Revelation 4:1-6a: No vacancies.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind.” NIV
From this point on, the book of ‘Revelation’ deals with the future (1b). Whether, from John’s standpoint this is the immediate future, the mid-term future, or the ultimate future is a matter of debate and dispute. Good people have differing opinions, and they need to hold them with respect for others.But what is not in doubt is that God knows the future; He holds the future, and he can unveil it to His prophets.
I believe C.S. Lewis captured an important truth in picturing the land of ‘Narnia’ as just the other side of the wardrobe door. That other realm is closer to us than we usually imagine. Someone said when we read this, we should not think of a door far away up in the sky. It’s more like a doorway into another room. We can certainly affirm that Jesus is the open door into heaven for us all.
The first thing John saw in heaven was ‘’a throne’’ and there was ‘’someone sitting on it’’ (2). At times, life here in the world can seem pretty chaotic, but there is a throne of power and authority and judgment in heaven. It is occupied. There are no vacancies. There will never be a successful coup to overthrow God.
Notice that there is something beautiful about the One on the throne. His form cannot be seen, but He is spoken of in terms of light and colour (3; see 1 Timothy 6:16). The rainbow reminds us that He is a covenant-keeping God. His promises never fail. Warren Wiersbe comments that on earth, we see the rainbow after the storm, but John sees it before the storm of judgment breaks upon the world. However, the Lord is not only beautiful; He is also awful (awe-full!) (5a; see Exodus 19:16-19). He is a God to be feared. I remember, as a child, feeling terrified during storms of thunder and lightning. Even when you’re older, and maybe don’t feel quite as frightened as in childhood days, you still recognise that this is a scary, as well as spectacular, phenomenon. There is very real power throwing its weight around in the natural realm. It is not something to be messed around with, but to be treated with the utmost respect.
Some people regard the ‘’twenty-four elders’’ (4) as angels. Without wanting to be dogmatic, I see them as representing the church throughout history: the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles standing for the people of God in both testaments of the Bible.
The ‘’seven spirits of God’’ (5b) can read ‘’the sevenfold spirit’’. As we have seen before, 7 is the number of perfection. The perfect Spirit of God blazes the light of spiritual understanding into darkened hearts.
Finally, verse 6a speaks to me of the peace and tranquility there is lying before (and because of) the reigning and ruling God. If you let Him reign over you, your heart can be a ‘’sea of glass’’.