surrounding the use of new hymns being used in the church. Some churches even go as far as to exclusively sing the psalms, as God’s inspired songbook. I think that singing the psalms is great! I also think that singing the New Testament songs is a great thing to do (though in the New Testament we are largely only given fragments of the song itself)! And, I think that the inclusion of songs in the New Testament sets a precedent that each generation should always be contributing to the body of hymnody. Yes, that means that some hymns will pass into obscurity as new ones are added, but the best ones will not. I can’t imagine a day when a company will print a hymnal without standards like “Amazing Grace”, “O For a Thousand Tongues,” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
The key that we have to keep before us is to be careful that the new songs teach good theology. So much of the theology that we learn is from the hymns. Hymns often touch us deeply and stick with us, thus helping to shape the way we think about God and the Bible. One of the great things about the “tried and true” hymns of the faith is that they have been tried and tested by generations as to what they teach. As a generation that is adding new songs to the hymnody of the church, it is our responsibility to weed through the good and bad hymns on the basis of what they teach about our Lord.
Jesus is worth a hundred thousand generations of hymns and more! His glory is beyond the capacity of our language to convey! And once this world passes away, we will have an eternity to try and properly praise his worth. I look forward to that day. But for now, even in our limited capacity, we should be giving our all to the joyful task of that praise.
These two verses contain a fragment of a hymn that John witnessed the angels singing in heaven. As I mentioned above, there is a lot of theology that is contained within our hymnody. I thought it would be useful to look briefly at some of the theology that is taught within this wonderful hymn fragment.