‘Holy, holy, holy’ means very, very holy. The Bible repeats the word in order to emphasise it.
This verse is the first of several passages in Revelation to praise God. We often think about Revelation as a book about the future. That is true; but Revelation also teaches us how to praise God.
These first words to praise God come from the powerful angels (special servants of God) who surround his throne (royal seat). They remain with him constantly; they see everything that he does. So it is right that their words to praise him describe his perfect character. God is holy, in other words, his character is pure and perfect. He never does any evil thing; he never desires any evil thing. All his actions, thoughts, words and deeds are good, right and proper.
These angels are also very aware of the power of God. They themselves have great power, but he alone has all power. They do not even consider that they should compare themselves to him (Hebrews chapter 1). The name of the great angel Michael (see Jude 9) means, ‘Who is like God?’ The answer to that question is, ‘Nobody, not even the greatest angel, is like God.’
Revelation 4:8 is similar to Isaiah 6:3. That verse emphasises God’s authority rather than his power because God is called the LORD (God) of hosts (armies). In other words, he is the God who commands vast armies of angels.
In Revelation 4:8, the angels praise God because he is always God, past, present and future. Those words may not seem to be in Isaiah 6:3, but actually they are part of the meaning of the word LORD. That word, YHWH in the Hebrew language, has a special relationship to God’s promises to his people. Hebrews 13:8 expresses the same idea: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (the past), today (now) and always (the future).
Next part: All honour is due to God (Revelation 4:9-10)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.