Revelation 5 and Musical Instruments in Worship

Below I wrote a short little piece on Revelation 14:2 and its relation to the use of Instruments in Worship in the New Testament. Rev. Kevin Carroll said, “Personally, I think Rev. 5 provides a great argument against exclusive psalmody in worship.” So we’ll take a look at it and see if Revelation chapter 5 makes this argument.

But first I want to make a point about categories. There is some misunderstanding as to what “Exclusive Psalmody” argues and what I am talking about here. Whether or not the Psalms are to be sung exclusively is a completely separate argument as to the discsussion we are having over if we should accompany our singing with musical instruments aside from the human voice. There are plenty of examples of denominations and churches that have and do use musical instruments but limit the verse to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms. Now this all being said Revelation 5 has nothing to do with instrumental worship. The only verse that mentions instruments at all is Rev 5:8 which says, ” 8When 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.”

The question then would be for those wanting use this as a support for instrumental accompaniment is two-fold.

1) Why do you not also have all of your elders carry golden bowls full of incense?

2) Are the bowls of incense literally the prayers of the saints? Yes or No? If No then why is the harp literal then?


4 thoughts on “Revelation 5 and Musical Instruments in Worship

  1. Well spotted Ben; if you are going to appeal to Rev. 5 for musical instruments then you have to have incense as well.

    On a somewhat related point, why do the Eastern Orthodox have incense but not musical instruments? (They do have incense, don’t they?)

  2. Daniel,

    They definitely DO have incense, for which I believe they find scriptural justification in Tabernacle/Temple worship & in Revelation. I don’t believe there is any record of incense in the church until the fifth century, at which time Christian worship was being heavily Judaized. The Eastern Orthodox to this day treat Christian worship as essentially a universalized Jerusalem Temple service. Not surprisingly, their rejection of musical instruments is inconsistent, but was one of the practices of the early church that became “tradition.”

  3. I will freely admit I was off topic. The post was not about EP and I should not have brought it up. One of the challenges I have with the RPW is how it is applied. Far too often people see “commands” in statements or descriptions, i.e. they make imperatives out of indicatives. I believe indicatives are in the Scripture for a place.

    To go back on topic I would note that it is a curious thing that if apostolic worship did away with the use of musical instruments (by way of imperative), why is there no imperative? Indeed, one would expect at least a word of explanation on the subject. The first Christians were Jews used to their use in public worship and would have been surprised at the change. This is analagous to the argument we often make for paedo-baptism: if the NT Church was to withold the covenant sign from infants under the New Covenant, one would think Peter would have said something about that at Pentecost. (I’m sure that someone will bring up Synagogue worship at this point, but I don’t believe that is as strong a point as some might wish.)

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