In Revelation 4:1 the same voice like a trumpet that John heard in 1:10,11 speaks again. There is ‘a door standing open in heaven’, and Jesus calls him to ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’.

Jesus has just dictated letters to the churches, making it clear that he knows what was going on and strongly encourages us to perseverance in the faith. This - our struggles, strengths, weaknesses and vulnerability – is not all there is. There is something ‘after’ this. There is a divine, heavenly perspective. Nothing is said about the actual appearance of God; rather we are reminded of four key truths about God:

God is the Almighty Sovereign Lord
The concept of sitting on a ‘throne’ is the concept of sovereignty. God is on the throne. God is in charge. God is the King. This affirmation of sovereignty is also included in the praise of the four living creatures; they refer to God as ‘the Lord God Almighty’ [verse 8].

To the suffering, struggling church this is a grand and reassuring message: God is the Sovereign Lord, the Almighty. He is the ruler of those godless ‘kings of the earth’ which are mentioned nine times in Revelation. All these men great or small who are troubling the church are nothing beside God. From the perspective of earth it might seem like they are winning, but from the perspective of heaven they have already lost. God is, and always will be, the God who is on the throne.

God is holy
Revelation 4:6b-8 shares many elements with Isaiah 6:1-8 and Ezekiel 1. The focus of each of these visions is God himself. The concern of the various winged living creatures in these visions is God himself. Even in the Ezekiel vision, where the holiness of God is not specifically mentioned, the whole scene is one of total uniqueness, absolute otherness. God is holy. There is no one like him. There is no one beside him or above or beyond him. He is one of a kind. Without equal. Without threat of defeat. The living creatures are repeatedly stating this day and night in their words ‘Holy, holy, holy’.

God is eternal
The living creatures are also constantly drawing our attention to the eternity of God. He is the one ‘who was, and is, and is to come’ [compare also Revelation 1:4,8]. The twenty-four elders honour him as the one ‘who lives for ever and ever’. This reflects the self-identifying name given by God when Moses asked him ‘What is your name?’ [Exodus 3:14]. He is ‘I AM’ – the ever-living, ever-present, self-existent, self-sufficient One.  

God is the creator
Whenever the living creatures praise God for his holiness, sovereignty and eternity, [and they never stop doing this day and night], the ‘twenty-four elders’ also praise God. They say that he is ‘worthy … to receive glory and honour and power’, and they ground this worthiness in the will and the work of God by which he created all things [verse 11].

Note what they say about God creating:

He created ‘all things
All things were created by God’s ‘will’ - by God’s determination, purpose and choice. There is also an element of pleasure involved. This is what God wanted to do and determined to do and did.
All things ‘have their being’ – have come into existence’ - through this deliberate decision of God.

This sovereign, holy, eternal, Creator God is sitting on the throne: it is he, not the persecutors or the false teachers who attack the church. It is he, not the evil one, whose purpose prevails both now and forever.
© Rosemary Bardsley 2015