What it boils down to is that God is right in the most perfect and absolute sense. This is a core conviction as a Christian and it is the bedrock of our understanding of God – that God is perfectly just and perfectly righteous. Out of this a worshiper emerges.
#1: God is Adored in Heaven (v16-17)
When the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of Jesus Christ it will demand worship. Such glory has never been seen on the earth and it must be accompanied by the praise of heaven.
God is worshipped perpetually. The Tribulation began with these same 24 elders worshiping God (chapters 4-5). Throughout the Tribulation we see He continues to be worshiped. Then, at the end worship will take place as the kingdom is established and then for all eternity He will be worshipped. Always God is being worshipped.
Just not by everyone. Abel worshiped when Cain didn’t. David worshiped when Saul didn’t. For now, angels and people can choose to worship Him – or not. But day is coming when “every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Php. 2:10-11).
Have you ever paused to consider the question: “Who are you worshipping? Worship is all about the “Who?” question. Who is God? And what about Him makes us worship Him? Who He is is why we worship Him. So how we answer the question of “who” will actually reveal much of our own worship. Who is this God being worshiped in this passage? If we listen to what these 24 elders say we learn something about worshiping God. Listen to what they say:
First, He is Just. They worship Him because He’s just (verses 17-18, “judging”, “rewarding”, “destroying”). He is worshipped because He judges justly. He judges righteously. He can’t be bribed. He can’t be intimidated. He can’t be ignorant – He has all the facts and sees them accurately. What it boils down to is that God is right in the most perfect and absolute sense. This is a core conviction as a Christian and it is the bedrock of our understanding of God – that God is perfectly just and perfectly righteous. Out of this a worshiper emerges.
Second, they worship Him as Sovereign. He is called “Lord God Almighty”, emphasis on “Lord” here. He is Master of His Domain. He is the unmatched, uncontested rightful ruler over all Creation and He is beginning to exercise that right to rule on earth by using His power to implement His earthly kingdom. The world has gone to the Satan and his Antichrist, but, we worship the One and Only Sovereign.
Thirdly, He is worshipped because He is Omnipotent. He is All-Powerful. They call Him “Almighty” and they say, “Your Great Power”. God is the Personal Force behind all existence; the Cause of it all. He created ex nihilo simply by speaking. By His Power He gave Abraham a son. He delivered Israel from Egypt, through the Red Sea, and from all her enemies. Who on earth can stop God? Is there anyone or anything that can force Him back when He comes on this world? All the nations of the world will be like leaves swept away by the tidal wave of God’s Wrath. No one is His equal. He is omnipotent. Therefore He is worshipped.
Lastly, He is worshipped because He is Eternal, they say (“who was and who is”). He has no beginning and no end. But the nations do. Satan does. There is One that is before everything else and before Him there is no one.
Notice the similarity of this phrase with previous passages (1:4, 8; 4:8). Notice the difference: it does not include “who will come”, indicating He has come now (also in 16:5)
Application: Worship God all the time (in all circumstances) and Worship God for all that He is (for His grace and His holiness – His judgment)
#2: The Nations’ Anger at God (v18a)
Next we see the Nation’s Anger at God, read verse 18a, “…”
When Christ comes to set His kingdom up on earth He will squash the raging nations. This reference to man’s anger and God’s wrath is actually a play on words in the Greek. It’s comparing man’s anger against God’s. The point emphasizes the utter ineffectiveness of man’s anger against God compared to the total power of God’s wrath. It’s like an ant stomping on a man’s foot vs a man’s foot squashing the ant. Man’s anger can’t do any damage to God, but, God’s wrath will destroy man. No contest.
We’ve studied the anger of God a lot in this series, but, why are the nations angry? To answer that turn with me to Psalm 2. This is another passage describing the anger of man and the anger of God.
What we are seeing here is what I would call the rage of rebels. The rage of rebels is the burning anger someone feels towards an authority figure they have rejected. Rejecting authority is by nature hating that authority. It’s the same rage as Satan. It’s the same rage as the Pharisees who killed Jesus. It’s the same rage as anyone who rejects authority. The nations hate God because they refuse to acknowledge God as God, as the Creator, and as Judge. They refuse to submit to His authority. They organize themselves against Him. In their anger towards God they plot to try and take God on. Don’t try to rationalize the idea of taking on God. Anger makes someone irrational. In their irrational hatred they are going to take a stand against God and be crushed in doing so.
Application: Be careful when someone tells you it’s okay to be angry at God. It’s not. Sometimes people are angry at God because they think He wronged them. Anger is the result of injustice or unfairness. If you are angry at God its because in your heart you are accusing God of wrongdoing. You are attacking His justness and treating Him like He’s unfair. Has someone like that honestly looked in the mirror? Proverbs 19:3 says, “A man’s own folly ruins his life yet his heart rages against the Lord.”
But as we just said He is just. Just-ness is a core fact of God’s character and it is a core conviction of our faith. There is absolutely no way anyone worships God who is angry at God and blames Him. God never needs anyone’s forgiveness. Anyone advising you with words like “go ahead and be angry at God – He can take it” is someone whose advice you need to avoid. It is not about whether God can handle your anger – He can. The real issue is you’re treating God as though He is in the wrong. We should be reminded of God’s words to Job: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” Which leads to our next point.
#3: God’s Assessment of Mankind (v18b)
Thirdly we see God’s Assessment of Mankind. Notice verse 18 again with me, “….”
The previous point showed us the evil assessment mankind made of God. This point shows the righteous assessment God makes of man. He will be the judge of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
First we see Righteous. God will honor those who honor Him. Mentioned first are the prophets who served God. All of them spent their lifetime preaching, rebuking, warning and exhorting people who were bent on rebellion against God. Most of these men suffered painful persecution and did not see any payoff for their life’s work. But the pay for their work was never to be received in their lifetime. According to this verse, the time has come for their reward.
Notice it also mentions others who will be rewarded: “your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great...” Saints is a word that means “holy ones”, those who are set apart by God. They are those people who reverence His name, that is, they think highly of Him, and they ascribe glory to His name.
Don’t miss the words “both small and great” there either. God will honor those who honor Him whether they are a world mover and shaker or a stay at home mom. Not one sparrow is sold or drops to the ground that goes unnoticed by Him. How much more He knows the least of His saints.
Application: God sees the small things. Jesus noticed the tiny penny given by the widow at the temple. He said that if we give a cup to the least of one of His brothers we will not go unrewarded. You don’t have to cause continental revival to be noticed by God. Nobodies sincerely doing little nothings for the name of Jesus are seen by Him and will be rewarded.
After the Righteous we see the judgment of the Unrighteous, “the time has come for judging the dead [unrighteous/unsaved]…and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” These are those who refused to reverence God’s name, who decided to serve themselves and their sin rather than God.
When it says “judging the dead”, the term “dead” is not referring to those who are physically dead, but, to those who are spiritually dead and under God’s judgment. Those who stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment are called dead – even though they stand there physically resurrected in new bodies (Revelation 20:12).
Among them who will be destroyed will be those who destroyed the earth. This verse does not mean we need to become a “green” church and reduce our carbon footprint in the world. It has nothing to do with pollution, deforestation, and protecting endangered species. “Earth” is the sphere of human activity and “destroy” is the moral corruption of that sphere.
Destroy is a Greek word that is used in other verses of the NT. It’s used to describe physical decay, deterioration or destruction of something. Jesus said in Luke 12:33 to store treasure in heaven where no moth can destroy. Outwardly we waste away according to 2 Cor. 4:16. But this word is used in a spiritual and moral sense too – showing that we can experience moral decay, spiritual deterioration.
Destroying the earth means morally defiling it, spiritually corrupting it, turning it into a cesspool of sin. Destroying the earth means ruining it so that it is filled with violence, immorality, perversion, theft, idolatry, lust, and every imaginable form of sin under the sun. In other words, making things on earth look the way Satan wants and look absolutely like nothing God ever created it to be.
For this God is going to destroy them. They will be destroyed forever. They will not be reduced to nothing, they will not be annihilated, destroying them forever means He will perpetually ruin them for all eternity
Again we come back to God’s justice. He will pay them back exactly as they deserve. Illustration: Adoni-Bezek thumbs and big toes cut off, God paid him back for what he did (Judges 1:6-7).
This is a condensed, panoramic description of End-Time Judgment. This is not one single General Judgment, but, rather a condensed description of separate judgments. One for the righteous and one later for the wicked. Jesus spoke similarly in John 5:28-29 about the future resurrection and judgements [Turn and read].
Application: We must be convinced God’s justice is real. And this means that right and wrong are very real.
#4: The Ark of the Covenant (v19)
There are 2 things to understand about the ark’s presentation here:
First, God is not done with Israel. This verse transitions us to chapter 12, which focuses on Israel. Revelation as a whole, and especially the next few chapters emphasizes God’s relationship with Israel
What is the Ark of the covenant? The Ark contained the budding staff of Aaron (power), the jar of mannah (provision), and the 2 tablets with the 10 Commandments. Furthermore, the glory of God, the shekinah glory, dwelled above the ark, between the two cherub statues built on top of the ark. God identified Himself with this nation, Israel, and that was their glory. But God, didn’t just do it in the past, His plan is to do it in the future and forever as well.
Placed in the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle. Only the High Priest could enter once per year. He sprinkled sacrificial blood upon it to make atonement for the sins of Israel. Atonement was necessary for the nation to be right with God.
Second, it shows how man totally rejects God. How? While specifically given to Israel, the Ark is very symbolic of God’s fellowship with man. That God would dwell with man, reveal Himself to man, make a remedy for the sin man commits that alienates man from God, provide for the needs of man. One thing you can’t get away from in the Bible is that God is very persistent in His desire for fellowship with man. The ark represents so much in the way in which God relates to man. It may be that its location in heaven is because God took it away from the earth, and thus took away all it represents from the earth, since the inhabitants of the earth have “kicked God out” and want nothing to do with Him.