Following the seven letters begins a section that is primarily set in heaven. John is taken by the Spirit to the heavenly court of God. John sees someone on the throne and begins to describe what he sees in language loaded with covenantal significance:
- 4:3 – rainbow (sign of the covenant with Noah)
- 4:5 – lighting, thunder, and rumblings (God’s covenant given on Sinai)
- 4:5 – blazing lamp (covenant with Abraham and the blazing firepot that went between the pieces [Gen 15:17]).
God has been faithful to his covenants with his people throughout all generations. The call is for his followers to remain faithful in the midst of persecution. The throne room is significant as John is trying to remind Christians that God is the one with ultimate power and authority. It is harder for us to get our mind around these images because we do not have kings and crowns in the United States. But they understood this language to be language of power and authority. As the primary author and authority of all creation, God is worshiped by the angels (4:6-8) and by the 24 elders (12 apostles + 12 tribes). They remove their crowns and lay it before the Lord and worship him (4:4, 9-10). This is a sign of submission and respect. The praise God receives perfectly accentuates the holiness of God (3 holies). Notice that their praise is continuous (4:8). Metzger points out that the title ascribed to the one on the throne is the same title Domitian had claimed for himself, “Lord and God” (4:11). Domitian is not the true Lord and God. The one on the heavenly throne is the true Lord and God and he receives worship from the living, the dead, and from angelic beings. It is not the emperor who created all things. It is God who created all things. He alone is worthy of praise.
The bottom line is that no matter what the world throws at them God is the one in charge. He is the one who sits on the real throne in heaven. He does not sit on some temporary throne in Rome. He sits on the eternal throne in heaven and his decision is final and authoritative. May you be filled with hope church because your God reigns. The desired outcome of this vision is to bring comfort to a persecuted church that no matter what comes their way, God is still to be praised.
Message for Today:
He is the one who has shown his covenant loyalty to us throughout the generations and we are to respond to him with faithfulness and praise.