Looking Above A Series on the Revelation of Jesus Christ Revelation 4:8-11 “A Glorious Theater”

Consider the scene of Revelation 4: it is a scene of glory; it is a scene of holiness; above all, it is a scene of worship.

Notice again the role of the four living creatures. Their role is that of worship. Verse 8: “They do not rest day or night, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” They give “glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (verse 9). The four living creatures worship God because He is holy.

Notice also the role of the twenty four elders. Their role is that of worship. Verses 10-11, “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, ‘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 worship God because He is worthy of worship as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

The four living creatures and the twenty four elders join together in worship of the One who sits on the throne. This pattern repeats itself throughout the book of Revelation. In 5:8, we read, “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.’”

In 5:11-12 we read, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”

In 5:14 we read, “Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.”

In 7:11 we read, “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’”

Finally, in chapter 19:4, we read, “And the twenty four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’”

Is the picture becoming clear? Again and again in the book of Revelation, the four living creatures together with the twenty four elders fall down and worship God. That theme is beyond debate; it is beyond dispute; it is set clearly before you: the role of the four living creatures together with the twenty four elders is the role of worshiping the One who sits on the throne!

The Call to Worship

Now, let us bring the elements of the picture together. Do you remember what we concluded concerning the identity of the twenty four elders? The twenty four elders are exactly that: they are elders. The twenty four elders are symbolic of the ruling authority in the church.

Do you remember what we concluded concerning the identity of the four living creatures? The four living creatures are symbolic of the office of preaching. The four living creatures represent the office of the preaching of the Word. Thus the government of the church is here in Revelation 4: the office of the elder in the twenty four elders and the office of preaching in the four living creatures! The government of the church on earth is patterned after the scene in heaven. As it is in heaven, so it is on earth.

But we may go even a step further. As the government of the church on earth is patterned after the scene in heaven, so that the worship of the church on earth is patterned after the scene in heaven. What are the twenty four elders and the four living creatures doing in heaven? They are worshiping God! What are the offices of the elder and the minister to be doing on earth? Worshiping God!
Revelation 4, then, connects the offices of the church with worship! The office of the elder is connected with worship. The office of the preaching of the word is connected with worship. Not only is the pattern for the government of the church here in Revelation 4, but the pattern for the worship of the church is here in Revelation 4!

Why are the offices of the church connected with worship? Why are the offices of the elder and the preaching of the Word connected with worship? Michael Horton gives this answer: “God has promised to save and keep His people through the means He has appointed.” He goes on to write, “to protect the ministry of the gospel and the integrity of its content, Christ the King reigns in the church through the officers whom He has commissioned.” God saves and keeps His people through the means He has appointed. What are those means? The preaching of the Word and the Sacraments, the very things for which the elders and preachers are held responsible!
Do you see what Revelation 4 is doing? It is pushing you beyond the bare doctrine of the means of grace; it is pushing beyond the bare doctrine of the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. It is pushing you to understand what is actually going on in the means of grace. It is pushing you to understand what is actually going on in worship.

God in the Worship Service

In the worship service, it is God who acts. We do not come merely to worship God as the object of our worship, we come to be acted upon by God in worship. It is here that God acts upon us through the preaching of the Word. It is here that God acts upon us through the sacraments.

At first glance, Revelation 4 may give the impression that God is passive in worship. The four living creatures cry out “Holy! Holy! Holy!” They give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne. Similarly, the twenty four elders fall down before Him and worship Him, casting their crowns before Him and saying, “You are worthy, O Lord!” It may appear that God is simply passive: He sits on the throne and receives the worship.

Though God is certainly the object of our worship, do not miss the fact that He is also active in worship—profoundly active! He is the One who summons His people before His throne to worship Him (verse 1). He is the One who sends forth the lightnings, thunderings, and voices from His throne (verse 5). He is the One who was and is and is to come (verse 8). He is the One who created all things, and by whose will they exist and were created (verse 11). God is active in worship—profoundly active.

It is in the worship service, where the means of grace (the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments) are administered that God is active. Through the preaching of the Word, He creates faith in our hearts. Through the sacraments, He strengthens that faith. Thus, it is in worship, through the means of grace, that God saves and keeps His people! God is profoundly active in worship.

The Focus of Worship

In worship, God sits enthroned at center stage and He acts upon us. That is the point of Revelation 4 and 5. Do you want to know what our worship should look like? Read Revelation 4 and 5. Here is the pattern of the church’s worship!

Notice how it is all oriented to the throne! In 4:2, John sees a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne. In 4:3, the rainbow surrounds the throne. In 4:4, the twenty four thrones of the twenty four elders surround the throne. In 4:5, lightnings, thunderings, and voices proceed from the throne. Again in 4:5, the seven lamps of fire burn before the throne. In 4:6, the sea of glass is before the throne. Again in 4:6, the four living creatures are around the throne and in the midst of the throne. In 4:9, the four living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne. In 4:10, the twenty four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne. Again in 4:10, the twenty four elders cast their crowns before the throne. And that’s just chapter 4! The centrality of the throne continues in chapter 5!

Do you want to know what our worship should look like? Read Revelation 4 and 5. Here is the pattern of the church’s worship, a thoroughly God-centered worship that expects Him to minister to us through the means He has ordained. Away then with that so-called worship that is conceived from the mind of man. Calvin had it right: when it comes to worship, the mind of man is an idol factory! The pattern of worship is not to be found in the latest fads, trends, or any of the other “churchgrowth” methods! The pattern of worship is to be found in Scripture! We must stop trying to be wiser than God! We must not forget that He invites worship on His terms, not on ours! Revelation 4 and 5 give us the pattern of God-centered worship.

God is central in worship, because He alone saves. That is why worship is the delight of God’s people. They delight in worshiping God because He has saved them. They delight in worshiping God because He continues to act upon them, strengthening them in the faith. They delight in worshiping God because He alone does wondrous things. Is worshiping God your delight? Do you long for and crave nothing more than the intimacy and fellowship you have with God in worship? Do you come thirsting and hungering, expecting to be filled? Do you leave rejoicing that because of Jesus Christ, you are under God’s blessing and not His wrath? Do you leave clinging all the more to Christ? Do you leave comforted to know that Christ holds on to you? Do you leave longing for the eternal day of rest when you will be with Him in heaven?

In worship, you stand in a most glorious theater—the very throne room of God in heaven—you are summoned in to the divine drama, and here through the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you receive salvation for your soul. Here God works salvation in your heart. Here you have the privilege of standing in the heavenlies to worship the Author and Perfecter of your faith, even the Lamb in the midst of the throne.

Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, and the Lamb victorious, be the praise alone. God has wrought salvation. He did wondrous things. Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?!

Rev. Brian Vos is the pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan. He also is the President of the Board of Reformed Fellowship.

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