The Heavenly Host
Revelation 4 “Around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind” (v. 6b).
Centuries after Isaiah saw the angels in God’s heavenly throne room (6:1–3), John was given a vision of the divine throne room as well. Revelation 4 records the first part of this vision, which is remarkably similar to Isaiah 6.
The angels John witnesses praising the Lord declare the Creator’s holiness three times (Rev. 4:8), which suggests that these are the same creatures Isaiah witnessed (6:3). That the two prophets are granted the same or similar view of the angels is also seen in the fact that the angels in each vision have six wings (Rev. 4:8; Isa. 6:2). However, unlike Isaiah’s vision, the angels whom John sees are covered with eyes (Rev. 4:6b, 8), and no attempt is made to shield their eyes in the presence of God (see Isa. 6:2). The reason why the angelic creatures do not cover their eyes in Revelation 4 is a mystery. It may be that in the book of Revelation, John’s description of the angels is more concerned with a theological truth than the angels’ precise appearance. The abundance of uncovered eyes on these angels might indicate that the Lord sees all.
In any case, there is a veritable army of angels, the heavenly host, that has as its primary purpose the continual praise of the Lord. These angels experience today the ultimate hope of all believers — the beatific vision. We will see God face to face once the remaining presence of sin is removed from us in our glorification (1 John 3:1–2). Enjoying the soul-satisfying beauty of the Lord will be our eternal delight, the greatest reward we can ever be given.
It is difficult to conceive of what it will mean to see God because He is invisible. Yet Scripture assures us that it is indeed possible for us to see Him. Before evil entered the world, Adam and Eve saw God as they walked with Him in Eden. It is only our sin that prevents us from looking at Him.
Jonathan Edwards suggests that our experience of the beatific vision will be with our minds, not our eyes. Everything we see is mediated through the optic nerve and interpreted by the mind. Perhaps, Edwards suggests, there will be no mediation of our vision in the eternal state and our minds will experience directly the vision of God.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
What is the highest calling of the Christian? The continual praise of God by the angels in heaven is one of the many depictions in the Bible that emphasize the importance of worship. Praising our Creator in heaven is the highest duty for the believer; indeed, we are exhorted to worship the Lord in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:31). And we should look forward to corporate worship each Sunday, for it is there that we glorify God in the presence of His people and the angels.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
1 Chronicles 6–7