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VISION OF THE THRONE

 

 

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. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. (Revelation 4:1–3).

 

After These Things

 

Up to this point in the Revelation, John has experienced two things: first, the vision of the Glorified Christ in chapter 1 and, second, receiving the letters to the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3. The statement “after these things” seems to indicate more than just the chronological progression of the narrative. It may be there was a break of some kind after John recorded the seven letters. John had an overpowering experience in seeing the glorified Christ that knocked him to the ground. There seems to be no break between chapters 1 and 2, so it may have been that John immediately began taking dictation, writing the letters to the churches after he first saw the Glorified Christ. Also the information given by Christ in these letters may have added to the stress of the aged Apostle as he would have been familiar with the churches addressed and very concerned over the conditions Christ mentions. It may be that at this point Christ paused for some time, allowing John to recover from the initial shock of what he was experiencing.

Whether the break was a few minutes or several hours cannot be ascertained from the text and it is of no consequence other than to acknowledge there was a pause before the Revelation continues.

John says “after these things I looked. This suggests that after he collected his senses a new vision appeared to him, the vision being “a door standing open in heaven”. While the word door is correctly translated in English, it does not necessarily suggest the type of door we think of as being the way into heaven. And, the heaven where he sees this door does not necessarily mean the heaven we think of as the eternal heaven.

Ezekiel had a similar experience, which he recorded in Ezekiel 1:1,

 

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

 

The Hebrews spoke of the sky above the earth as a solid expanse, much like a curtain stretched out over the earth; in other words, they defined the heavens buy what they looked like to the eye.

We also see this in the vision recorded by Isaiah in Isaiah 34:4,

 

All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.

 

We know the heavens we see from earth are actually the portion of the universe that can be seen from our little planet, but without that knowledge, it is very easy to think of the sky as a curtain, or perhaps a movie screen, that could simply be rolled up and put away.

 

The Vision Begins

 

It used to be in movie theatres that a curtain covered the screen and this curtain was opened as the projector began showing the movie. In John’s experience, as he looked up, it appeared that the sky was opening up like a curtain to reveal what he was about to see next.

Using the movie analogy, as the curtain open, John hears a familiar theme announcing the beginning of the vision. The various movie studios had their unique themes that played at the opening of a movie announcing the movie was from Fox Studios, MGM, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., etc.

The theme John heard was like a trumpet speaking to him saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this”.

This sounds like what John heard in chapter 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet”. What was the theme played by this trumpet? “Things which must shortly take place. What he heard here was the same theme he heard at the beginning of chapter one”.

Did John not already know this? Why the repetition? Through this announcement Christ is giving John the assurance that He is still in contact with John and the visions he is about to see are coming directly from Him. It is also a restatement of the first principle of the Revelation: “things that must shortly come to pass”. Not only was it important for John to remember this; it is of vital importance that we and all readers of the Revelation remember it as well.

While John had seen the vision of the Glorified Christ in chapter one and then received the letters to the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 & 3, the actual Revelation—the movie—begins here in chapter four.

 

 

Immediately I was in the Spirit

 

In chapter 1:10 John records that he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. The repetition of the phrase at the beginning of chapter 4 seems to support the idea that there had been a break between the seven letters and what follows. It makes no sense for John to say that he was in the Spirit and then say he was immediately in the Spirit. This seems to indicate that he was in the Spirit when the events started; he was then released from being in the Spirit and was now immediately brought back into the Spirit to receive what follows.

While he was able to look into the heaven of this Revelation, being in the Spirit does not imply that he was taken bodily into the heavens. Dr. Albert Barnes gives a plausible explanation:

 

He was at once absorbed in the contemplation of the visions before him. He was doubtless still in Patmos, and these things were made to pass before his mind as a reality; that is, they appeared as real to him as if he saw them, and they were in fact a real symbolical representation of things occurring in heaven.

 

The Vision of the Throne

 

We have no idea what John might have been doing just prior to his experience in chapter four; being an elderly and devout man, he may have been sitting in his room contemplating the things he had just experienced. In his reverie, he opens his eyes and sees the curtains of heaven open; if you please, the movie begins.  He hears the voice of the Glorified Christ speaking to him and immediately he is overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. From this point on, he is no longer in control of himself as he is visually transported into a most glorious environment.

Without any sense that he has traveled any distance he finds himself in a throne-room. The first thing that captures his attention is “a throne set in heaven”. John is privileged in a way no other prophet of God has ever been. Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple”. (Isaiah 6:1) This vision takes place in the temple at Jerusalem. Ezekiel “was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God”. (Ezekiel 1:1) John was privileged to be visually transported by the vision into the presence of God in heaven.

John is overwhelmed by the presence of One that sat on the throne. Notice that he does not describe His appearance, but rather John attempts to describe His magnificence. As a throne is the seat of authority of a king, John sees this splendid one in terms that describe, not just a king, but the eternal king of the kingdom of God.

The first impression he has of the glory of the King is that of a jasper stone. The jasper is an opaque quartz with a smooth surface that is of varying colors. The stone can be polished to a high shine and was often fashioned into seals, such as a king would use. Its vivid colors and use by royalty represent the glorious perfections of God.

The second impression that occurs simultaneously with the first is that of a sardius stone. The sardius is a red stone; red being a color of royalty. The red color also signifies the justice of God, which is an essential attribute of God considering the nature of the Revelation, which is about things that must come to pass. The justice of God is manifest in His mercy towards those deserving of mercy and retribution on those deserving retribution.

Both stones were used on the breastplate of justice worn by the high priest. The Glorified Christ is the king in the kingdom of God and He is our high priest. As the high priest, He wears the perfection and justice of God over His heart indicating both His passion to save mankind from sin and to punish those that reject His gracious offer of salvation.

Surrounding the throne is a rainbow that gave the appearance of an emerald. Going back to Genesis 9:13, we are given to understand that the rainbow is the seal and token of the covenant God made with Noah and all mankind after the Great Flood. As such, it is an appropriate symbol of the covenant that God made with Christ as the head of the church and all who are in Christ. As the ark was the means of safety for God’s people during God’s judgment on a sinful world by the flood, so the church is the means of safety for God’s people in this wicked and sinful world. As the rainbow shows its colors and beauty as sunlight shines through the rain, so does the gospel reveal its beauty when Christ breaks through and appears in the battle against sin.

 

For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5–6).

 

The emerald is also a stone in the high priest’s breastplate of judgment. This stone with its pleasant green hue dominates the colors of this rainbow, showing us that God’s covenant of salvation is always on the heart of God.

 

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

 

“Some count slackness” or, “as some people think.” There are those that willingly reject the claims and requirements of the gospel. This is tragic for them as they could be saved from sin. God made the promise of salvation to all mankind through the atonement in Christ, but to refuse to accept that gracious gift is to your eternal detriment. God is not slack or slow in delivering on this promise, the moment you repent of your sin and place your faith in the atonement of Christ, you are forgiven and born again.

So, as John sees the curtain of heaven part, he sees another representation of the Glorified Christ. He sits on the throne of the kingdom of God. The predominant impression given is a reflection of the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest in that we see royalty, justice, and the everlasting covenant of the gospel. Not only is the Glorified Christ king of the kingdom, always remember that He is our high priest.

 

 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16).

 

Have you come to His throne and found mercy and grace?