Rupert Standring (Senior Pastor of St Peter’s Fulham and Co-Mission’s Director of Church Strengthening) provides this week’s encouragement, reminding us for what we were saved – even in lockdown.
What is happening in heaven during lockdown?
Throughout this period of lockdown, even as restrictions begin to lift, it has been very easy for our horizons to shrink; for us to be taken up with the immediate and just live one day at a time.
In Revelation 4 we’re given a wonderful vision of heaven to lift our eyes from the immediate to the glory and splendour of our God:
‘In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind. 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 round, 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.”’
Among the many things the Apostle John sees around God’s throne in heaven are these four strange-looking living creatures that we’re to understand represent all living creatures God has made. John sees them doing what they were made to do; what they have been redeemed to do now, and forever – ceaselessly praising and worshipping God for who he is.
In particular they focus on three things about God to praise him for.
- The four living creatures praise God because he is holy
They say the word ‘holy’ three times to emphasise just how holy God is. It’s the equivalent of our superlative in English. We’d say ‘holy, holier, holiest’. They say ‘holy, holy, holy’: God is the holiest. What exactly does that mean? It means God is totally good and totally pure and totally unspoiled all of the time. It means he is totally different to us, who can only manage some of those things, some of the time.
- The four living creatures praise God because he is almighty
No-one and nothing is more powerful than God – not even a global pandemic no-one has a cure for. He is all-mighty – the mightiest! Even Coronavirus is under his control, not out of it.
- The four living creatures praise God because he is eternal
We have a beginning, a middle and an end, and that end has been very much in view recently with daily updates of those who have died each day from coronavirus. God is different! He always was, he is now and he always will be.
Together these three truths about God mean that he is the holiest and mightiest, always and forever. And because God is holy, almighty and eternal, the four living creatures say he deserves to be given three things: glory, honour and thanks.
- God deserves glory because his holiness makes him radiant and beautiful.
- God deserves honour out of recognition for him being almighty.
- God deserves thanks because, being eternal, he is not about to abandon us in this crisis (or indeed ever!).
Why did the risen Jesus give the Apostle John this vision of these strange-looking four living creatures ceaselessly praising God in heaven for who he is? It was so that, having had our eyes lifted from what’s right in front of us, we can take our cue from what’s happening in heaven and join with them, now, on earth.
This is what Christians will be doing forever if we keep trusting in him. This what we can do now, even in lockdown, once we’ve had our eyes lifted to heaven to see just who God is and what he is like!
God deserves our praise and worship, even in lockdown!
Maybe you know that, but just at the moment you are struggling to do so, or even to want to worship him? This might be because of the particular challenges of coronavirus – social, psychological, emotional and spiritual. It might be because of other pressures in the home, with your family or flatmates, or at work. It might be your own sin and mistakes that have tripped you up, clouding your vision of exactly who God is and what he is like.
Allow this vision and the ceaseless praise and worship of these four living creatures in heaven to reboot your faith in God and your worship of him on earth.
Take your cue from them. Take your lines from them! Make their song, your song; their worship of God, your worship of God.
That is no less than God deserves! But it is also no less than we were made to do; what we have been saved to do. It will therefore be good for God and good for our souls!