The Throne Room of God
After these things I saw, and behold a portal was being opened in the sky, and the first sound that I heard [is] as a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you what must occur after these things.”
At once, I arose in air [or “came to be in Spirit”]: and behold, a throne was standing in the sky, and upon the throne one sitting,
And the one sitting resembling in appearance a jasper gemstone, a sardius stone [like carnelian], and a rainbow from all around the throne resembling in appearance an emerald.Revelation 4:1-3
Once John was finished taking down the seven letters—after these things—the scene changes dramatically. John looks up as a portal opens in the sky, and the sound of a trumpet-like voice invites him to come up into heaven. Why? So whoever it is speaking can show John what must occur after these things.
To us the readers, the trumpeter’s words should trigger a memory. We have seen this phrase before.
When Jesus first revealed Himself to John, He gave His apostle a commission.
“Therefore, write what you saw, and what things are, and what things are about to become after these things.Revelation 1:19
The letters spoke to what are. Now comes that which is about to occur after these things that currently are.
So, how do we understand this fulcrum?
For answers I turned to “Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary,” edited by Steve Gregg.
In this view, John presents God as sovereign over history, and of Jesus as the one revealing the unfolding of that history as it is about to happen. The visions that are about to be described represent the coming three hundred years of the Roman empire, its division into East and West, and eventually the end of the world. The seals and trumpets will portray political events beginning in John’s time and moving forward through history. Later in the book, the affairs of the church will be revealed.
In this view, John presents the Lord as sovereign judge, sitting in the cosmic courtroom of heaven. Ensuing chapters will bring forward the plaintiffs seeking justice, those who have been martyred for Christ. The defendant will be Jerusalem. And the phrase “what is about to occur” is taken at face value. John’s vision came at the end of the first century, therefore, whatever is about to occur will certainly have happened long ago, in that timeframe.
The seals and trumpets, in this context, depict God’s judgment against Jerusalem seen in the terrible destruction of the temple and the decimation of the Jewish people, the uprisings and brutal response from Rome.
There are two variations of the futurist view:
- The first three chapters speak generally of the things that are.
- Or, in the Dispensational view, the seven letters to the assemblies represent seven eras in Christianity. After the final letter is read—having been given to the church representing this present age—then all that must occur after these things represents events still future to us.
Dispensationalists note that John’s experience carries similarities to Paul’s description to the Thessalonian church of believers meeting Jesus in the air, and Paul’s mention of the trumpet’s last sound to the believers in Corinth. They point out that in the rest of the Book of Revelation, the church will no longer be referred to as on earth, but rather only as in heaven with God. In fact the word used for church, ἐκκλησία | ekklesia, is not used again in Revelation until the very last chapter’s scene of the new heavens and the new earth.
All this evidence, the Dispensationalist view holds, points to a Rapture that will lift every believer up to the Lord before the woes of seals, bowls, and trumpets commence.
Futurists who reject the Dispensational view do not see the Rapture happening at this place in John’s Revelation, but still understand everything written from here on as still future to us.
This view sees the Book of Revelation arranged in seven sections. The first section speaks of the church from an earthly perspective. Now a new section begins, not as a new set of events, but rather as a new vision. This will be the heavenly view of the church age, marked by John again being “in the Spirit.”
This view also sees John entering God’s courtroom, where the Lord is seated upon the throne, sovereign over the cosmos, and perfect in justice. The setting reassures believers that though they are experiencing hardship, tragedy, persecution, and trials, God is, will be, and always has been in control. God sees all, God knows all, and God rules all.
Rainbows and Gemstones
It should make sense to us that prophets who have been given glimpses of God’s heavenly throne room would relate similar stories.
Noah and His Family
I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.Genesis 9:13 (NRSV)
Moses, Aaron, and the Seventy Elders
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.Exodus 24:9-10 (NRSV)
… above the dome over [the seraphim’s] heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire, and seated above the likeness of the throne was something that seemed like a human form.
Upward from what appeared like the loins I saw something like gleaming amber, something that looked like fire enclosed all around, and downward from what looked like the loins I saw something that looked like fire, and there was a splendor all around.
Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.Ezekiel 1:26-28 (NRSV)
Each image marvels at the glorious translucence and color of precious gems, and the rich yet ephemeral glow of full-prismed light.
- Jasper—is later characterized as crystal-clear, an illustration of God’s purity. The best modern translation would probably be “diamond,” gems the ancients were well-aware of. Diamonds shimmer brightest and refract rays of light in full rainbow. The sparkling, crystal-clear radiance also evokes the fountain of life springing up within every believer, finding its source in Jesus.
- Sardius—is otherwise known as carnelian, a rich red gem that calls to mind both the blood of the slain Lamb, and the righteous wrath of God.
- Emerald—as an evergreen jewel perhaps speaks to Jesus as the resurrection and the life, and of God’s mercy and compassion
Ezekiel’s words, spoken in wonder, must have leapt to John’s mind. This is indeed the glory of the Lord