Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Revelation of God's Throne

Part 11 of a series through the book of Revelation

Text: Revelation 4:1-11

GOD ON HIS THRONE

As I meditated upon John’s vision of God’s throne, I thought of what it would be like to be in God’s presence. I don’t think we can come close to imagining the majesty and glory of heaven.

When we think of standing before God’s throne, we might compare it to standing before Queen Elizabeth II’s throne. How would you act if you were in the presence of the Queen? There are certain rules you are expected to follow when in the presence of the Queen.
  • Whatever you do, don’t touch the Queen! (Did Michelle Obama break protocol when she put her hand on the back of the Queen?)
  • If the Queen extends her hand, you can shake her hand—but not firmly.
  • Your initial address to the Queen should be “Your Majesty.” After that, you may address her as “Ma’am.”
  • Don’t say, “Pleased to meet you.” This is considered redundant since it’s assumed that everyone who meets the Queen is pleased to do so. (Carole Middleton, the mother of Prince William’s fiancé, said this when she first met the Queen.)
  • There are several other things you should not do in the Queen’s presence. Don’t chew gum. Don’t wear gloves. Don’t turn your back on her. Don’t keep eating after she has finished.
Being in the presence of the Queen is a humbling experience, but it’s nothing like being in the presence of the King of kings (and queens). In Revelation 20:12, John writes, “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” When the “great” stand before God’s throne, they will feel very small (including Queen Elizabeth II).

John’s vision of God’s throne is similar to two OT visions (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1:4-28). This vision requires our imagination. John doesn’t have the words to describe what he sees (“like”). (Illustration: It would be like John having a vision of today’s world and trying to describe it. How would you describe a computer to people of the first century?) This is not a literal description of God. (The Bible never gives us a literal description of God.)

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 (vv. 1-2).

God’s throne is mentioned twelve times in this chapter.

God is in control, so be filled with worship, not fear of the future.

Some people see the rapture of the church in verse 1 (“Come up here”). It’s true that the “church” is never said to be on earth during the remainder of Revelation, but neither is it said to be in heaven. However, we do see “saints” both on earth and in heaven. If the church does go through the tribulation preceding the second coming, it's fitting that this vision of God's throne comes first. No matter what might happen, God is still in control.

WORTHY OF WORSHIP

Who are the twenty-four elders? Some say they are angels. Others say they symbolize the saints of all ages (12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles).

Who are the four living creatures? They are angels. They seem to be a combination of the seraphim of Isaiah 6 and the cherubim of Ezekiel 1. Why do they have the appearance of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle? Some speculate that the lion, ox, man, and eagle represent how Jesus is presented in the four Gospels: the lion represents Matthew (royalty), the ox represents Mark (servanthood), the man represents Luke (humanity), and the eagle represents John (deity). Others believe that they represent the whole of animate creation, perhaps detailing what is the noblest (lion), strongest (ox), wisest (man), and swiftest (eagle).

[The four living creatures] never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (v. 8).

Why is God to be worshiped?

First, God is holy. He will always do what is right.

To be holy means to be separate—separate from creation and separate from sin. God is perfect in every way. There have been many kings, queens, and dictators who have done some horrible things to their people--but not God.

Second, God is almighty. He is able to do what He promises.

In Canada, the Queen is called the “sovereign.” But really she is only a figurehead. She has no power over us. Unlike the Queen, God is sovereign. John is told he will be shown “what must take place after this” (v. 1). Perhaps the rainbow that is around the throne (v. 3) symbolizes God’s faithfulness. The rainbow was given to Noah as a promise that God would never destroy the earth by water again.

Third, God is eternal. He is not limited by time.

The reign of an earthly ruler is limited to only a few years. God is in control of the past, present, and future.

MANNER OF WORSHIP

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, “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” (vv. 10-11).

How is God to be worshiped?

First, our worship should be unceasing.

The four living creatures “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy.’”

Second, our worship should be humble.

The twenty four elders “fall down before [God].” He is our Creator. We would not exist if it were not for Him. To give us some perspective on how big God is and how small we as humans really are, check out this chart.

Third, our worship should be submissive.

The twenty four elders “cast their crowns before the throne.” We worship not only with our lips, but also with out lives.

WHY DOES GOD DESIRE OUR WORSHIP?

Augustine said, “God thirsts to be thirsted after.” Our worship is like a child giving his mother a bouquet of dandelions. She loves to receive the dandelions because she knows they are an expression of her child’s love.

Why does God long for our worship? Why does He even care if we worship Him or not? First, He deserves our worship (“worthy”). He is the holy, almighty, and eternal God. But there’s a second and less obvious reason why God desires our worship. He is our Creator and He knows that we—whether we realize it or not—desire Him (we thirst after Him). He has made us to be worshipers. We will either worship Him or we will worship a substitute. But only when we know and worship God will our spiritual thirst be quenched. Only then will we find our reason for existence.

Worship puts our troubles into perspective. God is on His throne. He is in control. So worship Him. Don’t fear the future.