Encouragement for the Suffering Church
The times are difficult in John’s day. He is in prison and the persecutions, false doctrines, and struggles continue to arise for the church as a whole. God’s people are losing their lives and their livelihoods—but that is not the whole story. Like Ezekiel (c.f., Ezekiel 1), John is also called up in the spirit into the heavens and allowed to see things that are otherwise barred from human sight. He is given visions that depict the spiritual reality behind all things in order to encourage the suffering church on the earth. This vision declares that God is sovereign and still at work in bringing about His will on the earth.
The Throne and the One Who Sits On It
Upon entrance, John’s eyes are summoned to the centerpiece of the vision—the throne, and the One who sits upon it. Everything else in the scene is described in its relationship to the throne. What is displayed in the picture is that the Lord is, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Tim. 6:15-16). John does not see a body, but only the beauty of His radiance, which he describes as precious stones. In addition, the entire throne is enveloped by an emerald rainbow, which makes reference to the sign given to Noah. In other words, He is the God of the covenant.
The Worshiping Church and He who is Worthy
Around His throne sits 24 elders on 24 thrones, which represents the entire church (both Old Testament and New Testament). They are enthroned, triumphant, and victorious having overcome. Having received the promises, they are clothed in white and bear the victor’s crown. Before the throne lays what appears as a sea of glass, crystal in appearance. It is as a pure ocean of grace for the cleansing of His people, undisturbed by sin or rebellion. Though there is mystery to these living creatures around the throne, it is emphasized that they see clearly. The conclusion they come away with, and their continual proclamation is, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” At that proclamation, all things fall before Him, worshiping and declaring the worthiness of Him who sits on the throne and lives forever and ever.
- The first thing we learn from this part of the scene— which continues into chapter 5—is that all of heaven worships the Person of God and not just His benefits. He deserves to receive the weight of all glory, honor, and power that is due to Him, simply because of who He is in Himself. There is danger in getting this out of balance, for if one does, when perceived circumstances change, then one’s worship will change. Have you spent time worshiping God for who He is today?
- Secondly, we are provided a unique opportunity to see corporate worship in the heavens. We see a scene that drips with seriousness, reverence, and simplicity. We see all His creatures focused on Him who is continually proclaimed. All of heaven recognizes His greatness and falls before Him. Do you approach worship with God at the center? Do you approach him with seriousness, reverence, and simplicity?