Sounds of the Throne Room

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

Have you ever been at a loss for words? As a writer, i am supposed to pride myself on always having the perfect way to describe something that i am trying to get across. However, if i am honest, i often feel as though my descriptions fall far short of the picture i have in my head. (But maybe that’s my pessimism and self-doubt?)

However, in our text today, John seems to be in a similar place. The scene before his eyes and the sounds entering his ears are so amazing and awe-full that he is forced to result to similes to explain what he is experiencing. John writes in Revelation 4:6-11,

 Something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal, was also before the throne. Four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back were in the middle and around the throne. The first living creature was like a lion; the second living creature was like a calf; the third living creature had a face like a man; and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say:
Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.

There are two main components in this text. First, John introduces us to some fantastic creatures in the throne room, and second, he tells us about the sounds in the throne room.

In verses 6-8a, we see the fantastic creatures:

Something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal, was also before the throne. Four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back were in the middle and around the throne. The first living creature was like a lion; the second living creature was like a calf; the third living creature had a face like a man; and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside.

No one is quite sure what is going on in the first phrase of this passage. What is this “sea of glass”?

Well, at the risk of being overly simplistic, i would posit that this helps to showcase the separateness of God. What is the sea but an expanse of water? John is telling us that there is space in front of the throne. God is separate from the created order. The four living creatures are said to be “in the middle and around the throne.” In other words, the four living creatures are “in the vicinity of” the throne. In Revelation 5:6, we see, “Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.” Christ stands in the gap between God and the created order because He is both fully God (uncaused cause) and truly man (created, cf. Hebrews 10:5).

But, more present in John’s mind than the “sea of glass” are the four living creatures. He tells us that they are covered in eyes, and he records their words of praise in verse 8. Before recording their praises, though, John explains what they look like. One looks like a lion, one looks like a calf, one looks like a man, and one looks like an eagle. They are not these things; they resemble these things. John also explains that they all have six wings.

The prophet Ezekiel helps to explain the image John is seeing:

The form of four living creatures came from it. And this was their appearance: They had human form, but each of them had four faces and four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the hooves of a calf, sparkling like the gleam of polished bronze.  ⌊They had⌋ human hands under their wings on their four sides. All four of them had faces and wings. Their wings were touching. The creatures did not turn as they moved; each one went straight ahead.  The form of ⌊each of⌋ their faces was that of a man, and each of the four had the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle. ⌊That is what⌋ their faces ⌊were like⌋. Their wings were spread upward; each had two ⌊wings⌋ touching that of another and two wings covering its body.

Ezekiel 1:5-11

But remember what John said: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings.” This statement should cause bells to go off in our minds. We have seen these before in the Bible. Creatures covered in eyes and six wings. Isaiah 6:2-3 says,

Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.

We need not get too worried about the fact that Ezekiel describes them as having four wings, and Isaiah and John both describe them as having six wings. Since Isaiah tells us that “with two he covered his face,” and since Ezekiel describes their faces in detail, perhaps Ezekiel didn’t notice those two wings.

But the simple fact of the matter is that these are glorious creatures. And John has spent some time describing them. The One on the throne received the following description in verse 3:
“looked like jasper and carnelian stone.”
These creatures got a cryptic two and a half verses. The point is that if we think these creatures are majestic, they serve Someone even more majestic!

John describes the sounds of the throne room in verses 8b-11.

Day and night they never stop, saying:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say:
Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.

These majestic creatures praise Someone even more majestic. The One seated on the throne is so majestic that John’s words fail him entirely. So instead, he quotes some other majestic creatures’ praise of that One to get across a glimpse of just how majestic our God is. And when these fantastic creatures praise God, the whole throne room breaks out in praise!

Let’s first look at the four creatures’ praise:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.

God is three times holy. In the ancient world, this is equivalent to bold, italics, underline. If God is anything, He is holy. His holiness is another reason why i am inclined to believe that the “sea of glass” is showing His separateness. Holiness–more than moral purity–means separate. There is moral purity involved, but if all we think of when we think of holy is “sexually pure,” then we are misunderstanding holiness.

The four creatures also explain that God is eternal.And when they specify that He “is coming,” i think they are speaking for the whole created order much like Paul describes in Romans 8:19. God will restore the world. The restoration of the world is one of the main points of the book of Revelation.

Now let’s look at what the elders are led to say in praise of God:

Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.

God is the creator. As such, He owns everything, and everything is His to do with as He pleases. This is good news. It is also comforting to know that God is good and not a tyrant. If He were a tyrant, then He would act wickedly with His power. But He is good (Psalm 34:1).

The goodness of God is a helpful thought to have in mind as we move forward in Revelation. Even though everything gets crazy, and everything looks out of control, God is in control, and nothing exists or happens outside of His will.

This is the God we worship as Christians. His majesty is indescribable. And He is holy. Revelation is the story of restoring the world to its state before Adam and Eve sinned. It is God judging and destroying evil and wickedness.

The end of evil and wickedness is something we all desire, right? We want pain and death to be gone forever. We are sick of losing people to death’s clutches.

But if we are honest, we know that if God is going to do away with evil, then He will have to do away with you and me. We are wicked. We do evil things. God can’t be in the presence of sin, so He can’t be in our presence.

But this is why Jesus is so amazing. He was fully God and truly man. As God, He could live without sin in this world, and as man He could represent us. As God He could take the wrath of God for sin on the cross and not be destroyed. His human life was killed on the cross, but He rose from the dead three days later to show that death had been defeated.

We must believe this to be made right with God. Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus rose again. And Jesus is coming again. Have you believed?

You will have to stand in the presence of this gloriously majestic God. I pray that you are reconciled to Him by the blood of Jesus before that day. Believe today!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

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