Psalms 63:1-4 NIV
1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
This Psalm is full of the experiences the Psalmist had that are so much like our own. In dry and desert-like spiritual conditions, we know our only place of refreshing is in God's presence. We remember times in His sanctuary - his presence, where we have beheld His power and glory - and we long for that again. Like the writer here, we also earnestly seek God, for our whole being thirsts for Him.
One day, Moses opened his heart before God, and from the depths of his longing said to Him, "Now show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18). Moses enjoyed a unique relationship with his Creator. No other among the children of Israel knew such fellowship. Moses had seen miracles and wonders. He had extraordinary encounters with God on the top of Mount Sinai. But, like the Psalmist, his heart wished for more. He longed for a full knowledge of the glory of God.
When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, after seeing the hinder part of God, he was not aware that his own face was so radiant because of being in God's presence. Moses, having touched but a little of God's glory, made such an impact on the people that, in fear, they asked him to cover his face.
And then in the new Testament, Peter and John, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, brought amazement to the people, who "took note that these men had been with Jesus." Isn't it time for people to see us and say the same thing?
Numbers 6:24-26 NIV, says:
24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." '
How often have we quoted that verse without thinking much about what it really means to have his face shine upon us?
Psalms 42:1-2 (NIV) says it well:
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
"When can I go and meet with God?" Is that your desire?
The Old Testament Tabernacle is a wonderful figure that God has given us as a model to help us understand the relationship of Jesus with his church. It gives the manner by which we can approach God. We are told in the New Testament that everything related to this tabernacle were given as an example for us. So let's take a look at the Tabernacle.
The Outer Courtyard
The courtyard - 150 by 75 feet - was surrounded by a white linen wall more than eight feet high. The entrance to the courtyard was on the east. Only the Levites and priests were allowed through the one and only door - 30 feet wide. The actual structure of the tabernacle was only 45 feet in length and 15 feet wide.
The first thing a person saw was a large altar, most commonly called the "Brazen Altar." Next, there was a round basin on a stand with water in it. It was called the Laver. The priests would wash their hands and their feet before entering the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle proper was a rectangular tent having two chambers. Hebrews 9:1-5 refers to both of these chambers. When the priest entered through the front curtain, they were standing in a 10 cubit by 20 cubit room. That makes it about 15 feet by 30 feet, and was the larger of the two chambers. It was called the Holy Place. In this part of the tabernacle were three pieces of furniture. You would see the lamp stand - or Menorah on the left. To the right and opposite the Menorah is where you would find the Table of Shewbread. Straight ahead and next to the inner curtain is where we would find the Altar of Incense. Special incense was burned there
Just behind the altar of incense was a very thick curtain separating the two chambers. The next room is called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place was the smaller of the two, but the most holy.
WERE THERE RESTRICTION ON WHO COULD ENTER THIS ROOM?
Yes. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once each year.
WHAT WAS IN THIS ROOM?
The Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant had a covering, called the Mercy Seat or the Atonement Cover. Here the glory of God was revealed in visible form. In the Hebrew, that is known as the Shekinah Glory. A Passage in Hebrews refers to the Most Holy Place:
Hebrews 10:19-22 NIV
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
This is the greatest invitation we can think of! For us the Most Holy Place represents heaven itself. "For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence" (Hebrews 9:24).
This is exactly what Stephen saw when he was about to become a martyr.
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Look, he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56).
I have good news: The heavens are still open!! The glory of God is as close to you as the word that reaches your mouth from your own heart. "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith…" (Romans 10:8).
We are to have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. When the Lord broke his own body on the cross, He split the spiritual curtain which separated us from His holy presence. We who now form part of His church have "a new and living way" open to the glory which is in Him.
So, let's now approach the Most Holy Place - sometimes called the Throne Room in Heaven. Many of the Bible writers give us a glimpse of the Throne Room, like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. But the best description of that holy place is in the Book of Revelation.
One reason I love the Book of Revelation is that it keeps our time and purpose here on earth in clear perspective. It displays such striking contrasts:
o heaven and earth
o time and eternity
o evil and good
o illusion and reality
o lies and truth
o the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.
Reading the Book of Revelation is a powerful reminder that this world is passing away. It sets our focus on the world that is to come, instead of on Wall Street.
It reminds us of an eternal throne in the heavens. It reveals the majesty and eternity of Him who sits on that throne and the indescribable splendor of the glorious person who is seated at His right hand. And Revelation 1:3 even promises a blessing upon those who read and keep what is written.
Most Bible books have key verses that give a synopsis of what the Book addresses. For the Book of Revelation, it is Chapter 1, Verse 19.
Revelation 1:19 NKJV
19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
This key verse gives us an outline for the entire Book of Revelation. It divides the book into three parts.
o The things John had seen - that's past tense, and represents chapter 1.
o The things which are - this is speaking of the 7 churches - chapters 2 & 3
o The things which will take place after this - this speaks of chapters 4 - 22.
Let's go to the beginning of the third section - Chapter 4.
Revelation 4:1-2 NIV
1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first 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 there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
Notice the phrase, "after this" is at the beginning and ending of verse 1. This ties it to the previous chapters, but following them. Also notice that the last four words of verse one is the same at the last four of Rev. 1:19. So there should be no doubt that the third section mentioned in Revelation 1:19 begins with Chapter 4.
I have a reason why I want to take you to gaze upon the throne of God. Before I do, I want to give credit to Mike Bickle, pastor of Metro Christian Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri, for being the one who got me to thinking along the lines we will study today. There have been times I have been praying in the past where it seemed my prayers were going nowhere. This has probably happened to most of you as well. Intellectually, I know the Word of God tells us He does hear us when we pray, but you sense there is no response. It seems to be going to some nebulous being, far beyond the grasp of my realities. There is a sense of disconnectedness, with no real sense of praying to a real person.
My taking you to gaze upon the throne of God and Him who sits upon it, is to give you a simple devotional aid. John describes a scene in heaven into which our prayers ascend.
In a few minutes, I will be showing you an artists depiction of what is mentioned about the throne room of God in Revelation 4 & 5. But first, note some of the descriptions of our prayers in heaven.
Revelation 5:8 speaks of the "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
Revelation 8:4 adds that "the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascend before God..."
Your and my prayers are all captured by God and (remove). Not one is lost. The Psalmist, David, says in Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer be set before you as incense,..."
John is describing for us what happens when we lift our voices and say, "Father, I love You." He paints a word picture of the setting into which our requests and petitions ascend. My hope is that you will see this scene as you pray. When you pray, I want you to gaze upon the throne and the One who occupies that throne.
I have looked at every biblical passages that help in describing this scene. Some of the major, even lengthy passages are found in:
o Isaiah 6
o Ezekiel 1
o Daniel 7
o Revelation 7
But there are also some single verses, like Revelation 15:2, which says:
"And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God."
But the most detailed description of the throne room is found in Revelation 4 & 5. The word, "throne," is mentioned in the Bible 197 times. In the Old Testament, not all of the uses of "throne" is speaking about God's throne. Of the 62 times the word "throne" is used in the New Testament, all but four are speaking of the throne of God.
As I searched all these passages, especially those giving a description of the throne, it significantly changed my prayer life. When I saw the details of the throne room and what took place there when we pray, God became more and more real to me.
Instead of praying into the air, Revelation 4 helped me focus my thoughts upon the loving, majestic Person seated upon His glorious throne. With that picture in mind, I could now speak into His heart, and see how pleased He is of the incense coming up before Him. This is not some phony New Age visualization technique. Picturing the awesome scene, as John describes it, helps me to have fellowship with Jesus.
In the first verse of Revelation 4, we are told that John sees an open door. Remember that John has just seen the glorified Christ in Chapter 1, where John falls before him as a dead man. And John has written down, at Christ's direction, the things that were intended for the seven churches of Asia Minor. Now, he looks up and sees a door "standing open in heaven."
I mention this first, not only because it is the first thing John sees, but because of the significance of it being open. The door to the throne room of God is always open.
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) tells us:
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God desires full access for us in entering His throne room. And St. Peter will not be standing at this door asking why he should let you into heaven's throne room. Just as God tells the apostle John in the next verse to "Come up Here!" He is now calling us to enter through the open door into His throne room. And all who have accepted Christ as Savior can enter. The door is never closed - and it never matters the time of the day or night.
Now, let's go through the door and gaze upon the throne.
Revelation 4 NKJV
1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.
7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.
8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
11 "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."
Earlier I mentioned that because Christ became the Passover sacrifice and died, the thick veil between the two rooms in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Because of that, we can now go directly into the throne room of God.
Ephesians 3:12 NIV
12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Because we now have access, Paul adds, two verses later:
"For this reason I kneel before the Father,"
"from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
The Glory of God
While Jesus walked on earth, His glory was veiled in human flesh. Veils were used in the Bible to hide the glory of God. A veil hid the Holy of Holies and the glory of God in the tabernacle, Hebrews 10:29 speaks of the "veil, that is, his flesh." A veil was put over Moses' face to hide the glory.
But because of what Christ did, we have immediate access into the presence of God and his glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18 reads:
"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
We no longer need a priest to talk to God for us. All believers are now members of a "royal priesthood." (1 Peter 2:9). That has been made possible because of the work of Christ on the cross. The veil has been destroyed. We now have immediate access to the throne of God.