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The Heavenly Throne Room

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 1, 2021 12:01 am

The Heavenly Throne Room

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 1, 2021 12:01 am

The book of Revelation presents a dazzling depiction of God in His glory, seated in radiant splendor on His heavenly throne. Today, W. Robert Godfrey calls us to fix our eyes and hearts on the fact that the Lord is in control, and He is worthy of all praise.

Get the ‘Blessed Hope: The Book of Revelation’ DVD with W. Robert Godfrey for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/1742/blessed-hope

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Coming up today on Renewing Your Mind… We have this glorious scene in heaven, God with redeemed humanity, God with His purpose fulfilled in gathering saints out of the Old Testament and out of the New. In Revelation chapter 4, we see a dazzling description of God in His glory, seated in radiant splendor on His throne in heaven. It's an amazing sight, with angels and redeemed humanity giving God the praise He deserves. What does that have to do with us here and now? Well, over the next couple of days, we're pleased to bring you selected messages from a series on the book of Revelation.

Our teacher is Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. Well, last time we concluded our look at the first cycle, as I'm calling them, in the book of the Revelation, and I've been arguing that these cycles are seven and shape the whole character of the book, shape also the meaning of the book, and that the first cycle in certain ways provides a model for us of what we will expect in the other cycle. So in that first cycle, we found that there was a long introduction, beginning in chapter 1 of the book of the Revelation and then leading into seven sections. And in the seven cycles, we'll see some have an introduction, about four of the cycles have—not about—four of the cycles.

I can be definitive about that. Four of the cycles have introductions, and three don't. But they all have seven sections in each cycle, and that's what we saw in that first cycle, the seven letters to the seven churches. Those sections were not explicitly numbered, so we don't read letter 1, letter 2, letter 3, but, you know, we're a talented group, so we can count the letters and say, look, there's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. And each of those letters then we said had a certain theme or focus, letter 1 on love, letter 2 on life, letter 3 on judgment, letter 4 on searching, letter 5 on holiness, letter 6 on faithfulness, letter 7 on reproof.

So these letters all have a slightly different focus, a slightly different emphasis in light of the needs of the church. And now we come to cycle 2, which will also follow the pattern that we see in cycle 1. And cycle 2 will run from Revelation 4, verse 1, through 8, verse 1. So chapter 4, verse 1, through chapter 8, verse 1. And it'll, again, be very clear. We have seven seals very explicitly, and we're told when the first seal, second seal, so forth are opened. And so here the organization seems very clear, very explicit, but we do have a very long introduction here. The longest of the introductions runs from Revelation 4, verse 1, through chapter 5. So you have a two-chapter introduction to the seven seals, and it reminds us that John is not bound, has not bound himself to an absolutely strict aesthetic balance in his letters. We might say, well, wouldn't it be more artistically balanced if every cycle had an introduction, all the introductions were about the same length? We'd feel better about it.

We're Westerners. We like nice, balanced—well, John doesn't seem to care. He writes what needs to be written. And here is the longest introduction to set the scene. And it's a quite important scene that he sets. It's a scene that will, should stay with us as we consider the book, because what is set here is for us the scene of the heavenly temple, which is the heavenly throne room.

So this opens with this majestic scene. And most of the commentators want to suggest, especially futurist commentators, want to suggest that there's a radical break between chapter 3 and chapter 4. Chapter 3 was about real churches in real time in the first century, and now all of a sudden we move to chapter 4, which in the history of the church has been where people begin to get excited about Revelation.

Now we're getting the good stuff. Now we're getting the stuff that will tell us all about what's going to happen at the end times. And so they want to argue for a really sharp break between these sort of grubby earthly churches and this picture now of heaven and the future that's going to unfold before us. And I want to begin by arguing there's really not so much of a break as one might think, because if we compare the introduction to the first cycle with the introduction to the second cycle, what we see is there's a lot of parallel there. The second half of the introduction to the first cycle was also in heaven. John had a vision of heaven, and he had a vision of a part of the heavenly temple. And what's really happening here in a sense is that the small vision of the heavenly temple that we had in the introduction of the first cycle now has expanded. It's like the camera rolls back, and we get a wider view of what's going on, and we see more of the temple.

More is revealed to us, and it's intended to amaze us, but not to separate us from what was already being said in the first cycle. So in that first cycle, already we were being taught heaven is not in the future. Heaven is not far away. Heaven is right with us.

And that's being reiterated here. So there's an open door in heaven. We've read about open doors before, haven't we? There's several doors in cycle one. And so the very opening of chapter four connects us to that first cycle and says, we're not in a whole new world.

We're just seeing more profoundly the world we were already introduced to in cycle one. It's not that heaven is the future to come. Heaven is right now. God's reign is right now.

Our citizenship in heaven is right now. So when we read in chapter four, verse one, after this, I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, that's the voice in cycle one, said, come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.

So this is going to be a revelation of the future as well as of the present. At once, I was in the Spirit, but at once, I was in the Spirit. Well, again, this is a phrase that connects us to cycle one, doesn't it, to the introduction, because in Revelation 1, verse 10, John was in the Spirit. So these are not, you know, completely opposed, separate, vastly different images that are coming to John, but this is all connected. And so John in the Spirit is now in the heavenly temple, in cycle one, but now he's seeing more.

Now he's seeing more. And at once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, and one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of Jasper and Carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones.

Seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder. And before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.

And before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like crystal. So here's this remarkable, majestic vision of the heavenly temple with God enthroned at the center of it. And it's interesting how the description of God is presented, isn't it? God is presented almost entirely in terms of colors. What John seems to see is color, not an image.

There's nothing sort of physical to describe. What he seems to be trying to describe is glory, the glory of emeralds and rainbows and Jasper and Carnelian. So again, just as in a sense we saw with the description of Jesus in the first chapter in the heavenly temple, it's an image that can't be painted. It wouldn't really be possible to try to paint this because it's just trying to communicate to us how glorious it is. But God is a Spirit, of course.

There is no form. And so it's an effort to get somewhere into describing the glory, the beauty of God and the power of God so that from this throne comes lightnings and rumblings and peals of thunder. And now I live in California. We don't have much thunder and lightning in California, a little bit. So you all in Florida would be much better able to talk about what a real thunder and lightning storm looks like, and it's impressive. And that's what's being communicated here. This is an awe-inspiring scene, and it's a scene in which God is not alone. There is around the throne others.

Others. You know, that's important to remember that part of the character of our God is that He rejoices in relationships with others. Now R.C., as a great theologian, would remind us God doesn't need relationships with others. He's sufficient in Himself. That's part of the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity.

He's not alone in Himself. He's Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Himself. But nonetheless, He has been pleased to create and relate to His creation, and that's what we see here in this image of the heavenly temple. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the twenty-four thrones are twenty-four elders clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads. Now again, all of this is symbolic, isn't it?

The white garments are purity. These are those who are pure before the Lord. The golden crowns point to conquering, the very thing that had been talked about in the first cycle. What are we called to as Christians? We're called to faithfulness, to overcoming, overcoming, to conquering, and these on the twenty-four thrones are those who have conquered.

They reign now with God in glory because they have conquered and because they have life. So who are these twenty-four? Well, like a lot of the symbolism in the book of the Revelation, it's really not that hard.

It's not that hard, children. Who are the twenty-four? Well, how do you get twenty-four from the Bible?

It's pretty easy, isn't it? Twelve tribes and twelve apostles, twelve tribes and twelve apostles. So what do we see here in heaven? We see the Old Testament saints and the New Testament saints, not separated, not segregated, but united around the throne. I think, as Revelation often does, we're not left just to speculate about that or guess about that. When we turn to Revelation 21 and see the wall and the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem come down to earth, what do we find?

We find the names of the twelve tribes and the names of the twelve apostles. So that's the Revelation itself talking about what the symbolism means. And so we have this glorious scene in heaven, God with redeemed humanity, God with His purpose fulfilled in gathering saints out of the Old Testament and out of the New, gathered around His throne. And then before the throne, verse 5, we have the burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.

Now that's worth pausing just briefly over, not because it's so hard to understand, but because here we have a symbol of a symbol. Remember, we talked about how the seven spirits of God are a symbol of the one Holy Spirit in His fullness, in His particular power for each of the seven churches. But now we have seven torches representing the seven spirits, which represent the one Spirit.

And so it reminds us in this book there are going to be layers upon layers of meaning as we go along, and we have to keep our eyes open and our ears attentive. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind, the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight, and the four living creatures with the face of a man in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. So we have in addition to the 24 elders of humanity four living creatures. So who are the four living creatures? This is imagery drawn from the book of Ezekiel. As the book of Ezekiel opens in chapter 1, it too describes four living creatures around the throne of God. And probably when we compare Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4, we probably should conclude that this is not some completely separate order of being, but probably the four living creatures represent the angels in heaven, all the ranks and orders of heaven. Just as 24 elders represent all of redeemed humanity, so the four living creatures represent all of the holy angels in heaven. If you want a lot more on the holy angels, you can read Thomas Aquinas.

R.C. would be glad to have Thomas recommended. Thomas was known, you know, as the angelic doctor, and he was called the angelic doctor not because he had such a nice personality.

I think he did have a nice personality, but I didn't actually meet him. But he's called the angelic doctor because he writes so much about the angels. Thomas was fascinated with the angels and wrote a great deal about the angels. He probably talks a lot about the four living creatures. But I think what's going on here is that as the humanity, created, redeemed humanity, is described around the throne, so too the angels are described around the throne.

And here's a wonderful picture of the glory that awaits the people of God with the angels. Now, there are some interesting tidbits here that should cause us to pause just a little bit. And observe that Ezekiel's four living creatures had four wings, and John's four living creatures have six wings each.

So, what are we to make of that? And I pause over that because it again relates to this question, what's the literal reading of the text? Well, if you're going to have a wooden literalism, you would sort of have to say, well, Ezekiel's four living creatures are not John's four living creatures because Ezekiel's only have four wings and John's have six wings. So, they can't be the same, right, if you're going to be strictly literal. Or you could suggest that over the centuries, the angels grew two more wings.

Well, you're reacting correctly. That's kind of silly, isn't it? Or we could suggest Ezekiel got it wrong.

Well, that's even sillier. We don't believe that. I think, again, this is an exercise in thinking with the biblical writers what they're meaning. I think John is simply saying, you know, it's even more glorious than what Ezekiel saw. Ezekiel saw it truly. Ezekiel saw glory. But the glory is even greater.

It's even greater. It's so hard to describe the glory of heaven because angels too are spirit beings, right? So, angels don't literally have wings.

That's symbolic of their ability to move just as their having eyes in front and in back is a sense of their vast knowledge. You know, we always used to joke about, well, maybe this is a joke that mainly gets told in seminaries, but we always used to joke about the medieval question, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? But you see, that's a serious theological question. And the serious dimension of that question is, do angels have any physicality, which would mean they occupy space in some sense? And if they occupy space in some sense, then only a small number can dance on the head of a pin at the same time. Now, this is a bad question because we know that the angels are all Dutch Reformed, and the Dutch Reformed don't dance at all.

So, but nonetheless, the right answer to this question is that an infinite number can dance on the head of a pin because they don't occupy any space. So, this is symbolic language to describe these creatures. They don't literally have wings.

They don't literally have eyes all over them, which would make them look like bugs and be a little creepy. This is a description that points to their spiritual reality, and we always want to keep that very much in mind. And here they are then singing to the Lord, holy, holy, holy.

That's a song we've heard before, haven't we? That's the song of the angels in the heavenly temple in Isaiah chapter 6. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Pontecrator is the Greek word, ruler and judge of all things, who was and is and is to come. So, here's this praise being offered to God, just as in Revelation 1, we heard praise being offered to God. Now, we're hearing it again with a bigger vision of the heavenly temple and the creatures offering the praise. And then at verse 9, and whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him seated on the throne who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created. So, here we have a song of creation. The human-created beings, the angelic-created beings all joined in chorus to celebrate their Creator, to acknowledge that they have their life and their being from Him and from Him alone.

And so, here is a kind of foundation in the book of the Revelation. God is Creator. He brought all into being. All power is His. All glory is His.

All honor belongs to Him. And here He is sung and praised in the first place as Creator. Doesn't rush to redemption.

It'll get to redemption. But we don't want to forget that the beginning and the foundation is God the Creator. It's interesting, as we'll move on to chapter 5, that the song of redemption that is sung in the heavenly temple is called the new song.

And that's a phrase taken from the Psalter. Several times in the Psalms, particularly the Psalms in the nineties, we have reference to the new song. And what we see is the new song is the song of redemption. And that reminds us then, although the Scripture never says this explicitly, that the song of creation is the old song. So, there's a first song, the song of creation, and then there's a second song, the song of redemption. And that's what is being presented to us here as we go along.

Worthy are you, O Lord our God. So, here is this scene, this scene of divine glory and beauty, the scene of praise and worship, humanity and angelic beings joined together. And then, chapter 5, we have the first inkling of an issue, a problem, a tension. Then I saw in the right hand of Him who is seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? So, here's the question now.

Here's the moment. God has a scroll in His hand. It's densely written over. He can see it's written on the front and on the back, both sides. So, you roll it up, but if you unroll it, you have to read both sides.

But it can't be unrolled at that moment because there are seven seals sealing it shut. And the question is, who can open it? And that's the question we'll come back to next time as this glorious vision in the heavenly temple begins to unfold with explanation that not only inspires the believers in John's time on earth, but it's going to help them understand what history holds for them. What an encouraging vision the book of Revelation provides. God is on His throne with a host of heaven praising Him. We've been listening to a message from Dr. Robert Godfrey's series on Revelation. It's called Blessed Hope.

The book of Revelation is full of mysterious images and amazing visions. Dr. Godfrey explains some of them and helps us gain practical insights. You're welcome to contact us today and request all 24 messages of this series for your donation of any amount. We will send it to you on three DVDs.

You can make your request online at renewingyourmind.org, or you can call us at 800-435-4343. Another tool to help you grow in your understanding of God's Word is Ligonier Connect. Private online classrooms allow you to invite friends or family members to take any course in our library together. Right now, more than 1,000 lessons are offered on Ligonier Connect from trusted teachers like Dr. Godfrey, along with our founder, Dr. R.C.

Sproul. You can begin your course at any time by going to connect.ligonier.org. Again, that's connect.ligonier.org. Well, I hope you'll join us tomorrow as Dr. Godfrey continues his series on Revelation. This is one of the most powerful pictures, I think, in the whole book of the Revelation, that the lion is the lamb, that conquest is death, and that that's the path the Savior walked. And implicitly, it's the path the church has to walk as well until the day of final glory. That's on the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and I hope you'll make plans to join us. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 17:28:06 / 2023-11-11 17:37:04 / 9

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