“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they existed and were created.” ~REVELATION 4:11
In chapter four John is treated to a vision of the heavenly throne room. And oh what a sight it is! He sees a throne with someone seated on it with the appearance of a jasper stone or a carnelian. We are to assume this is God of course, and notice that John compares God to nothing human, but rather precious stones for this person beyond comparison. Carnelian had a reddish tint to it which may indicate a fiery appearance.
There’s a rainbow around the throne looking like an emerald. This is a sign of God’s splendor as the rainbow in Ezekiel 1:28 was. It may also signify the mercy of God vis-à-vis the flood promise. As far as having an emerald appearance, that could be a sign of new creation–things are different now.
Around the throne are twenty-four elders who seem to represent all of God’s faithful witnesses, as well as God’s Divine Council which is mentioned several places in Scripture.
Flashes of lighting, rumblings, and thunderclaps are coming from the throne which hearken the reader to the Mount Sinai law-giving event. Yes, this should be somewhat terrifying simply because of who and what we are seeing.
Then seven lamp stands which are the seven spirits of God, burning with fire. Many think this represents the Holy Spirit or possibly the angels of the seven churches from chapters two and three. Fire designates the presence of God–think pillar of fire in the OT.
In front of the throne a sea of glass, like crystal. The sea represented chaos and danger; it’s where the beast comes from and where evil dwells. Perhaps this shows that the chaos and danger have been stilled and quieted before the throne of God..?
Right around the throne are these four living creatures, full of eyes, the first looking like a lion, the second an ox, third a human, and fourth an eagle in flight–each with six wings. These are a combination of creatures we find in Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6. They’re constantly praising God with no rest. These four creatures likely represent all of animate creation doing what they’re made to do.
Then we come to the end of the chapter where the twenty-four elders fall before God and throw down their crowns at the throne–a common Greco-Roman practice of showing obeisance–and they say:
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they existed and were created.
Does it get any more epic than this?!?
This chapter’s last verse has always meant a lot to me. First of all because my dad gave this verse to me to memorize about thirty years go when he was taking me thru a discipleship curriculum. Second, because of how all-encompassing it is, how grand of a summary statement we are given in it.
A couple of notes on the language and style: “Lord and God”–Kyrios kai Theos in Greek–was how the emperor of the time, Domitian, demanded to be addressed. John here is saying, “Look buddy, there is one person and one person only deserving of that title, and it sure as heaven ain’t you.” None of these power-mongering and violent leaders could ever come close to claiming they made the world that they so desperately sought to control.
The other interesting note is the odd structure and order of saying that all things by God’s will “existed and were created” as opposed to “were created and exist.” Every single commentary I looked at was in full agreement that the meaning being conveyed is that everything as we know it existed before it was created. Mind bender. It all existed in the will of God before He brought into actual being. I wonder if this is sorta like a song in your head that you end up recording, bringing it from your mind into a tangible form for others to enjoy. This is a fitting analogy I guess since God spoke the universe into being. Or perhaps it was more like He sang it into being, like Aslan with Narnia. This is even more fitting if the scientists are right about string theory, and the most fundamental constituents of the fabric of the universe are indeed nano-tiny strings vibrating at just the right frequency attuned by Yahweh. Fun to think about.
All this to simply say that God is worthy of constant praise because of who He is, for creating everything we know, and sustaining it by His unfathomable power at each moment. When we are praising God, we are fulfilling our function for which we were made. With the picture of the four living creatures representing all of nature, and the elders representing all of God’s faithful, we see nature and humanity in ceaseless praise of their Creator. We could also say that whenever we are doing that for which we were made, we are worshipping God.
No matter what is happening, God is worthy of praise. In any circumstance, our design is to give God that praise. There is tremendous power in this–kingdom of God power, because there is the flow of creation in good order. My mom died January 1st last year—still I praise God. October was by far the worst month of my life–still I praise God. We do not praise God only when we feel like it, or to lift us up and get a high, tho that may come, but we praise God at all times because He is God who created everything that exists; it’s all gift, and His love endures forever.