Now we can only faintly feel what it means that we are still in the power of sin and death; then we shall clearly understand how deeply we had fallen and from what depth of misery we are saved. Still more. In this present life the saints of God were in tribulation. The enemy,—Satan, sin, the power of the antichrist,—left them no rest. Some of this numberless throng have been in the hottest of the battle. They were poor and despised. They were persecuted and subjected to the most awful suffering. They were bearers of the cross. But now they are perfectly delivered. They live in the new heavens and in the new earth. Wherever they turn, there is fullest freedom. Wherever they go, the Lord their God spreads His tabernacle over them. Wherever they go, there is their God and their Savior. Wherever they turn, there they sec the beauty of their God, and they may serve Him day and night in His temple. They do nothing else. Constantly they serve Him that sitteth upon the throne. They are now perfectly redeemed. They therefore can realize now the contrast fully and clearly between what they were and what they are now, between their former and their present condition. And it is small wonder that they altogether cry out in their song with a tremendous shout of deliverance: “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” It is the song of their deepest conviction. It is the song of their fullest knowledge, their clearest consciousness. It is the song of their own deepest personal experience.
The same is true of the angels. We know, of course, that it is not true in the same sense as of the redeemed throng that constitute the new humanity. However, we must never forget that also the angels are interested in the plan of God with regard to the salvation of the world. Personally they were not affected by sin and misery. They are and remained in the state of perfection. God had created the angel world differently from the world of man. Man was created an organism. And therefore a man could not sin and fall away from God as a mere individual. Man was created under one head. Adam was the head of the whole human race, the head both in a legal and in an organic sense of the word. Hence, when that one head fell, all the members of the human race were involved and dragged down to the abyss of sin and death. This, however, was not the case with the world of angels. It is true, of course, as we know, that sin did not have its origin in the world of man, but in that of the angels. Satan, the prince of the devils, was the first one to fall away from and to rebel against his God. Nevertheless, that fall and rebellion of the devil affected only part of the world of angels, and the rest remained perfect and upright. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the angels are deeply, interested in the redemption of God’s people and of the entire universe. In the first place, this is true because in their state of perfection they must have a far clearer view and deeper insight into the meaning of all that happens in the present world than we do. They know the mighty Satan far better than we do. They have had fellowship with him while still he was perfect. They knew that he was one of the mightiest among the mighty, yea, perhaps we can say that Satan was the very mightiest, of all. They also clearly and fully realize the awful power of his rebellion. On the other hand, they live for the glory of the Most High that sitteth upon the throne. They long to see His glory fully historically realized. They know that this glory of their God shall not be fully realized before the redeemed have all been gathered and perfected, the world shall have been renewed, and the mighty Satan shall have been forever subjected and cast out into outer darkness along with all that took his side in his rebellion against the Most High. Hence, the angels long to see that day of universal perfection.
They are even eager to catch a glimpse of it. They rejoice over every sinner that cometh to repentance. They are always ready to serve in the bringing of that glorious kingdom. Besides, we must not forget that because of sin also the harmony between heaven and earth has been disturbed, even the harmony in the world of angels. That world has been broken up by the fall and rebellion of the devil. There is disharmony everywhere, a disharmony that is to be removed and to be replaced by perfect harmony under Christ Jesus, the eternal King, under God, over all creation,—King also over the angels. In that eternal kingdom, in which heaven and earth shall be reunited, they also shall have a place, a definite place, a place which they cannot occupy till all shall have been accomplished. But now, at the moment when these angels respond to the song of the redeemed, all is accomplished and perfected. Satan has now been cast out and destroyed forever. Now all the works of darkness have come to an end. Now heaven and earth are the temple of God, in which angels and men, under Christ Jesus as their everlasting head; serve God forever, day and night. And therefore also they are perfectly qualified as singers in this heavenly choir, and they sing with perfect consciousness and from deepest emotion when they respond to the outcry of the redeemed: “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”
Let us pay attention for a moment to the contents of their song. The redeemed throng sing: “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” In order to understand this song we must make an attempt to place ourselves on the standpoint of the redeemed in the glorified creation. Only then can we fully understand what they mean by salvation. The meaning of the entire sentence of this song is rather clear: these people out of all nations and tongues and tribes mean to say, “Salvation belongeth unto our God; salvation is entirely out of our God; God is the only Author of salvation; and salvation therefore can only be to the glory of the Triune God.” It is plain that this is not a preaching of the gospel: for the gospel cannot be preached in perfection. There is no more an audience to whom the gospel can be preached. The saints in this throng do not mean to proclaim the glad tidings that there is salvation with God and that the Most High is willing and able to save. For the work of salvation is at an end. There is no salvation to be accomplished any more. All that had to be performed is now fully finished. Hence, these redeemed and these angels can only think of the complete wonder of the work of salvation. Just as we can speak of creation in more than one sense of the word, so also these redeemed now employ the word “salvation” in the sense that all is now finished. I can imagine that Adam in paradise, when he beheld the wondrous works of God round about him, when he was still standing in perfect knowledge and was conscious of his Creator in all things, would sing, “Creation unto our God.” The meaning naturally would be that Adam recognized that the works round about him were the finished product of the Almighty Creator, Who had wrought all these things and. through all of them glorified Himself. So it is also with the song of these redeemed. Salvation has now been realized. It is a completed work. And when they sing of it, they take it as they see it, as they have it before their very eyes, and as they experience it and enjoy it. They sing of it in its all-comprehensive sense. By it they refer, in the first place, to their own condition and state, as well as to all that was necessary to lead them to this state of glory. They were guilty and miserable. They were in the power of sin and. death. They were Condemned, as far as they were concerned, to everlasting corruption. And they were subject to the just wrath of the righteous God. They might sing with the poet of old: “Cords of death compassed me about.” And now they are delivered from all sin and death and corruption, and. they enjoy the fullness of eternal life and glory. There is no guilt, nor any consciousness of guilt, that oppresses them any more. There is no power of sin any more that corrupts them and rules over them. There is no darkness that beclouds their minds. There is no transgression that perverts their will. There is no hatred that causes them to rise in rebellion against their God. There is but one life, but one desire; but one constant longing: and that is to enjoy the full communion of Him that sitteth upon the throne of the Lamb. They do not look for it in vain. Their every desire is now satisfied. They hunger no more, neither thirst any more. Wherever they go, they find themselves in the temple of their God. And they find themselves covered by His tabernacle. They find that they dwell with Him, and He with them, and that they serve Him day and night. For not only they personally have been saved, but also all creation has been completely redeemed, according to their present perfect state. All things have now been brought into subjection to man in Christ Jesus their Lord. All creation has become a kingdom under man, in Christ, a kingdom with its king standing before the throne of the Most High, serving Him day and night. In a word, when these redeemed sing of their salvation, they understand it in its all-comprehensive sense, and they refer to the redemption of all the world in its fullness and to the restoration of perfect harmony in the new heaven and the new earth. In a word, salvation is the state of universal perfection.
What do they sing of this salvation? The answer is that it is unto God and unto the Lamb. That implies that they ascribe to God and to the Lamb all the authority, all the authorship and power, all the perfection and completion of what they behold in the new creation and of what they now experience in everlasting glory. This implies, in the first place, by way of contrast, that it is in no sense of the word the work of the creature, that it is not at all the work of man, and that man has no part in it whatsoever. Salvation belongeth unto God and unto the Lamb, and to no one else. It is a song which, it would seem is often difficult to sing in the present world and in the present dispensation. There seem to be even among the people of God in this world who cannot accept this truth now which once they hope to sing with the throng in the new creation: “Salvation is of our God and of the Lamb.” To be sure, they probably will go a good way along with you and Scripture in confessing that salvation is of the Lord. They admit with us that Christ has performed all the work that is needed to be done for our salvation. He has paid the debt. He has fulfilled the law. He is our all. And we come empty-handed. And with us they will confess: “Surely, He hath borne our sin and our transgressions. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we were healed.” But for the rest, they make salvation, in part at least, dependent upon man. Christ has opened the way, but that is all He could possibly do. If man now refuses to walk in that Christ opened way, then God stands impotent, and His kingdom will be a failure. And it is after all due to a large extent to this willingness of man to believe in Christ and to accept Him that God is successful in the realization of His kingdom. Or, what is worse, and what is surely impossible for a Christian to maintain, according to the modern view, Christ has simply taught us the principle of His kingdom, and He has by His life shown how to realize it, and now it is up to us. We must bring the kingdom of God in the world. We must be up and doing. And if we do not bring the kingdom, it will never come and be perfected.