“THE THINGS WHICH WILL TAKE PLACE AFTER THIS”
THE PROGRAM OF CHRIST - Revelation 4-22
“THE PICTURE OF HEAVEN” - Revelation 4
We have now seen a vision of the glorified Jesus Christ (Revelation 1), church history (Revelation 2-3), and why and how the church will be removed from planet earth to heaven before the Seven Year Tribulation, (the Rapture - Revelation 4:1). In Revelation 4 we pass through the door which separates the realm of God from the realm of humanity. From this point on the perspective if from another dimension. At this point in our study a picture of heaven will be painted for us through the eyes of the apostle John. So magnificent is heaven and the dimension of God that if we were not given our heavenly bodies we would not be able to withstand it. That is why Paul indicates we will receive eternal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Without new bodies suited for heaven the sounds of heaven would be too much for our ears, the brightness and colors too much for our eyes, the environment too much for earthly bodies.
As we journey to heaven in our study, Mark Twain’s well-known quote regarding people who are “So heavenly minded they are no earthly good” may cross your mind. But Mark Twain was not a bulwark of Christian character if he was a Christian at all. Dwelling on heaven is never a bad thing. In fact, the Bible instructs us to keep our focus on heaven. A picture of heaven should be a great incentive for us to press on. Heaven is our final destination. Heaven is a great blessing for us to focus on with great expectations. Paul instructed the Colossians to do just that, focus on heaven:
- Colossians 3:1-3 - “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Heaven is a place you should want to know about. Unfortunately, much of the Church has ignored heaven and what it’s like portraying it as a vast enigmatic mystery. But the Bible tells us a great deal about heaven. When you know what heaven is like it will become a place you can’t wait to get to. Heaven is where we will spend eternity. Christians aren’t so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Christians are usually so earthly minded they have become useless for earth and heaven.
It should also be remembered that when John received this revelation it was a time of great persecution for the churches of his day. What a glorious and encouraging thing it must have been for John share this revelation of heaven and the consummation of all things.
Heaven is an incredible place and beginning in Revelation 4 we are given a Picture of Heaven. This picture of heaven will only bless us (Revelation 1:3). This picture can be divided into 10 parts:
- The Prophetic Pathway to Heaven – 4:1
- The Purging of the Flesh in Heaven – 4:1b
- The Prominence of the Throne in Heaven- 4:2
- The Person on the Throne in Heaven - 4:3a
- The Proclamation above the Throne in Heaven - 4:3b
- The Persons around the Throne in Heaven - 4:4
- The Proceedings from the Throne in Heaven- 4:5a
- The Peace before the Throne in Heaven - 4:6a
- The Program is Worship in Heaven- 4:6b-10
- The Purposeful Song in Heaven- 4:11
Before we look at this ten-part Picture of Heaven we need to consider some misconceptions about heaven and what happens at the point of death.
The Right Perspective on Heaven
When we study the Bible, we should see ourselves as a detective. We are investigating. Not so much the scene of a crime, (though God has revealed crimes of sin in His revelation history) but more a treasure map. It’s not that God hides treasures from us, it’s that He walks us through and helps us discover truths and profound treasures that we, because of sin, spiritual dullness or spiritual immaturity, aren’t able to readily see. The Holy Spirit comes to open our spiritual eyes to see wonderful things from God’s word. We should be praying, “Open my eyes, that I may see, wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18). We walk through the pages of the Bible prayerfully making observations, listening to the Holy Spirit who will help us to ask the right questions, and following His lead in collecting evidence which will help us answer those heaven-sent questions. This is the attitude to help us see what we need to see and acquire the right perspective on this life, as well as the next.
When we look at the evidence in the Bible, we see heaven is an actual place that people are often ignorant of which adds to the pain of grieving (i.e. 1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Apostle Paul was given a glimpse of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-7) which caused him to later comment about him, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). When you know about heaven and what God has planned for those who love Him, you’ll be eager to leave this earthly existence and get on with your eternal life.
God by the Holy Spirit, has revealed details about heaven to us:
1 Corinthians 2:9–14 (NKJV)
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Some people stop at the “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” and assert that we can’t know about heaven. But if you look further and the context of the passage it states exactly the opposite to that assertion. It actually states that “God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” The Bible, the God-breathed revelation of God’s truth (i.e. 2 Timothy 3:16-17), does provide us with information about heaven, the place God has prepared for those who love Him.
So, what can we glean from God’s word about heaven? Let’s look at some of the evidence God has provided in His word about heaven.
First, the present heaven is an intermediate state; presently temporal but will be made eternal. I want to begin here by making what you might receive as a bold statement about the present heaven. The present heaven, is a temporary intermediate state. I say this based on the scripture in Revelation which states, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1a). If the present heaven (and earth) will at some point pass away, that means they are not permanent but temporary. The present heaven is a glorious place, but it is only a transitional intermediate place until it is replaced by a permanent eternal heaven.
Second, we go to heaven at the point of the Rapture or at death. We have already gone in to great detail about how born again of the Spirit Christians will go to be with Jesus at the Rapture of the Church. The other way a person goes to be with Jesus is at their death. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The moment a person breathes their last breath, their heart stops beating, and their brain functions stop, at that moment they go immediately into the presence of Jesus.
Third, only those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit go to heaven. Jesus said it quite clearly, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3; see context of John 3:1-21). This is the good news of the Gospel: that as a gift of God’s grace (e.g. Ephesians 2:1-9; Titus 3:4-7) through faith in Christ (e.g. Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9) our sins (which separate us from God - e.g. Isiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18; Habakkuk 1:13) can be forgiven (e.g. Acts 13:23-41; 26:13-18; Ephesians 1:3-8; Colossians 1:13-14) which results in us being spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14).
Fourth, this intermediate state is a place composed of hell as well as heaven. We see this in Jesus account of the rich man and Lazarus where the rich man is in a place of torment and Lazarus in a place of comforting (Luke 16:22-24). This “hell” is also temporary in that at the culmination of all things it will be throne into the Lake of Fire, not a place of annihilation, but a place of eternal torment (Revelation 20:11-15).
Fifth, Jesus referred to the intermediate present heaven as “paradise.” Jesus told the thief on the cross who put his faith in Him, “Assuredly, I say to you, to day you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This further testifies to the fact that when we die we go instantly to be with Jesus. But it also describes this intermediate state as “paradise” (Greek paradeisos). This is the place the Apostle Paul was caught up to (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paradeisos is a Greek word that was borrowed from the Persian language. It is a word used to describe a walled garden or a king’s garden. The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses paradeisos to describe: the Garden of Eden – Genesis 2:8; in Nehemiah 2:8 to describe the forests of a king; In Ecclesiastes 2:5 it is used to describe the garden of Solomon filled with orchards; in Numbers 24:6 to describe a garden by a river; in Isaiah 1:30 and Jeremiah 29:5 as a garden; and in Ezekiel 31:8 and 9 it is used to describe “the garden of God.” The idea is a place of fruitfulness, beauty, peace and solitude. Paradise is a place where we can rest and heal from the trials of this life. Paradise is a good place. It is the place that Paul was taken to and that made him yearn to return to (compare 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Philippians 1:23).
Paul said “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). That should be out attitude. While we are living our earthly existence, we should live it all out for Jesus. This life is hard work and trials at times, but what gets us through is the hope we have to “gain” paradise when we die. Live for Christ now. Die for Christ eventually. Spend eternity with Jesus later. That is a good way to live.
Sixth, life after death is a conscious state. When Jesus described the existence of the rich man and Lazarus in the afterlife, He described them as being in a conscious state (Luke 16:19-31). The teaching of “soul sleep” is not supported by scripture. The Bible only speaks of the death of people in terms of “sleep” as a euphemism to describe the state of their dead body which will be resurrected later. When we die, whether we go to heaven or hell, we will be conscious. In support of this is the fact that every reference in Revelation to people who have died and are in heaven is one of their being conscious. In Revelation it describes people in the following way:
- Revelation 6:9–11 (NKJV) - 9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
From this description we learn the following:
- “Who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” - Those in heaven are associated with their lives on earth.
- “And they cried with a loud voice” – They are able to express themselves audibly. They can communicate. They have emotions as indicated by their raising their voices loudly.
- “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on thos who dwell on the earth?” – From these words we can deduce the following:
- They are rational in that they ask God a question.
- They remember and are aware of what went on during their time on earth. Just as the rich man is expected to remember how he lived on earth (Luke 16:25), so are these martyrs.
- They are aware of what is happening on earth. They know God has yet to avenge them. Later the heavenly inhabitants shout praises to God for His judgment on earth (Revelation 18:20; 19:1-2). There is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents which indicates they know something about people getting saved (Luke 15:10).
- They have an audience with God where they can ask Him questions.
- That they ask a question indicates they need to learn.
- Randy Alcon in his book Everything you always wanted to know about heaven” states, “In heaven, people desire understanding and pursue it. There is also time in the present heaven. People are aware of time’s passing and are eager for the coming day of the Lord’s judgment. God answers that they must ‘rest a little longer.’ Waiting requires the passing of time. I see no reason to believe that the realities of this passage apply only to one group of martyrs and to no one else in Heaven. We should assume that what is true of them is also true of our loves ones already there and it will be true of us when we die.” 
- This shouted question seems to indicate that those in heaven are interceding or even praying on behalf of those who remain on the earth. Prayer doesn’t stop in heaven! In fact, prayer is enhanced and more vital than ever in the presence of the Lord.
- “Then a white robe was given to each of them” – Those martyred for their faith are given white robes. This indicates a special status for those who were martyred for their faith. It implies they are in a tangible state with tangible clothing. Jesus is aware of what we do on earth, especially the ministry we are involved in (Revelation 3:15). There is evidence that God keeps an account of what people do on earth, even their words! (cf. Matthew 6:19-21; 12:36; Revelation 14:13).
- “until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” – Indicates that God has a specific number and limit to how many will be martyred for their faith. God always acts in an orderly way.
Seventh, will our knowledge of what is happening on earth diminish heaven in some way? In our intermediate state we will be aware of the truth and fulfillment of God’s word which reveals the final outcome and victory of God. There will be concern in heaven for those who remain on the earth. But there will be rejoicing as we see God’s plans come to be (i.e. Revelation 12:10-12). There will be tremendous regret for those in hell who remember the many gracious opportunities to repent and turn to Jesus that they ignored (e.g. Luke 16:24-25). Jesus identified with His persecuted Church (Acts 9:4-5). He likely felt sorrow for those being persecuted for His name. Therefore, in this intermediate state of heaven, we too may feel a degree of sorrow. There will be happiness and joy in the intermediate present heaven, but it won’t be based on ignorance, it will be based on perspective.
But in the New Heaven and New Earth there will be no more reason for sadness. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Eighth, life after death appears to be a physical or tangible place. When Jesus was resurrected He had a tangible resurrection body as opposed to being in a ghostly state (John 20:19-31). Jesus did not appear as a ghost as some cults teach (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses) and those who hold to a dualistic world view. In the Book of Revelation those depicted in heaven are seen by John (e.g. Revelation 7:9). Angels are seen by John in heaven (e.g. Revelation 8:6). John even sees animals in heaven such as an eagle flying (e.g. Revelation 8:13). In Hebrews it states that the Old Testament system of worship with its Tabernacle/Temple was a model of the real heavenly objects (e.g. Hebrews 8:3-6). God’s inspired word speaks of a literal Mount Zion and “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (e.g. Hebrews 12:22). Jesus promised to give “fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God” to those who victorious in this life (Revelation 2:7).
Ninth, there is evidence that we will have physical-types of bodies in heaven. God and angels are spirits (John 4:23-24; Hebrews 1:14). However, human beings were created by God as a physical body that God breathed into (Genesis 2:7). Our created physical body is part of what distinguishes us from angelic beings. Therefore, it isn’t farfetched to think that in some way our heavenly bodies will include a physical aspect in some way. Lazarus had a finger that the rich man asked to dip in water (Luke 16:24). John was instructed to eat a scroll that would taste like honey in his stomach (Revelation 10:9-10). If John had a physical body when he visited heaven, it just might mean that those in heaven have tangible bodies of some kind. If Jesus resurrection body appeared to be physical, might not ours also be physical in some way? Enoch (Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12) were physically taken up to heaven. It’s true that we will receive our heavenly bodies at the return of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). However, even if the bodies we receive upon death are temporary transitional bodies, there is evidence they will in some way be physical or tangible.
Tenth, there is an initial judgment at death. In Hebrews it states, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). At death there is an initial judgement as to weather one goes to heaven or hell (intermediate). This will be a judgment as to weather we have been saved from our sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). If we have received Jesus by faith as our Savior (been born again spiritually – John 3) then God will see the righteousness of Jesus put to our account when He looks on us at this initial judgment (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who are “in Christ” will go to heaven. If we have not been born again through faith in Jesus we will be put in hell. Both heaven and hell are “everlasting.” Jesus said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The same word (Greek aionios) is used to translate “everlasting” and “eternal” in this verse.
Born again Christians need not fear this initial judgment. They are righteous by virtue of their security found in Jesus (1 John 5:13). God’s perfect love in us casts out any fear of this judgment (1 John 4:17-18). The unrighteous have no such confidence. They will tremble at this initial judgment when it is determined they did not trust Christ as Savior.
There is a judgment that Christians will experience. It is “the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This is a judgment where Jesus will judge our works. We will be given rewards based on the way we lived our lives in Christ.
There are differing views of when the Judgement Seat of Christ for believers will take place. Henry Morris indicates:
“This judgment must have been completed prior to the millennium because the believers will by then have been arrayed in white garments representing the ‘righteous acts’ of the saints and given thrones of judgment reserved for ‘over-comers’ during the millennium (Revelation 19:8; 20:40).” 
If Morris is correct, the judgement of Jesus may be to give authority to His followers in His Kingdom based on how they lived their lives for Him on earth prior to the Millennium. We can’t be dogmatic on this point. The thing to remember is that the Judgment Seat of Christ is not about our salvation which is secure in Him. It is about rewards He will give us for serving Him faithful now in this life before His return.
When we die we will be present with the Lord and we will be with the Lord forever. The intermediate state of paradise is not forever. It will be renewed or regenerated by the Lord and replaced by a New Heaven and a New Earth. It is in this New place that we will be forever with the Lord. In this New place God comes down to live with us! John is inspired to reveal later in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). It will be the most glorious of all glories for us when we see this come to pass. To that we can only say, Maranatha! “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b).
So, let’s begin our journey to heaven. Let’s get familiar with what to expect when we get to heaven.
The Prophetic Pathway to Heaven
Revelation 4:1 - “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
To review we see from this verse that The Rapture (cf. also Revelation 3:10 and 20) is the means by which we are ushered into heaven. This will be a prophetic fulfillment of God’s promise of a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). It will fulfill God’s promise to save us from “the wrath to come” (e.g. Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
The trumpeting voice described here has been used to describe the voice of Jesus earlier in Revelation (1:10) and coincides with “the trumpet of God” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 which describes the Rapture. This trumpet is to be distinguished from subsequent trumpets such as that sounded by an angel in Revelation 11:15 announcing the beginning of the reign of Christ in His kingdom on earth and in Matthew 24:31 where the trumpet of an angel announces the 2nd Coming of Christ to the earth. Trumpets were used in Biblical times to announce movements or happenings or pronouncements. To sound a trumpet meant that one should pay attention and be ready and alert to take action.
We have previously stated that the repetition of the phrase “After these things,” (Greek meta tauta) indicates we are entering the third and final section of the book of Revelation. This is based on comparing the occurrence of meta tauta in Revelation 1:19 and the two-time occurrence of the phrase in 4:1. Therefore, we are leaving the church age on earth and proceeding to a different phase of God’s program, in particular for the church in heaven and for the Christ-rejecting world on earth.
The Purging of the Flesh in Heaven
Revelation 4:2a - “Immediately I was in the Spirit;”
“Immediately I was in the Spirit” can be seen over against being in the flesh. In heaven, unless we have experienced the change from earthly to a heavenly body we would melt before God in His heavenly presence (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Job in his limited perspective spoke of seeing God “in my flesh” (Job 19:26). But this was more an expression of his faith than an actual statement that he would see God in his physical form. Jesus said that the pure in heart would see God” (Matthew 5:8). But here to “see” God (Greek optanomai) means more to see God as He ought to be seen. Holy living leads to spiritual insight and intimacy with Holy God. Living in evil prevents us from seeing God (3 John 11).
In John’s gospel he is inspired to write, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). John reiterates this in his first epistle (1 John 4:12). Here John is “in the Spirit,” brought to heaven and enabled to view its surroundings. Heaven will be a place where we are perpetually “in the Spirit” and therefore, given the capacity to understand and know God in incredibly eternal ways.
What a glorious experience it will be for us when as part of our being prepared for heaven we are purged of our fleshly natures. The purging of our fleshly natures is a process begun at the point of salvation and progresses during our walk with the Lord on earth but is completed in heaven:
- Romans 8:29-30 - “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Emphasis added.)
For those who want to see God and know Him better, all we can say to such a prospect is, “Can’t wait!”
The Prominence of the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:2b - “. . . and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”
The term “throne” occurs 33 times in the book of Revelation (1:4; 2:13; 3:21; 4:2,3,4,5,6,9,10; 5:1,6,7,11, 13; 6:16; 7:9;10,11,15,17; 8:3; 12:5; 13:2; 14:3,5; 16:10,17; 19:4,5; 20:11; 21:5; 22:1,3). Of the 33 occurrences in Revelation, “throne” occurs 7 times in Revelation 4 and 5 times in each Revelation 5 and 7. What does this tell us? It tells us that the throne was the first thing to catch John’s eye. The throne of God is central and prominent in heaven. It is the thing which stood out more to John upon entering heaven. The throne of God speaks to us of His sovereignty, command, and Lordship.
Jeremiah the Old Testament prophet spoke of the heavenly dwelling we have to look forward to when he wrote:
- Jeremiah 17:12 - “A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.”
God’s throne in heaven is prominent in heaven; it is solid and steadfast; eternal. It is not shallow and temporal like the governmental often idolatrous thrones of the world that promise much and deliver little.
It is at the throne of God that He dispenses His grace. The Bible states, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Because of Jesus we can “boldly” (Greek parrhēsia) or with “outspokenness, frankness, unreservedness in speech, plainness; freely, openly publicly; courage, assurance, boldness, fearlessness.”  It would be a gross misinterpretation to understand this in a way that led to irreverence at the throne of God. The idea here is humble confidence. The privilege that we have in Christ to approach God’s throne for grace should be one without fear, but with reverence, as to a beloved son or daughter approaching their Father Sovereign. We can approach God’s throne in a spirit of worship and thanks for His provision in Jesus to do so.
The Person on the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:3a - “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance;”
The details provided here speak to us about the nature of the One sitting on the throne.
The colors seen. It is interesting that second only to the prominence of the throne in it’s impression on John were the colors in this heavenly scene.
Pure light like a sparkling diamond. The “Jasper” stone is clear like a sparkling diamond. The Bible describes God in terms of “light”:
- John 8:12 - “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
- 1 John 1:5 - “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
The “light” of God refers to His purity and holiness. So great is He who sits on the throne that John can only describe Him with references to the most precious of stones and colors.
Red like blood. The “Sardius” stone is ruby red or red like blood. Here, therefore, we have a picture of the love of God. The Bible describes God as a God of love:
- Romans 5:8 - “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- 1 John 4:8,16 - “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
These details tell us thus far that on the throne sits One whose nature is Holy Love.
Who is on the throne? This is an interesting question. We are given some clues. In Exodus we find that that the stones mentioned in Revelation 4 to describe the One sitting on the throne are also mentioned in the Old Testament description of the breastplate of the High Priest.
- Exodus 28:1-2,15-21 - “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.2 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.15 “You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it.16 “It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width.17 “And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row;18 “the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond;19 “the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst;20 “and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings.21 “And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.” (Emphasis added.)
The stones on the breastplate corresponded to the 12 tribes of Israel. In the lists of the tribes in the Old Testament, Ruben is always listed first and Benjamin is always listed last. This is because Ruben was the firstborn and Benjamin was the last born of the sons of Jacob. The sardius and jasper stones represent the first and the last of the tribes on the Breastplate, that is Ruben and Benjamin.
In the names of the two tribes represented by the stones is a clue to Who it is that is sitting on the throne. The name “Ruben” means literally “behold a son.” The name “Benjamin” means literally “son of my right hand.”
We have already seen in our study that Jesus is the First and the Last (Revelation 1:17-18). But in the Old Testament Isiah is inspired by God to refer to Him in the following way: “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). Since in Revelation 5 Jesus the Lamb takes the scroll from the One on the throne, it seems more congruous to see God the Father on the throne at this point. But John is not moved by the Spirit to definitely identify Who is on the throne. Perhaps it would be best for us to leave the identity of the One on the throne as it is left by John, undetermined. All we can say is that this is God’s throne. We will have to wait until we are there to get a clearer picture of Who it is on that throne.
The choice of stones in Revelation 4:3 and their Biblical association with tribes of Israel whose names refer to sonship, and the connection to the first and the last, should be seen as a unifying redemptive nature of the Father and the Son Jesus. The stones of the throne are symbols of the saving nature of the One True Triune God. Jesus is the One who fulfills what is symbolized by the throne. The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals such truth to humanity.
The Proclamation Above the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:3b - “. . . and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.”
An emerald would tend to be green in color. The “rainbow” in scripture is a symbol of God’s grace. We see this in the following references:
- Genesis 6:8; 9:13-17 - “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.14 “It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;15 “and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.16 “The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
The throne of God in heaven is not surrounded by warning lights to keep people away but has a symbol of God’s grace which welcomes and invites people to come closer.
That God is gracious is evidenced in the following references:
- Romans 5:20 - “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,”
- Ephesians 2:8-10 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
- Titus 2:11-14 - “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
- Titus 3:3-8 - “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
- Hebrews 4:16 - “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- 2 Peter 3:18 - “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
If it weren’t for God’s grace to us lost sinners, there would be no hope of approaching His throne let alone spending eternity with Him. We should perpetually be thanking God for His grace.
The Persons around the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:4 - “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.”
Who are the 24 Elders? For a number of reasons which we will list, the “elders” mentioned here seem to represent the Church in heaven.
“Elder” (Greek presbyteros) is a term used in regard to the Church and its leadership:
- 1 Timothy 5:17 - “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”
- Titus 1:5 - “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—"
That there are “twenty-four elders” may refer to the Church being comprised of Old and New Testament saints: 12 Apostles (Matthew 19:28) and 12 Patriarchs.
In 1 Chronicles 24 David divided the priesthood into 24 parts (1 Chronicles 24:4-5). Peter refers to the Church as a priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:5). Therefore, this may refer to the Church in terms of it’s priesthood role.
Model servants. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray that just as God’s will is done in heaven it should be done on earth. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). How is God’s will done in heaven? In the book of Revelation, we see the will of God being done by the elders who act as servants of God and representative examples to us.
What do the elders model for us?
1.) They sit in the presence of God:
- Revelation 4:4 - “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.”
The elders stay in the presence of God so as to get their directions from Him. They value and respect God’s presence. They would rather be in the presence of God than in the presence of anyone else.
2.) They are worshipers of God:
- Revelation 4:10 - “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne,”
- Revelation 5:8,14 - “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.”
- Revelation 7:11 - “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,”
- Revelation 11:16 - “And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God,”
The elders model a heart to worship God. They were always ready to worship God. They knew that whatever crown they had attained was attained because of the enabling of God almighty (Zechariah 4:6).
3.) They direct others to Jesus:
- Revelation 5:5-6 - “But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
The elders were ready and alert to the needs of those around them and knew that the answer to any issue was to direct the person to Jesus.
4.) They facilitate spiritual learning about God:
- Revelation 7:13 - “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”
The elders took the initiate to ask spiritual provoking questions that would get a person to consider their spiritual state.
5.) They sing a new song to God:
- Revelation 14:3 - “They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”
The elders had a song on their hearts and in their hearts that they sang before the God of heaven. There was a joy about them because of what God had done in them.
The Proceedings from the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:5 - “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.” Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
A Storm of judgment and justice was about to be released from the throne of God and be poured out upon a sinful world. Great and marvelous will be that which God does on the earth very soon:
- Revelation 15:3-4 - “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: 1 “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! 4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”
We also see the fullness of the presence of the Holy Spirit here. As before, the phrase “seven Spirits of God” refers to Isaiah’s sevenfold nature of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2. That which God does always happens in the fullness of the Spirit.
The peace before the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:6a - “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.”
There is nothing so peaceful and serene as a sea that is calm like glass. While God’s judgment looms on the horizon, there is peace in heaven before His throne. God is a God of peace and His desire is to bring His children into His peace:
- Romans 15:33; 16:20 - “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
- Philippians 4:9 - “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Hebrews 13:20-21 - “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
The Program is one of Worship before the Throne in Heaven
Revelation 4:6-10 - “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
1 “Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:”
The living creatures described here are cherubim. These creatures are further described in other parts of the Bible. Ezekiel gives us a full picture of these creatures:
- Ezekiel 1:5-14 - “Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings.9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies.12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning.14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.”
- Ezekiel 10:9-16 - “And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone.10 As for their appearance, all four looked alike—as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel.11 When they went, they went toward any of their four directions; they did not turn aside when they went, but followed in the direction the head was facing. They did not turn aside when they went.12 And their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings, and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around.13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing, “Wheel.”14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar.16 When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them.”
That the cherubim traveled straight and did not deviate in direction speaks of their certainty and intelligence, they did not have to change direction because their movements were thought out clearly and well planned. This is because they were apparently directed by the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 1:12; 10:11). They appear to be designed and created to be mobile and able to travel in any direction and any distance. They are otherworldly as their appearance indicates.
What do the Cherubim do? These creatures are mentioned in the earliest portions of scripture. In Genesis it states:
- Genesis 3:22-24 - “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
The cherubim guard the garden of Eden so that the Tree of Life is not eaten of and the sinful state of humankind become eternal. The cherubim are guardians.
- Revelation 4:8 - “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
These living creatures find meaning for their existence by worshipping God.
What do we learn from the cherubim? Images of the cherubim were placed on the mercy seat (Exodus 25:18–22); curtains (Exodus 36:8); and in the Temple (1 Kings 8:6). Why are these creatures so prominently portrayed? What can we learn from them?
1.) “Full of eyes” - 4:6,8. These are creatures of insight, and vision, intelligence. They are not mindless automatons but superior intelligent creatures who willfully praise God. The more you know about the creation of God the more you will be inclined to bow down and worship Him. Some view worship of God as something the mindless do as though one had to check your brain at the door when you come to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. True intelligence leads one to God.
2.) “Living creatures like” - 4:7. These creatures testify to the various aspects of the nature of God. Just as the Holy Spirit revealed Himself at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17) by descending upon Jesus “like a dove,” here we have heavenly creatures depicting the nature of God.
Some commentators have connected the fourfold images of the cherubim with the fourfold representation of Jesus in the Gospels.
Likeness / Symbol
- “a lion” - Matthew – Jesus as King
- “a calf” – Mark – Jesus the Servant
- “a man” – Luke – Jesus’ Humanity as fully God and fully Man.
- “a flying eagle” – John – Jesus the Transcendent Son of God
A cross in the camp. We can go back to the book of Numbers and find the mark of Jesus on God’s people. In Numbers 2 where the configuration of the camp of Israel is laid out, specific instructions are given in regards to the alignment of the tribes in the camp. There’s a reason for this. We mention the encampment of God’s people because the likenesses attributed to the cherubim by John coincide with the symbols on the flags of the encampments for Israel given in Numbers 2. When we look at the order of the encampment of God’s people along with these symbols we start to get the picture. Look at the populations of the tribal camps and their arrangement:
EAST - Camp of Judah / Flag of Lion: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun - 186,400
WEST - Camp of Epraim / Flag of Ox or Calf: Ephraim, Mannessah and Benjamin - 108,000
SOUTH - Camp of Ruben / Flag of a man’s face: Ruben, Simeon and Gad - 151,400
NORTH - Camp of Dan / Flag of an eagle: Dan, Naphtali and Asher - 157,600
The Levites camped on North, East, South and West between the Tabernacle and the people.
When we lay out and view the configuration of this encampment of God’s people and look from heaven to the encampment, what do we see? We see the camp of God’s people form a cross! (see diagram).
It’s interesting to further note that in Numbers 22:41 Balak took Balaam to a high place to pronounce a curse on Israel. As they looked down on the people encamped the shape of the encampment had no significance for Balaam. But it sure speaks to us! In Numbers 23-24 God did not permit Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam could only bless them! Even though he did not know it, the cross was in between Israel and her enemy and protected her from a curse. In the same way when God looks down on us He sees the cross of Christ and does not curse us but only blesses us! In Hebrews it confirms this saying:
- Hebrews 13:12-16 - “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
The content of the worship is praise. Our passage describes:
“And they do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, . . .” - 4:8b-10a
God is so awesome! These intelligent creatures and everyone else in heaven can’t help but worship God. The term “holy” (Greek hagios) means separate, distinct, set aside for God’s uses. In reference to God, when the term “holy” is ascribed to Him it’s as though we are saying, “You are Holy. You are Unique. There is none like You O LORD!”
The attitude of the worship is humility. It continues:
“cast their crowns before the throne” 4:10b
The elders know that whatever accomplishments they have made, all the credit goes to God who has enabled them. The “crowns” referred to here is a translation of the Greek term stephanos. The crowns represent the crown of “victory” such as that won in the Greek games. The elders know that they have been victorious because of what God has done in and through them. They have planted. They have watered. But the increase comes from God Almighty (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:7). They cannot take any glory or any credit for their works. They give all glory to God Almighty. They are a product of God’s gracious provisions. We see this in the following references:
- 1 Corinthians 15:10 - “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
- Philippians 2:13 - “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
There are five crowns mentioned in the Bible:
1.) The Crown of Righteousness -
- 2 Timothy 4:8 - “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
2.) The Crown of Life -
- James 1:12 - “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
3.) The Crown of Glory -
- 1 Peter 5:4 - “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
4.) The Crown of the Joyful Soul Winner -
- 1 Thessalonians 2:19 - “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
5.) The Crown of the Martyr -
- Revelation 2:10 - “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
What crown will you wear in heaven? What crown will you have to cast at the feat of Jesus in worshipful thanks?
The Purposeful Song in Heaven
The New King James translation of this verse is as follows:
Revelation 4:11 - “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.”
I like the King James translation of this verse even better:
Revelation 4:11 - “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” 
This verse answers one of the most important questions of life. Why do we exist? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? These are questions every person asks at some point in their existence. Revelation 4:11 gives us the answer to those questions.
Here the words, “And for Thy pleasure they were created” tells us the purpose of human existence is to please God. It is only as we please God that we will truly experience the blessing and pleasures possible in this life and forever. These are therefore very practical words. If you are depressed and discouraged and want a way out, start living to please God. The best way out of depression for he child of God is to start seeking to please God in some way.
What pleases God? What can we do to bring pleasure to Him? Paul writes to the Ephesians:
- Ephesians 1:3-6 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Emphasis added.)
In this passage we see some awesome things that please God. Notice, God takes pleasure in blessing us! These blessings are numerous.
Look at what pleases God:
- It pleases God to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ - 1:3
- It pleases God to choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world - Ephesians 1:4b
- It pleases God to provide a way for us to be holy and blameless before Him in love - 1:4b
- It pleases God to adopt us as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself - 1:5
- It pleases God to make us acceptable by grace in the beloved Son Jesus - 1:6
All of this tells us that it gives God great pleasure when people receive Jesus as their Savior and become a part of His holy family. If you’re a child of God through faith in Jesus, you’ve already blessed God!
Can we please God? That it is possible for human beings to bring pleasure to God in other ways is shown in Stephen’s sermon in Acts:
- Acts 7:20 - “At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months.”
Paul too speaks of how we can please God:
- Philippians 4:18 - “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
It is possible to please God.
How can we please God? There are a number of things the Bible states we do that please God:
1.) We can please God with right words and right thoughts -
- Psalm 19:14 - “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
2.) We can please God with obedient lives -
- Colossians 3:20 - “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.”
This does not only apply to our children but to us. We are children of God and should obey Him!
- John 14:21 - “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
3.) We can please God with spiritually fruitful lives -
- Colossians 1:9-12 - “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”
4.) We can please God by allowing Him to work in our lives -
- Hebrews 13:20-21 - “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Why is it important to please God? It is important to please God because a person will only find true contentment and fulfillment when they accept the role and purpose for which they were created, to be a pleasure to God. Then and only then will a person find meaning, fulfillment and enjoyment.
Do you live to please God? Does such a thought repel you? Do you think, “I want to please myself”? What does your life demonstrate? Who do you really live to please? Yourself? Others? God? It was a pleasing thing to God to create us. God is love. He created us and desires to have a loving relationship with us. That is what pleases Him. Love is only as real and lasting as it is willing to be hurt. God’s love went all the way for us. Even though we are like a harlot to Him at times (such as described in the book of Hosea). God risks heartbreak so that true love can be manifested. He calls us to have a servant’s heart not so He can have a kingdom of slaves but because a servant’s heart that desires to please others is the fullest attitude of love. Love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:8). I have a license for my wife just as I have a license for my car but I do not see her as I do my car, to simply perform tasks for me. I did not select her as some do in the middle east, with an eye to how strong she is so that she can be put to work and enrich me materially, (e.g. “Ahhhh, good teeth, strong arms, I’ll take her!”). No, my wife is the apple of my eye. I love her and she loves me. Because she loves me and I love her, we do things for each other, we put each other first before ourselves because we love each other. When we serve each other in a non-manipulative and unsolicited way, when we send a love note, or do something special for each other, that demonstrates our love for each other, that brings us pleasure. Do you serve the God of love? Do you love Him? Do you exist to bring Him pleasure? To live to please God is the only way to find fulfillment and it is the purpose for which you were created.
HUMANITIES FULFILLMENT, CONTENTMENT, SATISFACTION, AND SENSE OF MEANING ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH THEY LIVE TO PLEASE GOD.
Worship is the means to please God. Worship is the means by which we please God. Our relationship with God is a loving relationship. We see the essence of this love relationship beautifully depicted in the term “worship.” “Worship” is a translation of the Greek term proskenuo which literally means “to turn and kiss.” Life becomes fulfilling and complete as we “turn to kiss” God in holy loving intimacy. This is why Jesus said the two greatest commandments involved loving:
- Matthew 22:36-40 - “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 “This is the first and great commandment.39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
When we put this together we discover that true worship, worship that is “in the spirit” (John 4:23-4) is really all about expressing our love to God and others in the name of God. Wherever and whenever we act in Christlike love, we are in effect offering worship to God. This worship blesses and pleases God. And because God by nature is Holy Love, we also discover that such love benefits us and others as well. Yes, God is awesome. That which pleases and blesses Him most is that which benefits and blesses all.
Do you have an elder’s attitude of worship? Do you have a song in your heart? If not, why not? Heaven will be a place of worship. When was the last time you sang to the Lord, really sang to Him and Him only? When was the last time you sang in worship at church without being concerned about what those next to you thought about your singing? Be concerned with God. Sing to Him. By the time our song gets to heaven it sounds beautiful to Him. And He really is the only One who matters. All worship, if it is worship, is focused on God, your love relationship with God and pleasing Him. So, worship God. You will be blessed as a result and since we will spend eternity worshipping, we need all the practice we can get!
 Randy Alcorn, Everything you always wanted to know about HEAVEN, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008) p. 23.
 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record, Tyndale House Pub., Inc.: Wheaton, Illinois and Creation-Life Pub., San Diego, CA, 1983, p. 85.
 Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Pi-Rho
The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.