I will admit, the first time I encountered the term trihagion in Bible college I thought it was a reference to one of Paul’s sports analogies. He’s always using those! But as I continued to read I discovered that this term refers to something much more powerful than running, jumping or hitting something.
It was customary in Jewish culture to repeat something three times in order to affirm the strength of the truth of the statement or phrase, and trihagion is a word that refers to the repetition of the word “holy.” Because this phrase is being repeated continually around the throne of God, it’s obvious that we are meant to understand that God’s predominant nature is holiness.
John MacArthur (who can most likely pronounce trihagion and spell it without looking) says that in this repetition of the word holy, the heavenly beings are affirming in this trihagion the consummate character of God. He is never said to be love, love, love; goodness, goodness, goodness; mercy, mercy, mercy; grace, grace, grace. He is always said to be holy, holy, holy.
It is interesting to note that the phrase, Holy, Holy, Holy is found twice in Scripture- In Isaiah and in Revelation. In both instances the phrases are part of the description given by men who have been allowed a vision of the Heavenly throne room of God. Also note that one instance is recorded in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament- asserting the very truth of the statement- He is the God Who was, Who is, and Who is to come.
In a culture that wants to see God as only love, as only good, as only grace, etc., we must learn to first recognize Him as holy. I believe when God reveals Himself to us at His return, it will His holiness that will bring all of mankind to our knees.
His holiness is already unfathomable to our fallen humanness. However, in coming to earth in the form of a man, I believe He wanted us to be confronted first with His holiness, and to see how His holy nature impacts every other characteristic that defines Him-and how His holiness also impacts us.
Because of His holiness, there is great hope for our lives- hope for salvation, hope for sustaining grace during this life, and hope for spending all of eternity in His presence.