After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and cornelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
Around the throne, and 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 a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,
‘Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
who was and is and is to come.’
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.’
The Bible reading for today takes us into the throne room of heaven. It is as if John has been summoned to hear what the God has to say.
It is easy to find similar accounts in the Old Testament where the prophet gets a glimpse of God’s throne room. In Isaiah the prophet sees ‘the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty’ (Isaiah 6:1) and the reading goes on to describe the Seraphs in attendance and the prophet’s call. At the beginning of the book of the prophet Ezekiel the prophet is surrounded by wind and fire and he encounters four living creatures like those described today’s reading. The prophet goes on to encounter something like a throne (Ezekiel 1:1-28). In the case of both Isaiah and Ezekiel a message is delivered to the prophet.
When we read Revelation we should understand that John’s vision is influenced by Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic writings.
The passage reminds us that worship has a major role in the book of Revelation, here we have the singing of the four creatures and the twenty-four elders. It maybe the hymns are hymns that were sung in local synagogue worship. Here the voices of heaven and earth combine to sing praise to God who has created all things
The book Revelation is apocalyptic which is about disclosing the reality behind things. John lived at a time when the church is going through persecution but these songs of praise remind us that there is more to be said, beyond the horror is God the creator who is worthy of praise. John goes through the door into heaven and he is presented with a contrast between the sovereign God and an unresponsive people on earth.
in the beginning you spoke and the universe exploded into existence.
Through the centuries you have spoken through prophets and apostles.
In Christ you have come to us as your living word.
You continue to speak to us through your Holy Spirit.
We offer our prayers to you for those who suffer, in the midst of conflict,
for those who struggle to find the resources needed to survive,
for the planet in the midst of its ecological crisis.
help us to discern our role in these things.
Hear our prayers.
May our praises here join the praises of heaven.
The Rev’d Dr David Whiting is the Minister of the Sunderland and Boldon Partnership of URCs.