Please open your Bible to Revelation chapter 4. I’m excited for today. The last two weeks, while every single inch of Revelation is dense, rich, beautiful, and loaded with important truth for our every day lives, the 3 chapters of our series so far has been warmups for what’s coming.
The book of Job is one of the most fascinating books in the Old Testament. It was probably the first written scripture God’s people were given, and it was written to answer the question “why do bad things happen to good people.” It seems to be a true story, even though it is written in the form of “once upon a time.”
What makes it so interesting is that it is written from a third-person-omniscient perspective. The narrator of the story knows what’s going on in the physical as well as spiritual realm, and the lessons we are meant to learn from Job are lessons that require both perspectives. Job did not know about the heavenly stakes of the suffering he was going through, it seems like it would have been so helpful to him if he would have known the bigger picture! But God’s people do get to see it through the book of Job. And that heavenly perspective is needed in order to satisfactorily answer the question of suffering, and how are we supposed to maintain faith in our supposedly loving, wise, omnipotent God in the middle of our daily struggle.
And that is part of the reason we have The book of Revelation.
Today we get to read and hear how John was called up into the throne room of heaven, and gets to see “behind the curtain”, so to speak, in the spiritual realm to see a bigger picture, of what else is going on, in addition to the things we can see and hear and touch and taste all around us. What’s going ton “behind the scenes”, or maybe in a sense, “what’s really going on.”
And the things he sees there are written down for us, to help us have an eternal perspective in our spiritual war against sin, the world, our flesh, and the devil.
Todays passage, chapters four and five, are a powerful start to this perspective.
How I’d like to approach this today is to walk through and help you have some idea of what is going on with all this crazy imagery, in order to remove the potential distractions and pitfalls they pose, so that the central message of the passage can shine, and having done that, then we’ll go back through and read the whole passage, and then respond to it together as a church: in song!
Into The Heavenly Throne Room
After this… 4:1
A note on “after this…” – does not necessarily indicate chronological order, but rather the order he saw the visions. Even in John’s gospel account, the order of events in places does not line up with other gospel writers. The precise order of events was not the important thing, but rather conveying a message about Christ’s ministry. Same as here.
There’s some debate about whether “what must take place after this” is referring to the future, or not. There are those that thing that it is introducing the whole of Revelation as taking place at some point in the far future (or near future for us 2000 years later..), or whether it is simply saying “after this” as in after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, which is the position I hold.
The throne, 4:2-6
- And someone seated on it
- Jasper and carnelian
- A rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald
- Flashes of lightning and thunder
- Sea of glass
- Where have we seen this before in the Bible?
- Illustration: Painting – Rembrandt, “Two Old Men Disputing”, the meaning of his paintings were found in the details he painted, not in the ones he didn’t.
- Debate about the details. Some see the priestly garments as described in Exodus 24 and 28. This points to this being a temple scene. We’re in the Holy of Holies with the True High Priest. But most clear with this whole scene is a parallel with God’s appearances in the Old Testament at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19, and to the prophet Ezekiel in his chapter:
- Where have we seen this before in the Bible?
26 Something like a throne with the appearance of lapis lazuli was above the expanse over their heads. On the throne, high above, was someone who looked like a human. 27 From what seemed to be his waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be his waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around him. 28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.Ezekiel 1:26–28 (CSB)
John is in the same situation that the prophet Ezekiel was in: standing before the likeness of the Lord’s Glory, he fell face down, just like Ezekiel did, and the voice started speaking to Him, just like Ezekiel.
Note the “lapis lazuli above the expanse” is the same image as the sea of crystal at his feet.
One other image “before the throne that is important in v. 4: Seven fiery torches = The Sevenfold Spirit. The Holy Spirit is together with the one who sits on the throne.
Twenty-four Elders 4:4
- We don’t know who this is.
- Six categories of theories, each with sub-theories.
- Most popular and plausible seems to be that these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the Twelve apostles. Signifying the elect people of God.
- Clearly though: they wear golden crowns. They are kings. And what do they do with them? They give them up in homage to The One Seated on the throne.
- The message? The one seated on the throne is the king of kings and the Lord of Lords.
The four living creatures 4:6-8
- Combining imagery of the four living creatures from Ezekiel 1 & 10, and the Seraphim of Isaiah 6.
- There are a lot of theories about the significance of all the details of the four living creatures, but no specific interpretation is given here or in Ezekiel so, just keep your eyes on the big picture and don’t get too distracted by trying to figure out the details, and especially don’t get too dogmatic about a specific meaning. We don’t need one. Because:
- The point? What are they elders and creatures doing? WORSHIPPING!
- The focus of the scene? Not the elders and the creatures: the one seated on the throne! The king of kings!
The Worthy One
Scroll (book!) in in the right hand of the one seated on the throne, 5:1
This book is sealed. A sealed book is referred to several other times in the Old Testament in the prophets: Isaiah 29:11, Ezekiel 2:9-10 has a similar book though it is not sealed. Clearest though given all the rest of the imagery is Daniel 12:4, this book was to be sealed up until the time of the end. John is now writing the rest of revelation describing the unsealing that book. The time of the end began with Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven.
The most important image in the book though: Jesus approaches from “the midst of the throne” – 5:6-7
- “Look, a lion!” then I turned and saw a lamb.
- Where is the lion of Judah? The root of David? The Lamb who was slain but now lives?
- In the middle of everything.
The Spirit and The Lamb
- Where have we seen this before?
- Seven = seven recurs throughout the Bible. days of creation. Fullness
- Seven horns = fullness of power, horns are a symbol of strength and ability to conquer throughout the old testament.
- Seven eyes = Zechariah 4:10 – the eyes of the Lord which range throughout the earth = omniscience = The Holy Spirit.
Back up: Jesus is worthy because has conquered, by being slaughtered and resurrected – 5:5
Jesus is setting a pattern for us. And what does this Jesus do?
Taking the Scroll from the Right Hand
This image of Christ at God’s right hand is a constant theme in the New Testament.
31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. 32 “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear.Acts 2:31–33 (CSB)
20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,Ephesians 1:20–22 (CSB)
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.Hebrews 1:3–4 (CSB)
He also shows up in Daniel:
13 I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. 14 He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13–14 (CSB)
The Response: Worship
What is this part of Revelation saying, and what then should we do about it?
That if we were to peel back the curtain and be able to see into the spiritual realm, into the heavenly throne room, what would we see? A worship service.
The lamb is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory and power.
because he has conquered.
How has He conquered? By being a faithful servant of The Father, even to death, even death on a cross.
And we are to follow him.
1. Keep Your Eye on The Lamb
- Keep your eye on the Lamb in reading revelation:
- Don’t get distracted looking for meaning in details where there isn’t an explicit definition given, or an explicit link to the OT. And sometimes that link to the OT is not about definition, in the case of all the symbology about the throne, the symbols are not defined, but it links back to Ezekiel 1, where we are told “This is the Glory of the Lord!”
- The Lamb is the main character.
- Keep your eye on the lamb in your everyday life:
- Where is he going and what is he doing?
- He is on the throne, reigning in heaven!
- He is absolutely in control of the events of history, even the bad ones, and directing them for his glory.
- He goes to the cross, then to the grave, then to the right hand of his father, and still to come: he comes back to reign on earth forever, we get to be with him forever.
- In the meantime: Follow the Lamb wherever He goes Revelation 14:4
- Where is he going and what is he doing?
2. Respond to the Lamb: Worship
In your daily life:
With the 4 living creatures, and the 24 elders, and the countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. We worship Christ as we daily follow him. As we decide to honor and glorify HIM with the way we live, the decisions we make, the way we work, the way we study, the way we treat our parents, our friends, our coworkers, our brothers and sisters in christ, and maybe most especially, by the way we speak about and treat our enemies, we worship.
Together with the church
We also gather together with our brothers and sisters to worship through song. And as we read through this passage now with more clear understanding of what is going on, we are going to respond to Jesus the worthy one by singing to him together.
As the band comes back up, and as we get ready to hear Revelation 4 and 5 read aloud, if you don’t know this Jesus we are reading about and singing to, and you would like to. I’d be happy to tell you about him, and if someone brought you here this morning, I’m sure they’d be happy to talk with you about him. I’ll be up here after the service and I’d love to talk with you and see if I can help answer any questions, and I’m sure a few of the other pastors would join me up here as well if needed.
Listen then, as we read aloud, the words of Revelation 4 & 5.
[Read: Revelation 4&5, CSB]