Now, we’re talking about heavenly worship. And that’s a fitting subject, isn’t it, for today, because we are launching into the Christmas season, and we are being reminded of the glories of our Lord, and we will be worshiping Him with familiar hymns and carols over the next few weeks. And this suits that emphasis wonderfully, to be in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation. I keep trying to force myself to move at a faster clip, but I can’t seem to let go of the realities of this wonderful section of Revelation.
Just to give you the big picture, chapters 1 to 3 dealt with the church, dealt with a vision that John had of Christ ministering to the church, and then letters to churches in chapters 2 and 3. When you come to chapter 4, the scene change is dramatic. You go from the church on earth, or the church age, to heaven and the throne of God. And the subject is what’s going to take place in the future, meaning when the church age is over in the future and the Lord begins to move to take back what is rightfully His, take back the world and His creation, bring judgment and the kingdom. So the book of Revelation is pretty easy to follow the outline. Chapters 1 to 3 describe the church age and the ministry of Christ to His church, and chapters 4 and 5 take us to heaven and the throne room of God. And here we see God beginning to move toward what is going to occupy chapters 6 through 19, and that is judgment, judgment.
The vision that John has in chapters 4 and 5 is really a vision of God beginning to crank up the wheels of His wrath. It is an incredible look at worship in heaven and the worship of God—obviously for His creation, as we see in chapter 4; for His redemption, in chapter 5. But in particular, this worship is because God is about to unleash His judgment.
The hosts of heaven, both angels and glorified saints, worship God for His coming judgment. That’s not something normally brought up in an expression of worship. In fact, it would be a very rare occasion for, I suppose, the average evangelical congregation to even imagine that God is to be worshiped for His judgment, for His wrath, for His fury, for His vengeance on those who reject Him. But that is exactly what the book of Revelation is all about. It’s judgment from chapters 6 to 19, and the prelude to that is the throne of God getting ready for judgment in chapters 4 and 5. Just let me go through chapter 4 to set it in your mind in case you weren’t with us. Just eleven short verses. Let me read them to you.
“After these things I looked”—this is his second vision—“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.’” After the things related to the church, after the church age. And we talked about the fact that the end of the church age, we are raptured, taken to glory, and then the judgments on earth will begin.
And what does John see? Well, “Immediately [he] 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.” The emerald is, no doubt, emblematic of the mercy that is God’s to dispense, even though it’s a scene of judgment. The jasper and the sardius are reminiscent of the tribes of Israel. And so we see God on His throne remembering His covenant with Israel, remembering mercy even as He begins to judge.
“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.” These twenty-four, as we pointed out in the last couple of weeks, represent the church—the church in glory now, clothed in white garments. That describes the church in the book of Revelation. And as we know, the crowns also describe the believers. Crowns are never given to angels; they are given to believers—number of passages in the New Testament. So we see the church in heaven around the throne of God.
“Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder.” And this is very much like Mount Sinai. This is an indication of judgment. “There were seven lamps of fire burning”—like torches burning—“before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God,” or the sevenfold Spirit, as mentioned in Isaiah 11. “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.” Now you remember, we pointed out these are angels; and namely, when you compare this with Ezekiel, these are cherubim, angels that have special roles to play in God’s economy. These four living, angelic beings are “full of eyes in front and behind,” that is, they don’t miss anything. They have a comprehensive knowledge and awareness.
They have the strength of “a lion.” They have the force, the lifeforce and the usefulness and service of “a calf” or an ox. They have the “face like . . . a man,” which means they are rational. And they are “like a flying eagle,” which means they have speed. These angelic beings, each one of them has “six wings,” as in Isaiah 6. With two, they cover their feet; two, they cover their face in the presence of God; and with two, they hovered, waiting to be dispatched to divine service. They “are full of eyes around and within.” For the second time, it reminds us of the fact that they have amazing comprehension of the realities that they are responsible for in serving God. But the thing they do all the time comes up in verse 8: “Day and night they do not cease to say”—and this is their occupation at all times, and this is angelic worship. It is angelic worship.
Now let’s stop there for a moment and remind ourselves that the first time the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, He came as a baby. He came as a human being and lived a human life, and He came to not only live a righteous life, but to die on the cross as a substitution for those who are the elect of God. He came to save sinners. That’s why His name was Jesus. Call Him Jesus; He’ll save His people from their sins. He came to save sinners, to live, to die, to rise again for salvation. And on that is the powerful message, the only hope and the only transforming message for sinners that we call the good news, the gospel.
Jesus came to provide salvation to sinners. When He arrived, according to Luke 2, the angels were there to announce and declare and worship Him: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace toward men with whom God is pleased,” as we heard in that first Latin anthem.
So the angels were offering their praise and worship at the first coming of Christ. There were also some saints who were praising God at the first coming. You would recognize them from the accounts of the birth of Christ. There was Anna, there was Simeon, there was Mary, and their testimonies as to the wonder of the arrival of Christ is the testimony of saints. So you have saints and angels hailing the arrival of the Son of God the first time He comes.
The next time He comes is exactly where we are in Revelation 4. In anticipation of that the angels, again, are worshiping, and they’re not worshiping alone, because in verse 10 of the fourth chapter it says “the twenty-four elders [also] fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever.” So you have angelic and saint worship the first time He comes. You have the same thing the second time. The first worship was angels in heaven, saints on earth; the next time will be both saints and angels in heaven.
Now here’s the thing I want you to understand about this. They are worshiping in this chapter and the next one, chapter 5. They are worshiping God for His judgment, for His judgment. They’re worshiping for the outpouring of His wrath. They’re worshiping Him for vengeance. Even Mary, in her hymn of praise to her Lord, acknowledge that the Lord was coming to destroy the proud and to dethrone world rulers. You can’t understand the purpose of Christ in the world unless you understand that He came the first time as a sacrifice for sin; He comes the second time as a judge. And the factors of that judgment are unleashed, starting in chapter 6 all the way till chapter 19, when it presents the return of Christ Himself.
But let’s look particularly at verses 8 to 11, and I want to read these because here is the worship that is brought to God on His throne in heaven. Four living creatures. They begin the worship in verse 8: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. 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.’”
Now we titled this series Heavenly Worship, and there is the substance of that heavenly worship focusing on God on the throne, and focusing in particular at this picture on God about to unleash judgment. Once you hit chapter 6, it’s horror after horror after horror, all the way to chapter 19, until Christ returns. This is worshiping God for His vengeance. May seem like a strange reality, but I’ll show you how essential it is.
One other note to make is that the angels are very much involved in this vengeance, this wrath. If you look at chapter 6, it all starts in verse 1, “The Lamb”—being Christ—“[breaks] one of the seven seals” that seal the title deed to the creation, “and one of the four living creatures”—the cherubim—“[says with a loud voice like] thunder, ‘Come.’” That unleashes seven seals of judgment, and it’s inaugurated by that declaration by an angel.
After the seven seals are opened, you have seven trumpet judgments that follow. Look at chapter 8. Now you come to the second string of judgments that flow out of the seals, and you will notice again, down in verse 6, “The seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. The first sounded” in verse 7; “the second angel sounded” in verse 8; so it goes through all seven. So the angels, then, are the ones who are the agents announcing each of these judgments from God.
In chapter 15, again, the final series of judgments are described as bowls, like a wide-open bowl sloshes judgment on the earth. And this is also the work of angels, to call these judgments into reality. Chapter 15, verse 1, “Seven angels who had seven plagues.” These are the seven bowls. Come down to verse—chapter 15, verse 7, “One of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” And then when the bowls are poured out, “the first angel,” “the second angel,” “the third angel,” “the fourth,” “the fifth,” “the sixth,” “the seventh”—all these judgments literally are carried out to some extent by angels. This is consistent with what we know in Matthew 13 and Matthew 24 about angels participating in judgment.
So the angels are worshiping God for the judgment of which they will be a part. It’ll be part of their angelic service. They are praising God and worshiping God—now, listen—for final judgment, the reality of final judgment. All the sentient beings of heaven are celebrating judgment. And I emphasize that because I don’t know that that’s very often said. I don’t know that you have thought about the fact that God is to be worshiped for His judgment; but He is. And one of the elements, of course, of God’s character and consistent with His nature is His judgment. And He is to be praised for His judgment. Christ is to be praised for His judgment. The Holy Spirit is to be praised for the role He plays in judgment. It is the glory of God in final judgment.
Now this is not abnormal if you know your Bible, because if you go back into the Psalms, you can almost open to any point in the Psalms and look at the psalms that are on a given page, and you will find in those psalms what are called imprecatory prayers or imprecatory praise. That is a term that means to pronounce the judgment, to pronounce judgment. It’s all through the Psalms. It’s everywhere. There are hundreds of references to that.
And remember this. The Psalms are prayer and praise, and part of the prayers of the ancient saints was to pray that God would bring judgment on the ungodly. Listen, for example, to Psalm 69—just one out of many—speaking about evildoers. In Psalm 69 and verse 22, David prays this prayer: “May their table before them become a snare; and when they are in peace, may it become a . . . trap. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, and make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation on them, and may Your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents. For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. Add iniquity to their iniquity, and may they not come into Your righteousness. May they be blotted out of the book of life, may they not be recorded with the righteous.” That’s pretty direct. That’s an amazing prayer. But that is exactly what the inspired psalmist prayed. He prayed for judgment to come on the ungodly, start even in their life in this world, and then the judgment to follow.
Psalm 109, another illustration. Literally there are dozens, if not hundreds of them we could look at. But Psalm 109 will give you the sense. Again, talking about the wicked. Psalm 109, verse 8, “Let his days be few; let another take his office”—or his position. “Let his children be fatherless, his wife a widow”—which is a way of saying, “Let him die.” “Let his children wander about and beg; let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes. Let the creditor seize all that he has, let strangers plunder the product of his labor. Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off”—literally killed; “in [the] following generation let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.” This is pretty serious prayer. I wonder if you have ever prayed like that against the wicked.
There are other verses; let me just give you a few. Psalm 5, verse 10, “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.” Psalm 35, “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them! For without cause they hid their net for me; [and] without cause they dug a pit for my life. Let destruction come upon [them] when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it—to his destruction!”
Psalm 40, “Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who [desire] my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, ‘Aha, aha!’”—mocking. And maybe one other, Psalm 56, “Their crime—for their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!”
And in Psalm 137, just a couple of verses that are pretty stunning. Verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 137, “O daughter of Babylon”—now the psalmist is talking of Babylon and calling on God to reciprocate to Babylon the terrible atrocities they meted out against Israel when they destroyed the land and the city of Jerusalem. It’s like payback time. “O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one. How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” What? But this is the vengeance of God. Babylon had done that in the atrocities of their conquering. And the psalmist is simply saying, “May you get what you have given others. May you pay.”
God is a God of vengeance. This does not call for personal vengeance. If anybody offends us, we are to pray for them, right? We’re to forgive them. Romans 12, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”—“That’s My business.” But our responsibility is to praise the Lord for that vengeance and to make sure we warn the people of its reality.
In Matthew 23, when our Lord addressed the leaders of Israel, He gave them curses—woe after woe after woe after woe, cursing them and cursing them and cursing them and cursing them for their unbelief. In 1 Corinthians 16:22, we read that “If anyone does not love the Lord [Jesus Christ], let him be [damned].” In Galatians 1:8 and 9, if anyone preaches another gospel, let him be anathema!”
In Revelation 6, right where you are, look at verse 10. Saints are offering up prayers in this section, and their prayer is in verse 10 of Revelation 6: “They cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” These are the prayers of the ones who are martyred during the Tribulation. They’re praying for divine vengeance to requite those who took their lives.
In the eighteenth chapter of Revelation, verse 4, “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins’”—it’s talking about essentially the whole earth during the Tribulation—“‘her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.’” And then comes the cry: “Pay her back even she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning.” Verse 8 adds, “For this reason one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.” Again, praise to God for His judgment.
Only when we understand judgment, only when we understand being cursed, having damnation pronounced on you, can we understand Galatians chapter 3. Galatians chapter 3 speaks of our Lord. Listen to verse 10: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Anybody who breaks God’s law is cursed. “No one is justified by the Law before God [that’s] evident; [because] ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’” Then verse 13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” If you don’t understand what it is that humanity faces because everyone who’s ever broken the law of God is cursed, if you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand the full undergirding reality of the sacrifice of Christ.
You say, “A curse is a terrible thing.” It’s a terrible thing. It’s the worst thing possible, to be cursed by God. Everyone who’s ever broken His law is cursed by God. Curses all through the Scripture are promised and given to those who reject Him. And if it’s horrible to think about that, then think what the cross is, where Christ became a curse for us. He bore all the judgment of all those who were cursed and who believe in Him.
Now there’s theological warrant for this, for God’s judgment, for Him to be praised. I’ll just give you four things to think about, four features. First of all, His judgment is based on His Word. His judgment is based on His Word. Scripture is true, and Scripture promises again and again and again He will judge, He will judge. You see it, don’t you, in Genesis in the judgment on Adam and Eve when they sinned. You see it in Genesis in the Flood, when God drowns the entire population of the world except for eight souls. All throughout His Word, He pronounces the promise of judgment.
Deuteronomy 28, God lays it out before the children of Israel going into the Promised Land, “If you obey Me, you’ll be blessed; if you don’t, you’ll be cursed.” The Old Testament’s largely the history of the few who were blessed and the many who were cursed. God must judge because He pledged to do that. His Word demands it. So do His covenants. His covenants demand it.
In Deuteronomy He says, “I have not forgotten My covenant; I have compassion on you. But My covenant of protection for you also incorporates My judgment on those who would destroy and harm you.” God protects His people, as a part of His covenant, by punishing and destroying their enemies.
And thirdly, His nature. He is righteous. His is just. He is holy. And righteous and holy and just perfection such as He possesses demands that sin be dealt with.
And then finally, His power. His judgment is based on His Word, or His promise, on His covenants and their fulfillment, on His nature, and on His power. That is to say He possesses the power to judge sin completely, totally, finally, and forever. The Lord keeps the unrighteous under punishment to the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2. The Lord knows how to mete out judgment, and no one can stand against it.
I want to add that all throughout the Old Testament and throughout the Psalms, in the same psalms that you read these threats and curses and pronunciations of vengeance and judgment, you inevitably have sections of those psalms that contain mercy, reminding us that the throne of God is a throne of mercy; but when that mercy is rejected, one is left with nothing but divine judgment.
So with that in mind, let’s come to the throne and see what is being said. Verse 8, four living creatures start the worship for God as He begins the work of vengeance and wrath. And what is it that they say? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” They start to worship. It’s a quartet, four cherubim, four angelic beings. But it swells in verse 10 because the twenty-four elders also “fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever.” So it swells to twenty-eight voices.
Down in chapter 5, as the worship continues in verse 8, it’s “four living creatures”—cherubim, “twenty-four elders . . . each one [with] a harp, golden bowls full of incense.” So now you have twenty-eight and the harp. And when you come to chapter 5, verse 11, the worshipers are enlarged: “The voice of many angels around the throne” is gathered with “the living creatures and the elders; and the number is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” That’s a way of saying incalculable angels. And they’re all saying, “Worthy is the Lamb.” And then it swells one more time in verse 13. “Every created thing . . . in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea”—everything is praising God.
So there are five hymns of praise starting in chapter 4, verse 8, going to the end of chapter 5. The chapter 4 praise is focused on the redemption of creation, chapter 5 is focused on the redemption of man. The redemption of creation, a positive thing, requires the destruction of the ungodly. The redemption of men requires the destruction of the ungodly. You’re going to have a redeemed earth and a redeemed humanity; and therefore, the ungodly have to be dealt with. There’s no one like our God, and He is to be worshiped for His fury, His wrath.
Let’s look at the three things that are contained in that statement of worship in verse 8. God’s holiness, like in Isaiah 6, “Holy, holy, holy,” three times, a Trinitarian reference, the only attribute repeated three times. The summation of all that God is, meaning completely separate from sin, separate from evil in any form and every form. He is free from, untouched by any mixture or presence of evil error or wrong. Exodus 15:11 says, He’s “majestic in holiness.” Psalm 47 says, “He sits on His holy throne.” Psalm 27 says, “Holiness is the beauty of the Lord. It is His shining glory and majesty.” Psalm 111 says, “Holy and awesome is His name.”
And holiness incorporates His fury over sin. First Samuel 6:20, who can stand before this holy God? Psalm 89, verse 7, “God is greatly to be feared.” And Job 13:11 says, “Shall not his excellency make you afraid,” “make you afraid?” Even Isaiah was struck with his own sinfulness, and the fear was so overwhelming that he pronounced a curse on himself and said he was a man of unclean lips.
So worship recognizes God’s holiness. All His judgment is predicated on His holiness. And if He is absolutely holy, He must judge all sin.
So the angels recognize that, and they also recognize that He is powerful, that He has the power to do it. Notice that He is called by the angelic worshipers “the Almighty,” “the Almighty.” Hebrew word, has to do with conquering, prevailing strength in a superlative sense. He is most powerful. He is El Shaddai; no one can stand against His power. In Genesis 17:1 He said, “I am God Almighty.” Job 9:19, “If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one!” Daniel 4:35, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth.” Job 9:4, He is “mighty in strength.”
You can see His strength in creation. You can see it in miracles. You can see it in providence. You can see it in salvation. But it also must be seen in judgment. God has the power to do what His holiness demands. He is not at all restrained. He has all power to do what perfect holiness demands. God controls everything.
A summation of that is 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. . . . You rule over all, and in You—in Your hand is power and might . . . . Therefore . . . we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.” Aren’t you grateful that He has power not only to create, not only to redeem, but power to completely destroy sin. He has the power to judge in such a way that literally puts an end to sin.
Prophet Nahum spoke of God’s supreme power and judgment, and he said this: “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?” You might be offended by that. But on the other hand, if you think about it, you ought to be thankful for that; otherwise you have no guarantee that sin will ever be destroyed. “Who knows the power of Your anger?” said the psalmist, Psalm 90, “Who knows the power of . . . Your fury?”
There’s a third characteristic. Not only holiness and power, but eternality. They say, “Who was and who is and who is to come.” As we saw a couple of times in chapter 1. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God,” Psalm 90, verse 2. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
There are some beings who had a beginning and will have an end—animals. There are some who had a beginning but will not have an end—angels and people. But there’s only One who had no beginning and no end; that is God, 1 Timothy 1 identifies as the eternal King. Why is that important? Because it means that forever and forever and forever He will sustain His will. That’s a comfort to believers, that He will get us to heaven and keep us there forever. It’s terrifying to nonbelievers because He will send them to hell, and He, by His eternal life, will guarantee their eternal destruction.
God is eternal; so is hell. As long as God lives, the damned are punished. In chapter 14 of Revelation it says when God’s wrath and anger comes, “the smoke”—verse 11—“of their torment”—those who are under this judgment—“goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.” We worship God for His holiness, for His power, and for His eternality—holy wrath, powerful judgment, eternal punishment. That leaves no other possibility but that God will do what is right and sustain it forever.
As the angelic beings contemplate this reality of God, there’s not much to add to this, except to just listen to what verse 9 says: “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.” They’re thanking Him for His eternal being, His eternal holiness, His eternal power, His eternal sovereignty. That’s the worship of the angels.
But in verse 10, the twenty-four elders join. They “fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever.” A continual reference to Him living forever and ever, so important to the reality of eternal blessing and eternal punishment. And the twenty-four elders “cast their crowns before the throne.” This is another indication that this represents believers, because only believers are promised crowns.
So the saints who have been given their reward look at their reward and have only one response, and that is to put it at the feet of the One who is holy, powerful, and everlasting. No thought for their own glory. No concern for themselves. Perfect, holy reverence. Profound, supernatural gratitude focuses all the adoration, all the praise on God. And all they have to give is their crowns, and they immediately throw their crowns before His throne, and they join the oratorio of worshipers.
Verse 11, they say, “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.” Why the focus on creation? As a final recognition that everything belongs to God. He’s not stepping out of bounds by doing what He’s doing in judgment, it’s His creation. It’s His creation.
Worshiping God for judgment. Seems like such a rare reality. But in the doing of that, you are worshiping God for His holiness and His power and His eternality, and you are worshiping God for the glory of salvation that will be everlasting. And when you look into the picture of heaven and toward the end of the book of Revelation, you find that in the final new heaven and new earth, no sin, no evil; it’s gone forever.
So what should be our reaction to this? Well, when Ezekiel saw God in His glory, he fell on his face in fear. Isaiah bowed down in fear. John in that first vision back in chapter 1 fell over like a dead man. Paul was speechless. But that’s not our permanent posture.
What is our permanent posture? Worship, not fear. Worship. You can fall before Him contrite and broken, sensing your sin and your unworthiness. But soon you have to rise up and talk about His worthiness. And that’s what we’ll do forever and ever with the holy angels. Now that’s just the first hymn of praise. Four more in the next chapter.
Father, again, it’s wonderful to hear from heaven. We’re so thankful that we aren’t struggling to find reality. In this world we know the one who is the Creator, the Consummator. We know You, the one true and living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we would do on earth what is done in heaven, worship You for Your holiness, a holiness that guarantees that righteousness and truth will prevail. We would worship You for Your power, Your power, a guarantee that sin and evil and wickedness in every form will be overpowered and destroyed forever. And we worship You in Your eternality, being assured therefore that what You do is forever. Our heaven is forever. Your promises to us are a forever-life of joy and peace and unimaginable satisfaction.
But in thinking about that, we’re reminded as well that hell is forever; and like the apostle John, who contemplating this later in the book of Revelation said, “It was sweet in my mouth, but bitter in my stomach.” It is sweet to think of You, O God, in all power and all holiness and purity as the Eternal One, sovereignly controlling everything. It is wonderful for us to look at the day of judgment in which You vindicate Your name, in which all blasphemy, all rejection is forever done away, and You will be glorified forever and ever. We have to understand the sweetness of that. But at the same time, John felt the sweetness, but the bitterness of realizing that the same reality that is sweet to the believer is a horribly bitter reality to the believer who understands the sinfulness of sin and the eternality of hell.
Lord, may we be like John, rejoicing on the one hand for You to be glorified and for Your enemies to be forever banished. But at the same time, may our hearts reach out in compassion and love toward those who are outside of Your blessing, and may it be the passion of our lives to bring them the gospel that saves. You’ve called us to do that; that’s why we’re here. We’re not sitting, waiting for wrath; but knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men of the glory of the gospel. Use us to that end, we pray. Amen.
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