Question: "What does it mean that God is the one who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4:8)?"
Answer: Revelation 4:8 presents an amazing scene in which John, the author, witnesses heavenly worship. He records, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, 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.’” This declaration serves to emphasize both God’s holiness and His eternal existence. For these living creatures, God’s eternal existence is worthy of worship, and we should likewise praise the One who was, and is, and is to come.
God exists past, present, and future. He has existed for all time and always will exist. Finite beings like us at some point came into existence. As finite beings, comprehending God’s eternal nature is beyond our capacity. Nevertheless, we can deduce that, as contingent beings who depend on certain factors for our existence, we point to an uncaused, eternal Being who possesses the intelligence to create intelligence. When we contemplate human existence, it logically leads us to an eternal Cause whose attributes align with the biblical God.
Additionally, God’s eternal nature highlights His timeless essence, distinct from our time-bound state of existence. These differing perspectives may help elucidate certain Scriptural paradoxes, such as the interplay between God’s sovereignty and our freewill. God’s eternal nature also instills in us the confidence that life extends beyond our temporal world, prompting us to relinquish our limited agendas and embrace the eternal purposes of God.
Praising God as He “who was, is, and is to come” also communicates a profound sense of awe. Whenever we are tempted to diminish God’s significance or act as if He is irrelevant, let us remember the ceaseless worship of the living creatures who are perpetually awed at God’s perfection and His eternal nature. Notably, their worship is directed solely at God, not any created thing. There’s a certain value in thanking God for His kindness toward us, but we should also cultivate the practice of worshiping God for who He is. We owe our existence to Him, and the more we behold Him, the greater our desire to worship.
Skeptics sometimes ponder whether we might become bored in the afterlife. Yet nothing in Revelation 4:8 suggests that the living creatures ever consider taking a break from contemplating God’s attributes and praising Him. We sometimes experience a glimpse of this marvelous joy during prayer, Bible study, or worship when it feels as if time has slowed and our longing to commune with God intensifies.
Furthermore, God’s eternal nature enhances the magnificence of the gospel. It is truly remarkable that the First Cause and Eternal Being chose to enter an inferior state marked by limitations. In the Person of Jesus, God dwelled among His creation and, even more astonishingly, endured crucifixion to liberate us from the penalty and power of sin. His resurrection brings hope that one day we, too, will be in His presence, engaging in worship like the living creatures (Revelation 7:9–10).