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Revelation / Throne Room & the Lamb

AI generated image of the throne room from Revelation. od like figure on a throw with green backdrop. lightening coming from the figure. Fire lamps to each side.

Image generated via AI so not necessarily accurate…

Sermon for St Edward’s Church / 21 April 2024

Readings: Rev 4:1-11 and 5:1-8


So last week I did an intro to Revelation – can we remember the key areas of symbolism/ metaphor?

  • Numerology
  • Time as cyclical
  • Rome/ imperial cult
  • OT imagery

And the key themes that echo throughout Rev are: Christology, Trinity, Eschatology, encouragement to be faithful disciples. So let’s try and remember those as we are going through this morning.

Now we’re looking at Chapters 4 and 5 this morning and these 2 chapters form a sort of narrative within a narrative. So we look at them together and we can see a similar structure – with glory and worship, hymn, narrative and then another hymn

Chapter 4 focuses on God and Ch 5 on Christ (as the lamb as we will see) so John is bringing them together and saying Christ is equally worthy of worship as God.

Ch 4 then – we move to the throne room of God. And we heard this amazing description didn’t we – and some metaphors for jewels – the one seated on the throne – ie: God – looks like Jasper and Carnelian – orange/red colour; there’s a rainbow around the throne that looks like an emerald – so a rainbow in shades of green.

And then around this big throne are 24 smaller thrones and 24 elders sat on them.

There are 4 living creatures but not like any creatures we know, with different faces, 6 wings each and lots of eyes all over them. If it was strange before it’s got stranger now!

So a repeating question with Revelation – what is this all about?

Let’s look at the symbolism and metaphor here. Remember John is making a comparison with Roman rule where the Emperor was all powerful and in some cases venerated like a God. So the way the throne room is described is similar to the Imperial version. The emperor would have had a central seat and the same number of people around it – for example attendants, and bodyguards.

Delegates, elders etc who approached the emperor did so dressed in white and wearing gold crowns, like the elders here in Revelation, and they would bow and leave their crowns before emperor as a sign of their submission to power just as we see the elders do in 4:10.

Now we’ve also got some numerology –  remember numbers are important – 12 and multiples of it are reminiscent of the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples etc. Which here we believe represents all people of faith.

So not only is John describing God’s throne room with Jewish references but he’s also making a comparison with the Roman life. He’s saying look my God, THE God, is the only one truly worthy to sit on the throne. So when we see the elders and creatures worshipping and saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and you are worthy – John is saying only GOD is worthy of our worship.

And remember also there are lots of OT references and here this passage bears many similarities to Isaiah 6 – have a look at it later.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

It also bears similarities to Daniel 7 with 4 beasts around the throne, Ezekiel 1 – beasts with wings.

There are also nods to God as creator, with the rainbow around the throne reminding the reader of God’s covenant promise after the flood; and also the presence of living creatures – they represent created order and are worshipping God too. Creation worships the creator. 

In fact to jump ahead to ch 5:11 every creatures praise God very similar to Ps 148.

There’s also a sea of glass in front of the throne. Which bears parallels in the creation narrative with the waters above and below –  Gen 1:6-7 and the Crystal vault in Ezekiel 1:22, and bronze sea in front of Solomon’s temple, 1 Kings 7:23-26.

So John is again asserting this God on the throne is THE creator – all powerful. Unlike the Roman version.

So this whole passage tells the reader:

  • Rome is just imitating God. the emperor is not worthy or Holy, but God is.
  • It’s saying God is all powerful so why worry about opposition from Jews, Pagans etc when ultimately God is the creator and source of all there is. 
  • It’s showing them this amazing vision of God’s throne room that they too will get to see in the end
  • And it’s placing this all within Jewish culture, heritage, and scripture. It has provenance if you like.
  • Essentially the symbolism and metaphor here is the most important thing because it tells us what is going on. This is a picture of humanity before God, in eternity, faithful witnesses in God’s presence, worshipping the Lord. This is the promise of the future for the faithful.

Chapter 5

So then we move to Ch 5 and for the first time we see the lamb – here representing Christ.

There is a scroll sealed with 7 seals and no one on earth is worthy enough to open it. But then an elder says it’s ok the Lion of the tribe of Judah can do it, and then we see not a lion but a slain lamb, with 7 horns and 7 eyes.

There is much written about why the lion becomes a lamb but we are not going to get distracted by that this morning. You can look it up if you like!

But the lamb is key – it is a central feature of John’s Christology – used 28 times in Revelation. And John identifies the lamb as equal to the one on the throne from Ch 4 in deserving worship / adulation – which shows the highest Christology of the NT. By that I mean that of all the NT this is the passage that most describes Christ as God.

And the Christian reader at the time, would have known the lamb was a reference to Christ. They would have seen references to the OT, to Passover. 

There are direct ref’s again here, for example:

Isaiah 53:7 –  lamb led to slaughter

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
 and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

Exodus 12:6 – lamb without blemish to be sacrificed – about Passover

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight

The lamb as the only one who is worthy, again draws a parallel with the emperor and the might of the Roman empire. Whilst they have power and armies and go into battle to win lands, the lamb is not a symbol of might, just the opposite in fact, and is shown as already slain. Death actually gives him power. He conquers by his self sacrifice.

Those reading or hearing this would have understood the idea of a sacrificial lamb and John’s point is that faithful imitation of the lamb, even in face of death, is what’s required. The lamb conquers by sacrifice not by force, the faithful need not go into battle, or fear the might of the Romans, their power is in being faithful witnesses. Jesus is the example martyr – the one to emulate – the proto martyr as he is referred to – the first and most important.


And Christ – the lamb is deemed worthy to open the scroll. The scroll is sealed with 7 seals which will be removed over the next few chapters And the contents of the scroll reveal God’s will for humanity, and judgement.

And again there is symbolism here of course. The scroll being sealed is similar to Roman documents sealed with seals from different people or witnesses after being written or signed and could then only be opened by the right people. There is a possibility it likens to Roman wills sealed in the same way, which might say something about the inheritance of the earth as revealed in this scroll.

There are links again to the OT for example:

The sealed scroll in Isaiah 29 which reveals God’s will.

11 The vision of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to those who can read, with the command, ‘Read this’, they say, ‘We cannot, for it is sealed.’

And Daniel 12

But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. 

And the scroll given to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1


  • Christ is equal to God in terms of worship and honour
  • Christ is an example to those facing persecution 
  • A call to martyrdom with the promise of an amazing future with God
  • A critique of Rome

And for us…

  • Remain faithful in all things!
  • God is creator and all powerful, no matter what is happening politically!
  • Worship God/ Christ only

Books // Forgot to include a Biblioraphy last time but in case it’s useful…

Blount, B. (2009 ) Revelation: A Commentary Louisville: WJK

Jackson, J. A. & Redmon, A.H. (2006)  “And They Sang a New Song”: Reading John’s Revelation from the Position of the Lamb Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Vol. 12/13 pp. 99-114 Michigan: Michigan State University Press 

Middleton, Paul. (2020). ‘Revelation’ in J. Brian Tucker and Aaron Kuecker (eds.), T&T Clark Social Identity Commentary on the New Testament. London: T & T Clark, 585-620.

Parker, Jr. F.O. (2001) ‘Our Lord and God’ in Rev 4,11: Evidence for the Late Date of Revelation? Biblica, Vol. 82, No. 2, pp. 207-231  Leuven: Peters Publishers 

Paul, I. (2018) Revelation: an Introduction and Commentary London: IVP

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