Heavens Unexpected Throne Room
Rev 4-5 | Heaven’s Unexpected Throne Room
The official photos of William and Kate’s wedding were taken in the throne room at Buckingham Palace. It’s an amazing place, with walls covered in crimson silk. It was once used to receive debutantes on their ‘coming out’, but is now only used on special occasions, like wedding days.
Chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation describe for us a vision of the throne room of heaven. Like the throne room of the United Kingdom, its focus is also on the throne and on the royal figure who sits on that throne. However, the differences are more striking than the similarities.
Firstly, whereas it is quite hard to get into Buckingham Palace, it was revealed to John that the door to heaven’s throne room stands open (Rev 4:1). This is picture language, which is not meant just to be taken literally, but speaks of the fact that it is easy to get in! There is free access, because Jesus has sent out an invitation to all and sundry. He said, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find” (Matt 22:9). So, William and Kate may have left you off their invitation list, but you are most welcome in God’s throne room.
Standing on Ceremony?
Secondly, heaven is quite an emotional place, not at all like the ‘stiff upper lip’ that has been associated with British royals. John himself weeps uncontrollably (Rev 5:4), and there is all the constant noise and clamour of myriads of angels and people speaking and singing God’s praise. It’s all quite far removed from the solemn ceremonies that we might naturally associate with a throne room, where scraping chairs and muffled coughs can be heard between speeches.
Again, Jesus showed us a glimpse of this during his time on earth. When he cleansed the Temple of its bleating sheep and clinking money-changers, he did not leave silence in his wake. He cleared out the marketplace in order to make room for prayer, but not particularly to allow for quiet meditation. We read that he went on to heal people and that these wonderful events made children shout about their wonderful God (Matt 21:14-15). Jesus filled the Temple with happy noise. And that is what John saw in his vision of heaven too.
Later in Revelation, we do read of a pause for silence in heaven (Rev 8:1) and silence does have an important place in our spiritual lives, but it is not the high point of Christian spirituality. The King of Heaven unexpectedly allows for heartfelt weeping, as well as enjoying the sound of singing.
The Once-Dead King
The greatest surprise in these chapters is probably the description of the King as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). We know that the King of Heaven died for us, becoming a cadaver for a while so that we might live eternally. We know that he is the once-dead King. But somehow, it is still a surprise that he displays his death wounds on heaven’s throne. We might expect the roaring Lion to occupy the throne, but instead we find there the vulnerable Lamb.
Just as Jesus remains a man after having come to earth, so he retains the wounds of his suffering for eternity. The only Son of God had always been adored by the angels, but his suffering for sinful humanity only increased their adoration. He wears his death wounds as badges of honour, serving as a reminder for all to see that he loves people more than he loved his own life.
Access to Information
Jesus’ suffering is also said to be what makes him “worthy to take the scroll” (Rev 5:9). This too is most unexpected for us. In the UK, whilst personal access to the sovereign is very limited, access to information is a universal right. The Book of Revelation tells that access to the King of Heaven is open to all, but that there is knowledge which is reserved for the One who is worthy.
It was the tree of knowledge from which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat in the garden, not that they should be ignorant, but that they should always seek wisdom and meaning in conversation with God, walking as friends with him in the garden. Unexpectedly, John’s vision of heaven reminds us that it is better to turn to prayer than to turn to Google.
Heaven on Earth
This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Over the centuries, Biblical phrases and ideas have entered and shaped British culture. As we pray for the kingdom of heaven to come on earth, let’s make sure that we allow the Bible to set our agenda, however unexpected it may be. The ‘difficult’ texts of scripture are usually the ones with the most counter-cultural power.