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God’s Holiness in Character and Redemption

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)

We’re familiar with Isaiah’s vision of the Lord found in the sixth chapter of his book. This record of Isaiah’s vision is a known landmark in Scripture when it comes to the topic of God’s holiness. But there is actually so much more we can unpack about the grandeur of God’s holiness as we read the rest of the Bible.

One such place where we can deepen and enrich our understanding of the holiness of God is actually in the book of Revelation. This book was written by the Apostle John who was the last surviving apostle at that time. As a result of faithfully preaching the gospel, the Roman authorities decided to banish John to the island of Patmos. Yet in the backdrop of John’s painful exile, God had given him a beautiful revelation of Himself through the Holy Spirit.

The revelation given to John definitely has a likeness and connectedness to the revelation given to Isaiah. But as we look at the revelation given to John through the lens of what was revealed to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a much fuller and bigger picture of God’s glory and God’s perfect purpose in redemption compared to that of Isaiah’s time where what God had unfolded to them was the prophecy of Christ’s coming. From the Old Testament account of God’s holiness in Isaiah to the New Testament account of God’s holiness in Revelation, we are taken from one peak to a greater one, and begin to realize more clearly that there is no mountaintop we can reach in understanding the infinite height of His holiness with our finite capacities.

As John sees the forthcoming day of the Lord, He sees God sitting in the throne of heaven. John recognizes that God is the central object of worship there. He describes the majestic appearance of the throne that was surrounded by a rainbow that looked like an emerald. Even more majestic was the One seated on the throne who had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. Hosts of angels, groups of elders, and classes of living creatures gave glory, honor, and thanks to Him who lives forever and ever. They had a resounding proclamation that they never ceased to say, and it was “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!“ (Revelation 4:8).

Here we see that as they are confronted with God’s holiness in the day of judgment, they respond with humble adoration and worship. Again there is that noticeable triple repetition of the word “holy”, like what we read in Isaiah’s account. We know that this is a means to emphasize something. But the triple repetition does not only signify the emphasis in their remark, but also signifies the focus of their worship. Their worship was founded on the wonderful and great character of God: His holiness. That is, His consummate perfection and absolute purity - infinitely above us and utterly separate from sin. As they worship Him, they call Him the “Lord God Almighty”. They acknowledge that He is all-powerful, indicating that He is able to do whatever He wills to do and nothing can stop Him. And on that coming Day, the same will be true. As God unleashes His power against sin on that judgment day, surely all will see the unfolding of what He had said in His Word and tremble at the full display of His glory.

Then John saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And a mighty angel proclaimed, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and John began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and look into it (Revelation 5:1-4). As John saw God’s holiness, he wept not just because he was conscious of humanity’s sinfulness, but because of the devastating consequence and effect of humanity’s sinfulness. For sin hinders us from seeing and worshiping God in all the beauty of His holiness. John wept because no one was found worthy and able of breaking the seals of the heavenly scroll containing God’s important message.

But one of the elders tells John, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." (Revelation 5:5) Christ was found worthy of opening the scroll and carrying out God’s message. He has the divine authority to execute God’s plan. And then John sees what Isaiah could only prophesy about: the Lamb who was slain for sinners. This is Christ - the Lamb who became the all-sufficient sacrifice for the redemption of sinners so that all who come to believe in His name would join in endless worship with all the saints and heavenly beings crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!“

Dear believer, may the magnificence of God’s holiness, as displayed by His character and as displayed in our redemption, be your greatest reason to worship Him. We cannot separate God’s holiness in His person and God’s holiness in His redemptive plan from the picture of true worship. For in understanding His perfect character and His perfect redemptive plan, we begin to see that everything is about His all-consuming, all-astounding glory.

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