#17 The Throne of God
In our text today we will be brought into the very throne room of God Almighty. Follow along with me as I read. 1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. 5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” 9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
This is a very reverent scene and indeed we are venturing onto holy ground. Now consider and take care! Do not approach His throne with an attitude of arrogance. The scriptures tell us that we may come boldly, but this speaks of confidence, not arrogance.
Jesus has delivered us from our sins and made us partakers of the Heavenly kingdom. He has clothed us in His righteousness and has prepared the way before us to the Father’s throne.
It is only because of Jesus that we may even venture to approach. And He has bidden us in the scriptures to cast all of our cares upon our Heavenly Father, because He cares for us. This we may do with confidence!
But this is a far cry from the mindset of the day when men boast of their “conquest of heaven.” Rodney Howard Brown boasts of giving God an ultimatum. “Either You come down here and touch me or I’m coming up there to touch you.” This is arrogance of the first level.
But we are talking about God here! He is a fearful being, omnipotent in all of His ways and thrice Holy. Mr. Brown has never seen the Lord nor known Him: OTHERWISE SUCH BOASTING WOULD NEVER LEAVE HIS LIPS!!!!
Moses spoke the truth when he uttered these words in (Ex 15:11) “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? Here Moses is responding to God’s mighty demonstration of His omnipotent power, seen in the splitting of the Red Sea and in the destruction of the great Egyptian army.
In (Heb 12:21) Moses, having seen the presence of the Almighty on Mount Sinai, spoke of being greatly afraid. The passage reads, “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”
The scriptures are filled with the carcasses of those who approached the Lord and did not regard Him as Holy! When we approach the Throne of God we may come confidently, but there is no place for arrogance or presumption. We must come humbly knowing that it is only by grace that we have been saved and it is only by grace that we may have such blessed fellowship with God.
Remember well the lesson from (Lev 10:1-3) and tremble before the Almighty! Here were two men who thought nothing of the Holiness of God and indeed had decided to worship Him in their own way.
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
He knew that God was right and that his sons had sinned grievously. They had approached the Throne presumptuously, arrogantly. And their sin had found them out!
As we approach the Throne then, I ask you to remember who it is that sits on that Throne. Here is the God of the universe: the one who upholds all things by the word of His power, who has declared all things that will come to pass and has done so before anything was ever created: before whom even the demons have sense to tremble!
It is here where the buck truly stops. It is here where all rule occurs. In this throne room no one is uneasy about anything. Nothing is out of control. None of the angels are running around in a panic shouting, “what are we gonna do?”
No! In heaven, at the throne of God, there is perfect peace. In heaven, everyone knows who is in control. And they worship Him who sits on the Throne and sing His praises because of His perfect power, and Lordship over His creation.
Let us now follow John into the heavenly scene. (Rev 4: 1) “After these things (that is, after the dictation of the letters to the churches) I (John) looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice (this of course is the voice of Jesus Christ) which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” What things? When Jesus says “these things” is He speaking of things that John sees and knows? Is He speaking of things that will occur after the time of John?
I would ask you to recall the words of Jesus in (1:1, 19). In verse 1 He said “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
And then in verse 19 we read, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, the things that had occurred in John’s lifetime previously, how previously is open to conjecture. It could mean up to this exact point in time.
John is to write down the things he has seen, and the things which are, the things that John knew and was experiencing at the present time and the things which will take place after these things.
Here specifically Jesus is speaking of things that are to happen in the future. How far into the future is Jesus speaking? Is it the near future? Did the events that Jesus speaks of in the successive chapters already occur in John’s lifetime or shortly thereafter?
Or is He speaking of events leading up to the end of the age? Or is it a combination of the two? Remember that shortly after the writing of this book, the Emperor Trajan took control of Rome and then Christian persecution went to a whole new level of evil.
Running the risk of being labeled a futurist, my conclusion, from the perspective of linguistics and from the words of Jesus, is that what we see here is the transition from “the things which are” that is, the existing state of the seven churches in John’s time, or in relation to the time when John wrote, to “the things which shall be after these things” or afterwards. And so it is a future tense.
Let me bring another idea into the mix. Remember that some schools of thought hold to a literal interpretation of the scriptures while others believe it is all symbolic. Now we know that this book has a lot of symbolism but so do other books in the Bible.
That doesn’t mean we should just discount them because they are symbols. What I want to point out is that these symbols are referring to realities, not abstracts. It’s not like Jesus was just wasting air when He spoke to John. He had something to say: something important. Something was going to happen and Jesus used symbolism to explain it.
It’s like the temple sacrifices. They were real sacrifices, but they were symbolic of the once for all, meritorious sacrifice by our Lord Jesus Christ: the sacrifice that would accomplish our deliverance and forgiveness from our sins. They are pictures of heavenly things put into words that we can understand.
Again, some say that the book of Revelation must be interpreted either/or: that is, either symbolically or literally. They say, “You can’t have it both ways.” I personally disagree.
I disagree because the seven churches were real, literal, physical churches. In them you can see characteristics of churches down through the ages but I can’t see how these actual, literal churches are representative of “church ages.”
No, they are placed in scripture as warning signs to us: of sins, pitfalls, dangers that we must be aware of and avoid.
Understand too that this world is going to come to an end some day! John Macarthur called this world ‘disposable’ because it is only temporary. We read in (2Pe 3:7) “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” The end of the world will be a real, literal, actual, end!
And so we must be careful to accurately handle the word of truth and not read the thoughts of men into it: specifically, preconceived theological ideologies. The scriptures themselves will interpret the scriptures for us and where they are silent we must bow to the will of our Lord who has chosen to leave certain things secret. And in either case we must say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Now let us go with John into the heavenly scene. John says in verse 2 “Immediately I was in the Spirit;” The understanding is that he was caught up by the Holy Spirit of God, whether in the body or out of the body we do not know, and he was ushered through that heavenly door which he saw standing open and now he begins to describe the things that he is seeing.
And remember that he is describing what he sees in language that he understands and that we can understand. But these things which he sees carry symbolic meanings that we must unpack to get the full meaning.
He says “behold, a throne was standing in heaven, Here is the seat of all authority. From this place God rules the universe and all it contains. He is the absolute ruler of all. And from this place He appoints all earthly rulers. This throne is never vacant! God never abdicates. John says and there was One (this is God Almighty) sitting on the throne. From this place He rules in the affairs of men!
Look with me at the book of (Da 7:9) where we see a vision that God gave Daniel which deals with the end of the world and the beginning of the heavenly reign. Describing this vision he says, “I kept looking until thrones were set up, (an interesting side note is that the KJV speaks of thrones being cast down. We know that all earthly thrones will be swept away at the coming of our Lord and so this could be the case for that translation.)
But the NAS speaks of thrones being set up and we see here the heavenly tribunal where sin is judged and sentenced.
We continue reading… and the Ancient of Days (again God Almighty) took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames; its wheels were a burning fire. Here is a picture of judgment! Back in our text we read in verse 3 “And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance;
This is a majestic scene indeed as the glory of the Lord God outshines everything else in all of His creation. Continuing with his description, John says “and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.” My mind is brought back again to the days of Noah.
After the destruction of the world at that time, God gave Noah a sign in the sky, a sign that He would never judge the earth by a flood again. It was a covenantal sign. It is a sign in the sky that should be a source of comfort to believers. It is external evidence that God indeed rules in the affairs of men.
And so what we are seeing here is the glory of God described in a manner that we can grasp in our finite minds. But remember that when we see Him face to face the description will become a reality that will blow us away.
We have no idea; the finite mind cannot grasp what the glory of God will be like. 1Co 2:9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”
We can read the words but they are mere words. They contain awesome truth but the experience will cause the words to live! What I would like for us to do now is do a bit of comparison between visions. The first place I want us to is in Ezekiel chapter 1. We pick up what he saw in verse 5. This concerns the living creatures.
We read “Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. 6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. 7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. 9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
Note the similarity in Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6. 1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
From our text in Revelation chapter 4 and the middle of verse 6…and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”
These creatures are awesome in themselves but that just makes our God who created them even more awesome! He is beyond description. We are given glimpses of Him in the biblical visions but remember that no eye has ever seen Him.
Note once again from Ezekiel 1. 22 Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads. 23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other. Here is the third set of wings and so each creature had six wings in Ezekiel’s vision.
Notice then the continuity of the scriptures. Skip down to verse 26. Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. 27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
This gives a wonderful picture of what the Lord meant when He said that He does not change. He does not need to for He is majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? He is GOD!
He is the One who spoke this world into existence and He is the One who will speak it out of existence. It is before His throne that all the nations will be gathered. From His throne blessings will be conferred and curses will be administered.
It will be His voice we will hear, rolling like thunder as He says to His children, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world. It will also be His voice of thunder saying to those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, “Depart from Me you cursed ones, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
I close with the word of God through His prophet Isaiah when he said, “Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. 12 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. 13 “I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel. (Isaiah 46:8-13)