Rich Realities from Revelation: God Deserves Worship (chapters 4 & 5)
Rich Realities from Revelation:
God Deserves Worship
Revelation 4 & 5
Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 4003, in the Michigan legislature, aims to make “gender identity” into a “civil right.” While we as Christians believe that every person needs to be respected, the way we want to be respected, which is the golden rule (Matt. 7:12), we also all know, these bills, if they are passed into law, are intended to force Christians to accept “gender dysphoria” as an acceptable human choice.
What are the repercussions of this type of bill? For our school teachers and Christian counselors, as well as doctors, and nurses, and others?
You may have heard this news report, back in January, a European Union official predicted that the United States would soon institute “illegal hate speech” laws. As you know, there is a very short step between regulating “disinformation” and curbing any freedom of speech, anything that is determined to violate someone’s “civil rights.”
These concerns help us understand better what life was like for the first-century Christians who received the book of Revelation. John warned the Christians, as we studied last month, that an “hour of testing” was coming on them (3:10). The Christians were being persecuted both by the Romans, who worshiped false gods, and by the Christians’ families who were Jews, because Christians would not hold the theological hands of the Jews. The hour of testing will be pictured in chapter 6 as including: war, famine, economic collapse, and death. When that happens, the Romans would turn even more angrily against the Christians.
In all of this uncertainty and fear, there are a few realities that Christians must hold tightly in our minds and in our hearts:
1. Jesus Christ walks among His lamp stands and holds His churches in His hands.
2. Christians will overcome if we do not compromise the testimony of Christ.
The third reality that we need to consider this morning is from chapters 4 & 5: God deserves to be worshipped. It does not matter what happens to us or what happens in our culture, we cannot stop worshipping God! There was a reason why the elders found it very hard during Covid to shut down worship services. God created us to worship! That’s who we are and that’s what we do. For a human being not to worship God in/with the church means that person is not doing what God created him or her to do. It’s like using a screwdriver as a hammer - it’s not what that tool was designed to accomplish. The reason we evangelize is because people are not worshipping God through Jesus Christ as they should.
Before we get into chapter 4, let me remind you of the keys to interpreting Revelation which John gave us in the first chapter…
PRINCIPLES FOR INTERPRETING THE BOOK OF REVELATION:
1. Verse 1 - The word “communicated” - better translated “signified” (NKJV) - shows that Revelation is communication through sign and symbols. That means that we have to understand these signs and symbols in a figurative way!
2. Verse 1 - The events in Revelation are said to be taking place “soon” or “the time is near” (ver. 3). John is referring to events that would happen soon from the standpoint of the first century Christians.
3. Verse 4 - Speaking of those first-century Christians, verse 4 tells us that Revelation was written primarily for the Christians worshipping in those seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor. Whatever the images of Revelation mean, they had to mean something first and foremost to the Christians in the first century!
4. Verse 9 - Speaking of persecution, Revelation is full of references to persecution throughout its pages. Some (2:13), were being killed for their religious convictions. Others, like those in the church in Smyrna, were being thrown in prison (2:10).
In the middle of this uncertainty and fear, what are Christians to do? Keep worshipping God! He deserves worship!
GOD DESERVES WORSHIP - chapter 4:
4:1-3 - “After these things 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.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.”
God is the center of worship. Family, worship is the center of reality! It is at the core of our essence, the reason for our being. If our lives do not revolve around worship, we seriously have our priorities messed up. The Lord’s day with the Lord’s people around the Lord’s Table should be at the center of our thoughts, our lives, and our decisions.
The object of our worship is “Almighty God” - the one who is all powerful and can handle the troubles and trials that come into our lives. The rainbow is a symbol (an emoji) of the faithfulness of God. He keeps His promises. The twenty-four elders are likely a metaphor for the faithful who lived under the old Law (the 12 tribes of Israel) and the faithful who live under the new law (the 12 apostles). Both those groups, the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles are symbolized in the New Jerusalem in 21:12, 14. The men were dressed in white garments, symbolizing their purity from sins made possible by the blood of Jesus (7:14) and the crowns were crowns of victory (stephanos in Greek) because they died faithful to Christ’s testimony (2:10; 3:11; 4:4, 10).
4:4-8 - “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;
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.”
The lightning and thunder are images from Mount Sinai to remind John and the Christians that the same God who spoke to Moses and Israel is the same God who sits on the throne and who reveals the book of Revelation. The “seven Spirits of God” are an emoji from Zechariah 4, symbolizing the Holy Spirit of God and more specifically the knowledge and wisdom of God. God knows everything. The sea of glass separates from God, a symbol of His holiness, but in 21:1 that sea will be taken out of the way, indicating that man will one day be allowed into God’s presence. The four living creatures are metaphors for all God’s created beings - the lion, wild animals, the calf, domesticated animals, man, and flying eagles, the birds of the skies. Consistent with the OT teachings, the animals glorify their Maker when they fulfill their roles in nature.
Taking their words from another appearance of God in Isaiah 6, these creatures praise God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” God is holy, separate from sin, and He calls on His followers - Christians - to be holy. God does not change - that’s the significance of Him being described as “who was and who is and who is to come.” When God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He said, “I am” (Exo. 3:14). These words say the same thing as that statement.
4:9-11 - “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,
“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.”
What do the living creatures and the elders do? They worship! They praise God; they give Him “glory, honor, and praise.” God is the One who sits on the throne; He is the one who reigns forever and ever. He’s the One who deserves praise and worship. The elders acknowledge the nature and power and greatness of God when they throw their crowns before His throne. They acknowledge that they are in God’s presence, not by their own sinlessness but because of God’s grace and power.
Here’s the message of Revelation 4: Animals praise God. The saints from the OT praise God. The saints from the NT praise God. What should we do? Praise God!
JESUS DESERVES WORSHIP - Revelation 5:
5:1-5 - “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”
And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.
Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;
and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
I have pointed out that Revelation is sort of a “Daniel Volume 2.” Daniel predicted that the Roman Empire would wage war on the saints of God, but the Messiah would establish a kingdom which would never end (7:13-14), and the saints of the Messiah would be victorious. Revelation tells us about that war and about that victory. Now, in Daniel 12:4, God told Daniel to “seal up” his book, because it would be a long time before all His prophecies will be fulfilled. Well, from the time of Daniel until the time of the book of Revelation is about seven hundred years. In the meantime, Jesus, the Messiah came and He established His church, His kingdom (Mark 9:1; Matt. 16:18-19) and He reigns and His saints reign with Him (Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:4-6). But what about that war that the Roman Empire is going to wage on Christ’s followers? What about the prophecies of Daniel?
Well, John sees a scroll in the hand of God and no one is able to open the scroll. No one is worthy. It is sealed with seven seals. To seal a document would secure it from prying eyes; the seal would authenticate its contents; and the seal would show who was the original owner. Who was able to open that book and reveal its contents? Who was the one who knew history and knew how it would turn out? Only One individual. The Lion who is the Lamb…
Jesus fulfills the promise God made to Judah back in Genesis 49:9-10: He is the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Jesus also fulfills the promise made to King David in Isaiah 11:1, 10. Jesus is, of course, the “Lamb.” He is identified as a lamb twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation! That is the key metaphor / emoji in the book. Of course, the background to this picture is two-fold. He is the “Passover Lamb” from the tenth plague God brought on Egypt, which we’ll study in April. But He is also the Lamb that is sacrificed for us pictured in Isaiah 53.
5:6-11 - “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
The Lamb was standing, as if slain - there are a number of references in Revelation the death of Christ. Why? Because the way Jesus overcame… was through death. The way Christians will overcome the persecution we endure is through death. Don’t forget that. This Lamb had seven horns - seven is a metaphor for completeness; “horns” is a symbol of power. And seven eyes - eyes symbolizing knowledge and insight. John also says these seven eyes symbolize the “seven Spirits of God” sent out in all the earth. In other words, the Holy Spirit knows what is happening on earth and so Jesus knows exactly what is happening on earth.
As soon as the Lamb took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and worshiped Him. Only God deserves worship. Since Jesus is God, then He deserves worship. These elders held harps in their hands, symbolizing their worship. They had golden bowls in their hands full of incense, symbolizing their prayers. The prayers of the “saints.”
5:12-14 - “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Why do we worship Jesus? Because of Who He is.
Why do we worship Jesus? Because of where He is. He is on the right hand of Jehovah God. He stands there, because He defeated death. He is the Lamb slain, but worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. Just like the living creatures did to Jehovah God, so all things created in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things that are in them worshipped Jehovah the Son.
Why do we worship Jesus? Because of what He does. He has redeemed us from sin. The fact that we are forgiven of our sins should mean all the difference in the world to us and how we view what is happening on earth.
Why do we worship Jesus? Because of what He has. Glory. Honor. Praise. Might. Riches. Wisdom. Blessing.
Verses 13-14 set Jesus on an equality with the Father. “To Him who sits on the throne (the Father), and to the Lamb (the Son) be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.
As they did with the Father, so the living creatures praise the Lamb. The elders fall down and worship the Lamb. Jesus gives John a vision into heaven and what does John see? The entire universe is worshipping God on His throne and the Lamb at His side. How can we not engage in that same worship?
Jesus deserves worship because He has redeemed us!
Rich reality #3: God and Christ deserve worship. We should never stop.