True Worship 11-25-18
Revelation 4:6b-11 Lesson 20
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 4 and verse 6. The title of our message this morning is True Worship. I trust everybody had a blessed Thanksgiving. I don’t know what it is this time of the year, I just have a difficult time getting into my clothes that fit differently; of course, I want to blame it on the change of weather… right! And when I went on the cruise I had the same issue, I wanted to blame it on the ocean weather; maybe it has more to do with caloric increase.
Revelation 4 and verse 6, we had a great time yesterday, saying farewell in a memorial service to Elizabeth Stellar’s father, a military style memorial service. I had no idea that he was as decorated as he was, if I understand right winning the Purple Heart in Vietnam; if I understood it right more than once, and so it was just a great, great time. So you might want to see Elizabeth and Brooks just to express your condolences to them.
We have been moving through the Book of Revelation, having answered sort of the background type questions, when, where, what, why. John, of course, is on the island of Patmos, at the end of the first century, writing this book. We’ve gone through the prologue or the introduction to the book and then we hit this verse, “Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” That verse gives you the outline of the book. We’ve seen the things that John has seen, chapter 1, the portrait, if you will, of the glorified Christ. Then he’s told to write down the things that are. And that’s a section of the book dealing with the seven letters to the seven churches, Revelation 2 and 3, which we’ve gone through very carefully and watching Christ’s final words to His church and specific churches.
And then he has a third section, “write down the things that will take place after these things.” [Revelation 1:19, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”] That’s part three, and that’s the section of the book that we began to study last week because beginning in chapter 4, verse 1, it says, “after these things.” And towards the end of the verse it says “I will show you what must take place after these things.” [Revelation 4:1, ““After these things [meta tauta] I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things” [meta tauta].’”
So very clearly that’s a literary clue that we’re in the third and final section of the book dealing with the part of it that is yet future from our time frame. It’s the longest section of the book and here’s sort of an easy outline to remember concerning that large section: events before the tribulation period, chapters 4 and 5, events during the tribulation period, chapters 6-19, and then there’s a series of at least four events after the tribulation period chapters 20-22, just inching our way last week into that first subsection, the heavenly scene, things that will take place just before the tribulation period begins.
Here we’re introduced to the person and the place of the coming judgment. Who is bringing forth this judgment upon the earth which is catastrophic? The person is the Triune Godhead; God the Father is featured in chapter 4, God the Son is featured in chapter 5. That’s where the judgment comes from. The place it comes from is heaven itself! And so before this judgment begins we’re introduced to the locale that the judgment will come from and who is bringing forth this judgment.
And by the way, who in the world is God to judge this world anyway? What are His qualifications? Because all the way through this book sinful man sticks his finger into the face of God and says how dare You do this! How dare You bring judgment to this earth, after all, You’re not really qualified to do it. To ward off that criticism, which is very prominent all the way through this book, you have the credentials of God to judge. How can God judge creation? Number 1 because creation wouldn’t exist without God, Revelation 4 is describing that. And in fact it’s in this chapter that God Himself is worshiped as Creator. And if that weren’t qualification enough we have chapter five where he is not just the Creator, He is the Redeemer! Not only did He create all things but He is the one, God the Son, who stepped out of eternity into time to absorb the wrath of a holy God in our place so we would not come into His judgment. Now if you were the Creator and the Redeemer do you need any further qualifications? You do not!
And so by the time you emerge from chapter 5 what you’ll see is God is qualified and credentialed to bring these horrific catastrophic judgments to the earth that begin to be described in chapter 6-19. And in the process of describing this heavenly scene what we see is worship taking place. God is worshipped, God the Father as Creator, God the Son as Redeemer, and we get a glimpse of what heavenly worship is actually going to be like.
Chapter 4 you can divide as follows: Number one, John is summoned into heaven, chapter 4, verse 1. This is where John sees a vision of a door in heaven and a voice saying ‘Come up here” and he is brought into heaven itself, a personal rapture which I believe is a prefigurement of the coming rapture of the church. We talked about that last time, where John is given this unique vantage point; he sees the vision of the door and then the voice of a command saying “Come up here.” John is catapulted, whether it’s in his body or out of his body the Bible doesn’t say but he is catapulted into heaven itself to see this heavenly scene.
And in heaven itself he begins to record the sights that he saw in heaven. John sees two primary categories: number one, a heavenly throne, a place from which the judgment will come from. And number two, items around the throne; he sees who’s on the throne, God the Father. He sees what is above the throne, a rainbow, an emerald rainbow. He sees what’s coming out of the throne, flashes of lightning and peels of thunder foreboding judgment that is on the horizon. And then he sees what’s before the throne, this glassy sea, all of which we spoke of last time.
And then he begins to see also items and different things surrounding the throne, like verse 4, the twenty-four elders. And in our sermon last week I tried to make the case that those twenty-four elders are not angels. Those twenty-four elders represent the church in heaven, raptured to heaven before the judgments come. He’s also seeing, verse 5, the seven lamps which represent the fullness of the Spirit, the Spirit never being quenched or second guessed in heaven. [Revelation 4:5b, “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;”] And we made the point that you can’t have a lamp without a lampstand and the lampstands earlier in the Book of Revelation are identified as the seven churches.
So you have not one image but two images of the church in heaven before these judgments take place. That’s why we at Sugar Land Bible Church do not teach that the church will go into the tribulation period on earth; we believe that the church will be taken to heaven before the tribulation period takes place, and we sort of navigated our way through those sites that he saw last time.
But then he sees a third thing and this is where we pick it up this morning, four living creatures that begin to be described in verses 6-8, strange looking beasts or animals that really have no exact parallel to animals and beasts from the natural world that we can see around us. So John says there in chapter 4 and verse 6, “and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.  The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.  And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”
A very interesting verse, or series of verses. I hope you kept me in prayer as I was trying to understand these things. I’m not sure I fully understand it after a long time of study and wrestling with many, many commentaries and the original languages. The best I can tell is the identification of these living creatures is some kind of special angelic entity. It’s interesting that when you go into the Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, you start to see different categories of angels. There is a group of angels called the cherubim; the “im” ending indicates plurality in Hebrew, sort of like an “s” ending in an English noun indicates plurality. “Cherubim” more than one; you see many places where they’re described, Ezekiel 10:15-20.
[Ezekiel 10:15-20, “Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar.  Now when the cherubim moved, the wheels would go beside them; also when the cherubim lifted up their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels would not turn from beside them.  When the cherubim stood still, the wheels would stand still; and when they rose up, the wheels would rise with them, for the spirit of the living beings was in them.  Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.  When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’S house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.  These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim.  Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands.  As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one went straight ahead.”]
There’s another sort of group of angels called the seraphim who seem to have a role directing worship into heaven, Isaiah 6:2-6 speaks of them. [Isaiah 6:2-6, “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”  And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.  Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’  Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”’]
Is this the cherubim, is this the seraphim or is this some kind of special blend of the two? There’s a lot of debate on that and I’m not sure exactly where to come down on it, I just see these living creatures, four of them, as a special group or as a special category of angels. It’s interesting when you look at the second part of verse 6 it mentions their eyes, eyes within, eyes all around; eyes indicate intelligence, awareness. [Revelation 4:6, “and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.”] Heaven itself is completely aware of what’s about to happen to the earth. Even the angels themselves recognize it. It mentions what many think are different faces seem to be patterned after different animals from the natural world that we know. We see a lion, verse 7, like a lion, like a calf, like a man, like a bird. Boy, the interpretations here are endless. Some would say this represents Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (an interesting interpretation).
It’s interesting that the lion would represent the height of the wild animal kingdom. The calf would represent the height of the domesticated animal kingdom. The bird would represent the height of things that God has created that fly. And man would represent the pinnacle of creation itself. These seem to be very, very high level, high ranking angels, the pinnacle, if you will, of God’s creation.
When you look there at verse 8 it talks about their wings. Notice if you will, Revelation 4:8, it says, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; ” this reminds us of a special group of angels called the seraphim. They seem to be the worship directors in heaven. This was when Uzziah died and Isaiah was called into service and in Isaiah 6 Isaiah sees these angelic entities called the seraphim with their various wings. Isaiah 6:2 says, “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” All of this is a reminder of the angelic realm and the reality of angels in heaven.
And as much as it is difficult to decipher exactly who these entities are what is very clear is their duty, verse 8, which follows their description, what exactly are these four living creatures doing? That part is clear. If you look at verse 8 it says, “… and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’” There are probably about twenty hymns or songs that will take place in the Book of Revelation. Twenty times where heaven itself and sometimes earth is described as singing and praising God. That’s why I’ve entitled this message “True Worship.” Some have argued that this is the first of those twenty songs or hymns.
It’s interesting that these four living creatures are saying something; it looks to me like around the clock, we would use our vernacular today “twenty-four seven” they keep saying something over and over again, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.” That’s what the Seraphim are saying in Isaiah 6:3, the exact same thing, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.” Well why three HOLY’s? Why not two HOLY’s or four HOLY’s? It may have something to do with the fact that God is triune. One God who has expressed Himself in three separate personages, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Some have speculated, it can’t be dogmatic on this, but that’s why there’s this thrice, three times reference to God’s holiness.
And what are these four living creatures calling attention to? What attribute of God are they calling attention to? They’re calling attention to His holiness. That to me is very interesting because God is holy; He is absolutely pure, He is absolutely upright, He is absolutely moral and perfect in what He does. But that is not God’s only attribute. God is also described, 1 John 4:8 as love. 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God is holy, God is love, so why aren’t these four living creatures saying love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty? Why is it always “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.” That got me thinking a little bit about this.
One of the things to understand about angels is they are not omniscient. In other words they don’t know everything. They are creatures and as creatures they must study and they must learn, just like we study and we learn. Angels already understand something about God’s created power. According to the Book of Job, chapter 38, verses 4-7, they were present when God brought creation into existence. [Job 38:4-7, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,  Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it?  “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone,  when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”]
They were present, at least on day four when He brought land out of the sea and it says there in verse 7, “when the morning stars” that’s angels, it can’t be literal stars because they’re singing, I don’t know the star that can sing unless they’re an angel, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God” another word for angels, “shouted for joy?” Angels already know about God’s created power. They apparently already know about His holiness because that’s what they keep singing over and over again, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.” I would also presume they know about judgment because according to Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-17, one of their own, Lucifer, in sin lost his position in heaven and was thrown to the earth. In fact, so deceived was Lucifer that he could replace God through pride that he not only deceived himself, but he deceived a third of the angels into rebelling with him against God. We get that number from Revelation 12:3-4 and verses 7 and 8.
[Revelation 12:3-4, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.”  And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,  and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.”]
What’s my point? My point is angels know about His holiness. Angels know about His judgment and His justice. Angels know about His creative power. But what do angels not know, apparently, a lot about? They don’t know an awful lot about God’s grace. They don’t know an awful lot about God’s mercy. And that’s why they, as non-omniscient beings have to learn about this attribute of God. And how is it that these angels learn about God’s grace and God’s mercy knowing so much about His holiness and His judgment and His creative power?
Where would they turn to learn about God’s grace and His mercy? The answer is they’re looking at you. There are many, many references in the New Testament to the fact that the angels are watching. Ephesians 3:10 talks about the grace that God has lavished upon the church and it says these things are being witnessed by angels themselves. [Ephesians 3:10, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”]
1 Peter 1:12 describes the manifold grace of God and then it says this, “things into which angels long to look.” [1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things into which angels long to look.”] They’re observing; they’re (as some translate this) stooping down and studying intently God’s dealings with man because they’re seeing in God’s dealings with man grace and mercy, something that the angels themselves are just learning to comprehend.
Perhaps that’s why, when Moses was instructed in the Book of Exodus concerning the tabernacle and concerning the ark of the covenant, which went into the Holy Place which contained the Ten Commandments and other things, when Moses was told to create this entity he was told to place over the mercy seat seraphim, cherubim, cherubim watching what was going to happen on the Day of Atonement when the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat postponing the day of reckoning for the nation of Israel for one year. Leviticus 16, called Yom Kippur, the day of covering. Why would God tell Moses to portray angels watching what’s happening on the mercy seat? Because the angels are learning. They’re learning by God dealing with man and the angels watching God dealings with man knowledge is being filled out in their understanding an attribute of God which exists that they don’t know much about.
Think about that for a minute. God is using my life, He’s using your life to fill out knowledge in the theology of the angelic realm. That’s the best explanation I have in terms of why the angels are always watching us with great diligence. Why would they care? Because they understand His holiness. They understand His creative power. They understand His justice and they understand His judgment. But what about grace? What about mercy? Why are they saying “love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty; mercy, mercy, mercy, is the Lord God Almighty”? Something they’re less aware of and they’re learning about it as they watch God’s dealings with man.
We have to understand the privilege that we’re given today in the age of the church where the grace of God has been poured out on us in an unprecedented fashion. It’s something that is so magnificent and so profound that it’s even filling out knowledge among some of God’s creatures known as angels. God is holy but at the same time God is loving, God is gracious.
And you say well, aren’t those two attributes contradictory? I mean, how could God be holy and must punish sin but at the same time be loving and not wanting us to fall into that condemnation? How are these two attributes of God reconciled and the answer to that question is the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s where the love of God, the grace of God and the holiness of God coincide, because when Jesus died on that cross two thousand years ago the holiness of God the Father was satisfied against Him. Jesus stepped out of eternity into time, into the line of fire and He absorbed the wrath of a holy God in our place and the moment He did that He honored, upheld the holiness of God that must punish sin but at the same time the grace of God is evident because now God’s judgment does not have to be poured out on people who are sinners, who will simply receive what Jesus did in their place by way of faith.
You receive Jesus Christ and the holiness of God has not been compromised one iota because sin has been paid for but at the same time the love of God has been satisfied because now there is there is a sufficient sacrifice that doesn’t have to be poured out on us. And so it’s an amazing thing that these four living creatures are calling attention to “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty who was and who is and who is to come.”
And this scene concerning the sights in heaven is now followed by a song of heaven itself and what you see there in verses 9-11 are: number one, singers, verses 9-10, and number two, the song itself. Who are the singers? Two groups, number one, the four living creatures that we just got finished talking about, verse 9. And number two, the twenty-four elders that we talked about last week who represent the church in heaven, verse 10. Their contributions are given in these verses and then what follows is the actual song itself and you see what they are praising God for. And once we understand what they are praising God for then you begin to understand why God is qualified to bring the judgments to the earth that He will bring beginning in chapter 6.
Look at group number one in terms of these singers, the four living creatures. Notice what they are doing there in verse 9, “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,” what are these four living creatures doing? You’ll notice the word “glory” there, they’re glorifying the One who sits on the throne, God the Father. The word “glory” is the Greek word doxa, where we get the idea of the doxological purposes of God. Why do we exist? We exist to give glory to God. I like how the Westminster Confession summarizes this; it says, “The chief end of man,” in other words this is what man’s purpose is, “The chief end of man” humanity, “is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That’s why we exist. That’s why we were brought into existence, to glorify God.
So it would stand to reason that these four living creatures, also creatures of God, are in heaven glorifying God. They are also bringing Him honor, it says there in verse 9, and they are also giving to Him, (notice verse 9 very carefully) thanks, thanksgiving. Now isn’t that appropriate given the holiday season that we’re in now, the Thanksgiving season where on Thursday we paused and feasted and reflected upon the manifold blessings that we have, particularly here in the United States, tremendous material blessings the height of which is almost unknown in world history. And we ought to be people of thanksgiving. Even if you lost all of your finances tomorrow you still ought to be a person of thanksgiving because your heavenly blessings can never be taken away from you.
Ephesians one and verse three says “We have been blessed” past tense, “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And we say to the Lord, Lord, I want you to bless me, and the Lord says what else do you want, number one, I’ve put you in the most prosperous freest country perhaps in the history of mankind. And if that weren’t enough even more important than that you have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We ought to be people of gratitude as God’s people, not always asking and demanding and petitioning, and there’s always a place for that, but we ought to be just people that pause and reflect, Lord I just can’t believe what I have.
What does the Bible say? The Bible says in the last days people will be turned inward, not Godward. 2 Timothy 3:2 gives sort of a laundry list of what people, I believe in the church, will become like in the last days. They “will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” and one of the things mentioned there is “ungrateful,” unthankful.
Isn’t it interesting the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes called Black Friday, the mobs of people… and I was foolish enough to go out there last Friday I didn’t came or anything but my wife needed a little sleep, recovering from our trips so I took my daughter out on Black Friday, it’s called “Black Friday” because businesses finally get into the black financially, it’s a big business day. It’s astounding the wall to wall people, the inability to find a parking space, you open the doors at the beginning of Black Friday and people just like a mob go into these stores with the hope of getting the first gismo off the line at the reduced price. And you look at these pictures and you say to yourself, well where is everybody on the Sunday after Thanksgiving? I mean, I know where they are on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, what about Sunday? Why is it that this building is what… two-thirds, three-quarters full? Why is it that we can’t find parking places in the churches on the Sunday following Thanksgiving? The answer is we are a nation and a people that have largely become narcissistic and have turned inward rather than Godward.
That’s exactly what the Lord said would happen in the last days, people would become ungrateful. It’s interesting that of all of the people that have ever lived in world history that should be the most thankful for what they have we have become (to a very large extent) the least thankful. And isn’t it interesting that heaven itself, removed from sin, removed from the sin nature, as the angelic beings are praising God unencumbered one of the things that they do to the Lord is they just give thanks, gratefulness, and may that describe us. And they’re doxological in their purpose and they are glorifying God. Their eyes are off the holy trinity—me, myself and I, and on to the Holy Trinity with the thrice holiness, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Which one of these themes describe you? Which one of these themes describe me?
They give glory to God, they give honor to God, they give thanks to God, now notice where this glory is going. It’s very clear there in verse 9, when the four living creatures “give glory and honor and thanks to” who? “to Him who sits on the throne,” they’re not giving glory here to a church growth model, to a bestselling author, to a famous singer, to an erudite pastor, to a governing board, to a denominational head, to a school to a title, to a talent, none of that! Just directing praise to God where it should be and where it’s deserved, “…to Him who sits on the throne,” the doxological purpose of creation.
And why would God deserve this glory? You see it there at the end of verse 9, “who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever.” That’s the Greek word aiōnios, God is not just forever, He’s forever and ever. There never was a time when God did not exist; there was a time when you didn’t exist, there was a time when I didn’t exist, there was a time in history where the angels didn’t exist, but not God, He’s always been there and He always will be there. He exists forever and ever! And doesn’t God, on that basis alone, deserve glory and thanks and honor from the heavenly beings, including the raptured church?
You know, it’s interesting how short man has been on this planet and how much he thinks he knows. I’m reminded of the Book of Job where everybody in the Book of Job is giving their own opinion about Job’s problems. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, another guy named Elihu gets into the act, Job gets into the act and they all think they know something that they don’t have a clue that they know about. Job’s problems had nothing to do with sin in Job’s life; it had to do with an angelic conversation in heaven that we’re privy to between Job and Satan. Yet all these people in the Book of Job, it goes on so many chapters, are so confident that they know things.
And God finally intervenes in Job 38 and 39 and speaks through the whirlwind and He begins to give them a quiz. This quiz goes on two chapters. How would you like a pop quiz from God? And you know the first thing He asks them about? He asks them about creation. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.  Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it?  On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone,  When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Just a few questions about creation, can I ask you those and the reality of the situation is Job doesn’t know anything about these things because he wasn’t there, nor did Job’s so-called counsellors. But God knows because he was there when it happened and before that he was in existence and He’s always been in existence and He will always be in existence.
This is why God is called “the eternal God.” Romans 16:26. [Romans 16:26, “but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;”]
Psalm 90:2, the oldest psalm in the Psalter, Moses I believe is the writer, and he says, “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” [Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”] The Hebrew there is olam meaning forever, forever twice! And this is why these twenty-four elders, four living creatures are glorifying God, because God is the uncaused cause. He will always be and He has always been. So who in the world is man to shake his fist and finger in God’s face and say how dare You intervene in judgment? Man has no position to do that as this heavenly scene indicates.
We move from the four living creatures to the twenty-four elders. Who are the twenty-four elders? The twenty-four elders would be us, the previously raptured church, we talked about this last time in our sermon, tried to defend that position. Notice what the second group of singers is doing. Look at verse 10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever,” watch this, “and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,” and then the song follows there in verse 11. [“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”]
Whenever the four living creatures begin to praise the Lord and I think they do that quite frequently, the twenty-four elders start to praise the Lord as well. And it’s interesting in verse 10, it says actually “fall down.” Did you notice in verse 4 they were in a seated position and now verse 10 they are falling down before the Lord. Can I just ask you a personal question? When was the last time that you changed your physical posture to glorify God? When was the last time you got on your knees physically before the Lord. I notice that when I pray I’m always in a comfortable position with my root beer over here and the remote control over there, relaxed on my couch, yeah, I’ll give the Lord a few minutes. Think about this—when was the last time you sacrificed any comfort to change your physical posture to get into the presence of the Lord. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even remember the last time I did that. When was the last time you gathered your family around and you said you know, we’re just going to get on our knees and pray to the Lord.
And yet these twenty-four elders, as best I can tell, are physically falling down before the throne. Who are they worshipping? They’re worshipping “Him who sits on the throne,” they’re not worshipping man or an idea or someone’s creativity, or someone’s talent. As I’ve said before, this is doxological, this is what true worship is. The word “worship” is very interesting here, you’ll notice the word “worship.” It’s proskunēo, it’s what God deserves, it’s His right to receive because He is the creator of all things.
And why are they worshipping the Lord? They’re worshipping the Lord just like in verse 9 it repeats it in verse 10 because He is eternal, that’s why, “who lives forever and ever.” You’ll see that in verse 9, you see it repeated in verse 10. [Verse 9, “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever  the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,”]
I think God wants worship because of who He is; He’s God and you’re not! He’s God and I’m not! I’m a created being and He’s not. And so the natural expectation of an unchanging immutable God is that creation itself would glorify God because He possesses attributes that we don’t receive. You know, we have become so shallow in our understanding of worship. A lot of people say I’m not going to get there early to Sugar Land Bible Church and worship, I’m just going to go in and hear the message. Are you kidding me? What do you think you’re going to be doing for all eternity? I mean, if you can’t worship the Lord now how in the world are you going to be comfortable in heaven when your assignment 24/7, along with the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures are worshipping the Lord around the clock. That’s your destiny to worship God.
And it’s interesting here in verse 10 it says, towards the end of the verse, it says “and they,” that’s the twenty-four elders, or the previously raptured church, “will cast their crowns before the throne,” what crowns could those be? We’ve done great studies, in depth studies on this, haven’t we? The New Testament reveals five crowns that you as a Christian have the ability to gain. This has nothing to do with salvation which is a one-time deal, the moment you trust Christ your salvation is secure. And people say well, once saved always saved, I can just live however I want, right? NO, because number one if you just lived however you want now that you’re saved you’re not even fulfilling the doxological purpose for which you exist but you’re not taking seriously what the New Testament reveals concerning the ability to win a crown, five at least, the incorruptible crown given to the believer that gains mastery over the flesh, not a believer that’s sinless but sins less under God’s power. —————————————————————————————– 1 Corinthians—9:24-27; Incorruptible–Gaining mastery over the flesh Thessalonians 2:19-20; Rejoicing–Soul winning James 1:12, Revelation 2:10; Life–Enduring trials 1 Peter 5:2-4; Glory–Shepherding God’s people 2 Timothy 4:8; Righteousness–Longing for His appearing __________________________________________________________
And we have all of the Scripture addresses there for these in the left hand column. The crown of rejoicing for the soul winner, the crown of life for the believer that endures trials, the crown of glory for the believer that faithfully shepherds God’s people, the crown of righteousness for longing for His appearing.
And what do we do with those crowns? It says it right there in verse 10, we cast them at His feet. [Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,”] Why would we do that? To pay Him back? No, you can’t pay Him back. To merit something from Him? No, you can’t merit anything from Him. It’s a way of adoration and glorification and gratitude for what He’s done for you. That’s why the crowns in the New Testament are so prominent. This is why the Bible unfolds this doctrine of rewards. This is why we read verses like this in the prior chapter, to the church in Philadelphia, “I am coming quickly, hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” [Revelation 3:11]
Why would I care? Because it’s a capacity for glorification of God to a greater degree than somebody else. This is why John, who also wrote Revelation, wrote in his little epistle of 2 John, verse 8, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” Why would I care? Verse 10 is why we should care. This is why Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:27 says, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” from the prize. What prize? Salvation? NO, that’s based on grace. It’s a crown or reward. This is what Paul was so motivated by. He is expressing fear that after he preached to others that he would go back into the flesh himself and be disqualified from what he explained to other believers to be a reality for them. That’s not salvation, this is rewards above and beyond salvation.
This is why Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 outlines the great doctrine of the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ where Paul says  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Not salvation. That’s taken care of, the issue is rewards above and beyond salvation which your average Christians probably doesn’t know anything about, could care less about, but it becomes a big deal in verse 10 where the previously raptured church, the twenty-four elders are taking their crowns and casting them at His feet. It’s somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it, if they get to your hands and your hands are empty?
[1 Corinthians 3:10, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”
Why would I not want to max out for Jesus. Earn something from Him—NO! Pay Him back—NO! But glorify Him for all eternity based on what He has done for me. Isn’t that my reasonable response to the grace of God to offer my body to Him as a living sacrifice? Isn’t that what’s logical? Isn’t that what’s reasonable? And yet Paul says some Christians do and still get to heaven smelling the smoke on their garments; some Christians don’t, some Christians do. I think this doctrine of rewards is a big deal.
Grant Jeffrey sums it up this way: ““Someday every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards for faithful service. Some believers will receive no rewards at all because they lived their lives of service to self rather than service to the Lord…” That’s the Black Friday crowd, not the Sunday crowd after Thanksgiving. “Christians are promised a number of golden crowns for us faithful service to the Lord. Jesus warned that we are to ‘hold fast’ lest we lose our crowns. This indicates that it is possible to lose eternal rewards and blessings that God prepared for those who love Him. While our salvation is assured today by our accepting Christ as our savior…our future reward will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ after the Rapture. We are encouraged to hold on to these rewards through continued faithful service.” [Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations, p. 85, 87] Not white-knuckling it for the Lord but allowing Him to express Himself through us through the divine power that’s already resident within us.
I think that’s great theology, not to be confused with the doctrine of once saved maybe I can lose salvation. That can’t happen because you’re in the double grip of grace, John 20:27-29 and you will never perish. [John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30 “I and the Father are one.”] Salvation is not an issue any more. Reward, if rewarded, degree of reward, level of reward, capacity to glorify God throughout the ages, that’s being determined right now in the life of the Christian, in the life of the child of God.
And I have to be honest with you, I have misread verse 10 for my whole Christian life and I personally love it when the Holy Spirit corrects my understanding of something because how I used to read this is there’s a one-time event where I have this crown or crowns and I one time cast them at His feet. That has been my understanding of this verse for as early as I can remember when I was coming of age as a Christian. And my understanding of that did not get corrected until I was one of the speakers are David Reagan’s recent conference on Bible prophecy about a year or two ago, and one of the speakers gave an insight to this that I’d never heard before.
You’ll notice what it says in Revelation 3:11, it calls it “your crown.” “’I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” [Revelation 3:11] Well how could it be my crown if I’m casting it at His feet and it’s gone. That’s no longer my crown, that’s His crown. And the answer to that is right there in verse 9.
Revelation 4:9, “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever  the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,” when the four living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne,” Verse 10, “Then the twenty-four elders,” that’s us, “cast their crowns before His feet.” In other words, the casting of crowns takes place whenever the four living creatures glorify God. Are you telling me that the four living creatures are going to glorify God just one time? In fact, verse 8 specifically says they don’t do it just one time, they never cease saying twenty-four seven, “‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.” [Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”’]
These four living creatures are perpetually glorifying God. and as they are perpetually glorifying God what is the church doing? Taking their crown and casting it at His feet. But wait a minute, they start to sing again, so I take the same crown and cast it at His feet again. And then they sing some more… take the same crown and cast it at His feet. This is not a one-time thing where I take my crown, dump it off at His feet and it’s all over. The Bible is very specific that it’s your crown, it’s the capacity to glorify God not just a single time but over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again throughout the ages. That’s the understanding of that verse that I’ve never had before. I thought always it was a singular one-time event but if you just look at the verse itself and its context you see that’s not what it means. It’s interesting to me how many ideas we have in our minds about the things of God are really not borne out by a careful study of the Word of God. This is why a crown is significant to you, crown or crowns! It’s significant because it’s determining capacity for worship and glorifying God, not as a singular event but throughout the ages. This is true worship coming from the four living creatures, verse 9, the twenty-four elders, verse 10.
Well, what song are they singing? It’s right there in verse 11. “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You” what? “created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” You see this expression “Worthy are You”? That’s worship. What is worship? Worship is ascribing worth to something. Here heaven itself is ascribing worth to God because He possesses an attribute that none of God’s creatures possess, His eternality. Heaven itself is glorifying God. “Worthy are You,” glorifying Him, honoring Him.
Now look at what it says there in verse 11, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;” wait a minute, why is He receiving “glory and honor and power”? I thought He has always contained or possessed “glory and honor and power. What is He receiving here that’s new? The answer: He is receiving “glory, honor and power” in the Book of Revelation because His kingdom is coming from heaven to where? To the earth. And before His kingdom comes from heaven to the earth there’s the usurper that has to be evicted.
And that’s what the opening of the seven sealed scroll is about in Revelation 5, it’s the title deed to the earth and as the judgments hit the earth Satan is gradually being evicted and the highlight of the book, Revelation 11:15 says “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;” and the whole things ends with an evicted Satan, a bound Satan, and the glorification of the kingdom of God on the earth, called the millennial kingdom. So what is happening is yes, He has “all glory, honor and power” but He is receiving “glory, honor and power” because the point of the book is how the heavenly rule comes to the earth with an evicted Satan. That’s why they’re worshipping the Lord for this.
Psalm 110:1, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” Jesus does not have all glory, honor and power now because of that word “until.” The kingdom has not yet come to the earth. He’s certainly in a position of glory but nothing compared to what is happening with the manifestation of the kingdom through this seven sealed scroll.
And is God really qualified to bring judgments, evict Satan and bring this kingdom to the earth? How dare You interfere, God, with our kingdom. How dare You bring your own kingdom! God responds and says I’m completely qualified because you wouldn’t exist had I not decreed it. The fact of the matter is you wouldn’t even have your next breath unless I decreed it. And so heaven is praising God because of His role in creation.
And what does lost man do with the doctrine of creation? He comes up with perverted, distorted explanations of explaining creation without God. All of your children and grandchildren are being taught it right now, depending on what school system you have them in. It’s called the doctrine of naturalism, modern day it goes under the title the doctrine of evolution, What is evolution? It masquerades as science; it isn’t science at all. It’s sinful man denying God the glory He deserves on account of creation, that’s what it is.
That’s why the theory of evolution is an abomination to God. You want to tick God off, you want to upset God, then you start to strip Him of His glory that He rightfully deserves because of creation. And today we’re doing it all the time, called the theory of evolution where the natural man is taught to explain the sophistication of the universe without God. That is the opposite of what heaven is doing in the presence of God, glorifying God for the glory He deserves on account of creation. Evolution is not a scientific issue, it’s a theological issue. It’s an issue of who’s going to rule here, man or God? That’s the battle going on in the Book of Revelation, who’s in charge here? Man throughout this book thinks he’s in charge; God proves him wrong through the manifestation of His kingdom on earth.
Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” [Psalm 14:1, “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good’”]
Romans 1:18-24 says when people are given over to a philosophy that tries to explain creation without God their mind becomes darkened and they become confused about many things, watch this, this won’t get me a lot of applause from the politically correct crowd, including their sexual orientation. That becomes confused. Why? Because the sex drive and the sexual relationship is created by God. God is the one who understands how those things work since He is the creator of those things. You dismiss God from your thinking because you’ve come up with a theory to explain creation without God, you know what gets confused really fast? All of the relationships that God has set up including ones sexuality.
And so what are we living in today in this culture, this Black Friday culture? We’re living in a culture where children are going through public schools and they’re told well maybe you’re a boy, maybe you’re not, maybe you’re a girl, maybe you’re not. It’s called the gender surrender. I can’t think of a more confused culture than the one we’re living in now and it’s a theological issue, not a civil rights issue, it’s a theological issue and has to do with man’s unwillingness to give God the rightful glory that He deserves. And yet that glory is going out to God in heaven through the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures and God has every single right to bring judgment to the earth because He is worthy as Creator. Lost man may not figure this out or give God His proper due but heaven sure has it figured out.
And if that weren’t enough when we get into chapter five next week God is not only the Creator, He’s the Redeemer. He not only spoke and the heavens and the earth leapt into existence but He stepped out of eternity into time to pay the price when lost humanity went astray as God the Son is glorified because of His role in redemption. How dare man second guess the judgment of God when God is both Creator (chapter 4) and Redeemer (chapter 5).
You may be here at Sugar Land Bible Church and you may not even know Jesus as your Redeemer but we’re here to tell you that it’s the God that created you that’s the God that redeemed you. He redeemed you through what happened two thousand years ago through the death, burial, resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ, the God that formed us, after we fell into sin redeemed us through what Jesus did on the cross two thousand years ago. And a person enters into the redeemed company of the Lord through the reception of the gospel which simply means good news because Jesus did everything for us. Well if Jesus did everything for us then what’s left for me to do? Nothing! That’s the point, except to receive it as a gift. You receive the gift by way of faith which means trust. We rely upon, we depend upon what Jesus did for us. It’s really that simple. And it’s something, if you’re listening electronically it’s something you can do now in the quietness of your own mind and heart. For those of you here at Sugar Land Bible Church that have never done this it’s something you can do right now through the quietness and privacy in your own thought life and heart, you trust in what Jesus has done. You’re no longer trusting in self, circumstances, works, but the good work He did for us. That’s how someone enters into redemption which means to be purchased back from the slave market of sin.
We’re entering the Christmas season, there’s lots of talk about presents, gifts, shopping, and the greatest tragedy of the whole thing is people all over this country and all over this nation, all over this world will be so caught up in the business of the holidays that they will never pause or take time to consider the present God has already given them, which is your only path to redemption, and that’s the gospel. It’s not something you have to raise a hand to receive, join a church to receive, give money to receive, it’s a matter of conviction when the Spirit convicts us and we receive by way of faith what Jesus has done in our place. If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray… Father, we’re grateful for revelation, for broadening our minds concerning the slow-mindedness we have of worship. Help us to focus on true worship this Thanksgiving season and as we move into the Christmas season where we celebrate Your birth. Make us people here at Sugar Land Bible Church people of thankfulness, give us an attitude of gratitude as we continue to teach the Book of Revelation verse by verse. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said… Amen.