"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 4 - Quick Links
8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
Visual and audible displays of lightning, thundering, and voices, depict the awesome power God has over His creation:
Psalms 18:7-14 - Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Psalms 77:16-20 - The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
In these opening scenes, right before the Tribulation begins, God reveals Himself in the same way that He first revealed Himself to Israel:
Exodus 19:16-19 - Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
As discussed in the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study, the main purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel back to God. The "lightnings, thunderings and voices" are evidence that God is about to reveal Himself to His chosen people again.
Revelation 4:5 - Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Revelation 1:4 shows that the "seven Spirits of God" are the attributes of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit appeared as cloven tongues of fire at Pentecost, as a sign that the power of the Spirit came upon men:
Acts 1:8 - But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 2:1-4 - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Recall from Revelation 1:20, that the seven-branched lamp stand represents the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. This lit menorah is located "before the throne." The reason the Holy Spirit is before, but not on the throne, is because He does not have the executive authority that the Father owns and has given to the Son:
John 5:26-27 - For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.Instead, the Holy Spirit's position is that of "the Helper," who gives instruction through the "seven spirits," which are the attributes of the Holy Spirit, as shown in Revelation 1:4, according to the will of the Father and Son:
John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.A lamp stand bears light, but it is not the source of the light. As discussed in Revelation 1:4, the Holy Spirit is the source of the light for the lamp stands. In other words, it is the works that we do through the Holy Spirit, given by God, that shine as lights to the world:
Philippians 2:13-15 - ...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
When John first saw the lamps of the seven churches in Revelation 1:4, he had not yet been called up to Heaven. Now John sees the lamps burning in Heaven. The seven lamps, which represent the churches (Revelation 1:20), lit though the power of the Holy Spirit, are no longer in the world at this juncture. On that note, it is interesting that the prophets describe the Tribulation as a time of darkness, being void of light:
Amos 5:20 - Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?
Zephaniah 1:14-15 - The great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.
This supports the Church not being present on Earth when the Tribulation begins.
The "Sea" in the earthly tabernacle was made of bronze. The "sea" in Heaven is like crystal. The purpose of the earthly "Sea" was for the priests to ritually wash before making offerings:
2 Chronicles 4:1-6 - Moreover he made a bronze altar: twenty cubits was its length, twenty cubits its width, and ten cubits its height. Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. And under it was the likeness of oxen encircling it all around, ten to a cubit, all the way around the Sea. The oxen were cast in two rows, when it was cast. It stood on twelve oxen: three looking toward the north, three looking toward the west, three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; the Sea was set upon them, and all their back parts pointed inward. It was a handbreadth thick; and its brim was shaped like the brim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It contained three thousand baths. He also made ten lavers, and put five on the right side and five on the left, to wash in them; such things as they offered for the burnt offering they would wash in them, but the Sea was for the priests to wash in.
Recall from Revelation 1:15, that bronze signifies purification and strength. Bronze is also used to depict judgment and restitution. But in Heaven the sea will be clear as crystal, as there will no longer be a need for purification, or restitution, because Jesus has paid the price on the cross. He washes us, through the Holy Spirit and His Word:
Ephesians 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Titus 3:4-5 - But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
John saw the sea in Heaven before the throne. Ezekiel was below the throne when he saw it. From Ezekiel's perspective, he described the crystal sea as the "likeness of the firmament," or atmosphere:
Ezekiel 1:22 & 26 - The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads.... And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it.
John describes the crystal sea as being like "glass," which portrays a sign of calmness and stability. Later, we will see the martyred Tribulation saints standing on this "sea of glass," that appears to mingle with fire:
Revelation 15:2 - And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
The "mingled fire" appearance goes back to the jasper and sardius stone in Revelation 4:3, which are clear and blood-red in color, and represent Jesus. It is through Jesus that the Tribulation saints will wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb:
Revelation 7:14 - And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Take note that the crystal sea does not yet appear mingled with blood in chapter 4 of Revelation because the Tribulation has not officially started and the martyrs have not been killed yet.
Interestingly, both John and Ezekiel describe the sea in Heaven as having characteristics like the atmosphere of Earth. The phenomenon of the "Aurora Borealis," also known as the "Northern Lights" can look like "crystal" being "mingled with fire" in the earthly firmament, as shown below:
As noted earlier, the "sea of glass" in Heaven stands "before the throne." This is where we will find the Tribulation saints later (Revelation 15:2). In the passage below, the Tribulation saints are again shown before the throne. As seen in the imagery of the "sea of glass," these saints will finally have stability and comfort, after all the suffering they will endure in the Tribulation:
Revelation 7:15-17 - Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Revelation 4:6 - And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.
Recall from Revelation 4:4, that the area or platform, where the thrones of the elders are, is all considered part of the throne of God. Revelation 3:21 also shows that the Church will sit with Christ on His throne. John describes the four living creatures, who are also on this platform, as being in "the midst of the throne," yet still around the throne. The wording here would suggest that the four living creatures are closer in proximity to the throne itself, compared to the twenty-four elders, as shown in the schematic below. The "seven Spirits of God" (Revelation 4:5) and the heavenly (Revelation 4:6) "sea" are both before the throne:
The Greek word "zoa" translated as "living creatures" is where we derive our English word zoo from. In fact, this word in some other Bible versions is translated as "beasts," but could also be translated as "animals." As we will see in Revelation 4:7, these living creatures in Heaven take on characteristics like that of earthly creatures. However, we will discover in Revelation 4:8 that the living creatures are of an angelic order. The possible meaning of the "eyes" will also be discussed in that section.
The number four is undeniably tied to the earth, as shown in the passages below:
Revelation 4:7 - The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.
In this verse we discover that the four living creatures are of the same genre of creatures that Adam named:
According to Numbers 2, the camp of Israel in the wilderness was divided into four camps, with the Levites camping in the middle. Four tribes: Dan, Judah, Reuben and Ephraim, represented three tribes each. As an interesting side note, the distribution, based on the number of people in the camps, would form a cross surrounding the tabernacle:
Each of the four camps had a "standard," or flag, which bore an emblem associated with their "father's house," which presumably was the patriarch of the representing tribe:
Numbers 2:1-2 - And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father's house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting."
According to Midrashic sources, the standards, or flags of each camps bore the images of a man for Reuben, a lion for Judah, an ox for Ephraim, and an eagle for Dan, although other sources say it was a snake. (Perhaps it was both, with an eagle preying on a snake, as shown in the schematic above). Prophecies from Jacob, Moses and other prophets about the Patriarchs and their tribes support these rabbinic writings:
East - Judah - Lion
Genesis 49:9-10 - Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
West - Ephraim - Ox
Deuteronomy 33:16-17 - "With the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come 'on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.' His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox; together with them He shall push the peoples to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh."
Hosea 10:11 - "Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain; but I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods."
South - Reuben - Man
Genesis 49:3 - Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Deuteronomy 33:6 - "Let Reuben live, and not die, nor let his men be few."
North - Dan - Eagle
An eagle makes its nest in high places. Moses prophesied that Dan would eventually move to the area of Bashan, the highest place of elevation in Israel.
Job 39:27 - Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high?
Deuteronomy 33:22 - And of Dan he said: "Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from Bashan."
Psalms 68:15 - A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan; a mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan.
Jacob prophesied that Dan would be a judge (Genesis 49:16). Interestingly, God described nations He used in judgment as being like eagles (Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:6-13, 48:40-42, 49:20-22, Lamentations 4:11-19, Habakkuk 1:6-18).
Like the eagle, a serpent is a predatory creature. Also, like the eagle, God describes nations He used in judgment as serpents (Isaiah 14:29, 30:6, Jeremiah 8:5-17). Dan is also described as a serpent in his judgment, which some rabbinic sources cite as the emblem on the flag of their camp:
Genesis 49:16-17 - "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward."
Though the scriptural parallels are not as clear-cut for Dan as they are for the other tribes, it is compelling that rabbinic sources support the standards as matching that of the likenesses of the four living creatures. In addition, Scripture shows that Moses was to pattern the tabernacle on Earth after that in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5). All things considered, the layout of the camp of Israel appears to be patterned after the four living creatures in Heaven:
Revelation 4:8 - The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.
In this verse, we are given further description of the four living creatures. Isaiah also saw these creatures, which he called "seraphim":
Isaiah 6:1-7 - In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged."
The Hebrew word transliterated as "seraphim" literally means "fiery," or "burning ones." This word used elsewhere in Scripture relates to serpents (Numbers 21:6-8, Deuteronomy 8:15, Isaiah 14:29, 30:6). As shown above in Isaiah 6, and later in Revelation 6, the Lord has commissioned the living creatures to purge evil.
Ezekiel saw four similar, but different living creatures from the "seraphim," called "cherubim." Take note of the likenesses and differences between the living creatures below:
The wings of the golden cherubim, which over shadowed the "Ark of the Covenant" on Earth, suggest guardianship:
1 Kings 8:6-7 - Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles.
The following passage about Satan supports a cherub being a guardian, or one "who covers":
Ezekiel 28:13-14 - You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
Based on proximity of the seraphim close to the throne of God, and having covering wings similar to the cherubim, they are likely guardians as well. If that is true, the seraphim are guardians around the throne of God, based on John's account, and the cherubim are guardians on Earth below the throne, based on Ezekiel's account:
Ezekiel 10:1 - And I looked, and there in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne.
Eyes cover the seraphim's wings "around and within." Back in Revelation 4:6, John described the four living creatures as full of eyes "in front and in back." We are not told why the seraphim have all of these eyes. The wheels of the cherubim were full of eyes, moving the same direction the Holy Spirit moved:
Ezekiel 1:18-20 - As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
Perhaps the many eyes of the seraphim show the spiritual insight they have at the leading of the Holy Spirit, similar to that of the cherubim and their wheels. Some believe that the seraphim have spiritual insight into the past, present, and future, with the eyes looking "front and in back" (Revelation 4:6), "around and within" (Revelation 4:8).
In Isaiah's vision of the seraphim, God told him that His chosen people would not be able to perceive Isaiah's message; they would be spiritually blinded. Their spiritual state was far too gone to avoid judgment:
Isaiah 6:6-12 - Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged." Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' "Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed." Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, the LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land."
Israel had spiritual insight, through the Word of God, that the Messiah would come. However, the religious leaders rejected Jesus as Messiah because they desired to follow after their own hearts. Thus they have since been spiritually blinded, in part. While God has reserved a remnant, He has blinded the rest:
Romans 11:7-8 - What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day."
However, when Jesus returns, He will heal Israel's blindness:
Romans 11:25-27 - For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
As shown in Revelation 4:4, the twenty-four elders represent the Church. In the passage below, we find the seraphim, along with the twenty-four elders, singing a song of redemption:
Revelation 5:8-10 - Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
Note that both the living creatures and the elders represent redeemed men. At this juncture, there will only be two camps of redeemed men: those saved before the cross and those saved after the cross. Those saved after the cross belong to the Church, represented by the twenty-four elders in Heaven. Before the cross, salvation came through faith in God from Adam to Abraham. And after Abraham, whether one was Hebrew or Gentile, salvation still came through faith in God. God commissioned the Jewish nation, through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as guardians of God's Word:
Romans 3:2 - ...Chiefly because to them [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God.
Salvation was made available to all through God's Servant, Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God born through the nation of Israel:
Isaiah 49:6 - "Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
God intended for the Jewish nation to be a light to those in darkness, by showing through the Law, the need for salvation:
Romans 2:17-20 - Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.
Though Israel failed in their commission (Romans 2:21-24), the Jewish Messiah took up the task:
Luke 2:30-32 - "For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
If the twenty-four elders represent the Church, then is goes to reason that the four living creatures represent Israel, plus the Gentiles saved through faith in the God of Israel. For example, Rahab (Joshua 2 & 6), and Ruth, are a few notable Gentiles that accepted the God of Israel.
Consider the following parallels between the four living creatures and Israel:
On that last note, the many eyes of the living creatures likely signify spiritual discernment, as discussed earlier. Israel was a chosen nation, but not solely to bring forth the Messiah physically. Hebrew men were also chosen to transcribe almost the entire Word of God at the leading of the Holy Spirit. God's Word gives us spiritual insight into the past, present, and future, looking "front and back" (Revelation 4:6) and "around and within" (Revelation 4:8), like the eyes of the four living creatures.
God has always kept a remnant out of Israel of spiritually discerned people (Romans 9:27, 11:25). As mentioned earlier, when Jesus returns, the entire nation will have the blinders taken off (Romans 11:25-27), and as a nation become a light to the Gentiles in the Millennium (Isaiah 60).
We have seen that the twenty-four elders and four living creatures, together, represent believers from all ages, up to the time of the Tribulation. The four living creatures represent faithful Israel plus a few believing Gentiles before the cross. The twenty-four elders represent the Church, or faithful Gentiles plus a few believing Jews after the cross.
Clearly, the four living creatures are of heavenly origin. Therefore, I believe it is likely the twenty-four elders are also of heavenly origin. Though they look like men, as do angels, John describes them as a separate group from angels (Revelation 5:11). There is more than one order of heavenly beings, seen in the differences between the cherubim and seraphim, which are very different from what we recognize as angels, who typically appear as men in Scripture.
In short, this heavenly court, whether all of heavenly origin or not, are clearly representatives of redeemed man, up to the time of the Tribulation:
Revelation 5:8-9 - Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation."
Combining the components of the throne of God shown to us thus far, we can clearly see that Moses patterned the earthly tabernacle after the throne in Heaven:
Revelation 4:8 - And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty..."
The phrase "holy, holy, holy" is only found in one other passage, again proclaimed by seraphim:
Isaiah 6:1-4 - In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
We saw in Revelation 3:7 that "holy" means to set apart (Leviticus 20:6). The Lord is "holy," and is also known as the "Holy One" (Isaiah 43:15, 47:4). Interestingly, the seraphim, who represent Israel, call out praises both day and night around the throne of God, just as the Psalmist pictures Israel doing:
Psalms 22:2-3 - O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.
The number "three" speaks of God's divine nature:
Click here for more on the number "three" in the Bible.
"Who was and is and is to come" denotes the eternal nature of God, being outside of time. The angel used this title in Revelation 1:4 to introduce God the Father, and later in Revelation 1:8, Jesus used this title to describe Himself.
Revelation 4:9 - Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever...
The four living creatures say they are giving glory, honor and thanks to the "One," who lives "forever and ever." Again we see evidence that the "One" on the throne is Jesus. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus tells us that He is "alive forevermore."
To give glory, comes with the idea of acknowledging magnificence and splendor, and giving credit where credit is due. Giving honor means to pay respect, or verbally recognize worth. Giving thanks, is to express gratitude to someone for something they did.
The four living creatures continually worship and praise the Lord around His throne in Heaven. When David sought to bring the "Ark of the Covenant" into Jerusalem, "all Israel brought up the ark," worshiping the Lord through music (1 Chronicles 15:28). In the following Psalm of David, apparently composed for the special event of moving the ark (see also Psalms 96), David portrays Israel as giving glory, honor and thanks to the everlasting God, as did the four living creatures around the throne in Heaven:
1 Chronicles 16:24-36 - Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and gladness are in His place. Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples, give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. The world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; and let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; let the field rejoice, and all that is in it. Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. And say, "Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise." Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And all the people said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD.
As an interesting side note, David prophesies in this Psalm about the Lord coming to judge the earth.
Revelation 4:10 - ...the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying...
In response to the praise of the Lord from the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders fall down in worship. The Greek word translated as "worship" literally means "to kiss towards." It comes with the meaning to pay homage, show devotion, or reverent adoration.
While worship is much more than prostrating ones' self on the ground, there are dozens of cases in Scripture that do portray worship to God, or idols that way. Other types of worship may include prayer, or music. Worship may also include sacrifice, or giving something to the one receiving the worship. Though God gave Israel the land and all that was in it, the Mosaic Law indicated that it was a show of gratitude to God, in worship, by giving Him back the "firstfruits of the land":
Deuteronomy 26:8-10 - 'So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, "a land flowing with milk and honey"; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.' "Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God."
All things are given from God. We can do nothing apart from God; even our works:
Isaiah 26:12 - LORD, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us.
God created the Church to do good works:
Ephesians 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Recall from Revelation 3:2, good and fruitful works are only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 4:4, we saw that the Church is the only group of believers that will receive crowns as a reward for their good works. As God gave Israel all the land, the Church was given good works to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Israel gave the Lord back the "firstfruits of the land," the twenty-four elders, representing the Church, will cast their reward, their crown, back to the Lord, in homage for what He did for them and through them.
Revelation 4:11 - "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."
The twenty-four elders continue where the four living creatures left off, giving praise to the Lord. In this moment of worship, the twenty-four elders proclaim that the Lord is worthy to receive "glory, honor and power" because He is the Creator of all. Not only did He create all things, but all things were created for Him. He created all things so that He might have "preeminence," or absolute dominion over all, made possible through His work on the cross:
Colossians 1:16-20 - For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Revelation Flow Chart:
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