Worship in Heaven
We now deal with the specifics of these verses, but I dread doing so. Some things defy analysis, like the Angel’s visit to Mary or our Lord’s birth (Luke 1:26-38; 2:8-20): These are events to be adored, not dissected. Let us remind ourselves that what we are so graciously allowed to behold is worship in heaven around the very throne of God. No, I do not believe that this is poetic imagery. Granted, this Book is full of symbols and even some in this vision—but not the vision itself. This is worship as it is in heaven and paradigmatic of what ours should be on earth.
Upon finishing the letters to the churches, John is summoned to an open door in heaven by the same voice which addressed him in chapter one—that of the risen and glorified Christ. He is “in the [Holy] Spirit” referring to the Spirit’s enveloping presence around him, but I’ll not quarrel with those who believe the Apostle was bodily transported into heaven as even Paul could not tell the difference (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). The first thing he sees is the Throne and the One seated thereon who is obviously God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Please note that there is no attempt to describe His appearance in human terms other than to say that He “sat.” The best John can manage is to describe the Father’s visage employing precious gems. This is what we should expect. At no place in Scripture is the Father’s face or features ever revealed—the reason being that he is the Son, and only the Son, who reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). The gems shine out with blinding luster to reveal the Father’s glory; and, though the rainbow does the same, I like to think that it also reminds us of his mercy (Genesis 9:8-17).
Then there are the twenty-four elders. Every great and majestic king has his court. Though some disagree, I see these as representing the twelve tribes of Israel of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New—that is, the whole Church of God of both covenants gathered together as one in the New Jerusalem. The lightning and thunder manifest our God’s splendor and majesty, terrifying to behold (Exodus 19:16-25; 20:18-21). The “sea of glass, like crystal” which stretches before the throne speaks to our God’s holiness and otherness—unapproachable in and of Himself to all creation. The Spirit, who is not His creation but equal with Himself as the Third Person of the Triune God, is just before the throne as will soon be the Second Person embodied as a Lamb. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. I fear I have not said enough—and too much.