Monday, August 9, 2021

23: The Revelation: The Throne of God - Part 1 - (Revelation 4:1-11)


In contrast to the bizarre accounts of those who falsely claim to have visited heaven, the Bible records accounts of two people who actually were taken there in visions. In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul wrote of being transported to the “third heaven,” though he was forbidden to speak of what he saw there (2 Cor. 12:4). The apostle John also had the special privilege of visiting heaven. Unlike Paul, John was permitted to provide a detailed description of his vision in Revelation 4 and 5.

The Bible refers to heaven more than five hundred times, and others, such as Paul (2 Corinthians 12) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1), have written descriptions of it. Yet John’s words in Revelation 4 and 5 are the most informative in all of Scripture. Readers are carried far beyond this world’s understanding into a picture of heaven’s realities. Through John’s vision, believers have the privilege of previewing the place where they will live forever.

The first occurrence of the phrase “after these things” (Rev. 4:1) relates to John’s personal chronology. It notes that this second vision followed immediately after John’s vision of the risen, glorified Christ (Rev. 1:9–20) and the letters to the seven churches (2:1–3:22). The phrase “after these things” is used throughout Revelation to mark the beginning of a new vision.


The second occurrence of “after these things” at the end of verse 1 relates to God’s chronology. Its use marks an important transition in the book of Revelation from the church age described in chapters 2–3, to the third great division of the book found in chapters 4–22. The scene shifts from matters concerning the church on earth (which is nowhere mentioned in chapters 4–19) to a dramatic scene in heaven. This new scene focuses on the throne of God and forms the prologue to the future, historical events that unfold in chapters 6–22. In keeping with the Lord’s promise to spare His church from the hour of testing given in 3:10, the church will be raptured before that time of tribulation begins.

As John looked, to his astonishment he saw “a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1; cf. Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 7:56). That door admitted John into the third heaven to the very throne room of God. It was heaven where Christ ascended after His resurrection and where He has since been seated at the right hand of God. Heaven became John’s vantage point for most of the remainder of Revelation.

After noticing the open door, the first voice John heard was the familiar voice “like the sound of a trumpet” that had spoken to him in his first vision (in 1:10). This was the voice of the risen, exalted Christ. His voice is likened to the sound of a trumpet because of its commanding, authoritative quality. The Lord specifically ordered John to “come up here,” meaning to heaven. John was not swept away into some mystical fantasyland, but transported spiritually into the reality of heaven.

The central theme of John’s vision is the “throne of God,” mentioned eleven times in this chapter. All the features of the Revelation chapter 4 can be outlined based on how they relate to that throne of divine glory. We will consider this throne this week. 


"Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven..." (Rev. 4:2a)

Today most people who claim to have visions of heaven tend to emphasize its most bizarre aspects. Yet John’s vision focused on the glorious throne of God and the majesty of the One who sits on it. John was amazed and astounded by what he saw, causing him to exclaim, “behold.”

The cause of John’s amazement was the throne of God that he saw “standing in heaven.” This was not a piece of furniture, but a symbol of God’s sovereign rule and authority located in the temple in heaven (7:15; 16:17). According to Revelation 21:22 the heavenly temple is not an actual building: “The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” are the temple. The use of the term “temple” symbolizes God’s presence. The throne was said to be standing because God’s sovereign rule is fixed, permanent, and unshakable. A vision of God’s immovable throne reveals He is in permanent, unchanging, and complete control of the universe. That is a comforting realization in light of the horror and trauma of the end-time events about to be revealed (chapters 6–19).


"...and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance..." (Revelation 4:2b–3a)

Random chance does not control the universe. Instead, the all-powerful Creator of the universe is sitting on His throne as its ruler. Unlike its use in Hebrews (1:3; 10:12; 12:2), where it depicts Christ’s posture of rest, the term “sitting” indicates the posture of reigning. Jesus is not resting because the work of redemption has been accomplished, but reigning because judgment is about to take place.

Though John does not name the One sitting on the throne, it is obvious who He is. He is the One Isaiah saw in his vision: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). The prophets Micaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel also saw Him on His glorious throne (1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:9–10; Ezekiel 1:26–28). In sharp contrast to the casual accounts of those today who claim visions of God, these prophets were terrified and humbled by their visions.

John described “He who was sitting” on the throne as being “like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance.” That description is reminiscent of the flashing light, blazing fire, and vivid colors in Ezekiel’s vision. Revelation 21:11 describes jasper as “crystal-clear.” Therefore, it is best to identify this stone as a diamond. All the shining, flashing facets of the glory of God are compared to a diamond, brilliantly refracting all the colors of the spectrum. A sardius, the origin of the name for the city of Sardis, is a fiery, bloodred ruby. It also expresses the shining beauty of God’s glory, and may also symbolize God’s blazing wrath, about to be poured out on the rebellious world (Revelation 6–19).

There is a possible further symbolism in the choice of these two stones. The sardius and the jasper were the first and last stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17–20), representing the firstborn and lastborn of the twelve sons of Jacob. It may be that those stones depict God’s covenant relationship with Israel. His wrath and judgment will not destroy that relationship.

John’s vision of God’s throne is not one of peace and comfort. Its flashing, splendorous magnificence reveals the terrors of God’s judgment.