Revelation 11:16

Sermon preached on August 18, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

After Princess Diana was killed there was a movie made about Royal Family and how they dealt with her death and made plans for her funeral. The movie was called, "The Queen". In the first part of that movie newly elected Tony Blair was having his first audience with the Queen as Prime Minister. He had met her before but this was his first one on one meeting with her. When Blair and his wife arrived at the palace they were given instructions about the proper protocol on how to approach the Queen. Just before he was ushered in to see the Queen, the attendant said to Blair,

"Standing by the door we bow, from the neck. I will introduce you, the Queen will extend her hand, you go to her, bow again, and then shake her hand… And when you're in the presence, at no point must you show your back."

He was told not to turn his back to the Queen. In the movie, when his meeting with the Queen came to an end, Blair and his wife didn't turn around and walk out, instead they walked backwards toward the door. It looked ridiculous and was like they were playing the film backwards. I wondered if that movie scene was true to life. So I did a web search. Sure enough—that's proper etiquette when you're in the Queen's presence. One story I read had to do with Australian hat designer, Frederick Fox. He had a meeting with the Queen to get some suggestions for a hat he was designing for her. When Fox met with the Queen, he ran into difficulties with the rule that he mustn't turn his back on the Queen. He wrote,

"The Queen was standing at the end of a long room, I advanced, did my chat and my thing. When it was time to depart I was rooted to the spot. I thought that if I walked backwards I would fall over the furniture of one of the corgis. Her Majesty spotted my dilemma and turned her back on me to ask Bobo [the Queen's dresser] to fetch some specific shoes —giving me the opportunity to withdraw."

A rule like that seems crazy. I wonder how it ever got started. However it was I'm certain it had something to do with showing respect. It could be that showing submission had something to do with it as well. It may be that it was thought was that the monarch was so important that while you were in her presence you were not to take your eyes off her. However it came to be, it shows that the British believe that their monarch should be especially honored.

In our text the 24 elders teach this about God. We read,

"And the twenty-four elders, who were
seated on their thrones before God,
fell on their faces and worshiped God."

They fell on their faces. This is significant.

It shows that their entire focus was on God's glory.

They were completely humble. There was no focus on themselves. There is no focus on their thrones, on their authority. No. They were concerned only about honoring God, about giving Him praise, thanks and glory. They got off their thrones, fell on their faces and gave all the glory to God. We saw the same thing in Revelation 4:9–11. It says,

"Whenever the living creatures
give glory, honor and thanks
to him who sits on the throne
and who lives for ever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down
before him who sits on the throne,
and worship him
who lives for ever and ever.
They lay their crowns before the throne
and 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 were created
and have their being.' "

The 24 elders had crowns on their heads. But they took them off and laid them before the throne. Their crowns represent all their power, their rule, their victory, their glory—and they are laid before God's throne. They show that whatever glory they have is derived from God, that God has given it to them and that it is God alone who deserves praise and honor.

All their focus was exclusively on God's glory it shows us that

the focus of our lives is to be exclusively on God's glory.

In 1 Corinthians 1:31 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Therefore, as it is written:
'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' "

We are to be giving all glory and credit to God. We are to boast exclusively in God.

Yet we don't do that. None of us do.

Each one of us has a horrible problem with pride.

None of us are as humble and self-effacing as we should be.

To help us see this all we have to do is think of two examples from Scripture. First consider Moses. According to Numbers 12:3 Moses was the meekest man on earth during the time that he lived. It says,

"Now Moses was a very humble man,
more humble than anyone else
on the face of the earth."

The context there is about Aaron and Miriam talking against Moses because he had married a Cushite. Moses was the leader of the Israelites. He was God's chosen leader. Yet when they talked against him, Moses didn't defend himself, he just patiently bore it. He left it with the Lord. Most of us would be all over it if we were insulted like that. But not Moses.

Yet, in spite of being the meekest man on the face of the earth Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he failed to honor God like he should have. When God told Moses to speak to the rock when the Israelites were complaining that there was no water to drink, he stuck it twice with his staff.

That seems like such a little thing. It's like in the movie I told you about. The protocol guy told Tony Blair that when they entered the Queen's presence, they would stand at the door, bow from the neck, and when the Queen extended her hand, Blair was supposed to approach her, bow again from the neck, and then shake her hand. But he didn't get it right. He stopped at the door, bowed from the neck, but when the Queen extended her hand he approached her and shook her hand without bowing. He forgot.

But not honoring God is not a little thing. Consider Moses' punishment. He wasn't allowed to enter the Promised Land. He only got to see it from a distance. Moses, the meekest man on the face of the earth was not meek enough. At least on that one instance he was way too proud and did not honor God. He sinned horribly.

Or think about the apostle Paul. He was the one that told us,

"Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

He actually wrote that twice in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. (1:31 and 10:17) He was the one who also reminded the Corinthians that he, Peter and Apollos were only servants to whom the Lord assigned their tasks. He said that he planted and Apollos watered but God made the seed grow. He wrote, (1 Corinthians 3:7)

"So neither he who plants
nor he who waters is anything,
but only God,
who makes things grow."

He told them that they should not be focusing on him or Peter or Apollos because they were nothing. He told them to focus on God.

Paul was so humble. Paul consider himself he least of the apostles. He did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle. (1 Corinthians 15:9)

Paul also told the Corinthian Christians not to think too highly of themselves. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 he asked them,

"For who makes you different
from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?"

He urged them to acknowledge that everything they had, every talent, every possession—came to them because of God's grace and mercy—not because of something they had in themselves. He urged them to focus on God. As the prophet Jeremiah 9:23–24 told us,

"This is what the Lord says:
'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord,
who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,'
declares the Lord."

Paul was the one who wrote Philippians 2:3–8,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others
better than yourselves.
Each of you should look
not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!"

Paul told us to be humble, like Jesus was.

Yet, in spite of knowing that great truth about humility, about boasting exclusively in the Lord—what did Paul tell us about his practice of them? He told us that his putting them into practice would have completely failed unless the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh to trouble him. In 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle told us how he was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that he was not permitted to tell. He then said, (2 Corinthians 12:7)

"To keep me from becoming conceited
because of these surpassingly
great revelations, there was given me
a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan,
to torment me."

As far as pride goes—Paul would have failed completely. Isn't that incredible?

Now I put it to you, if Moses and Paul, these great examples of humility, failed (or in Paul's case, would have failed) as far as honoring God goes—where does that leave us? Where does that leave you? You don't give enough glory and honor to God. Do you do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus as Paul told us in Colossians 3:17,

"And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God
the Father through him."

If you don't do that, your robbing God of honor. Do you thank Him as you should? I know I don't. I know the way I am. If I'm in a situation where I need help with something (as if that's not always the case!) I'll pray to God and ask Him to help me with it. Then when I get what I prayed for I'm really happy. It might be an hour or two later when it'll hit me that I haven't thanked God for His answer to my prayer. How ungrateful I am.

The second thing I want you to see from our text is that just before the 24 elders praised God they were each sitting on a throne.

This shows us that we are to use our positions for God's glory.

Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 442)

"Their purpose is obviously to submit their thrones to God and lead all in praise to him."

They submitted their thrones to God. Everything under their authority was submitted to God.

Is your Christianity a private matter that you keep quiet about and only talk about in the privacy of your own home? Or do you use the position God has placed you in to honor him? Remember what Mordecai said to Queen Esther? Esther was afraid for her life. Her life would be at stake if she went to the King on behalf of the Jews. Yet Mordecai said to her, (Esther 4:14)

"And who knows but that you have come
to royal position for such a time as this?"

Esther was afraid of losing her life, her position. But Mordecai showed her that God placed her in royal position to serve Him.

In Canada right now there's a big scandal about how some Canadian Senators filed bogus expense reports. They were changing things to the government that had nothing to do with government business. It appears that they were serving themselves, or their political parties rather than the Canadian people.

Do you use your position to serve yourself? Or do you use it to serve God? The 24 elders here are a great example to us. Whatever we have is to be used in God's service.

The third thing that shows us how humble we should be and how we should give all glory and honor to God is the fact that,

these 24 elders are glorious beings.

We've see before how there is disagreement about the identity of the 24 elders. Many think that they are angelic beings who represent the church. If that is the case—what do they teach us about humility?

Angels are glorious beings. Psalm 89:6–8 says,

"For who in the skies above
can compare with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among
the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones
God is greatly feared; he is more awesome
than all who surround him.
O LORD God Almighty, who is like you?"

Or consider the angel that showed John around heaven. Twice John bowed down to worship him. The angel wouldn't let him do it. He said, (Revelation 19:10, see also Rev. 22:9)

"At this I fell at his feet to worship him.
But he said to me, 'Do not do it!
I am a fellow servant with you
and with your brothers
who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Worship God!' "

If we saw an angel we would be so overwhelmed at their glory that we'd be exceedingly afraid.

So I ask you, if these glorious beings, give all glory and honor to God, what does this mean for us who are sinners?

If these 24 elders are angels, they are angels who never sinned. If these glorious creatures give their all in praising and thanking God—what does that mean that we should do—we who are sinners?

In ourselves we have no right to be in God's presence. Yet because of Jesus we have been brought close. God has done such great things for us. Jesus died for our sins. God brought us into His family. God has given us the Holy Spirit to live in us, to make our bodies His temple. It's all of grace. It's all of mercy. We don't deserve the least of these blessings.

And yet what do we do? The things we have fill us with pride! They cause us to forget about God. We are unthankful and ungrateful. We go about most of our lives living like we were self-sufficient beings. We're like the 9 lepers who didn't go back to Jesus when He had healed 10 of them. It was only a Samaritan who returned to Jesus. When he came back to Jesus, Jesus asked, (Luke 17:17–18)

"Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Was no one found to return and give
praise to God except this foreigner?"

Aren't we like those 9? How we need to change. How we need to have the attitude of John the Baptist— (John 3:30)

"He must become greater;
I must become less."

Christians, you need to be so humble. Give all glory, praise and honor to God your great Savior.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, the actions of the 24 elders show you what your life should be like.

You should be serving and worshipping God. You should be thanking Him and lifting His name high. You should be filled with praise to God.

But you're not. You're as ungrateful as you can be, refusing to acknowledge and thank Jesus. Unless you change you're going to perish.

Go to Jesus now. He's the only One that can save you. Don't be ungrateful.