8 And the four living creatures…day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Picture above of the Four Living Creatures from Pinterest. I was not able to find the name, painter, or date of painting.
One commentator divides the chapter into two parts:
1). What John Saw—the sights of the Throne Room and Attendants vs. 1-8a;
2). What John Heard—the heavenly worship vs. 8b-11.
Our post today deals with the heavenly worship. The closing verses of Revelation 4 are difficult to separate for comment, so I shall draw out the lessons for the Seven Churches and today’s Church. Most likely, the original audience would take these verses as incentives to follow the heavenly pattern in their worship services.
Heaven’s order is always to be our guide in worship.
Etching of Isaiah’s vision with a Seraph cleansing him with
a live coal from the incense altar in heaven. (wikimedia commons)
The Attendants of the God’s Throne Room focus their Worship on God, and so should we in ours.
Excursus on Angels: Hebrews 1:13-14 tell us what angels are and do.
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Angels are ministering spirits. The word for minister in Greek is leitourgikos from which we derive the English word “liturgy.” They minister to the Lord in praise and worship. What else do they do?
Angels are sent from God’s presence to serve God’s children. The word for “serve” in Greek is diakonia, from which we derive the English word “deacon.” Part of their vocation is heavenly and part is earthly. Both are performed for God’s glory. Note they are sent forth from the atmosphere of worship to perform service for God and His people. Having finished the earthly part, angels return to worship and await the next mission for God. They do not skip a moment living for God and His glory.
What would our service for God be if it were to proceed from such an atmosphere of true worship of God in our churches?! cf. Acts 13
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Note that the word “worship” is leitourgos = liturgy. I favor the old King James translation since I was reared with its use. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted… .” We forget our ministry is to the Lord, first, and then, to other people. In an atmosphere of worship, God speaks and sends us out to minister.
I. We should worship God as Trinity, as do the hosts above.
vs. 8b And the four living creatures…day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Figure to the left is all we can say about the nature of the the Trinity.
This saying of the angels is taken from Isaiah 6:1-3. Here it is uttered in a Trinitarian context. There is no doubt that the Tri Sagion (thrice holy) is in reference to the Three Persons of the Godhead. If is often argued that the Tri Sagion in Isaiah is merely a plural of majesty and has no hint of the Trinity there in that context, the same cannot be said here. We have three Persons in the Godhead present. The Isaiah passage is fully interpreted here. “The Lord of Creation is also the Lord of the Ages.” (see Beasley-Murray below.)
One note I would add to the translation of the passage in Isaiah 6 is about what the angels “fly above.” It cannot be possible for throne room attendants to fly above God Himself. Hebrew does not have a neuter gender for nouns, so the masculine gender does double duty for the neuter. Isaiah was saying God filled the heavenly temple. The only space for the angels was God’s vast robe which fills that space. “Above it stood the seraphim.”
II. We should worship God as Sovereign Lord over all creation.
There is no room in God’s throne room for a rival or rivals! All created beings are below Him. On that central place in our innermost being is a throne, too. God is to be there as our Lord!
Posture in prayer is determined by the intensity of one’s need.
These angels remain in the presence of God ever praising the holiness of God’s person and actions! We have a difficult time thinking of holiness apart from a connotation of its negative aspects—absence of sin. However, God’s holiness is active.
“Primarily, God’s holiness refers to His greatness and His transcendence, to the fact that He is above and beyond anything in the universe. …He alone in His being transcends all created things.”
“Secondarily, the word holy, as it is applied to God, refers to His purity, His absolute moral and ethical excellence” (see Sproul below).
Holiness is an attribute of God whereby He actively asserts his purity and moral excellence in His Being and in all His dealings with His creatures.
The focus of everything in heaven is on God seated on the central throne ruling over all reality.
More about the other throne room activity next time.
Sproul, R.C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle edition.
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved