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Worthy is the Lamb: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God

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Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. The heart of worship.

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Text: Revelation 4:1-11
Date: 01/21/17 File name: Revelation_12.wpd ID Number:
Theme: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
As we arrive at the 4th chapter of the Book of Revelation, let’s take a moment to consider where we have been and where we are going.
The Revelation of Christ Jesus given to the Apostle John is made up of four visions. The first vison is recorded in Revelation 1:9-3:22. John is commanded to write about what you have seen, what is happening now, and what will take place in the future. “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” (Revelation 1:19, NIV84).
What the Apostle has seen is recorded in Revelation 1:10-16. It is the glorified Christ — radiant in his resurrected body, and returned to the splendor that was his before the incarnation, and reigning with the Father. He describes himself as “the First and the Last,” as “the Living One,” as the one who “was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1:17–18, NIV84).
The things that are now are the events concerning the Seven Churches to whom the risen Christ gives very specific messages. We are reminded that our Savior — who is Head of his body, the church — is fully aware of the situation each and every New Testament Church finds itself in. Our Savior knows this congregation, and he knows each and every Christian in this congregation. He knows our joys, and he knows our struggles. And he gives precious promises to him who overcomes — which is every confessing Christian, past, present, and future.
Chapter four begins the second vision, and marks one of the major turning points in the Book of Revelation. It concerns world events that will take place later. This second vision runs all the way through the end of chapter sixteen and is the bulk of the book. A believer’s eschatological view will determine how one interprets the last three of Christ’s visions in the Book of Revelation. (Eschatology is the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world, and Christ’s Second Coming). In your bulletin is an insert that briefly describes how each of the four major end-times views interprets some of the events we’re going to begin looking at. I will be including these from time to time as we go through this book.
Because of the differences of opinion shared even among Baptists over the order of events regarding the end times, Baptists have rightly refused to make eschatology a test of orthodoxy and fellowship.
But even though various viewpoints about the future are held, all Christians believe three basic convictions about the course of human culture and the end of the world: 1st, that God is at work in history and that it will culminate in his eternal kingdom; 2nd, that Jesus will return, believers will be resurrected, and Christ will establish his kingdom; and 3rd, that we will share in our Lord’s eternal glory and live with him forever.
As one who holds-to a Futurist end-times view, I believe that everything from Revelation 4:1 to the end of the book has yet to take place. We are still living in the Church Age, and the events that will take place later, have yet to take place. And when they do — WATCH OUT!
Let’s look at the events that are taking place in Heaven.


1. chapter four begins with an invitation for the Apostle John to ascend into Heaven
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1, NIV84)
2. John hears a voice calling Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after these things
a. John is going to receive an insider’s view of heaven, and a bird’s-eye-view of the end of the world
1) in chapters four and five, he is going to glimpse what is taking place in Heaven
2) in chapters six and seven, he is given a vision of the wrath of God unleashed upon a rebellious world
3) these are things that must take place ... they are predetermined by God and part of his divine plan
3. this second vision begins with an extraordinary experience — the Apostle sees a throne with someone sitting on it
a. he sees God on His throne
1) John was not the first to catch a glimpse of Heaven
a) in a dream, Jacob saw a stairway reaching to heaven from where God addressed him, and Jacob exclaimed, “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17)
b) the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were allowed to see God’s celestial throne (Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26; Dan. 7:9)
c) Paul the Apostle was also was taken up to the third heaven in a vision, and he writes that “he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Cor. 12:4)
b. John the Apostle sees inexpressible things ... things that God permits him to tell us about
1) and the very first thing he sees is God high and lifted up, seated on his throne
c. as we enter a series of visions that describe the end of the world, the very first thing we see is that God is sovereign — He governs everything so that nothing happens without his will
1) Satan is not in control
2) Men are not in control
3) Fate is not in control
4) God is


“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:3, NIV84)
1. everything connected with the throne of God in this chapter is awesome, strange, and unexpected
a. a throne bathed in the dazzle and glitter of light reflecting through gem stones
b. emerald rainbows
c. lampstands and a crystal sea
d. elders and strange multi-eyed creatures
2. John begins by giving his readers a sense of the majesty and beauty of the appearance of God, and the throne by referring to three precious stones: the jasper stone, the carnelian, and the emerald
a. most bible scholars believe that the jasper stone mentioned in vs. 3 is not the jasper stone of our day, but actually refers to diamond
ILLUS. In Rev. 21:11 the Jasper stone is described as “clear as crystal.” A diamond fits that description. Because it take twice as long for light to travel through a diamond crystal as it does through the air, a diamond “traps” light, which is why they sparkle like they do.
1) this brilliance, and sparkle of this stone is a picture of the “unapproachable light of God that allows no one to see him
“ ... God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16, NIV84)
b. the second stone is the carnelian, and is fiery red in color, and like the diamond traps light so that it glitters and flashes
1) the carnelian reminds us that our God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)
a) in Israel’s wilderness wanderings, God manifested Himself as a pillar of fire and smoke
b) in the Jewish Temple, the fire on God’s altar was never allowed to go out — it was an unquenchable flame
“The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; ... .” (Isaiah 10:17, NIV84)
3. this description of God, bathed in reflectorial light is the only way John knows how to describe what he sees — God is radiant ... God is glorious ... God is great in His glory


1. John also sees that a rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne
a. according to Genesis 9:13–17, a rainbow symbolizes God’s covenant faithfulness, mercy, and grace
2. the rainbow around God’s throne is a reminder that, in the climatic days at the end of the age, God’s Elect are safe
a. the Prophet Habakkuk writes, in his wrath, God will remember mercy (Hab. 3:2)
b. the fact that this rainbow is not merely an arc, but a rainbow that encircles the throne is a reminder that God’s covenant of faithfulness, mercy, and grace is forever, and ever
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7, NIV84)


“From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.” (Revelation 4:5, NIV84)
1. “lightnings and thunderings” always precede a storm here in the Midwest and often indicate the intensity of the storm
a. I think that the meaning here is that judgment is coming
b. “And voices” indicates that it is not a haphazard judgment, but it is directed by the One on the throne
2. “The seven Spirits of God” is a clear reference to the Holy Spirit who is the one who will superintend the wrath of God set loose upon the Earth
a. just as the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters managing God’s creative work at creation, so the Spirit of God will hover over the earth managing God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners
b. the thunderings and lightnings proceeding from the throne remind us that God’s judgment is something to be feared
“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31, NIV84)
c. the thunderings and lightnings remind us that the fierce storm of God’s wrath and judgment are soon to come upon this world, and men best be prepared
3. Jesus was blunt about this ...
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36, NIV84)
4. the first thing John sees is the One upon the throne — he sees that He is great in glory, great in His grace, and great in His wrath


1. the second thing John sees are thrones around God’s throne
“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” (Revelation 4:4, NIV84)
a. this is the Book of Revelation, so you know that there are going to be any number of interpretations of who these twenty-four elders seated on thrones are
1) some commentators believe they represent the first 24 ancestors of Christ (Adam through Pharez) listed in Genesis 5
2) some commentators believe they are angels who serve and adore God
3) some commentators believe they are the New Testament saints, who were raptured into heaven at the beginning of the Tribulation
2. now, let me give you the correct interpretation ... this is a picture of the Church Triumphant — the redeemed — the saved, both Old and New Testament saints, rendering praise and honor to God
a. they are uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring God for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace
b. in their description we see some of the great promises made to he who overcomes in the messages to the seven churches coming into fruition


1. they are sitting on thrones
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21, NIV84)
ILLUS. One of the great truths recovered during the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers — that all confessing Christians are priests before God. We do not need an earthly priest to mediate between the sinner and God. Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. Christ our High Priest has made one sacrifice for sin for all time (Hebrews 10:12), and there is no more sacrifice for sin that can be made (Hebrews 10:26). But as priests once offered other kinds of sacrifices in the temple, so it is clear from 1 Peter that God has chosen Christians "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” ... But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9, NIV84)
2. The saints in glory are a royal priesthood


1. they are wearing crowns
“ ... I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10–11, NIV84)
2. as the children of God, we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade ... kept in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4)
a. we are God’s beneficiaries — how cool is that?!
ILLUS. The musical play Annie contains a wonderful illustration of becoming an heir of God. When Annie moves from the orphanage to the Warbucks Mansion, it’s an incredible change for her. She leaves behind a spiteful, alcoholic caretaker and enters a relationship with a caring father. She goes from having no possessions to having a fortune at her disposal. The hard-knock life is overcome by the brightness of a sunny tomorrow. Seen from a Christian perspective, Annie pictures what being a co-heir with Christ means. “We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).


1. they are wearing white
“He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5, NIV84)
2. once we were sinners, our filth compared to dirty rags by the Prophet Isaiah
a. in Christ, we have become righteous saints
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV84)


“the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 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.” (Revelation 4:10–11, NIV84)
1. this leads me to my last point, and the crux of what chapter four is all about — worship


1. thirdly and finally, I want you to notice what is taking place before the throne
2. besides the twenty-four elders, who represent the Church Triumphant, John also sees four living creatures
“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.” (Revelation 4:7, NIV84)
a. again, because this is the Book of Revelation, there are a number of interpretations as to who these four six-winged creatures are
b. I think the most obvious answer is that these are some of God’s special angelic creatures
1) in Isaiah 6:1-6 we are introduced to angelic six-winged creatures called Seraphs
a) they fly above the throne of God and cry out to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”
b) their purpose is the continuous praise of God
2) in Ezekiel 10:5-22 we are introduce to another group of angelic six-winged creatures called Cherubs
ILLUS. When most people think of Cherubs they think of pudgy little baby-like creatures, with two little wings, who are rather cute. However, that's not how the Bible describes them! In Genesis they guard the entrance to Eden after Adam and Eve have been expelled. In Ezekiel’s vision, we find them guarding the entrance into the Temple. When God instructs Moses on how to build the Ark of the Covenant, Cherubs are to adorn the top of the Ark which is referred to as the Mercy Seat. In Jewish folklore they are called Throne-Angles because they reside next to the throne of God.
a) the word Cherub actually means to guard
b) far from being cute, cuddly creatures, the Cherubim are the mighty and powerful guardians of God
3. because of what they are proclaiming, I believe the four living creatures of this passage are Seraphs (but it’s something we shouldn’t be dogmatic about)


ILLUS. They won’t need special lighting and imitation fog to be effective!
1. the song of the angels is found in vs. 8
“Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his 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 4:8, NIV84)
2. the song of the saints is found in vs. 9-11
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 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.” (Revelation 4:9–11, NIV84)
3. in this passage we witness confession, praise, and homage — the heart of worship
a. in this throne-room chapter, the angels confess the words Lord God Almighty which proclaims the truth of God’s omnipotence
1) nothing and no one in all creation can rival God the Father
2) it is God who said of Himself, “I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:6)
3) God is the one “who was, and who is, and who is to come”
a) these words describe God as timeless from eternity to eternity
b. the praise of the Seraphs are followed by the praise of the saints
1) they fall prostrate before the throne, and they lay their crowns before the throne
2) the focus of the elders’ song is on God’s glory manifested in creation
3) God is worthy to receive glory and honor


ILLUS. One of the older confessions of faith still in use by many conservative congregations is the Westminster Confession of 1646. You might call it the great, great grandfather of Baptist Confessions — including ours. To teach the confession to congregations, the Westminster Catechism was developed.
Some of you who grew up in a more liturgical denomination know that Catechisms are question/answer dialogues uses to teach the basics of the Christian faith. In the Westminster Catechism, the very first question is: What is the chief end of man? The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”
This is the great truth of Revelation, chapter 4. This is the purpose for which mankind was created, and the reason why God redeems those who come to Him by faith. "Your chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever." We must not lose ourselves in the interpretive challenges of the text, but instead be fully aware of what is happening — it’s worship! The worship taking place in the heavenly throne-room reminds us that worship is not about us. It is not for our benefit. The intent of worship is for God to receive glory and honor because He — and He alone — is worthy. This is the heart of worship. ILLUS. Early in his career, Matt Redman, a popular Christian musician in Britain, was singing with his church’s praise band. Their music was one of the highlights of the weekly worship. One day the church’s pastor came to them saying that the praise band members had become proud of their performance, and that they were neglecting true worship. Insulted by the charge, the members of the band left the church — all except for Matt Redman. He did some soul-searching, realized his pastor was right, which led him to write the song The Heart of Worship. The lyrics read, When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus.
Worship can take place in the sanctuary of the church building, and it can take place in the sanctuary of the believer’s heart wherever he or she finds themself.
So here’s the question, When eternity comes, where will you find yourself? Will you be part of that great throng of saints, dressed in white, laying your crown at the feet of God in worship and adoration for all eternity? Or will you be one of those cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Father, we ask that you would grant now that we would truly understand what worship is and what it means to sing the same songs they sing in heaven. Give us the ability to know the joy of those who bow down with their whole beings and say, “Worthy is the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb.” We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
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