Revelation 4:1-11 Part 5


1)    After these I looked and, lo, a door having been opened in the heaven and the sound, the first that I heard as a trumpet, speaking to me saying “come up here and I will show you what is necessary to take place after these”.

2)    Immediately I did come in spirit and, lo, a throne set in the heaven, and upon the throne One sitting,

3)    and the One sitting like stone, jasper and sardonyx in appearance, and a rainbow round about the throne like emerald in appearance.

4)    And round about the throne twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders having been clothed in white garments, and upon their heads gold crowns.

5)    And from the throne coming forth lightnings and sounds and thunderings, and seven fiery lamps ablaze before the throne that are the seven spirits of God,

6)    and before the throne as glassy sea like crystal, and in midst of the throne and round about the throne four creatures being entirely of eyes front and back,

7)    and the first creature like unto a lion, and the second creature like unto a calf, and the third creature having the face as of man, and the fourth creature like unto a flying eagle,

8)    and the four creatures one by one of them having six wings each, being entirely of eyes around and within, and they have no pause saying “holy holy holy Kurios The God The Almighty, the Was and the Is and the Coming.

9)    And whenever the creatures will present glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne, to the One living into the ages of the ages,

10) the twenty four elders will prostrate themselves before the One sitting on the throne, and they will adore the One living into the ages of the ages, and they will cast their crowns before the throne, saying

11) “worthy are You, the Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You, You did create all, and by Your will they are, and they were created”.


In the course of the last four sermons, we’ve done about as much as we could with the “trumpet” sound of the voice of God, the “door in the heaven”, and with John “coming in spirit” at the command of the Lord, and with the “throne” in the heaven.

We’ve looked at many passages of Scripture in which all of these things have previously occurred and have been revealed in the written Word.  And the passages we’ve already read have also revealed the “One sitting”, which certainly needs some of our time today.

But, because of the content of the subject matter here, which is so holy – divine – sacred, let me just mention once again that it shouldn’t be addressed without the utmost fear, respect and attention.  The care with which we meet these Revelations from God, and consider them, is governed (the “care” is governed) by the first and second Commandments.  And so we mustn’t trifle with them, or allow what we say about them to roll off our tongues lightly, or let them pass by without all due consideration of what our Lord has shown us.  All due reverence for the holiness of the One with Whom we must deal should be our approach.  I’ll say some more about how and where I learned what must be done with these things in a minute.

But the prophets of God who have been caused to see these things have found themselves prostrate – face-down in the dust – and confessing their sin, and begging for mercy.  And our nearness to these things in the text of Scripture ought to elicit a similar response.  Unworthiness is probably a good word to use here.

And, although there is One Who IS worthy, in Whom we have access, that personal unworthiness ought to excite awe, fear and meekness as we consider these sublime and exalted things in the text of John’s Revelation.

You see, the joy that we experience in having been rescued, and the bold access that we have to the throne of grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, isn’t contradictory of the fear of Almighty God; and it certainly doesn’t void the meekness required in all who serve Him and search out His Word.

We have no paradox here, you see… there are no antinomies or contradictions at all.  Our meekness (which means submission) and our fear of God affirm our joy and bold access rather than being paradoxical.  Our meekness and submission to God and His Word are cause for joy and celebration!

So our approach to the text should be with fear, and with meekness, but with great joy and celebration as we carefully seek out what the Lord has said, and that which He has shown to us.  And, to that end, I have a few thoughts for you that may help in our understanding of what John sees and hears here in our text.  We’ve touched on them previously, but, from your responses, I sense that we’ve not done enough yet.

However, I want to give you some personal historical background (hopefully everybody will find it interesting), the background for how we approach God’s Word here in this Church, and how we approach the subjects that are of such a holy nature.  I’ll leave out all of the irrelevant stuff so as to make it as short as possible; and some of this we commented on in one of the introductory sermons to the Revelation.

But as we come near to God and His Word, it’s with the understanding that He, Himself, has revealed much – shown much – to us; and we are to know it and understand it….  And at the same time we are to “know” Him to be incomprehensible in that which He has not shown us.

The fact that He is incomprehensible never relieves us of the duty of knowing – understanding - that which He has shown us.  And that which He has shown us is true, consistent and complete.  The whole of creation declares His glory – shows His glory - and it all speaks in unison of Him.  And His written Word – the whole thing – reveals His Person and His work of creation and salvation.  No passage of Scripture is contradictory to another; and there is no paradox in His Revelation.  There are only apparent paradoxes – i.e. apparent to man.  The whole of creation, and the whole of Scripture, speak with one voice – HIS!  And God doesn’t contradict Himself.

But here is some of the historical background for all of this.

In due course, I entered seminary with little understanding of these things, or how to find answers to them, and with no earthly idea of who would be teaching me.  But God had caused a seminary to be raised up in Jackson, Mississippi.  And some professors that I had studied under in college there in Jackson were there at the new seminary.  Good men.  I had learned much from them as a much younger man.  One of them, at the time a professor at the seminary, was insightful enough, and convincing enough to the seminary board of directors, to hire a young (in his twenties), recent graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary named Greg Bahnsen.

Dr Bahnsen had just published his first book called Theonomy in Christian Ethics, which had caused quite a stir because he used the whole Bible in an exhaustive study of the basis, the footing, the ground, for Christian ethics: God’s Law-word!  The whole Bible!  What a novel approach!!!

I was older than he by, probably, six or seven years, but we struck up a friendship; and I was his realtor.  That’s neither here nor there, but the best part was that he was my teacher!  For two years I studied ethics and apologetics under his tutelage.  I became a pupil, a disciple. 

And, by the way, the series of fifty or so sermons in chapters five, six and seven of the Gospel of Matthew were built with all the notes from Bahnsen’s classes right there in the background.  The three chapters in Matthew have to do primarily with God’s Law.

What’s even more interesting (hopefully it is) is the fact that Greg Bahnsen was the disciple of Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Seminary.  In an authorized biography of Van Til, the author made the statement that there is a “short list” of the smartest men in history.  He said that there were only eleven people in the world that understood Albert Einstein.  However, nobody understood Cornelius Van Til.

One person did.  Greg Bahnsen.  Van Til is considered by many to be one of the greatest Christian philosophers of all time.  He was Greg Bahnsen’s apologetics professor at Westminster.  And when he was ready to retire, Dr Van Til recommended Greg Bahnsen to be seated in his professorial chair at the seminary.  That didn’t happen, of course.  Instead, Greg came to Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, where I, providentially (and others, of course), was privileged to be a student.

The thing about it was that I had no idea that I was being so providentially privileged.  I didn’t know, at the time, who Greg Bahnsen was, or that Greg was Van Til’s favored student, and that Greg understood the Van Tilian Christian apologetic so well.  I didn’t know that Norman Shepherd was also Greg’s Biblical Theology professor at Westminster….  I didn’t even know who Norman Shepherd was!  I was later to find out that both Greg and Dr Van Til loved Dr Shepherd and supported him in all of his later trouble.

Dr Shepherd, as I said, held the professorship of Biblical Theology at Westminster, and Dr Van Til and Greg Bahnsen both held him in high esteem and spoke very positively of him.  It wasn’t until later, in my early ministry (late 70s), that I began reading Dr Shepherd and learning the covenantal perspective of God’s Word, which much later came to be known as “federal vision” (a misnomer, by the way, since the Latin translates to “covenant vision” rather than federal vision).

All this to say that the Westminster professorial seats of Machen, John Murray, Cornelius Van Til and Norman Shepherd all converged in the making of a great theologian – Greg Bahnsen – who was my professor in Seminary.  And what I learned, among other things, was how to do Biblical Theology.  Although Reformed in my soteriology since college fifteen years earlier, I just had no idea.

I learned that the Word of God was one – ONE - consistent, unchanging and unchangeable Word, and that that Word was unvarying and non-paradoxical; and, in addition, that the creation itself was the “speech” of God, for without the “Word”, nothing was made that was made.  And the “speech” of God in creation is fully consistent with the speech of God in His written Word.  It’s all one; it’s all covenantal; it’s all Trinitarian; it’s all Christian.

The fact that mankind in its self-generated decadence is completely unaware of that creation speech is the superb witness to depravity, without even mentioning the written Word!

So we can see and hear the simultaneous and consistent Word of God all through the Bible and in creation by looking, for example, at trees and rocks and clouds and mountains and animals and birds and oceans and deserts and flowers - seeing the colors, hearing the sounds….  It’s all consistent; and it all speaks directly from Him; and it all declares His glory and His power, His holiness and His justice.

Just one simple example here – a flower.  Through our covenantal vision we know the flower.  It speaks volumes of the glory and power of the One Who speaks it into existence.  It is the speech of God; it corresponds to God.  And we can know the flower truly.  We can’t know it comprehensively or exhaustively (as God does), but what we do know is true.  Only the One Who created it knows it exhaustively.  Van Til called this “analogical knowledge”.  The flower is an analogy of the Person Whose speech brought it into existence.  In the flower we see something of Him Who created it, and all men are required to acknowledge and honor the One Who brought it into existence in all of its beauty and in its unity and its diversity.  God’s knowledge of the flower is original knowledge; however, our knowledge of it is simply derivative.  Therefore the knowledge isn’t identical… but it is, nonetheless, true.  And, as Dr Van Til would say, and as Dr Bahnsen would say, the absence of acknowledgment of the original knowledge of the flower does not make it less than what it is.  Just because the original knowledge of the flower isn’t ours, doesn’t make it something less; and just because man doesn’t acknowledge the original knowledge doesn’t make it less a flower!

And I hope you can hear the covenantal vision, the Trinitarian underpinning for all of this.  There is unity; there is diversity; the One and the Many.  All Van Tilian thought; all Norman Shepherd Biblical Theology; all John Murray Trinitarianism and Christology.  We’ll approach the Trinity for a bit in a minute.

But all of this begins to come through as I sat in Bahnsen’s ethics and apologetics lectures for two years.  Although the lectures weren’t about Biblical Theology, he was doing Biblical Theology! Several of you are beginning to listen to some lectures and read some articles by Greg Bahnsen.  And I encourage that, because he always takes us back to “what God said”.  And it’s always in context of the whole of Scripture and the whole of creation.  It’s a covenantal view of Who God is and what He’s done and what He is doing.

When I went to seminary, I didn’t even know how to connect the Old Testament with the new, much less see them as one.  Even the simple issue of how the two relate was a mystery.  But when I was finished, I had a framework from which to see everything from the perspective of our Triune God’s revealed covenant with His creation.  It’s His perspective; it’s His creation, and it all corresponds to Him.  And we can know Him, Father, Son, Spirit, by what He has done in His creation, and by what He has said in His Word.

But His creature’s inability to comprehend a matter has no bearing on the verity of the One Who IS, WAS and COMING.  In other words, a person’s inability to understand a rock, or a mountain, or a sound has no negative effect at all on how God perceives rocks, mountains or sounds!

And, by the way, this is the very reason I’m always after you about what you listen to, because, along with the things that you see, the sounds that you listen to ought to correspond with God’s perception of sound.  After all, He created it; and He comprehends it originally!

Anyway, the earlier description that I outlined for you about the way I do exegesis (it was in the introductory messages to the Revelation) the way I do exegesis was a necessary outcome of two years of study with Bahnsen and, of course, reading his books.  Because in that method is the fruit of God’s work in raising up men like Machen, Murray, Van Til, Shepherd and their student Greg Bahnsen.

Now, let’s spend just a little more time with our Triune God’s Revelation of Himself.

The operations, or actions of God are many and various, as revealed in His creation and in His Word.  We say, however, that we know our God from His Words and His deeds; His essence itself, we don’t undertake to approach.  His operations are made known to us, but His essence remains inaccessible.  He is the Rewarder of those who seek Him, I know that because it’s revealed.  (Heb. 11:6) 

Knowledge of the divine essence consists in our perceiving His incomprehensibility; and the object of our worship is not that of which we comprehend the essence, but that of which we comprehend that the essence exists because of His speech and His work. 

In the holy Scripture we find many ‘negative’ terms and descriptions applied to God and to His attributes and activities, which thus tell us not what God is, but only what He is not; and many of these are expressive – either directly or by necessary implication – of God's incomprehensibility.  God is 'immortal' and 'invisible' (1 Tim. 1:17); He is 'a God who hides' himself (Isa. 45:15), dwelling 'in unapproachable light, who no man has ever seen or can see.' (1 Tim. 6:16) The greatness of His power is 'immeasurable' (Eph. 1:19) far beyond all that we can 'think' (Eph. 3:20); His timeless eternal existence (2 Pet. 3:8), His greatness, His understanding, His judgments, and His riches are 'unsearchable' (Job 36:26; Ps. 145:3; Isa. 40:28; Rom. 11:33; Eph. 3:8), and 'we know Him not' (Job 36:26); His understanding is 'beyond measure' (Ps. 147:5), His ways are 'inscrutable' (Rom. 11:33); His peace 'passes all understanding' (Phil. 4:7) His love 'surpasses knowledge' (Eph. 3:19) He admits of 'no variation or shadow due to change' (James 1:17)  He does great things 'beyond understanding' and 'without number' (Job 9:10); His 'surpassing' grace is His 'inexpressible' gift. (2 Cor. 9:14,15) He is uncontained and uncontainable (1 Kings 8:27) having no 'limit' attributable to Him (Job 11:7,8); He can’t be 'compared' or 'likened' to anything (Isa. 40:18), for, before Him 'existent' things are 'nothing' and 'LESS THAN nothing' (Isa. 40:17), from which it follows that He is beyond existence and MORE THAN infinite. His 'foolishness' is wiser than men, and His 'weakness' is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:25) His 'name' is 'above EVERY name' (Phil. 2:9) 'which no one knows but Himself' (Rev. 19:12); He is 'before ALL things' (Col. 1:17), 'BEFORE all time' (Jude 25). He 'has neither beginning of days nor end of life.' (Heb. 7:3) He is 'far above ALL rule and authority and power and dominion, and above EVERY name that is named.' (Eph. 1:21) "For from him and through him and to him are ALL things. To Him be glory for ever." (Rom. 11:36).  We KNOW these things, and we know them truly.

Now, what we know of God from just this short discourse through Scripture, we obviously know of Father, Son (the Word of God) and Spirit.  For He is One… One in “essence”, which is incomprehensible... that incomprehensibility knowable in Word and deed and creation.

As we saw several Lord’s Days ago, the Church has struggled and fought over Trinity.  That’s apparent in the creeds that have been hammered out (sometimes in physical violence) in the councils of the Church.

In Van Tilian thought, as expressed by another Van Til disciple, R. J. Rushdooney, the “threeness” of the One true God is inescapable in His Word and in His work and in His creation… inescapable!  And holding all men responsible!  For example, In his The One and the Many, Rushdooney alludes to the fact that minus God’s “threeness”, the creation would necessarily be flat… without height, depth or breadth, and there would be no diversity, for God – Father, Son, Spirit – is both unity and diversity.  Unity and diversity exist in Him, for He is both One and Three.  Should it be otherwise – should there be only “unity”, there would be no diversity.  So the entire creation, spoken into being in great diversity, screams to the glory and power of our Triune God.  There is ONE; and there are THREE.

Most of the difficulty that man has with “threeness” has to do with illogical logic!  As it relates to our text here in Revelation chapter four, how can God be both “Lamb Slain” and “One Sitting”!  That’s an “antinomie” – that’s “contradictory”, they say.  But the question itself reveals a complete lack of knowledge of what God has said through His Word, and a lack of understanding of the creation as God has spoken it into existence!  It is all revealed, you see.

It is clear in the Revelation of creation, and clear in the written speech of God, that space does not exist without God causing it to exist; and time does not exist without God causing it to exist.  Space isn’t something that God “enters into” and then departs, as if it exists on its own and apart from Him.  God doesn’t “enter” a place that already is; on the contrary, the “place” exists because God is there!

And time isn’t something that pre-exists and God passes in and out of it.  “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things”, the apostle Paul said.  And he said also that all things hold together in Jesus Christ.

So Father, Word, Spirit don’t “move around” from space to non-space; and from past time to future time back to the present time.  That would indicate that those things exist apart from Him!  God doesn’t “inhabit” anything.  Whenever and however He IS, He causes it to be!

So John can see the prophesied “Lamb Slain” and the throne of God at the same “time” and experience NO illogical, paradoxical conclusions about what he’s looking at.  There’s nothing whatever in the text to indicate that John was the least bit confused at seeing the “Lamb Slain”, which occurred thirty five years in the “past” at Jesus ‘ crucifixion!  And there’s nothing at all in the text indicating a contradiction in John’s thinking in seeing God the Son (the Lamb Slain) and the throne of God at the same “time”.  It’s a matter of comprehending the whole Revelation of God rather than imposing one’s own perspective and logic on what God has revealed.

The “One Sitting”, Who John sees, is the same Revelation others before him have been caused to see, isn’t it?  And in every case, as we saw last Lord’s Day, it is the “Judgment Seat” that God has shown to His prophets and apostles.  For example, Ezekiel chapter one:


“And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it.”


The Revelation to Ezekiel proceeds, then, to describe the idolatry and adultery of God’s covenant nation, and the destruction and desolation to come.

Another example from Daniel chapter seven:


I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire.


What follows in the Revelation to Daniel is God’s judgment over the nations of the earth as Christ’s (5th) great Kingdom comes to be.

The “One Sitting” is the Judge, as in all of the previous instances in which God has revealed the throne and the One Sitting.  In some instances the throne is occupied by The Son.  In others it is revealed with the “form” of a man “high above” it.  In others God Himself IS the throne.  In another (Ezekiel) the throne is the New Jerusalem.  In another, the throne is the High Priest – the Christ.

And then our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said this, in Matthew 25:


When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.


And that’s what the apostle John is now seeing here in our text.  The Lord has come in His glory….  He has been crucified, resurrected and ascended to the heaven where He has received His glory, all power in the heavens and on the earth, and a Kingdom which shall never pass away.

And He is “One Sitting” in judgment over Israel and the nations, and showing John “that which is necessary to be done quickly”, for “the time is near”.

The bodily resurrected and ascended Christ is God.  He appears to John as “Lamb Slain” and as “One Sitting” in judgment.  He is Almighty God, Father, Son, Spirit, having done the work of the lamb sacrificed for the sin of the world, and about to do the work of the King and High Priest of the Church.

We will come to the table of our Lord next Lord’s day with knowledge of these things and in deep contemplation of them.  We are also to come in fear.  We are also to come in joy and celebration of the victory that has been secured by Him and on our behalf.   We will indicate our “union” in Him as we eat His body and drink His blood in the signs and seals of His covenant.  So please prepare yourselves in confession, repentance and faithfulness.


In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

14) in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:

15) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

16) for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him;

17) and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.

18) And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.