After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” 
Revelation’s plotline moves from the trigger-free safe space of a congregation worshipping an inoffensive fake Jesus through the very door of heaven to see and hear all of creation’s right response to the great Triune God. Jesus’ promise to the overcomers (those who persevere by worshipping though suffering) to sit with him on his throne (3:21) leads directly the vision of chapters 4 and 5 where John explains, in more detail and imagery, the past act of Christ’s exaltation on his throne as ruler over the church and the universe accomplished by his death and resurrection, and his ongoing worship as the triumphant Lamb. 
No doubt the Roman authorities who caused the apostle John’s exile on Patmos believed they were minimizing his influence in Roman Asia. But in God’s upside-down plan, John’s removal from worship in the Ephesian church led to an even greater impact upon the whole Church of Jesus Christ through this Revelation. However many more years John lived after his exile, he surely never lost the taste of being caught up into the awesome wonder of the heavenly worship service he describes in Revelation 4 and 5. If you have ever tasted something of deeply moving worship – it may have been amazing music, or a moving sermon, a heartfelt prayer, a great measure of grace in the Lord’s Supper or in baptism, or all the above – then you have some small idea of heavenly worship. Earthly worship is designed to provide little tastes of the eternal heavenly reality for which all humanity was created.
LARGE AND IN CHARGE
All the aspects of Christ’s person and work he has described to the seven churches give way to this vision of Father, Son and Spirit reigning over all things in heaven and earth and receiving the worship they are due from their creation. This worship service in chapters 4 and 5 introduces the rest of the material in the letter as we learn in 4:1. “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
The voice of Jesus John first heard in 1:10 calls to him into another vision. John is not being given a roadmap to the details of future world history. If we didn’t understand that from the first three chapters – which are all about the person and work of Christ – then we need to know now that this letter doesn’t contain details about super blue blood moons, the modern nation-states of Israel, Russia, China, the US, or the European Union. Revelation contains seven sections, each of which gives the same overview of the time between Christ’s first and second coming from a slightly different camera angle. Each camera angle shows increasingly intense action, and each narrows the focus a little more toward Christ’s consummation of all things.
John takes us up into heaven’s throne room to see the glorious sights and hears the awesome sounds that remind those persecuted churches of Roman Asia and you and me that absolutely everything is ruled by the all-powerful Triune God, even our troubles and trials he has decreed for our ultimate joy in him. We begin to see the big picture of Messiah’s unfolding promise, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Chapters 4 and 5 show Christ’s post-ascension enthronement and present reign. Chapter 6 shows him breaking the six seals of God’s plan for these last days and concludes with the Lamb’s wrath upon the wicked. Chapter 7 concludes the second section of Revelation with the praise of the redeemed in the glorious age to come.
Revelation pictures God’s people going through wars, battles, persecutions, and discouragements. So, it’s important for the Lord Jesus to show us this picture of what takes place when we pass through the open door of heaven and join with all God’s creatures in worshipping him. How do you overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil? You worship in the midst of your grief. You gather to publicly praise God even in your troubles and trials. Our worship together is what defines us as a church and fuels us to serve the Lord. It is the single most important feature of our whole lives as individuals. Worship encourages us, clarifies our lives, gives us proper vision in overwhelming circumstances because we have met with God. We come to have him serve us and we see that he truly is large and in charge.
Christ calls John into heaven through a door. This is the third mention of a door in the letter. The first was the doorway into a covenant relationship with Messiah (3:8). The second door was the one closed to Messiah in Laodicea. Then we have this door of revelation enabling John, in the Spirit, to view heavenly worship of the enthroned Father and Son. God’s throne is mentioned 38 times in Revelation, 17 of those instances are here in chapters 4 and 5. This throne room scene has echoes of Isaiah’s vision of Christ enthroned in the temple (Isa. 6) during a time of political instability in Israel. It also has elements drawn from Ezekiel 1 and 2 (detailed description of cherubim and the heavenly throne). But Revelation 4 most closely parallels Daniel’s vision the heavenly throne room in Daniel 7:9ff. 
All Ezekiel’s and Daniel’s visions come in the midst of Israel’s exile. John’s vision comes in the midst of great tribulation for the churches of Roman Asia and has in view all the trials and suffering God’s people undergo as pilgrims in a hostile world between Jesus’ first and second comings. Creatures don’t worship God because they have “name it and claim it” health and wealth; they worship because he is the only One truly worthy of worship. He alone is enthroned and ruling over his universe. All our meaning, all of our satisfaction of existence, all our fulfillment comes in worshiping, serving, and adoring God.
John paints his picture of heavenly worship with OT colors because he sees things the naked eye cannot perceive. John cannot see God the Father, only the light and colored stones, and the green rainbow as the sign of God’s creation covenant. He hears the thunder and sees the lightning that flashed from Mt. Sinai. The center of life, the universe, and everything is the throne of God.
John writes, “4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.” They are representative of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles (Rev. 21:12-14) as a picture that God’s people consist of both OT and NT saints, ethnic Israelites and Gentiles of every tribe and tongue and nation – the full measure of those trusting into Messiah Jesus from Adam and Eve to the last trumpet.
These representatives of the whole church are enthroned and reigning with God. They are close to the throne. I know it doesn’t feel like you are always close to God when the struggles of life in a broken world are crashing down and crushing you. But John sees all of us in the most significant place in all space-time; he sees us face-to-face with God doing exactly what we were created to do – drawing our deepest satisfaction and highest joy worshipping the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man in the seven-fold fullness of the Holy Spirit. The nominal Christians of Laodicea saw greatness as being prosperous, rich, and independent. SO DO WE! Tell the truth to yourself right now. Down deep inside don’t you feel that urge to “have it all”? Don’t you want to be taking in so much money (prosperous) that you are rich enough to need nothing and need no one? But here in these two chapters of Revelation is true, absolute wealth and greatness and ultimate significance for us who have ears to hear.
Notice the 24 elders are dressed exactly as Jesus has promised. They wear the white robes of his imputed righteousness that also symbolize their status as priests (1:6; 5:10; 20:4-6). They wear the crowns of victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is YOUR dress right now if you are trusting into the righteous life and sacrificial death of the resurrected, ascended and glorified Lamb of God. This is where you are seated right now. You are raised up and seated in the highest heaven with Christ (Eph. 2:6). Right now, these things are yours in part. But they absolutely shall be yours in whole when the Lamb returns to consummate all things.
In addition to you and I enthroned near to God, there is the picture of the earthly, unpredictable sea tamed by the sovereign Creator God into a crystal floor stretching out across his heavenly throne room. Then there are the four living creatures (Ezk. 1:5; 10) whose faces reflect the birds of the air, the domesticated beasts, the wild and dangerous creatures, and mankind. They are representative of all God’s creation and their numerous eyes represent God’s knowledge of all things at all times – including his knowledge of your personal troubles and trials. The angels have been everywhere and seen everything, so they know only God is truly glorious. Like Isaiah’s heavenly temple vision, they never stop shouting of the absolute holiness of God. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, /who was and is and is to come!”
As all creation worships the Triune God, so God’s people are falling down before him casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea. It’s not the cherubim and seraphim casting crowns because angels are nowhere depicted as wearing white robes and crowns. Only mankind is the object of Christ’s redemption. Only we wear the robe and crown. And when the cherubim scream the Trisagion, we respond to the call with our own song of God’s worthiness to be worshipped:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” 
We worship because he is worthy. We worship because of all that God is and all that you and I are not apart from him.
God is the redeemer of creation pictured in the rainbow around his throne. He’s the redeemer of his people whom he called out of Egypt and assembled around a mountain that could not be touched, that rumbled and thundered and flashed with lightning (8:5; 11:19; 16:18). He is the Lord of salvation as these 24 elders, representative of the elect of his covenant, fall down and joyfully acknowledge his status as the One who created absolutely everything by the power of his will. He is the God of all power to turn the churning sea of mankind’s unbelief and rebellion (Re. 13:1; 15:2; 21:1) into a glass floor as calm as the parted Red Sea and the waters of baptism. He is the God of all grace who pours out the seven-fold Spirit upon his people to breath the breath of life into their dead hearts and to preserve them as overcomers in a hostile world through which we pass as pilgrims through the wilderness.
Something we see in this vision is that the human heart was created to long for glory. God made human beings to be glory-seekers. This is why folks read People magazine or browse through the gossip tabloids in the supermarket line looking at the celebrity news. It’s why we watch sports; because if we can’t earn glory for ourselves we can associate with glory through the victories of our athletes. We long for glory because God put the desire for it in the human heart so that we could find our greatest joy not in the Olympics but in none other than him alone who blazes in transcendent splendor at the center of creation.
This is why you should spend time in Revelation 4 and 5 as often as you can – especially when you feel hopeless and helpless. You are an eternal creature. Apart from Christ, you will live in self-absorbed pathetic misery beyond this earthly life. But IN CHRIST you are bound for splendor and glory of which the most beautiful scenery in all nature is but a pale shadow. You will pass through and beyond nature, through that open door into that realm of glorious beauty that this earth in all its natural wonder can only stutter and stammer and lisp to reflect.
You who are in Christ pass into this realm of glory without terror because the Lamb of God has absorbed all that is terrible about you to God by his death upon Calvary’s cross. There are thunder and lightning and rumbling around the throne of God, but the terror of it has been replaced with wonder. So, St Author of Hebrews writes:
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 
When we gather here in this building in but a small number on the Lord’s Day, we join with the vast crowd of saints in heaven, with the 24 elders and the cherubim, with our loved ones who have died in Christ, and with all creation. We taste now in a tiny measure what they now (and you and I one day) experience in all its glory and supreme eternal joy – the glory of our Holy God, the Lamb, and his seven-fold Holy Spirit.
Did you notice what John wrote at the very beginning of vision? “And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here….’” How did John enter through the open door to heaven? Jesus called him. You cannot enter into the glory of worshipping God except that you are called by the Lord Jesus Christ. Would that you hear him this morning!
…whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The Holy Spirit and we who are redeemed invite you to come this morning. Right here. Right now:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 
 Beale, 311.
 Phillips, 166-167.
 For a side-by-side passage comparison see: Beale, 314.
 Phillips, 178-179.