When I first read the Sermon On The Mount from Matthew 5-7 I was partially touched by it, but in my estimation I did what most everybody does with it; I drove right by missing the brilliance behind how it was laid out. It wasn’t until I started reading through Martin Lloyd Jones’ work titled “Studies In The Sermon On The Mount” that I was apprehended by how strategically Matthew 5-7 was laid out. After reading Martin’s thoughts on the 8 beatitudes from the opening chapter of Matthew 5 I was totally stunned to see how each of those beatitudes build on one another starting with the 1st and ending with the 8th.
I mean what more could we expect, it’s Jesus, the greatest orator and expositor in human history preaching what originated in Him before the earth was even formed. Now switching gears back to the Revelation I totally understand how you might be disconnected reading through this glorious book. It’s large (the 4th largest book in the New Testament) and it’s filled with symbols, Old Testament illusions and prophecies concerning the future. But the more you become acquainted with the Revelation through reading it the more you will see the ample connections between the various chapters.
John’s words close to the Church of Laodicea and the other 6 Churches for that matter in Revelation 3:22 saying “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” What’s so powerful about this verse is that the very following verse in the next chapter (Revelation 4:1) speaks of the Father’s Throne and He who is seated upon it. In other words, Revelation 3 ends with powerful information that is further elaborated upon in Revelation 4. The Revelation, which happens to be the great capstone of the entire Bible is brilliantly and methodically laid out.
It’s been my experience that reading and understanding Revelation 4-5 in the overall storyline of scripture, specifically as it relates to God’s end-time purposes does three primary things. 1) It anchors our life in this age as we walk through both personal and eschatological trouble. It’s true that all of our lives are going to endure an element of suffering, pain, difficulty and adverse circumstances. It’s also true that one generation in particular will experience not only personal trouble but eschatological trouble. But regardless of what kind of trouble we face in this age, the throne of God and it’s security anchors our life in Christ and His unshakable kingdom in such a way that our vision begins reaching for something beyond this age and into the age which is yet to come.
2) It gives us confidence about the One who is truly overseeing all things both in heaven and on earth, in this age and in the age to come. Revelation 4 helps us re-calibrate our minds and reposition our eyes to a throne that’s set in heaven, firmly established with One, not many seated upon it. Many kings, princes and presidents masquerade in this age as having power, authority and control. And though that may seem true in this age, Revelation 4 tell us another story about the One who is high and lifted up. 3) And lastly, Revelation 4 leads us into unceasing worship and adoration of the Godhead. When we see the sights, the sounds, the colors, the angelic governments and the untold angels singing in unison, night and day, day and night, it calls us to lift up our eyes as well. The glory of the One upon the Throne elicits unceasing, unbroken unified praise. Let’s now look at the verse contained within Revelation 4.
John’s Vision And The Throne Of God (Revelation 4:1-2)
Johns starts Revelation 4:1-2 by saying “After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, come up here and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” What an experience John is in the midst of. It was in Revelation 1-3 that John was having what I call the Patmos encounter with the risen Christ. But here, after that experience is over, it shifts gears even beyond those three chapters into what takes place here. If you remember, in Revelation 3:7-8,20 John saw some open doors when Jesus was addressing the Church of Philadelphia and it’s important that I state, this open door is very different than those other open doors that John has already seen.
I believe that this doorway that John is looking at is a doorway of Revelation into heart Person of God, His Throne and the glory of those creatures that surround it. The voice that John hears is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself whom He also heard in Revelation 1:10-13. Jesus has now shown John an open door but that’s not all. When Jesus’ voice speaks to John like a trumpet, John hears the invitation from Jesus for John to come up and see many things that must shortly take place. This speaks of a powerful principle in the Kingdom of God; when God give us an invitation to go with Him, He also empowers us to do what’s been asked (“…the first…said come up here…immediately I was in the Spirit..”)
After John sees the open door, and hears the invitation, immediately he was caught up in the Spirit. This is a statement that John makes many times in the Revelation to make it clear to us that his experience’s weren’t taking place because he had pizza for dinner, but because the sovereign God had selected John to see the depths of His heart and His plan. What John is about to see isn’t something that he can see on his own and we just like John need the Holy Spirit to escort us into His presence. It’s the Holy Spirit who catches John up from the Island and transports him into the very presence of God Himself. And it’s here in this experience that John gets a chance to view what very few men throughout world history and specifically throughout Biblical history have seen, the Man on the Throne.
I like to call what John is taken up in Revelation 4 to see “the control center of human history.” The reason why both myself and many others have called the Throne of God the control center of human history is because everything that has taken place, is taking place and will take place, both in heaven and on earth is originating from that very throne. This is where the Mighty One of Jacob rules from, the One who is from everlasting. It’s also important that we see there was only One who sat upon the throne according to John. There are not many gods or even a few gods, but only one God who is seated upon this throne. And personally, my favorite part of Revelation 4:2 is that this throne that John sees is “set” or firmly established in the heavens. Hebrews 12:28 speaks of this throne and Kingdom when it says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptable with reverence.” Oh the confidence that fills our heart when we see this One who is eternally seated and the stability of His throne.
The Nature Of God As Seen From His Throne (Revelation 4:3)
From this place of encounter through the Person of the Holy Spirit John doesn’t just see the throne and it’s stability but also the One who is seated upon it. John describes what he sees in Revelation 4:3 when he says “And He who sat there was like a jasper and sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” Something that I have mentioned early on in this study through the Revelation is that John has very few concrete things to use when describing the glory of God and God Himself, not to mention the creatures, sounds and colors. Even here when John is looking upon the One who is seated upon the Throne he says “…He was like a jasper and a sardius…in appearance like an emerald.” John has to use his earthy experience to explain this divine encounter and he really struggles to comes up with concrete examples.
But here in Revelation 4:3 John uses three primary things to describe the nature of Him who is seated upon the throne and each of these stones represent a very important quality of God that helps empower us as we wade further and further through the storyline of the Revelation and God’s eschatological purposes. Firstly John says “And He who sat there was a like a jasper…” The jasper stone was what we would today call a diamond. It speaks of what God looks like. This God who is seated upon the throne was shinning like a jasper, like a diamond as glory and light radiated from His divine, infinite Personhood. Song of Songs 5:10 says “My Beloved is white (dazzling, bight white) and ruddy.” 1st Timothy 6:16 says “…who alone has immorality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” And Paul says in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 when speaking about the glory of God, shown in the face of Christ “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” What we gather from this description of John is that God radiates light, glory and brightness from who He is not just what He does. What He does shines brightly because He Himself shines brightly.
Secondly, John sees that “He who sat there was a like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance…” The sardius stone is much different than a jasper as it’s not known for its brightness as much as it’s deep red color. This stone that John uses to describe God the Father speaks of His emotions. The reality is, the God who’s eyes are like a flames of fire (Revelation 1:14) let us know that it’s really His heart which is burning for humans. It’s critical that we understand God’s not only filled with glory and brightness, but His heart is burning with passion for weak believers that love God though they struggle with sin. Many can agree that God is bright, filled with glorious light. But believing that the One who shines brightly has a burning heart for weak humans who struggle with sin really trips most people up.
In one of the weakest places that the Shulamite was in, in her journey of loving God in Song of songs 4:9 God makes this declaration over her by saying “You have ravished My heart, My sister, My spouse; you have ravished My heart.” Our un-renewed mind fights the reality that God’s heart is ravished (deep red like a sardius) over the weak, yet sincere love of His people. And then again God says about His love in Song of Songs 8:6 “…For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; it’s flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.” Be strengthened today that He who is seated upon that glorious throne has a burning, deep red heart of love and passion for His weak, yet sincere creation. After God created both natural life and human life, He said it was good. And though Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, God didn’t cash in on His creation. Instead He went to work, producing a pure and spotless sacrifice that would once and for all set the record straight about just how red God’s heart of love really is.
The last colored stone that John likens God the father to is an Emerald stone which looked to him like a rainbow. In Revelation 4:3 John writes “…and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” This isn’t the first time nor is it the last time that rainbows appear in the Revelation. It’s my belief that they have their primary connection with Genesis 9:13-17 and the story of Noah and God’s covenant with him. After God had flooded the earth in Noah’s day and all the water subsided God cut a covenant of mercy with Noah. The sign of the covenant was a rainbow and that rainbow would be a visible proclamation to the nations of the earth that God would never destroy the earth by water again.
The fact that John sees this rainbow encircling the throne and the One who is seated upon it gives us great confidence about God Himself. The emerald stone is a green stone and it alludes to life, health and growth. Ezekiel seen this very same image around the throne of God in Ezekiel 1:28. What I gather from this symbol is that everything God does from this throne, or this heavenly control center is done in mercy. This means that whatever proceeds forth from His throne is done in mercy, with the covenant that He made with Noah and to all of His creation in His mind.
The reason why this is co crucial for us to understand is that as we move forward in the upcoming chapters of the Revelation (Revelation 6-19) it gives us confidence about the stability of God Himself, His throne and His kingdom. Seeing the Jasper God gives us clarity into what God looks like. And the Sardius stone gives us clarity into how God feels. And the Emerald stone gives us clarity into how God acts. Without revelation into these three stones and how God is likened to them we will struggle to love, trust and obey God Almighty as He begins to move among the nations preparing the earth for the descent of His Son.
The Activity Around The Throne Of God (Revelation 4:4-11)
From the glory of God who is seated upon the Throne John’s imagery in this glorious encounter moves to the activity taking place around the throne in heaven. In Revelation 4:4 John says “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.” What a sight this must have been for John, who was just recently taken up from the Island of Patmos into this out of body style experience in the glory of God. Now, these 24 elders are a little bit mysterious to me and among many commentaries they are also a mystery to them. So for the sake of this chapter I am going to leave you with the four primary schools of thought regarding these twenty-four elders. 1) Angels. 2) Exalted Old Testament saints 3) Angels who corporately represent Old and New Covenant saints 4) Patriarchs from the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles. These are the four primary groups that people place these twenty-four elders into.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that they represent the governmental ministry of God as shared laborers with Him. The Father has chosen both angels and humans to share in His leadership over the nations not because He has to, but because He wants to. So for now, in this chapter I will suffice to keep these twenty-four elders as those that help and serve in the courts of God before the God of heaven and earth.
John continues his description of this activity around the throne in Revelation 4:5 stating “And from the throne proceeded lighting’s, thundering’s, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.” Through this verse we can see that there is a holy storm of glory, power and might taking place around His throne. This is very much indicative of the storm of Glory that settled over Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 that caused all the nation of Israel to tremble before the Mighty One of Jacob. This storm is a demonstration of power, authority and noises.
The power of lightning and thunder that takes place around us is that it both smalls us up and puts into perspective our lack of control. It’s the terrifying reality of an Omnipotent God who rules and reigns over the kings of the earth. Whenever I am in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm I am reminded so quickly of the finite reality of my existence. When it’s taking place and totally shaking my house and my physical body I am reminded that I have zero control over natural elements around me. And when John sees again the “…seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirit’s of God” he is seeing again the sevenfold Spirit of God that fills the throne room of God.
John’s vision of the throne room and the activity around the throne continues in Revelation 4:6-7 as he says “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was a like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.” Here we see the sea of glass mentioned which brings up many ideas from many different people. I am not personally sold on what this is, but for now I like to think of it like David Pawson says “it’s a sea of tranquility and peace before the throne of God in light of what is about to follow in Revelation 6-19.” What David Pawson is saying is that even though life in this age is about to unbuckle in a ways that it’s never unbuckled, it doesn’t mean that God is stirred up about it. In fact the contrary is true. He is actually seated, calm and still anointed with the oil of joy. David said in Psalms 29:10-11 “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” The peaceful God gives peace because He is filled with peace, even at something like the flood, which wiped off nearly every human from planet earth.
These living creatures that John see are called Seraphim. The word Seraphim literally means “the burning ones.” These living creatures are the nearest to God’s throne and they show forth four different faces of God in redemptive history. These ones who are seated closest to God see Him clearly and they literally burn day and night with the splendor and majesty of God Almighty. The first living creature was like a lion. This face speaks of majesty, courage, the fierce fight and boldness that’s needed to preserver. God Almighty is like a Lion and He makes His people like one as well. The second living creature was like an calf or an OX. This face speaks of serving through the mundane. It speaks of strength and endurance. God is a Preserver and He makes His people those that endure through the many seasons of life.
The third living creature had a face like a man. This face speaks of intelligence and wisdom. The reality is, humans have a dignity about them that no other created being has. We are made a little lower than God but higher than animals. There is dignity about us because unlike animals, we are made in the image of God. And the fourth and last creature was a like a flying eagle. This face speaks of swiftness and sovereignty. The eagle is pictured as one who is strong, has wings and is ready to fly on behalf of the Lord in a moment’s notice. The strength of eagles is remarkable. And among these creatures all of God’s creation is mentioned and covered.
And lastly John says in Revelation 4:8 “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. They do not rest day or night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” When looking at these four living creatures we can gain much more insight from Isaiah 6:2 when Isaiah seen the Lord high and lifted up. This is what Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:2 “Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face (reverence and awe of God—not even looking at Him) with two he covered his feet (this speaks again of reverence and modesty, covering their nothingness in the presence of God) and with two he flew (this speaks of their readiness to do the will of God, it’s instant obedience).”
The eyes around and within speak of their ability to see Him who sits upon the throne. They never take their eyes off of Him who sits upon the throne. Throughout created history, these burning ones gaze upon God unceasingly. Something that I love about this passage is that our Theology (the study of God) should always lead us into Doxology (worship of God). It’s true that when we see Him rightly we respond accordingly with unceasing worship. It’s the joy of Revelation (eyes around and within) touching our hearts that evokes worship. Our lack of worship isn’t a music, style or environment issue, it’s a sight issue. Because I see little I also worship little.
Our response to God is often based on the culture of the Church, our city, our state, our nation or even our globe, but this isn’t a worthy response. Our worship must be based on reality (Revelation 4) not our experience. Reality says, He’s worshiped night and day, experience says He’s worshiped when I feel like it, if I like the music or if others are doing it.
The power of Revelation 4 is that it recalibrates our heart and engages us at the core of who we are to worship God because He is glorious, fearful, awesome and terrible. We must see Him rightly in order to worship Him rightly. Our cultural experience of worship won’t be sufficient enough to sustain us in the day of trouble and in the Day of Judgment. We will not be able to stand on the quality of worship in our Churches as the standard of worship, but upon the standard of Revelation 4. The question will be “did we see Him rightly and respond accordingly?” And to that end I want to be able to say, yes!