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HYMNS OF HEAVEN, PAGE 1: “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY”
by Philip Owen

            How will believers be employed in heaven?  What will occupy us throughout (Can we even say “throughout” with its suggestion of a terminal point?) eternity?  The Bible reveals remarkably little about what we will do in eternity, perhaps because, in part, presently we can neither fully understand nor appreciate how all-consuming and all-fulfilling will be the infinitely glorious worth of basking in the presence of the Lord.  That having been said, the Word does suggest that a good portion of our time (Again, that term, time, ceases to have meaning in eternity.  Perhaps, the word experience is preferable)—a good portion of our experience will involve singing.  Glimpses of heaven seen in the Old Testament reveal it to be a place where the angels continually praise God.  And in the final book of the New Testament where those glimpses become most extended and revealing, we discover that singing constitutes a large portion of the activity of those who (will) dwell there.  Depending on how “song” is defined, The Revelation records seven songs.  Since The Revelation records events yet future, we get a preview of songs we soon will either be listening to or singing ourselves.  The first song (Rev. 4:8) will be sung by an angelic quartet:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty,

Who was and Who is and Who is to come.

            The Scene.   Many Bible scholars concur that the opening verses of chapter four depict the rapture of the church.  If that is true, then this song, sung by angelic beings (“the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings” [v. 8]), will be the first song we hear and will then continue to hear perpetually (“day and night they do not cease to say . . .” [v. 8]).  The song is both a reiteration and an expansion of the song Isaiah heard seraphim singing in vision at the time of his calling to prophetic ministry (Isa. 6:3).  And here is the first clear indication of the reason so little is said about heaven and its activities:  in our present unglorified state, we cannot appreciate how a being as magnificent as an angel could find satisfaction and fulfillment in one short song unceasingly during the expanse of eternity.

            The Song.  This brief song expresses four truths concerning God.  First, God is holy.  That term speaks of separateness.  It is not only that He is entirely without sin (which is by no means to minimize the vastness of that reality), but also that He is transcendent:  He is infinitely separate from and above every thing and every living being, both human and angelic.  Second, God is LORD.  This name certainly denotes sovereignty, but as borrowed from its Old Testament contexts, it also speaks of His self-existence.  It is also the name by which God revealed Himself in a personal way to man, and through that name He has been identified as the Redeemer in both testaments.  Third, God is omnipotent. God is called The Almighty only once in the New Testament (II Cor. 6:18, where Paul quotes from several Old Testament passages) apart from the eight times John uses it in the Revelation.  As with all the names of God, no definition completely expresses its significance, but it certainly denotes omnipotence.  And fourth, God is eternal:  He always and forever was, He perpetually and forever is, and He always and forever will be.

            The Significance.  The heading of this paragraph is misleading.  No one could hope fully or finally, whether in this brief paragraph or in the expanse of eternity, to express the infinite meaning of this first song.  Suffice it to say that our first view (and ultimately, our entire experience) of heaven is occupied with the throne of God and the “One sitting on the throne” (4:2).  The first song we will hear will express something of the infinite nature, attributes, and character of our God.  Who is this One Who is perfectly holy, absolutely sovereign, truly omnipotent, and solely eternal?  He is the One Who freely and lovingly sent His Son “to take away sins” (I John 3:5), “to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8), and “to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).  And as we will see next week, this song will be the fanfare prompting us (yes, we who believe will “quickly” [Rev. 3:11] hear and participate in these events) to fall down, worship Him, cast our crowns at His feet, and sing our first song in heaven.                   

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