John first hears what the Spirit says to the churches on earth (Rev. 2 & 3), and then in Revelation 4, he’s invited to experience what those who overcome will experience in heaven.
We often refer to the “pearly gates” of heaven. But I’m thinking that, technically, those gates are for the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven (Rev. 21:10, 21). Instead, when it comes to heaven’s entrance, what John saw was simply “a door standing open in heaven” (Rev. 4:1). Simply, a door. But not “just” a door. This door is a door made open by the finished work of the cross. And it is a door to sights and sounds beyond what we really can imagine.
John sees a throne. What’s more, he sees One on the throne whom he can only describe as resplendent color (4:3). But he doesn’t see Him as but some tranquil light. Instead, from the throne also comes “flashes of lightning” and the ominous, heaven-reverberating sounds of “rumblings and peals of thunder” (4:5). Kind of like what the Israelites experienced around Mt. Sinai so that everyone “in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16).
Around the throne? “Living creatures” unlike anything John had ever seen before — almost indescribable (4:6b-8a). But while they too are a sight to behold, it’s what they proclaim without ceasing which provides the “background beat” for life beyond the door — an ever-present, heavenly heartbeat declaring:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
(Revelation 4:8b ESV)
Before the throne? “Twenty-four elders” casting their crowns before Him who sits on the throne, face to the ground. A sight to behold. But more so, another sound to be heard:
“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”
(Revelation 4:11 ESV)
But wait! There’s more!
Amidst the throne? “Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders” (5:6)? A Lamb. Seen as though it had been slain. But seen not in the weakness of a sacrifice. Instead, seen in the power of One worthy to command the end of the age. For, of this Lamb in the midst, heaven’s heralds give voice to His eternal identity:
“. . . behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David . . . ”
(Revelation 5:5 ESV)
The Lion seen as a Lamb once slain. The Lamb Himself, a Lion ready to reign.
Behold heaven’s King! And then, hear heaven sing!
The four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders, join together to sing a new song. A song of One worthy to take the scroll because He was once slain. Worthy to open the seals because He has forever ransomed a people for God. Worthy to reign with them on earth, because He has been given all authority in heaven (5:9-10).
And this heavenly ensemble of 28 is but a catalyst meant to prime the pump for a much bigger choir — “many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (5:11). And this heavenly host shatter the sound barrier with their loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:12 ESV)
And just when John thinks his optic nerves are about to explode, when he feels like his eardrums are about to split, the sights and sounds expand yet again as heaven encompasses earth in a cosmic chorus of worship.
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13 ESV)
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” Even so, this guys too says, “Amen!”
And the elders fell down and worshiped. Even so, time for this guy to bow down.
Because of the sights and sounds behind the door.
Seen and heard by faith this morning through the Spirit.
One day soon to be experienced face-to-face through the Son.
Only because of the Father’s everlasting grace.
Always for the Father’s everlasting glory.