When you read John’s account of the throne of Christ and compare that to passages like Ezekiel 1:26-28 you come away understanding that the Lord’s throne is not a place of peace and comfort. It is full of activity and glory – and a place that evokes fear.
(2) And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
(3) And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
(4) And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
(5) And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Savior and Judge
We like to keep Jesus in a box. He’s “baby Jesus.” He’s “friend Jesus.” He’s “safe Jesus.” But Jesus is more than just Savior. He is also Judge. As judge, He is to be greatly feared and respected. Because He judges in truth and in righteousness. He cannot be swayed or bought off. Hebrews reminds us that yes, He is Savior, but He is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Thankfully, believers are spared His wrath because He took our judgment upon Himself, but His mercy toward us in no way diminishes the fact that He is a jealous God and a God of wrath:
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalms 2:12)
A Judge Full of Glory
John says the Lord “was to look upon like a jasper.” The “jasper” is best understood as a diamond reflecting and refracting all the colors of the spectrum. (See Revelation 21:11 where the jasper is described as “crystal clear” like a diamond is.) The Lord shines with glory and majesty. That John mentions sardius and jasper is significant because those two were the first and the last stones in the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20). The stones represented Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest, indicating that despite His wrath, believing Israel – and those who also believe like Israel – would be spared. The two names Reuben and Benjamin are also allusions to the Son of God Himself: Reuben means “behold, a son,” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand.”
Wrath that Remembers Mercy
Balancing the fearsomeness of the Lord on His throne, is the presence of a rainbow, something both John and Ezekiel make note of. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s wrath appeased, His promise to no more destroy the earth with a flood, a symbol of peace, faithfulness, mercy, and grace. It is a reminder that His wrath never forgets His faithfulness. While we might lose control in the midst of our human wrath, God never forgets Himself or His promises to those who put their trust in Him. Yes, He is a consuming fire and a fearsome Judge, but those who put their trust in Him have nothing to fear.