The Apostle John is having the experience of a lifetime. He is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but the Lord is with him. He is exiled on an island, but God is very near. It is the Lord’s Day, and he is worshiping, and on this particular day of rest and worship, the Lord is doing the majority of the talking.
John’s first vision deals with seven churches. It is found in chapters two and three of Revelation. His second vision deals with seven seals and is presented in chapters four through seven. However, today, only the subject matter found in the fourth chapter of John’s prophecy will be unraveled:
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. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 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.”
It is not clear how much time passed between John’s first and second visions. It is assumed that there is some gap in time, but one cannot be sure. So, “after this” first vision, John received a second.
John, was found again in visionary state, and this time he was enabled to see into heaven. Perhaps one remembers how Stephen was given a similar privilege on the day of his assassination. In similar manner the heavens opened and John could see an open door. It appeared to be a door into the throne room of God, the heavenly sanctuary, or the Holy of Holies. How excited he must have been when he received the invitation from the divine host to come and take a look. John was about to catch a glimpse of what takes place “after this” present age of life is complete.
For John, the visionary journey from Patmos to Paradise was short. “At once” he was in a magnificent chamber, and there seated upon the throne was the Almighty God. It was somewhat impossible to describe, but John would give it a shot. Jesus was beautiful; he was brilliant; he was spectacularly radiant.
It was then that John realized he and Jesus were not alone. Surrounding the King were twenty-four lesser kings. Most likely these symbolize the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve disciples of Jesus. Here were the leaders of Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church. Here were the leaders of the old covenant of grace and the new covenant of grace. Here they were, all in one kingdom, one castle, one house, one room, surrounding one throne. There was one head and one body. Any dispensational significance was forever gone.
John then focused in on their attributes. These lesser kings were impressive as they sat on their own thrones and wore their golden crowns. They were radiant in their own way. They also were righteous, holy and pure. They were arrayed in white robes and this allowed them to be in the presence of the Holy One. Finally, they were hungry to worship.
It was at this point when the worship service began. There seemed to be some order to the liturgy. God initiated the heavenly worship as lighting and thunder proceeded from his throne. Around the throne was the full-measure (seven-fold) of the Holy Spirit. His delight seemed to be assisting the people and magnifying the Son. Additionally, there were other heavenly beings who augmented the King’s worship. They were somewhat odd creatures. (One can read Ezekiel 1 and 10 and learn more; numerous are the interpretations of these four beings.) Perhaps the most fascinating feature was their multitude of eyes. These were heavenly beings who saw most clearly. They had intimate knowledge, and with such they were the first to utter forth their hymn of praise, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” Then, following their lead, the lesser kings found it a pleasure to abandon their thrones. These white monarchs fell down before the King of Kings. With great zeal they removed the golden crowns from their heads and placed them at the Sovereign One. Then they sang their hymn, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your word they existed and were created.”
John’s vision continued. However, we will pause at this point for a moment of meditation and application. Perhaps there are four points we should consider:
First, let us not have a worldview that only sees things which are “under the sun.” Satan is cursed, the world is cursed, man is cursed, and life is brutal. When we seek to find satisfaction “under the sun”, we will be as unsuccessful and frustrated as the writer of Ecclesiastes. Promiscuity, addiction, hopelessness, depression and suicide are often the results of those who have only a temporal and hedonistic world view. There is an entirely other reality. Let us be as just as interested in the spiritual as we are in the earthly.
Second, this is the reality of heaven today. Those who have gone on before us are engaged in some sort of worship and adoration. I do not think we are to see them as surrounded by odd beasts and creatures. I do not think we are to see them as eternally perched on thrones. These are symbols, but they mean something. Our loved ones who knew Christ as their savior, they are engaged in reverential and exciting worship. Whether they are in the sanctuary, or at the table, or sailing on the sea of glass, they have received their reward and are thriving in retirement. Let us rejoice with those who have no more tears, except for tears of passionate glee.
Third, keep your eye on the prize, for this is the future for those who love Christ Jesus. For those who know the King of Kings, life in the kingdom is somewhat grand today, but really grand tomorrow. Do not be like Esau and sell tomorrow’s blessing for today’s stew. For believers, life on this earth is the only hell we will ever experience. Paradise is coming.
Finally, worship well. Obey the King and do not forsake the gathering of believers. Find your spiritual fathers (elders), mothers, brothers and sisters and assemble for worship. Hear the call of God as he summons you before the throne. Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ is made the object of adoration. Then, with great reverence and passion, fall on your knees, give tribute to him, use your voice to pray and praise, and be ready to hear truth from his lips. Go to worship on Sunday, and get a taste of heaven before the great and glorious day.