Randy Harris teaches at Abilene Christian University. In his freshman Bible class he gives students the following outline to the Book of Revelation: (1) God’s team wins. (2) You get to pick a team. (3) Don’t be stupid. It’s a good outline.
The last two lessons for this month come from Revelation 4-5. They are not unrelated to the earlier lessons on the resurrection of Jesus from Luke and John. Jesus was resurrected from the dead because the Lord God Almighty is still on his throne.
Description of the Throne
Following John’s vision of Jesus in chapter one and Jesus’ addresses to the churches in chapters two and three, John was ushered through an open door into Heaven. We should not miss the obvious larger structure—to get to Heaven you must meet Jesus and go through the church. No doubt John pushed language to the breaking point to describe what he saw. But first, he heard a voice. It was the same trumpet-like voice he heard earlier (Revelation 1:10). The voice called John to come up here so that he could see what would take place (to get Heaven’s perspective). To connect this passage with 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (and thus some kind of rapture) seems like a stretch, but many Bible-honoring people believe that. It would seem that John was more likely describing a state of inspiration since he mentioned being in the Spirit as he did in 1:10.
John’s attention was directed to the throne of God. Before the judgments of God come upon the earth dwellers (Revelation 6-11) who follow the trinity of evil (Revelation 12-18), which will be condemned, John needed to see who really controlled the world—and it was not Rome. Throne is a major word in Revelation. More often than not it refers to God’s throne, but there are other thrones too, as we will see in this context. Revelation may be called the tale of two cities, but it could also be called the tale of two thrones—Heaven versus Rome. Throne appears 10 times in these verses.
The Lord God Almighty sits on this throne. It is described in majestic splendor. God is pictured in beautiful red (jasper and ruby). He is surrounded by a rainbow of brilliant green (emerald). The rainbow is not the only thing surrounding this throne. There are 24 other smaller thrones (see Matthew 19:28). Twenty-four is twelve doubled, symbolic of God’s people in both testaments. On these smaller thrones sit 24 elders. They have been redeemed (dressed in white) and reign with God (crowns of gold on their heads). It is quite a place.
Power from the Throne
Thrones have no inherent power. Throne is a metonymy for God. God has power, and his power bursts forth as lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. In the Bible, these are all symbols of immense power. There are also blazing lamps. Sun glasses are advised. The seven spirits of God symbolize the complete power of God. The Holy Spirit and power are often connected in the Bible (Acts 1:8).
Even though there was this awesome power, the sea of glass clear as crystal, perhaps a symbol of purity, was calm. This scene is similar to when Jesus calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41). The disciples were afraid of the storm. But when Jesus calmed it, they were terrified of him. Calm but powerful. Speaking of power, there were also living creatures around the throne. These are identified in the non-printed portion of our text (verse seven) as a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Whatever they represent they see (covered with eyes) and say (which the next section indicates).
Worship at the Throne
It is as if the living creatures and the 24 elders cannot help themselves. They were in the presence of God. What else could they do besides worship? Their worship is cognitive (covered with eyes indicates knowledge). Their worship is continual (day and night). Their worship is about God’s character (holiness to the third power, eternality, and creative). Their worship is contagious (the living creatures and the elders seem to prompt each other to join in). Their worship is submissive (they lay their crowns before the throne).
This is a worship service like no other. The seven churches (little colonies of Heaven on earth) would be encouraged in their worship to know what is taking place above them. On a really good day sometimes the church feels like this throne room.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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