Summary: Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord Nobody will have a choice Will your heart rejoice at that moment or bow in despair?
Every tribe and tongue
The individual letters to churches have been written. In Revelation 4 we look in on a vision that John related for all the churches. Besides the personal messages, this message is intended for all.
In chapter 4 we get a vision of the throne room of God. We know this because the image described has so much in common with the Hebrew prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. John is taking his place among the greatest prophetic voices in history as a man who has seen the throne of God and lived to tell the tale.
There are some important similarities:
• The throne itself
• God’s glory
• The creatures surrounding the throne
• The song the creatures sing: Holy, Holy, Holy
There are also some new things observed by John that were not reported by the others
• The seven lamps as John saw in Chapter 1
• The sea of crystal, clear as glass
• The 24 elders and their crowns
John is witnessing not just His own audience with God, but the worship of a specified symbolic group of 24 people:
• The twelve tribes of Israel, probably the forefathers of those tribes
• The twelve apostles
This shows the great continuity of the people of God through the ages. Probably, if John looked closely, he would see himself there before the throne. Other than that, nothing John has seen is terribly unexpected.
John has read the prophets’ accounts of the throne room of God and, although the full reality of the experience must have been staggering, the elements of it were, for the most part, confirmation of things he had read.
Let us not minimize the experience though. It is not surprising, but it is still awe inspiring. Imagine the image of God on the throne. John said it reminded him of carnelian and jasper or jade. The comparison of God to gemstones speaks of His beauty, His purity and His clarity. The value and rarity continues in the emerald rainbow that surrounds the throne and the sea that extends from it like quartz crystal. Arranged around the throne (which Ezekiel describes as being like sapphire) are 24 thrones, each elder holding a golden incense bowl and wearing a golden crown.
Then there is the light. The lamps he sees are not mere candles. He describes them as blazing before the throne. We get the impression they are more like torches than like the small oil lamps we see and use. Also, lightning is flashing all around the scene. This is the Glory of God. Imagine the light of the blazing torches and the bolts of lightning reflecting off the gems, the gold and the crystal clear water. The scene must have been blinding.
Not only is the scene a thing to stagger the eyes, it staggers the ears. Imagine the sounds of thunder clapping with every flash of lightning. Above the thunder you can hear the singing of the beasts
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
Every time the beasts sing their song, the Elders fall on their faces before God and sing a song of their own. They praise God’s worthiness and His power.
The light and the music must have been more than any natural man could stand. John is showing us what Jesus called "things to come." Revelation 4 is a vision into the very presence of the creator and ruler of the Universe at the end of time as we know it.
And then something changes
Chapter 5 begins with a dilemma. God holds a scroll ... a book that is sealed with 7 seals. In ancient Rome, during the time that John was writing, there was only one document that would have been written and sealed with 7 seals: a Last Will and Testament. It would have been witnessed by 7 witnesses and sealed by each one. It would only be opened when the will was to be executed.
When a person writes a will, he or she chooses a person who will execute the will. The person is responsible to see that the wishes of the testator are carried out to the exact letter. The only person who can execute the will is a person with both the power to do what the will demands under the law and the trust of the person who wrote the will.
God is holding in His hand His last will for the world at its demise. It is sealed by 7 witnesses, and John is writing to the messengers of 7 churches. God is saying that the will is to be witnessed by all the churches to whom John writes. The terms of the will require great universal power to execute. But more than the power to execute the will is the issue of worthiness. Who can God trust to do everything that He wants done?