“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8 ESV)!
What does it mean that the Lord God Almighty is holy, holy, holy? When we think about holiness we tend to think about godliness, or Christ-likeness, or being set apart for God… But is that what it means for God to be holy? And if so, why say it three times?
This saying comes from some sort of heavenly creatures in Revelation 4; and a similar statement comes from seraphim (who are also some sort of angel or heavenly creature… The word seraphim in Hebrew literally means fiery, burning ones) in Isaiah 6:3… They say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (ESV)! And this statement gives us some insight into what it means that the Lord is holy, holy, holy. Notice they don’t say that the whole earth is filled with God’s holiness, but with His glory; and that’s the key…
In Hebrews 1:3 it says, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (ESV). In other words, if you want to know what God is like look at Jesus, for He is God in the flesh. As Scripture says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side (Jesus), he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV). And this makes sense because Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15a ESV).
Now, let’s put all of this together: God is holy… it’s what He’s like in all of His attributes. And Jesus is God in the flesh and therefore displays what God is like in all of His attributes; that’s why He’s called the radiance of the glory of God. And the glory of God is the going public of the holiness of God. So the glory of God shows us what the holiness of God is like, and the Son of God shows us what the glory of God is like. And what we see in Jesus is that the glory of God is the perfection, the beauty, and the love of God overflowing into creation and redemption. So, what it means for God to be holy, holy, holy, is that He is the triune God of the universe who is overflowing with beauty, love, and joy. And His triune holiness goes public in His glory, especially in His glory being made known in Christ. And this is really good news, because God magnifies His glory in Christ by saving sinners like us, and enabling us to glorify and enjoy Him forever.
I am nothing; Christ is all!