‘I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!’ (Psalm 121:1,2, NLT). What do you need help for today? Talk to God about it.
The throne in heaven
4 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all round, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
‘“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,”
who was, and is, and is to come.’
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.’
What a privilege! We are invited to accompany John, through the thin veil separating earth and heaven (v 1) and we immediately find ourselves in the epicentre of creation – God’s throne room (v 2). In our journey into the subsequent chapters, we must never lose the golden thread tying us to this moment and this great truth: God is on the throne of history.
This whole chapter is designed to cement God’s sovereignty into our consciousness. Shouts of praise constantly echo around the throne room (vs 8,11) as all of creation (symbolised by the four fantastic creatures in verses 6 and 7) and all his people (the 24 elders are symbolic figureheads of God’s people in every age – 12 Old Testament patriarchs and 12 apostles) worship him.
One can only imagine the effect this vision must have had on the embattled Christians who first heard it read in the context of their hardships and suffering. Despite all appearances, when they paused to look up, God was still supreme.
What effect does this vision have on you, in your context today?
Bring to mind the events of your day. Hold them as you prayerfully reflect on these words from the hymn: ‘Be Thou my vision … /… whatever befall, / Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.’ (Traditional. English version, Eleanor Hull, 1912.)
Deeper Bible study
Lord, grant us, like John, the knowledge of your glory as we seek to live for you today.
The words ‘After this’ (v 1) suggest that we are now at a crucial turning point in this book. We leave behind the terrestrial world in which the power of the Roman Empire seemed absolute and invincible and where the churches across Asia Minor were, with a few exceptions, in various stages of compromise and accommodation to the dominant worldview. John needed a vantage point from which to view this world from a different perspective, and that is granted to him by the invitation to ‘Come up here’ and pass through the door ‘standing open in heaven’.
Once through that portal, everything is transformed! John is taken ‘in the Spirit’ (v 2) into the heavenly throne room and glimpses the glory of God and the ceaseless worship of the ‘Lord God Almighty’ (v 8). Suddenly, the boastful claims of the Roman Caesars to possess absolute power are exposed for the blasphemy they were and the history of the world (‘what must take place after this’, v 1) is seen to be in the hands of the one who is alone worthy to ‘receive glory and honour and power’ (v 11). The book of Revelation gives an absolute priority to worship as the means by which we can transcend the brokenness and despair of the world and be renewed in holiness, love and hope. The little churches described in the previous chapters are reminded that no matter how much they suffer, God reigns sovereign in heaven and ‘the point of the universe is not power but worship’.1
The question is: do we actually understand just how radical and subversive it is to practise regular acts of worship and praise? In Western cultures which have lost ways of accessing transcendence and so have become depressingly one-dimensional, to fold hands in prayer is itself a revolutionary act.
What changes might be needed in public worship for it to be a portal between earth and heaven?
1 Justo Gonzalez, For the Healing of the Nations: The Book of Revelation in an Age of Cultural Conflict, Orbis Books, 1990, p41
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Leviticus 19,20; Psalms 23,24
Pray for Scripture Union
Pray for the leaders of the holidays running over the Easter period as they prepare for the first physical holidays that they will have run since 2019. Pray for the teams to come together and have confidence as they pick up the work again.