The only other time they got out the palm branches in the New Testament was when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. That day they cried "Hosanna", a Hebrew word meaning "Save us!" This time an immeasurably bigger crowd is waving palm branches because he has! No longer calling for him to save us; just celebrating that he has saved us. So the loud cry goes up: "Salvation belongs to our God...and to the Lamb" (v.10). And what a salvation it is. There are three categories of cheering crowds around the throne. The twenty four elders represent the redeemed people of the Lord. They are singing because the salvation has saved them.
Then there is a host of angels who have been longing for centuries to understand what salvation really meant. They had lost a third of their loved ones in the great fall from heaven at the beginning of time; fallen angels who never had a hope of salvation. But now they have seen it! Amazingly there are billions of white-robed humans on display, more people than the pieces of paper in a ticker tape parade. And these people are on display to enable them to see what grace looks like, grace so amazing to a species of God's creatures who knew only of God's rightful judgment on their kind of sinners.
And then the four living creatures joined in. Many commentators agree that the four living creatures in the heavenly scene represent the whole creation (the number hinting at the four corners of the earth) - the creation that in the song of the heavens had been declaring the glory of God from Day One. But their song had been muted for centuries; in fact it had become something of a groan as the whole creation labored under the futility to which it has been subjected through the consequences of man's sin. But as Romans 8 makes clear, creation lives in hope.
So as Jesus is cheered as world champion:
- The angels look on and rejoice in so great a salvation.
- God's people are the cheerleaders as they relish the truth of John 3:16, that having believed in Jesus they are not perishing but have everlasting life.
- And then there is the whole of creation. We don't usually get beyond John 3:16, but the following verse gives the big picture reason why the God who so loved the world sent his son: "...in order that the world might be saved through him."