Like all the great prophets of the Bible, one of the first visions John receives is one of God. Jesus, who can open all doors (3:7), opens the door of heaven and ushers John into the throne-room of the Lord Almighty. This is the point where I think words are insufficient to express the reality, but John keeps on writing. I can only imagine that the reality will be even better than this amazing chapter!
There are always those inevitable days when other forces loom on the horizon as god-like. For the Christians of Asia Minor that force was Roma — the personified power of Rome, a military, cultural, and economic superpower. At times like this we may know in our head that God is unparalleled even by this force before us, but our hearts and souls sometimes need reminders. This is when we most need a full-senses reminder of who is really the god of this world. Maybe that comes in study or worship or service. For John it came in this vision. How could he face all that is to come in this book without first seeing this majestic vision of God?
I am drawn to the four grotesque creatures that surround the brilliant throne of God. Each in a different way signifies great power. An ox was the John Deere tractor of the ancient world. How can agriculture be successful without a good team of oxen? The skies are dominated by the eagle. With its sharp talons, keen eyesight, and fast speed prey can only hope to run for cover. The lion was and to some degree still is the universal symbol for strength. The ancient Assyrians marched out to battle with lions on their shields. Today we call the lion the king of the jungle. But what can out-power all three of these? A human, well armed and skilled for the hunt. Standing at the top of the food chain is a well-muscled, intelligent human. And yet all of these great symbols of power praise the “Lord God Almighty” (4:8). With their many eyes these creatures see all things. They know who is most worthy of honor. Still they praise God. Nothing escapes their attention; they are always alert, never sleeping. Still they praise God. Who else is worthy of such praise?
O Lord our God, you deserve to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things; because of your will they existed and were created. (4:11)