Worship sounds and songs in God’s throne room (Revelation 4 & 5)

Summary

Revelation 4:8 continued

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.”

So far, Revelation 4 described God’s throne room visually. From this verse onwards, Revelation 4 describes the sounds of worship in God’s presence.

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY – God is holy because He is the Uncreated Source of all things. All else exists because He exists.

Day and night – While the four living creatures praise God “day and night,” Satan accuses God’s people “day and night” before God (Rev. 12:9); effectively accusing God of unfair judgment. Christ’s victorious death (Rev 12:5; cf. 5:5) made an end to Satan’s accusations (12:8) but Revelation 4 describes the time before Christ died. Consequently, the four living creatures, by praising God “day and night,” are opposing Satan’s “day and night” accusations.

THE ALMIGHTY – This phrase appears 9 times in Revelation and only once in the New Testament outside Revelation. The Bible never refers to Jesus as “the Almighty” but distinguishes Him with “the Almighty“ (21:22; cf. 19:15). For a discussion, see The Almighty. 

WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND IS TO COME – This may be related to the “I AM“-title in Exodus 3:14 and another way of saying that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). In Revelation, only the Father:

      • Is called God (cf. 1:2);
      • Is the Almighty,
      • Sits on the throne,
      • Lives forever (5:9),
      • Willed all things to exist (4:11) and
      • Was and is and is to come (cf. 1:4-5).

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

When – This word implies repetitive action and can also be translated as “whenever.” It confirms that this fourth chapter does not describe one specific event, but the general condition in God’s presence.

Him who sits on the throneThis is the “One sitting on the throne” in verse 2, namely God.

Him who lives forever and ever – Jesus is “alive forevermore” (1:18), but only the Father is “Him who lives forever” (4:9, 10; 15:7). The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus derived His eternal nature from the Father. The Father is the Unbegotten Source of all things. See, God is the Head of Christ.

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,

Fall down … worship – This verse translates the two key words for worship in Revelation as “fall down” and “worship.” Both words mean to prostrate oneself in obeisance toward a god or an exalted person like a king.

Cast their crowns before the throne – In this way, the twenty-four elders acknowledge that they owe their victory completely to Him.

Revelation 4:11

“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.”

Lord (Greek: kurios) – This means owner, master, or husband. It is an expression of respect, similar to “sir” in English. The New Testament uses it for God (e.g., Matt 5:33), Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt 20:31) and the Roman emperor (Acts 25:26).

God – This translates the Greek word theos which the Greeks used for their many gods. The New Testament uses theos for:

    • The God of Israel (Gal 4:8),
    • The Father who sent Jesus (John 17:3),
    • Jesus (John 1:1),
    • Satan (2 Cor 4:4) and
    • The gods of the nations (1 Cor 8:5).

The title theos, therefore, may also be translated as “god.”

The ancients did not distinguish between lower- and upper-case characters. The word “God,” with a capital G, is a more modern invention that functions as a proper name for one specific Being, namely the Almighty. To retain the original meaning, it might have been more appropriate to translate 4:11 as “our lord and our god.”

For You created all things – That is why God is worthy to receive our “glory and honor and power.

Because of Your will they existed – Behind the act of creation lies His “will.” Were it not for the will of God, the universe would not exist. 

FIVE SONGS

There are five songs of praise in Revelation 4 and 5:

    • The first two are sung to the One sitting on the throne, “for You created all things” (Rev 4:11).
    • The third and fourth hymns are sung in praise to the Lamb, “for You … purchased for God with Your blood men” (Rev 5:9-10).
    • But this final hymn in 5:13, as the climax of the series, is sung to both and by every created being.

Worship both the Father and the Son

In Rev 5:13, all creation bows down to praise both “Him who sits on the throne” and Jesus. Some use these verses as evidence that Jesus Christ is equal to His Father. However:

    • The Father is “Him who sits on the throne” and, therefore, the ultimate Ruler.
    • As discussed above under 4:8, in Revelation, only the Father is Almighty, has essential immortality and has willed all things to exist (4:11).
    • Philippians 2:6-11 also explains what happens after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and, therefore, explains this scene in Revelation 5. That passage indicates that Jesus is worshiped:
      • Because “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (v9) and
      • To the glory of God the Father” (v11).
        For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.

God is the Creator, but He created all things through His Son, gave all authority to His Son and wish that “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” But when God’s end-time people are called to “Fear God, and … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev. 14:7), it is a call to worship the Father.

– END OF SUMMARY – 

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

A previous article discussed the first seven verses of Revelation 4, which give a visual description of heaven. The current article discusses the sounds and the songs of worship in God’s presence, as we find in the remainder of that chapter and in Revelation 5; after Jesus appears in the throne room.

Revelation 4:8

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.

Day and night” means continual or ongoing.

To continually sing “holy, holy, holy” may seem boring, but the four living creatures have been created with the ability to understand something about God’s immeasurable holiness. Therefore, their intense emotions explode into words of exaltation: holy, holy, holy.

To be holy means to be separate:

      • Things are holy when consecrated to God.
      • People are holy when God assigns specific tasks to them.
      • God is holy because He is distinct from all creation. He is the Uncreated Source of all things. He is that which exists. All else exists because He exists. He created all things, and because of His will, they exist (4:11).

OPPOSING SATAN’S ACCUSATIONS

While the four living creatures praise God “day and night,” Satan accuses God’s people “day and night” (Rev. 12:9). By accusing the people God has chosen for eternal life, Satan, by implication, accuses God of unfair judgment (cf. Job 1 and 2).

Christ’s victory as a human being over sin and evil (Rev 12:5) refuted Satan’s accusations and made an end to Satan’s “day and night” accusations (Rev 12:8). But Revelation 4 describes the time before Christ died on the Cross:

Revelation 5:1-4 describes the time when there was a sealed book in heaven (Rev 5:1), causing much sorrow (5:4).

But then, in verse 5, Jesus appears as a slain lamb (pointing to His death), turning the sorrow into joy.

Revelation 5:1-4, and therefore the entire Revelation 4, describes the time before Christ’s victory when Satan was still accusing God’s people.

Consequently, the four living creatures, by praising God also “day and night,” were opposing Satan’s “day and night” accusations against God.

This is the reason for the great focus on the throne of God in Revelation 4. The throne represents the rule and authority of God, but that authority was being challenged by Satan.

GOD COULD NOT RESOLVE THE DISPUTE.

The One sitting on the throne created all things (4:11), but not even He is able to resolve the dispute by Himself because it is His judgments that are being questioned (See Book of Life.)

God creates free, intelligent beings because He desires a universe where love would rule and because love cannot be forced. True love is only possible where there is freedom. And freedom means that love can be rejected and creatures may rebel against God.

By creating intelligent beings with free will, God limited His own freedom. He sacrificed a great deal of control over the course of events in the universe. God is not a micro-manager who forces every detail into a pre-conceived mold. To protect their freedom, God’s intelligent beings must decide for themselves whether Satan’s accusations are true. The controversy can only be resolved on the basis of evidence.

THE ALMIGHTY

Verse 8 describes God as “the Almighty.” This phrase appears 9 times in Revelation and only once in the New Testament outside Revelation. The Bible never refers to Jesus as “the Almighty.” On the contrary, Jesus is contrasted with “the Almighty,“ for example:

The Lord God the Almighty
and the Lamb are its temple
” (21:22; cf. 19:15).

For a discussion, see Is Jesus the Almighty? Or Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?

WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME

Verse 8 also applies this title to God. This three-fold description of God occurs four times in Revelation (1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17). However, in Revelation 11:17 the “is to come”-part is omitted because He has already come (11:15).

Who is and who was and who is to come” may be another way of saying God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). It may also be related to God’s “I AM“-title in Exodus 3:14.

All four uses of this phrase in Revelation apply only to God the Father. Titles such as “the first and the last,” “the beginning and the end,” “the Alpha and the Omega,” are possibly applied to Christ in 22:12-13 and mean that the Son is eternal. Nevertheless, the Father and Son are distinguished in the book of Revelation, and only the Father:

      • Is called God (cf. 1:2);
      • Is Almighty,
      • Sits on the throne,
      • Lives forever (e.g. 5:9),
      • Is the One by whose will we all exist (4:11) and
      • Was and is and is to come.

See the articles referenced above for further discussion.

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 word “when” implies repetitive action and can also be translated as “whenever.” Similar to this entire fourth chapter, this verse does not describe one specific event, but the general condition in God’s presence.

Glory, literally, is the brightness or radiance that surrounds a divine figure. Here it is used in an extended sense of how wonderful God is.

Honor, literally, is an expression of reverence or respect toward another.

To give thanks is the foundation of true worship. Those who are mindful of all that God has done for them will express themselves with gratitude and this gratitude keeps them focused on God’s character and actions.

GOD IS WORSHIPED
BECAUSE OF WHAT HE HAS DONE.

Worship in the Bible is all about God and His mighty acts on our behalf, it is not about us, our feelings, or our duties. Worship is not a recital of what we need to do, it is a recital of what God HAS DONE:

    • In 4:11, God is worthy to “receive glory and honor and power” “because” (NIV) He created all things.
    • In Rev. 5:13, both “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb” receive honor “because” (NIV) the Lamb was slain (5:9).
    • In Rev. 11:17, God is given thanks “because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”

Worship throughout the Bible is talking about, singing about, repeating the acts that God has done (Deut. 26:1-11; Ps. 66:3-6; 78:5-15; 111:4).

Understanding and practicing this truth will unleash God’s power in a local church. If worship often seems powerless, it is because it is rarely centered in God. In Bible times, when people rehearsed what God had done for them in the past, the power of God’s original act was unleashed in the worshiper’s present (2 Chron. 20:5-22; Dan. 9:15; 10:19-21). Worship focuses attention away from us and toward God. Our weakness takes hold of His strength.

to Him who sits on the throne

Him who sits on the throne” refers back to the “One sitting on the throne” in verse two, who is God.

to Him who lives forever and ever

Jesus is “alive forevermore” (1:18) and “will reign forever” (11:15), but only the Father is “Him who lives forever” (4:9, 10; 15:7). The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus derived His eternal nature from the Father but the Father is the Unbegotten Source of all things. He, alone, has inherent immortality.

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,

This verse repeats much of the previous verse. Here, the 24 elders worship God. In verse 8, it was the 4 living creatures. Whenever the four living creatures offer their triple praise to God, the twenty-elders fall down and worship God. In other words, worship is initiated by angels (represented by the living creatures) and then joined by human beings (represented by the 24 elders).

This verse translates the two key words for worship in Revelation as “fall down” (Greek: pesountai) and “worship” (proskunêsousin). Both words mean to prostrate oneself in obeisance toward a god or a king or somebody else. To translate the second word as “worship” goes beyond the meaning of the Greek word, for the English word “worship” implies that the one receiving obeisance is a god. For a discussion, see, Jesus is worshiped.

The crowns that the twenty-four elders throw down are not royal crowns (Greek: diadêma) but crowns of victory (Greek: stephanous). To cast their crown before the throne indicates that the wearers acknowledge that they owe their victory completely to Him. In a sense, they feel unworthy to wear their crowns in the presence of the One who gave them their victory.

Revelation 4:11

“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.”

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God

The word “worthy” is one of the key words of chapter five, but its first appearance is here in the last verse of chapter four. Worthy means deserving, qualified, or fitted for. In this verse, the one sitting on the throne is deserving of worship because He created all things.

LORD

The one seated on the throne is addressed as Lord and God. The basic meaning of “Lord” (Greek: kurios) is owner, master, or husband. It is often used as an expression of respect, like “sir” in English. In the New Testament is used to designate:

    • God (Matt 5:33; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 1:11, 15, 17, etc.),
    • Jesus Christ (Matt 20:31; Acts 2:36; Rom 1:4; 10:9; 1 Pet 1:3) and
    • The Roman emperor (Acts 25:26).

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Yahweh is nearly always translated with kurios (Gen 2:4; Exod 6:3; 20:11; Deut. 7:7-9; Ps. 1:2; Is. 53:1; Hosia 1:1). In 4:11, kurios refers to the Father.

GOD

The word “God” translates the Greek word theos which, in the Greek culture, was used for the many gods of the ancients. In the New Testament, theos is used for:

    • The God of Israel (Gal 4:8),
    • The Father who sent Jesus (John 17:3),
    • Jesus (John 1:1),
    • Satan (2 Cor 4:4) and
    • The gods of the nations (1 Cor 8:5).

In First Century Asia Minor, the emperor Domitian was known as “lord and god.” The word theos, therefore, is used for any being whose power is far beyond that of ordinary people; even for exalted people. For that reason, theos may also be translated as “god,” rather than “God.”

The ancients did not distinguish between lower and upper case characters. The word “God,” with a capital G, is a modern invention that functions as a proper name for one specific Being, namely the Almighty. For these reasons, to retain the original meaning, it might have been more appropriate to translate 4:11 as “our lord and our god,” for the ancients did not have a word equivalent to the modern word “God” and the 24 elders, by referring to God as “our lord and our god,” were acknowledging the Creator as THEIR lord and god; not as THE ONLY lord and god. For a further discussion, see, Is Jesus God in Revelation?

to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created

In verse 9, the four living beings ascribed “glory and honor and thanks” to Him. The current verse replaces “thanks” with “power,” for He is the Almighty Creator. All power inherently belongs to God. There never was a time when He did not have it. But He restrains His use of that power (11:17). God never forces anyone but seeks to win the love of His creatures rather than to use His power to force them to comply with His will (see Rev 15:3-4).

The words “for” and “because” indicate cause and consequence: Because God created all things, He is worthy to receive our “glory and honor and power.”

All things” means the entire universe (Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 1:10; 3:9; Heb 1:3; 2:10); the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them.

Because of Your will” – Behind the act of creation lies the will and purpose of God. Were it not for the will and purpose of God, the universe would not exist. 

WORSHIP IN REVELATION 5

FIVE WORSHIP HYMNS

Five hymns are sung in Revelation 4 and 5. The first two are sung in honor of the One on the throne. The next two songs praise the Lamb. The last hymn offer praise to both. There is a crescendo in the size of the groups singing these hymns:

SUNG TO: SUNG BY:
(1) 4:8 “Holy, holy, holy” The One on the throne The 4 living creatures.
(2) 4:11 – Praising God as the Creator The 24 elders
(3) 5:9-10 – Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals The Lamb The 4 living creatures and the 24 elders
(4) 5:12 – Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, riches, wisdom … The 4 living creatures and the 24 elders are joined by millions of angels.
(5) 5:13 – blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever Both Every creature in the entire universe

So the whole sequence of Revelation 4-5 moves forward to the great climax in which “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

JESUS RECEIVES THE SAME HONOR AS THE FATHER.

In Revelation 5, all creation bows down to praise both “Him who sits on the throne” and Jesus:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth … singing:
– ‘To him who sits on the throne
– and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power!
” Rev 5:13.

Because of this, it is often stated that this scene accords to Jesus Christ EQUAL STATUS with His Father. However:

      • The Father is the One on the throne (5:13) and, therefore, the ultimate Ruler.
      • As discussed above, in Revelation, only the Father is Almighty, has essential immortality and has willed all things to exist.
      • Philippians 2:6-11 also explains what happens after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and, therefore, explains this scene in Revelation 5. That passage indicates that Jesus is worshiped:
        • Because “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (v9) and
        • To the glory of God the Father” (v11).
          For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.

God is the Creator, but He created all things through His Son (e.g. John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6). God is the ultimate Ruler, but He gave all authority to His Son (Mt. 28:18). God alone is worthy of worship, but “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23), for that is God’s wish (Phil. 2:9; Heb 1:6). God’s end-time people are called to “Fear God, and … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev. 14:7). In the language of Revelation, this is a call to worship the Father. In Revelation, God is also Jesus’ God (1:6; 3:12). To elevate Jesus to the level of the Almighty God distorts the Word of God. For a further discussion, see – In the Trinity theory, God is three Persons in one Being, but Jesus is not God.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

      1. Revelation 4 depicts the time before Christ’s victory on earth.
      2. The reason for the great focus on the throne of God in Revelation 4 is that God’s authority was being challenged by Satan.
      3. God created intelligent beings with freedom and they must decide for themselves whether Satan’s accusations are true. 
      4. Only the Father is Almighty and the ultimate uncaused Cause of everything else.
      5. The Greek word translated “worship” means to prostrate oneself in obeisance toward a god or an exalted person like a king.
      6. The word translated “Lord” means owner, master, or husband.
      7. The word translated “God” is used for the many gods of the ancients and even for exalted human beings.
      8. In Revelation 5, all creation bows down to praise both “Him who sits on the throne” AND Jesus but that does NOT mean that these beings accord to Jesus Christ EQUAL STATUS with His Father.

ARTICLES ON THE SEVEN SEALS

OVERVIEW

REVELATION 4

REVELATION 5

REVELATION 6

    • Seal 1: The white horse is the gospel.
    • Seals 2 to 4: Bloodshed, famine and death
    • Seal 5: Who are the souls under the altar?
    • Seal 6 includes the plagues and concludes with Christ’s return.

REVELATION 7

REVELATION 8

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

Why Satan thought he could win against God

What power does Satan have to oppose God?
What are his strategy and his goal?
Why did God allow Satan to torment Job without cause?
– A study of the book of Job

Conclusions

JobThis article analyses the text of the book of Job, and comes to the following eleven conclusions:

1. Satan is only able to do what the Lord allows him to do. Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job by destroying all his possessions.

2. God claims certain people as His (His elect). The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only; not about the followers of Satan.

3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses God’s elect.

4. By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan is actually saying that God judges wrongly. When Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.

5. Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself. He and his angels are condemned by God, and Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.

6. Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but his sufferings on earth were the direct consequence of a dispute and an agreement made in heaven. This was not an isolated incident but still continues every day.

7. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the creation will be massive; Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; he is also fighting to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. The Lord and Satan are in a battle for the minds of the people. God does not take the rule by force. Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will NOT be won on the basis of power but on the basis of loyalty.

10. God’s intelligent beings are free to choose. God wants them to trust His judgments so that they would serve Him because they want to serve Him. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom.  He controls people and angels against their will.

11. Satan thought he could succeed against God because he knew that God allows His intelligent beings to choose for themselves, and he thought that he would be able, through brilliant deceptions, to convince them to side with him.

Article Series

War in HeavenThis is the second of the following series of articles:

  1. Origin of Evil
  2. Why Satan thought he could win against God
  3. Why did God not destroy evil immediately?
  4. War in Heaven
  5. Why was evil not destroyed after the Cross?
  6. Why does God not create a separate galaxy for Satan and his followers?

The Question

God is all-powerful.  He created everything.  Satan and His evil angels, in contrast, are merely created beings.  The devils believe that God is one, but they “tremble” (James 2:19).  Satan is perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created.  Why did he think he could succeed against God?

The Facts

Job tormentedThe facts from the book of Job, in brief, are as follows:

One day “the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” (Job 1:6).

Satan also was among them (Job 1:6).  The LORD asked Satan: “From where do you come?” (Job 1:7).

Satan answered, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7).

But the Lord said, “have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8).

But Satan rejected God’s assessment of Job.  He declared that Job fears God only because God protects him on every side, and blesses the works of his hands, making him very wealthy.  Satan continued, “but put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11).

The LORD then gave Satan permission to test Job by destroying everything that Job owned (Job 1:12), including his children.

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).

A second meeting of the sons of God with the Lord is described in Job 2:1-6.  The same issues are brought up, but with slightly different specifics. Satan failed the first time around to destroy Job’s faith in God.  The Lord now adds, referring to Job, “he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3).

Now Satan requests even more power to show that Job does not really have faith in God:

Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 2:4-5)

And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life” (Job 2:6).

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:1-7).

Job with Painful BoilsJob was the wealthiest man of the east, and Satan said that Job fears God only because the Lord blessed the works of his hands.  God then allowed Satan to take away everything that Job owned, and to cover Job’s body with painful boils so that “Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes” (Job 2:8).  The wealthiest man was reduced to one of the poorest and most miserable people.  But still, Job did not curse God.  He said:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

Discussion

Job

The book Job helps us with the question above.

It is possibly the oldest book in the Bible.  Job himself made “morning and offering burnt offerings” (Job 1:5), and there is no mention in the book of the Jewish priesthood.  Job probably lived before the time of Abraham.

Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1).  He was also very wealthy (Job 1:2-3); “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3).

He was a real person.  Other Bible writers refer to him (James 5:11).  Ezekiel mentions him with Noah and Daniel as exceptionally righteous (Ezek 14:14, 20).

The Lord

The book of Job makes a distinction between God and the Lord (Job 1:8-9; 2:3).  In the article Son of God, it is proposed that “the Lord” in Job refers to Jesus Christ before He became a human being.

Sons of God

Who are these “sons of God” that came to present themselves before the Lord? Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Believers are also called “sons of God” (Rom 8:14). However, in Luke’s gospel, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, where the sequence of generations is listed using the phrase “son of”, for instance, “the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat”, Adam is called “the son of God” (Luke 3:23). So perhaps God also created other worlds and perhaps these “sons of God” in Job are the leaders of these worlds, as opposed to angels. As ruler of this world (John 12:31), Satan was among them.

Satan

Satan means adversary.  In the previous article (Origin of Evil) it was shown that Satan is one of a special class of angels (covering cherubs) that serve in God’s immediate presence.  Ezekiel saw four of them (Ezekiel 10:9).  “The sound of the wings of the cherubim was … like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks” (Ezek 10:5).  “Each one had four faces and each one four wings” (Ezek 10:14, 21). “Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (Ezek 10:12).

Ezekiel describes them as “living beings” (Ezek 10:15, 20).  John also saw “four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev 4:5).

These are extremely mighty creatures.  When Satan looks at the mighty angels of lower classes, they just run (Dan 10:21).

1. Satan is only able to do
what the Lord allows him.

Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job.  Satan was not allowed to kill Job, but God allowed Satan to kill Jesus.  We do not have to fear Satan.

2. The dispute is about God’s elect.

We see in Job that God claims certain people as His.  He elects them on the basis of qualities that are invisible to Satan and other created beings.  The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only.  The dispute is not about the followers of Satan.

3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

Satan accuses Job.  In general, Satan accuses God’s people.  In the book of Revelation, he is called the “accuser of our brethren” (Rev 12:10).  In Zachariah 3:1-2 Satan stands next to the high priest Joshua “to accuse him.

4. Satan accuses God
of unfair judgment.

Satan rejects God’s assessment or judgment of the Lord’s elect. Satan argued that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away.  But the issue is not Job as a person.  The issue is much bigger.  By saying that Job fears God only because God protects him and blesses the works of his hands, and by saying that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away, Satan was actually saying something about God, namely that God judges wrongly.  And when Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.  Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges.

This confirms the conclusion in the article on the Origin of Evil that Satan inspired distrust in God.  In Eden, he called God a selfish liar.

Satan did not respond to the Lord by saying that Job is but one in millions.  It was important for Satan to show that God was wrong with respect to Job.  Apparently, the question is not the view of the majority. God does not need all people on His side to win this war.  It is proposed that the issue is not who will be saved, but whether God makes mistakes when He judges.

5. Satan attempts to defend himself.

Why does Satan want to show that God makes mistakes when he judges?  Is he concerned that God might save the wrong people?  It is proposed here that Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself.  God has cast Satan “as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezek 28:16).  He and his angels are condemned by God (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4).  It is to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself that Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.  If God’s judgments can be shown to be wrong in even a single instance, then Satan has won; then God’s judgment of Satan and his angels are brought into question.

6. The agreements in heaven
have consequences on earth.

Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but the test he went through on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and agreement made in heaven between the Lord and Satan. It is proposed that what happened to Job was not an isolated incident, but a general principle. The book of Job is a revelation of what always has been happening in the invisible realm.  Satan accuses God’s people and requests God’s permission to allow him to test them, to prove that God judges wrongly. There is, therefore, a very direct relationship between the dispute in heaven and the trials on earth.

Jesus similarly said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

Prince of PersiaWe see something similar in Daniel 10. Daniel’s prayer caused a skirmish in heaven. For three weeks the heavenly messenger struggled against the supernatural “Prince of Persia”. Only when Archangel Michael came to his assistance was he able to deliver the message to Daniel. Daniel had no idea of what was happening in the spiritual realm as he prayed but only learned of it afterward.  The principle is that this is a single war, fought on two fronts; heaven and earth.

On the basis of Job, we can safely assume that there was a debate between the Lord and Satan before Adam and Eve were tested in the Garden of Eden and that the Lord gave Satan permission to test Adam and Eve, just like he was later allowed to test Job.  Just as in the case of Job, Satan was limited as to what he was allowed to do. God allowed Satan to test Adam and Eve only with respect to the prominent tree in the middle of the garden (Gen 3:2-3). It is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not because the tree contained some magical properties, but because that was the only place where they would encounter evil.

In fact, we can assume that events on earth today still are governed by debates and agreements between God and Satan.

7. The tests on earth have consequences
for the entire universe.

The consequences also go in the other direction. The debate in heaven results in tests for God’s people on earth, but the tests of God’s people on earth prove or disprove the reliability of God’s judgments, and therefore have consequences for all beings in the universe.  The earth serves as testing ground for God’s judgments, that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10).  In other words, the opinions of the “rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” are influenced by the church.  The church refers not only to the New Testament Church but to the people that trust in God (have faith in God) throughout all ages.

If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the heavenly beings will be massive.  Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. Satan is fighting for the right to rule.

It is was proposed above that Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself and his followers.  It is now further proposed that Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; his ultimate goal is to rule.

There are indications in the debate between the Lord and Satan that the issue is the right to rule:

When Satan said that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it”, he was implying he rules the earth and all of its people.

When the Lord referred to Job as a “blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil”, He was disputing Satan’s claim for full control over the peoples of the earth.

Initially, Adam and Eve had ownership of the world.  God gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26, 28).  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Satan became “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 12:31).  He wants to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. The right to rule is won by loyalty.

God does not take the rule by force.  Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will not be won on the basis of power but on the basis of loyalty.  It is a battle for the minds of the people.  From the earliest times God has always been sending message after message to the people of this world, ensuring them of His love and asking them to trust Him:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1-2).

Satan’s purpose is firstly to show that God’s elect does not really have faith in God.  But Satan does more than objectively testing the loyalty of God’s people; because the right to rule is won by winning loyalty, he actually incites people and angels against God.  As the Lord said to Satan,

you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3)

10. God’s intelligent beings
have freedom to choose.

Satan is the Lord’s enemy, but note that the LORD does not use force against Satan.  The Lord allows Satan into the heavenly meetings, listens to him, debates with him, allows Satan to question His judgment, and allows Satan to test His judgment.  When Satan comes back after having failed the first time, God even allows Satan to put Job through an even more stringent test.

EdenSimilarly, God allowed Satan to visit the Garden of Eden and to tempt Adam and Eve and allowed him to tempt Christ in the Wilderness.

The Lord’s very claim, namely that Job serves God, as well as Satan’s test of that claim, would make no sense at all if God sovereignly decides who will serve Him, and then programs them to serve Him with irrefutable force, as claimed by the theory of election.

Everything in Job happened with God’s intelligent beings looking on.  They hear the challenges and see the tests.  God works out this rebellion/sin problem in full sight of the whole universe.  This also implies that God wants His intelligent beings to understand the issues, and to decide for themselves who is right; the Lord or Satan.  God wants them to trust His judgments so that they would be able to serve Him in complete freedom because they want to serve Him.

This entire story of Job is a major difficulty to Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, by which they mean that God determines everything and that nothing happens outside of His will.  If that was true, why do good people suffer?  What is the point?  People that believe that God decides who will be saved often describe that as God’s mercy, but they seem to ignore the fact that that also means that other people will be eternally destroyed in hell, simply because God arbitrarily decided that they will.  Personally, I believe this is blasphemy.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  God is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  To then say that God will decide who will be eternally destroyed in hell, irrespective of what these people want or do or think, sounds to me like blasphemy.  And I do not accept the view that God works with a different system of ethics.  I believe that what we understand as good is what God also understands as good.

Job confirms a principle from the previous article (Origin of Evil), namely that God created His intelligent beings with the ability to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice.

Freedom is the foundation of God’s government. God is all-powerful, but by granting unlimited free will to His intelligent beings, God limited Himself. God could have created robots, that only do what they are told to do, but it was God’s choice to create intelligent beings that are completely free. He is able to do away with evil by forcing His intelligent beings to serve Him against their will, but He created this universe for His intelligent beings. To force them to obey Him would undo His entire goal for this universe. He wants all His intelligent beings to love and worship Him by choice and not because He forces them to worship Him.

Free choice is a fundamental difference between God’s systems of government and Satan’s. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom to others. Satan attempts to force people and angels to do what he wants them to do. When people are possessed, they no longer have the ability to leave Satan behind. The mark of the beast is specifically used to force people to worship in a certain way.

11. Why Satan thought
he could succeed against God

We are now able to answer the question above. For the following reasons Satan thought that he could succeed against God:

He knew God very well and knew that God would not use force. He knew that God allows his intelligent beings the freedom to choose for themselves. He knew that the contest will not be on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.

He thought that he would be able to convince them to side with him, because, as a mighty covering cherub, who previously explained God’s decisions to the universe, he was loved by all angels and they had much respect for him.

Satan had an advantage over God because he could tell lies.  Because he knew God so well he knew that he would have to tell lies and misrepresent God before man and before the angels.  But he also knew God cannot use deception or lies, and that God’s only weapons are love and truth.

He has perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created and was able to use extremely cunning deception and lies.

Jesus said of Satan: 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Other articles series

TO: General Table of Contents