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

This is an article in the series on the vision of the book with the seven seals (Rev 4:1-8:1). The first part of the article is a summary.

Summary

Purpose

The previous articles in this series discussed (1) Revelation 4:1-8 and (2) The 24 elders in God’s throne room (Rev 4:4). While the first part of Revelation 4 describes God’s throne room VISUALLY, the purpose of this article is to discuss the last part of Revelation 4, which describes the SOUNDS in God’s presence.

Holy

The four living creatures say “day and night,” without ceasing:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God,
the Almighty
” (Rev 4:8).

God is holy because He is the Uncreated Source of all things. All else exists BECAUSE He exists. He created all things, and they exist BECAUSE OF His will (Rev 4:11).

Note that Jesus does not appear in Revelation 4: It describes only the Father.

Day and Night

Both the four living creatures and Satan talk “day and night” without ceasing ABOUT GOD. However, while the four living creatures praise God (Rev 4:8), Satan, by accusing the people whom God has chosen for eternal life (Rev 12:10), effectively accuses God of unfair judgment. (See – Overview of Revelation 12.) The four living creatures, therefore, seem to be opposing Satan.

Almighty

The four living creatures describe “One sitting on the throne” as “the Almighty” (Rev 4:2, 8). Of the 10 instances of this phrase in the New Testament, 9 are in Revelation. The Bible never refers to Jesus as “the Almighty.” On the contrary, Jesus is explicitly distinct from “the Almighty“ (Rev 21:22; Rev 19:15). For further discussion, see – Is Jesus the Almighty?

Who Was
And Who Is
And Is To Come

The four living creatures describe the Almighty also as the One “Who was and Who is and Who is to come” (Rev 4:8). This may be related to the “I AM“-title in Exodus 3:14 and may also be another way of saying that God is always the same (cf. Heb 13:8).

In Revelation, the Son is eternal (Rev 1:17; 22:12-13) but only the Father:

    • Is called God (cf. Rev 1:2);
    • Is described as Almighty (e.g., Rev 21:22),
    • Sits on the throne (e.g., Rev 12:5; 3:21; 4:2),
    • Lives forever (e.g., Rev 4:9),
    • Willed and created all things (Rev 4:11) and
    • Was and is and is to come (e.g., Rev 1:4-5).

Lives Forever and Ever

Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18) and “will reign forever” (Rev 11:15), but only the Father “lives forever” (Rev 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 (essential) immortality.

This is not one specific event.

WHENEVER the four living creatures offer their triple praise to God (Rev 4:9), the twenty-elders fall down and worship God (Rev 4:10). The word “when” or “whenever” implies repetitive action. This confirms that this fourth chapter does not describe one specific event, but the general condition in God’s presence.

Explosion of Worship

Worship explodes outward. The four living creatures, in the inner circle around the throne (Rev 4:6), with their astounding perceptive abilities (Rev 4:6), become full of the wonder of God’s holiness (Rev 4:8), and burst into praise. That worship overflows to the next circle around the throne – the 24 elders (Rev 4:9-10), then to the billions of angels around the 24 elders (Rev 5:11-12), and, finally, to “every created thing” (Rev 5:13).

Cast their crowns before the throne

The crowns of the 24 elders (Rev 4:10) are crowns of victory (Greek: stephanos); not royal crowns (Greek: diadêma).

They cast their crowns before the throne (Rev 4:10), meaning that they 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.

The Creator

In Revelation 5, Jesus Christ will be declared “worthy” because He was slain and purchased people for God with His blood (Rev 5:9). But, in Revelation 4, the One sitting on the throne is declared “worthy” BECAUSE He created all things (Rev 4:11).

All things were created because of the will of the Father (Rev 4:11). But for the will of God, the universe would not exist. Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read that God created all things THROUGH His Son (John 1:3; Col 1:15; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2), but here, at the end of Revelation 4, the Father alone is identified as the Creator. For a further discussion, see – God created all things, but He created through His Son.

Our Lord

The one seated on the throne is addressed as “our Lord” (Rev 4:11).

The Greek word translated as “Lord” is kurios. The L is capitalized, not because of the word itself, but because of the context, namely, because it refers to God, the Father. The same word, for example, is also translated as “master” or “owner” or “lord” (e.g., Matt 10:24; 20:8; Mark 13:35; Acts 25:26).

The New Testament uses the title kurios very often for Jesus, but Jesus is not present in the throne room in Revelation 4. The current verse describes His Father as “Lord.”

The Old Testament often uses God’s name (Yahweh). This name never appears in the New Testament. It is possible that, in some instances, the title kurios in the New Testament serves as a name for God. However, in the current verse, the word “our” in the phrase “OUR kurios” implies that kurios does not serve as a name. Rather, it is a statement that the Father is OUR MASTER or OUR OWNER.

Our God

The one seated on the throne is also addressed as “our God” (Rev 4:11). The word “God” translates from the Greek word theos. This word, actually, means “god.” In ancient Greek culture, theos was used for the many gods (pantheon) of the ancients. It is translated here as “God,” not because of the word itself, but because it refers to the Father.

However, the title “God” means something VERY DIFFERENT from theos. The title “God” functions like a name of one specific being; whom dictionaries describe as the Supreme or Ultimate Reality. Therefore, in the Christian context, the title “God” has come to mean more or less the same as the name Yahweh in the Old Testament. For a further discussion, see the article theos.

Is Jesus equal with the Father?

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

      • The first two (Rev 4:8, 11) are sung in honor of the One on the throne, “for You created all things” (Rev 4:11).
      • The next two songs (Rev 5:9-10, 12) praise the Lamb (Jesus), “for You … purchased for God with Your blood men” (Rev 5:9-10).
      • The final hymn, as the climax of the series, is sung to both “Him who sits on the throne” and “the Lamb” (Rev 5:13).

Since, in this last hymn, all creation bows down to praise BOTH the Father and the Son, some claim that this attributes to Jesus Christ EQUAL STATUS with His Father. However:

Firstly, the Father is the One on the throne (Rev 5:13) and, therefore, the ultimate Ruler.

Secondly, as discussed above, only the Father is Almighty (e.g., Rev 21:22), has essential immortality (Rev 4:9-10), and is called God (cf. Rev 1:2).

Thirdly, Philippians 2:6-11 describes the same event as in Revelation 5, namely, what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. It explains that Jesus is worshiped
(1) because “God highly exalted Him” (Phil 2:9) and
(2) that He is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.

Head of ChristGod 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 (Matt 28:18). Similarly, God alone is to be worshiped, but “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23), because that is God’s will (Phil 2:9; Heb 1:6). For a further discussion, see, “God is the Head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3).

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.

The Christology of this Website

This website defends the view of God and Christ that was maintained by the church during the first three centuries. They believed that the Son ALWAYS existed and that He was the MEANS through whom God created all things, but that He always was and always will be SUBORDINATE to the Father. (See – The Apologists.)

– End of Summary – 

This is the end of the summary. If you would like to skip the detailed discussion below, the next article in this series is – Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement after His ascension to heaven. Alternatively, see the list of the articles in the series on the sealed book.


Purpose

Previous articles in this series discussed:

The current article continues the discussion of chapter 4, namely, the SOUNDS and the songs of worship in God’s presence, as we find in Revelation 4:8-11 as well as in the last part of Revelation 5; after Jesus appears in the throne room (Rev 5:5-6).

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.

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 essentially holy (meaning, it is an inherent part of His being) 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 (Rev 4:11).

Day and Night

Day and night” means continual or ongoing.

To continually say “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 these words of exaltation. It is not their duty; it is their joy!

Both the four living creatures and Satan keep talking “day and night” about God. However, while the four living creatures praise God, Satan, by accusing the people whom God has chosen for eternal life “day and night” (Rev 12:10), effectively accuses God of unfair judgment. (See – Overview of Revelation 12.) The four living creatures, therefore, seem to be opposing Satan.

As discussed, the main word in Revelation 4 is “throne.” The reason for the great focus on the throne of God is possibly because the throne symbolizes God’s authority, and because Satan challenged God’s authority; specifically; His judgments.

The Almighty

This verse describes God as “the Almighty” (Rev 4:8). Of the 10 instances of this phrase in the New Testament, 9 are in Revelation. The Bible never refers to Jesus as “the Almighty.” On the contrary, Jesus is explicitly distinct from “the Almighty,“ for example:

The Lord God the Almighty
and the Lamb are its temple

(Rev 21:22; cf. Rev 19:15).

For a further discussion, see:

Who Was
And Who Is
And Is To Come

The four living creatures also describe the Almighty as the One “Who was and Who is and Who is to come” (Rev 4:8). This three-fold description of God occurs four times in Revelation (Rev 1:4; 1:8; 4:8; 11:17). However, Revelation 11:17 omits the “is to come”-part because He has already come (Rev 11:15).

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

In Revelation, all four uses of this phrase apply exclusively to the Father (e.g., Rev 1:4-5). Titles such as “the first and the last,” “the beginning and the end,” and “the Alpha and the Omega” seem to be applied to Christ in Revelation 1:17 and Revelation 22:12-13 and do mean that the Son has always existed. Nevertheless, in the book of Revelation, only the Father:

      • Is God (cf. Rev 1:2);
      • Is Almighty (e.g., Rev 21:22),
      • Sits on the throne (e.g., Rev 12:5; 3:21; 4:2),
      • Lives forever (e.g., Rev 4:9),
      • Is the One who willed and created all things (Rev 4:11) and
      • Was and is and is to come (e.g., Rev 1:4-5).

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

When the living creatures give

The word “when” implies repetitive action and can also be translated as “whenever.” This confirms that, as discussed previously, that Revelation 4 does not describe one specific event.

Glory and honor and thanks

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.

Thanks – 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 will keep them FOCUSED ON GOD.

In Revelation, worship is all about God and His mighty acts on our behalf. For example:

God is worthy to “receive glory and honor and power” “because” (NIV) He created all things (Rev 4:11).

Both “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb” receive honor “because” (NIV) the Lamb was slain (Rev 5:13, cf. Rev 5:9).

God is given thanks “because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (Rev 11:17).

The same principle applies throughout the Bible: Worship is talking about, singing about, and repeating what God has done (Deut 26:1-11; Psa 66:3-6; 78:5-15; 111:4).

Worship 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.

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 on 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). Worship focuses attention away from us and toward God. Our weakness takes hold of His strength.

Him who lives forever and ever

Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18) and “will reign forever” (Rev 11:15), but only the Father is “Him who lives forever” (Rev 4:9-10; 15:7). The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:13-16). 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 (essential) 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,

Explosion of Worship

This verse repeats much of the previous verse. In that verse, it was the 4 living creatures (Rev 4:8). Here, the 24 elders worship God.

WHENEVER (Rev 4:9) the four living creatures offer their triple praise to God, the twenty-elders fall down and worship God. Worship explodes outward. The four living creatures, in the inner circle around the throne (Rev 4:6), with their astounding perceptive abilities (Rev 4:6), become full of the wonder of God’s holiness (Rev 4:8), and burst into praise. That worship overflows to the next circle around the throne – the 24 elders – and then to the billions of angels around the 24 elders (Rev 5:11-12) and, finally, to “every created thing” (Rev 5:13).

Fall Down … Worship

This verse translates the two key words for worship in Revelation as “fall down” (Greek: pesountai) and “worship” (proskunêsousin). Both these words mean to prostrate oneself in obeisance toward a god or an exalted person such as a king.

To translate the second word as “worship” goes beyond the meaning of the Greek word, for, as defined by dictionaries, the English word “worship” implies that the one receiving obeisance is a god or godlike. However, given the context, the word “worship” is appropriate. For a discussion, see – Jesus is worshiped.

Cast their crowns before the throne

The crowns of the 24 elders (Rev 4:10) are crowns of victory (Greek: stephanos); not royal crowns (Greek: diadêma).

They cast their crown before the throne (Rev 4:10), meaning that they 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

In Revelation 5, Jesus Christ will be declared “worthy” because He was slain and purchased people for God with His blood (Rev 5:9). But, in Revelation 4, the One sitting on the throne is declared “worthybecause He created all things.

Our Lord

The one seated on the throne is addressed as “our Lord and our God.” 

The Greek word translated as “Lord” is kurios. The L is capitalized, not because of the word itself, but because of the context, namely, because it refers to God, the Father. The same word, for example, is also translated as “master” or “owner” or “lord.” For example:

    • The owner of the vineyard” (Matt 20:8);
    • The master of the house” (Mark 13:35);
    • A slave (is not) above his master” (Matt 10:24); and
    • I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord (the Roman emperor” (Acts 25:26).

The New Testament uses the title kurios very often for Jesus, but Jesus is not present in the throne room in Revelation 4. The current verse describes His Father as “Lord.”

The Old Testament often uses God’s name (Yahweh). This name never appears in the New Testament. Since, in the Greek Old Testament, the name of God (Yahweh) is nearly always translated with kurios, the title kurios in the New Testament may, in some instances, serve AS A NAME for God. However, in the current verse, the word “our” in the phrase “OUR kurios” implies that kurios does not serve as such. Rather, it is a statement that the Father is OUR MASTER or OUR OWNER.

And our God

The word “God” translates from the Greek word theos which, in the Greek culture, was used for the many gods (pantheon) of the ancients. Similar to the word kurios, the G is here capitalized, not because of the word itself, but because it refers to the Father. The same word theos, for example, is translated as “god” in the following instances:

    • Satan is described as “ho theos of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) and
    • The gods of the nations (e.g., 1 Cor 8:5), or
    • People “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35).

In First-Century Asia Minor, the emperor Domitian was known as “lord and god.” The word theos, therefore, was used for any being whose power is far beyond that of ordinary people.

Ancient languages did not distinguish between lower- and upper-case characters. The Bible, similarly, was written only in CAPITAL letters. The word “God,” with a capital G, is a modern invention that, over the centuries, has attained a VERY DIFFERENT meaning from the Greek word theos:

If you asked an ancient person who theos is, he would not know because, at that time, there were “many gods and many lords” (1 Cor 8:5). That person would have asked which theos you are referring to.

Today, if you ask who God is, the average educated person would be able to answer. Dictionaries define “God” as the Supreme or Ultimate Reality.

Therefore, in the Christian context, the title “God” has come to mean more or less the same as the name Yahweh. It functions like the name of one specific being; the Ultimate Reality.

In the current verse, the Father is addressed, literally, as “the theos of us” or “our theos.” Given the context of the time, when hundreds of theoi (gods) were professed, this seems to identify the One sitting on the throne as the one specific theos WE worship. In other words, the phrase DOES NOT INCLUDE A NAME. For that reason, and since the title “God” functions like a name, to retain the original meaning, it might have been appropriate to translate the phrase as “our lord and our god,” rather than “our Lord and our God.”

Paul wrote similarly:

There are many gods and many lords,
yet for us there is but one God, the Father …
and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:5-6).

Would a lower case “god” and “lord” not have been more appropriate also in this verse? Why are the words capitalized?

For a further discussion, see the article – theos.

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 repeats the same concepts but replaces “thanks” with “power,” for this verse also identifies Him as the Almighty Creator. All power belongs to God but He restrains His power (Rev 11:17) for God never forces anyone to comply with His will. Rather than using His power, He seeks to win the love of His creatures (Rev 15:3-4). See, God’s creatures are free to rebel against Him.

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

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.

All things were created “because of Your will.” But for the will of God, the universe would not exist. Jesus prayed similarly: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). It was the Father’s will that Jesus should suffer the torment of the cross. For a discussion, see – Why Jesus had to die to open the book.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read that God created all things THROUGH His Son (John 1:3; Col 1:15; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2), but here, at the end of Revelation 4, the Father alone is identified as the Creator (Rev 4:11). See – God created all things, but He created through His Son.

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 offers praise to both.

There is a crescendo in the size of the groups singing these hymns:

Song Sung to: Sung by:
(1) Rev 4:8 “Holy, holy, holy The One on the throne 4 living creatures.
(2) Rev 4:11 – Praising Him as the Creator 24 elders
(3) Rev 5:9-10 – Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals The Lamb 4 living creatures
AND the 24 elders
(4) Rev 5:12 – Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, riches, wisdom … 4 living creatures
AND the 24 elders
AND millions of angels
(5) Rev 5:13 – blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever Both EVERY CREATURE

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 the Father and the Son:

Then I heard every creature … 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 attributes to Jesus Christ EQUAL STATUS with His Father. However:

Firstly, since, in this verse, the Father is the One on the throne (Rev 5:13; 12:5; 3:21; 4:2), He is the ultimate Ruler.

Secondly, as discussed above under verse 8, in Revelation, only the Father:

          • Is Almighty (e.g., Rev 21:22),
          • Has essential immortality (Rev 4:9-10),
          • Has willed and created all things to exist (Rev 4:11).
          • Is called God (cf. Rev 1:2);
          • Was and is and is to come (e.g., Rev 1:4-5).

Thirdly, Philippians 2:6-11 describes the same event as in Revelation 5. It also explains what happened in heaven after Jesus ascended. In that passage:

        • Jesus is worshiped because “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9) and
        • He is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
          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 (Matt 28:18). Similarly, God alone is to be worshiped, but “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23), BECAUSE that is God’s will (Phil 2:9; Heb 1:6). For a further discussion, see, “God is the Head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3).

Amid the end-time crisis, God’s 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 Revelation’s language, this is a call to worship the Father for, in Revelation, ONLY the Father is called God and ONLY the Father is the Creator. In Revelation, God is also Jesus’ God (Rev 1:6; 3:12). To elevate Jesus to the same level as the Almighty God is to DISTORT the Word of God! For further discussion, see – In the Trinity theory, God is three Persons in one Being, but Jesus is not God.

The Christology of this website

This website defends the view of God and Christ that was maintained by the church fathers during the first three centuries; particularly the doctrine as clarified by Origen (184-253).

Most of the delegates at the Nicene Council of 325 were disciples of Origin (bible.ca). They believed that the Son ALWAYS existed and that He was the MEANS through whom God created all things, but they also believed that He was and always will be subordinate to the Father. (See – The Apologists.)

Origin’s views are also reflected by the Nicene Creed, except for the concept of homoousios (same substance), which Emperor Constantine forced the meeting to add (See – Millard Erickson).

During the first three centuries, the church was persecuted by the Roman authorities. Early in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. Later in that same century, Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the ONLY LEGAL religion in the empire. However, what he enacted as law was SPECIFICALLY THE TRINITY DOCTRINE. In his Edict of Thessalonica, he decreed as follows:

Let us believe in the one deity
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity.

Concerning people with different beliefs, he commanded:

In our judgment they are foolish madmen … heretics …
They will suffer … the punishment … we shall decide to inflict.

When Theodosius rose to power, the church was strongly Arian. But Theodosius implemented his law with a heavy hand, making an end to all non-Trinitarian Christologies in the Roman Empire. Later rulers, including Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, ensured compliance. Consequently, the church entered the Dark Ages professing the Trinity doctrine and the mainstream church still does.


Other Articles

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).

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