“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:1-3).
In his vision John sees God sitting on His throne. We can only wonder at how exciting that must have been for him as the veil is pulled away and he sees things no human eyes can behold. What an honour it was for him too! We would be thrilled if we were invited to have a personal audience with Queen Elizabeth II or some other monarch, but to see the Lord is something beyond even that. John was experiencing something that every born-again believer will enjoy one day.
John tells us that as soon as the door was opened he saw a throne. The throne speaks of the fact God is the absolute sovereign authority both in Heaven and on earth. “God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness” (Psalm 47:8) … “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19). The word “set” expresses the fact that God’s throne is established, unmoveable and eternal. There is no foe in the heavens or on the earth that can remove Him from His place. “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre” (Psalm 45:6).
It does not matter if this fallen world refuses to recognise the sovereign power of the God of Heaven, for even if the whole world rejects Him, He will reign forever. Man might not take a second thought about God in their daily lives, but He still sees and hears everything they do and say. He knows everything and will judge mankind for its rebellion. Every person who has ever lived on earth will have an audience with the King. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
John quickly moves on to describe the One he sees on the throne. The prophet Isaiah had a similar encounter with Him. “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4).
John describes God as being like “jasper and a sardine stone”. The word “like” tells us that he is using symbolism rather than offering us an exact description of God. It is not, as some think, that everything he sees is made up of symbols, instead he literally sees the Lord but finds that human language is too limited. God obviously is not made-up of gemstones, so they speak of His glory and majesty. Jasper is clear and bright. Some suggest that it is the same as a diamond, and if so, it suggests firmness and unchanging. “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). The sardine stone is blood-red in colour and speaks of the sovereignty of God. It also tells us that He is also our Redeemer and willing to save all that come unto Him in faith. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). How could anyone have a personal relationship with the Lord if He was unwilling to save us? Therefore we see that He is holy and righteous, yet provides a way for man to come to Him. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
It is interesting to note that the sardius and jasper stones were the first and last stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-21). “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
The throne is encompassed by an emerald coloured rainbow. There has never been anything like this seen on earth. The rainbow was a visible sign to remind Noah that God would never destroy the earth again by water (Genesis 9:11-17). We will see God’s rainbow when we meet Him face to face in Heaven. It will remind us that in His perfect peace all of our personal storms on earth will be over. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
We see then that this rainbow speaks of God’s mercy and love. Its emerald colour tells us that it is alive and powerful. John reveals what he saw to comfort our hearts and remind us that God never breaks His promises. “For he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). Even though the Lord must pour out His wrath in the last days, He still displays His mercy to those who turn to Him in faith. “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).
Each one of us is heading towards a personal encounter with God on His throne. We will see the same glorious scenes as the apostle John, and the symbolism he used will make perfect sense to us. Are we ready for that day? Are we preparing to meet Him? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).