Revelation – The King on His Throne – 11

Revelation 4:1-11 1 After 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.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What is the greatest surprise you have ever gotten? There are good surprises and bad surprises. I love watching people get surprised scared. My wife gave me a surprise birthday party for my 30th birthday with my youth group. She even had a massive fat head of my face made. Surprises are awesome.

I was driving my son Hudson the other day, and we were listening to one of my favorite bands, The Gray Havens. One of their songs about heaven came on and it had the words, “Gone are the days / When we cry-y-y, cry-y-y / Here are the days / When we’ll fly-y-y, fly-y-y / All our hopes will turn to sight / Beyond the veil, in the morning light / We’ll sing gone / Are the days.”

This led to an awesome conversation with Hudson about heaven. I said, “It will be so awesome. The Bible says there will be no more crying or pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.” And what my son said in response was one of the most profound things I have ever heard and will never forget. He said, “Yeah, there will be no feeling there but happy and excited and surprised forever.” Man, that wrecked me. I lost it right then and there. The thought of being surprised…in the best possible way…forever. And I had to say, “Yes. You are exactly right.”

That is the picture we begin to get in Revelation 4. It opens with a door standing open and John getting to look into the throne room of God. Talk about excited and surprised! And what he sees is nothing short of incredible. That’s what we’re going to look into tonight. If you have a small view of God, it needs to change and conform with reality.

Revelation 4 falls into two parts: The One seated on His throne and the worship of the One seated on the throne. When you truly see the One seated on the throne, the only response is worship. What we see right off the bat is a throne…God’s throne.

The throne represents authority, and the authority of the one seated on the throne is absolute. (vs 2-3)

James Hamilton says, “I would suggest that at this point, as we consider John’s description of what he saw, we let our imaginations run wild. We cannot be too extravagant in our attempt to depict this for our mind’s eye. The colors we imagine will not be too vibrant. The space we allot for the throne and what surround it will not be too large; the sights and sounds we conceive in our brains will not be too impressive, too surprising, or too overwhelming. We are talking about the glory of Almighty God, seated on his throne in Heaven. We will not overdo it in our attempt to imagine this scene.”[1]

There are several precious stones mentioned here, and they allude to different Old Testament passages. “Drawing from Ezekiel’s vision (1:26-28), John says, “The One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone” (Rev 4:3)…in Exodus 28:17-20 “these are the first and last of the twelve stones mentioned in the description of the breastplate of the high priest” and “both of them are red.”[2] The jasper stone may represent majesty, holiness, or purity. The carnelian stone signifies wrath or judgment.[3] John also says, “A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne,” a reminder of God’s covenant to Noah and His faithfulness (Gen 9:16-17). Put them all together and you have a vision of God’s majesty, splendor, glory, and faithfulness. He is beyond description in appearance and utterly reliable in His promises.”[4]

The elders remind us that God keeps his promises. (vs 4)

“The vision of these twenty-four elders in 4:4, seated on thrones around the throne of God, clothed in white garments, golden crowns on their heads, declares to us that God keeps his promises. The members of the heavenly entourage possess what Jesus promised to those who conquer.”[5] There is much speculation on who these elders are, whether angels, saints from the Old Testament, and more, but what can be known for certain is that this clearly shows that God keeps His promises. There are many promises he makes to those who are faithful to him in this life.

  • Jesus promised the church in Laodicea in 3:21 that the one who conquers will sit with him on his throne. John here sees those who have what Jesus promised.
  • Jesus promised the church in Sardis in 3:5, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments,” and John now sees these twenty-four elders clothed in white garments.
  • Jesus promised the church in Smyrna in 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life,” and now John sees these twenty-four elders wearing golden crowns.

When living this life, we so often get caught up in what surrounds us…the hardships, the temptations…and we forget what God has promised to those who remain faithful. We set our gaze on what’s around us instead of setting our gaze and our minds on what’s above (Col 3:2).

I love what Jim Hamilton says about this: “You have to be more sure that this is real—that there are twenty-four elders seated on thrones—than you are sure of what tempted Laodicea, to whom this was promised. So what is it that keeps you from being zealous for God, with which Laodicea struggled? Are you bored with God? Do you find other things more interesting than he is? Things like television, pornography, video games? This verse, 4:4, and this chapter and this book and this Bible exist to convince you that God is infinitely more interesting than TV, porn, and video games. You were made to know God. You were not made to fritter your life away.”[6]

And this chapter reveals the Almighty God that He truly is…in all of his ways…not just in his power, but also in his justice.

The thunder and lightning from the throne represent God’s justice. (vs 5a)

This scene is reminiscent of Sinai when thunderous clouds were surrounding the mountain as Moses was meeting with God. Sinai is the time that God gave his law. Can you imagine this sight and feeling for John as he’s not only seeing this, but hearing and feeling this?

The other night I was putting Hudson to bed when the brightest lightning strike and loudest bang of thunder I have ever experienced seemingly hit right outside his window. I felt it in my chest, a sense of panic at once came over me, and Hudson immediately started crying. This is the picture we get in this verse. This should shake us to our core. The justice of God in all his righteous ways should shake us to our core.

When I stand before the thundering, almighty God on his throne, it doesn’t matter what I think is right. It doesn’t matter what my desires are. What matters is that the judge of all the earth does what is right (Gen 18:25).

We also see the third person of the Trinity represented here. It’s the only time in Revelation where the Holy Spirit is referenced.

The seven spirits represent the Holy Spirit. (vs 5b)

Jim Hamilton says, “The Trinitarian nature of this greeting leads me to conclude that the reference to the “seven spirits” who are before the throne in 1:4 and 4:5 are references to the Holy Spirit. So John sees God on the throne, and the seven torches before the throne are the visible representation of the Holy Spirit.”[7]

The sea of glass represents the holiness of God. (vs 6a)

This thing that John sees, which looks like a sea of glass, before the throne seems to introduce the idea of distance and separation between God and everything else. He is transcendent, set apart, holy.

What do you do when someone is stinky or dirty and they start approaching you? You say, “Whoa! Whoa! Stay back.” Or you start to back up, away from them. You create distance between you and them because they are dirty, and you are not. That’s much like the holiness of God in relation to our sinfulness.

“God’s holiness is a scary thing. God will satisfy his holiness against your sin. He will do justice. His justice will either be done against your sin in Hell forever, or you will place yourself under the protection of Jesus, the one mediator between God and man.”[8]

These creatures around the throne are all-seeing, full of eyes in front and behind, it says. Growing up, whenever you were doing something that you shouldn’t, did you ever wonder how your mom always knew? What is the common response when a mom seemingly knows everything, good and bad, that you do? She has eyes in the back of her head. That’s what these living creatures around the throne are depicted as. And hear what they continually cry out: “holy, holy, holy.”

Why do you think they continually cry out this way? I love what one commentator said.

“They praise God because they have all the facts. What keeps us from praising God? We don’t have all the facts. We don’t see God the way these living creatures see him. We don’t know all there is to know about the past, present, and future. And I suspect that it is our ignorance of God and reality that keeps us from praising him the way these living creatures praise him…Look at what they proclaim about God—they say the word ‘holy’ three times. And they are constantly seeing new evidence of this, new reasons to cry three times over that he is holy; so they never stop.”[9]

We would worship God as the angelic creatures do if we knew what they knew. (vs 6b-8)

And how do they worship him? Not just with holy, holy, holy, but with laying their crowns at his feet. All they have is laid at his feet. Because he is worthy of it all.

“On that day, when we see him as he is, when we are awed by the living creatures, but most of all by the one who sits on the throne, we will wish we had more to cast at his feet. We will wish we could have suffered more for him, sacrificed more for him, resisted greater temptations than the ones we gave in to. We will wish we had fought more for him, wish we had overcome more for him, and wish we had more with which to praise him.”[10]

God is worthy of worship on earth as he is in heaven. (vs. 9-11)

The very thing that God has gifted them with, they give back to God in worship. This is how it is in heaven, and this is how it should be here with you and me. This life you’ve been given, give it back to him. Everything we have is from the Almighty God. Our very lives are not our own, for we were created by him and have been bought back with a price (1 Cor 6:20). God is worthy of nothing short of laying our very lives and all that we are at his feet. This is the only appropriate response.

[1] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 143.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, Revelation: A New Testament Commentary, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011), 69.

[3] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 120.

[4] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 113.

[5] Hamilton, Revelation, 145.

[6] Hamilton, Revelation, 145.

[7] Hamilton, Revelation, 147.

[8] Hamilton, Revelation 149.

[9] Hamilton, Revelation, 148-9.

[10] Hamilton, Revelation, 150.


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