I have finally finished the Book of Revelation in my latest read-through of the Bible. To say that Revelation is hard to interpret is about as helpful as saying that an elephant is a rather large animal. It may be difficult, but not impossible and it is worth the study. Don’t get bogged down with the specifics of the symbolism or in trying to chart the chronology. Also, make sure you are trying to understand it as if you are reading it in the first-century not the twenty-first. OK, I’m getting beyond what I wanted to say. Let’s ratchet things back to chapters 4 and 5, which I would contend is the fountainhead of the entire book.
If you have a chance, read this beautiful section. I have preached on it a number of times because it outlines key components of worship. However, narrowing the focus of this passage just to worship can obscure it from finding its key position in John’s vision. Simply said, these chapters describe the entire universe from God’s perspective. The phrase “the throne” is repeated 15 times. “God’s Throne is at the very center of the universe and precedes all of the symbolic description of the trials and tribulations that will follow.” (William Hendrickson)
“The throne” represents sovereignty, indicating that nothing can take place apart from the Providential Hand of God. Linger by the throne in chapter 4, along with the Holy Spirit (the seven blazing lamps), and with the cherubim, who can do nothing other than to gaze upon the glory of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. They never stop singing His praises, along with redeemed humanity (24 elders), who worship Him and lay all their achievements before His Throne.
In chapter 5, John sees the sealed scroll that no one can open, and he weeps. The scroll is the unrevealed and unexecuted plan of God for human history, and unless it is opened this Plan will not be carried out and will remain unfulfilled. The world will be out of control and evil will have its way. Then John’s attention is drawn by a redeemed one (an elder) to the Lion of the tribe of Judah (the Kingly tribe) who also looks like a slaughtered Lamb. It is Jesus Christ who takes the scroll in his role as Mediator and opens it by the power of his indestructible life —his death and resurrection. He is the only one in the entire universe worthy to do so. He then is enthroned. (By the way, today is ASCENSION DAY!) He takes his seat upon the throne beside the Father, so that it now becomes “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22:1) From the throne, Christ the King mediates and executes the Plan of God for all of human history and for the church.
As soon as the King is enthroned, there is a burst of enthusiasm with three separate doxologies. Now heaven is ready; now the universe is ready; now the Church is ready—Christ is on the throne. Let the trials begin, let the wars wage, let the pandemics rage—we know that they will end in victory by the Lamb who was slain! Follow the book all the way to the end and you will see that the Throne becomes the Great White Throne of Judgment before which the books will be opened and anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. (20:11-15) And follow it further still as you will hear the one seated on the Throne say, “I am making everything new.” (21:5)
So my friend, the key to interpreting Revelation is not to begin with the pandemics and famine, the horses and battles, the Gogs and Magogs, the mark of the beast and 666—but with the Throne of God. Likewise, the key to understanding human history is to start at the same place; not with your present circumstances, your fear, or even your suffering—but with Jesus our King and Savior, on the Throne, executing our Father’s plan for those who are His (Romans 8:33, 34). Are you His?
Blessed Ascension Day!