Vision of God’s Throne Room, Part 2

Rev. 4: 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
4:3 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.

Gustave Doré’s etching of God’s throne: gravura como literatura pictured above (1861-68).

A Throne without a Person Described

It is interesting that John describes the appearance of God as being like light. Psalm 104:2 says that he covers himself “with light as with a garment.” And I Tim. 6:16 says that “he dwells in unapproachable light.” We should bear this in mind in our approaching God, whether in speaking, writing or in art. Hebrews 12 urges our approach to God as reverent—Hebrews 12:28-20

Like John, Dore does not attempt to picture God. He only gives an emanating light at the center of the throne. (see I Timothy 6:13-16.) Dore also conceived of the throne as circular. See Hendriksen’s drawing of the throne below (in 2 dimensions). 


Diagram of God’s Throne and Attendants in Revelation 4-5 by Wm. Hendriksen.

Note the meaning of the numbers in the drawing: The innermost circle 1 represents the sparkling white diamond (4:3); circle 2 the sardius (4:3); circle 3 the emerald rainbow (4:3); circle 4 the four living ones or cherubim (4:6); circle 5 the twenty-four thrones with their elders (4:4); circle 6 the many angels (5:11); and circle 7 all other creatures in the entire universe (5:13). The seven lamps and the sea of glass are also before the throne (4:5, 6). The Lamb (L) stands between the throne and the living ones on the one side, and the twenty-four elders on the other (5:6). But the Lamb later advances to the throne (5:7), and is now seated on it with the Father (22:1). The throne rules over all. Take this lesson to heart! (see Hendriksen, p. 84, below).

Throne (Greek = thronos) occurs in Chapters 4 & 5 more than the rest of the New Testament. Thronos occurs 17 times in Chapters 4 and 5. It is indeed the major lesson of the entire book. “The purpose of this vision is to show us, in beautiful symbolism, that all things are governed by the Lord on the throne. “All things” must include our trials and tribulations.” See Hendriksen, p. 84, below).   

God’s Ruling over all His Creation 

R C Sproul

R. C. Sproul

Romans 8:28 was my mother’s favorite Bible verse. She quoted it often to us as children. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them that are the called according to his purpose.

Dr. R. C. Sproul says this about my mother’s favorite verse—

“Romans 8:28 is one of the most comforting texts in all of Scripture. It assures the believer that all ‘tragedies’ are ultimately blessings. It does not declare that all things that happen are good in themselves but that in all the things that happen to us God is working in and through them for our good. This is also firmly grounded in His eternal purpose for His people.”

“We are promised that ‘All things work together for good to those who love God,’ not because those things are working for my [material] benefit but because God is using those things to my ultimate advantage. He will use the suffering and the pain and he will triumph over the wickedness that comes into my life.” –R. C. Sproul, Loved by God (see Sproul below).

Rev. 4:3 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.

In the O.T. the Lord’s presence in the Tabernacle was in the form of the shekinah (a second temple Hebrew word that does not occur in the OT or NT). It is thought to have been a light cluster of some sort. This is what John saw in his vision. He rightly shrinks back from making a description of God. 

Handel’s Sense of Reverence for God as He Wrote the Messiah 


Handel pictured

“As a result of his fiscal failures and physical ailments, in 1741, Handel was financially broke and emotionally broken. Amid his depression, a ray of light, though, began to shine. A man name Charles Jennens was writing and compiling the lyrics for an oratorio about the birth, passion, and return of Christ. Upon reading this, Handel was instantly inspired and feverishly began to compose the ‘Messiah’ using Jennens’ lyrics. The entire score was completed in a remarkable 24 days. 

[At one point,] “Handel’s assistant walked in to Handel’s room after shouting to him for some time with no response. The assistant supposedly found the conductor sobbing uncontrollably. When asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to the Hallelujah movement and said, ‘I think I saw the face of God.’ While it may or may not have been the first time, this certainly would not be the last time someone was moved by this extraordinary piece.” (see Handel below).

The Throne Room scene in Revelation is meant to evoke reverence in us much as Handel’s Messiah has done since being written in 1741. Worship is meant to create reverence in us, not provide for our entertainment. 

More next time. 


Handel, George Frederick. “The Story Behind the Carol: ‘Handel’s Messiah'”; accessed 28 September 2019 from

Hendriksen, William. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Sproul, R. C. Accessed 15 September 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Vision of God’s Throne Room, part 1

4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven!

Introduction to the Chapter

Rev. 4 records John’s entrance into the heavenly throne room where God manifests His presence. John does not go there physically. He is drawn into the throne room in an “ecstatic state” similar to the experience of Old Testament prophets. Compare Isaiah 6:1-6. (see ESV below). The open door to heaven is common in Apocalyptic literature. It is not the rapture of the church, etc. that is so common in popular teaching about Revelation. 

Comment about the Biblical View of Reality

I won’t bore you with a long philosophical discussion, but no longer do we in the Western World have a metaphysics which includes dimensions outside of the sensory world. (“Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality.”) Up to the period of the Enlightenment, reality included a view of dimensions beyond our space-time continuum, based upon Holy Scripture. Since that time, academics have insisted philosophy be separate from any considerations of Holy Scripture.

Scripture presents a Multi-tiered Cosmos 

The cosmos is the created order God has established. Our space-time continuum is created and is accessible to our bodily senses. The other dimensions alluded to in the Revelation are created also, but are not accessible to our bodily senses. However, our lives in this world can be impacted by what occurs in those other non-sensory detected dimensions! 

The different tiers are as follows:

(1) the Heaven of Heavens is where God manifests His Presence and where Christ’s physical body now dwells. (see Pech below for a scholarly discussion of this view.)

(2) heavenly places is where holy angels dwell. They have access to our world, also. 

(3) the space-time continuum include the stars and galaxies, i.e. the heavens we can see with our body senses. 

(4) hades where evil, fallen angels dwell. They have access to our world, too. 

Dimensions of Reality (2)

The Chart above illustrates dimensions beyond our body senses of which Scripture alludes. They are not wide apart but impinge upon one another. I will not be dogmatic about this figure, but I am trying to illustrate spiritual realities beyond the physical. I have not pictured “Hell” (gehenna) yet since it is not in view in this section. 

There are “Seen Things” and “Unseen Things”  

Carl Sagan’s quotation, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” contradicts Holy Scripture! A professor at one of the extension sites of my seminary once related on a recording that Carl Sagan was struck with “Myelodysplastic Syndrome,” a rare form of blood cancer that often develops into leukemia. Sagan was an astro-physicist, one of about a dozen in the world at the time. They all knew each other and kept in close touch. Many were Christians. Carl Sagan’s last e-mail to the Christians in the group before he died was brief: “Pray for me!” The “unseen world” presses in upon one’s consciousness especially before death. Romans 1:19, 20 —

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

The “things that are seen” in II Cor. 4:16-18, are of course, all the incidents and circumstances of the present life; the “things that are not seen” (the very phrase of Hebrews 11:1) are the objects of faith, immortality, eternal life, the crown of righteousness, the beatific vision. These things are subject to no time-limits, and endure through all the ages of God’s purposes. (see Plumtre below)

The ancient Celts believed “heaven and earth are three feet apart; in some “thin places” they are even closer.” Paul seems to allude to this in II Corinthians 4:17-18.

Unseen dimensions impinge upon our world, though we cannot see beyond our bodily senses. John opens up some of these dimensions of Reality in his presentation of Revelation. The great point John makes in this first verse is that God’s throne is at the center of all Reality—seen and unseen

The next set of visions begin at Revelation 4:2 

2 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.”

“What must take place after this” refers back to Rev. 1:3 and 1:19 where the phrase appears to be equivalent to “for the time is near.” Both time references are from Daniel. We understand the “Last Days” as referring to the time period between the inauguration of the end by Christ’s death, resurrection. and ascension; and the consummation of it by his Second Coming in glory.  (see Fee below). We live in between two days, so to speak. 

Now but not yet

For those of us who live between the inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom and the consummation of it, know God is on His throne and He is in control of everything in creation! 

More next time! 


Berkhof, Louis. (1996 ed.). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co. This book is free in pdf format at:

ESV. (2016). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Pech, Gerald. (2018). “Jean-Marc Berthoud and Creation,” accessed 27 August 2019 from

Plumtre, E. H. (1905). II Corinthians in A Bible Commentary for English Readers, Acts—Galatians. London, GB: Cassell and Company, Ltd. 

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Looking Forward: Overview of Revelation 4 and 5

Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Revelation 4:2b

Revelation 4-5 reflect an Eastern notion that had penetrated the Empire, and Revelation 4-5 with its focus on the activity around the throne is highly illustrative. Nero had built for himself a rotunda that represented the cosmos. This structure rotated day and night. The middle region of the rotunda was the region of the sun.” (see Charles below.)

ceiling of domus aurea 3c

A reconstruction of what the rotating room’s ceiling may have looked like. To impress his guests, Nero built in his domus (house) the Coenatio Rotunda, a wonderful rotating dining room. From

“Roman poets appealed for Nero to take his seat exactly in the middle of the universe, otherwise the cosmos would lose its equilibrium. From this position the emperor judged, determining the fate of humans. He thus fulfilled the role of … the cosmic god of fate.” (see Charles below.)

Click on this link to view a film about Nero’s Revolving Dining Room

“The main dining table, which was round, rotated night and day, imitating the motions of the globe.” The surprising construction mentioned by Suetonius in his biography of Nero has been found. On Palatine Hill (Rome), a Franco-Italian team of archaeologists discovered remains of a mechanism that could have allowed the rotation of the floor of the main dining room of the Domus Aurea—Nero’s vast imperial Golden Palace. (See Hannah below; especially for the photographs at the end of the article.)


Asia Minor was used to viewing its rulers as Divine. This concept came from Persia. Persian kings had throne rooms with astrological signs on the ceiling and the king’s throne at the center of the universe. The ideas had reached Rome by the time of Nero. Rome did not export her views to Asia Minor. It was the cities of Asia Minor which insisted on building temples to the reigning Emperor. The best of Emperors insisted on the temples being primarily dedicated to Augustus, and their names only associated with them. (see Vander Laan below.)

“…in no part of the world was there such fervent and sincere loyalty to the emperors as in Asia. Augustus had been a savior to the Asian peoples, and they deified him as the Savior of mankind, and worshiped him with the most whole-hearted devotion as the ‘present deity’.” (See Ramsay below.)

No wonder in the 2nd Century Asia Minor would erupt in persecution against Christ’s Church! Christians dared to worship one God and to permit no rivals to him. Nero had wanted Romans to see him as Apollo — the sun-god.


See the colossal statue above that Nero built of himself next to the area that would contain the gladiatorial arena named later for this statue — the Colosseo.

Bear this background information in mind as we read Revelation 4 and 5. In these chapters, God reveals his throne as the true center of reality, not Caesar’s, then or now. 

The people of Asia Minor would have been well-acquainted with Nero’s desire to be worshiped as  a god while he was still alive. They would have known about the Persian Astrological association with the throne room since Asia Minor was invaded by Persians. It was liberated by Alexander the Great and then stabilized by Rome’s occupation and trade.

Christians were persecuted by Asians who were zealous to worship Roman Emperors as living gods like they had rulers in the past.

Next time, we will go into the verses of Chapter four and their application to us today. 


Charles, R. D. (1993). Imperial Pretensions and the Throne-Vision of the Lamb: Observations on the Function of Revelation 4-5. Criswell Theological Review, 7.1 pp. 85-97.

Hannah, R. (2013). “Nero’s “solar” kingship and the architecture of Domus Aurea.” Accessed July 1, 2019 from

Ramsay, W. (1909). The Letters to the Seven Churches (New York, NY: Hodder & Stoughton) 115.

Vander Laan, R. (2019). “Lord of Lords.” Accessed July 3, 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Looking Back before Moving Forward: Summary of the First Section of Revelation, Part 2

Pictured above is the Martyrdom of Peter, which is depicted in an etching the “Martyrdom of Saint Peter.” Etching after Guido Reni (1575-1642).

Revelation 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

We continue to look back at the message of the first section of Revelation — Chapters 1-3 — before we move forward to the next section.

Review of Chapters 1-3 Diagrams

This Chart gathers the message of the first section together. The seven letters are prophetic oracles from the Living Christ. They give us the context for the rest of the book  of Revelation. I will explain each level as I go, but you can refer back to this chart for visual help with the points. Chart based on Gordon Fee’s analysis of the Seven Oracles (see Fee below).

I. The major reason for Chapters 1-3 is to prepare the church in Asia Minor for future persecutions.

The Key verse is Rev. 3:10. This leads to the application in the church of all ages. As we pointed out before, the fact that he chose only seven churches to write to gives us a clue that the letters are for the churches in all future ages.

II. External pressures might cause the church to fail under persecution. 

Incense to the Emperor (2)

All it took to escape execution was dropping incense on an altar before the Emperor or his image.

There is an infernal combination of external pressures that is powerful in its persecution of the Church. These diabolical allies are 1). False Religion and 2). a godless State. In Rome there were two cults: The State Cult of Roman gods, and The Civil Cult of the Emperor.

In Asia Minor, Jews allied themselves with Rome without worshiping the Roman gods or the Emperor by paying a tax. They became allies against the Christian Church after AD 64 in the wake of the great fire that destroyed a large part of the City of Rome. Up to AD 64 Christians were considered a Jewish sect.

II. False Teaching might cause the church to fail under persecution.

Today we have “liberal churches,” like the ancient Jews of the first century. They “barter” with overweening Leviathan States for favor. They do this by conforming to the public policy of the governments in which they live. This leverage works against faithful Christians who are hit from the State and the Liberal Church. J. Gresham Machen makes this assertion in his book Christianity and Liberalism

“The chief modern rival of Christianity is ‘liberalism.’ An examination of the teachings of liberalism in comparison with those of Christianity will show that at every point the two movements are in direct opposition (pp. 44-45). Naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all (p. 43).” (see Machen below).

See an example of this in a former President’s recent OpEd — Click on this link to read the article Losing My Religion for Equality. This is a prime case of liberalism posing as Christianity and gaining approval from the State, and a segment of those who are a part of liberal churches, by compromising the clear teachings of Scripture. How long until Bible-believing Christians are disfranchised as those who discriminate, hate, etc.?

The first amendment of the constitution was included to prevent intrusion of the Federal government into the church. Now it is used to punish those who refuse to conform to public policy.

first amendment

It is not Roger Williams’ or Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and State letters we see at work today, but it is Hugo Black’s unscaleable “Wall of Separation” of the spheres of church and state that dominates our current life in the public square. The First Amendment was written to preclude the Federal Government from intruding into the Church! The Church of Jesus Christ is to be the conscience of the nation!

III. Internal Weaknesses in the Church’s structure might cause it to fail in persecution.

Three internally weak churches are outlined in brief —

There are Ephesus Churches today — The Ephesus Church didn’t tolerate false teaching or teachers, but they had also left the early ardor of love for Christ in doing so and were just going through the motions.

We have churches today that are so separate from “error” that they are “lone rangers” for God. I remember the little ditty from my youth describing such closed churches — “With our church it’s us four, no more, shut the door.” The lone ranger church is soon isolated and gets an “Elijah complex” — I Kings 19 vs. 10 [Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” God replied, vs. 18 “Yet I [have left] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God was saying, “Elijah, you’re not the only one who is faithful to me. Seek some of the others for mutual encouragement.” We cannot afford to waste time in times of persecution in planting perfect churches. Why waste time looking for one now?

There are Sardis Churches today —  The Church at Sardis had an illusion about its spiritual state and effectiveness. Persecution soon reveals which churches are suffering such an illusion. The church would be scattered quickly by its lack of united prayer and total dependence upon God.

Pictures of the Metropolitan Tabernacle during C. H. Spurgeon’s pastorate (1861-1892)

Consider the following story from the ministry of C. H. Spurgeon —

Spurgeon never took credit for the success of the 6,000+ who attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London each Sunday. Instead, he always pointed to the hundreds of people who came before services and prayed for God’s blessing. Spurgeon was often fond of calling these prayer gatherings the church’s “boiler room.” In Spurgeon’s time, boiler rooms were the powerhouses, the driving forces of everything from vast machines in factories to household heating systems. Likewise, Spurgeon saw the prayers of his people as the spiritual power behind his preaching and ministry. This is why he told his fellow pastors —

“Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” (see Spurgeon’s Boiler Room below).

The only way the church facing persecution can survive is through vital prayer of the united church asking for God’s blessing and aid.

There are Loadocea Churches today — The Church at Laodicea had surrendered to the surrounding culture in their city. 

There are churches today who have so compromised themselves with the State and with liberal institutions, they are like Laodicea. I have referred to this in a prior post, but the Church that works with the state in China is compromised. House churches are persecuted and informed on by those who submit to the state. Yet, Christianity is growing there. They are not dependent upon brick and mortar buildings for their church. They are the church! So must we become such a church too!

One man who was not a church member once said that he made a search to find the Church in the world. However, when he went to a Church service, he was surprised to see the world in the church instead. What did he mean? He was surprised to see the culture had invaded the church instead of the church influencing the culture for Christ. 

The Context of the Revelation

With the information above in mind, we should read the persecutions that will come in the rest of the book.


Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity & Liberalism. GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Spurgeon’s Boiler Room. (2009). “Praying for Revival” blog accessed 31 September 2019 from

Looking Back before Moving Forward: Summary of the First Section of Revelation, Part 1

Revelation 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

The painting above is of Balaam, the pagan seer, who conspired to corrupt the Jews in Moses’ day. ” (“Balaam and his Ass,” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669; Wikimedia image.) According to Revelation 2:14, Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression due to these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result (Numbers 31:16).” (quotation from WikiPedia see Balaam below.)

It might help us as we move forward to look back first at the message of the first section of Revelation — Chapters 1-3.

Review of Chapters 1-3 Diagrams

Revelation 3:10 is the “key verse” for the section we have just finished. It refers to “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world.” This is not referring to persecution that was presently going on in Asia Minor. The real intense persecution of Christians in Asia Minor was from the 2nd to the 4th centuries. 

See the Letter Pliny the Younger wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan (AD 112) about a problem he had with Christians in the Province of Bithynia, of which he was governor. If you wish to read it and the background to it, click on this link.


Map: See Atlas of Ancient Anatolia below.

Summary of the background to the letter —

“[Pliny’s] letter and Trajan’s reply indicate that at the time of its writing (AD 112) there was no systematic and official Empire-wide persecution of Christians. There was persecution of Christians before this but only on a local basis. Trajan’s reply also offers valuable insight into the relationship between Roman provincial governors and Emperors and indicates that at the time Christians were not sought out or tracked down by imperial orders, and that persecutions could be local and sporadic” (see Pliny the Younger on Christians below).

“Trajan’s reply to Pliny affirms Pliny’s overall procedure and gives four orders —
1. Do not seek out the Christians for trial.

2. If the accused are found guilty of being Christian, then they must be punished.

3. If the accused deny they are Christians and show proof that they are not by worshiping the gods, then they must be pardoned.

4. Anonymous accusations should not be considered.

Later in the second century, persecution became more intense. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred for his faith (ca. AD 155-6).

polycarp martyrdom

See Martyrdom of St. Polycarp below; 1860; Public domain. 

By the third century, Decius instituted Imperial Religious requirements in the State Cult. The persecution lasted about one year. Toleration was granted by Gallienus (253–268). The toleration of Christians ended with Diocletian (Emperor from AD 284-305). While was Emperor, Diocletian ordered the most severe persecution of Christians the Empire saw. It ended with Diocletian’s abdication in 305. He was the only Emperor to die a natural death in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

It was the persecutions of the 2nd through 4th Centuries that John warned of in Revelation. He had seen this with the prophetic insight given by the Holy Spirit. He saw the event prefigured in Antipas’ martyrdom at Smyrna (Rev. 2:13) — a harbinger of many martyrdoms to come.

I think it is important for us to see the nature of persecution of Christians in Asia Minor. It was sporadic, local, and not Empire-wide. Revelation was written to help churches prepare for the persecution to come in the 2nd to the 4th centuries. Along the way we will apply the principles to any Christian suffering for the faith at any period of time. 

More backward look next time then on to the next section of Revelation!


Atlas of Anatolia. (1884). In public domain. Accessed 26 July 2019 from

ESV. (2001). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Martyrdom of St. Polycarp. (1860). Etching by Heinz Tschanz-Hofmann. Accessed 26 July 2019 from

Pliny the Younger on Christians. (2019). Accessed 26 July 2019 from 

Balaam. (2019). Accessed 1 September 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved