The principal figure of the book of Revelation is the Lamb. He is introduced in Revelation 5, where the seven-sealed scroll represents the outpouring of God’s retribution upon human sin in preparation for the kingdom. The Lamb is the one who has earned the right to break the seals and to impose God’s wrath upon the earth (Rev. 6:16). The Lamb receives worship along with the One who sits on the throne (Rev. 5:11-14). Indeed, the Lamb Himself is in the midst of the throne (Rev. 7:17). By the Lamb’s blood, the accuser is overcome (Rev. 12:11). His is the book of life (Rev. 13:8; 21:27). He is the captain of the hundred forty-four thousand (Rev. 14:1-5). The worshippers of the Beast are tormented in the presence of the Lamb (Rev. 14:10). In preparation for His marriage supper, the Lamb descends from heaven wearing many crowns (Rev. 19: 6-12). In the end, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb become the temple of the New Jerusalem, and the Lamb is the light of the city (Rev. 20: 22-23).
While it is certainly a book of prophecy, Revelation is also a book of worship. From beginning to end, worship is directed toward the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. The Lamb is praised and magnified in heaven and earth. He receives “power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Clearly the many-crowned Lamb is to be adored and exalted, and His followers exult in His presence.
Very probably, the worship service of the book of Revelation is the very same service that has been taking place ever since the beginning of creation. Wherever Scripture cracks open the door for a glimpse into the heavenlies, worship is taking place. When Jehovah was surrounded by tens of thousands of angels on Mount Sinai, what would they have been doing if not worshipping Him (Ps. 68:17)? Worship is certainly the focus of the Seraphs (Isa. 6). The angels have been given a universal mandate to worship the Son (Heb. 1:7). From the beginning of creation until its final consummation, worship is the only right response of moral creatures to the high and lofty Creator and Redeemer.
When a local church gathers to worship, it is not commencing a new activity. Rather, it is entering into a vocation that has been going on from the moment of creation and will continue into the unfathomable future. The assembled church never sings a solo in praise of God. Instead, it joins the solemn assembly of the angels, the faithful generations of patriarchs, the goodly fellowship of prophets, the glorious company of apostles, and the noble army of martyrs. It adds its little voice to the mighty chorus of praise that has been lifting toward God ever since the beginning, and that shall flourish to His glory forevermore.
This sensibility is captured admirably by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring in the hymn, Crown Him with Many Crowns. The original stanzas of the hymn were authored by Bridges. Thring later wrote supplemental stanzas, then decided that he wanted his work to stand as a separate hymn. Editors have not agreed—they have used stanzas from both authors, sometimes mixing fragments from Bridges and Thring into a single quatrain.
In writing his original hymn, Bridges took Revelation 19:12 as his theme. The text pictures the descent of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, wearing many crowns as “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” In the first stanza, Bridges calls upon the worshipping congregation to “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.” The rest of the stanza is a depiction of the celestial liturgy already in progress, and the Christian is invited to join this never-ending paean of praise.
Throughout the remaining stanzas, Bridges and Thring use the Lamb’s multiple crowns as an image for the many spheres within which Jesus Christ asserts His lordship. Typically, the stanzas begin by naming a specific crown, used as a metaphor for a sphere of authority. Then they unpack the metaphor by describing the sphere of authority for which the crown stands.
Most hymnals only use a few of the stanzas. The most common ones name the crown of love, which Christ earned through His sufferings on the cross; the crown of life, which He earned by His resurrection from the dead; the crown of heaven, which is His by virtue of His union with the Father and the Spirit; and the crown of peace, which symbolizes the quality of His rule over the earth.
Two of Thring’s stanzas, seldom sung, focus upon Jesus’ humanity. One crowns Him the virgin’s son whose incarnation enables Him to suffer in behalf of sinners. The other crowns Him simultaneously Son of God and Son of Man, emphasizing the sympathetic nature of His high priesthood.
Hardly a stanza has escaped editing through the years. It is a mark of the strength of this hymn that its message has survived undamaged through so much textual tampering. At the core of the hymn is a clear, strong metaphor with an apt meaning. All versions of the hymn support that metaphor from beginning to end. In every permutation, the hymn’s stanzas each develop the metaphor in a new direction. Each new application of the metaphor highlights some praiseworthy aspect of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most importantly, the hymn grips the affections and moves the singers (which is one way in which good hymns are better than good creeds). Thoughtful congregations will find themselves moved in several ways. First, they will be moved by the realization of the absolute dominion of Jesus Christ over every sphere of interest and activity. Second, they will be moved in anticipation of the day when the Lamb will break through the heavens, openly and publicly asserting His lordship. Perhaps most importantly, they will be moved by the invitation to “crown Him with many crowns,” not merely in the indefinite future, but here and now. If they respond to this invitation, their worship will become a re-enthronement of Christ to assert His authority in their hearts and in their assembly. They will, by the act of singing, crown Him with many crowns.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) and Godfrey Thring (1823-1903)
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.
Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.
Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.
Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.
Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.
Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.