What’s at the Center of the Universe?

(Thanks for sharing this sermon on Facebook over a 400 times!)

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 10

Revelation 4:1-6a
English Standard Version

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.”

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. [1]



After listening to the letters to the seven churches, it’s no wonder that it was the religious people who killed Jesus. Jesus called them Balaam-ites. Others He called Jezebels. Whole groups of “God’s People” were called a synagogue of Satan. Jesus treated the religious elite of the day as Gentile outcasts when He called the Jews and Gentiles to the same repentance.

And Jesus was right to do so. It is very common for people who grew up in church to think they have access to God outside of repentance and faith.

We church folk create an idea of God in our mind that is not in agreement with the God described in the Bible. We like to imagine God as only working toward our prosperity and success. No fear. No exhortations. No holiness requirements. But, the Bible blasts that false vision of God out of the water.

At this point in the book of Revelation the scene changes. The subject of the revelation stops focusing on us. Jesus and the Father become the subject of the vision.

John says After this I looked, and behold. A Heavenly vision opens before him. This vision will be seen be all people . . . after these things. Our current experience of life on earth is not the fullness of life that Jesus has planned for His people.

John sees a door standing open in Heaven! Heaven’s door is always open to those who live by faith and repentance. Our Father keeps the light on and the door open for His weary children.

And John hears a voice that was loud and clear like that of a musical instrument: a trumpet. This wasn’t really an invitation, but rather a command.

John was shown what must take place after this. We call this God’s Predestined Sovereign Will. There is eternal certainty in the Revelation. There’s no ambiguity about the future.          The events after the church age are already written down on God’s celestial calendar. God has already planned the future. The end was planned from the beginning.

And At once John was in the Spirit.

This has happened to prophets before. The same thing happened to Ezekiel and Isaiah. It’s hard to explain because the participants can’t explain it themselves.

2 Corinthians 12:2 the Apostle Paul said, I was caught up to the third Heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know–only God knows.

What we do know is that during this journey – John saw the center of the universe.

I watched a television series about the universe this last week narrated by Morgan Freeman. Did you know that at the center of every Galaxy, so science believes, is a Black Hole. As far as they can figure a black hole is billions, maybe trillions of stars, all collapsed into a mass the size of a baseball stadium. Maybe as small as the baseball. And the gravity is so intense that even light can’t escape it’s grasp. The same model holds true in miniature for an atom.

So if a black hole is at the center of every galaxy, then what’s at the center of the universe?

John tells us. and behold, a throne stood in Heaven, with one seated on the throne.

There is a throne at the center of the universe. This is the theme of chapter four as the word throne appears 13 times. The throne may not be visible by our modern telescopes, but it is the centerpiece of all that exists.

And the Bible tells us that this throne stands. It is active and empowered. No disinterested Deity sits on that singular throne. God didn’t complete the Creation and become bored. God didn’t wind it up and wait for the timer to ding.

At the center of the universe the Creator reigns supreme.

What is the most basic truth of the Church? Our most fundamental creed and testimony is that “Jesus is Lord.” Then what is the most basic truth of the Creation? The most basic truth of the Creation is that “God exists.”

Psalm 19:1-3 The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Only a fool, led by his own pride of existence, would look at the Creation and conclude that God does not exist. Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. But a throne still stands in Heaven from which men will be judged.

You and I are not on that throne. We do not control our future. We do not control the destination of our eternal destiny. We do not control the standard by which we will be judged. A Holy God will make these determinations for He alone sits on the throne.

At this point in our text John makes descriptive statements. And he who sat there had the appearance ofJohn does not tell you what God looks like. We will not be able to make an artistic rendering of God. Rather, John gives us one metaphor after the other.

Why does John not tell us directly what he saw?

On occasion, National Geographic Magazine runs a story about a unreached people group, a remote tribe in the Amazon, that has never had any contact with outside civilization.

How hard would it be for you to describe to those people the benefits of electricity?

You might start by explaining metal wire. “We thread shinny thread through the walls of our homes and a spirit of energy fills the thread. We then connect our microwave, or a heating box, to the thread in the wall and the spirit of energy cooks our food. We can put a glass ball on the ceilings of our homes and work at night time. It’s as though the sun is on the ceiling of our homes when it is dark.”

None of our metaphors make any sense because there is no reference for understanding. All our descriptions are nothing but terrible approximations. John has the same trouble telling us what Heaven’s Throne looks like.

At the center of the universe God has the appearance like . . . jasper and carnelian.  Jasper was a crystal. Transparent like glass. The word diamond works better in the Biblical interpretation.

Carnelian is red like when a fire radiates or flickers through a diamond.

Meaning? God’s throne is sparkly alive like a diamond and brilliant to see. It is filled with the fire of God’s holiness and truth and radiates beams of red and white.

In fact, all the colors of the light spectrum radiate from the throne of God in Heaven.  John saw a rainbow of brilliant colors all declaring God’s Majesty.

What else did John see.  And 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.

The book of Revelation reveals much about Heaven, but not all of that revelation is explained for us to understand. I don’t think we should jump to conclusions that we know who these twenty four elders are.

There are good reasons to believe that the twenty four elders are in fact the Angelic  Entourage of God. Like when you try to call the President of the United States you get a secretary. That person directs you to a call center where you are then sent to your congressman or senator’s office. The greater the personage, the greater his Entourage.

If this is not the various dominions of God’s Heavenly governance, then it surely represents the twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles. (Reference Art Azurdia’s sermon on this passage for why, in his opinion, it has to be angels.)

I think God left some of the details unexplained, but the general mood of the event is explained with an Old Testament parallel. Maybe you remember Israel’s Mount Sinai experience. God was at the top of the mountain. The people of God were all around the bottom of the mountain.  And God called one person up to reveal Himself to them all.

Israel also experienced flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder and fire. While they were terrified, they were also comforted knowing that their representative could mediate peace for them. Jesus is our Moses who mediates our peace with God.

and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God The interpretation of the Seven Spirits of fire should be connected with the seven fold Spirit revealed earlier in the Revelation. I didn’t explain those verses either. I really don’t know.

(Just a reminder, there are almost forty commentaries on the Book of Revelation in my library, yet I leave certain passages unexplained when none of the commentaries make good sense, or when the interpretations are so conflicting that it’s better not to take a dogmatic stance.)

Finally, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. Any architect knows that a great building is doubled in glory when a reflecting pool is in front of it. Imagine the Washington Monument. Now imagine the glory of the Washington Monument doubled by the reflective pool.

The Heavenly vision of the throne of God is beyond our ability to grasp. Now double it.

Why does God pull back the curtain of Heaven that we might peer into His glory? Because the world needs to know what’s behind the curtain. The world wants to know what’s at the center of the universe. God has no obligation to tell us, but it helps us to know His glory by giving us this sliver of a peek into His majesty.

Let’s wrap this up with an American reflection.

Before DVD and VHS, certain movies where only shown on television a few times a year. Families would gather around the television to watch the movie. It’s a Wonderful Life only came out once a year. The Wizard of Oz was also a family favorite.

At the center of The Wizard of Oz was a grand person named “The Wizard.”

The story starts with Dorothy being transported from a black and white world of fear and discomfort to a beautiful and magical world of hope and promise. She believes that if she can get to the Wizard then she will be blessed with her deepest wishes.

Along the way she meets her companions. She meets a lion without courage, a tin man without a heart, and a scarecrow without a brain.

Finally, they reached the Emerald City where they come to stand before the Great Wizard of Oz. It is a fear filled and terrifying scene. There are flashes of lightening, smoke and thunder. It sounds like the book of Revelation!  =)

But a curious dog named Toto pulled the curtain back to reveal the disappointing reality. The Wizard was a fraud. He is not in control. He is not powerful. He is selfish and self-serving.

Is that what’s really behind the curtain? Is there a black hole at the center of the universe? Darkness? An inert mass that controls the motion of all things, yet without purpose?

Is there not a loving person there? Someone who might explain a wise purpose for the suffering we endured? Is not the meaning and source of life behind the curtain? Our Salvation?

The world hopes to find someone that they can dismiss. A bubbling fool they can forget.

They are betting that salvation is discovered within themselves. That’s what happened to Dorothy and her companions. The journey for the Wizard provided the salvation they needed.

What do you think is at the center of the universe? The book of the Revelation tells those with ears t hear what they will find. We will find the Lord God. Are you ready?


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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