READ : Revelation 4-5
John’s vision of heaven’s worship in Revelation 4 and 5 shows us what is really important on earth.
A Higher Perspective
Do you ever wonder what’s happening in heaven right now? In chapters 4 and 5 of this
marvelous book of Revelation, we are given a glimpse of what’s going on now in the
heavenly realm. Once again, John the apostle hears the voice that had spoken to him like a
trumpet blast. This time it says, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place
after this.” John looks up, and there in heaven a door stands open. He’s invited to look
in, as it were, to have a vision of heaven and its throne-room, to see things from God’s
point of view. We’ve seen that’s what Revelation does. It enables us to see beyond
appearances to the way things really are.
The Throne, With One Seated on It
So here he has a vision of heaven, the throne-room. All around him is the pressure of
Roman power and propaganda. He is now to have a different, a higher perspective. He sees
the throne with one seated on it. The throne is what dominates everything. John doesn’t
make any attempt to describe the appearance of the one seated on the throne except in
terms of jewels and color and brilliance like the precious stones carnelia, jasper, and
Surrounding the One on the throne are the four living creatures that represent the
creation. The twenty-four elders that speak of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve
apostles of the Lamb, they also are surrounding the throne.
Worship Given to God
But the great thing that is happening in heaven is the worship given to God. The song
of the four living creatures – day and night they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord
God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come” – that hymn of praise, that song of
worship, is rising all the time from the four living creatures. And the elders fall down
as the four living creatures sing, and they cast their crowns before the throne. They sing
“You are worthy for you created all things.” That’s what is going on there, adoration of
the one true living God, the Maker of everything. Before him all the pretensions of
emperors are seen as trivial and empty, almost laughable. Maybe some of you heard the song
which begins this way,
Thou art worthy, thou art worthy, thou art worthy, O Lord,
to receive glory, glory and honor, glory and honor and power,
for thou hast created, hast all things created, thou hast created all things.
And for thy pleasure, they are created, thou art worthy, O Lord.
That’s the heavenly song, sung a lot better than I’m singing it now, but that’s the
very language of this text.
The Scroll and the One Who Can Open It
Next we see in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the
inside and on the back, “Sealed with seven seals.” This is the scroll of destiny. It’s the
scroll of God’s saving purpose on earth, and no one anywhere is found worthy to open it.
The search is made in heaven and earth and under the earth but no one is found worthy to
open the scroll or to break its seals. John weeps because nobody can launch the
fulfillment of God’s saving purpose in the world. But one of the elders says to him,
“Don’t weep. Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered and
he can open the scroll.”
Then John sees between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a
Lamb standing as if it had been killed, having seven horns and seven eyes which are the
seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And the Lamb comes to the throne and
takes the scroll from the right hand of the one enthroned there.
Worship Given to Christ the Crucified and Risen Savior
And when the Lamb takes the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders, all
holding harps and golden bowls of incense which are the prayer of the saints, fall down
before the Lamb, and they sing:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by
your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
This is the wonderful thing that happens before the throne of God. And then not only
the four living creatures and the elders but now the angels, ten thousand times ten
thousand, and thousands and thousands of them with full voice sing,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing. (v. 13)
That isn’t all. Now comes the climax of this heavenly chorus,
. . . every creature in the cosmos and their song. Things in heaven and earth and in
the sea and under the earth and all that is in them they sing to the one seated on the
throne, and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and power, and the four living
creatures say, “Amen!” And the elders fall down and worship. (vv. 13-14)
This is what is going on in the midst of heaven. In other words, we get a perspective
here of what is really important from the standpoint of heaven. Now what’s happening on
earth among Christians is seen by the powers that be in the Roman empire as nothing very
significant. They do not regard the life, the death, the rising of Jesus, as having any
significance. They look on themselves in their places of power and authority as ruling
everything and see no power higher than themselves. But now this spectacular scene of
heaven’s worship is revealed to John for him to see, to celebrate, and to pass on.
What message did John bring to the believers in Asia Minor in those days and what does
it say to us? I’ll suggest a few things it says to me. This worship of God the Creator,
through whom everything came to be, and the songs of worship that ascend to God are such a
rebuke to the presumption and pride of human authorities who imagine that everything is
under their control. Here we see that from heaven’s perspective the only one worthy of
worship is the great God through whom everything is made.
The second thing I think of from the perspective of heaven is that the most significant
events that have ever happened in this world are these: the life, death, and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. These events capture the attention of heaven, and should we not see them
in the same way?
I remember a book that I received once called “The Hundred Greatest Events in the
History of Civilization.” I read this with great interest to see how they would picture
the place of Jesus Christ, and one of the hundred greatest events in the history of
civilization in this book was the crucifixion of Jesus. But striking in its absence was
any mention of his resurrection. Of course, for those of us who know what the gospel is,
we know that the death of Jesus would have no real significance were it not for the fact
that he conquered death and rose again to be the Savior of all who believe in him. But
from heaven’s perspective, nothing that ever happened in this world is as worthy of
recognition and praise as what happened in God’s gift of his Son, in his life here on
earth, his suffering and death for the sins of the world and his glorious resurrection
— that’s the theme of heaven’s songs.
Now if the legions of heaven are confident that Jesus has conquered the powers of evil
and will bring God’s purposes to triumphant fulfillment, shouldn’t we live and rejoice in
the same confidence? We see what’s happening in the world, many of us in our time, with
some dismay. We see wars among nations. We see the threat of nuclear proliferation. We see
tyrants and terrorists on every side, and we wonder what’s happening. But if we see from
the perspective of heaven, we realize that Jesus Christ is the one who is opening the
seals and ushering in the tremendous events in world history, that he reigns, that Jesus
Christ is Lord and we have that confidence. And if all the hosts of heaven see Jesus as
supremely worthy, as deserving of universal praise, how should we see him? And should we
not be joining in their adoration of him here on earth, echoing heaven’s praise? How much
of our life is spent in thanksgiving and praise to him to whom all heaven sings, “Worthy,
worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain”?
I have to say that I personally am awed and thrilled by this vision. I am overcome by
it. I think of what happens in Revelation chapter 5, these wonderful hallelujahs to the
Lamb of God who was slain, the way in which all the angels of heaven see what he did on
Calvary as the greatest thing that ever happened and the greatest victory for the purpose
of God. And so the “You are worthy” songs are those that we should be joining in and
trying to sing them ourselves. And I view my task as a preacher of the gospel with more
gratitude and more excitement and more confidence than I ever had before. And I wonder how
it affects you. So I confess today, seeking to echo the praises of heaven,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealthy and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing. To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb be
blessing and honor and glory and power forever and ever.
And I come back to those wonderful words with which Revelation begins, this hymn of
And now to him who loves us and loosed us from our sins in his own blood and made us
to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, to him be glory and dominion forever and
ever. Amen. (1:6)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.