In the Throne room: Praising God, the King in Revelation 4
In the Throne room: Praising God, the King in Revelation 4 – Kobus Kok
Jacqui Rossouw asks:
I need to write an essay on the attitude of worship exhibited in Revelations 4 and how we as present day believers should change our attitude to God and worship within our local church.
Dr Kobus Kok answers:
Chapter four of Revelation represents an enormously rich Biblical text with metaphors and symbols that deserve a whole book. One of my Master degree students recently finished his dissertation on God in Revelation 4 and wrote more than 150 pages on this chapter in Revelation. Thus, the 800 words allowed in this article will never do justice to the depth of the chapter. I will share some ideas with relation to your specific question and will then refer you to good books that will unlock the richness of Revelation.
Revelation 4 starts with the vision of John in which a door was opened to heaven (4:1), and in the spirit (4:2) he saw a throne in heaven with Someone sitting on it. This is the image or metaphor of a King in his throne room – the position where he as ruler governs. God is thus in total control of the world and of history. From the throne room the radiance of the King shines forth majesty and awe, colourfully described by the words jasper, a sardine stone, a rainbow around the throne, and the colour of emerald. These colours all have symbolic meaning. Jasper (red/green/white) is the stone of majesty and could shine as bright as a diamond and symbolises God’s absolute majesty and holiness. The sardine stone is bright red and symbolizes life or judgement and death – God is thus the source of life and the One able to judge with the absolute power over life and death. The rainbow is pictured as being ‘n green stone (emerald) and symbolizes God’s grace; together with the rainbow it reminds us of the fact that God will not destroy the world as he did in the time of Noah (Genesis 9:13-17). Together all these stones reminds us of the High Priests breastplate (cf. Exodus 28:17-21) symbolizing the majesty of God as well as the new Jerusalem.
The 24 elders around the throne represent the 12 tribes of the Old Testament and the 12 apostles of the New Testament, symbolizing the totality of the old and the new covenant. The white clothes they wear represent victory and holiness. When they worship God, they lay down their crowns – symbolizing the fact that there is no one more important than God, the Mighty King.
From the throne John sees lightning and thundering (4:5) which reminds us of the times in the Old Testament when God suddenly appeared (theophanic) for instance at Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:16). John sees in front of the throne a sea of crystal clear glass (4:6) which symbolizes the fact that God is in total control and that he can see from heaven everything down on earth.
In Revelation 4:6b-11 we get to the scene where John sees the heavenly beings around the throne, the angels and everything that exists worshipping God. The living beings are full of eyes and have wings – this symbolizes the fact that they can see everything and that they can go everywhere. The first living being is a lion and represents the strongest of the animals. The second is a bull, representing the strongest of the tame/useful animals, the third is a human like being representing humans, and the fourth is an eagle, representing the strongest of the flying animals. These four thus represents the totality of creation – from north, south, east and west, symbolizing the whole of the world worshipping God (cf. also Ezekiel 1:5-6, 10-11).
All the heavenly beings were worshipping God day and night without any rest (4:8), typical of other Jewish apocalyptic literature (cf. 1 Enoch 39:12; 40:2), singing Holy, Holy, Holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3; 1 Enoch 39:12). In revelation God is the pantokrator, the creator of everything, the King of Kings. He deserves nothing less than being worshipped as the King of Kings.
When my wife and I visited Neuschwanstein castle in the Bavarian Alps of Germany we went into the throne room of the royal palace of Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was absolutely amazing and I could just imagine what it would have been like to see the king on his throne and all his guards and officials there. One feels small in the presence of such majesty. John pictures God as a King on his majestic throne. We must however remember that God is much more than a King – and that this is unfortunately mere human images we use to put in words and pictures who the God of the Universe is. Our words and our mental pictures are not enough and our images are too limited to describe the greatness of God.
Therefore, the throne room image or symbols we find in Revelation can help us – to remember that we do not come to church in the first place to be entertained but that we should come to church in the first place to Glorify God and experience the awe of being in the presence of the Almighty.
On youtube you will find a very good short movie called “Me-Church” where the “serve-me” attitude of Christians is depicted as they stop with their cars at church for a “take away” service. This attitude is often seen in contemporary worship services where it is all about me and less about God!
Du Rand, J 2007. Die A-Z van Openbaring. Cum Books.
Aune’s DE. Word Biblical Commentary on Revelation. Word Books.
Bauckham, R. The Theology of Revelation.
Writer: Dr Kobus Kok