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.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 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.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. Also, in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 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. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, 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.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 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:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (New International Version)
Whenever we open the door to God’s gracious invitation to commune with us, we gain an incredible glimpse of heavenly realities.
The Apostle John’s vision is so otherworldly that all he can do is try and describe what we saw with the limitations of language, metaphor, and simile.
Let’s acknowledge up front that, when it comes to the biblical book of Revelation, there are plenty of folk who want to understand it all. I believe this to be a fool’s errand, not because we ought not to try and make sense of things, but because far too many people try and conquer the text of Holy Scripture rather than letting Scripture capture them.
In our anxiety about the future, we would like some certitude, some semblance of knowing and understanding what will occur so that it will ease our icky feelings of not being in control. Newsflash: You and I aren’t in control of anything but ourselves. Ultimate control belongs only to God, not us. Our role is self-control.
So, before we start making complicated prophecy charts and trying to predict future events with precise certainty, let’s take a step back and see that worship is always the appropriate response to any vision of God – not conquering the Bible and colonizing other people’s minds with our supposed apocalyptic insights.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, and the soapbox is back in the closet, let’s simply appreciate this incredible scene before us of God’s heavenly throne room in today’s New Testament lesson.
Since God is an awesome God, I imagine that John was downright slack-jawed with awe over the bedazzling vision before him. It is a vision befitting a God of great majesty and power. The scene of worship which unfolded before John’s eyes is continual – praise and adoration of God has been going on, is going on, and will keep going on forever and ever.
To a church beat down by the world, John’s vision is meant to encourage and inspire the suffering believers toward persevering in faith. Hardship is but for a season; worship, however, is for all time.
The four living creatures worshiping God reflect the nature and character of God: the lion (majesty); the ox (strength and power); the man (intelligence); and the eagle (transcendent over creation). All of them, covered with eyes, front and back, testify to the sovereignty and omniscience of God, who sees and knows all things – nothing is hidden from God’s sight.
The twenty-four elders, likely signifying the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament, together represent the one new people of God without walls or barriers to unity, fellowship, harmony, and peace. They all rightly honor God by giving back their own authority, given to them from the Lord to accomplish divine purposes on the earth.
We, as the people of God today, are meant to be encouraged and uplifted by the reality that God is forever the same – powerful, loving, good, honorable, and holy – and will be so permanently for all time and beyond time.
The Lord does not exist merely in three dimensional space, as we humans do. God is truly multi-dimensional and reigns supreme over each and every one of those dimensions – however many there truly are.
I suspect the Apostle John was privileged to step into another dimension so that he could return to our three-dimensional world with the good news that God is still and forever on the throne. God’s good purposes shall be accomplished, no matter how tough things get here.
Now is temporary; then is eternal. Let us, then, embrace that which is permanent and unchanging, even Christ our Lord, who shall return to judge the living and the dead, and consummate a benevolent kingdom which will last forever.
May you be so privileged to have the dimensions unveiled, for even a few minutes, and know the eternal love and grace of God for humanity. Amen.