Revelation 4:8-11(2)

Sermon preached on June 17, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. 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.

On April 20, 1986 basketball player Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls had a career playoff high of 63 points against the Boston Celtics. But Boston won the game 135-131. Basketball is a team sport and Jordan's heroic effort wasn't enough to get a win for his team.

In hockey they have penalties and if you get a penalty your team is often shorthanded for 2 minutes. You have to go to the penalty box and the other team gets a power play. That really puts your team at a disadvantage. I looked at some NHL statistics and found that if your team is shorthanded, the other team is ten times more likely to score than your team is. It's just not the same when your team is shorthanded.

But my favorite story that illustrates how teamwork is necessary is from a skit that a comedian did on the Ed Sullivan show. It was great. He impersonated Ed Sullivan introducing the next act, which was the Zambini Brothers. (I think there was a real Zambini Brothers circus team.) But just as he was introducing them, someone from back stage supposedly interrupted him and told him that instead of having two minutes left, they only had one minute. So the guy impersonating Ed Sullivan decided that instead of bringing both brothers out for their whole act, which they didn't have time for, he would solve the problem by only allowing one of the brothers to come onstage. So then the guy switched to impersonating one of the Zambini brothers onstage. He came out looking bewildered. He kept muttering,

"It's just not the same without my brother."

The tricks that they did, they did together. So he goes out to those bowling type pins that circus guys throw back and forth to each other. He picks two of them up and just throws them across the stage, where they just bounce on the other side of the stage. As he does that he says,

"It's just not the same without my brother."

His brother was supposed to catch them and throw them back to him. Then he went over and jumped on a springboard type thing that was supposed to launch his brother into the air so that the brother would land on his shoulders, or some place like that. When he jumped on it and nothing else happened,he said,

"It's just not the same without my brother."

Some things are meant to be done together, with other people. They're better when they're done together. They really come into their own when they're done together. It's that way with the worship of God. It is true that at times we can and should worship God privately—in a sense all of life is worship—but it is also true that worship should often be corporate, that we should worship God as a group and that this group worship has a special place and importance in God's sight.

Indeed, our text shows us that in serving God,

corporate worship is central.

In previous sermons we've seen that our worship is to be modeled on the worship of heaven. The heavenly liturgy that we see in Revelation 4 & 5 is to be the pattern for our liturgy. (Beale, Revelation, p. 312) As Grant Osborne says, this section of Scripture is given to us, (Revelation, p. 243)

"to ground our own liturgical worship in the heavenly worship of the celestial beings…"

Consider the heavenly scene. Heavenly worship is essentially group worship. We are told that 'groups' worship God. John as an individual is mentioned, but that's only to tell us that he had the vision. The only other individual that is mentioned in chapter 4 is God. But as far as the worshipers are concerned—they're all groups. We see the 24 elders. We see the 4 living creatures.

In chapter 5 it's almost the same thing. There are individuals there. An angel has a role in drawing attention to Jesus. He asks who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. An elder is also mentioned. When John weeps because he thought that no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll, an elder told him not to weep. He said, (verse 5)

"See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed.
He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

His purpose is to direct John to Jesus and His worthiness. The third individual that is mentioned is the Lamb—Jesus. He is at the center of the throne. The focus on chapter 5 is on worshiping Him.

But the focus of the worship in chapter 5 is group worship. There are great crowds there. In chapter 5 John sees that in addition to the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders, (verse 11)

"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels,
numbering thousands upon thousands,
and ten thousand times ten thousand.
They encircled the throne
and the living creatures and the elders."

Then in verse 13 he tells us,

"Then I heard every creature in heaven
and on earth and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb be praise and honor
and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

This is worship how it should be. God is worthy. There is no one like Him. He should be worshipped by all—by all of us together. It is right that when the four living creatures give honor, glory and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever that the 24 elders respond with their praise to God. It's right that the 24 elders all together say, (verse 11)

"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."

It is right that when the four living creatures and the 24 elders worship the Lamb that the angels respond with their worship of the Lamb. It is right that when the angels do that that every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea—praise God with everything that is in them. All creatures are caught up in the worship and praise of God. This is how it should be.

This shows us how important corporate worship is.

Some Christians will tell you that they worship God every day privately and that that's all they need to do. Private worship is good but it's not the only act of worship that we are to give God. If anyone suggests that they don't have to meet with other Christians to worship God—they just don't understand biblical worship. Private worship, though important, is inadequate, incomplete if that's all there is.

Private worship doesn't fulfill what the apostle told us in Hebrews 10:25,

"Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—
and all the more
as you see the Day approaching."

Peter T. O'Brien, says of the Greek word that is translated 'meeting together', The Letter to the Hebrews (PNTC; p. 370-371)

"both the noun and its cognate verb also designate the eschatological ingathering of Israel. Since our context refers to the coming day of the Lord, and our author knew that the listeners had already shared in the powers of the age to come, it is likely that he regards their gathering together as anticipating the final ingathering of God's people. 'The assembly is the earthly counterpart to the heavenly 'congregation' (ekklēsia) of God's people (12:23; cf. 2:12)'."

That means that our worship has to be corporate. It's something we need to do to be pleasing to God. We need to meet together to worship God.

The second thing in our text that shows us the importance of corporate worship is the fact

the four living creatures and the 24 elders are worshiping God in three persons. The Trinity is about fellowship, about sharing—therefore worship should be like that.

We are the people of God. We are the body of Jesus Christ. We are a unit and we should worship Him together.

Notice indications of the Trinity in our chapter. In verse 1 of chapter 4 Jesus is mentioned. He's the One that tells John to come up and see what must take place in the future. In verse 2 John tells us that immediately he was in the Spirit. He saw the throne of God with someone sitting on it. That was the Father. In verse 5 the seven Spirits of God are mentioned. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears write, (Doctrine, p. 350)

"God's people gather for corporate worship… in a way that is somewhat akin to the Trinity."

Harold Best calls corporate worship 'mutual indwelling' and says, (Unceasing Worship, p. 62)

"Mutual indwelling demands company. Continuous outpouring demands fellowship. The corporate assembly is where love and mutual indwelling congregate…"

The Trinity is about fellowship. When we worship, we worship God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, we can and do worship as individuals, but corporate worship is on another level. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live in community and fellowship. We live in community and are in fellowship not only with God, but with other Christians. In John 17:21 Jesus prayed about His people,

"that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me
and I am in you.
May they also be in us
so that the world may believe
that you have sent me."

The church is to be united. We are to be united in a very real and visible way. Nowhere is this be more so than in our worship. We are one in Christ and it is important that we worship Him together.

The great truth we should understand from this is that

when you fail to worship with God's people, God is not praised like He should be.

Two things in our text show us this. On the one hand, notice how one group responds to the praise of the other. In verse 9 and 10 we read,

"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."

The heavenly creatures are filled with a desire to adore God. The presence of God inspires them to praise and honor Him. Yet there also seems to be some interaction between the four living creatures and the 24 elders. I'm not sure about this but it could be that through God's grace the 24 elders are energized and inspired by the praise of the 4 living creatures. Even though they are caught up in adoring God because of God's presence, it may well be that they also spurred on by the others. It could be that they encourage one another in the praise of God and are thereby blessed by each other.

Now although I'm not sure how the praise in heaven works in that regard, it is a fact that

here on this earth we need each other's help in worship.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us that we need to meet with one another in order to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Proverbs 27:17 says,

"As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."

We should be and can be a blessing to others in worship. This life can be hard and it can wear us down. Just as Jonathan helped David find strength in God in his time of difficulty, (1 Samuel 23:16) so we can and should help others in their worship of God.

We see from Psalm 103 that David realized that he was not praising God like he should. He realized that his heart was naturally cold. He tried to stir himself up to do it more. But not only that, but he tried to stir others up to praise God as well. He realized that all creation should be praising God. He said, (Psalm 103:20–22)

"Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, O my soul."

The point is that we can be blessed, inspired, encouraged by worshiping with others. They help us to worship better. We should not neglect the public worship of God, the public worship of Jesus Christ.

The second thing in our text that shows us that when you don't worship with God's people, God is not praised like He should be—is the fact that

the praise of the 4 living creatures and the praise of the 24 elders complement one another.

Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, p. 238)

"These hymns are sung antiphonally… with the living beings celebrating the holiness of God and then the elders providing the refrain on his worthiness to be worshiped."

The praise in Isaiah 6:3 is probably the same. We read that the seraphs were flying above God's throne and were calling to one another.

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

E.J. Young writes,

"It is probably safe to assume that the singing was antiphonal, for the seraphs cry out to the other seraphs, as though proclaiming to them and declaring to them that the Lord is holy."

The seraphs, it would seem, were acting like groups of choirs. One group would sing to another, declaring God's praise. Then the other choir would respond, adding their voices to praise God for His majesty and glory.

I love sophisticated music. I often listen to
J.S. Bach's cantatas. Bach wrote many cantatas to be performed in church to the glory of God. They would be based on a passage of Scripture and Bach would set the text to music. Some of the cantatas contain the most beautiful counterpoint. Counterpoint is where you have two or more melodies that are played or sung at the same time. They complement one another and together add up to the most glorious praise.

Is this what the angels were doing—only on a much higher and glorious level? Quite possibly.

The point is that you should worship with others because you make their praise and worship better.
You add to their praise. They add to your praise. Together, our praise is better and more fitting.

In closing, there are four applications to be made.

First of all,

the importance that you should place on corporate worship.

In Psalm 122:1 David said,

"I was glad when they said to me,
'Let us go to the house of the LORD!'"

Consider what the sons of Korah said in Psalm 84. (verse 1-4, 10)

"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young— a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

Christians, public worship should be one of your greatest delights.

Secondly, this means that

your praise should be as good as you can make it.

Our praise needs to be genuine, from the heart. In John 4 Jesus told us that we need to worship God is spirit and truth. In our text the heavenly host is caught up in the worship of God. There are no distractions. Everything is arranged so that God would be praised in the very best way.

When you come to church you ought to have the idea—

"I'm coming to worship the King. This is the most important thing that I do."

You need to give it your all.

There's a story that is told about J.S. Bach and how he was preparing his choir for an upcoming Sunday service. At one point he stopped them and said,

"No, no, no. It's not good enough. If it were for me, it would be good enough. But it's not for me. It's for God."

But someone might say,

"In the Psalms it says, 'Make a joyful noise to the Lord.'"

It's true that in the KJV it does say that. But I don't think that's the best translation. The Hebrew words means literally to,

'cry out, shout, to cheer, shout in triumph'.

Keil and Delitzsch in their, Commentary on the Old Testament, write,

"The call in v. 4 demands some joyful manifestation of the mouth…"

The HCSB says,

"Shout joyfully to the Lord…"

The REB says,

"Acclaim the Lord, all the earth; break into songs of joy…"

Our praise should be as good as we can make it.


you need to ensure that you don't take others away from their worship of God.

Many, many times when I've talked to people who don't go to church they will tell me that they don't go because of other people who do go. They've been burned by people in the church. They've been hurt, mistreated.

Now, that's not a valid excuse. It's true that they've been wronged, hurt, discouraged. But that shouldn't stop them from gathering with God's people to worship Him. If you ever talk to someone who is using that as an excuse, tell them that their excuse, through true, is not valid. Jesus wants them to go to church in spite of the hurt that they've suffered there. We are not allowed to absent ourselves from the corporate worship of God.

You need to ensure that others don't avoid church because of you. Jesus warned us against causing others to sin. In Matthew 18:6 He said,

"But if anyone causes one
of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him to have
a large millstone hung around his neck
and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

One of the goals of your life needs to be helping, encouraging, enabling others to praise and worship God.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, what you should understand from our text is that

you're missing out on the greatest thing in life.

The four living creatures and the 24 elders are doing what they should be doing. There is nothing greater than this. They are knowing God. They are enjoying God. They are giving Him glory, honor and praise. They are satisfied. They are content. They are exalted. They have life—life to the full.

Whatever the current focus of your life is—it's wrong. Without God at it's center it's meaningless. Go to Jesus and find life in Him. More than anything else that's what you need to do.