Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 10 (“Worthy are You, our Lord and God”)
Before we move on from the chapters on the seven churches, there is a need to state the relationship between these chapters and the following nineteen. We have seen what happened in the church on earth across its history, through the experiences of the various churches in Asia Minor. In other words, what happened in the seven churches in Asia Minor, are also happening in churches all over the world, through all the ages until today and will happen in churches in the future until Jesus’ second coming.
What follows in the chapters ahead (4:1-22:21) shall give us a glimpse of the real principles and powers operating behind the various situations noted in the seven churches. We will learn more about all the social, political, economic, ecological, cosmic and spiritual factors that happens in and around churches (and individual believers) and how these factors will unfold towards the end when Jesus will come back. We must also understand that these factors are co-ordinated things that happen within the sovereign reign of God almighty – He brings some of these factors about and in other cases He allows things to happen in the life of the church – it is an unfolding of a co-ordinated unit which rolls towards a designed end (Afrikaans: “Al die faktore wat ge-koördineerd in die agtergrond, in elke kerk teenwoordig is en werk, word in die volgende hoofstukke beskryf”). In short, the seven churches are the recognisable face of church life (ecclesiastical life – Afrikaans: “kerklike lewe”). Additional to this, we shall see the unveiling of the final destinies of both the church and her opponents.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.4:1-11 ~ “After this (i.e. after John has received the praise, warnings and commendations to the seven churches) I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
3. THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD (vss.1-5):
John was banished to the island of Patmos, an insignificant rock off the Asiatic coast, under Domitian, and returned to Ephesus during the reign of Nerva (A.D. 96). It was common for the Romans to sentence criminals by sending them to remote islands. Therefore, John was shut up in Patmos as a criminal, as punishment for bearing witness to Jesus.
While John was prisoner on the island of Patmos, he was “in the spirit” and received the contents of the seven letters that he sent to the seven churches in Asia minor. To be in the spirit, means that the Holy Spirit revealed and gave him the contents of the letters under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Or in other words, while he was physically on Patmos, his spirit was elsewhere. A similar thing happened to Ezekiel several times when God took him to Jerusalem to see the sinful things happening there ~ “He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy” (Ez.8:13).
Now here in our Scripture reading, John once again, was “in the spirit.” Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit he got a glimpse of heaven. We must take note of the fact that this vision that was revealed to him is described in chapters 4 and 5 and it consists out of two parts: “the throne” (ch.4) and “the Lamb and the scroll” (ch.5).
While in the Spirit for a second time, John is ushered into the throne room of God. The throne room of God, is the “place” in heaven where God’s throne is located. We must understand that a throne is a special seat reserved for a monarch. When the Bible speaks of God’s “throne,” the emphasis is on God’s transcendence. What does the word “transcendence” mean? To transcend means “to exist above and independent from; to rise above, surpass, succeed.” By this definition, God is the only truly transcendent Being. The “LORD God Almighty” (in Hebrew, El Shaddai) created all things on the earth, beneath the earth and in the heavens above, yet He exists above and independent from them. All things are upheld by His mighty power (Hebr.1:3), yet He is upheld by Himself alone. The whole universe exists in Him and for Him that He may receive glory, honour and praise.
The fact that His throne is in heaven further underscores the transcendent nature of God’s existence. We must however note, that the throne of God need not be thought of as a literal throne. God the Father is incorporeal (“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth ” – John 4:24 – Afrikaans: “ontasbaar/”onliggaamlik”). Not having a physical body, God does not literally “sit,” or God does not really have “hands,” “eyes,” etc. We call this anthropomorphisms – i.e. descriptions of God expressed in human terms out of deference to our limited knowledge, in other words, God has to describe Himself in ways we can understand.
If God’s throne and throne room are also not literal things and places, how must we then understand these expressions?
• A place of power and authority: God’s throne and throne room can best be described as a place of honour and authority. In 2 Chron.18:18 Micaiah saw a vision of God’s throne room when he said ~ “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.”
• A place of majesty and honour: The throne room is also a place of majesty and honour. Isaiah describes it beautifully in Is.6:1-3 ~ “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” We read in Hebr.12:2, after ascending to heaven, that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. There is no higher place than heaven. God is the King of heaven, and Jesus holds the place of honour at God’s right hand. Right through the Bible, a person of high rank who puts someone on his right hand gave him equal honour with himself and recognized him as possessing equal dignity and authority. This is what the Apostle Paul writes of Jesus Christ in Eph.1:19-21 ~ “And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age.” Here we see God exalting Jesus above all others by seating Him at the right hand of the Father. The throne room is a place of majesty and honour. God the Father gave Jesus (His Son) equal honour and recognized Him as possessing equal dignity and authority than the Father Himself.
• A place of perfect justice: The throne room is a place of perfect justice. We read in Ps.9:7 ~ “He has prepared His throne for judgment.” The final judgment, described in Rev.21:11, is held before “a great white throne.”
• A place of sovereignty and holiness: “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (Ps.47:8). The throne room is a place of sovereignty and holiness. God does whatever He pleases, and all He does is good. The throne room is a place where God’s sovereignty and holiness are demonstrated and applied.
• A place of praise: John’s vision of heaven includes a scene in which a “new song” is sung in praise to the One who occupies the throne (Rev.14:3). The throne room is a place of praise.
• A place of purity: Only the redeemed, those who have been granted the righteousness of Christ, will have the right to stand before God’s throne. The throne room is in other words, a place of purity ~ “…and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” (Rev.14:5).
• A place of eternal life: God is the Source of life and the throne room is thus a place of eternal life. In heaven, John sees in Rev.22:1 ~ “…the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
• A place of grace: The throne room is a place of grace. Not only does the throne of God represent judgment for the unbeliever, but it also represents mercy and grace for His children ~ “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebr.4:16).
4. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
It is unfortunate that the church today often neglects to worship the God of creation. The real answer to the ecological problem is not financial or legal, but spiritual. It is only when man acknowledges the Creator and begins to use creation to God’s glory that the problems will be solved.