Now we see the part of the scene where the saints of God join in the worship that is first led by the angels. Our text says this: “And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne….” We see then the role of the cherubim. They are directors of worship. The position and purpose of their creation was to direct all to God’s glory. In this light we see the grand sin of Lucifer who was the anointed cherub. Instead of directing mankind, which seemed to be His chief end in the garden before he fell (see Eze. 28), to worship their God he directed them to worship himself. He showed that again in the desert with Christ and will yet show it in the man of sin we will later study in this book. He removed himself from his grand purpose of directing people to glorify God.
In one sense we have a partial fulfillment of the words of Christ who said that we shall be as the angels in heaven in our resurrection. We get to join them in their praise and glorying of God. They here seem to be taking the lead in the form of teaching; we will learn of them and the first acts of worship in heaven that we will do will be a mimic of them. They will in the fifth chapter even lead the saints in singing about the redemption of the saints which the angels know nothing and desire to look into. Jamieson, et al. stated this: “The four living creatures take the lead of the twenty-four elders, both in this anthem, and in that new song which follows on the ground of their redemption (Revelation 5:8-10).” The point is that they will be ministers to us in a higher dimension of worship then we have ever experienced here in our limited dimensions on earth. What an exciting idea that we will get to worship with the angels as our leaders: “Lord, lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table land; a higher plain than I have found; Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” Ultimately we will go beyond the angels because Christ did not take upon Himself the nature of angels but the seed of Abraham. God through Christ will forever be bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. We are one flesh with Christ; we are married to Him which is not so with the angels. That, though, does not bar the angels from teaching us a thing or two about worship.
They will lead us in three distinct areas: in giving glory, in giving honor, and in giving thanks to God. They will be ultimately directing us toward the person of God, who is living forever and ever. The ultimate goal is for us to know the living God. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God” (Ps. 42:2)? “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2). They are directing us to our grand end, the God who is life and is the very source of our life and consciousness. “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Ps. 18:46). To this the angels teach to give God the glory. The term glory as it pertains to objects concerns its illumination or light. We speak of the glory of stars and the glory of the moon. Give glory to God. Let whatever is in you pour forth unto God. Consider the moon which has a gory that is given to it by the sun. God is the living one and in Him alone we have life, both physical and spiritual, therefore to give glory to Him is to pour out that light which He reflects off us. To give glory in the least sense is to exult or extol with joy. The angels will lead us in that. They will also lead us in giving honor unto God. To give glory is the natural reaction of one that has received something from God. To give honor is a matter of duty due to our relationship with God. We honor our fathers because they are our fathers. Because of who they are in relationship to us they deserve our reverence and respect. The angels have spent the duration of their existence giving honor to God because of who He is. They will teach us that as well. They will also lead us in giving thanks to God. To glory is the natural reaction of one that has received something and honor is the duty of relationship. To give thanks is a free act of the will in return for favor. The world is not thankful for what God has done for them. People can do things for us and it takes consideration on our part to acknowledge what they have done. The angels will lead and teach us how to acknowledge God.
So, the glorified saints follow the angels in worship. “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne….” The Geneva Bible contained this note: “Three signs of divine honour given to God, prostration or falling down, adoration and casting their crowns before God: in which the godly, though made kings by Christ, willingly empty themselves of all glory, moved with a religious respect for the majesty of God.” They glorify God in their posture, in their praise, and in their pondering. They fell down before the throne of the living God. It was custom in ancient culture to never sit higher than the sovereign; such etiquette is still alive today. In the face of God, the glorified saints wanted to take the lowest seats at the feast and as we shall see they will soon be invited to go higher. They saw who God was and they heard the angels direct their worship and their first act was to fall to the ground. This was the reaction of all the saints when they saw God; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc. The proud Pharisee stands in the temple in the sight of God and prays with himself. The justified saint stands outside the temple and will not even lift his eyes toward heaven. Pride stands before God and finds itself in opposition to God; what a terrible fate. Humility falls before God and finds itself exulted by God. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. After they humble themselves in prostration they honor God with praise. They glorify God. They completely directed all their joy and adoration towards God. They held nothing back from God which is the essence of worship. Finally, they honored God in their pondering. They considered God more than their reward. They cast off their crowns. They presented back what they won through Christ for they saw that it was won only through God. It is a glory to think that whatever we gain for Christ we will have a chance to glorify God by offering it up to Him. “Whatever survives the fire will be turned into a crown and then I will bow before you and gladly lay it down.”
Then we see the song that they are led to sing. “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 is a song for a Creator and it comes before our song for the Redeemer in the fifth chapter. As Creator we will worship the glory of transcendent deity but in redemption we will glory in immanent fellowship with that deity. As we move through the pattern of things in heaven we approach closer and closer in our fellowship with God ending at the mercy seat which is Jesus Christ. The song reaches its crescendo at redemption but this song has the sweetest strains of honor toward that God that created all and sent Christ to save.
The song to the Creator goes as follows. It sings of the worthiness of God. When we sing that God is worthy we are giving a description of what God by His nature is. God is love. God is Holy. God is worthy. God alone is of true worth; He is the gold standard which all other things receive their worth. When the printed paper has no gold behind it, it is worthless of no value. Without God we have found that humanity and all of creation is without purpose or value. He alone is of true worth and what worth we have is found in that we are printed in His image. The worth of creation is that it was produced by the Creator and bears His signature. We may well add our passionate “O Lord” to the precious phrase “thou art worthy.” To those who believe God is indeed precious; He has intrinsic value.
Because God is worthy, it demands a response from us. He is worthy to receive what we have. Christ once was asked if we should give our tribute to Caesar. He asked whose image the tribute money bore. He then stated that we should render to Caesar that which bears Caesars image and that we should render to God the things that belong to God. Whatever glory we have is reflected glory that came from God. Our life bears the image of God and all of our life belongs to Him. He is worthy to receive all of glory. He is worthy to receive all of honor. Henry said this: “Observe, (1.) They do not say, We give thee glory, and honour, and power; for what can any creature pretend to give unto God? But they say, thou art worthy to receive glory. (2.) In this they tacitly acknowledge that God is exalted far above all blessing and praise. He was worthy to receive glory, but they were not worthy to praise, nor able to do it according to his infinite excellences.” “Were the whole realm of nature mine; that were a present far too small. Love so amazing so divine; demands my soul, my life, my all.” I am glad we have the pleasure even now in our weakness to give Him all the glory, honor, and power that we have; to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and body.
Finally, we see the grand reason for the worthiness of God; He created all things that are and were solely for His pleasure. There are some that see this verse and wish to translate this verse as saying that God created by His pleasure or rather by His will. I believe that you miss the grand point to translate the verse like that but there is a truth there. God by a pure act of His own free will brought everything that exists outside of Himself into being. That is worth. Gill said that “God is the first cause, and the last end of all things; by his power they are made, and according to his will, and for his own glory, and therefore is worthy of such a doxology….” There was no need for God to create; He was free to create. Men foolishly believe that God had to, of necessity, create in order to actualize Himself. He did not need to create but He created because it pleased Him to do so. “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Ps. 135:6). Jamieson, et al., “With God to will is to effect: to determine is to perform. So in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light, and there was light”: in Hebrew an expressive tautology, the same word and tense and letters being used for “let there be,” and “there was,” marking the simultaneity and identity of the will and the effect.” Imagine for a second the power and awesomeness of God. He simply willed, He simply spoke and that which was not was. He brought the universe out of nothing by His power and for no other reason than it pleased Him to do so. The verse reads in the emphatic since. It will be an amazement when we stand in the presence of the God of Creation. The verse in the emphatic sense captures the emotion of this song. “It is THOU who didst create.” But, to say that pleasure and will are synonymous misses the point. The fact is this: all things were created by God and for God. We are not independent but dependent on God. Henry rightly stated that “All beings but God are dependent upon the will and power of God, and no dependent being must be set up as an object of religious worship. It is the part of the best dependent beings to be worshippers, not to be worshipped.” God should be worshipped for He alone created. In Him we live and move and have our being. And the purpose for all is to please God. Again, Henry stated that “As God made all things at his pleasure, so he made them for his pleasure, to deal with them as he pleases and to glorify himself by them one way or other. Though he delights not in the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn and live, yet he hath made all things for himself, Prov. 16:4.”
The grand reason for our existence is for God’s pleasure. Therefore we must ask ourselves the question: Are we pleasing to God? Just living, breathing, and taking up space is not pleasing to God and God does not take pleasure in wickedness (Ps. 5:4). But, it is pleasing to God for us to live in His presence and to share His joy (Ps. 16:11). If you want to know what is pleasing to God we must search the Word of God and live by it. The Bible tells us emphatically that they who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). That leaves us all out. If we are to please Him we must do it through the merit of another. We cannot please God outside of Christ. The sacrifice of Christ alone pleased God (Isa. 53:10). God the Father announced time and time again in the gospels that He was well pleased with Christ (Matt. 3:17). Further than that, we can add other things that are pleasing to God. It is pleasing to God for us to sing praises and offer up thanksgiving to God (Ps. 69:30, 31). It pleases God for us to preach the gospel of Christ (I Cor. 1:21). It pleases God for us to be part of the church and to serve therein (I Cor. 12:18). It pleases God for us not to be entangled in the affairs of this life (II Tim. 2:4). It pleases God for us as Enoch to walk daily with Him (Heb. 11:5). It also pleases God for us to give of our substance to others who have need (Heb. 13:6). If you and I search the Scriptures we can find other things as well that will help us to live up to the purpose God created us to perform.