By Rev. Bill Lee-Warner
The King James translation of Revelation 5:9-10 reads as follows:
And they sang a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
These verses refer to the song being sung concerning the Lamb Who has just taken the scroll (book) from the hand of the One sitting on the throne. (Rev. 5:8)
The pretribulationist uses these verses to indicate that the rapture of the church has already occurred in the unfolding instruction of the book of Revelation and that the raptured saints are the ones who are singing this song. For a number of reasons these verses do not support a pretribulation rapture position.
1. The use of the word “us” in Revelation 5:9,10 and “we” in verse 10 are found only in the King James Version of 1611. When the King James Version was translated only a small number of printed Greek texts were available to the translators. They include the 1567 edition of Theodore Beza and the third edition of Stephanus which was printed in 1550. These editions were the primary texts for the well known “Textus Receptus” which was actually printed in 1633 and was the dominant Greek text until the nineteenth century. Since that time, older and more textually credible Greek manuscripts than the ones available to Stephanus and Beza have been found. Two well-attested and authoritative uncial manuscripts [Sinaiticus, circa AD 350] and Alexandrinus [circa AD 375] are among these finds.
The United Bible Society’s fourth edition of the Greek New Testament corrects the readings of the Beza and Stephanus editions [and later, the Textus Receptus]. The following is the corrected translation based on these more accurate texts:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou was slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (NASB)
In A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament, Dr. Bruce M. Metzger explains the evidence for the change from the use of “us” and “we” found in the Greek texts used by the King James translators to “them” and “they” found in the fourth edition of the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Society. Therefore, the translation of Revelation 5:9,10 as quoted above from the New American Standard Bible is the preferred translation.
2. In addition to this the fact that virtually all the modern translations (e.g. NIV, NASB, RSV, Moffatt, Berkley, Weymouth, Rotherham) translate these verses with “them” and “they.”
3. Note also that the song in Revelation 5:9,10 is being sung by the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures (Note Rev. 5:8-9), not the “saints… from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” To make this song the song of the redeemed violates a time-honored principle of hermeneutics: Scripture is to be interpreted in its context.
4. The Author of Revelation is Christ (Revelation. 1:1). The Author of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:1) is also Christ. In both, the subject matter deals with end times. A natural conclusion is that the teaching would be in agreement. In the Olivet Discourse, the Lord clearly reveals that the “elect” (saints) will not be raptured before the sign of the sun, moon, and stars is given in the heavens (24:29-31). The identical sign occurs at the opening of the 6th seal (Rev. 6:12-17) which occurs after the beginning of the 70th week and after the midpoint of that week. The timing of the rapture as given in the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation shows clearly that a rapture prior to the 70th week (as supported by the King James translation of Revelation 5:9,10) cannot be supported.
For these reasons, to base a pretribulation rapture of the church on Revelation 5:9,10 from the King James translation is both inadequate and inaccurate.