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The Heavenly Throne Room

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 21, 2022 12:01 am

The Heavenly Throne Room

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 21, 2022 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.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind... ... .... ..... .... .... ..... .... ... ... . .... Now it's 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. 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 just as he was 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 a awe-inspiring scene. And it's a scene in which God is not alone.

There is around the throne 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, 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. 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, 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 representing all 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, 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, 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 a 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 24 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 90s, 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. And 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. You know, when we study the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse of what is to come. It gives us hope that all will be made right someday with God on His throne and the host of heaven praising Him. Dr. Robert Godfrey is our teacher this week on Renewing Your Mind as we focus on his series, Blessed Hope, the Book of Revelation. The final book of the Bible is full of mysterious images and amazing visions.

In his series, Dr. Godfrey's goal is to explain some of those mysteries and provide practical insights. We hope you'll contact us today and request all 24 messages. We'd be happy to send you the 3-DVD set when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries.

You can find us online at, or you can call us to make your request at 800-435-4343. Another tool to help you grow in your understanding of God's Word and the hope we have as believers is Ligonier Connect. Private online classrooms allow you to invite friends to take any course in our library together. There are more than 1,100 lessons from Dr. Godfrey and other trusted teachers from Ligonier, including, of course, Dr. R.C.

Sproul. You can begin a course at any time by going to Well the book of Revelation is where we read, worthy is the Lamb. 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. We'll continue our study in the book of Revelation tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind. Please join us.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-20 06:48:54 / 2023-05-20 06:56:23 / 7

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