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the court of heaven, revelation 4

The vision of the glorified Christ walking among the churches on earth is followed by a vision of the Court of Heaven.

When John enters his first vision, he is not catapulted into the future. He gets a glimpse of the present reality of heaven! John is invited into God’s royal “space” to see the universe from heaven’s perspective. What did he see?

God’s throne is surrounded by concentric circles. Radiant colors of the rainbow loop around it to remind us of the covenant God made with Noah to preserve the earth (Rev 4:2-3). Four living creatures, known as “cherubim,” circle the throne as well (4:6-8). They are neither angels nor chubby babies. Cherubim are guardians of God’s throne. Their gyroscope wheels provide a chariot that can move God’s throne in any direction (cf. Ezek 1:6-26; 10:20-22). Yep, God’s throne moves!

John sees another circle made up of 24 thrones for 24 elders (Rev 4:4-5, 10). Who are these “guys” clothed in white and wearing gold crowns? They are not guys! Whenever God is ready to render a judgment, he calls “the council of the holy ones” to assemble (cf. Ps 82:1; 89:5-7; Dan 7:9-10). Those on the Court of heaven are sometimes called “sons of God” (Ps 89:6; Job 1:6) or “watchers” (Dan 4:13, 17, 23) or “rulers and authorities” (Col 1:16) or “seraphim”—which means “shiny flying serpent”-like dragons (Isa 6:1-8). Amazingly, God invites heaven’s elder board to participate in decisions that affect human affairs on earth (e.g., 1 Kings 22:19-23). God is all-knowing and certainly doesn’t need advice; but he is a loving, relational God who works with creaturely beings (celestial and human) to advance his purposes. Isn’t that marvelous?

John then sees angels circling around God’s throne (Rev 5:11). Contrary to popular belief, nowhere in Scripture do we see angels with wings. Nowhere. When they reveal themselves to people, they seem to appear as men. Angels are messengers that God sends to earth to accomplish specific missions. Their job is to announce, rescue, serve, and guide “those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14). Some angels rank higher than other angels (1 Thess 4:16; Jude 9; 1 Tim 5:21; Dan 10:13; 12:1), but all angels rejoice when someone repents and believes in Jesus (Luke 15:10).

What is the point of all this?

Every creature in heaven currently works under the direction of the risen King, the only begotten Son of God. “Christ is now in heaven, where he sits at the right side of God. All angels, authorities, and powers are under his control” (1 Pet 3:22, CEV; cf. Eph 1:20-21). After all, it was Jesus who created the entire host of heaven in the first place! “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).

No matter how out-of-control things may seem on the earth, we must view history from heaven’s vantage point. God’s throne room is command central, and the Court of Heaven is in session! “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” (Rev 4:11).