The Bible tells us that “God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.” In our humanity it is possible to have completely wrong ideas about many things. But God doesn’t want His children to be ignorant or uninformed especially about spiritual realities. We learn from these early chapters of Revelation that it is very important to have an accurate understanding of three spiritual realities:
1. The resurrected Jesus is to be seen in all of His glory in His current roles of High Priest and active Head of the Church as well as His coming roles as King and Judge of the Earth. His majesty and power are clearly displayed. (Chapter 1)
2. The church is to be seen from Jesus’ perspective. His expectations of the church in this period of time are clearly shown. The church should be Christ centered, morally pure, doctrinally sound and actively working in the world. (Chapters 2-3)
3. The all-powerful God is to be seen in complete control of His creation. He is seated in His throne room surrounded by His royal court. God is not dead! (Chapters 4-5)
In the midst of calamity people often ask, “Where is God?” Jesus opens the door and shows us the answer. God is alive and well despite what it may seem like from an earthly perspective. He is busy in the control center of the universe bringing His story to its amazing climax!
As we open chapter four we come to what may be called one of the greatest invitations ever given. Jesus invited John to come up into heaven to see what will happen in the future! People have always longed to have a crystal ball to forecast vague shadows of coming events in their lives. John has something better – a detailed vision of the entire future of the world straight from the eyes of God.
John first saw the supreme headquarters of the ruler of the universe. It is always interesting to visit houses in different cultures and to see how people live and how they decorate their homes. What would it be like to see the throne room of God? In these next two chapters John will describe some of the dazzling elements in God’s house that are unlike anything that we have ever seen. We may not understand everything symbolized there but we will come away amazed at the picture of God in all of His glory carrying out His grand plan in His perfect time and in His perfect way!
DAY ONE: THE DIVINE SUMMONS
READ: Revelation 4:1
A. JOHN HEARD A HEAVENLY VOICE.
As in chapter one, John heard a heavenly voice that sounded like a trumpet. When he looked up he saw a door in heaven standing open. In 1:19, Jesus had previously revealed to John that he was to write down:
- What you have seen,
- What is now,
- What will take place later.
This divine summons invited John to come up to heaven and see what will take place later. We sometimes enjoy the previews of coming attractions in movie theaters. We may find one upcoming movie that grips us and invites us to return. John will see a preview of the seven-year tribulation and the visible bodily return of Jesus Christ who will take over the earth and establish the kingdom of God.
This preview of God’s coming events has been enough to give believers great anticipation down through the ages. We return again and again to this preview to try to understand exactly how God will bring all these things to His good end. As John says at the end of this book, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
Some of the things to come will be quite shocking as John looks into the future. After the church age has run its course, heaven will open; there will be a voice and the sound of a trumpet; and the saints in Christ will be caught up to heaven. At His appointed time, God’s judgment will begin. During the tribulation it will seem like the world is out of control and that God’s plan will be thwarted by the enemies of God and His people. So John needs to see God on His throne and know that He is in control of the future. A just God MUST pour out his wrath on sin, and a faithful loving God MUST fulfill all of His promises and prophesies to true believers.
1. Several other men have had a glimpse of heaven. Describe what they saw:
- Jacob (Genesis 28:12,17)
- Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1)
- John the Baptist (Matthew 3:16)
- Stephen (Acts 7:56)
2. According to John 10:7-9, who is the door to heaven?
- What does a “door standing open” mean to you today?
- What did Jesus say about recognizing His voice in John 10:2-4? Relate a time when you knew that Jesus was speaking to you personally.
DAY TWO: THE HEAVENLY THRONE
READ: Revelation 4:2-3
A. JOHN SAW A THRONE.
John immediately entered another realm of reality. His spirit saw a throne room in heaven and someone sitting on the throne. It is difficult for an earthbound creature to describe something that is utterly heavenly. So John simply compared what he saw with things he had viewed on earth. He attempted to describe the person sitting on the throne. This person is obviously God Himself.
John described the dazzling sight as something that glows like precious stones. Jasper is described in the Bible as a gem that is clear as crystal. It could be like a diamond that reflects the brilliant light of God in every facet. John also saw something like carnelian (a stone like red quartz or a ruby) reflected in the image. Around the throne was a rainbow or halo that was green like emeralds. All in all, the image was one of great beauty and dazzling splendor.
The colors and shining brilliance may have some symbolic meaning regarding the attributes and character of God as some have suggested. However we are not told what they mean, so we will simply accept that John’s description is one of striking brilliance — the shekinah glory of God in full display,
- How does Psalm 104:1-2 describe God?
- What else is described as being as brilliant as jasper? (Revelation 21:10-11)
- What did the rainbow represent when first introduced to man? (Genesis 9:12-16)
- How might this have some significance surrounding the throne of God?
- What was interesting to you in this description of God on His throne?
- How does your lifestyle suggest to others that God is on the throne of your life?
DAY THREE: THE KING’S COURT
READ: Revelation 4:4-11
A. JOHN SAW 24 ELDERS.
Surrounding the throne of God were 24 smaller thrones on which 24 elders were seated. They were clothed in white and had gold crowns. Speculation abounds as to the identity of these elders. The crowns they are wearing are victors’ crowns, and white robes in scripture are usually symbolic of salvation. So they could possibly be overcomers or faithful believers from some period of time. Since John did not identify them, we will simply focus on their present activity presented later in the passage.
B. JOHN SAW SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD.
John saw flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder coming from the throne. This is a reminder of God’s enormous power. In front of the throne was what looked like a sea of glass that was clear as crystal. The whole scene was brightened by seven lamps that were blazing. John gave us the meaning of the lamps – they represent the seven spirits of God. As with any royal administration, the people around the throne exist to carry out the orders of the King.
C. JOHN SAW FOUR LIVING CREATURES.
The four living creatures were nearer to God than the Spirits and elders. John described them as being full of eyes front and back. One was like a lion, one was like an ox, one was like a man, and one was like a flying eagle. Each had six wings. Again, the identity of these creatures was not revealed. Obviously they serve a unique purpose in the heavenly court. Ezekiel 1:14 says “the creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning” and are constantly evaluating the area around God’s throne to insure that nothing unholy comes near.
All of these unknown members of the Royal Court leave us with many questions. Obviously we do not need to know who they are. The important thing is to observe what they do in the service of almighty God.
D. JOHN HEARD HEAVENLY WORSHIP.
The four living creatures initiated constant worship of the King they serve. With eyes in front and back, they constantly behold the glory of God and spontaneous praise comes from their lips. They observe — “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” It appears to be not so much a ritual as an observance that perpetually amazes them.
The worship of the four living creatures inspired the 24 elders to join in. They gave glory and honor and thanks to the one on the throne. They cast their crowns before His throne, possibly signifying that their own power to overcome had come from Him. They praised God for His creation of all things and for their very being.
This scene reminds us of the value of our own worship before a worthy God. Worship should be the natural response each time we see the beauty of creation and the wisdom of his governance in the world and in our own lives.
- Look up the meaning of worship in a dictionary.
- Look up the meaning of Holy in a dictionary.
- Their worship was pure praise focused wholly on the person of God. How can we train ourselves to worship in this way?
- What attribute of God inspires you to spontaneous worship?
- God does not need our worship to be complete. Why do you think it pleases Him when we worship?
DAY FOUR: THE UNOPENED SCROLL
READ: Revelation 5:1-4
A. JOHN GRIEVED AS CREATION WAITED.
In His hand God held a full scroll, written front and back. Nothing more could be added. It contained the full account of what God had prophesied and planned in order to judge the world and regain the rule over the earth that has been lost by Adam’s descendants. But there was a problem. The scroll was sealed and could only be opened by one who was qualified to rule the earth. John wept as he saw no one in heaven or earth that was worthy.
We might wonder why a mighty angel couldn’t open the scroll or why God Himself couldn’t break the seals. Only a perfect human could die to redeem mankind and remove the curse of sin and death. Only a perfect human who was willing to die as a sacrifice for sin and then be resurrected could become the “second Adam” with authority and ability to rule over the redeemed earth for all eternity. John wept when it appeared that no one in heaven or earth or under the earth could be found who was worthy to rule.
It certainly would be devastating to any believer if we thought God was unable to carry out His plan for establishing His eternal kingdom of righteous people. We also would weep uncontrollably.
- What was God’s original covenant with humanity? (Genesis 2;17; Romans 6:23)
- How far reaching had sin’s impact been on the descendants of Adam? (Romans 3:23; 5:12)
- After Adam and Eve sinned, God gave the first glimpse of substitutionary sacrifice. What had to happen for them to be covered and temporarily forgiven? (Genesis 3:21)
- Were their sins removed permanently? (Hebrews 10:3-4)
- How do we know we can trust God to complete His work? (Revelation 21:5-8)
- Write out a praise to God for His work on earth. Use this praise each day this week in your time alone with God.
DAY FIVE: A WORTHY ONE WAS FOUND.
READ: Revelation 5:5-14
A. AN ELDER POINTED TO THE LION OF JUDAH.
One of the 24 elders saw John’s heartbreak and came forward to introduce the king, the one who descended from the royal line of Judah through the family of David. He is qualified to be king because of this royal lineage. He is qualified to rule because He has triumphed over sin and death. He is able to reign eternally because he was resurrected in a glorified body that will never die. He has paid for sin and conquered death and Satan.
B. JOHN SAW A LAMB SLAIN YET STANDING.
When John turned to look at the lion of Judah, he saw instead a lamb slain yet standing. This lamb had triumphed over death. His seven horns show full and complete power to rule. His seven eyes indicate divine intelligence. He can see and know all things so He is certainly qualified to be the judge over all the earth.
C. THE LAMB TOOK THE SCROLL AND HEAVEN WORSHIPPED.
The door is open! The way is clear! Myriads of angels, the four living creatures and the 24 elders celebrated with new victory songs. With harps and bowls of incense, the songs rang forth. A new day will dawn when the kingdom comes with the worthy lamb crowned on the throne forever and ever. Prayers have been kept in golden bowls and will all be answered.
- What genealogical fact makes Jesus qualified to reign? (Genesis 49:10)
- Why did the Lamb of God have to be human in order to redeem the people who will populate the kingdom? (John 1:29; Hebrews 2:14-17))
- What was the result of His sacrifice? (Revelation 5:9-10)
- What could be some of the prayers that were finally being answered? (Matthew 6:10)
- From the first song, why is Jesus worthy? (Revelation 5:9-10)
- For which of these things will you praise God in your devotions this week?
In a sense, the first five chapters of Revelation represent a grand introduction. John has seen the reality of Jesus and God in all of their glory and power. John has seen the God/man, the risen Lamb of God, who is worthy to reign over the earth. The weeping is over; the praise has begun. The Day of the Lord is about to begin when the lamb opens the scroll. The long-awaited kingdom will soon follow.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
The depth of our worship depends on the depth of our understanding of God and His purposes.
Write out seven attributes of God and Jesus and use one each day this week for praise.
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