Friday, December 29, 2017

Revelation 4: 6-11 Heavenly Worship

KEY TEXT: Revelation 4:6-11 And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,  who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." 

KEY THOT: John's vision of the four living creatures is similar to that seen by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:10, "As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle." Unlike Ezekiel's vision where the four faces (man, lion, ox and eagle) were found on every one of the four living creatures, John's vision of has each of the four faces separately on the four living creatures. There are many interpretations for the four living creatures (ζωα, zoa, living beings). According to David Pawson, there are up to 20 different intepretations for the four living creatures! Among the more common ones are the following: four cherubims (angelic beings), the four representative life forms on earth (man, domestic animal, wild animal and birds), the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), the four great apostles (Peter, James, Matthew & Paul), the four patriarchal churches (Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople), the four cardinal virtues, the four motive powers of the human soul (reason, anger, desire, conscience), four orders (pastoral, diaconal, doctoral, contemplative), etc. 

Taking John's description at face-value and the context in which the four living creatures operate, it is best to see them as angelic beings (cherubims) whose primarily function is to protect the glory of God through worship. The four living creatures are often associated with the throne of God and the seven-fold Spirit of God: "From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind" (Revelation 4:5-6). Even in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek. 1:4-28), the four living creatures were seen in conjunction with God's throne-room: "And above the expanse over their heads [of the living creatures] there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around" (Ezekiel 1:26-27).

In the context of Revelation 4:6-11, the four living creatures are likely to be the guardians of God's glory and worship: they are calling out day and night, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!" And their call elicits worship from the twenty-four elders sitting around the throne who would fall on their faces in worship, casting their crowns before the throne of God. They would then say, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Revelation 4:11).

The four living creatures are unlike other angels which are ministering spirits for the redeemed: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14). Instead, they are ministering spirits to the Living God. They are there to serve God at His throne-room. So these are the highest order of angels because they are right before the throne. Their four-faced appearance of a man, ox, lion and eagle may be representative of the whole creation as they gather up all the worship of God's creation and return the glory to God who alone is the Creator!

Heaven is the ultimate place of worship led not by human worship leaders but by the four living creatures. Their focus is to give glory to God, not draw attention to themselves. All living things on earth and in heaven are created to worship the living God. Even the mountains, the hills and the trees of the field worship the living God: "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singingand all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12).

Like all other life forms, man was created for the worship of the living God, not ourselves or idols or money. When we are not worshipping the true God, we corrupt our destiny and our nature. It's only in our worship of living God that we re-discover our divine self-identity and our true humanity.

Abba-Father, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and praise, for You have created all things to give You glory. Thank You Lord for the joy and privilege of worshipping You alone. Amen.

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