Summary: This message takes a look at the two throne scenes before God. One for the righteous and the other for the unbeliever. These passages are rich with symbolism and truth.
The Throne of God
There are two major events surrounding the throne of God in the book of Revelations. Revelation 4 describes the throne of hope and chapter 20 describes the throne of judgement. I want to use this study to examine these two images of God’s throne. Lets begin by looking at Revelation 4:
1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;
When we examine the book of Revelation, we must keep in mind the purpose of the book. In review, the purpose of this book is prophecy (proclaiming God’s purposes); to encourage those persecuted; to instruct the church and the believers in Christ; to point our hearts toward our eternal goal; and to warn so that we are not caught unaware. The object of these prophecies is to point to the revelation of Jesus Christ in His glory. It is an error to use prophecies that God has veiled for a reason and add to them to create a scenario that predestines God’s actions in the future. What God has revealed, we are responsible to act on. What has been hidden will be hidden until afterward. Then we can look back and see clearly what God’s intentions were.
Having said this, lets examine what God has revealed so that we will not be caught unaware. The foundation of our study of this book comes from Revelation 1:3 “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” We will be counted blessed if we hear, read and study this book because we will not be caught asleep, but will be found faithful when Jesus returns or calls us home – whichever comes first. So let’s dig in to chapter 4 of Revelations and examine the Throne of God.
God’s throne of grace
John is caught up in the Spirit and the first thing that grasps his attention is the throne of God. Many people use this as evidence for the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. The church is the focus of Revelation until this point and is never mentioned again throughout the book. However, saints are mentioned throughout the tribulation period. The definition of saint is one who is set apart for God through faith in Christ. There is no question that there will be believers on this earth during the tribulation period. The question in debate is when did these become believers? Are they the church, or did they believe after the church was taken? I just wanted to mention this briefly because of how this passage is often used. To look at this in-depth is for another study.
Now that John has gone into that window in heaven, he tries to describe the throne of God. As a rule of proper biblical interpretation, when something is described in the Bible, it should be taken literal unless the intent is obviously figurative. To be literal, there must be something of equality to compare to. Nothing on earth can remotely compare to the glory of God. John did not want to try to compare God to something we can envision in a literal sense. It would demean the reality of God’s glory. So to paint a picture of glory in the mind’s eye, John returns to the symbolism God used in the Old Testament. The early church studied the scriptures and they could identify with this symbolic representation of God’s glory. Remember that the early church was filled with converted Jews. They knew that the law, feasts and customs commanded in the Old Testament foreshadowed the coming Messiah. Throughout the book of Revelations, we must revisit the customs that God gave to be a preparation for the people to receive their Messiah. John obviously recognized these parallels and used them as a tool to reveal the truth of God.
Looking at Revelation 4, it is obvious that the One on the throne was not made of jasper and sardius, these are symbols to reveal the truth of God that John’s words cannot describe. The precious stones described in this book go back to the beginning of God’s covenant with Israel. Each tribe was assigned a stone that symbolized a piece of the mystery of God’s plan. These two stones go back to this picture. The tribe of Naphtili’s stone was the jasper. Naphtili’s name means ‘to obtain by wrestling’ and the jasper stone represents glory. The sardius stone is a blood red stone and represents the tribe of Judah. Jesus is called the Lion of Judah. The picture John is symbolizing a picture of Jesus Christ in His glory. Jesus veiled his glory in order to become our teacher and then our redeemer. This is the same principle taught in Philippians 2: