Prostrate in Praise

,

God's glory is worthy of our worship.

Revelation(52) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(72) on May 20, 2018 (Sunday Morning(93))

Glorifying God(1), Worship(5)

Jesus Unveiled

Prostrate in Praise

(Revelation 4:1-11)

 

INTRODUCTION

“I'll never forget something I saw close to 20 years ago when I walked into the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. Just inside the door, in an alcove, was an arrangement called "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation's Millennium General Assembly." There were 180 pieces in the arrangement—from tables to chairs to small decorative items—all pulled together by James Hampton, a quiet, virtually unknown janitor from the D.C. area. Hampton simply wanted to depict God's throne room.

 

This extraordinary collection had been found in his garage after he died in 1964. No one knew he had been working on it for some 20 years. All these pieces were made from cast-off items—old furniture, gold and aluminum foil from store displays, bottles, cigarette boxes, wine bottles, rolls of kitchen foil, used light bulbs, cardboard, insulation board, construction paper, desk blotters, and sheets of transparent plastic—all precariously held together with glue, tape, tacks, and pins.

 

On a bulletin board in the garage he had copied this verse from Proverbs 29:18: ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ He believed people needed a vision of God's glory, so he set out, singlehandedly, to give it to them.

 

No one knows much about James Hampton, but we know this: what he imagined as God's throne room has become a national treasure.”

 

Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; sources: various sites about the project, most notably this link http://www.fredweaver.com/throne/thronebody.html

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2010/april/5041210.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Weeping worship

        • There are times when I’m praying or worshiping the Lord when my only response is to weep

        • When God’s attributes are particularly evident to me through a scripture I’ve read, spending time in prayer, or when I’m singing worship songs to Him

        • When I’m acutely aware of His grace, mercy, love, compassion, sovereignty, wisdom, power, presence, immutability, glory, majesty, or hand at work in my life, then my only response is to cry tears of joy and gratitude.

    • Worthy of worship

        • Over the years, I’ve fallen into the trap of just worshiping God out of rote

        • There have been times when I’m not attentive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting concerning God’s attributes at work in my life

        • That does not negate the fact that God is worthy of my worship

        • In fact there is nothing God has to do for me in order to be worthy of my worship

        • His glory alone is worthy of my worship

 

  • WE

    • Worthy of worship

        • Have we taken time recently to dwell on God’s glory?

        • Have we taken time to think about the many attributes of God and how He is using them in our lives?

        • Have we taken time to think about His throne room and what it will be like when we stand before Him?

    • God’s throne room

        • We’re going to be swept up this morning, through John’s vision, to the throne room of God

        • We’re going to see how John describes God’s glory

        • We’ll also see the setting of God’s throne room and those who are surrounding Him

 

John wants us to understand from the second part of his vision that . . .

BIG IDEA – God’s glory is worthy of our worship.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Revelation 4:1-11)

    • Background

        • We have finished the second section of the book of Revelation, the letters to the seven churches

        • Pastor Marc did an excellent job last week of reviewing those letters and what was being communicated not only to those 1st Century churches, but to us as the modern church

        • As we move into the final section of the book of Revelation we have chapters 4 and 5 which take place in the court of heaven and we see adoration for two parts of the Godhead

          • Chapter 4, as we’ll see today, focuses on the worship of God as Creator

          • Chapter 5 will focus on the worship of the Lamb (Jesus) who alone is worthy to open the scroll

          • These two chapters set the stage for the remainder of the book

        • The vision and revelation from Jesus continues, but the location changes

    • Earth to Heaven (vv. 1-2a)

        • After these things

          • ​​ The original Greek, meta tauta, should be translated as “after these things”

          • The Greek is in the plural, so the NIV rendering of “after this” does not adequately translate the original Greek

          • The original Greek helps us to understand that it is not after one particular event that John’s vision continues, but after a series of events (his initial vision of the resurrected Christ and the revelation to the seven churches)

          • Osborne states, “Μετὰ ταῦτα most likely refers to the whole vision of 1:10-3:22. ​​ John first saw Christ walking among the lampstands, and now he sees the throne room itself.” ​​ [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 223]

          • The first part of the vision is completed and now a transition takes place for the second part

          • As the second part of the vision begins, John looked and saw a door standing open in heaven

        • Door standing open in heaven

          • This is not the first time in Scripture that we see heaven opened – Easley sites several other times [Easley, Homan New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 74]

            • The heavens opened when Jesus was baptized (Matt. 3:16)

            • They were also opened when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:56)

            • When Peter saw a vision of a sheet filled with “unclean” animals (Acts 10:11)

            • In Revelation, John will see more deeply into heaven when its temple is thrown open (11:19; 15:5)

            • Finally, in Revelation John sees the conquering rider on a white horse sent out from heaven to earth in vengeance (19:11)

          • Ezekiel experienced something similar, In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God (Ezekiel 1:1)

          • It is not by accident that in Revelation 3:20 we see the imagery of a door

            • Here I am! ​​ I stand at the door and knock. ​​ If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

            • If we open the door our hearts to Jesus, then the door of heaven is open to us

          • John did not see the door being opened – it was already standing open when he looked

            • The original Greek uses the perfect passive participle

            • So, this section of Scripture could be translated, “There was a door having been opened.” ​​ [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 148]

            • Obviously God and/or Jesus had opened the door to heaven for John to see this incredible throne room scene

          • John sees the door standing open, but that is not all he will see or experience, because he is invited to come up to heaven

        • Voice from heaven

          • He hears the same voice he had heard in Revelation 1:10

          • It had the same qualities this time as it did then

            • It was clear like a trumpet

            • John understood what was being said

          • Jesus was asking John to join Him in heaven

            • Come up here

              • Some scholars see this as evidence that the church will be raptured prior to any of the things that will take place as outlined in chapters 6-22

              • They reference Paul’s word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. ​​ And so we will be with the Lord forever.

              • The Greek verb “come” is in the 2nd person singular form, so it is only speaking of John being summoned to heaven and not the entire church

              • There is argument that John is the representation of the church, but that reasoning is thin

            • Jesus had some important information to share with John

            • Jesus wanted to show John what must take place after these things

              • We see the emphatic “must” being used here, which indicates that the future is determined [Easley, 74]

              • “In 1:19 Christ commanded John to write ‘what will take place later’; now he will show him those things.” ​​ [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 118-19]

              • As mentioned earlier, chapters 4-5 are setting the stage for John to see what must take place after these things

              • John will see the glory of God and the worthiness of Jesus and how those surrounding the throne of God worship Them, then he will see what will take place during the end of time

          • Immediately upon hearing the summons from Jesus to come up here, John is transported in the Spirit to heaven

        • In the Spirit

          • The gap between earth and heaven is immediately removed and John is standing either in heaven or at the doorway to heaven

          • John does not mention whether or not he is in his body or out of his body

          • Paul also experienced something similar to this

            • Paul was defending his authority before the Corinthian believers

            • The false apostles were making incredible boasts about what they had suffered and experienced

            • While Paul prefers not to match them, he boasts about his suffering and his experiences with the Lord

            • I must go on boasting. ​​ Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. ​​ I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. ​​ Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. ​​ And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise. ​​ He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

            • While Paul perhaps saw some of the same things John saw, he was not permitted to share them with the Corinthian believers or any of the other churches where he ministered

            • That is not the case with John – he is commanded to write down what he saw in heaven

        • That is what John attempts to do – he tries to put into human words the glory and majesty of God and explain what he saw surrounding and emanating from His throne

    • The Throne Room – Setting (vv. 2b-8a)

        • God’s glory (vv. 2b-3, 6a)

          • As John enters heaven, he immediately sees a throne with someone sitting on it

            • He doesn’t immediately tell us who is sitting on the throne, but through the hymn of the four living creatures and the 24 elders, we’ll see that it is God

            • “While Ezekiel describes God as having ‘a figure like that of a man’ (1:26), John avoids all anthropomorphic language. ​​ Instead, he uses the brilliant colors of precious jewels to describe him.” ​​ [Osborne, 226]

            • “John is careful not to try to depict the one seated upon the throne of heaven in any sort of human form. ​​ Rather, God is portrayed as the brilliance of light reflected from precious stones.” ​​ [Mounce, 120]

              • Psalm 104:1-2, Praise the Lord, O my soul. ​​ O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. ​​ He wraps himself in light as with a garment;

              • 1 Timothy 6:15b-16a, God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.

            • John is at a loss for words to describe the glory of God

              • He is reminded of two precious jewels

                • Jasper

                  • Most scholars believe that jasper was an opaque stone

                  • It is likened to an opal or diamond

                  • The walls of the New Jerusalem will be made with jasper (Rev. 21:18)

                  • The foundations of the city walls will be made up of twelve precious stones, the first being jasper (Rev. 21:19)

                • Carnelian

                  • The Greek word for this stone is sardius, because it was primarily found around the ancient city of Sardis

                  • It was blood-red in color and very popular in the ancient world

                  • It is the sixth foundation stone mentioned in the description of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:19)

                • There is some discussion about what John’s use of these two jewels represent about God, but those representations about God and His glory are secondary to the actions of those surrounding the throne – we’ll get to that in just a moment

              • There is also a rainbow resembling an emerald that encircled the throne

                • Rainbow

                  • When we think of a rainbow, we think of a half circle going across our sky

                  • This particular rainbow encircled the throne vertically

                  • It was not like a halo that is horizontal

                  • This makes sense when we talk about what was before the throne (something that looked like a sea of glass, as clear as crystal)

                  • The vertical rainbow could be seen through this “sea of glass”

                • Emerald

                  • When I hear the word emerald, I immediately think of a vibrant green stone

                  • That may be what John saw

                  • “The σμαράγδινος (smaragdinos) can be a bright green precious stone or a transparent rock crystal that could serve as a prism and yield a ‘rainbow’ of colors . . . Either way, the imagery is that of the glory surrounding God on his throne.” [Osborne, 227]

            • Ezekiel uses other elements to describe God’s glory

              • Ezekiel uses one precious stone to describe the throne and also the idea of a rainbow

              • His description of the one seated on the throne uses the imagery of glowing metal, fire, and a brilliant light

              • Ezekiel 1:26-28, Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. ​​ I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. ​​ Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. ​​ This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. ​​ When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

            • God’s glory gives light

              • Revelation 21:23, The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

              • Revelation 22:5, There will be no more night. ​​ They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.

          • What looked like a sea of glass (v. 6a)

            • John doesn’t actually see a sea of glass, but rather what looks like a sea of glass

            • This is the only way he knows how to put into to human terms what he is seeing

            • Moses, Aaron, and the spiritual leaders of Israel went up on Mt. Sinai to see God, they describe something under his feet that is similar to what John is trying to describe

            • Exodus 24:9-10, Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. ​​ Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.

            • This expanse before the throne that was a clear as crystal simply adds to the splendor and glory of God as He sits on His throne

          • TRUTH – God’s glory is magnificent and beyond human words.

            • All of the imagery that John uses in describing God’s glory is simply to help us understand that it is awesome and magnificent

            • God’s glory alone should cause us to worship Him

            • God’s glory is worthy of our worship

          • John is riveted by God’s glory, which was the first thing that caught his attention, but then he begins to look around and sees that there are others who are surrounding the throne

        • God’s attendants [outer circle] (v. 4)

          • There were 24 other thrones surrounding God’s throne

          • Seated on those thrones are 24 elders who are dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads

            • There is much debate surrounding who these 24 elders are

            • I’m going to briefly share a few of the ideas that have surfaced, but who they are is less significant than what they do and say (we’ll get to that in the third point this morning)

            • Human or Angelic beings?

              • Human

                • “Those who argue for the elders as human beings state that angels are not called elders, nor do they wear crowns or sit on thrones in the Bible. ​​ Moreover, white clothing in Revelation is always worn by the saints (3:4-5, 18; 6:11; 7:9, 13; 19:14).” ​​ [Osborne, 228]

                • Those who favor the elders as being human instead of angelic differentiate between the two Greek words for crown (stephanos – victor’s crown and diadema – royal crown). ​​ Stephanos is used in this context and could very well be referring to those who have overcome ​​ 

                • Among those who think they are human there is debate about who they represent [Osborne, 228-29]

                  • The 12 patriarchs (OT) and 12 apostles (NT), representing all humanity as God’s people (Read Revelation 21:12-14)

                  • The great saints of the OT seen as preceding the NT saints

                  • A perfect representation of the 24 priestly and Levitical orders God instructed the Israelites to have in OT times (1 Chron. 24:4; 25:9-13)

                  • The church as the true Israel, the heavenly counterpart of all “victors” who remain true to God

                  • A heavenly court sitting on thrones of judgment

              • Angelic

                • “However, many others believe these are angelic figures. ​​ There are no other human beings in chapter 4, and in Isa. 24:23 angels might be called ‘elders’ (it is debated whether they are angels or the elders of Israel). ​​ In Ps. 89:7 God sits in the ‘council of his holy ones’ (=angels). ​​ Moreover, angels are called ‘thrones or powers or rulers or authorities’ in Col. 1:16, and they wear white in Matt. 28:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10. ​​ The thrones and golden crowns could refer to their royal function under God similar to the way first-century kings were subject to the Roman emperor.” ​​ [Osborne, 229]

                • There is a distinction between elders and saints throughout the remainder of Revelation, which could lead us to understand the elders as being angelic in nature

                • Their white garments could signify purity and holiness in God’s court and the golden crowns could represent their royal status

          • God does not reveal to us whether these elders are human or angelic, because who they are is less significant than what they do and say – we have to focus on that

        • God’s power (v. 5a)

          • In the middle of John describing who is surrounding the throne, he gives us a description of God’s power

          • It is seen through flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder

          • How many of you enjoy thunder storms?

            • I used to sit in the dining room of the parsonage in Shippensburg and watch, with awe and wonder, the amazing light show and chest rattling thunder claps that God produced with a thunder storm

            • We know the power of a thunder storm

              • We see it through a lightning strike that splits trees in two or completely destroys electronics in a house

              • It’s evident through the wind that shreds roof shingles and topples trees

          • The Israelites experienced this first hand when God descended on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20)

          • ATTRIBUTE – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)

          • John then returns to identifying those surrounding the throne of God

        • God’s Holy Spirit (v. 5b)

          • He sees seven lamps that were blazing

          • He identifies the seven lamps as the seven spirits of God, which we discussed earlier in this book (Rev. 1:4) as representing the Holy Spirit in His perfection

          • In the very center, surrounding the throne were four living creatures

        • God’s guardians [inner circle] (vv. 6b-8a)

          • It’s not hard from John’s description to realize that these living creatures are something other than human

            • Our best hope of understanding what these living beings are is by looking at some other descriptions of living beings that other prophets saw in their visions

            • Isaiah 6:2-3, Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: ​​ With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. ​​ And they were calling to one another: ​​ “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” ​​ (seraphim)

            • Ezekiel 1:10-11; 10:12, Their faces looked like this: ​​ Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. ​​ Such were their faces. ​​ Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body . . . Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. ​​ (cherubim)

            • John’s description is a combination of these two prophetic passages in the Old Testament

          • Similarities

            • All of the living beings had eyes that covered their entire body

              • “These eyes mean that the creatures see unceasingly and are ever-watchful protectors of the divine throne.” ​​ [Easley, 77]

              • These living beings are aware of and have knowledge about everything that is happening

              • They are vigilant in knowing about and overseeing the affairs of God

              • It is a reminder of God’s omniscience (all-knowing)

            • All of them had six wings

              • While John doesn’t mention anything about these living beings flying, they probably could have or did

              • “The wings may suggest swiftness to carry out the will of God.” ​​ [Mounce, 125]

          • Differences

            • While all of them have six wings and eyes over their entire body, their appearance is different

            • John doesn’t know exactly how to describe them, so he likens them to earthly things they he had seen

            • Remember, they are not a lion, ox, eagle, or man

            • Those are the only things John could compare them to that human beings would be able to identify with

            • There are all kinds of speculation surrounding what these four living beings represent, but it is not for us to try to determine it definitively

          • I like what Patterson says, “If portions of their descriptions seem to defy explanations, their purpose in the throne room vision is clear. ​​ Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy / is the Lord God Almighty, / who was, and is, and is to come.’ ​​ The purpose of the cherubim is to praise God continually and, as the Greek text says, ‘without rest.’” ​​ [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 156]

        • We could spend countless hours studying and debating who the 24 elders are and what these four living beings represent, but the most important part of chapter 4 centers around what they say and do in the throne room

    • The Throne Room – Worship (vv. 8b-11)

        • Four living creatures (v. 8b-9)

          • These four living beings are the worship leaders of heaven

          • Their worship never stops

            • As we’ve already mentioned earlier, God’s glory will give light in heaven and the New Jerusalem, so there will be no day or night as we understand it here on earth

            • Their worship of God never ceases

            • “That they never rest from worship (Rev. 4:8) suggests both divine empowerment for worship and the worthiness of God (cf. 7:15).” ​​ [Keener, The NIV Life Application Commentary, Revelation, 175]

            • The worship of the four living beings highlight the attributes of God

          • Attributes of God

            • Holy

              • The fact that God is holy means that He is completely pure/perfect

              • Repetition in Scripture is significant and is seen often in repeating something a second time

              • Triple repetition is rare and should not be taken lightly

              • “The four living creatures ceaselessly proclaim the holiness of God: ​​ ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (cf. Isa. 6:3). ​​ In Hebrew, the double repetition of a word adds emphasis, while the rare threefold repetition designates the superlative and calls attention to the infinite holiness of God – the quality of God felt by creatures in his presence as awesomeness or fearfulness (cf. Ps. 111:9: ​​ ‘Holy and awesome is his name’).” ​​ [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 116-17]

            • All-powerful

              • Second, the living beings use three words to identify the One sitting on the throne

              • Three descriptors [Easley, 78]

                • Lord – the personal name for God used by the Israelites (Yahweh)

                • God – this refers to His deity

                • Almighty – the Greek word literally means “all-power”

              • The living beings are identifying the One sitting on the throne as the all-powerful deity that can be known personally

            • Eternal

              • Finally, they speak of His eternality

              • Who was, and is, and is to come

              • He has always been and will always be

              • We see God’s eternal quality expressed again in vv. 9 and 10 when John writes – who lives for ever and ever

          • The four living beings verbally give three things to the One who sits on the throne

            • Glory – Greek doxa, English word doxology, can also be translated “praise” (sing doxology)

            • Honor – Greek timé, “high respect, value”, literally “honoring God”

            • Thanks – Greek eucharistia, English word Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), “thanksgiving”

            • “Glory and honor are offered to God for who he is: ​​ the ​​ Sovereign of the universe who sits on the throne . . . Thanks is offered to God because of what he has done: ​​ as the one who lives forever and ever, he has given life to his creatures – so that they will praise him.” ​​ [Easley, 78-79]

          • The four living beings lead the worship of God continually, but what do the 24 elders do?

        • The 24 elders (vv. 10-11)

          • Actions

            • We have to go back to the beginning of v. 9 to understand the actions of the 24 elders

            • The key word is “whenever” – every time that the four living beings cry out in worship to God the 24 elders do two things (these are continual actions, never ending)

              • They fall down before the Lord and worship Him

                • This is an act of submission to the authority of God

                • They are willingly subjecting themselves to their sovereign

                • “Falling on one’s face before another (4:10) was the ultimate obeisance, the supreme gesture of honoring the other far above oneself, appropriately applied to worship of God.” ​​ [Keener, 175]

                • PRINCIPLE – The only response of God’s people to His glory is worship.

                  • During the closing song, we’ll have an opportunity to respond to God’s glory

              • They cast their crowns before the throne

                • The 24 elders recognized their authority was a delegated authority – they did not earn it or merit it

                • They were simply returning to the Lord what He had given to them (they were not holding back anything)

                  • “This brings deep conviction and raises a question: ​​ Am I withholding anything from my God, even good things? ​​ Money? ​​ Time? ​​ Mind? ​​ Service? ​​ Heart? ​​ Chuck Swindoll is right: ​​ ‘We miss it when our focus becomes horizontal – riveted on people and things – rather than vertical – centered on God and God alone’ (Insights, 98).” ​​ [Akin, 118]

                  • PRINCIPLE – God’s desire is that His people offer back to Him all that He has given to them.

                  • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize that everything I have and am comes from God, and willingly offer it back to Him as an act of worship.

            • The 24 elders also had words of worship for the Lord

          • Words

            • They recognized that God deserves to receive glory, honor, and power

            • They are praising and honoring Him for his creative energy that is evidenced through the fact that He created all things [Easley, 79]

            • God’s creation was a direct result of His will

 

  • YOU

    •  

 

  • WE

    •  

 

CONCLUSION

“The Westminster Confession says that humankind was created to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever,’ and worship in our day needs to return to the NT pattern that views it as a daily lifestyle and not just relegated to the church service.” ​​ [Osborne, 243]

 

As we close today, I’m going to ask the ushers to remain in the back to collect the Communication Cards as we leave today, because during the closing song I’m going to ask you to respond as the elders did in worship to our Sovereign Lord. ​​ The Lord is inviting you today to come forward and fall down before Him in worship and to symbolically cast down your crown (everything He has given to you) at His throne in worship.

 

God’s glory is worthy of our worship!

14