“Won’t heaven be boring?” a friend once asked me. “I mean, I like music, but a never-ending worship service?” He was struggling with Revelation 4, where God sits on a heavenly throne at the center of the biggest worship event you’ve ever seen. Verse 8 says the adulation never stops: “Holy, holy, holy” plays on repeat. Great and true—but for all eternity? Couldn’t the heavenly DJ find a few other records to spin?
Fortunately, I assured my friend, I think Revelation is pointing to a much greater reality. We can quickly reclaim the passage’s main point by looking at its central symbol: the throne. The throne shows up 10 times in Revelation 4, which is a major clue that says, “Pay attention because this is important.”
What’s This Throne All About?
Kings rule from their thrones, and God is doing just that. Think of it as the “divine command center” for the universe. If we go back to the Old Testament, we see that God’s throne is a prominent symbol—and it’s not so much about where we go when we die as it is about God’s rule over our world today. Let’s take a look.
First, God rules from His throne over the earth in the biblical story. David declares, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalms 103:19). Mountains and lions, oceans and orangutans, deserts and giraffes—their Creator lays claim to them all.
At the time Revelation was written, the Roman Empire had conquered the known world. (The Americas across the ocean, plus much of Africa and Asia beyond the Sahara Desert and the Ural and Himalayan mountains were yet to be encountered.) Their maps were of the Mediterranean world—and Rome ruled every square inch of it. But Revelation challenges Rome’s claim to global domination by looking to a higher throne: God is rightful ruler of the earth.
It’s not so much about where we go when we die as it is about God’s rule over our world today.
Second, God rules not only over the places of the earth, but over its people as well. Jeremiah worships God enthroned as “King of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:7), and the psalmist declares, “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Psalms 47:8). By the time Revelation was written, Rome had conquered and assimilated the nations into its mighty empire, and Caesar thought he was rightful ruler of them all. But Revelation says otherwise. So whether we’re Maasai, Burmese, Italian, Iraqi, Chinese, Brazilian, American, or Canadian—the Creator is our rightful king.
Third, God’s throne speaks not only to the reality of His kingdom but to the character of that kingdom as well. God is a “Mighty King, lover of justice” (Psalms 99:4 NLT). Those in danger look up to His throne because He “performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed” (Psalms 103:6). Indeed, the psalmist declares, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, lovingkindness and truth go before You” (Psalms 89:14).
Authority often gets abused in our world. Headlines are filled with stories of bad parents, corrupt executives, and power-hungry leaders. Many who have authority don’t use it well. Yet our hope is not only that God reigns, but also how God reigns. He is a good king, and His kingdom is good news for our world.
Better Things To Come
Those who are in trouble can lift their eyes to God’s throne for help. When Israel was threatened with destruction, she looked to Him and declared, “Are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You” (2 Chronicles 20:6). When things get crazy in our world and things like ISIS and Ebola fill us with heartache and grief, we can cry out to God as we strive to embody His justice and mercy in the world. God’s throne reminds us He is still in control and will let things go only so far. Better still, He is coming to redeem His world.
This should be a cause for joy. Throughout the Psalms, God’s throne is intimately tied to worship. One psalmist looks up to God’s throne and rejoices, “Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is King of all the earth” (Psalms 47:6-7). Another is inspired to declare, “Bless the Lord, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalms 103:22).
In all of this, we see that God’s throne is more than a promise for the future; it’s the bold proclamation that our Lord reigns today. Like the raindrops falling from the sky, God’s heavenly reign is coming toward earth to fill the land with His justice and mercy.
God’s reign lays claim upon our world. He declares in Isaiah, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). We are called to enter His kingdom, to place our lives at His feet, beneath His loving rule, and affirm, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (Psalms 24:1).
This is hope for our world. Jesus calls us to pray to our heavenly Father, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Our hope is for God’s kingdom to break in here and now, today. Though evil may haunt our world, the day is coming when it will no longer. Revelation doesn’t end in chapter four but in chapters 21 and 22, when God’s heavenly throne comes down to earth—a picture of His kingdom finally arriving in fullness. And that should thrill the heart of every believer.
God’s throne is at the center of His glorious city, where Jesus reigns. At long last, our hope will be fulfilled: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:3).
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
Photography by Andrea Fremiotti