Stephen Caswell © 2004
No Other Song But Christ
The beloved hymn Over the Sunset Mountains was penned during the writer’s meditation on the piano. Sure that its message would catch on, Peterson confidently approached a publisher. We would like to use it, the approving publisher said after glancing over it, but we have one little suggestion. Can you take out this reference to Jesus and enlarge a little more on heaven? Heaven without Jesus? Unthinkable! Clutching his manuscript, the composer walked from the publisher’s office with another song coming on: I Have No Song to Sing, but that of Christ, my King. Both songs have become favorites.
In our last 2 sermons in Revelation chapter 4 we looked at the Rapture of the Church and the Judgment Seat of Christ. Today we are given a glimpse of our wonderful God. Today, I want to look at 3 things: The Glory of God, The Goodness of God and The Greatness of God.
1. The Glory of God
Revelation 4:3, 5-6a: And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 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. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.
Firstly, God is precious. John describes the Lord as resembling two gem stones; the jasper and sardius stones. Gem stones sparkle and shine forth a beautiful light. They are costly, precious. John gives us a rare glimpse of God the Father because Jesus Christ doesn’t appear until chapter 5. Ezekiel 1:26-27 describe the Son of God as resembling precious stones. Gem stones have always been highly sought after. They are precious.
This tells us that God is the most precious treasure. 1 Peter 2:7a: Therefore, to you who believe, He (Jesus Christ) is precious; To know God is the most precious relationship we can ever have. John saw God as a precious stone full of glory, beauty, radiance, love, warmth and splendor. The New Jerusalem is also like a jasper stone. Revelation 21:10-11: And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
Secondly, we learn God is perfect. The Jasper stone shines forth in a variety of colors. The japer stone comes in a variety of colors including purple, green, blue, amber and clear. The sardius stone is red. This speaks of the perfections of God. God is like a beautifully cut gem stone. He has so many facets that we will never comprehend His greatness. There will always be facets about God that are mysterious to us.
God has so many beautiful qualities. The sardine-stone is red, signifying the justice of God. He never divests himself of this essential attribute in favor of any. God gloriously exerts it in the government of the world, and especially of the church, through our Lord Jesus Christ. God pardons and punishes people with absolute integrity. God’s perfection is also seen the sevenfold nature of His Spirit. God is absolutely perfect in holiness, knowledge, power justice and love. 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. In the Bible 7 speaks of completion, perfection.
Isaiah 11:2: The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. God doesn’t lack anything. He doesn’t need His creation. He is complete without it, but creation needs Him. His wisdom and understanding are also complete. Think of this wonderful world that He made. He planned out every detail. Job learned this when God questioned him. According to the interpretation of some, this calm, glass-like sea, which is never in storm, but only interfused with flame, represents the counsels of God. His purposes of righteousness and love are often fathomless but never obscure, always the same, though sometimes glowing with holy anger.
Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The third attribute that John emphasizes about God is purity. Precious stones are transparent. This speaks of God’s splendor, absolute integrity and holiness. There is no hidden fault or impurity. The Bible says that God is light. He is glorious, majestic, radiant. Gemstones shine from within and will always; they can’t change. God’s presence is glorious. Bible students call this the shekinah glory. James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. The 4 living creatures declare God’s holiness.
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! Of all God’s attributes holiness is the most important one. It is stated 3 times in v 8. The 4 living creatures declare this day and night. It could also be a reference to the Trinity. All 3 members of the Godhead are holy.
Do we remember how precious, perfect and pure God is? Do we praise Him for who He is? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! Strangely enough a life lived for God’s glory is the only one that satisfies. That’s what we were made for!
2. The Goodness of God
Rev 4:3: And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
When you look at verse 5 you get the impression that a storm is about to break; and there is. There is thunder, lightning and voices. The Great Tribulation is about to commence. God pronounces judgment on the world for sin. Yet in judgment He remembers mercy. Psalm 103:8-10: The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
The rainbow around the throne speaks of mercy. It is a constant reminder of God’s covenant with Noah and the human race. This rainbow is a complete circle. Everything in heaven is perfect, complete. The color of the rainbow is green. Our rainbows have 7 colors. Perhaps the green color represents the refreshing nature of the New Covenant. The lion, the calf, the eagle and man represent life on earth. They are heavenly reminders that God has a covenant with His creation and that He rules His creation from His throne.
Genesis 9:8-13: Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying:
And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said: This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
Rev 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.
In mercy God doesn’t punish us as we deserve but in His grace He richly blesses us. There were 24 courses in the Old Testament priesthood. Since there were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve Apostles, perhaps the number twenty-four symbolizes the completion of God’s people. Here, we see them crowned with golden crowns, clothed in white robes and seated on 24 thrones. Only the grace of God could transfer sinners deserving hell to places of honor before His throne. Ephesians 1:3: 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. Revelation 5:10: And you have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. We will enjoy intimate fellowship with the Lord forever. What a gracious God we serve. God honors His people by seating us in heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:4-8: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
What We Have In Christ
A love that can never be fathomed; A life that can never die;
A righteousness that can never be tarnished; A peace that can never be understood;
A rest that can never be disturbed; A joy that can never be diminished;
A hope that can never be disappointed; A glory that can never be clouded;
A light that can never be darkened; A happiness that can never be interrupted;
A strength that can never be enfeebled; A purity that can never be defiled;
A beauty that can never be marred; A wisdom that can never be baffled;
Resources that can never be exhausted.
Do we thank the Lord for His mercy in pardoning our sin? Do we thank the Lord for His grace in giving us eternal life and an inheritance in heaven? Do we thank Him for the privilege of being in His family and seated around the throne? If not, why not?
3. The Greatness of God
The greatness of God has many facets to it. Firstly, He rules over all of creation. The Lord is Sovereign. He is the rightful King of the whole world. Revelation 19:6: And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! God’s throne is mentioned 12 times in chapter 4 and 46 times in the book of Revelation. God is on the throne and takes care of His own. He rules over the universe. No one can resist Him. Isaiah 66:1: Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Psalm 103:19: The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
Napoleon And Waterloo
Napoleon, at the height of his career, is reported to have given this cynical answer to someone who asked if God was on the side of France: God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery. Then came the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon lost both the battle and his empire. Years later, in exile on the island of St. Helena, chastened and humbled, Napoleon is reported to have quoted the words of Thomas à Kempis: Man proposes; God disposes. God is able to work his sovereign will — despite man.
The chorus says it well, Our God is an Awesome God, He reigns from heaven above, With wisdom, power, and love, Our God is and Awesome God. God’s power is seen in His ability to reign. The Lord commands the heavenly host and they obey Him. Because God is powerful His plans always succeed. Every purpose will come to pass, every prophecy will be fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most powerful kings in history learnt this lesson the hard way.
Daniel 4:34-35: And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, What have You done?
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!
The 4 living creatures declare the Lord God Almighty is eternal and holy. He has absolute power. In a moment God catches His people up to heaven at the rapture. In verse 5 we see lightning and thunder proceed from God’s throne. His voice sounds like a trumpet or a great waterfall. In Job 38 the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He sends the rain or withholds it. God causes the sun to shine and has established the seasons. He caused the sun to stand still in Joshua’s time. The Lord has power to control the universe. It is His power that holds the world together. Colossians 1:17
The Scriptures tell us that nothing is too hard for the Lord. This shouldn’t surprise us since He made the worlds in the beginning. Hebrews 11:3: By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Revelation 4:11b: For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.
Only God Is Great
In 1715, Louis XIV of France died. Louis, who called himself the Great, was the monarch who made the infamous statement I am the State. His court was the most magnificent in Europe, and his funeral was spectacular. His body lay in a golden coffin. To dramatize the deceased king’s greatness, orders had been given that the cathedral should be very dimly lighted, with only one special candle set above his coffin. Thousands waited in hushed silence. Then Bishop Massilon began to speak. Slowly reaching down, he snuffed out the candle, saying, Only God is great.
Revelation 4:6b-8: And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 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. 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!
Creation needs to proclaim the wonders of our God! It was created to do this. The four living creatures continually praise God. They are probably the Seraphim spoken of in Isaiah 6:1-3. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory! These four living creatures have the same number of wings and cry out the same message. They take their position around and above God’s throne. This word means fiery ones, in allusion, as is supposed, to their burning love. They are represented as standing above the King as he sat upon his throne, ready at once to minister unto him. Their form appears to have been human, with the addition of wings.
The Seraphim and Cherubim are angelic beings closely associated with God’s throne. The Cherubim defend God’s holiness whilst the Seraphim declare God’s holiness. The 4 living creatures or Seraphim are full of eyes signifying a great knowledge and understanding of God. These creatures signify the wisdom of God and proclaim His holiness. They live in awe of their Creator, the Lord God Almighty. They declare God’s perfection having learned this from their close relationship with Him. Even though the Seraphim are sinless and in fact pure they cover their faces and feet from the glory of God. This further emphasizes the holiness of God. The 4 living creatures also resemble the fourfold ministry of Jesus Christ. Each creature highlights one of the different attributes of Christ. (Show chart on the Screen)
Revelation 4:8-11: 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! 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, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 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.
How should we respond to God, Who is glorious, good and great? One word, Worship!
Psalm 46:10 says: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Hallelujah Chorus’ Custom
On March 23, 1743, when The Messiah was first performed in London, the king was present in the great audience. It is reported that all were so deeply moved by the Hallelujah Chorus that with the impressive words, For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, the whole audience, including the king sprang to its feet, and remained standing through the entire chorus. From that time to this it has always been the custom to stand during the chorus whenever it is performed. With spontaneous joy the soul stands to salute Him who cometh in the name of the Lord. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords and to Him we pledge allegiance.
Lifting Up - Firstly, the 4 living creatures lift up God’s name. They continually praise Him, Who alone is Holy, Powerful and eternal. They ascribe glory, honor and thanks to the Lord because He is worthy. Then, the 24 elders join the living creatures in their praise of God. They say you are worthy to receive glory, honor and power. They don’t give God these things. We can’t give God anything that He doesn’t already own. So we acknowledge His worthiness and give Him our allegiance and worship.
Falling Down - Secondly, the 24 elders respond to this by falling down on their faces before the throne. The words fall down, πίπτω, means to prostrate yourself before, to bow down. The 24 elders willingly offer themselves to God. They are the Lord’s servants. They do this in humble submission to Almighty God who is worthy of their worship. The Lord is great and greatly to be praised. Such worship is fitting from all creation. Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Laying Down - Thirdly, the 24 elders then lay down their golden crowns before God. In doing so they acknowledge God’s right to rule over them. They give allegiance to the Lord afresh. They give their most treasured possession (their rewards from God) back to Him. Let us not come empty handed before the Lord. Let us offer our most treasured possessions to God for His use. Did you notice that in this act of worship before the throne God was the focus of it all. The 4 living creatures and 24 elders adore their Lord.
Phidias’ Name On Statue
Phidias was asked to carve a statue of the god of the people. After he finished, he chiselled in the corner in small letters the word Phidias. But the people refused to worship the statue as it bore the sculptor’s name. It was even seriously questioned whether Phidias should be stoned because he desecrated the statue. If the worshipper receives any attention then it is not real worship. Real worship focuses entirely on God.
In response to God’s glory, goodness and greatness do you worship Him? Have you submitted your life to God as a living sacrifice? Do we lift up His name in praise? Do we willingly bow before His throne? Have we given Him our most treasured possessions? One day we will do these things. Why not start today?
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,
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.