“What’s going on in heaven today?” asked Dr. Bartel. He replied that Revelation 4 answers that question. Though reading Revelations is challenging, he reminded us that it is apocalyptic literature and that it appeals to our senses. So, he encouraged us to switch on our imaginations as he read Revelations 4:1-11. The sermon was divided into the background, verse one’s invitation, verses 2-8a the throne room, and the worship at which God invites us.
For the background of Revelation 4, Dr. Bartel explained that John was sequestered on Patmos. In Revelation 2-3 John addressed the state of the seven churches. Politically, socially, and morally the world was in turmoil and was antagonistic to Christ followers. The situation was pretty grim for John.
Then Revelation 4 occurs and God provides John with a new perspective. In verse 1, the focus is away from the world and includes an open door. In a thunderous voice, the Lord invites John to “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (NIV) The voice was loud, trumpet like. That is the first summons to see beyond the social, political and cultural human disfunction. Dr. Bartel likened this experience to his plane trip over Dallas away from the streets, the traffic, the troubles. He had been complaining to his wife and then the plane took off. As he looked at the lights and the city diminish, he heard the Lord say,”Son, pay attention to the city out the window.” Dr. Bartel’s prospective changed.
In Revelation 4:2-8a was the One on the throne. The One sitting on the throne in heaven had “the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” Revelation 4:3 (NIV) As Dr. Bartel read about the One on the throne, I could imagine the beauty of the jasper, which can be red or green, and carnelian, which ranges from pale to deep red. The stones represent “God’s glory and radiance,” and the rainbow relates to the “covenant promise.” (Footnotes in my study Bible) This description appeals to our senses of sight and hearing and our imagination of the immeasurable beauty of the One and His throne.
Surrounding the throne in verse 4 are twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders sit. Dressed in white, they wear gold crowns and represent the twelve Israelite tribes and the twelve apostles. From the throne came a matchless light show and thunderous sounds. In verses 6b-7 are the four living creatures: lion like representing nobility, ox like representing strength, man representing wisdom, and the eagle representing swiftness. These four creatures symbolize all created life.
What the elders and creatures have in common is continual worship in Revelation 4:8b-11. The elders bow down and present their gold crowns to the Lord Almighty. They say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” Rev 8:11(NIV)
The four living creatures continually say
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.” Rev 4:8b (NIV)
Day and night these praises are repeated nonstop.
To further show the impact of Revelation 4:1-11, Dr. Bartel said that Handel read this chapter and said, "Me thinks I did see the Holy God and after all of His angels with Him!” It is said that Handel wrote the “Hallelujah Chorus” after reading Revelation 4.
“And he shall reign forever and ever
King of kings forever and ever hallelujah
And lord of lords forever and ever hallelujah
Dr. Bartel invited us to “step into the throne room.” He encouraged us to get a new perspective and to sing our hallelujahs maybe not as Handel did but in our own words or through service. We are so grateful for this new insight as we approach the Christmas season. May we be salt and light in a world that needs Jesus desperately.
Written by Larry and Annette Linthicum