Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice . . . said, Come up here.
John was an old man with a short time left on earth. With little to do during his exile, he probably thought much about heaven. Suddenly, he saw an open door, and heard an invitation: Come up here. Through John, we catch a glimpse of the center of the universe—the very throne room of God.
[T]here before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. . . . From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder (Revelation 4:2-5).
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 its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:6-8).
Depending on a person’s wealth we might say they are rich, very rich, or very very rich. By using a triple repetition, the living creatures proclaimed the infinite holiness of God. This speaks of his absolute uniqueness from all that is created.
The prophet Isaiah also saw angelic creatures proclaiming: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty (Isaiah 6:3). If they were the same creatures John saw, they might have been proclaiming God’s holiness for over six hundred years, and might be doing so today.
The splendor of God’s holiness naturally leads to worship. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness (Psalm 96:9), wrote the Psalmist. This should be the goal of every worship service.
Perhaps you have been to a service where the music was spectacular, but you left uninspired. Or perhaps you have been to a service where the music was not spectacular, but you worshiped with all your heart. Whenever we sense the holiness of God, we begin to worship like those around his throne.
Revelation 4:10 [T]he twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever.
The twenty-four elders are not identified, but remind us of the twenty-four divisions of priests appointed to serve in the temple (2 Chronicles 24:1-19). Like the priests, they have a sacred role to play. 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 (Revelation 4:10b-11).
This is like seeing a great performance and showing our approval by shouting and clapping. An opera singer received a standing ovation that lasted over an hour. Imagine being so moved that you would applaud for more than sixty minutes! But that is very brief compared to the ovation God will receive, for it will never end.
Revelation 5:11-13 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. . . . In a loud voice they were saying: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!
They day is coming when all creation will be caught up in the glorious worship of God. Demons and the unconverted may be excluded here, but even they will be forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-11).
Worship on earth can seem rather dull compared to worship in heaven. But whenever we lift our praise, we join the choir above. Even if our church is small, we should see ourselves as part of the greatest congregation ever assembled. We worship the one who created the world, and died on a cross for our sins, so we can be part of his glorious kingdom. To him belongs eternal praise.
Revelation 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
When this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) comes to an end, God will pour out his wrath with such fury that people will flee to the mountains, hoping to be buried by an avalanche. This was also foretold by the prophet Hosea. Then they will say to the mountains, Cover us! and to the hills, Fall on us! (Hosea 10:8). It is better to have a mountain fall on your head than to face the wrath of God.
Many go through life with a vague awareness of God’s anger toward them (John 3:36), but never turn away from their sin, to live for his glory. They hope they are wrong about God’s anger, and that all will go well for them on Judgment Day. But that day will reveal a wrath more intense than anything they ever imagined.
This is why we must flee to the Savior at once. Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10), wrote Paul. Jesus bore the wrath of God on our behalf, when he died on a cross for our sins (1 John 4:10). He took the heat so we don’t have to.
Prairie fires are a serious threat in the dry heat of summer. Farmers have even carried lighters, so if they see a fire coming, they can burn an area around them. That way, when the fire reaches them, they can stand in the place that is burned, and be safe from the raging flames.
Two thousand years ago, the fire of God’s wrath fell on Jesus Christ, as he hung on a cross for our sins. Every lash across his back, every nail through his flesh, and every thorn on his brow was for us. If we truly believe in Jesus Christ, we are completely safe from the coming wrath of God. But if God poured out his wrath on Christ, what will he do to those who reject him?
Reflection and Review
Have you ever sensed God’s presence during a worship service?
What inspires you to praise God?
How are we saved from God’s wrath?