God on the Throne, Part 6 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
We are told two things about the worship of these high ones. FIRST, their worship is instinctive. John says, “And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 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.” They instinctively acknowledge Him to be the highest One in the universe. Though they are high and lofty themselves, yet they abase themselves at His feet. They take off their crowns, which symbolize their own right to rule, and cast those crowns at His feet, an act of joyful abandon which acknowledges that the right to rule is His alone.
SECOND, their worship is instructive. As they cast their crowns before God’s throne they say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure, they are and were created” (4:11). Worship is the ascription of “worth-ship” to the Lord. It is the function of telling Him how absolutely worthy He is to receive our praise and our adoration. The elders worship Him as the Creator and instruct us in a basic truth of creation—all things were created by His power and for His pleasure. No creature has a right to exist apart from a willingness to accept that power and accord Him pleasure.
At the sound of “Holy, holy, holy” coming from the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders rise from their thrones and fall before the triune God to join the ascription of praise. First, they “worship Him.” Worship in the Scriptures has several connotations such as obeisance, reverence, homage, honor, and service. The first and fundamental claim of God upon His redeemed ones is that they worship Him. The devil would claim the worship of men, but God only must be worshipped (Matthew 4:9-11). How it must grieve Him when we become weak in our worship! Here on earth, we rob Him of the honor, homage, and service that is due Him. But in Heaven, we shall worship Him as we ought.
We have seen that the living creatures stand for nature in all its greatness and the twenty-four elders for the great united Church of Jesus Christ. So when the living creatures and the elders unite in praise, it symbolizes nature and the Church both praising God. There are commentators who have difficulty with this section. In verse 8 the praise of the living creatures is unceasing by day and night; in this passage, the picture is of separate bursts of praise at each of which the elders fall down and worship.
10 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, saying,
In addition to the angels, the elders also worship. They fall before God in reverence and lay their crowns before him. All of their actions—throwing themselves down, offering crowns—communicate God’s greatness. They are placing themselves below Him. This indicates that they do not look at God as a peer; instead, they see themselves as His servants. When they fall before God they offer up words of praise.
As part of their worship they “cast their crowns before the throne.” They lay aside their glory to add to His Glory, thereby ascribing all glory to Him. They realize that they owe their victory to Him who sat upon the central throne, therefore He alone is worthy to receive their crowns. Here on earth, we want to get credit for what we do, and while it is true that crowns of reward will be given for faithfulness in service, in Heaven we will recognize that we are not worthy of them. We will lay them at the feet of Him who saved us by His matchless grace. At that day we shall admit that we were unprofitable servants, not even worthy to serve Him.
John uses a picture which the ancient world would know well. The elders “cast their crowns before the throne” of God. In the ancient world that was the sign of complete submission. When one man surrendered to another, he cast his crown at the victor’s feet. Sometimes the Romans carried with them an image of their emperor and, when they had reduced a monarch to submission, there was a ceremony in which the vanquished one had to cast his crown before the emperor’s image. The picture this creates looks on God as the conqueror of the souls of men; and on the Church as the body of people who have surrendered to Him. There can be no Christianity without submission.
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.
The doxology of the elders praises God on two counts.
• He is Lord and God. There is something which would be even more meaningful to John’s people than it is to us. The Roman Emperor Domitian gave himself the title of “Lord and God.” It was because the Christians would not acknowledge that claim that they were persecuted and killed. Simply to call God Lord and God was a triumphant confession of faith, an assertion that He holds first place in all the universe.
• God is Creator. It is through His will and purpose that all things existed in His thoughts from even before creation, and at the appointed time were brought into actual being. Man has acquired many powers, but he does not possess the power to create. He can alter and rearrange; he can make things out of already existing materials, but only God can create something out of nothing. That great truth means that in the most real sense everything in the world belongs to God, and there is nothing a man can handle which God has not given to him.
We praise God for saving us, but seldom have I heard a believer praise God for creating him. In Heaven, we will know the joy of having been created. There are no songs of evolution in Heaven, only of creation. Creation is the foundation of all God’s other acts of power, wisdom, and love, and therefore should be mentioned in His creature’s thanksgivings. Our Savior is the Origin and Source of all creation—“All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. (John 1:3, ASV; also see Colossians 1:16). He caused all things and all creatures to exist. This is the reason why the elders worship Him. They acknowledge God as the Source and Sustainer of the universe and of all life. No king or emperor can make such a claim. No Roman emperor could ever be acknowledged for creating heaven and earth. This role belongs to God alone (14:7; 21:5; Romans 8:18-25).
Earthly honor and power is to be laid before the throne, just as the living creatures lay their crowns before the throne. This demonstrates that all authority and honor belongs to God. He delegates His authority to others, but it belongs to Him.
The vision prepares us for what is to follow. God is seen as the Almighty Ruler of the universe sitting on the throne of His Glory, surrounded by worshipping creatures, and about to send judgment upon the earth.