In today’s New Testament lesson (Revelation 4:1-12), we’re given the opening scene in John’s vision of God’s throne. And among the wonders that John sees is a quartet of heavenly beings, whom John describes like this:
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 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. 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.” (verses 6-8)
As Pastor Mark Buchanan points out in his book The Holy Wild, this is not the first time that one of God’s prophets has been given a vision of heavenly winged beings. Isaiah, too, saw God’s glory and the seraphim with six wings who endlessly cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” But there is an important difference between the two visions — a difference that Buchanan describes like this:
In Isaiah’s vision, the seraphim around God’s throne use two of their wings to cover their eyes. Even though they are holy, they cannot behold the perfection of God’s holiness. It is too much even for them to look upon. But in John’s vision, the creatures who surround God’s throne are “covered with eyes, in front and in back.” Each has six wings and is “covered with eyes all around, even under his wings.” They are all eyes. They can do no other than look full upon the Lord high and lifted up.
Why? What has changed in those eight hundred years? Just this: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” (Rev. 5:6) “Look, the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist once declared, “who takes away the sin of the world!”
The difference is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of anyone, of everyone, of all who call on His name. Me, a man of unclean lips. You. Because of Jesus, what once was forbidden for angels to look upon now all eyes can see, and the song that once mighty prophets dared not sing now all creation can join. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.
May our trust in the Lamb of God enable us to see God’s glory today. And with hearts and lives that are grateful for His goodness and grace, may join the timeless choir that sings, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”