Revelation 4:1-5:14 Key Verse 5:13
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever.”
Thank God who blessed the YDC with the theme, “Restoration”! Thank God who blessed us to have the joint New Year’s worship service with IIT with the title, “Created for God’s Good Works.” Thank God who blessed our New Year’s Key Verse Sharing Meeting! As we begin this New Year, I want to study “Heavenly Worship” through Revelation. Revelation may be the most fascinating book in the Bible to young people. It is full of powerful imagery, describing the terror of evil and the conquering power of God in Christ like the movie, “The Lord of the Rings.”
As you know, Christians, past and present, have recited passages from Revelation to prepare for worship and to overcome persecution. In chapters 4 and 5, we see the picture of heavenly worship. Through the imagery and symbols, even though they are sometimes difficult to understand, one thing is made clear; God controls what happens here on earth and Jesus is the Lord! We can learn why and how God and Christ are worshiped in heaven. We participate in this worship. This can be our model of worship. May God be glorified by our sincere worship service!
Part I: Worship God, our Creator (4:1-11)
The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John during his exile on the island of Patmos. There John is taken up into heaven before the very throne of God. This is not heaven coming down and filling one’s soul with glory. It is John going up to heaven where God’s glory fills everything. The first thing John mentions is a throne with someone sitting on it. A throne symbolizes the majesty and power of a king. Thrones remind us of reverence and humility from those who would approach. God our King has power to create, destroy, and judge everything in all creation. His power and majesty are manifest. Verse 5 says, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.”
When we come to worship God, we must realize we are approaching the Great King of the universe. It is easy for us to be too casual in our attitude toward God treating him like an aged grandfather. Our inner attitude and the outward expression should reflect the faith that we are coming before the King of the universe. We must come to God through our worship service on time, properly dressed and with humble respect. It is interesting that John never calls God by name. He calls him “the one seated on the throne” again and again (4:2,3,9,10; 5:1,7). John was fascinated by the power and majesty of God. John proclaims that God reigns over the universe from his throne.
Look at verse 3. “And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” Perhaps the image of God here is that of light shining through crystal, as when brilliant light flows through a prism producing a spectrum of color that dazzles the eyes of our mind with its beauty. If we turn the prism just slightly, it produces a whole new array of color, redirecting in countless directions. “The emerald rainbow” suggests greenness that represents life; life that issues out from God, the Source of life. The absence of God is sometimes described as a desert. But God’s presence brings life; flourishing, growing, abundant life.
Moreover, “the rainbow” reminds us of God’s covenant with Noah. God promised not to destroy the world with a flood again, even though man is evil. God remembers and keeps this promise faithfully. In verse 5, “thunder and lightning” recall the covenant with Moses to make his people a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God keeps this covenant even though his people are often unfaithful. This is the God of the covenant. Even though he is Almighty God, he has limited himself through covenant promises to mere men. God does not exercise his mighty power at random, as a spoiled prince like Jeong Eun Kim, the new successor in North Korea. God reigns over his creation according to his covenant promises.
When we survey chapter 4 as a whole, we find that it describes a worship service in heaven. Surrounding God’s throne were 24 other thrones, and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads (4). Most likely, they represent 12 tribes and 12 the apostles, or 24 heroes of faith from throughout biblical history such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, Apostle Paul, and 12 disciples of Jesus. They are the redeemed of the Lord throughout all ages. They have been sanctified and given glory and authority from God. Then, in the center, around the throne, were 4 living creatures. They were like a lion, like an ox, like a man faced, like an eagle, covered with eyes in front and back, and they had 6 wings.
These 4 living creatures are, in a sense, worship leaders. On their signal, the 24 elders fall down before God and worshiped him. Now we can understand why the living creatures needed so many eyes. As a symphony orchestra conductor conducts, his eyes dash back and forth, from one section to another, and he works hard to keep everything in harmony to produce the most beautiful performance. But since he has eyes only in the front of his head, he cannot see the musicians and audience at once. He needs eyes in the back of his head. These living creatures always see God and the gathering before them at the same time.
They always know if God is pleased or not. They see everyone, even the person who tries to hide in the back, and they engage him in worship. The eyes under their wings suggest that nothing is hidden in the worship service. I can see your every motion from this podium too. The living creatures seem to be central from each other, to form a kind of S.S.E, “Surrounding Sound Effect,” of worship and praise. The living creatures lead others worshiping God. As they give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne, what do 24 elders do?
Look at verse 10. They fall down before God and worship him willingly. As the elders fall down, they surrender all of their authority and power to God, recognizing God’s supremacy. They lay their crowns before the throne as they worship. These crowns represent the church’s victory. God has given victory to his church in accomplishing its purpose. This victory has come through many individual battles and through the church struggles as well. Finally the church’s victory is given back to God. This is part of worship. This is why we must overcome the world and render victory and glory to God in our personal lives and as a church.
We can learn why God is worshiped in this way by listening to the worshipers. The living creatures say, in verse 8, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” They proclaim God’s holiness. Holiness is God’s unique characteristic which overwhelms them. Holiness is the unique quality of God’s character that completely transcends his creation; we cannot fully understand it. It is like describing the huge Pacific Ocean in one sentence. To scratch the surface, we can say that God is absolutely perfect in his morality, ethics and spirituality. His motive is always right; his knowledge is always perfect; his character always flawless. Just think about how many decisions God has made. Not once did he ever make a wrong decision, in spite of Satan’s mischief and man’s sinfulness.
God has governed the whole created world with perfect wisdom to accomplish his own purpose. God’s holiness is like a consuming fire. It breaks out against impurity and imperfection (Ex 19:22, 24). No human being can approach God at random. We must come before him humbly with a repentant heart. We must be ready to receive conviction of sins which we are too dull to be aware of. When we see someone who always keeps time, we are convicted of our laziness and bad habit in being late. Likewise, when we stand before the holy God, all of our imperfections and sins are exposed. We need a warning about his holiness.
The living creatures help us be alert. Recognizing God’s holiness and repenting of our sins is essential in worship. By the way, anyone who is always late before God should repent and decide to come on time. The living creatures said, “who was, and is, and is to come.” God is eternal in nature. God has always existed, he exists now, and he will always exist. He exists in and of himself without help from anyone. All other creatures are dependent on something else. The Baby Evelyn always depends on her mom and daddy. My dog, Kobe, always depends on my wife, Joy, especially whenever he feels hungry. Trees depend on soils, branches depend on roots, growing fruits depend on branches, and even our earth depends on the Sun. But God is different. God is absolutely independent.
How do the elders worship God? Read verse 11. “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.” God created all things, including each person’s life. God did this by his own will. He did not act as anyone’s agent; God made all things by his own free choice. God did not need to make us. God has everything he needs in his own being. The created world is to God like a garment that he wears for a while (Ps 102:26). He can change it and put on another one as he pleases. Why does each of us have life? It is because God decided to give us life. We exist purely out of God’s grace. This is why we worship God, our Creator; we are compelled by realizing his holiness, power, goodness, and grace.
The last part of verse 11 says that we have our being in God. Our true identity is in God. When we know God and find ourselves in God, we can find out who we truly are. This comes when we worship God. There are many young people who do not know their own identity in God. They only know their parents’ identity or a friend’s identity or their Facebook identity. The wonderful truth here is that when we worship God, we find our own being in God. God is our Creator, our Father. We are his creatures and his children. We came from God and we are going back to God. May God bless you to worship God with all your heart in this year and discover your true identity in God and be happy!
Part II: Worship Jesus Christ, our Redeemer (5:1-14)
Look at verse 1. “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” John’s attention is drawn to the right hand of God who sits on the throne. In his right hand, he holds a scroll. This scroll contains the decree of the sovereign Ruler of all. It is the written will of God. But it is sealed with 7 seals. No one knows what is written in the scroll except God alone. Then a mighty angel steps forward and says, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (2) None of the angels dare to step forward. No human being dares step forward. Science and technology cannot help us here; your computer cannot help you; neither can philosophies or psychology. John begins to weep. He has a burning desire to know God’s will, but he is utterly helpless. Have you ever wept out of a deep desire to know God’s will?
We need someone who is worthy to open the scroll for us. Who can do so? Look at verse 5. “’Then one of the elders said to him, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, a prophetic reference to the conquering Messiah (Gen 49:8-12). Christ is the one who reveals God’s will to his people. Look at verse 6. “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
Although Jesus is called the Lion by the elder, John sees a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne. Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb. John the Baptist had called Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). This refers to Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement for us. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of separation between God and man was torn in two. Mankind was reconciled to God. From the throne of the Father God, through the Lamb of God, the seven spirits of God are poured out into all the earth (6b). Christ is the Mediator who opens the way to God by the power of the Spirit.
Look at verses 7-8. “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” After the Lamb takes the scroll, another wave of praise and worship break forth. This wave is directed to the Lamb by the living creatures and the elders. They recognize that the Lamb is the only one in all creation who can fulfill God’s salvation plan and redeem his creation. What is the true worship? True worship is not like a short intense end zone touchdown dance. The true worship is recognizing Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who is the only one in all creation who can save us. When they realized this, they fell down before him.
They also offered up intercessory prayer to God for the salvation of mankind. Intercessory prayer is an important part of worship. Then they take out their harps and sing a new song. Our praise songs, vocal teams and offering music are all important parts of worship. Look at verses 9-10. “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’”
The redemption of the Lamb is truly great. Christ saves men from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Christ saves people from Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, Europe, and North America. Christ’s changing power makes selfish people become sacrificial, proud people become humble, and corrupted people become holy. Christ’s changing power makes Matt Cizek a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Christ’s changing power makes you a true worshiper in heavenly worship. Christ’s redemption produces a kingdom of priests and a holy nation in fulfillment of God’s unchanging hope and purpose. As the great redemption produced by the Lamb is revealed, another wave of praise and worship breaks forth. Who are they?
The angels in heaven, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, encircle the throne and the living creatures and the elders. How do they worship Jesus Christ? Look at verse 12. Not in a quiet, mouse like voice, but in a loud voice they sing: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then another wave of praise breaks forth. Let’s read verses 13-14. “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
*Conclusion: Through today’s passage, I see the amazing image of ‘Heavenly Worship.’ I repent that last year I did not worship Him from all my heart through my daily life. But this year I really want to worship Him with all my heart, offering myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is my spiritual act of worship. How do you want to worship your Creator God and your Redeemer Jesus Christ this year? May God help each of you to accept ‘Heavenly Worship’ as your model of worship! May God bless all of us to worship God and Jesus Christ in a way that pleases him in this New Year 2011! May God accept our Sunday Worship Service and be gloried through our sincere and humble attitude!