“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
When discussing the subject of the End Times, especially the rapture and imagery like the Beast, even among many Christians is like running through a minefield. Approach the subject non-believers, and you'll likely get some rather strange looks. The reality is, the second coming of Jesus and the subsequent events is an incredibly challenging area of our faith.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
Verse 6b, "And in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind." Here we see four living beings that are both in and around the throne. They are called the four living creatures from the Greek verb "zaō," meaning something alive, they are surrounding God and they are moving. John sees something spectacular, four living creatures all with various faces and manifestations. By the way, that is precisely what Ezekiel said in chapter 1. What a grandiose description of the indescribable. They are guarding the holiness of God, the symbols representing the power of God as He acts against sin. They are an exalted order of angels, we can see by their closeness to the throne.
As a footnote, Isaiah calls them seraphim and Ezekiel calls them Cherubim. Seraphim is a visual description while cherubim is a classification. Seraph means "fiery one" and a cherub is an angel. Each time we see these angels, they are testifying to the glory and holiness of God on the throne.
Notice that John describes them as being "full of eyes in front and behind." This indicates their alertness and is indicative of their comprehensive knowledge and their ability to see and perceive things. Twice in our text, he reminds us that there are eyes everywhere.
In verse 7, John describes them in more detail. "The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle."
This is similar to the vision Ezekiel saw. But because it's a vision we don't expect it to be exactly the same. Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim resembled human beings with these characteristics. In Ezekiel’s vision, they cherubim had four facial appearances, John's vision is much more simple. From his viewpoint, he only sees one of each of their four faces. Many have speculated as to what these faces on these cherubim mean. I tend to believe that their appearance is symbolic; the lion symbolizing strength and power; the calf symbolizing service rendered; the man symbolizing reason; and the eagle, speed.
It is interesting to note, that in the Talmud, the rabbis believing that they represented created, wrote, "There are four primary forms of life in God’s creation: man, calf, lion, and eagle." In the past, God collected His people under the banner of these four. Several tribes gathered with Reuben, symbolized by a man. Several tribes gathered with Dan, symbolized by an eagle. Several tribes gathered with Ephraim, symbolized by the ox or the calf. And several tribes gathered with Judah, symbolized by the lion.
In verse 8, we see their worship, they are praising God because He is worthy. "And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come."
This is what worship is about. It’s all about God, it is not about what we want or what makes us happy. We seek to give back to God by worshipping and praising Him. We come into God's presence and thank Him for who He is. I worship God to thank Him and recognize His grace in forgiving my sins, for sending Christ to love me enough to die for me. I thank Him for His never ending love and compassion toward me, for His promise never to abandon me. I have been blessed because of who God is.
Look, I realize that it's difficult to thank Him when life isn’t going the way we believe it should be going. But we can always thank Him for His grace, His acts of mercy, for His creativity, and for His power. We can thank Him for everything He has already done. We can thank Him for that sink full of dirty dishes, because that means He provided us with something to eat. We can thank Him for the family that forgot to clean up their messes. Because even if He never does another thing for us, He is worthy of our praise!
So, John says that each one of them having six wings, just like the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2. " Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew."
Some have asked "If they are in God's presence, why do they cover their face?" The answer is they were created beings and couldn’t look upon the full glory of God without being consumed.And, with two they cover their feet because the crystal platform on which they stand is holy ground. With the other two, they fly hovering, ready to do His bidding.
They direct worship, "and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come." They are overwhelmed by the beauty of His holiness. Full of vision and insight, they can’t take their eyes off the One who is holy. This is toward the throne of God. This is the first of two parts to this oratorio, the second is in chapter 5. This is the music that is the oratorio of creation that moves in to an oratorio of praise that goes all the way to the end of chapter 5.
But here, starting here in verse 8, you have this magnificent crescendo of thrilling praise directed toward the throne, it starts with a quartet, and then twenty-eight voices are added, and then the quartet and then the twenty-eight voices, harps; and then added to the quartet, the twenty-eight voices and the harps, all the angels; and finally, every living being. All focusing on God as the God of creation, anticipating that He is going to redeem creation. God is being worshiped. God is being honored. God is being glorified. Because there is none like God. God alone is God.Holy, holy, holy is the only attribute of God repeated three times like that. God's holiness makes Him different than His creation. Angelic beings can be touched with iniquity, the fall of angels proved that.
Exodus 15 says, "He is majestic in holiness." Even the incarnate Christ when the onslaught of Satan came against Him had no capacity within Himself to sin. It is impossible for His nature to ever succumb to temptation. He not only hates sin, not only is He not tainted by it, but it repulses Him. He can’t even look at it, and He must destroy it.
So, as the holiness of God moves out in its fury, there isn’t going to be that mercy. Mercy is going to come to an end, and grace is going to have passed its time, and the sinful world in the final judgment is going to feel fury against sin without mercy. So when they say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God," they’re focusing in on the holiness of God expressed in devastating reaction against sin.
Psalm 86 says "There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God."
Then, there’s a second element of their worship, God's power. "The Almighty." El Shaddai. It means "the Strong One." This is a superlative: God, the strongest, God the most powerful, God who has the prevailing strength. Therefore, "Almighty," is the idea of a conquering power, of an overpowering strength that cannot be withstood. God can do whatever He wills. He has infinite power and strength. That's not the case with you and I. So, here we see His power released in judgment.What they're saying here then, is that no one can stop His judgment. If you will remember, it was God who shattered the most powerful king in the world, Nebuchadnezzar, and made him eat grass like an animal for seven years.
God is going to unleash His power to judge sinners in the end, and there isn’t anybody who can stop Him. In Psalm 2 it says, "The nations of the earth may laugh at God, but He’ll laugh at them in the end, and they won’t be able to withstand the fury of His judgment." He power is so great, it’s beyond our comprehension.
Notice at the end of verse 8, "Who was and who is and who is to come." There are three kinds of beings. There are beings who had a beginning and will have an end. And then there are beings who have a beginning, but will never have an end. Then, there is one being who had no beginning and no end, and that is God. So, this speaks of His eternity. He is the Eternal King. And, because God lives forever, that means heaven is forever. And as long as God lives, which is forever, we will live in glory, forever.
On the other hand, that means Hell is forever also. Punishment is forever. Torment is forever. The eternal lake of fire. Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is forever. The damned live in Hell forever. So, when you consider the eternality of God, on the one hand it’s a source of joy, on the other hand, it’s a source of fear. They praise Him for the impending judgment and punishing sin, like we praise Him for the positive aspects of His holiness.
Now, in verse 9, "And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne." When they worship and honor and glorify and thank the eternal God, that triggers something else. Look at verse 10, "the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever." All of the sudden, the quartet sets in motion the accompanying worshipers. Here, the oratorio moves to a second movement.
I'd like you to notice that this is a vision of the future. Look at all the future tense verbs, "will fall down, and will worship, and will cast their crowns." They fall down prostrate before God. The is the first of six times the elders prostrate themselves before God and the Lamb. He sees what hasn’t happened yet.By the way, the right response of any vision of God is to fall down before Him, broken, contrite, sensing our sin and our unworthiness. You cannot just look at God and walk away.
Notice at the end of verse 10, they cast their crowns before the throne. Remember back in verse 4, they had received crown. They had gold crowns on their heads. Now they cast their crowns before the throne, they are so lost in adoration, they have no preoccupation with their own excellence. Lost in worship and praise, they divest themselves of all honor and cast it all at the feet of their King. Signifying that they are His humble servants and live to worship Him. By the way, we will have crowns when we get to heaven.Paul tells us in I Corinthians 9, to run the race so that we may win the prize
When the worship crescendo begins soon after the church enters into the presence of the Lord, and as it becomes time to unfold judgment. Then, in verse 11, we see the next movement, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
The word worthy, is the Greek word "axios," meaning in keeping with how something "weighs in" on God's balance-scale of truth. It is used in the political language of that day, when the emperor marched along with a triumphant procession. The personal pronoun, "our Lord and our God," I believe supports the idea that this is the church. This worship is focusing on God’s glory, manifested in creation. There is so much desire in heaven to worship our Lord.
I'd like you to notice the end of verse 11, "For You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." There's your answer once and for all to evolution and the Big Bang. Heaven certainly knows that, even if earth does not. God spoke everything into existence. This verse sets the record straight that creation came into existence because it was God's will. And, although the phrase Mother Nature is popular expression, it is an incorrect in reference to nature and the world.
If you are a sports fan, picture yourself leaving home early enough because you know there will be traffic. You double check about 10 times making sure you have your ticket. You get to the stadium and you’re dressed for the game, you’ve got your teams jersey on, your face is painted, you’re excited before you ever walk into the stadium. Then, you get there and you’re actually sweating because you’re so excited and nervous, all at the same time.
You join in with thousands of other people you don’t know, to cheer for your team. When there is a bad play, you stand and yell at the officials with everyone else rooting for your team. When your team scores, you yell and scream, high 5'ing one another. You're totally captivated. If the game goes into overtime, you don't complain. You feel like you're getting your moneys worth., just as long as your team is going win, right? That’s how worship should be!
If the sermon took longer than usual, we should be so totally engrossed in worshiping that we wouldn’t complain. We wouldn’t be worrying about lunch. Or the things we want to do after the service. We should be so immersed in God, captivated by God, passionately, fully engaged in worshipping Him, that we're not looking at our watch, thinking when it this going to end! The problem is, when it comes to worshipping God, we aren't wired that way are we?
We should come to church on Sunday mornings expecting to meet Christ. We should come expecting to celebrate Him, willing to worship Him, no matter how long it takes. The problem is, society wants us to worship ourselves. We become bored, because it should be about us, entertaining us. But it's not! Worship is about God. Because when we’ve really given ourselves to God, we will walk out of here having received from God, which feeds us and inspires us and compels us to grow and change and become more Christ-like. We should be leaving church, wanting to come back the next week and worship God again. Worship is not a passive event; it is an action oriented event in our lives.
It is my prayer, that we will worship God as He deserves.
May it be so..
the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
Now and forever, in Jesus' name