John has a knack for making the ordinary unfamiliar. A throne…that shoots lightning. A sea…of crystal, or glass. Seven lampstands…that are spirits, and—earlier—churches. But this is a good theological practice. God, after all, is familiar yet extraordinary. He’s our friend, our father, our mother, our maker, our creator, our redeemer, our lord…we have good earthly examples of all of these, yet God surpasses them swiftly. We know who God is…ish. Which is why we can relate to John’s vision. He sees things we ought to comprehend, but cannot—at least, not in the ways he’s put them together.In much the same way, we understand what God wants from us, but not always how. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are far beyond our ways. We yearn to know him more, yet tremble the more we know him.
Perhaps nothing captures this quite so well as the description of the jewels on the throne. We’re familiar with jewels, but somehow they don’t seem to fit here. At first, they seem too cheap and tawdry for the creator of the universe. If God can make entirely new creatures—those with the faces of men, oxen, lions, and eagles—then why does he have to resort to De Beers and Medawar Jewelers to decorate his big chair? But then, a realization slowly dawns. God is clothed in light. Always. And what happens when brilliant light shines through perfectly cut stones? They burst into brilliantly refracted beams of light.
Can you imagine standing there, like John?
The creator seated upon his throne? The 24 elders, leaders of Israeli tribes & the 12 apostles, laying down their crowns before him? Lighting and thunder proceeding from his resting place, reminiscent of Sinai? Lampstand-spirits, the churches we’ve just referenced in Revelation 2-3, burning in front of a crystal sea?
And fire. Everywhere the magnificence of God burnishing forth like jeweled flame.
That’s an experience worth writing about.