The Goodness of Heaven (2)
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. Revelation 4.4-6
The power of prepositions
When I used to teach the Biblical languages, I would caution students not to sell prepositions short. Prepositions are words that indicate direction or position of one thing in relationship to something else. They’re typically short words, and we use them all the time. So it might be easy to overlook the prepositions of a text and pay more attention to the verbs and nouns.
But prepositions are very important; they set the stage. Prepositional phrases can cause a sentence or a paragraph to become more vivid, especially when, as in our text, they are piled on in relation to a common subject. Listen to all the prepositions in these three verses: around, on, in, on, from, before, before, in the midst of, around in, in. There are only 87 words in those three verses, and more than 10% of them are prepositions! The author is using these prepositions to create an image of the throne room of God and, by projection, of the larger landscape of heaven itself. He uses theses prepositions to position God on His throne in the center of things so wonderful and mysterious that they overwhelm us with His glory as we try to envision them.
As John was enabled by the Spirit to part the veil separating time from eternity, he saw (vv. 2, 3) “a throne set in heaven, and Onesat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there wasa rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” What first met John’s eyes was this dazzling vision of radiant colors, emanating from and draping a central throne where “One” sat Who seemed the very embodiment of brilliant light and power.
The centrality of the throne
Then, in verses 4-6, the prepositions get to work to help us understand how all of heaven unites around this central figure. All that is glorious and mysterious and wondrous, all that we shall one day be part of, is oriented by prepositions in relation to the throne of God, creating a unity of glory that makes heaven a very good place to be, indeed.
From the throne of God, and withinan emerald green rainbow, light and life radiate, ominous threats of judgment and dazzling flashes of illuminating power explode, and voices defining, instructing, and upholding all things proceed continuously.
Around the throne saints, represented by the elders of the Old Testament tribes and New Testament apostles, rule with God in His Kingdom, clothed in the bright whiteness of holy light, gold crowns shimmering on their heads.
Before the throne seven lamps of fire – indicating the sevenfold Spirit of God (cf. Is. 11.2) – flicker with the warmth and life they receive and disseminate from the throne.
Before the throne a sea of glass reflects all this brilliance and radiance, so that everything around is bathed in glorious, shimmering light.
In the midst of the throne strange creatures, representing creation in its restored potential, as well as prophetic mysteries yet to be disclosed, look out in all directions through a multitude of eyes to take in the beauty, grandeur, and majesty of their surroundings.
In heaven all beauty and radiance and glory and mystery and sustaining power and light emanate from the throne of God; and all attention, wonder, adoration, celebration, and service are directed back to the throne. Everything and everyone are united before the throne of our holy God.
Unity in heaven
In heaven, where God dwells with angels and departed saints, everything cries, “Glory!” (Ps. 29.9). Everything is oriented to God. He is the source and focal point of everything. By His light and life, He gives form and color and vibrancy to everything around Him, and everything around Him acknowledges its indebtedness to and its fullest joy and purpose in Him. He draws out glorious music and celebratory song. He causes saints to fall on their knees. He dispatches angels to carry out earth-bound tasks. He receives praise and enlivens every creature before, around, and in the midst of Him with eternal life and glory.
In heaven, nothing distracts from the centrality of God. There are no other priorities than the glory of God, known and expressed; no other agendas than being in the presence of God; no other joys than being immersed in the light and life of God; and no other thought than that this place and these sights and sounds and this holy experience is truly and undeniably good.
When all our works are thus united – coming from God, by His Word and Spirit, before His face, in His presence, around all the people we see each day, and unto God’s glory alone– they will be truly good as well.
1. Why do you suppose God revealed these wondrous details about heaven to the apostle John?
2. As God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, how do scenes such as this teach us to think about our own lives?
3. How can we make sure that all our words and deeds are united by our devotion to God and Christ?
Next steps – Transformation: How can you pray the Lord’s Prayer so that you seek the Kingdom with greater clarity in your Personal Mission Field?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.