• Tony Birkhead

Heaven and Hell Week-7



Worthy of Worship!

INTRODUCTION

When you hear the word worship, what comes to mind?


In our society, what or whom do people worship instead of God? Why?


How is that type of “worship” different from the worship God expects from us?

People are designed to worship, often choosing things like spouses, success, or even sports teams. However, there is only one thing we were created to worship—Almighty God—and doing so is one of the main ways we express our love to Him.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Revelation 4:1-11

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ REVELATION 4:1-5.

Which images or phrases stand out to you in these opening verses of Revelation 4?


Why is it significant that John had this vision “in the Spirit” (v. 2)? What do you think that means?


John, still in a visionary state from the start of Revelation, saw a door standing open in heaven, allowing him a glimpse of the heavenly throne room. The door simply allowed John to see into the room. The voice John heard was that of Jesus Himself, inviting him to catch a glimpse of God’s glory. John saw all these things because he was “in the Spirit.”The Holy Spirit enabled him to see the throne room of God and the worship taking place there.


What is the figure on the throne like in John’s description?


What do we learn about God from these verses?


John struggled to describe what he saw. Can you relate? What aspect of God or your relationship with Him do you have the hardest time putting into words?


As John entered, he saw a heavenly throne. The concept of a throne room conveys the idea of God’s kingship, majesty, and holiness. Like Isaiah, John saw “the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted” (Isa. 6:1). John did not describe God; rather, he described the majesty surrounding Him. God’s majesty surpasses the ability to describe it. Other images in John’s vision, such as the stones of jasper and carnelian, lightning and thunder, point to the power and holiness of God. God must be worshiped for who He is.


How can our recognition of God’s greatness and majesty motivate us to worship Him?


What feelings do you associate with being in God’s presence? Describe a time when you were especially aware of His presence.


After trying to describe what he saw in the throne room and the presence of God Himself, John focused in on what was happening before his eyes. The next verses describe the how and why of the heavenly creatures’ worship of God.


READ REVELATION 4:6-11.

Look at the heavenly creatures’ song in verse 8. What specific aspects of God’s nature did they praise?


How might our attitude and actions toward God be different if we constantly reminded ourselves of His holiness?


The heavenly creatures (angels in the forms of a lion, ox, man, and eagle) sing God’s holiness in His presence throughout all time. Holy refers to something that is set apart, in this case, referring to God’s nature, which is uniquely set apart from everything else. The creatures repeated “holy” three times. The repetition

communicates that God is utterly other than anything or anyone. Additionally, these angels drew attention to God’s power (“Almighty”) and His eternal quality (“who was, and is, and is to come”).


According to verse 8, how often do the creatures around the throne of God worship Him?


We are commanded and privileged to worship God now, but it is something that we will get to do for eternity. Why practice worship now when we’ll be doing it for eternity in the new heaven and earth?


John’s perspective now pulls back to the twenty-four elders. The elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne as subjects who worship their sovereign. In their unceasing worship the elders present their crowns before the throne—an obvious reference that God’s power and majesty are greater than theirs. We will spend eternity worshiping God in His presence, but worshiping Him today draws us closer to Him and gives us the opportunity to point others to Him too.


What response does God elicit from the elders (v. 10)? What do these actions symbolize?


Do you think posture is important in worship? Why or why not? What do different postures of worship communicate to God?


What specific attribute of God do the elders praise in verse 11? Why does this make God worthy of our worship?


MOVING FORWARD

  • How have you experienced God’s holiness in your life? What does being in the presence of a holy God lead you to do?

  • How does experiencing God’s presence, as John did, help you surrender to God in your spiritual walk? In your prayer life?

  • What stances and postures toward God have you seen in the passages that you want to imitate in your life?

PRAY TOGETHER

Share prayer requests with the group, specifically ones related to the truths in today’s text. During your closing prayer time, pray that God would reveal His holiness in a powerful way to your group. Pray that in response to God’s holiness, all would be humble, repentant, and filled with worship.

COMMENTARY

Revelation 4:1-11

4:1-2a. After this notes the completion of vision one. A door standing open in heaven is like the beginning of the prophet Ezekiel’s visions (Ezek. 1:1). In the New Testament the heavens opened when Jesus was baptized (Matt. 3:16), when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:6), and when Peter saw a vision of a sheet filled with “unclean” animals (Acts 10:11). Later on, in vision two, John will see even more deeply into heaven when its temple is thrown open (11:19; 15:5). The last time heaven opens is when John sees the conquering rider on a white horse sent out from heaven to earth in vengeance (19:11). The voice I had first heard speaking to me was that of the risen Christ (Rev. 1:10, 17-18). His first command had been, “Write on a scroll what you see” (Rev. 1:11). Now the command is, “Come up here.” The verb come up is singular, referring to John alone. The words I will show you remind us that the contents of Revelation belong to Jesus—He is the revealer (1:1). At once I was in the Spirit marks the official beginning of a fresh visionary experience (see also Rev. 1:10; 17:3; 21:10).

4:2b-3. The first thing John saw was a throne in heaven. Thrones always symbolize the power and rule of the sovereign who sits there. As early as Revelation 1:4, John mentioned the throne of God. In Revelation 3:21, overcomers are promised a share in God’s throne. Here, for the first time, the throne actually appears. This throne is over all other thrones—in contrast to the limited power of Satan’s throne in Pergamum, the throne of the evil dragon, or that of the evil beast (Rev. 2:13; 13:2; 16:10). Before John can do more than notice the throne—and he never actually describes the throne itself—he observes someone sitting on it. Later he tells us this is the Creator of all. Human language failed at this point. God’s form simply has the appearance of jasper and carnelian (compare Ezek. 1:26-28). We are not exactly sure what these precious jewels were. They do not seem to symbolize anything; rather, this was the only way John could put down what he saw. John wants us to try our best to visualize what he saw and tried his best to describe in writing. Now add a rainbow, resembling an emerald. The only rainbows mentioned in Scripture are these: the beautiful but fleeting covenant rainbow of Noah’s time (Gen. 9:13-16) and the beautiful but everlasting rainbow surrounding beings in heaven (Ezek. 1:28; Rev. 4:3; 10:1). When God made the rainbow a sign of His covenant with humanity, He took something from His eternal throne and endowed it with fresh meaning. At the same time, the rainbow around the throne of heaven has become an eternal reminder of God’s covenant promise to humanity.

4:4. John’s attention is diverted from the central throne to twenty-four other thrones. These are not described, nor is the meaning of the number twenty-four explained. Many scholars have guessed about this. The most frequent suggestion is that the twelve sons of Jacob (the old covenant people of God) and the twelve apostles of Jesus (the new covenant people of God) are together praising God. Others have thought that the twenty-four orders among the Israelite priests are in view (1 Chr. 24:4). These heavenly thrones are for powerful angelic beings, not humans, so there may not be any special significance to the number that we can understand. The twenty-four elders are an otherwise unknown class of heavenly beings created for the express purpose of worshiping God in His heavenly court. The creatures must have appeared to John as old human males, for that is what elder means. For heavenly creatures to be dressed in white—garments of purity—is not unusual. The heavenly beings connected with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus—variously called men or angels—wore white (Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10). Apart from the conquering Lord, these are the only beings in heaven with crowns of gold on their heads (see Rev. 14:14). Here, the crowns certainly suggest the power and majesty of these creatures. John saw what they do with their crowns later in the chapter.

4:5-6a. John’s attention focuses once more on the throne in the center. We hear rumblings and peals of thunder, accompanied by flashes of lightning. The seven lamps represent the seven spirits of God, already seen in Revelation 1:4 as a unique way to refer to the Holy Spirit. The word for lamps here is different from the word for lampstands that symbolize the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). In the first century, lamps were usually made of pottery and burned olive oil through a wick, offering the normal nighttime lighting. In John’s vision, the lamps were blazing, more to be seen than to provide light. The work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the minds of God’s people is certainly suggested (John 14:26). Before the throne appeared another amazing sight: what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. Again, John’s language failed. This may be identical to the experience of Moses and Aaron, who “saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself” (Exod. 24:9-10). The word sea throughout Revelation generally means “ocean” (as opposed to “land”).

4:6b-8a. John lingers over the appearance of the four living creatures more than that of the elders. He was fascinated by these powerful guardians of the throne, the closest of all the created beings to God’s throne. It’s not important for us to know all about angelic orders but rather to recognize that God has created them and given them tasks. The only other creatures in Scripture with six wings are the creatures Isaiah saw in his vision of God (Isa. 6:2). While John does not describe these living creatures as flying, surely that was part of the purpose of their wings. The prophet Ezekiel described an angelic order of four cherubim, each with four wings and four faces—human, lion, ox, and eagle—also full of eyes (Ezek. 1:10- 11; 10:12). John’s language is not identical but is similar enough for us to think that he and Ezekiel are describing the same fantastic beings. These are covered with eyes, in front and in back (v. 6), repeated as covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. These eyes mean that the creatures see unceasingly and are ever-watchful protectors of the divine throne. Verse 7 uses “like” four times. The creatures were not lions or other animals, but they were “like” them. Why are four earthly creatures represented in heaven? Many have guessed, and the following seems as likely as any. The lion is the king of the untamed animals, while the ox (usually translated calf in the New Testament) was the domesticated animal used for sacrifice. The flying eagle was the king of the birds, while man is a separate kind of being. (The third living creature is said to have a face like a man rather than the form of a human.) All nature is called on to declare the praises of God (Ps. 150), so God has designed the creatures nearest His throne to serve as constant reminders of this.

4:8b. Once again the volume is turned up. John now hears what the living creatures say continuously day and night. Of course, day and night do not exist in heaven, but the point is clear: John heard the heavenly worship of living creatures, designed so that they never stop their praise. John doesn’t call this a “song,” so it was perhaps chanted. The seraphim that Isaiah heard also cried, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3), the only other time that “triple holies” are found in Scripture. Some have interpreted the “triple holies” as referring to the three Persons of God— Father, Son, and Spirit. All three are represented at the throne with the addition of the Lamb in Revelation 5. But the balanced phrasing of the worship of the living creatures suggests a slightly different focus on the totality of God’s perfections. The name “Lord God Almighty” is equivalent to the Old Testament name traditionally translated “Lord [Yahweh] God of Hosts” (2 Sam. 5:10; Ps. 89:8; Jer. 38:17; compare Paul’s translation of 2 Sam. 7:8, 14, in 2 Cor. 6:18). Lord (Yahweh) is the personal name of the covenant-making God of Israel; God refers to His deity; Almighty is literally “all-power” and was part of God’s name in Revelation 1:8. This threefold name occurs five more times in the Book of Revelation but is nowhere else in the New Testament (11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22; compare also 1:8). God’s title as the one who was and is and is to come was first noted in Revelation 1:4 (the order of verbs is, however, different). This expands God’s covenant name by which He revealed Himself to Moses (Exod. 3:14-15). God’s holiness and power extend from before the beginning throughout eternity.

4:9. The words from John’s vocabulary that explain the meaning of the living creatures’ words are glory, honor and thanks. These terms are scattered throughout Revelation and belong to the Bible’s regular worship vocabulary. “Glory” (Greek doxa) can also be translated “praise” and is the basis for the English word doxology. “Honor” (timé in Greek) means “high respect” or “value” and is the basis for the name Timothy, literally “honoring God.” Glory and honor are offered to God for who He is: the Sovereign of the universe who sits on the throne. “Thanks” is traditionally rendered “thanksgiving” and is the basis for the English Eucharist (the name of the Lord’s Supper in some traditions, Greek eucharistia). Thanks is offered to God because of what He has done: as the one who lives forever and ever, He has given life to His creatures—so that they will praise Him.

4:10-11. John’s perspective now pulls back to the twenty-four elders again. They all fall down before Him who sits on the throne as subjects who worship their sovereign. This also happens without ceasing—whenever the living creatures give glory. In their worship the elders present their crowns before the throne—an obvious reference that God’s power and majesty are greater than theirs. The name our Lord and God is not found as an exact title anywhere else in the Bible. The persecuted Christians of John’s day probably knew the title, however, for the Roman emperor Domitian blasphemously claimed this exact title (in Latin, Dominus et Deus noster) for himself. That God is worthy of worship means that He deserves to receive glory and honor and power. “Glory and honor” are repeated from verse 9; “power” is the Greek dynamis—not, as often suggested, the (destructive) power of dynamite, but the creative energy in evidence when God created all things. This phrase concentrates all of Genesis 1 into a single thought. The verb created both in Greek and in the Hebrew of Genesis 1 means “made from nothing.” In Genesis, God expressed His will through his creative word. Further, this song counters any thought that God as Spirit is so separate from the material universe that He neither created it nor has any interest in it (as was later taught by the false teachers related to Gnosticism).


DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

Every aspect of our lives is part of our worship. We worship from the moment our eyes open in the morning to the second they close at night. Worship is magnifying (or making much of) someone or something by our actions, thoughts or words. It is setting anything, be it God or otherwise, into the place of high prominence and authority in our lives.

However, this understanding of worship is slipping from Christian belief and practice. Worship today is generally thought of as a genre of music or a thirty minute period in which we sing songs to God. Though the latter is a crucial component of worship (Eph 5:15-21), it does not encompass it. In fact, we learn from today’s passage that discerning God’s will from a transformed and renewed mind, and then acting in accordance with that will, is pivotal to our proper worship. We are called to be men, and women, and children who become like Jesus; not a people who try to make Jesus fit our desired mold for Him.

Improper conformity (or religiosity) is worshipping the “gods” of culture, while true Christianity is worshipping the One True God in culture. When we hold a small view of worship we lose sight of “what is good and acceptable and perfect” because we lose the ability to truly know it! Only through the giving and submitting of our entire lives can we rightly worship God and fulfill our purpose and mission on this earth.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:20-22

This scene of Job’s right heart toward God is beautiful. Even stricken with grief, he worshiped. What anguished him was the devastating news he received from four messengers in rapid succession. They brought him the news as follows:

First Messenger: The Sabeans have plundered your oxen and donkeys and have killed your servants with swords.

Second Messenger: A fire storm of some caliber fell from heaven, consuming your sheep and servants.

Third Messenger: Three groups of Chaldeans raided your camels and killed the servants who were with them.

Fourth Messenger: Your sons and daughters were enjoying each other’s company when a freak wind storm destroyed the house they were in, crushing them dead.

Any one of these messages would have been difficult in their own right, but imagine receiving this news all at once. He simultaneously lost nearly everything he had, from property to his children, and was left with little more than himself and the clothes on his back. How did Job respond? He “fell on the ground and worshiped.” He worshiped God through His right heart, without sinning.

Often, we don’t think of worship as anymore than more singing songs at church. But let us learn to worship God always as Job did, especially in the hard times. Remember, our hearts are never so honest as when we are in the midst of trying circumstances. How will the Lord find our hearts in difficult situations?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Revelation 5:5

Lions live in social units called prides, which are little functional tribes or mini-societies. And humans have always been fascinated by them. In fact, some of the oldest paintings in history are in the Chauvet Cave in France, and contain artwork called the “Gallery of Lions.” In the New Testament, too, we find lions—two of them, to be exact. One is worthy of eternal worship; one is worthy of eternal condemnation. Let’s look at the first lion.

THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH

Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Today’s verse is about him and is part of a greater story in Revelation 5, where there is a scroll no one in the universe can open and read. This makes John (the Apostle who wrote Revelation) weep! But a mighty angel tells him, “Do not weep! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah . . . is able to open the scroll and its seals.” Further in the chapter we learn this Lion is worthy because he became a lamb, and let his blood be shed for the salvation of people from every “tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). Jesus’s great power is shown and felt in his devotion to creating and sustaining life for the world.

THE LION OF DESTRUCTION

Now, let’s contrast the Lion of the Tribe of Judah with the second lion we find in the New Testament. Peter writes about him in 1 Peter 5:8, warning: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. This lion is Satan himself. And what are his powers? Fear, destruction, devouring, consuming, and death. While Jesus is the Author of Life, Satan is the bringer of death.

WHICH PRIDE ARE WE IN?

Much like the artwork in those ancient caves, these two lions paint profound pictures about what it means to be human. As men and women, we will devote ourselves to one “pride” or the other: the pride of Jesus or the pride of Satan. To follow Jesus is to give life, to find strength in selflessness, to be quick to do what’s right, to have a steel backbone against evil, and to never run from God’s purpose on our lives. To follow Satan is to take life, to find strength in selfishness, to have feet quick to do evil, to give in to sin, and to flee from God’s call on our lives. The two lions leave very different trails: one of Life, one of death.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Why do you think God has left you here on earth instead of immediately taking you to heaven the moment you were saved? Think of all the hardships and heartaches you’d have escaped. Imagine the joys you’d be experiencing with Christ in heaven. But then again, who would be here to tell others the gospel of salvation if all the believers were taken out of this world?

If you are living and breathing, then the heavenly Father has a purpose for you, a ministry to fulfill. Don’t think of ministry as something done only in a church building by a select group of people. Service to God is the responsibility of every believer. It’s a matter of doing the “good works, which God prepared beforehand” for each of us to accomplish (Eph. 2:10).

Although the way we serve may change over time, we are never called to retire and do nothing. Even a bed-bound saint can pray for others or offer encouraging words to visitors and caregivers. A believer’s goal should not simply be to attend church, listen to a sermon, and receive enough spiritual food to get through the coming week. The goal is to serve God with our whole being, reflecting the love of Jesus through who we are. Our worship of God and instruction from His Word is what edifies and equips us to serve one another and go into the world to share the gospel.

Your entire life is meant to be an act of service to God. If instead you are living for your own happiness and goals, you will eventually be disappointed. But when you walk in the good works God has prepared for you, you’ll have the satisfaction of doing exactly what you were created to do.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.

Revelation 4:11

Everyone, no matter who they are, worships someone or something. Certainly we don’t all worship the true God in Heaven. Some worship a god of their own making. Others worship the true and living God. Some people worship people. They worship sports heroes, actors, or musicians. Some people worship themselves. Some people worship possessions. But everyone worships someone or something. Every person everywhere worships, because worship is the fundamental drive of life. God created us with a drive, with a sense there is something more to life than what we experience on this earth.

The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That simply means there is a recognition and a sense there is something more in life. In reality, our ultimate purpose in life is not to attain success, fame, or even happiness, per se. Our ultimate purpose in life is to know the God who made us. And until we enter into that relationship, we are falling short of what is possible and attainable to us.

By the way, I’m a great animal lover. I love all types of animals. But I also recognize that as wonderful and as intelligent as they are, they are a different type of creation altogether. The Bible clearly teaches that God uniquely created man in His own image. God has not placed eternity in the heart of a bird, a cat, or a dog. He has not placed eternity in the hearts of animals; He has only placed it in the hearts of human beings. And that causes people everywhere to worship.

The true God, the living God, the only God, the God of the Bible, is the One to worship. We were created to bring pleasure to God. We were created to worship the Lord.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…


You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.

Revelation 4:11

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