God Upon His Throne (Part 1), Revelation 4:1-3

 

That’s why in chapters 4-5 we see worship, but no judgment.  We see what is the right relationship between the Creator and His creation.  And that’s why in chapters 6-19 we see no worship, and therefore judgment.  He is right and just to judge those who do not worship Him.  Those who do not consider the Creator worthy to be worshiped become worthy of judgment by the Creator.  God’s judgment comes on those who refuse to worship Him.

This chapter begins the 3rd and last section of our outline of the book of Revelation.  This covers chapters 4-22.  It is the largest section of the book of Revelation and it is really what the book is all about.  This section describes the future, the things that must soon take place (1:1, 19).

 

We’ll remember that our outline is what is called the Traditional outline.  We divide the book into 3 sections, based on chapter 1:19 (“things that have been, things that are, and things that will be”  Past, present, future).  We have moved from 1st section, chatper 1, past, and gone into the 2nd section, ch 2-3, which are the things that were current in John’s day.

 

Now we are moving into chapter 4, the last and final section of our outline, dealing with the future things, the things to come, the things that must soon take place.

 

This is a good place to introduce us to a theological word, it’s the word “eschatology”.  It comes from 2 Greek words.  Eschatos means last and logos means the study of.  Put them together and you get the study of last things.  This makes it appropriate that the book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible, and that it deals with the last things, the future things.

 

Now, the last things – the future things – are described in the book of Revelation in the last section covering chapters 4-22.  These are all the things that are yet to come.  This 3rd and final section itself can be divided into 4 subsections.  Chapters 4-5 are the Prologue.  Chapters 6-19 are the Tribulation.  Chapter 20 is the Millennium.  Chapter 21 and 22 are the Eternal State.  Our focus in the next several weeks will be the Prologue, chapters 4 and 5.

 

The Prologue

When we come to chapter 4 we find the scene shifts from earth up to heaven.  Our focus changes from the Church of God up to the Throne of God.  This section in chapters 4-5, called the Prologue, is strategically placed.  Before we get into the wrath chapters (6-19) we must see what is happening here.  Why?  Several reasons:

 

First, it shows that the Lord is in control.  During the judgments everything on earth will be in upheaval and chaotic.  But it will be controlled chaos.  Christ will be causing and controlling the chaos from heaven.  That’s important to realize – the world will not be out of control during the Tribulation.  It will be in control by the Creator who is carrying out His just judgment on a creation that has rebelled against Him.

 

Second, the Prologue is important because in it we are presented with the worthiness of God.  He, the Creator (v11), is worthy to be worshipped by His creation.  It is right to worship Him.  If it is right to stand for the national anthem how much more to bow before the Creator?  Refusing to do so is not just insulting, it is a crime against the Maker – refusing to give Him what is owed to Him.

 

That’s why in chapters 4-5 we see worship, but no judgment.  We see what is the right relationship between the Creator and His creation.  And that’s why in chapters 6-19 we see no worship, and therefore judgment.  He is right and just to judge those who do not worship Him.  Those who do not consider the Creator worthy to be worshipped become worthy of judgment by the Creator.  God’s judgment comes on those who refuse to worship Him.

 

The Call to God’s Throne  (v1-3)

Our first section is verses 1-3 titled “The Call to God’s Throne”.  [Read]

 

At once a door is presented to John.  This is the 3rd door in a row we’ve seen.  First the door the Philadelphian church had opened to them by Jesus Christ:  a door of opportunity.  Second we saw the door Jesus was knocking on in Laodicea:  a door of fellowship.  Now, another door is presented:  the door to heaven.  In chapter 1 Jesus came to where John was, now in chapter 4 John is going to come to where God is:  on His throne in heaven.

 

If you are not yet saved take note:  the door to heaven stands open.  This is not a door that John opened, nor is the door to heaven opened by any man.  God has opened it.  Do you see that?  He has taken the initiative.  Out of His love, His mercy and His grace He has opened the door that would otherwise be closed to you.  If you are not yet saved, can you see how God desires your salvation?  The open door is an invitation.  Look at this book and see all the invitations given to you:  Revelation 22:17:  “Come!  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  Come on then and come to Jesus Christ!

 

Notice not only this door but also the voice that speaks to John.  It is the voice of Jesus, and we know this because John says it is the voice of the one he had first heard speaking to him back in chapter 1 – which was Jesus.  This voice booms with a thunderous majesty:  it is said to be like the great tumult of an army, the sound of rushing waters, a great trumpet.  It is the voice of Jesus – a voice John was familiar with.  John had heard this voice in all its divine authority many times before –  calming the storm on the sea; commanding evil spirits to leave their human possessions, condemning the stubborn Jewish leadership, calling forth Lazarus from the dead, and causing the soldiers who came to arrest Him to fall over backwards by one word.  Now this voice was calling him up from the sphere of this earth – this world – and up into heaven itself.  

 

There is a saying in Scripture that bids the Jewish people to put their trust in God.  You may know it, it goes:  Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. (Heb. 3:15; 4:7; Ps. 95:7-8).  Don’t refuse God.  Open yourself to Him.  When you know deep within that He is calling you to Him to not turn away.  So now, here you are, hearing the word of God today.  Is God calling you today?  Is your heart turning towards Him?  Come to Him.  If you are hearing His voice then this day respond to God by putting your trust in His Son Jesus Christ.

 

What does Jesus actually say?  He says “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.”  Remember the first verse of this book informs us that God’s intention is to show John the future:  “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.”  Later in chapter 1 verse 19 Jesus said to John, “Write therefore what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”  On the other side of that door was a front row seat to the future.  John was being ushered into the control center of all existence:  the throne room of God.

 

Do you see here then that the first thing John encounters on the other side of this door is a throne.  Immediately John has left everything familiar behind.  He has now become one of those very few privileged among men to be taken up to see the Lord of Glory upon His throne.   Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Apostle Paul were taken there.  Now John.  

 

It is the Throne of all thrones, the Throne!  It is the seat of the One who is from Everlasting to Everlasting, the One who made all things but He Himself is not made.  It is the throne before whom all fall in worship to (v9).  Here is a picture of One with power, glory, authority and sovereign rule – the God of all thrones!  He deserves glory, honor and thanks (v9).

 

Throne is a key word in chapter 4, mentioned 13 times.  As a matter of fact, a nickname for the book of Revelation is “the Book of Thrones”, as the word “throne” is mentioned 45 times (compared to 15 times in the rest of the NT).

How does John describe the One sitting on the throne?  Well, first of all he doesn’t really.  A description is conspicuously absent.  Isaiah does the same thing – he says that he saw the Lord on His throne but he doesn’t describe His appearance.  Actually, like John here in Revelation he moves to describe the creatures around God, but, not God Himself.  Paul said God is invisible in 1 Timothy 1:17, that no one has seen Him or can see Him (1 Tim. 6:16).  We get some glimpses in the OT however.  Turn with me to Ezekiel 1:22-28.  

 

Well, John does give us something.  He says that the One on the throne had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.  Jasper is mentioned several times in Revelation, and in 21:11 it is said to be clear.  Perhaps then Jasper is referring to diamond.  Carnelian is a fiery red color.  So the one on the throne had the appearance of diamonds and red jewels.  What should we try to understand from these stones?

 

One interpretation could be the stones symbolize God’s holiness and plan of redemption.  The pure, colorless, beauty of diamonds correlates with the purity and perfection of God’s holiness.  The red could stand for the blood of the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world, the justice of God satisfied in that sacrifice.  Certainly this has merit since God’s holiness and the sacrifice of Jesus (5:8) are major themes of the Prologue, both of which demonstrate the worthiness of God.  

 

Another interpretation is that these stones identify God as the God of Israel.  Israel is His chosen nation, His covenant people, whom He is coming for.  How might this be the significance of the stones?  

 

These stones had a relationship with the 12 tribes of Israel.  Each tribe was represented by a precious stone.  The high priest would wear all twelve stones on his breast when he performed his duties at the altar.  He was representing the whole nation at the altar before God.  Jasper and Carnelian (Sardius) are the first and last of these stones.

-Jasper represented Rueben, the firstborn son to Jacob/Israel.  Carnelian (Sardius) represented the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob.  Together they represent all twelve tribes, from the oldest to the youngest, from the first to the last, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end – sound familiar?

 

Also, their names have significance.  Rueben means “behold a son” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand.”  Like Rueben, Christ is the Son of God.  And, like Benjamin, Christ is also the “son of my right hand” in His relationship to the Father.  So the person who John sees on the throne looking like jasper and carnelian is God in His relationship to Israel.

 

**Lots of OT imagery that a Jew would have picked up on.  This may be because of the timeframe of the contents of the book.  Most of the book refers to the Tribulation period (6-19), which is when God will bring Israel back to the center of His plans.  He will Rapture the Church, then He will resume His program for Israel and finish the last 7 years of that program (known as “Daniels’s 70th Week, or “Jacob’s Trouble”).  God is pictured in a way that shows His relationship with His chosen people.

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