Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Revelation 4:1-11 | Key Verse 4:8
“Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
Verse 1 follows the letters delivered to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. Here begins the revelation of events that would transpire in God’s time. John says: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” Jesus invited John to come up to heaven and witness what must take place in the future. He would show him events that would usher in the end of time and the coming of God’s Kingdom, the final victory of our Lord Jesus and of his bride— the church. But before the events begin to unfold in heaven, a window opens for a glimpse of the throne of God. And what we find there are creations of God worshiping God.
Read verse 2. “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.” As soon as the invitation was given, John found himself “in the Spirit” before a great throne in heaven. It is understandable that John would have to be “in the Spirit” when taken to heaven to witness what God would have him hear and see. No mortal man, not even John the beloved Apostle of the Lord Jesus, could enter heaven in the flesh. The Bible tells us that the flesh is corrupt and perishable and must be exchanged for something imperishable and incorruptible before entering into the presence of God. That is why God calls on all men to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior so that they might be born again. And the promise of God is that when the time of judgment comes, those who are found in Christ Jesus would exchange their corrupt flesh with that which is incorruptible and forever enter into the presence of the Living God. It is a great promise and hope for us who struggle with the flesh. But that time had not yet come, so John needed to be taken up to heaven in his own spirit, by the Spirit of God in order to come into God’s presence and witness what is yet to be.
It was by God’s grace and mercy that John could even glimpse the heavenly scene. And what he saw was a throne and someone sitting on it. The Apostle Paul tells us these words. He says: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12) In other words, what John saw on that glorious moment is only a reflection of what he could actually describe to us. How can our mortal ears and sight ever comprehend what he saw, even if it is as plain as a throne with someone sitting on it— for God is to holy to behold and to comprehend. Still, he offers us an image of a throne and someone sitting on it. A throne is a seat of majesty, authority and of power. And in this case, it is a majesty and power beyond human comprehension. A throne is a place for royalty, for a King. Many kings have ruled here on earth, some were weak and others were strong, some were tyrants and others were just. But there is nothing in our history that would ever compare with the King in heaven who sits on his throne. From his seat in heaven He has ruled the heavens and the earth with a majesty that we cannot possibly imagine. And he has done so for a time beyond time. It does not matter whether men are skeptics or not, whether they believe or not. The truth is that there is a throne in heaven from where our God rules our lives and directs history in the course that it should go. And we know that he is leading history towards the victory of his Son Jesus to whom God has given all authority in heaven and on earth. The Bible says that one day, all men and women will stand before this very throne to be judged for what they had done in life.
Read verse 3. “And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” Even John who was “in the Spirit” could not actually see the one on the throne for he was enveloped in brilliant light shining as a rainbow of jewels. But even though he could not see the King on his throne for his magnificent brilliance, John was able to witness what was all about the throne. Read verse 4. “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” John saw twenty four other thrones surrounding the throne of God. On these thrones he saw twenty four elders dressed in white and who had golden crowns on their heads. The reference of white and gold is a reflection of their purity, for no soul can be in the presence of God unless it is pure or purified by the blood of Jesus, shed for the sins of the world. Which explains to us a little of the mystery of these elders as to who they are. There is no concrete evidence regarding who these elders might be. But we know something about the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. We know that Israel in the Old Testament— God’s people— were represented by 12 tribes. And we know that in the New Testament—Jesus’ people— were represented by 12 apostles. Therefore, it is likely that these 24 elders are the representatives of the entire human race— that part of humanity which is washed in the blood of the Lamb— the redeemed of the Lord.
It is a remarkable thing that this portion of humanity, the redeemed of the Lord from the beginning of time till the end of time, surround the glorious throne of Him who has redeemed them by his Blood. It is no wonder that Jesus told his disciples that they shall sit with him in his heavenly glory and judge all of creation. But it is remarkable that John names these as elders. In the Bible the term or word “Elder” is of great significance. An Elder is a representative of a group of people. In the past the elders of Israel passed righteous judgment in lieu of the king. Their judgment was based on the word of God, the commandments given in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the elders were chosen by the church to oversee the church and its interests. They held tremendous responsibility as servants of the children of God, caring for the needs of the church membership and serving as prayer servants and counselors. Elders were carefully chosen based on their faith, and daily lives in Christ. Their faith was impeccable, not pragmatic not situational. Their faith was superior not in quantity but in quality, for they held the gospel and the teachings of the gospel as supreme over and above their own interests. Their faith shaped lives, and their own lives led others in the ways of God. Their daily lives were spotless, not that they were not sinners, but that they were spotless and blameless in their devotion to Christ Jesus and to his cause. Elders were the teachers of the church, those equipped with the word of God and who gave the word of God to others without fail. Their homes were open to Jesus’ flock purchased by Jesus’ blood. Their homes were always havens for the weary and troubled souls who sought comfort and guidance in the harshness of the world. Elders were like angels from God who represented all the interests of the Lord as well as the interests of the people of the Lord. Elders in the New Testament upheld the church and its functions by prayer, and by the ever present virtue of loyalty devotion and unwavering commitment to Christ Jesus and the church he purchased with his Blood.
In our own generation it is regrettable that eldership in some churches has been reduced to political or social offices, and the position is given according to social status and influence. But in the true church of Jesus the Elder is a man or woman of spiritual influence, one who loves the Lord more than their own life; one who loves the sheep of Jesus more than their own life; one who is willing to sacrifice all things, even the happiness and comforts of country and home in obedience to Jesus who commands the elder to: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) And to: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” (1 Peter 5:2) It is a beautiful picture in heaven that surrounding the throne of God, there are elders from every true church that represent the people of the Lord before the throne of God. Besides praying for the people of God, what else do the elders— those chosen to serve the Lord and his people— do?
Before we see what the elders do, let us see what else is about the throne of God. Read verses 5-8. “From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” What an amazing picture. From the throne emanated such power as no human being has ever witnessed. And the power was centered around the seven spirits of God, who represent and reflect the Holy Spirit of God, for that is another name for the Holy Spirit. And in the center of the throne were four living creatures. Who were they? Perhaps they are seraphs, the highest order of angels in heaven. And what do they look like? They look like a Lion, an Ox, a man and an eagle. We are not exactly sure what these represent. But it is said that they represent the character of God. For the lion is symbol of majesty, and the ox is a symbol of faithfulness, and the man is a symbol of intelligence, and the eagle is a symbol of sovereignty. There is another interpretation for the four living creatures. The lion is symbolic of Jesus Kingship, the Ox a symbol of Jesus’ servantship, the man is a symbol of Jesus’ humanity and the eagle is the symbol of Jesus’ divinity. All in all, what is important is that the creatures at the center of the throne have a clear mission.
What is the mission of the creatures who are ever before the throne of God? Read verse 8 again. “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” This is their mission then, to never ever stop saying of and to the Living God, Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and is who is to come.” What then was their mission? Read verse 9. “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever.” According to this verse, the creatures’ mission is to forever give glory honor and thanks to the Everlasting God. How precious is such a mission! Day and night they never stop giving glory honor and thanks to God. In other words they give Praise to God without ceasing. Praise is given to someone worthy of praise. Unlike our world where sometimes praise is given without just reason, the creatures give God praise because he is worthy of praise and of glory and of honor and of thanksgiving. God is the God who created the world. He is the one who brought life into existence. God is the one who sheltered man when man fell from grace, and refused to give honor and praise to his maker. God is the one who devised a plan of salvation so that men who are unworthy might have a chance at being redeemed. God is the one who gave the world the 10 commandments that we might live not like animals by the code of the beasts but by the code of those created in the image of God. And when men were unable to keep the commandments, God is the one who called men to faith. He is the one who sent his Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. And God is the one who defeated sin and death. God is the one who also promised us that one day the Lord will return and he will take us to be with him forever. For this and much much more, the Lord God is worthy of praise. For he is Holy, holy holy. And although he is Holy, he has accepted as sons and daughters unholy people washed in the blood of his Son. For this the creatures give thanks to God. And for this we too must give thanks to God.
Read verses 9-11. “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’” Each time the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to God, what do the elders do? They fall down before the throne of God and they worship God. This scene is heaven is a glimpse of what true worship is. While the world below reels with its problems and events, with its sorrows and joys, with its loves and hates, its pleasures and temptations, whatever the world may be or have, this is the true image of what worship. In heaven at all times, there is worship of the King of kings. He is worshiped by his heavenly host, and is given honor and glory, and praise and thanks. And the elders too, they fall down before him and worship him at all times. It is the true image of worship. We must learn what worship is all about. We must know that even in our most difficult and trying times, we must set aside time to worship God. We should fall down every moment of every day and offer him praise. But since we still live in this world that is not possible except in the heart. The heart is what must fall before the throne of God, submit to his sovereign majesty. The heart and soul and body of man belong to God. They belong to God in worship. So regardless of what our situation is we must learn that God is worthy of our worship. He is the One whom my heart and soul and body belong to. I therefore must surrender my body to him in worship. I must keep it holy so that I might fall before the holy one and worship him. I must surrender my heart to him as well, for he is worthy. I must surrender my heart by purifying it from idols and have no one but the living Lord sit on the throne of my heart in reverence to his majesty. I must also surrender my soul to him in worship. In other words, I must make sure that my soul is washed in the blood and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then I can worship God in spirit and in truth as God requires me to worship him.
Worshiping God is no small thing. It is the first thing John saw when he ascended to heaven, and it is the first thing that must be on our hearts from day to day. Sunday is a day of worship where the people of God gather to worship together, but the heart of each man or woman or child belongs to God and stands alone before God. We stand as representatives of the human race, meaning that we are the ones called upon to pray for them and to serve them, and to bring them all to God in worship. I pray that we as a fellowship of believers may learn that life and worship cannot be separated— that we have an obligation before God— to worship him and to bring others to his throne in worship even now. May God bless you.