THE THRONE Come, Let Us Worship Him! Revelation 4:1-11
Philippe R. Sterling
The Scriptures exhort us to worship God. Psalm 100 is one such passage.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. 3 Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courtyards with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting And His faithfulness is to all generations.
Worship matters. Worship matters to God. Worship is celebrating who God is and what He has done. Our passage in the Book of Revelation today focuses on worship.
The Lord Jesus receives the title-deed to judge and reclaim the earth (Revelation 4:1–5:14).
John introduces the third major section of the book with the same words used in the temporal outline in 1:19, “After these things.” We are now about to see “the things which will take place.” What things? The things after the Church Age! The things after the removal of the Church from the earth! This will include the tribulation period, the return of Christ to the earth, the millennium, and the new heaven and new earth.
Chapters four and five form a prologue to the entire section. John is given a glimpse of the throne in heaven before he is shown the terrible judgments that will be poured out on the earth.
The Eternal Father sits on the throne in heaven and receives the adoration of the four living creatures and the enthroned elders (4:1-11).
One of the popular shows on Netflix is The Crown. Though we live in a constitutional republic we are still fascinated with monarchy. God the Father rules over all creation and sits on a divine throne. Revelation chapter four ushers us into the throne room of God.
Summoned to the Throne: John saw a door open in heaven and heard the words “Come up here” (4:1).
John sees an open door in heaven. This is a special door opened to admit John to heaven. The voice of the one that had first spoken to him in chapter one, likely Christ, invites him to “Come up here.” The One speaking with John tells him that He will show him what must take place “after these things.”
The invitation to John is similar to that which the Church anticipates at the rapture. The word “rapture” in English is a transliteration of the old Latin word “rapturo,” which means to “snatch away” or “catch up.” The equivalent Greek word is “harpazo.” This comes from the biblical description of the event in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Someday, Jesus will come for the Church and say “Come up here.” At the beginning of chapter 4 the Church is in heaven. This is how Jesus intends to fulfill His promise to the church in 3:10. Jesus in the Upper Room in John 14:3 just before His death and resurrection told the disciples that He would leave and “go prepare a place for you.” He then promised to return “to receive you to myself that where I am, there you may be also.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 paints a picture of the rapture for us. Paul did not want the church at Thessalonica to be uninformed. Jesus will come with “a shout.” It will be a shout of welcome as He comes to gather us to Himself. He will come with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. These three sounds will tell believers, both dead and living, that the day of their complete redemption is at hand. According to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, at the sound of the trumpet we will all be changed; in the twinkling of an eye, we will put on immortality. Our present bodies will be changed into a glorious body.
The Person on the Throne: John saw a throne and One sitting on the throne (4:2-3).
John is taken through the door and arrives in heaven “in the spirit.” He is in a spiritual state in connection with receiving the visions. He had returned to his normal senses after the first vision ended in 3:22 and now returns to the same state in which he had been so as to receive a second vision.
John first sees the throne standing in heaven and then the One sitting on the throne. Revelation is a throne book. The word is used forty-six times in the book and fourteen times in this chapter. Verse 8 identifies the One sitting on the throne as God. The word for sitting is a present participle indicating continuing occupancy. This is the throne of God the Father, since the Son approaches the throne in Revelation 5:6, and The Spirit is before the throne in Revelation 4:5. God is on His throne and in complete control (see Isa 14:24-27). See Exodus 24:9-11; Daniel 7:9-10; Isaiah 6:1-5; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Acts 7:55-56 for other throne descriptions.
John describes the One sitting on the throne in terms of two precious stones: the jasper and sardius. Rev 21:11 explains the jasper as clear as crystal, that is, the color of light, perhaps like a diamond radiating brilliant light. God is robed in light according to Psalm 104:2 and 1 Timothy 6:16. The sardius was blood red and named for the city of Sardis where it was found.
Around the throne was a rainbow the light green color of an emerald. The rainbow reminds us of God’s covenant with Noah, symbolic of His promise that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. Judgment is about to fall, but the rainbow reminds us that God is merciful and gracious, even when He judges (see Gen. 9:11-17). Unlike the sights of rainbows on earth of which we see only a part, this heavenly rainbow completely encircles the throne of God. Usually a rainbow appears after the storm; but here, we see it before the storm.
The Persons around the Throne: John saw 24 elders sitting on thrones clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads (4:4).
Around the throne were 24 elders upon 24 thrones. The rainbow was around the throne vertically, while the elders were around the throne horizontally. They are the King’s court.
These 24 are representative of the church overcomers. This is supported by the parallel of the OT where the priesthood of Israel was represented by 24 orders of priests since the thousands of priests could not all minister at the same time (see 1 Chronicles 23:3-4; 24:4-5). Each order was represented by one priest serving at one time (Luke 2:5-9). The white garments represent their righteousness in Christ or perhaps their righteous acts (see 19:8).
The crowns are their reward for service while on earth (see 3:11) – the crown of life for those who faithfully endure trial and temptation (James 1:12), the incorruptible crown for those who discipline their lives (1 Corinthians 9:25), the crown of rejoicing for those who lead people to Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19), the crown of righteousness for those who live in anticipation of the coming of Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and the crown of glory for those who faithfully care for God’s people (1 Peter 5:4).
A crown represents the reality of authority and rule. The faithful of the Church will be on thrones with crowns ruling and reigning with Christ (see 3:21). The crowns will be given as rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see Matthew 16:27; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). The 24 elders join the four living creatures in worshipping God (see Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:1-22). They fall down before the One on the throne, casting down their crowns before the throne.
The Praise to the Throne: Four living creatures and the twenty four elders worship Him who sits on the throne (4:5-11).
From the throne came flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. These are portents of judgments and come again in 8:5; 11:19 and 16:18. They are storm signals.
Before the throne were seven torches of fire. They are the seven spirits of God or the fullness of the Holy Spirit (as in 1:4; 3:1; 5:6). The torches emitted a blazing fire rather than a soft one. Fire in this book symbolizes judgment. Here is the divine preparedness for God’s wrath against sinful humanity.
Also before the throne was a sea of glasslike crystal. A pure crystal sea symbolizes God’s purity and holiness. The crystal “firmament” in Ezekiel’s vision also comes to mind (Ezek. 1:22). It was the foundation for God’s throne. It pictures the splendor and majesty of God on His throne that set Him apart from all creation, a separation stemming from His purity and holiness, which He shares with no one else.
In the center and around the throne were four living creatures. They resemble the cherubim that Ezekiel saw (see Ezekiel 10), but their praise reminds us of the Seraphim of Isaiah 6. Each one is different in appearance. The four likenesses represent each part of the animal creation. They encircle the throne, one on either side, one behind and one in front. In the context of Revelation, one of their functions is the administration of divine justice in the realm of animate creation (see 6:1, 3, 5, 7; 15:7).
Some interpreters see in the four faces described the picture of Christ given in the four Gospels. Matthew is the royal Gospel of the King, illustrated by the lion. Mark emphasizes the servant aspect of the Lord’s ministry, the calf. Luke present Christ as the Son of Man. John magnifies the deity of Christ, the Son of God; the eagle.
These living creatures signify the wisdom and omniscience of God – “full of eyes.” God has created them with such penetrative intelligence that they are fully aware of happenings pertaining to their judicial responsibility.
They ceaselessly praise God. They ascribe to God holiness, all power, eternality. They give Him glory and honor. They also offer thanks to God. Whenever the living creatures glorified God, the elders would fall before the throne and praise Him.
The elders seated on their thrones rise and fall on their faces before God and worship Him. As a further act of homage they cast their crowns before God and praise Him in the words of verse 11. They address the One on the throne as the Lord and “our God.” They ascribe to Him glory, honor and power. They attribute to Him the creation of all things in accordance with His will.
The scene is one of the redeemed joining with the cherubim in magnifying the worth of the Creator-God. The Book of Revelation is filled with hymns of praise (Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:9-13; 7:12-17; 11:15-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 18:2-8; 19:2-6). The One seated on the throne created all things and to Him all glory is due. However, because God’s will and glory mean nothing to rebellious humanity, divine wrath must fall.
With the song of the 24 elders this initial scene in the throne room closes. John’s invitation to heaven, the heavenly throne, and activities around the throne make a deep impression. Here is the headquarters of the holy, omnipotent, and eternal God who requires His standards to be met by His creation. If they are not, His wrath must inflict penalties upon the rebellious.
Worship is perhaps one of the greatest endeavors in our churches and individual lives. We tend to emphasize witness for Christ and working for Christ, and perhaps there is not enough emphasis on worshipping Him. To worship means “to ascribe worth.” It means that we praise God with all of our being for all that He is and does.
One of the hymnals that I have is entitled The Worshiping Church. The first hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty.” Some of the words are drawn from our passage.
Holy Holy Holy
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be
Holy, holy, holy, though the darkness hide Thee Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee Perfect in power, in love, and purity!
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!