Cause for True Worship
Jan 15, 2016
The four living creatures in Revelation 4:8 have a purpose:
8 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.”
The text of their worship is taken from Isaiah 6:3,
3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.
Such worship is the model for all creation to follow. But worship is not mere lip service. There are many who mouth these words, but who do not live what they say. In fact, it has been said that Christians lie most when they sing. That is, perhaps, a bit harsh. It is probably more accurate to say that Christians often worship without understanding, and so their words do not match their real life in the world.
The world tells us that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In other words, we tend to imitate those that we admire. A more biblical way of expressing this is to say that imitation is the sincerest form of worship. God is less interested in our words than in our way of life. The right words are good, of course, but they are meaningless and even hypocritical apart from a godly way of life.
The four living creatures who continuously acknowledge the holiness of God represent all creation in agreement with God in every aspect of life. They recognize His holiness not only with their mouths, but also with their hearts. They represent creation with the law of God written on its heart. The New Covenant promises of God are thus fulfilled. Somehow God found a way to turn the hearts of all men, so that they would become His people, and He would be their God (Deuteronomy 29:12, 13, 14, 15).
The Twenty-Four Elders
Revelation 4:9, 10 continues,
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,
Here we see additional information about their worship. Not only do they acknowledge the holiness of God, but they also “give glory and honor and thanks to Him.” Such worship comes from a grateful heart that is in awe of His works, His power, His love, and His wisdom. Who would not worship Him? “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?” (Revelation 15:4). When God’s righteous acts are revealed, all nations will indeed come and worship Him, not because they have been condemned by the Old Covenant, but because God has fulfilled His promise to mankind through the New Covenant.
Upon seeing the worship of the four beasts (i.e., all creation), the twenty-four elders “fall down before Him” and “worship Him.” This scene is not meant to picture twenty-four elders falling down, then getting back up, only to fall down again continuously every time the living creatures sing Holy, Holy, Holy. We are to understand that this is the purpose of creation and the goal of history. We are to understand that God has the power to make it happen, and that the will of man cannot withstand or prevent God from fulfilling His promises.
So the twenty-four elders acknowledge that He is the King of Kings. This is why they “cast their crowns before the throne.” It is a metaphor for recognizing that their own authority was given by God and is therefore subject to the sovereignty of God.
The Creator's Rights
The summarized text of their worship is given in Revelation 4:11,
11 Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.”
Here the twenty-four elders acknowledge the law by which God has the right to subject all things to Himself. It is by right of creation, for the Creator owns that which He creates. By this same law we own the labor that we put into any project, unless we are slaves. When a man builds furniture, he uses wood that was created by God. God owns the wood, but man has a claim on the furniture on account of his labor that has shaped the wood into something useful.
God’s six-day time of labor in the first chapter of Genesis gives God the rights that come with ownership. Men have mere authority in the earth that is subject to the sovereignty of God. Man’s authority is real, but it is not final. Man’s decisions to disobey God are done according to his authority, but in the end, the law gives God the right to overrule the will of man.
Man was made of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Man was made of material that God created—dust. God lays claim to the land, saying “the land is Mine” (Leviticus 25:23). He also told the prophet in Jeremiah 27:5, 6,
5 I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. 6 And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.
If God has the right to give what He has created to Nebuchadnezzar, He also has the right to take it away from him and to give it to another. The pride of man thinks that he is absolute owner of the land that he rules, but even King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that this was not so. In Daniel 4:34, 35 we read his humble testimony about how he learned that his authority was secondary to the sovereignty of God.
Because man was created, he does not have the lawful right to sell himself or his “land” (dust of the earth) into slavery to sin. His rights are only temporary, lasting only until the Jubilee. The law of Jubilee asserts God’s right to take it back and to do with it according to His will. By this law, then, having not given away His sovereign rights as the Creator, God is able to give the dominion to Jesus Christ and to restore all creation, putting all things under His feet.
This is what is being celebrated by the four living creatures and by the twenty-four elders. They recognize that the love of God would not allow His creation to remain enslaved to sin beyond a certain point in time. They recognize His wisdom in not giving man sovereignty over his own destiny, but limiting him to various levels of authority. Because this awesome plan is so little known among the people on earth, few are able to worship Him with full understanding and appreciation. But the twenty-four elders understand, agree, and worship Him in awe.
This, then, is the revelation of the fourth chapter of Revelation which correlates with the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the daleth, the open door. This is the revelation of those who are called to go higher into the realms of God. The voice of God said in Revelation 4:1, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” By the end of this chapter, and again in the next, we see the revelation of the restoration of all things, where "the whole earth is full of His glory." This is “what must take place” before the divine plan is completed and earth history, as we know it, ends.
This is part 44 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones