The Prelude of Praise
Creation has been “in waiting” for a long time. There was a moment when the mighty Creator fashioned the universe with beauty, order and majesty, and all that He made was “very good.” It was the occasion when the first song was heard as “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). But tragedy struck when sin came in and all God’s creation was affected. Since that far-reaching event, creation has been “groaning” and singing in a minor key. However, that’s not the ultimate end of the story, as Revelation 5 makes so abundantly clear.
Revelation 4 opens for us the third and major section of the book. The outline of Revelation is given by Christ Himself as He tells John to write “the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (1:19). John has already received the glorious vision of Christ Himself as the Alpha and Omega and the One whose “eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass” (1:11,14,15). Chapters 2-3 unfold the “things which are” – the Church age as portrayed in the seven churches of Asia. That part of the prophecy has concluded and John has been invited to enter heaven and to witness firsthand one of the most awesome and moving events in the whole history of creation.
The Throne and the Throne-Sitter
John’s attention is immediately drawn to a throne and to the One on it. The throne captivates the heavenly scene and is the sign and symbol of God’s universal government and authority. It is marked by stability as it was “set [or stood] in heaven” (4:2); in contrast to the chaos and insecurity on earth, this throne is evidence that “the Lord God omnipotent reigns” (19:6). John sees not only a throne but the One on the throne who is unnamed, but who is clearly God Himself. Around the throne are twenty-four “seats” or “thrones,” and upon those thrones are twenty-four elders, “sitting, clothed in white raiment; and … on their heads, crowns of gold” (4:4). These twenty-four elders represent the innumerable company of redeemed saints who have been resurrected and raptured into the very presence of heaven. Their white garments reflect their purity and their priestly character while their crowns of gold describe their spiritual dignity.
The throne scene also includes four living creatures “full of eyes before and behind” (4:6). These living creatures represent the full authority of God in judgment as they remind us of God’s power and majesty (the lion), His patient endurance (the calf or ox), His intelligence (the man), and His sight and decisiveness in action (the eagle). But before judgment commences, all of heaven breaks forth into worship and praise at the greatness and majesty of the One on the throne. The living creatures declare His absolute holiness and give glory to the God of the ages. Coupled with this, the twenty-four elders fall down before the throne and “worship Him that lives forever and ever.” Their crowns are cast before the throne as an act of worship of the mighty Creator Himself. The theme of their worship is God the Creator, with the acknowledgement that God Himself governs the universe and thus is worthy of adoration and praise. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psa 19:1), and acknowledging the Creator is the first step toward trusting the Redeemer. What unregenerate men fail to do, the myriads of the redeemed gladly acknowledge.
The Book and the Search
John now sees a book in the right hand of the Throne-Sitter and begins to weep when no one in the universe is found worthy to open the book and break the seals. The book or “scroll” represents Christ’s “title deed” to all that the Father promised Him because of the accomplishment of Calvary. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa 2:8). The earth belonged to God by right of creation but because of man’s sin and disobedience, the world came under the power of the usurper and all of creation has been marked by groaning. Now as our Kinsman-Redeemer, Christ willingly gave His life and shed His blood that we might be restored to God and enjoy our lost inheritance. However, a title deed or will can only be opened by the rightful heir, and so John weeps profusely when it becomes clear that there is no one found worthy in all of the cosmos to open the sealed scroll. He is well aware that unless the scroll can be opened and its contents carried out, the hope of the ages and the purposes of God will be lost forever.
The Lamb and the Worship
Everything changes for John as an elder commands him to “weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book” (Rev 5:5). The reference to the Lion of the tribe of Judah is part of Jacob’s last words (Gen 49:8-10) when he prophetically gave the “sceptre to Judah,” making it the tribe of the kings. The image of a lion is one of power, dignity and sovereignty but when John turned to look, he saw not a lion but a little lamb – a lamb “as it had been slain.” The evidence of death is obvious, but the Lamb is standing in resurrection power, having paid the full price of redemption, and will now move to recover the inheritance for God and for man. Christ is the only One in the universe who is able to do this, and when He takes the book, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures gathered around the throne fall down before Him and begin to sing a “new song” (5:9) in worship. “Thou art worthy … and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood … and we shall reign on the earth” (5:9-10). The Lamb is the focus of their worship as they appreciate the greatness of His sacrifice and the wonder of His grace and purposes. As they sing, myriads of angels chime in, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (5:12).
But there are other voices to be added, for “every creature” from the entire cosmos will ultimately express praise and honor. The entire creation that has “groaned” so long will ultimately be redeemed and restored and will return blessing to the Originator of all blessing. Every creature will join in this universal Hallelujah Chorus as they anticipate the moment when every vestige of sin is forever gone and the Lamb will be universally acknowledged and worshipped. What a glorious future awaits every believer, as well as this entire universe, when He shall reign eternally.
“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
 All Scripture references in this article are from the KJV.