Revelation 04


This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on April 26th, 2009.      To hear the audio of this sermon,  just click on this link – Rev 4.

Scriptural Background:  This morning we move on from the letters to the churches into the body of the visions of Revelation.   These begin in Ch.4, as John is called up into heaven, into the throne room of God.  What is interesting about this vision are the parallel visions in Ex.24:9-11, where God appears, standing on, “…something like a pavement made of sapphire,  clear as the sky itself.”,  and in Ezekiel 1-2 – which agrees in many details of this vision – although some of the details are different.

Why is that interesting?  Because both in Exodus and in Ezekiel, God’s appearance foreshadows a mighty act of salvation.  In Exodus, God appears to the leaders of Israel – just after the covenant at Sinai – just as he prepares to lead them across the desert and into the promised land.   In Ezekiel, God appears at the beginning of the prophecy – just as he is about to send Ezekiel to his exiled people in preparation to lead them out of exile.

The appearance of God in this way is like a portent that suggests that some mighty act of salvation is about to take place.  It is an act of salvation that combines both the deliverance of God’s people from exile (in a world of sin and death), and God’s leading his people into the final rest – the true promised land.

Spiritual Images:  But there is something else to say about the visions of Revelation before we get down to specifics.   God is revealing to the church – through these visions – what is really going on in the world from a spiritual point of view.  The images and visions are overwhelming because they show a greater truth in regard to the experience of the church in the world  – than what we tend to see or recognize.  These visions are not pushed off into the future – events that will happen one day – they are the things that are and have begun to take place as the church works out its salvation in fear and trembling.

God is On the Throne.

Be Content to Serve Him:  In the experience of the churches in Asia Minor – Rome ruled the world.   These churches had to contend with  a society that either disregarded or persecuted them – with their own weakness in some cases – and with open sin in their midst.  They must have often felt insignificant and weak.

In a church that appeared weak or insignificant, people had begun to look for ways to  appear more powerful and more spiritual.  So Jezebel taught people in the church of Thyatira, “Satan’s deep secrets” Rev.2:24 –  and the leaders in the church at Ephesus had ceased to share God’s truth as a message of loving deliverance and had become watchdogs for God (like the Pharisees) in order to appear strong.

But what the church needed to see – and still needs to see – is that, despite the fact that we often look weak and foolish and even broken – God is still on the throne.  God is still the ruler who governs and empowers the church and causes it to grow and to carry out His work in the world.

And if we can look at this vision and recognize that God is on the throne – then we can be content to be mere servants of the Gospel – offering God’s deliverance from sin and promise of new life to others.  We don’t need to look for ways to appear powerful – whether they are political (the church being able to wield political power or threat), or spiritual (finding some new spiritual secret or method).   Instead, we can believe that God is at work in the situations of the church and of our own lives, through the working of his Spirit, as we follow Christ in obedience.

God is Revealing Himself.

Acknowledge God’s Beauty:   There is a rainbow around the throne – the beauty of the radiance of the Lord.  Ezekiel describes it this way in his vision, “…and brilliant light surrounded him.   Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell face down”   (Ez.1:27-28).    This is the glory of the Lord – the beauty that surrounds him.   God is revealing himself as the desire of the nations – the desire above all desires – of which all other desires are but a reflection.

He is revealing himself to the church in his glory here, as the satisfaction of the soul.  Your soul and my soul will only ever find satisfaction and joy and completeness in the presence of God  – because we were made for him – and nothing and no one else can ever satisfy the longing of our souls in this way.

This is a part of our witness that we have tended to neglect.  We talk abut salvation from sin – about how God wants to redeem life – but we should also speak of our God as the satisfaction and joy of the soul.  We were made not only to glorify God – but to enjoy him.

Listen to God’s Voice:   The voice of the Lord at Sinai is like a trumpet blast and like thunder – or like “the rushing of many waters” (Rev.1).  John describes rumblings and peals of thunder sounding from the throne.  God is speaking from his throne.  This is a vision of God, actively speaking from the throne to his people –  speaking through his word which, he tells us,  is living and active.

The churches to whom the letters in CH.2-3 were addressed, were to understand that God had spoken to them authoritatively – from the throne.   We are to understand that God’s word is more than an ancient document to be studied – more than a book of devotional thoughts – but it is the living word of God to which we need to listen – and respond with the understanding that God speaks to us – livingly – from the throne.

To that end, James tells us to put the word into practice – to turn the word into action – because this gives evidence that we believe what we have heard.   To read the command of God to “bless our enemies and not to curse”  (Rom.12:14) is to hear God commanding us from the throne.   We should listen to his voice and recognize that God is calling us to respond to specific situations in life with obedience.

God is Sustaining All Things.

Be Encouraged, God is Watching Over the Church:   The 7 blazing lamps which are the 7 spirits of God.   As we saw earlier on, God, who looks on the heart, is gazing at his church – to call to convict and call to repentance – to encourage – to bless – to empower – to protect – to raise up new life.

God is at work in the church to fill it with all truth, and in all truth with all peace.  Where it is corrupt, God is at work to purify it.   Where it is in error God is at work to direct it.  Where in doctrine or practice it has gone astray, God is at work to reform it. Where it is doing his work faithfully, God is strengthen it and blessing it.   Where the church is in want,  God is providing for it.   Where the church is divided, God is at work to reunite it for his own name’s sake – for the glory of his name.

We question that because we see things in the church that we don’t like – we see failure and sin and error and brokenness.  But God is watching over the church.

Be Joyful in Worship, God is At the Center of All Creation:  At the end of Ch.4 the Cherubim (the 4 creatures), and the 24 Elders fall down in worship to God who “created all things” and by whose will, “all things are created and have their being”.   Ch.4 ends in the middle of a process of five praises that eventually, at the end of CH.5 finish off with everything in all creation giving glory to God and to the Lamb.

The world seems to go about its business without reference to God.  Governments  feel that they are at the center of the universe – business feels the same – sports figures – entertainers.

But all things have their being – are being upheld in their very existence – by God.   And whether they are willing to admit it or not – all things are in submission to God who is on the throne.  God is at the center of all creation being worshipped and honored and given all authority – and we are part of that great scene right now – this morning.

Our worship, then, should be full of joy – because we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – because we are part of the scene of the heavenly throne room – have been given access through Jesus Christ to come into the throne room and participate in worship.

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