“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God . . . “– Rev. 19:1
Of all the books of the Bible which convey a theology of song, including the Psalter, it is perhaps the book of Revelation which reveals most vividly the affirmations and assertions of Christian choral music. After all, these are the songs of heaven which the heavenly host and the redeemed of the Lamb will sing for all eternity. It is, therefore, appropriate that we explore this Revelation theology of song to inform our singing for the ministry of Canto Deo.
In the first few verses of the 19th chapter of the book of Revelation, for example, we find the angelic host singing a song which praises, extols, lauds, and magnifies the nature and character of God because he has judged Babylon, the Great Harlot, symbolizing the corrupt, defiant, pagan world system that stands in direct opposition to God. This is a song about the final judgment of God in addressing the problem of evil. It is known as the ‘Hallelujah Hymn’ because we find the word ‘Hallelujah’ four times, in verses 1, 3, 4, and 6. ‘Hallelujah’, which comes from two Hebrew words, means “Praise God”. Though this is a common term in the Hebrew Psalter, we find the term only here in the entire New Testament.
What insights can we draw from the ‘Hallelujah Hymn’ of Revelation 19? Let me suggest a few:
- The judgment of God against the evil, corrupt world system will be enacted and the Kingdom of God will triumph;
- Final divine justice will avenge the blood of the martyrs and their prayers, which go up night and day, will be answered;
- The ‘Hallelujah Hymn’ which begins as an angelic hymn, is picked up by the twenty-four elders, most likely a group of higher order angels, and the four living creatures, analogous to the seraphim and cherubim of the Old Testament who attend to the created order – the hymn has an expanding choir culminating in all of creation joining the song;
- The hope and assurance of the consummation of all things according to God’s will and purpose – The marriage supper of the Lamb, the return of Christ, the millennial reign, the defeat of Satan and of death, and the coming of the new heavens and new earth.
This is about what Canto Deo should sing!
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.