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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

AFTER THIS - REVELATIONS 4 -January 22, 2023




For some it has equal place with Aesop’s Fables, for others it’s the security blanket of the needy and the scared. Most of the time, it’s given little attention until calamity hits - a tragedy strikes, a diagnosis is given, a death comes and then curiosity turns to imperative – what’s next, what does the future hold? Many answer with the last pages of Revelation of heaven and everlasting joy. While true, the immediate place Jesus wants to take us is what we see in chapter 4 - the Throne room of Heaven. It’s here in Heaven we see far more than celestial clouds or some waiting room for people like Clarence, waiting to earn his wings. This glimpse of heaven given in Revelation 4 and 5 far surpassing trite misrepresentations we read about depicting ‘My 20 minutes in Heaven’.

Instead here in Rev 4, we are taken into a worship service filled with strange sights and sounds: lightning and thunder, a radiance of colour that comes: from the Throne, that encircles the Throne, and that reflects back to the Throne. And before the Throne, creatures that defy description and around it, the angelic and holy - singing in worship - their praise focused on the One in their midst.

A Throne room Jesus takes us after showing us the 7 churches and ourselves, revealing in contrast, the greatness of God and the smallness of us – we preoccupied with the trivial, chasing after things that distort. Or as C.S. Lewis says, we being satisfied, ‘Making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by a holiday at the sea.’ In the greatness of who He is, His heart turned to us. God most great loving ones so small. Yet it is in God’s greatness Jesus anchors us in, before opening up to us the things that are to come. And that’s a good thing because the things to come under God’s judgment are severe.

Okay, from the outset let me make some things clear, there are some things in what we’ve just read and will read as we go through Revelation that are a complete mystery to me. And though some commentators express certainty about things like the identities of the 4 living creatures, almost certainly the cherubim – a rank of angels representing the attributes of Jesus: the lion of Judah, the king; the ox, the servant, his strength given to serve; the man, Jesus, fully God and fully man; the eagle, supreme over heaven and earth. Possibly, perhaps likely, and though we can speculate, there are some things we will read that are beyond what we can definitively know.

Not knowing is hard for us because our predisposition is to understand mystery – to pull it apart, to study and analyze. To get it into a place we can master. Like some years ago when I pulled apart our washing machine but after a while, parts strewn across the floor, I knew I was out of my depth which meant a 911 repair call. Unsuccessful, I just walked away – oh well, worth a try. The appliance guy’s reaction to what I left him, far different than mine. Fortunately I was at work so his verbal complaints were directed Joanne’s way. For me – taking on a washing machine didn’t seem like any big deal – like how hard could it get? But as I soon found out, too hard for me to fix. Now would I attempt my, ‘I can do this’ approach with my computer? Hardly. Because I know its technology is beyond anything I can my comprehend. I yield to that mystery. So too, with some of what we are in given in Revelation, we are left with mystery. And I think that’s the point because that mystery isn’t to give me something I can explain, it’s to give me Someone far beyond our understanding. Someone before whom we will bow. Bowing before God Almighty, whose ways are not my ways, His thoughts not my thoughts – far beyond anything my mind can comprehend.

However, within that mystery, there is also a clear call to know what can be known. For in fact – the book of Revelation is exactly that, the unveiling of the things Jesus does want us to see. And the first thing John is commanded to see is a Throne. We are shown this in verse 1 when John is told, Behold. Some translations omit this word but that’s a mistake because John’s call is an imperative – a command to take a good, hard look. Because He knows that without a view of God on the Throne, we can get tossed around by events that disturb and voices that deceive. The centrality of God’s throne is so important that it is referenced 47x in Revelation. And here in chapter 4 we are taken into God’s throne room to see the One who is: ON the THRONE, those who are AROUND the THRONE and those who are BEFORE the THRONE.

This view of an occupied throne is critical because since the beginning of time, the enemy has tried to take possession of the Throne. Isaiah 14 tells us of one who says, “I will make myself like the Most High.” To which God responds, “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. :13-14

But as John shows us heaven, one thing is immediately clear, whatever else might be said, God is sitting on the Throne and above Him, there is no other. The Throne is occupied.

Interestingly, we aren’t given a description of Jesus like we’re given in Revelation 1 or in Daniel 7, where we are told His eyes were a flame of fire, his feet burnished bronze.

Instead we are given images of color that come from His throne - jasper and sardius/carnelian and a rainbow that encircles the throne with the appearance of an emerald. Many think of jasper as a diamond, others call it a translucent stone of various colors, especially that of fire. And carnelian – bright red. We are told later in Rev. 21:19-20 that jasper and sardius will be in the foundation and walls of the New Jerusalem. Though I can’t say for certain, I think it no accident that blood red is a significant colour in God’s throne. And circling it all, a rainbow with the appearance of an emerald. Over the last number of years the symbol of the rainbow has been hijacked, its colours promoting a variety of beliefs and lifestyles but God’s rainbow was a sign to Noah and to us of His unbreakable Covenant that for those God has called as His children, destruction is past and life has come. And here in God’s Throne room, we’re reminded that God is a Covenant keeping God who is inseparable from His promises.

One of the things we can draw from this is that the One sitting on the Throne is characterized by glory and radiance beyond anything we can imagine. Perhaps the most detailed look at the surrounding glory around God’s Throne given outside of Revelation is from Ezekiel 1:22–28 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. Each creature had 2 wings covering its body. When they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Along with God’s radiance we have a view of God’s awesome power and holiness :5 flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder’ that come from the Throne. We have this same lightning, thunder and sound in Sinai Ex 19:16-19 when the people are told don’t come near or you will die. These same sights and sounds are repeated later in Revelation when at last, God releases His judgment upon a world that will not repent, a world that rejects God: 7 seals 8:5, 7 trumpets 11:19, 7 bowls 16:18-21. It is this judgment God brings when He destroys all who oppose Him, all that have wreaked havoc and brought destruction. Where in this Throne room God acts against everything sins done and everything sin is. His judgments leaving no doubt that any questions of His authority are settled. He is in control and has never lost control.

Jesus wants John and us to know that despite what we experience and despite what Revelation outlines about devastating things to come, that the power, the glory and the authority of the One who sits on the Throne is sure.

Okay, so now do you see why depictions of heavens as butterflies, dancing lights and Disney music are so far off the mark? But reading things like we have, it’s also easy to wonder, what difference does this to mean to me right here, right now? In the things I’m dealing with – in the discord between husband and wife, in the hopes and dreams always out of reach, in the struggles with friends? And Scripture answers by pointing out that our view of God most often is too small. Too small how we see Him to be; too small in ascribing to Him the power that is His, too small in the praise that we give, too small to be able to untangle the mess of our lives. Yet our view can also be distorted by a view that He’s too large - that a God of incomparable power, who spans the heavens, can’t be interested in what concerns me. And yet, The Lord, is the One who goes before you, He will be with you, He will not leave you or forsake you I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear not, I am the one who helps you. Deut 31:8, Is 41:13

If you’ve ever camped in a thunder and lightning storm; if you’ve ever stared into the Northern lights; if you’ve ever watched a volcano erupt: you have the beginnings of knowing the might of this God who, in His desire to know you and me, lay aside His power and authority so we could know Him. So we could know His love and His care. So we could experience His grace.

This Heavenly picture of God is a far cry from how Jesus was first presented to us: 1st as a child then as One despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem .. He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed Is 53:3,5 Not now.

Now, He is: the God of glory, the God of power, the God of authority and the God who in vs 8 we are told, “Who was, who is and who is to come.” God who was – from the beginning; God who is – in our present; and God who is to come – certain for our future. But in these declarations, the God who is to come, is the God of Promise, who, in a time to come, will come again to forever live and be present with His people. God who is worthy of all our praise; worthy of all our worship.

God of Promise, who, in a time to come, will come again to forever live and be present with His people. God who is worthy of all our praise; worthy of all our worship.

Worshipping Him – which for a few minutes we are again going to do. BREAK to worship

If you were to google pictures of a king’s court, you’ll see various images of a throne before which people come and bow - the petitioner coming before the Supreme. The throne always with some degree of separation whether by architecture, the greater above the lesser or by guarded power. But this isn’t the picture John gives us here. Here, other thrones surround. Instead of separation, invitation. Instead of elevation, congregation gathered around.

Worshipping Him – which for a few minutes we are again going to do. BREAK to worship

If you were to google pictures of a king’s court, you’ll see various images of a throne before which people come and bow - the petitioner coming before the Supreme. The throne always with some degree of separation whether by architecture, the greater above the lesser or by guarded power. But this isn’t the picture John gives us here. Here, other thrones surround. Instead of separation, invitation. Instead of elevation, congregation gathered around.

24 thrones upon which are seated elders clothed in white, wearing golden crowns. Rev 7:14 tells us of those wearing white are those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That tells us that a Pope declaring sainthood doesn’t give me white. That a life lived well doesn’t give me white. No, what gives me white is the shed blood of Jesus. These are also described as wearing crowns of gold. The word used here for crown is stephanos, the crown given to victors in military conflict or athletic contests. But the stephanos shown here aren’t earned by strength and speed, they are Christ given, earned by lives lived pleasing to God. And if you really want to see how upside down God’s view of victory is, consider that first reference to this stephanos crown, was the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. Jn 19:5. What marvelous irony, a crown intended to ridicule became Christ’s kingly crown of triumph! Is it any wonder that, in :10 these elders fall down before Him and cast their crowns down before the only One truly worthy of wearing the Crown above all crowns.

There are others who appear before the Throne – the 7 Spirits of God – the Holy Spirit and the 7 lamps/torches of fire, likely the church as represented in Rev 1, and the 4 Living Creatures. As stated at the beginning, I make no attempt to bring clarity to something God hasn’t because as far as I can tell, God’s desire isn’t that we understand who they are, it’s to follow them in what they do. And what they do, is bow before the ONE WHO IS ALL MYSTERY.

Because what is clear is that night and day, all Heaven ascribes praise to God. The praise offered not first because of His love but because of His Holiness. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. :8

The truth is, we want a God who is holy because it’s His holiness that eliminates sin and death. It’s His Holiness that does away with sickness and pain, tears and sorrow, violence and evil. It’s His holiness that won’t let even a spore of mould take root. It’s His Holiness that is the restoration of all that is good, all that is great. Because only the holy, only the joyous, only the beautiful, can come into His presence. That’s why God’s holiness is to be front and center in our worship.

But be careful not to colour God’s holiness in images of black and white. This God before whom we bow wrote music long before He put it into Mozart or Underwood. He designed beauty long before Planet Earth put it on screen. He scripted laughter long before Tim Conway stood beside a dental chair. He perfected a spiral long before a Brady pass or a Currie basket. He ‘outDisney’s’ Disney and He ‘outRembrandt’s’ Rembrandt. This Holy One is creator of all that brings joy, ALL that He is good. This Holy One is the author of hope, of beauty, of celebration. The One who paints sunsets and puts His artistry in the skies. A God of celebration and joy - this Holy One before whom the angels bow. And as all Heaven bows, they sing out, Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. :11

This One who doesn’t have to grasp His Authority; who doesn’t have to earn His Lordship; who doesn’t have to prove His Might. Because HE is the One who was and who is and who is to come. The Creator of all things. And yet One who was willing to lay all this aside in order that we might know Him. Which leads me with one last upside down image of God. Consider this:

Earlier, I mentioned that the word Throne dominates Revelation and with it, our understanding of true power, authority and rule. And the image most associated with that power – a lion. Rev 5:5 tells us that Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. It’s an image we sing about. A victory we celebrate. A strength we run into. Strong, mighty, victorious. But here’s the thing, the image of the Lion is only used once in Revelation but the image of the Lamb is spoken of 29X.

God at His upside-down best, His enemy doing his best to wear the power and authority of a lion defeated by the only One who was willing to wear the identity of a lamb. A lamb of no reputation. A lamb to which we could draw near. Of whom only a few would take notice. No appearance of courage, no bravado, no call to arms. And the paradox? a slain, conquering, victorious Lamb – who did what no one else would do - shedding His blood, dying to forgive our sin, so you and I might have life.

No wonder Heaven declares, Our Lord and God, you are

worthy to receive glory and honor and power.

No wonder Heaven worships. For earth’s sake and for

Heaven’s sake - how about you and me?

Hope you like this video which I believe is pure adoration to

the One is our Lord of Lord and King of Kings Jesus Christ!

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