God on the Throne, Part 4 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
And they had on their heads crowns of gold. The golden crowns on their heads reveal their royal dignity. Having been washed from their sins in Christ’s blood, they have been made both “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:5-6). They are the overcomers, thus all are crowned with the royal authority common to all saints in Heaven. There have been no rewards given out as yet. John’s vision here is of that which takes place after the Church is caught up into Heaven. No saints will be crowned until “that day.” The Apostle Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The expression “on that day” refers to the day of Christ’s coming for His own. He says, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Revelation 22:12, NIV).
5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices. The key to understanding the picture painted of the throne of God is the narrative of the Jews at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. When God descended upon the mountain, it shook with thunder and lightning. All of this was a picture of the holiness of God. John is telling us in this passage that God is holy and His holiness reins in heaven.
The “voices” are the voices of the thunder; and thunder and lightning are often connected with the manifestation of God. In the vision of Ezekiel lightning comes out of the fiery haze around the throne (Ezekiel 1:13), and he saw four creatures similar to those described in 4:6. The Psalmist tells how the voice of the thunder of God was heard in the heavens, and the lightnings lighted the world (Psalm 77:18). God sends his lightning to the ends of the earth (Job 37:4). But what is primarily in the mind of John is the description of Mount Sinai as the people waited for the giving of the Law: “There were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast” (Exodus 19:16). John is using imagery which is regularly connected with the presence of God.
And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. John also sees seven lamps of fire. Unlike the Lampstands mentioned in Revelation 1:12-13, these are outdoor torches. John identifies these torches as the seven Spirits of God, a phrase that denotes the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4:1-10).
The Word of God assures us that He who is the Head of the New Testament Church will never for one moment leave the Church He purchased with His own precious blood.
6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal. Since there is no sea in heaven (Revelation 21:1), the body of water mentioned here is not a sea. Instead, it is a descriptive term showcasing the brilliance of heaven, and it tells us that the throne is located in a place that is undisturbed by the restless, wild tossing of this world, or by the opposition of the wicked, who are like a troubled sea. Today a clear glass or a large mirror is easy to come by. In John’s day, though, a large glass as clear as crystal was an extravagance beyond imagination. This points to the immense glory and power of the One who sat on the throne. A throne is the symbol of government and power.
The “sea of glass” has fascinated the minds of many people, including hymn-writers. The Greek does not say that there “was a sea of glass” but that “there was a sea of glass like unto crystal”—clear and calm. Whatever it was, it was something like a great sea of glass. The “sea of glass” seen here does not look like the sea as we know it on earth today—driven by wind, storms, and tempests—never calm. But John witnessed a crystal sea—calm and peaceful, symbolizing an eternity of perfect peace. The belief, at that time, was that above the firmament was something which defied description—a great sea—perhaps serving as the floor of heaven. Furthermore, it was on that scene that God had set his throne. The Psalmist says of God that he sat on the beams of his chambers upon the waters (Psalm 104:3).
There are three things that this sea like shining glass does symbolize.
• It symbolizes preciousness. In the ancient world glass was usually dull and semi-opaque, and glass as clear as crystal was as precious as a gold. In Job 28:17 gold and glass are mentioned together as examples of precious things.
• It symbolizes dazzling purity. The blinding light reflected from the glassy sea would be too much for the eyes to look upon, like the purity of God.
• It symbolizes immense distance. The throne of God was in the immense distance as if it was at the other side of a great sea.
One of the greatest characteristics of John’s writing is the reference which, even in the heavenly place, never dares to be familiar with God but paints a picture in terms of light and distance.
And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. We have arrived at another of the symbolic problems of the Revelation—there are four living creatures arranged around the throne. These four living creatures are not the same as the four and twenty elders. These are creatures especially created by God for a specific and singular ministry—they never cease to praise God day and night. They are constantly crying out, “Holy, holy, holy!” (4:8). They appear frequently in the heavenly scene; so let’s begin by gathering what the Revelation itself says about them. Their positions suggest both their closeness to God and the fact that they wait upon Him. One general description that covers all of the creatures is that they have six wings and they are full of eyes both front and behind, and they are constantly engaged in praising and in worshipping God. They stand ready to render service to God in any part of the universe. They possess strength like a lion, they render service like the ox, they possess intelligence as does man, and they are swift like the eagle. They have certain functions to perform. They invite the dreadful manifestations of the wrath of God to appear upon the scene. One of them hands over the vials of the wrath of God (15:7). Eyes are used for seeing, and consequently, the four creatures are aware of what is going on all around them.
Some have suggested that the creatures are cherubim, but this is not known for certain. One of the commonest pictures of God shows Him setting between the cherubim, and that is how He is often addressed in prayer (2 Kings 19:15; Psalms 18:1; 99:1; Isaiah 37:16). God is represented as flying on the cherubim and on the wings of the wind (Psalm 18:10). And it is the cherubim who guard the way to the Garden when Adam and Eve have been banished from it (Genesis 3:24). In some of the later books of the Old Testament, the cherubim are the guardians of the throne of God.
From all this one thing immerges clearly—the cherubim are angelic beings who are close to God and the guardians of His throne. Cherubim are the highest of all created intelligences. They are full of eyes, implying knowledge, alertness, and clear insight into matters. They see and scrutinize everything. These are powerful figures, as noted by the wings (4:8). These four living creatures also appear throughout Revelation (5:6, 8, 14; 6:1; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). These lofty ones enjoy the resources of their intellects, the deep emotions of their hearts, the ceaseless drive and dynamic of their powerful wills—AND THEY WORSHIP! It is the one great, supreme, dominating activity of their lives. All else is counted worthless when compared with the supreme activity of worship. With all their heart and mind and soul and strength they worship Him that sits upon the throne. They acknowledge Him to be the holiest One in the universe.