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Summary: John describes worship “To Him who Sits on the Throne”

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Alex Malarkey, who was left paralyzed and spent two weeks in a coma after a 2004 car accident, filed a lawsuit this month against Christian publisher Tyndale House for associating his name with the controversial book coauthored with his father, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, and not paying him for the story. Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015, after Malarkey admitted he made up the story of dying and going to heaven after the accident. Sadly, Books on supposed after-or near-death experiences and angels top the bestseller lists. TV programs claim to explore the mysterious realm of the supernatural, often focusing on angels and their alleged interaction with humans. Many people, both those who profess to be Christians and those who do not, claim to have visited heaven and returned to tell of their experiences.

In contrast to the fanciful, bizarre, often silly fabrications of those who falsely claim to have visited heaven the Bible records the accounts of two people who actually were taken there in visions. In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul wrote of being transported to the third heaven (the abode of God). But he was forbidden to speak of what he saw there (2 Cor. 12:4). The apostle John also had the inestimable privilege of visiting heaven. Unlike Paul, John was permitted to give a detailed description of his vision, which he did in Revelation 4-5. In those two chapters, John recorded the second vision he saw, the first being his vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ in Rev. 1:12–17. The Bible refers to heaven more than five hundred times, and others, such as Paul (2 Cor. 12) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1), wrote descriptions of it. Yet John’s description in Revelation 4-5 is the most complete and informative in all of Scripture. Escorted by the beloved apostle, readers or hearers are carried far beyond the mundane features of this temporal realm to behold the realities of eternal heaven. Through John’s vision, believers have the privilege of previewing the place where they will live forever. In short, the throne room of chapter 4 is at the center of the imagery in the book.( Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (p. 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

This central theme of John’s vision, the throne of God, is mentioned eleven times in this chapter. All the features of the chapter can be outlined based on how they relate to that throne of divine glory. John describes worship “To Him who Sits on the Throne” describing 1) The One on the Throne (Revelation 4:1-3a), 2) Those Around the Throne (Revelation 4:3b–4) 3) What comes From, Before & Around the Throne (Revelation 4:5-8a), and 4) What is Directed Toward the Throne (Revelation 4:8b–11).

1) The One on the Throne (Revelation 4:1-3a)

Revelation 4:1-3a 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, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 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). (ESV)

The phrase after this/these things (?et? ta?ta) relates to John’s personal chronology. It notes that this second vision followed immediately after John’s vision of the risen, glorified Christ (Rev. 1:9–20) and the letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2:1–3:22). The phrase after this/these things is used throughout Revelation to mark the beginning of a new vision (cf. 7:9; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1). It’s use here marks an important transition in the book of Revelation from the church age (the “things which are”; Rev. 1:19), described in chapters 2–3, to the third great division of the book (the “things which will take place”; Rev. 1:19), found in chapters 4–22. The scene shifts from matters concerning the church (which is nowhere mentioned in chaps. 4–19) on earth to a dramatic scene in heaven. That scene centers on the throne of God and forms the prologue to the future historical events that unfold in chapters 6–22.. All this to say that this is the order in which John saw the visions but not necessarily the historical order of their occurrence as events (Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 316–317). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.)

As John looked, to his astonishment (indicated by the exclamation behold) he saw a door standing open in heaven (cf. Ezek. 1:1; Acts 7:56). This is a PERFECT PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, meaning that the door was opened by Deity (PASSIVE VOICE) and remained open (PERFECT TENSE). This is another way of expressing God’s revelation of Himself to humanity(Utley, R. J. (2001). Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation (Vol. Volume 12, p. 50). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.)

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