Revelation 4: 1-6
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first 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 there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
Life here on earth, and indeed the whole of human history, is made up of two overlapping, or intertwined realities, one we can see and one we can’t see.
That there is the visible, physical world that we live in – the world we see, touch, experience as normal. But, in the book of Revelation, as the curtain is pulled back, the Apostle John gets to see that there is also an invisible, spiritual world, which exists all around us at the same time. In fact, this spiritual world deeply affects and impacts what happens in our lives and in our world.
We discover that for many of the events, problems and pain in our lives and in the wider world, while it may be difficult to see the cause or purpose in it, when you go deeper, look behind the scenes, there is actually much more going on than we realise.
The unseen is affecting the seen. The invisible is interacting with the visible. The spiritual world is impacting the physical creation.
Today as we start looking at chapter 4 John gets to glimpse the unseen, he gets to step in behind the curtain, to go behind the scenes, backstage into the spiritual invisible realm and experience the world that he lives in from Heaven’s perspective. And when he sees everything from Heaven’s perspective, it all starts to make sense. He comes to understand that there really is more to life than meets the eye.
Look at 4:1:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’”
So John is invited to step into the heavenly realm and here’s what he sees.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”
If you remember back to first devotions on Revelation, the reason why the church is being persecuted and suffering so much is because of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The Roman Empire basically controlled all of the known world at this time and the power of being Emperor went to Domitian’s head a bit. To say Domitian had an ego would be an understatement. He decided that He wanted to be worshipped as god, you had to address him as ‘my lord and my god’ and you had to offer worship to him.
So to everyone living in the Empire at the time, there seemed to be only one power, only one throne, Domitian was on it and he controlled their lives and their future.
But look at what John sees when he looks behind the curtain. He sees another throne, a throne in heaven, and there’s someone sitting on it. It’s not empty, it hasn’t been vacated.
Who’s on it? It becomes clear that God Almighty, the only God, the one true God, is on His throne.
Look at the next verse:
“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”
We’ve got to remember that John here is using finite human language to try to describe the infinite and indescribable. It like what he sees can’t be explained in words and yet that’s all he has, so he does his best to try to say what he experiences.
It talks about jasper and ruby. These were two of the most precious and valuable stones at the time. They signify wealth and majesty. It’s like when you see someone who has just got engaged and they have the largest sparkler on their finger you’ve ever seen. And you’re thinking, "Wow…that’s a rock. You did well!" Multiply that by about 10 billion and that’s the wow factor John experiences as he looks at God.
So we’ve had jasper and ruby, next we have an emerald. But notice what it forms. A rainbow. When we think of a rainbow in the bible, what do we think of? Noah and the flood.
The rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise, He is a covenant keeping God. We can trust Him completely. He tells us the truth, and we can literally stake our lives on His truth, no matter how things might appear around us.
In our world today there is a real distrust if any authority. It seems like everyone we looked up to has let us down. We don’t know if there’s anyone we can actually trust. Yet God is always trustworthy. He’s faithful, dependable, honest, His very essence is truth.
The Apostle John needs to know that right now. When the pressure is on, when you are suffering for something or someone, you need to know that they really truly are worth suffering for.
So He is shown a throne, a rival throne to the Emperor’s throne. In fact, in these next 2 chapters, the word throne is mentioned 19 times in 25 verses. Pretty much every single chapter of Revelation talks about God’s throne. It’s making a point. In comparison to God’s throne, the Emperor’s throne is rather pitiful. In fact, Domitian’s throne is really a bit of a sad parody to God’s throne. His power is a cheap imitation of what real power looks like.
In comparison to God, the Emperor Domitian is like a little ant or some sort of bug shaking it’s fist and shouting up at humans that they should worship it. You just put your foot on it.
God is in control. He is on the throne. He is the only one with real power and eternal authority.
Some of you need to hear that that today. Because you have things and people and situations and circumstances that seem huge, overwhelming, crushing, intimidating, terrifying, all-powerful.
It really depends who you’re comparing them to.
The Emperor, compared to every other human, looked strong and powerful. But when compared to God – he just sad and pitiful.
There is a Lord on the throne, above every other Lord, a King greater than any other King, a ruler who rules with divine power and absolute authority.
Every other throne will be shaken and ultimately disappear. His is permanent and secure.