Before the Throne of God Above (Revelation 4:1–5:14)

Reading the fourth and fifth chapters of the Revelation of Jesus Christ can feel like stepping into the sun after hours in the dark. It takes time for our senses to process what it is we are being shown as our eyes, ears, and minds are treated to a glimpse heaven’s glory, joining the Apostle John in the witness of pure, untainted worship of the awesome Creator and Sustainer of the universe. At first, the scene can be overwhelming, what with creatures and crowns, thunder and thrones, singing and spirits. There’s a lot to take in!

But, as the Holy Spirit helps our eyesight adjust to the magnificence of this text, its purpose becomes clearer: every magnificent detail of this scene is meant to highlight and spotlight what the King is like, was the Lamb has done, and their shared worthiness to be worshiped and trusted with the future.


We’re about to enter God’s throne room.

Like stepping into the sun after hours in the dark, its as though we need to let our senses adjust to what we just read: a glimpse heaven’s glory and pure worship of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. 

At first, these chapters are overwhelming, what with creatures and crowns, thunder and thrones, singing and spirits. It’s a lot to take in! But, as the Holy Spirit helps our eyesight adjust to the brilliance of this text, its purpose becomes clearer: every magnificent detail highlights and spotlights the King, the Lamb, and their worthiness.


We begin where John begins, entering heaven and “behold[ing] a throne … and One sitting on the throne.” Who sits on a throne, but the King and, in this case, the King of heaven. 

And he’s is indescribably beautiful. In verses 3 and 6, John struggles to find similes adequate to describe the King, ultimately settling on a few precious gems—jasper stone, sardius, emerald, and crystal. 

I sense language failing the apostle, like Ezekiel and Daniel before him, prophets who also saw and tried to recount heaven. It’s like trying to describe the Rocky Mountains to someone who’s never seen them. You can show pictures, write poetry, and talk forever but you’ll never to do them justice. And here, John tries to describe the indescribably beautiful, a beauty we will one day see; a beauty that will make the Grand Canyon look like highway ditch.

The King’s also infallibly faithful. “(4:3b) And there was a rainbow around the throne.” The rainbow throws us from Revelation 4 back to Genesis 9 when God made a covenant with Noah, swearing that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood. Well, here we are at the end and as evil and rebellious as humanity has been, God’s shown that his mercy matches his majesty; he’s been infallibly faithful to that promise. The King keeps his word even when we don’t!

It’s also hard to miss that this King is incomparably authoritative. He’s the boss of the bosses. [4:4] Who these elders are and what they’re doing is not John’s point. Instead, notice that they are on thrones with crowns and yet are very much not the King. In fact, in verse 10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him” and “cast their crowns before the throne” like trinkets. Again, in 5:14, “the elders fell down and worshiped.” These rulers can’t stay upright in the presence of the King of kings, he who is unrivalled in his authority.

And, no-doubt related, the King is supremely powerful. [4:5a] This harkens back to Sinai, the mountain on which God met with Moses, the earth shaking in submission and the people shaking in fear as they sample God’s omnipotence.

And there’s the living creatures (4:6–8) standing closer to the throne than anyone else, powerful (like a lion), mobile (each one having six wings), and knowledgeable (full of eyes around and within). They’re terrifying! And yet their power pales in the glory of throne they serve, acknowledging together with continual submissiveness: he’s “the Lord God, the Almighty” (4:8). Isn’t this why you and I can say, “If God is for us, who is against us” (Rom 8:31)? The King is supremely powerful.

And John’s not done yet. The One on the throne is also perfectly holy. It’s those same creatures who, like the angels in Isaiah 6, do not cease to say, [4:8b]. They’re endlessly captivated by God’s perfection, his otherness. He’s not subject to his creation, he is over it, outside it, and undefiled by it.

It would be enough to say “God is holy.” Or, if you really want to drive the point home, “God’s holy, holy. He’s super-duper holy.” But three times? It’s the ultimate superlative. There’s simply none like him. Even, back in verse 4, the elders are “clothed in white garments.” God’s so holy, holy, holy that he can’t have anything in his presence that’s not.

He’s also uniquely eternal. [4:8c, 9b, 10b] The elders, the living creatures, the thunder and lighting, it all had a beginning. So did you and I. We were all created. [4:11; 5:13a] The King created everything and he himself was not created. There was never a time when he was not. He’s uniquely eternal. 

Finally, what may be most striking about this scene is that this throne and the beautiful, faithful, authoritative, powerful, holy, and eternal One sitting on it, is clearly the focal-point of everything. Did you notice that everything here is described in its relation to the King. [4:2, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11; 5:11] It’s all around, from, and before him! He’s the centre, he’s in the middle. The King is the focal point of everything. 

“Behold our God, seated on his throne, come, let us adore him.” It’s been famously said that “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Why? Because it unavoidably affects the way we relate to him, submit to him, talk about him, share him, pursue him, and anticipate seeing him.

What comes to mind when you think about God? Anything like what John saw? The indescribably beautiful, infallibly faithful, incomparably authoritative, supremely powerful, perfectly holy, and uniquely eternal creator and focal-point of all things? If you’re anything like me, you’re not quite there yet. But my failure doesn’t affect the reality.

Many of you will be familiar with the kid’s game, “king of the kill.” Well, without a right view of God, people default to playing “king of the hill” with their lives, clawing to the top of their career, fighting for their voice to matter, defending earthly success, legacy, and social status. It’s funny and cute when kids play that game. It’s sad when adults do and pathetic when Christians do. Why? Because there’s only one King of the Hill and he reigns forever whether we acknowledge it now or not.


As hard as it is to look away from the King, John pulls our gaze to another figure in heaven’s throne-room—the Lamb—one that, at first glance, seem weak in comparison (5:6): “standing, as if slain.” What contrast to the King. But this is intentional because it isn’t the Lamb’s appearance that John wants us to note, but it’s his accomplishments; it’s what he has done. 

He fulfilled prophecy, for starters. This is announced by one of the elders to the weeping apostle. [5:5] “The Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” points back to Genesis 49 and the words of an aging patriarch who prophesied that a descendant of Judah, possessing the strength and ferocity of a lion, would subdue his enemies and eternally rule the nations. The elder points over to the Lamb and says, “That’s him.”

As for “the Root of David,” this points back to Isaiah 11 which predicts a “branch” springing up from the seemingly dead stump of Jesse’s family tree. This chosen individual will be empowered by God’s Spirit, bring righteous judgement and a peaceful rule over the whole earth, gentile nations and regathered Israel alike. The elder leans over to John again and says, “that’s him too.”

This Lamb has satisfied the divine predictions of a peace-establishing, Israel-restoring, justice-bringing, evil-defeating, world-repairing, kingdom-initiating Messiah. He’s done it, fulfilled prophecy.

The Lamb has also secured victory. He may be standing, as if slain, but he’s is no victim. [5:5b] He has overcome. The ESV says that he “has conquered.” The NIV: he “has triumphed.” The JBV (the Josiah Boyd Version), “he’s the champ, undisputed and uncontested!”

And what victory did the Lamb secure? How about the defeating of sin and death! If it hasn’t been obvious yet, this is Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate, and the one of whom John declared (John 1:29), “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” 

Jesus triumphed by his death, resurrection, and exaltation to the throne room of God! [Rev 1:18; 3:21] The Lamb secured the victory.

Finally, he redeemed a dynasty. [5:9b–10] By fulfilling prophecy and securing victory through his death, the Lamb purchased a diverse people to bring them into an intimate relationship with God. 

It’s through his blood that sin is paid for, redemption is purchased, reconciliation is offered, and access is granted. No death, no redemption. No victory, no intimacy. No sacrifice, no salvation.

When it comes to the Lamb, John’s focus is less on who he is and more on what he’s done. He’s fulfilled prophecy, secured victory, and redeemed a dynasty. 

Peace, comfort, purpose, justice, contentment, community, liberty—those things all people want—are offered by the Lamb who was slain, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He made them possible, he did what was necessary, he won the battle, paid the price, laid down his life, and offers bliss.

“Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne; hark, how the heav’nly anthem drowns all music but its own! Awake my soul, and sing of him who died for thee, and hail him as thy matchless King through all eternity.”

So, that’s who we’re being shown—the One on the throne and the one who was slain. Now we need to see why we’re being shown them. 


John is curating for us the King’s attributes and the Lamb’s accomplishments so we can better see their worthiness. [4:11; 5:2, 4, 9, 12] They are worthy because of who they are and what they’ve done. 

What are they worthy of? They’re worthy of worship. The King is worthy of worship. [4:8b–11] This is a constant, excited declaration of his excellencies, extolling him as Sovereign, fuelled by gratitude, and expressed in prostrate allegiance and boundless sacrifice.

The Lamb is worthy of worship. [5:8a, 11–12] Again, fidelity and joy, endless celebration and the recognition that he’s owed everything.

Finally, they’re brought together. [5:13–14] They’re worthy of all obedience, devotion, service, commemoration, and attention. The King and the Lamb are worthy of worship that knows no bounds.

Every church should be challenged by this scene. While worship is not restricted to Sunday mornings, the corporate gathering is, in some ways, its apex. Do we come with frivolity or a sense of casual presumption? Do I evaluate an assembly based on what it provides for me and my family or by how accurately it prepares me for heaven? 

Now, as much as God is worthy of worship, I don’t think that’s primarily what he wants us to understand. Instead, I believe we’re to be struck by the fact that God is worthy of our trust


Remember, we’re looking into the future here. [4:1] That which must take place after these things is unknown to us, filled with potential persecution and loss, heartbreak and pain. John says, Trust God with the future! He’s worthy of that trust.

Consider the book. [5:1–4] This book contains God’s plan for the future, written inside and on the back because it’s full and comprehensive. Do we trust him with the details of the future?

The angel is looking for someone to open it and John weeps when no one is initially found because the plan is good and desirous—the consumption of all things, God dwelling with us, and the death of death. But for that to come the book has to be opened and read, but here it’s perfectly sealed, ensuring perfect timing.

But it will be opened: [5:7, 9a]. Restoration will come. But in God’s way, in God’s timing, and by God’s hand. Do we trust him with the timing of the future? He he worthy of that trust?

This question becomes even more important when we understand that this book doesn’t only contain puppies and flowers but, initially, wrath and judgement. When we read in the weeks ahead of famine, war, chaos, death, and hell will we remember the King and the Lamb, and their worthiness? Will we trust him?

Or will we, like so many, put God on trial, forgetting to whom we speak and, instead, demanding he acquiesce to our sensibilities, our human views of what’s right and wrong, appropriate and holy? I pray not. I pray we will trust him with it all, trust him with the details, timing, and events of the future, because he’s worthy of it.

That’s why this scene is here. It’s potent enough that its depiction of the King and the Lamb and their worthiness will reverberate through the rest of the unveiling, reminding us of who’s on the throne, what he’s like, what he’s done.

And, brothers and sisters, if God is worthy of our trust when it comes to the future of the cosmos, then, dare I say, he’s worthy of our trust when it comes to the future of our lives. 

Trust God with the future! Your health, your life, your direction, your children, your finances, your anxiety, your uncertainty, your job, your retirement, your travel plans, your service, your insecurity, your education, your reputation, your trials, your temptations, your perseverance, your doubts, your fears, your weakness, your strengths, your usefulness, your aging, your purpose, your needs, your wants, and your death. 

Trust God with the future! He’s worthy of it. Remember who sits on the throne; remember the Lamb that was slain and to whom you belong. He’s worthy of your trust. He’s worthy of our trust.


Josiah Boyd

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