We are made to worship. If we do not worship God, we will worship something or someone else.
Revelation 4:6b-11 And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
What does Christmas mean to you? For many, it is the season to make money, but for others, it is the season to give. We as a church actually gave Christmas presents to 125 families here and around the world. The commercial aspect of Christmas and its exploitation thereof is hardly news, yet even those with meager means find a way to give presents to their children. So, if you went overboard with presents no judgment, you are in a safe place. However, if it is only about festivities, and presents and not worshiping Christ then it is not Christmas at all.
The problem is that billions of people worship Christmas and not Christ. They need a glimpse into heaven to see Christmas. The first coming of Jesus was necessary to redeem the world and at His second coming, Jesus will take the redeemed with Him while the rest face the wrath of God.
In our series, “Uncovering Revelation” verse by verse, we have arrived at the last section of Revelation 4. Jesus chose to give the church a glimpse into heaven to show where the redeemed will live, what they will do, and how the wrath of God will befall the unredeemed.
As we close Revelation 4 and celebrate Christmas, just as Jesus came the first time unexpectedly, He is coming for the second time unexpectedly. What began with a glimpse into heaven to show the power and the position of the throne of God now ends with the purpose of the throne.
The Position of the Throne
Picking up from the second half of Revelation 4:6, the ESV translation reads, “And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind”
First, the verse says there are four living creatures. The word in Greek is zaō, which means they are living beings. Some translations would say living beasts that is incorrect, they are living beings.
Second, notice the location of the throne. The NIV and other translations will say in the center, around the throne.
The power of the throne was described by the four prepositional phrases in Revelation 4:2-5, on the throne, around the throne, from the throne, and before the throne.
In verse 6, two more prepositions are used to show the location of the four creatures to describe the function of these creatures. To understand what these creatures are, we are given their location and function. The location is in the center and around the throne. Their location tells us they are in the closest vicinity to God.
For what purpose?
Starting at Ezekiel 1:1 “Then I looked, and behold, on the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim there appeared above them something like a sapphire, in appearance like a throne.” Ezekiel is describing God’s throne.
And in Ezekiel 1:4-5, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures.”
This is similar to the scene of the throne room in Revelation 4:2-5.
Further down in Ezekiel 1:, “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.”
And in Ezekiel 1:28, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
So, Ezekiel was given the vision of the same throne room that John saw in heaven full of God’s glory.
Ezekiel 10 tells us more. Starting in verse 9, “And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling beryl.
Revelation 4:3 described it as the rainbow around the throne and said it was like an emerald. Emerald is a variety of beryl.
Ezekiel 10:10 says, “And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel.”
In Revelation 4, around the throne was a full-circle rainbow, and to my knowledge, a rainbow is made up of circles within circles. Ezekiel 10:20, which says, “These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal, and I knew that they were cherubim,” is the key to understanding who these four living creatures were.
In Jewish literature, these four living beings, the cherubim, are exalted orders of angelic beings who function as the immediate guardians of the throne of God, not to protect God, for a God who needs protection is no God. God’s eternal power has no match.
These cherubim were there as guardians of the throne room so that other heavenly beings would not get close to God. Nothing besides the cherubim whom God created to shield His glory can come directly in contact with His glory and live.
Ezekiel 28 gives us more insight into these cherubim. Talking about Satan who was of the same order, God in verse 13 said, “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond” so forth and so on, and then verses 13-15 says, “On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.”
The word anointed in the ESV is translated from the Hebrew word mimsah which refers to measuring and expansion. Here it means far-reaching wings. Also, the root word in Hebrew for guardian here in verse 14 is cakak is to cover, shelter, or make a covering.
So, with cherubim, the exalted order of angelic beings, God made a covering that expands over the throne of God. Imagine looking straight into the sun, it will burn your retinas, that is just one star that God created among some 10 to the 24th power (that is, a 1 followed by 24 zeros) in the observable universe. God’s glory infused them all and He can create an infinite number of stars for eternity without being exhausted of His glory. That God made a covering to shelter the rest of the creation from His glory. So even in heaven, we will see Him only through the covering of the cherubim.
God needs no one to protect Him, but everyone and everything needs protection from Him so in His wisdom, God created and appointed these guardian angelic beings that we know in the Bible as four living creatures or cherubim. Similar to Ezekiel 10, Revelation 4: 7 says, “the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.”
Mishnah, the Jewish rabbinic writings, says, “the mightiest among the birds is the eagle, the mightiest among the domestic animals is the bull [ox], the mightiest among the wild beasts is the lion, and the mightiest among all is man (S Bk)”. They say these four are the primary forms of life in God’s creation. It is not important who they represent but what they represent. They represent the entire form of life in the creation of God.
Notice the function they perform in Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
The verse says they never cease to worship. The glimpse into heaven was given to show the power of the throne where God sits, and the position of the throne was in the temple where the representation of the entire life-form worships God without ceasing for this they were created. So, the final truth about heaven is revealed in the purpose of the throne.
The Purpose of the Throne
Verses 9-11 says, “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Notice the cherubim are leading in worship. So, the purpose of the throne is to reveal the glory of God and receive worship. Revelation 4 starts with the focus and centrality of the throne of God and it ends with it also.
The 24 elders representing the redeemed believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds put their crowns before the throne of God for He is worthy. This worship aspect as the objective in all creation is present even in non-living things. They show the glory of God, the splendor and majesty of the great creator of everything.
It is not evolution, but rather the God who created everything from nothing. Though rocks and mountains may not speak, they are purposefully made to reveal the glory of God and cause worship in us. In that sense, even they were created for worship.
Jesus was not kidding when during the triumphal entry in Jerusalem in Luke 19: 39, the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” My point is every created living or non-living thing is for God’s glory and His worship.
We are made to worship. If we do not worship God, we will worship something or someone else. This is in our DNA. On Christmas if we do not worship Christ, who Christmas is about, we will worship food, friends, family, and festivities.
Let me take you back to the precious stones John saw in the courtroom in Revelation 4:1-6. They appear in Revelation 21 in the wall and foundation of the New Jerusalem where God will dwell with us. They also appear in Ezekiel 28 and Exodus 39. Exodus 39:14 reads, “There were twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They were like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.”
All of this was revealed to Moses as a part of the worship system. God said those 12 stones were to be put in the breast piece of the priestly garments. The priest was to wear these stones as the only authorized person to enter the holy of holy where God lived. This continued in the temple of Solomon.
Also in the temple, the cherubim were woven into the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies where God lived symbolizing what is in heaven. This means there was always a barrier between God and man. The glimpse into Heaven shows the power, position, and purpose of the throne but also the barrier between God and man.
God the Son, Jesus removed that barrier by coming into the world as a man and by dying on the cross for our sins once and for all. Matthew 27: 50-51 says, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
As you celebrate Christmas, enjoy friends, food, family, and festivities but do not lose sight that on Christmas, God became man to die for our sins to remove the barrier that always existed between God and man. Others need to know that too.
In Christmas, Christ means “the anointed” in Hebrew, that is, Messiah. Mass literally means dismissal or send. That is to say, the service is dismissed now. Go. Go where? To the world to share that joy to the world, the Lord has come, to reign every heart and to rule the world.
Choose to worship God this Christmas by sharing Jesus, the joy to the world, that Messiah, the Son of God, the redeemer of the world has come to redeem us, and just as He came the first time unexpectedly, and unexpectedly, He is coming the second time.
My prayer is that you remember Christmas is a dismissal to go, with Christ, for Christ, to share Christ with others.