Revelation 4:1-11: The Throne that runs the universe
Your view of the universe determines your reaction to suffering. If you are an atheist who views the world to be the result of time+chance =everything, then you have no reason to complain about suffering, it just is. If you are a Hindu that believes that this experience of reality is an illusion then suffering is not processed but denied, and it is hoped escaped by how well we do in each life finally reincarnating ourselves by our own efforts out of the cycle of pain. Deism that admits to a creator but that the laws of nature and not God are behind the daily events of our lives puts it’s hope in man’s knowledge and endeavours as he conquers sickness and death through technology and medical advancement. Islam that believes in Allah who can be unpredictable in what He ordains not acting consistently with His own nature in all things teaches submission, a case of might makes right. Christianity has a very different response to suffering, it is not one of optimism where we well wish our pain away but of hope where we know, based on certain biblical truths that God is in control and things will end with the restoring of a perfect creation with no pain.
The book of Revelation was written to help persecuted Christians suffer well, to teach them the truths that they need to believe in order to suffer in joy, not a sadistic joy in the present pain but a rejoicing in hope of the joys of the future new creation. The truths in the book of revelation focus around some basic truths who God is, how things really are despite appearances, and how things will end. The call to overcome, to be faithful witnesses and a holy people are not exercises in futility or cruel commands to the impossible, but the necessary lives we are to live in light of the truth God reveals.
We have finished a major section in the book of Revelation the letters to the 7 churches. We come now to the introduction to the rest of the book and a series of visions. Chapters 4-5 are the most important chapters to help us understand the rest of what we are going to see in the book of revelation. We are going to see the church suffer, Christians martyred, evil prosper, governments run by satan, false religion deceiving many, and wave upon wave of judgements in the seals, trumpets and bowls. This scene with God’s throne is the key to understanding all of this mess. God is in control and seated on the throne. Christ has been resurrected and has God’s authority to execute God’s plan to subdue the nations. We then see Christ unsealing the scroll of God’s plan and we see judgements and calamaties, we see enemies rising up against the church, we see governments, false religion and sinful culture trying to swallow the church, but we know what is really going on. Just as God paradoxically ruled through a poor human being who had no home and had no journeyed very far in Jesus Christ; and just as His glory was shrouded in the unexpected weakness of a servant who died so the church triumphs in weakness and death, and God makes His perfect plan come to pass through tragedy, chaos and injustice. No matter what happens on the earth, He is still on the throne.
We have seen so far in the book of Revelation who Christ is. He is the faithful witness who is our example, the one who has overcome death that we fear not to follow Him. He is active in mediation, discipline, purification, protection and all that we need in the midst of our deepest trials. The letters to the 7 churches applied the picture and vision of the risen Christ to the problems the churches were facing. We now get to look at a second important picture that will carry us through our pain. We will look at the throne that runs the universe and this will help us interpret the rest of this book and the suffering of our lives. We are a part of what He is doing to bring about the final victory. It includes pain, martyrdom, loss and persecution. We will endure because we know who is pulling the strings and how it will all end.
We will look at the throne from three perspectives, through the eyes of John, the living creatures, and the elders.