The Goodness of Heaven (3)
The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4.8
The living creatures
Of all the strange images in the book of Revelation, that of the four living creatures in the midst of and around the throne of God is surely one of the strangest. What are these creatures? What do they represent? And what can we learn from them about the good works for which we have been redeemed?
The living creatures mentioned here perhaps represent all living creatures. This is suggested by the response of the elders, who represent all the departed saints, to the witness of the creatures (“created all things”, v. 9). These creatures are in heaven as a kind of first fruit of creation redeemed and restored, as it shall be in the new heavens and new earth. In heaven, all creation rejoices and participates in, and celebrates the holiness of God. Heaven is an intermediary destination for departed saints, who will only be fully and completely glorified in the new heavens and new earth. It is not unreasonable to suppose that some tokens of the whole creation, which will be similarly restored, should be in heaven as well.
The living creatures are full of eyes, so that they see clearly, and we can therefore trust their witness. They have six wings because they aspire and strain to rise above the merely mundane to that which is above and heavenly. The six wings remind us of the six wings of certain angels, and witness to the spiritual nature of all creation (Is. 6.2; cf. Ezek. 1.4-11).
These creatures thus demonstrate the purpose of all created things, and they teach us how to observe the creation around us, and how to respond to and even use it. They show us that we must honor the holiness of God in all we do (cf. Ps. 19.1-4).
These living creatures testify of what they see and that to which they aspire, even the holy, sovereign, eternal Lord and God, Who is altogether holy, almighty, and eternal. If the creation as it exists in heaven bears such witness to the holiness of God, should we not expect the creation here below to do so as well?
The creation, in heaven and on earth, witnesses continually to God (cf. Rom. 1.18-20; Ps. 145.10-12). He has created all things so that they “see” Him in His glory and bear witness to His holiness, sovereignty, and eternality, each in its own unique “voice”.
God intends the creation to direct our thoughts and aspirations heavenward, toward the unseen realm where Christ rules with the Father and the Spirit in radiant glory, light, majesty, praise, holiness, and honor. If we, like the creation, can see into this realm, we will behold the glory and holiness of God, and give witness to these in our own callings, as the creation does in its.
God bears witness to Himself in all created things, that they might induce us to humble ourselves before Him, cast ourselves in utter and complete dependence upon Him, and glorify and serve Him in every aspect of our lives, as in heaven, so on earth.
And bring His goodness to light in holy works of love.
On earth as in heaven
Jesus taught us to pray that the Kingdom of God, as it exists in heaven, would become real and visible on earth as well (Matt. 6.10). We must pray like this daily. But praying is not enough. We must give ourselves to understanding the nature and operation of the heavenly Kingdom, so that we may emulate and advance it here on earth, in every aspect of our daily lives.
The creation in heaven celebrates and thus advances the holiness of God, as does the creation here on earth. Our duty is to discover the glory and holiness of God in the things He has made (Prov. 25.2), and to understand from this, in the light of God’s Word, how we may bring holiness to completion in the fear of God through good works in our own callings (2 Cor. 7.1).
As we meditate on the heavenly court and contemplate the unseen landscape of that eternal and glorious realm, we discover that all creatures, as many as are there, see God clearly and proclaim His glory and holiness. While the creation here below currently groans and travails under a burden of sin, brokenness, and futility (Rom. 8.20-22), it nevertheless declares the glory of God and witnesses to His holiness.
And it teaches us that we must do the same.
The presence of sin in the world may be great and increasing, and we may be weak and limited in our ability to stem this rising tide. But if the groaning and travailing creation can bear witness to God – refracting as it does the creation that already exists in heaven – then we must do so as well. Those who have preceded us in heaven are holy, and they acknowledge the holiness of Him Who has created all things, including us. We can do no other in bringing the reign of heaven to reality and visibility on earth than to pursue holiness in the fear of God, and thus fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
1. Can you give some examples of how the creation here below, following the example of the creation in heaven, testifies to the holiness of God?
2. Why is holiness so important to the progress of God’s Kingdom on earth?
3. What are the greatest obstacles keeping us from bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God? How can we overcome these?
Next steps – Preparation: How might you begin to pay more attention to the message of creation concerning the holiness of God? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.
T. M. Moore
The Spirit of God executes the will of King Jesus, as His Agent on earth, for the progress of His Kingdom. Learn more about the kingship of Jesus and our place in it by ordering a copy of the book, The Kingship of Jesus, from our online store (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.