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.