Sermon #1372 Miscellaneous Notes
Title: “BEHOLD, A THRONE”
Text: Revelation 4:1-11
Subject: John’s Vision of The Throne of God
"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven." With wide-eyed wonder, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He knew the significance of that door. He was about to see visions of God (Ezek. 1:1).
While he is looking at the door in astonishment, he hears the voice of his dear Savior, like the voice of a trumpet speaking clearly to him, "Come up hither." The Son of God called John up to heaven!
There is a way of access to God! There is a door opened into the most holy place, by which sinners may approach and find acceptance with the most high God. That Way is Christ. That Door is Christ (John 10:9; 14:6; Heb. 10:19-20).
· We draw near to God by faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ.
· Salvation is ours when we come to God by faith in his dear Son (Heb. 7:25).
· When the believer leaves this world, he is immediately with the Lord in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1-9).
· And in the last day, we shall, in resurrection glory, enter into the presence of the Divine Majesty, there to abide forever (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
· But the only Door by which sinful man can enter in is the Lord Jesus Christ.
He said to John, "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." That is to say, "I will show you things which must happen in the future." But remember, this took place nearly two thousand years ago! These words do not imply that there is another dispensation of time yet to come. John himself tells us that this present gospel age, the time in which we are now living, is "the last time" (1 John 2:18). These future things "must" come to pass because they were appointed and decreed by God in his eternal purpose of predestination.
"And immediately I was in the spirit." Again, John's soul was drawn away from his earthly surroundings and carnal cares. His heart was fixed on God. He ceased to see with his physical eyes and hear with his physical ears. He was "in the spirit." With the eyes of his soul, he looked, "and behold, a throne." John's thoughts were focused on a throne. That will be our subject tonight. “BEHOLD, A THRONE!”
This throne is the theme of John's second vision. All of chapters four and five are taken up with and consumed by this throne and its Occupant. The word "throne" is mentioned seventeen times in these two chapters. Remember, this is a spiritual vision. The throne is a symbol of sovereign power, authority, and dominion.
The message of this chapter is as clear as the noonday sun - All things are under the control of our God who sits upon the throne of universal dominion. This fourth chapter of Revelation does not merely give us a picture of heaven. It gives a picture of the entire universe from heaven's viewpoint. And from heaven's viewpoint, the only matters of importance are the throne of God and the people of God. In beautifully symbolic language, John shows us that all things are absolutely and totally governed by our God and Savior. In chapter 6, John will tell us about the many trials God's people must endure upon the earth. But first we are assured that God is in control - "Behold, a throne!" No trial will be unbearable to a believer if he can but realize with assurance that our God is on his throne.
I. First, John describes THE THRONE AND THE ONE WHO SITS UPON IT (vv. 2, 3, 5, 6; Psa. 93:1-5; 97:1).
God's throne is set, fixed, and permanently established in heaven. "Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne" (v. 2). This throne is a symbol of power, dominion, and judgment. It is set, permanently fixed in heaven. That means that God has ruled, is ruling, and shall forever rule. His throne is immutably secure (Psa. 93:2).
The power and dominion of God's throne reaches to all the ends of the earth. His dominion is everlasting and universal. It extends to all things (Dan. 4:34, 35, 37; Isa. 45:7; 46:9-11).
The One who sits upon the throne is God. Tell me who is in control of the universe, and I will worship him, because the one who is in control of all things is God. Notice John's words: "One sat on the throne." He sat in the perfect ease and serenity of total sovereignty, because he is God. He will never give up his right to rule. None can ever overthrow, or even temporarily impede his rule (Psa. 115:3; 135:6).
He "was to look upon like jasper and a sardine stone." John is not describing God himself, for God cannot be described by anything physical (Ex. 20:4). He is describing the majesty and glory which he saw radiating from the One who sat upon the throne. John does not give us an image of God. He does not use any human feature to describe the Almighty. He simply says that God is glorious to look upon.
According to Matthew Henry, "The jasper is a transparent stone, which offers to the eye a variety of the most vivid colors, signifying the glorious perfections of God."
We know that is what the refers to, because Revelation 21:11 tells us that heaven’s light is this jasper stone of the glory of God. It is crystal clear, representing the perfect holiness of God.
The sardine stone is blood red, representing the justice of God. God will never give up his holiness, justice, and truth. He is gloriously just in his government of the world, both in his saving grace and in his fearful judgments. God is just, both in pardoning sin and in punishing sin, both in the salvation of his elect and in the damnation of the unbelieving. He is "a just God and a Savior" (Isa. 45:20-25).
"And there was a rainbow about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." What glorious comfort! Round about the throne of this august God, there is a rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol to us that God, for Christ's sake, will remember his covenant and be merciful to his people. He will never lift his omnipotent arm in anger against his covenant people, but only in mercy (Gen. 9:13; Psa. 89:28-34; Isa. 54:7-10).
"And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices" (v. 5). Proceeding from the throne of the great God, we see the lightning bolts of Divine wrath, hear the thunderous terror of his holy law, and hear the sweet, tender voices of love, mercy, and grace in the gospel.
The "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God," symbolize the eternal, wise, all-seeing Spirit of God. The number seven represents perfection. The Spirit of God, full of wisdom, light, and holiness, constantly burns like fire to consume his enemies and to refine his people. "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).
And John saw before the throne "a sea of glass like unto crystal" (v. 6). In the tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament there was a brazen laver filled with water in which the priests were required to wash themselves when they came to minister before the Lord (Ex. 30:18; 38:8; I Kings 7:23). Symbolically, this "sea of glass" represents the blood of Christ, which is a fountain opened in which we must be washed before we can approach the throne of God.
II. Secondly, John saw TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS AND FOUR BEASTS AROUND THE THRONE (vv. 4, 6, 7, 8).
Around the throne of God, he saw twenty-four seats, smaller, subordinate thrones, and each of these seats were filled with the twenty-four elders sitting before God. They were all clothed with white garments, and they all wore crowns of pure gold on their heads. And round about the throne, between the throne of God and the twenty-four elders, John saw four beasts, or living creatures. Who are these people?
A. The twenty-four elders represent the whole church of God.
As the twelve patriarchs represent the whole church of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles represent the whole church of the New testament, these twenty-four elders represent all of God's elect, the whole church of God, the Israel of God (Rev. 21:12-14).
Several things need to be observed about these twenty-four elders.
1. Every seat around the throne is filled. Not one of God's elect will be missing in that great day when Christ presents his redeemed ones in glory.
2. All of these redeemed ones seated around the throne are wearing the garments of salvation. They are all clothed in the white raiment of Christ's righteousness.
3. And everyone of these twenty-four elders were wearing crowns of victory.
· The white garments represent our purity and priesthood in Christ.
· The crowns of pure gold represent our kingship, signifying that we are made kings as well as priests in Christ.
John Gill says of these twenty-four elders, "They now reign as kings over sin, Satan, and the world, and have a kingdom of grace which shall never be removed; and they shall reign with Christ...to all eternity in heaven."
4. These redeemed ones from every corner of the earth do but enhance the glory of God their Savior. His throne represents his sovereignty. These twenty-four elders constantly render homage to him.
B. The four beasts, or living creatures, represent those men who preach the gospel of Christ to his church in all the successive ages of history (vv. 6-8).
It is commonly assumed that these four living creatures are angelic, spirit beings. But that is a mistake. These four living creatures are said to be redeemed by the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:8-11). The heavenly angels were not redeemed from sin, for they never sinned. These four living creatures represent all faithful gospel preachers throughout the ages. John tells us ten things about these living creatures as he saw them symbolically representing God's servants.
1. There are four of them (v. 6). God's servants are sent into the four corners of the earth to preach the gospel for the gathering of his elect out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue.
2. They are living creatures. They have been made alive by the regenerating power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and go about their work of preaching the gospel with liveliness and fervency.
3. They stand between God and his people, not as priests, but as ambassadors. They receive their message from God and deliver it to his people, leading them in the worship of God.
4. These living creatures are full of eyes, before and behind. They are gifted with spiritual insight into the mysteries of the gospel, possessing that God given evangelical knowledge and wisdom necessary to minister to the needs of immortal souls. They have eyes before them to look into the Word of God and discern its meaning. And they have eyes behind them to observe how that all the sacrifices, types, prophecies, and promises of the Old Testament have their accomplishment in Christ.
5. The first beast had the features of a lion (v. 7). God's servants are not timid wimps. They are bold men.
6. The second living creature was like a calf. As the ox is an animal of labor, faithful gospel preachers labor diligently in the work of the ministry.
7. The third beast which John saw had the face of a man. God's servants are men like those to whom they preach. They are tenderhearted and sympathetic with their fellow creatures. Like the Lord Jesus himself, they are touched with the feelings and infirmities of God's saints in this world.
8. The fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. As the eagle is both wise and swift, that man who is called of God to the work of preaching the gospel is given wisdom in the Word and wisdom with men, and he is given a heart of readiness to do the will of God in publishing the everlasting gospel (Rom. 1:15-17).
9. Like the seraphim Isaiah saw (Isa. 6:2), each of these gospel messengers had six wings (v. 8). With two, they might cover their faces in reverence before God. With two, they might cover their feet with humility, knowing themselves to be nothing else but sinners saved by grace. With two, they might swiftly fly to do the will of God.
10. And these four heralds of the gospel are constantly engaged in their glorious work (v. 8). "They are full of eyes within." They are ever looking within themselves, acknowledging their own sin and corruption by nature. And they have within themselves the testimony of the truth of God. That is to say, they preach to men only what they have proved to be true by experience. "And they rest not day and night." Faithful gospel preachers give themselves entirely to the work of the ministry. They are wholly and wholeheartedly given to the work of preaching the gospel, crying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
III. Thirdly, JOHN SAW AND HEARD THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN WORSHIPPING BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD (vv. 9-11).
Observing this blessed scene, we learn how to worship the living God.
A. The beasts give glory and honor and thanks to God.
It is the responsibility of gospel preachers to ascribe all glory, honor, and praise to the Lord our God and to him alone (v. 9).
The first message of evangelism is, "Behold, your God." The second part of the message God has sent his servants to preach is, "All flesh is grass." (Read Isa. 40:1-11.).
Man is nothing and Christ is everything. We ascribe all glory to the Father, our covenant keeping God, to the Son, our Divine Redeemer, and to the Spirit, our blessed Comforter.
We give God the glory because he is God, because of his covenant mercy and grace bestowed upon us (Eph. 1:3-14), and because of the salvation he has accomplished for poor sinners in Christ.
B. The twenty-four elders fell down before him that sat on the throne.
That is the posture of faith. It humbles itself before the throne of God's august majesty and worships him.
C. These glorified saints, as they worshipped God, "cast their crowns before the throne."
It is not possible for a bowed head to wear a crown. All of God's people cast their crowns at the foot of his throne. This symbolic gesture is very instructive. Taking the crown of honor off our heads and casting it before the throne of God our Savior, we declare that:
1. We are what we are by the grace of God (I Cor. 15:10). Any crown we have, now or in heaven, we have received as the free gift of God's grace.
2. We are not worthy of the least honor before God. In all that we endeavor to do for our God, we recognize that we are but unprofitable servants. We have not begun to do even that which is our most reasonable duty.
3. We cast our crowns at the feet of Christ our King acknowledging our subjection to him as our only and our rightful Lord. It is not possible to worship Christ, it is not possible to trust him, until he is acknowledged as Lord. The beginning of faith is voluntary submission to his sovereign dominion.
All who bow before God's throne, worship him and cast their crowns before his throne, delight to give him the glory and honor due unto his name, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
The everlasting praise of the triune God is a well-deserved praise. He is the Creator of all things and the end of all things (Pro. 16:4; Rom. 11:36). This great God, the Creator, Sustainer, and Disposer of all things, to whom all worship is due, is none other than Jesus Christ, our Savior (Col. 1:14-17).