The Throne of God (Rev. 4:1-11)

Publié le 5 septembre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Pastor Vincent Bourrel on 29th Aug 2021

Introduction  

Chapters 2 and 3 have described the realities the church is going through on earth (lack of love, persecution, false doctrines, compromise, lifelessness, weakness, self-sufficiency). But now, here is  another reality that should encourage us.  

Chapter 4 begins with the words « after this, I looked, and behold… » which is an expression found throughout the book of Revelation and which signals a new vision. It is the same voice that speaks to John as the one who dictated the letters to the seven churches, namely: Jesus Christ in his glory. He orders John to go up, into heaven. « A door was opened in heaven » means Jesus will show him another reality.

At that time, the church was persecuted, especially by the Roman emperor Domitian (he was  violent and authoritarian: he called himself « lord and god », « most holy emperor ». The second part of  his reign turns to tyranny. Domitian persecuted almost all those who expressed an opinion different from his own, including Jews and Christians). John himself is exiled to the island of Patmos. But the Spirit transports him to another reality.  

If you are facing difficulties, temptations, weaknesses, persecutions… Come take a look with John.  

The chapter opens a great section of the book of Revelation in which God judges the earth. But before revealing the judgments, Jesus shows John the throne room of God as a reminder of who the judge is,  and that his judgment is based on his holiness.  

Let’s read Revelation 4:1-11

1After this 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.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 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. 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. 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, 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: 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. 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!”

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.”

—-

This is not the first time that we encounter in the Bible this type of vision of the glory of God (Isa 6,  Ezek 1, Da 7). Each time the vision makes a strong impression on the one who sees it and pushes him to humility and adoration.  

AN IMPRESSION RATHER THAN A COMPREHENSION  

When we read this text, it is difficult to form a clear picture of it, but the impression it leaves on us is  really striking.  

V.3-7 John himself struggles to describe what he sees, words fail him, he sees things he has never seen  before, he uses words like: similar (5 times), like… There is a glorious reality that is beyond him. No  artist can reproduce such a representation.  

The purpose of this description is not really for us to understand a dimension that is clearly beyond us,  but rather for us to realize that there is another reality, a glorious and majestic reality that amazes us  and moves us to worship a God that is beyond us, that we can never fully understand because God is  infinite, and we are finite or limited. 

Yes, God has a dimension that escapes us, that is incomprehensible.  

Ps 145:3 « Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is beyond our understanding. »  Ps 147:5  » Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. »  

Psalm 139:6 speaks of God’s omniscience:  » Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.”  

Ro 11.33 Paul, after expounding the gospel in the first 11 ch of the epistle, exclaims,  » Oh, the depth of  the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His  ways past finding out!”  

Isaiah 55:9 « As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my  thoughts than your thoughts. »  

Job 11:7-9 Zophar of Naamah said, « Do you claim to know the thoughts of God? It is as high as the  heavens; what will you do? Deeper than the grave, what will you know? The measure of it is longer  than the earth, it is wider than the sea.”  

and 37.5 Elihu said,  » God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot  comprehend.”  

We can learn true things about him, enough to put our trust in him, but we cannot know God in an  exhaustive way. It’s like a mountain, you can hike it, you can know its trails, the flora, the fauna, the  quality of the rock, you can even build your house on it, but what you know about the mountain is  

only a small part of what it actually is. You can’t get to the heart of that mountain, weigh it, there are  parts you can’t get to. Well, our mind can’t grasp God in his fullness.  

This incomprehensible dimension of God should amaze us, it makes us seek to know the Lord and to  humble ourselves before Him and worship Him.  

It means that we will never tire of probing the riches of his character and his works. That throughout eternity we can continue to grow in our knowledge of God and take delight in Him. The more we  discover about God, the more we celebrate him. This is why the angels in heaven celebrate his  majesty, and why we can celebrate his glory forever.  

A GOD SITTING ON THE THRONE OF ALL ETERNITY  

What the apostle John mainly sees in v.2 is a throne and the one who sits on that throne. In 11 verses  the throne of God is mentioned 11 times.  

The throne is surrounded by an emerald-like rainbow. The rainbow symbolizes the faithfulness, mercy  and grace of God. He had established it after the flood as a sign that the earth would no longer be  destroyed by water (Gen. 9:12-17).  

He also sees 24 thrones and 24 elders sitting on his thrones. Who are they?  

– Some commentators see these elders as representatives of all the redeemed of the Old and New  Covenants. Jesus promised the « overcomer » a white robe, a crown and a seat on his throne in Matt.  19:27-28. « Then Peter answered and said to him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed you;  what shall become of us? Jesus answered and said to them, « Truly I say to you, when the Son of Man  sits on the throne of his glory at the renewal of all things, you who have followed me will also sit on  twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. 

– Other commentators prefer to see them as representatives of a higher order of angels.  

It is difficult to decide. Whatever the case, these 24 elders enhance the radiance of God’s throne and celebrate his glory.  

The lightning, voices and thunder that come out of the throne are associated with God’s presence (as  in Exodus 19 when God gives his law from Mount Sinai), they are also associated with God’s wrath and  judgment (cf Rev 8:5, 11:19, 16:18).  

The 7 burning lamps, which are « the 7 spirits of God » is an expression to describe the Holy Spirit in his  fullness cf. The comforter of those who love Christ will consume those who reject Him.  

Before the throne lies a sea of glass like crystal. This transparent sea reminds us that Heaven is not a  nebulous, misty world… everything is bright, luminous.  

What John means:  

v.6-7 is the description of the 4 living creatures that are in and around the throne, Ezekiel had also seen them in Ezek 1 and he identifies them with cherubim (Ezek 10:15). They are very high angels who  are with God. Isaiah also saw them and heard them say day and night « holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come ».  

This expression « holy holy holy » reminds us that God is apart, he is beyond limits, transcendent, there  is an infinite distance that separates God from all creatures, he is infinitely superior to us.  

The word holy also reminds us that God is completely separate from evil in all its forms. He is in no  way tainted by evil, error, and wrongdoing. Being holy, God hates sin and pours out his wrath on it.  

The Old Testament records that after God executed men for irreverently looking at the ark of the Lord  (a wooden chest overlaid with gold symbolizing God’s presence), the survivors said, « Who can stand in  the presence of the Lord, this holy God » (1Sa 6:20). After Uzzah was struck to death by the Lord for  touching the ark, King David was afraid and said, « How can the ark of the Lord enter my house? (2Sa  6:9). And the prophet Isaiah, overwhelmed by the vision he received of God’s majestic holiness, cried  out, « Woe is me, I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips; I dwell among a people of unclean lips » (Isa  6:5).  

Because of His grace and mercy, God is patient with men who are all sinners. But here is the moment  when his patience is at an end and he enters judgment with the sinners who refuse to repent, to  believe and to worship Christ.  

All the judgments that are going to happen, all the wrath of God that is going to be poured out on the earth, towards the ungodly… are in accordance with the holy character of God. His wrath is holy, his justice is holy, as his love is holy.  

He is also celebrated as « the Almighty ». Nothing and no one can stand against him. He can carry out  effortlessly what his holy will wants to accomplish. « He says and it happens, he commands, and it  exists » Ps 33.9. King Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonian emperor) once understood this truth to his expense  and recognized that God « does as he pleases with the host of heaven and with the inhabitants of the  earth, there is no one who resists his hand and says to him ‘what are you doing? (Da.4.35)  

In Psalm 2 David recalls the reaction of the Almighty when the kings of the earth join forces against  him. v.4-5 « The one who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord mocks them. Then he speaks to them in  his anger; he frightens them in his fury. 

Finally, the 4 living beings praise God for his eternity. « He is the one who was, who is and who is to come, the one who lives forever and ever.  

I was born under President Charles De Gaulle, I grew up under Pompidou and Giscard, I got married  and started working under Mitterand, I arrived in Toulouse under Chirac, then I have seen Sarkozy,  Holland and Macron… Out of these 8 presidents, 5 are already dead. Presidents pass away, only God  remains. The emperor Domitian, who caused so much suffering to the Christians at the end of the 1st  century, died assassinated. What a comfort to know that God will always be there to take care of us,  he will never be overthrown, he will never retire, he is faithful and always alive to fulfill his promises.  We can count on him.  

What is your vision of God?  

Above all temporal thrones, some of which are responsible for terrible persecutions, is the supreme  throne: God’s. « Justice and fairness are the foundation of his throne. Goodness and faithfulness are  before your face » Ps 89:15 He accomplishes his benevolent plan even through the sufferings of his  children. This is another thing that is difficult for us to understand. But he has shown us that through  the unjust death of Jesus Christ on the cross he has done a perfect work to redeem sinners like us and offer us an eternity in his presence. That is why we believe that he can do all things (even the most  difficult) for our good (which is different from our welfare).  

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, there are many uncertainties, we see the earth turned  upside down by a pandemic (deaths by the millions all over the world, solutions that restrict our  freedom, provoke economic crises, generate fears), by natural disasters (fires, floods, earthquakes), by  terrifying political crises (Afghanistan, which provoke movements of populations)  

But the almighty, eternal God, the threefold-holy God, the God whose judgments are unfathomable  and whose ways are incomprehensible, is on his throne. He rules all things perfectly so that all  creatures who enter his presence and see a little of his glory celebrate and worship him.  

This is a comforting thought.  

A CREATOR WORTHY OF WORSHIP  

The four living creatures lead the 24 elders in their worship. They bow down and throw their crowns  before the throne, expressing that everything comes from God. That the glory and honor they enjoy  has been earned for them by him who sits on the throne.  

This is how we can worship God. Not just on Sunday morning, but every day, remembering like David  (1Ch 29:14) « Everything comes from you, and we receive from your hand what we offer you. » You  have skills, possessions, wealth, time, talents… give thanks to God for that and use all that he gives you  for his glory.  

Their song is beautiful: v.11 God created the universe to manifest his glory. All things belong to him.  He is « worthy » = glory, honor and power belong to him because he is the creator.  

Creation is always dependent on God « by his will they exist and were created. » Our lives, our health,  our possessions, our loved ones… all of creation belongs to God. He has all authority over it. 

Conclusion  

A piece of heaven has been unveiled and we have seen the eternal realities there. A holy and eternal  God on his throne who is about to restore perfect justice. He delights in all who enter his presence,  they recognize that he is the creator, that all things exist and undergo by his will and they worship him.  

You may have lived until now without ever considering this reality of a holy God who will judge each of  us. He has the right to judge us because he created us. And we cannot live as if we made ourselves. It is also our supreme and eternal happiness to know and glorify him. This is the purpose of our lives.