7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 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: 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.” ~ Revelation 4:7-11
We return to John's vision of heaven and of God on His throne. All who are present in this scene are worshipping the Lord God Almighty. God's awesomeness creates in the hearts of the humble a response of worship which is preoccupation with God in all of His fullness. Worship causes us to place Him at the center of everything, and it diminishes us. When we see God as He is, we cease existing for self. As a result, worship frames up all things in a way that we recognize how it all serves us to love the Lord more and more.
In v.7-8 we read, "7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come."
John begins to describe this scene of worship by turning our attention to four created creatures. Ezekiel records the same living beings surrounding God in heaven. Ezekiel identifies them as "cherubim." Isaiah, in Isaiah 6, describes them as "seraphim." The main difference between the types of heavenly beings known as cherubim and seraphim is their appearance. Cherubim have four faces and four wings, while seraphim have six wings. Ezekiel also describes them with the faces of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle.
Some say these four creatures correspond with the four gospels. The Man refers to Christ’s incarnation and humanity. The Lion refers to Christ’s power, courage and victory. The Ox refers to Christ’s sacrifice, And, the Eagle refers to Christ’s divinity and ascension to heaven. These Four Living Creatures before His throne all refer to the Redeeming Work of Christ.
Cherubim appear in several books of the Bible, including Genesis, Ezekiel, Kings and Revelation. Their four faces are ox, lion, man and eagle, although Ezekiel exchanges the ox for the face of a cherub or an angel.
Seraphim only appear in the book of Isaiah. They use two of their wings for flight. As the cherubim, they are among the highest order of angelic beings.
These four creatures had eyes everywhere and six wings each. Eyes symbolize discernment and knowledge. Wings describe swiftness of movement. The first was like a lion which speaks of power. The second creature was like an ox which speaks of patience. The third had the face of a man which speaks of intelligence. And, the fourth was like a flying eagle which speaks of swiftness. These four living creatures are involved in leading creation to worship its Creator.
And worship is always their priority. They must cover their face, lest they be consumed by seeing the fullness of God’s glory. They must cover their feet, lest they be consumed, because they stand on holy ground. And so they are engaged in worship day and night, nonstop. This is their eternal occupation, joy, and privilege.
At the end of v.8 we read, “Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come."
This crescendo of praise begins with a quartet, and then are added twenty-eight voices, and then are added harps. And then, all the angels; and finally, every living being chimes in on the worship of our gracious God. Whereas Revelation 4 focuses on God as the Almighty God of creation, Revelation 5 focuses on God as the God of redemption.
And the four living creatures recite, unceasingly, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Their worship focuses, as all worship should, on the character of God, His attributes, and His nature. And the first thing that causes them to worship is His holiness.
“Holy, holy, holy” is the only attribute of God repeated three times. The Bible never says God is love, love, love. God’s holiness is His utter and complete fullness, accentuating His separation from evil. He is holy or complete and lacking nothing.
Not only do these four creatures accentuate the holiness of God, they also put the spotlight on His power. Notice that these beings identify God in v.8 as the Almighty. This means God is the strongest, and the most powerful being there is and He has no rival. This term, “almighty,” brings the idea of an overpowering strength that cannot be withstood.
At the end of v.8, these four creatures describe the Lord as, “...who was, and is, and is to come.” This phrase speaks of God’s eternality. This means that God is self-sufficient and He is independent of anything outside Himself. As a result, God has no needs. In fact, Psalm 50 teaches us that the worship of the true God is not intended to meet God’s needs, but to acknowledge Him for His sufficiency to meet our needs.
In v.9-10 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, 10 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.”
The worship of the living creatures influences the twenty-four elders who fall down before Him who sits on the throne. This is the first of six times, in the book of the Revelation, when these elders prostrate themselves before God and the Lamb. (Rev. 5:8,14; Rev. 7:11; Rev.11:16; Rev. 19:4). And their posture is the posture of worship. They fall down prostrate before God.
And then, they cast their crowns before the throne. They have no preoccupation with their justified status before God. They have no concern about their own honor or reward. They are lost in adoration which is preoccupation of God above all else. This is voluntary worship prompted by the God of their redemption.
In v.11 they cry out, "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 word “worthy” is axios in the Greek. This word was used when the emperor marched along with a triumphant procession, attributing worthiness to him. The crescendo of praise is prompted by the fact that God created all things. God has the right to judge and redeem His creation. This is the beginning of the momentum of paradise regained.