Summary: John’s vision of the throne in chapters 4 and 5 is the model for our worship of God.
Most of us have probably heard it said that “those who are heavenly minded are of no earthly good.” But chapter 4 of Revelation shows us that just the opposite is true. Since we heard the entire passage read out loud just a moment ago, I’m not going to read the entire chapter again, but I want to encourage you to open your Bibles to Revelation 4 so that you can follow along as we examine the passage together this morning.
Mary and I recently went to a couple of movies that were shown in 3D. In order to be able to view the movie, we had to wear a special pair of glasses, which in my humble opinion is a great scam to allow the movie theaters to add a $3 surcharge on their already high admission prices. Several times during the movies, I took off my 3D glasses just to see what the movie would look like without them. And I discovered that without the proper glasses the picture was very blurry and out of focus.
In a sense, chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation are our spiritual 3D glasses that we need to put on in order to see clearly the movie that begins in chapter 6. These two chapters provided John’s audience, and they will provide us, with the proper perspective throughout the rest of the journey.
Jesus has just finished giving the seven messages to the seven churches and now John, for the second time in the book, is transported spiritually into the presence of God, where he is given a vision. Here’s how John describes his experience:
1 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.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit…
John begins with the phrase “after this”. It is a phrase that he will use five more times in Revelation. Although he uses that phrase to indicate what he is shown next in his vision, it does not necessarily indicate that the events he is about to describe occur next chronologically.
It is significant that John is not transported physically into the heavenly realm. When he hears the same trumpet-like voice of Jesus that he heard in Chapter 1 which calls him to “come up here…” he is immediately “in the Spirit”. We saw that same phrase used in Chapter 1 when Jesus told John to write down what was going to be revealed to him in a series of visions. John is not transported to another place or time to see what he sees. That is important because it reveals that for John and for us…
Heaven is another dimension of present reality that is close at hand
As John sits there in exile on a rock pile in Patmos, it is as if Jesus opens up a curtain and allows John to see what is occurring right there and then in another dimension which is every bit as real as his physical surroundings. And by doing that, Jesus provides John with the glasses that he is going to need to see clearly the scenes that will unfold before him beginning in chapter 6.
Without what we’ll learn in chapters 4 and 5, the rest of Revelation becomes merely a bad horror movie rather than the compelling drama that exalts Jesus and gives us confidence in Him.
The very first thing that John sees in his vision will become the focus of the entire drama that is about to be played out in the rest of the book:
THE FOCUS – A THRONE
…and behold, a throne stood in heaven…
The throne will become the focus of the rest of the book. According to one commentator, John refers to the throne directly 47 times and uses other related terms 77 times. Certainly everything in this vision revolves around that throne.
The great danger that we face from this point forward in Revelation is that we’ll take our focus off the throne and get distracted with all that is going on around the throne. That is a danger that we must guard against even this morning as we look at some of the details of John’s vision.
There are obviously many things in the Book of Revelation that remain at least somewhat of a mystery and about which there is far from universal agreement concerning what those things represent and their significance. The easiest thing for me to do, and the surest way to avoid controversy would be to just ignore these issues completely or for me to just say that there are a number of possible explanations and let you all pick from among them without sharing the conclusions that I’ve drawn based on my study of the passage. But frankly, I don’t think that either you or I would be satisfied with that.