And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.…
The picture introduces us into the midst of the heavenly world, and shows to us its enthroned Sovereign spanned with an arch of iridescent light, ineffable majesty blossoming out in forms of tender beauty, the beauty brightening the majesty, the majesty solemnising the beauty, Divine and eternal, and yet raying out into lines of genial and affectionate colour such as the eye can delight in, and the face and heart grow bright and cheerful under. There is the throne and there is the rainbow, the solemnity of the throne qualifies the rainbow and the rainbow qualifies the throne, and they make not two pictures, but one picture; the two features that customary thought divorces, the imagery marries in solid wedlock, and righteousness and peace are shown to have kissed each other. That is a wonderful answer that stands in the Westminster Assembly Shorter Catechism in response to the question, "What is God?" "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth." That is a wonderful answer, but then it is not my God any more than putting arms, legs, trunk, and head alongside of one another compose my father. Considered as a schedule of detail, as a bill of Divine particulars, that answer cannot be surpassed, but it will have to yield instant precedence to the imagery of our verse when the object sought is not a God dissected in the interests of philosophy, but God whole, and entire, in the interests of love and worship. What I feel that I need for myself in my religious character and relations, is to be able to come to God in the entireness of His personality — come to Him, in that respect, in the same way in which a boy comes to his father. True personal approach combines into indistinguishable unity all those ingredients that to pure speculation stand separate and distinct. Now, that is the charm and the truth of the Apocalyptic picture in our text. It brings the solemn sovereignty of God and the sweet, accessible beauty and loveliness of God so into relation with each other, and so draws them through one another, that each quality is felt to inhere in the other, and one indivisible God to be the issue of it, all whose majesty is sweet, and all whose sweetness is majestic. You behold the rainbow about the throne, and you behold the throne by the light of the rainbow. The world is going to grow better by coming to know God better. What St. Paul said at Athens still holds, "Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you." To help people to feel God as He is, is the one only comprehensive service that we can render them; and if the peculiar glimpse of God afforded us by this imagery of St. John once becomes an appreciated and a conscious truth with us, it will easily, not to say necessarily, work practical results in our theology and in our hearts and lives. Once let us feel, as John's picture suggests, that God all belongs together, that violence is done Him whenever any one of His attributes is plucked from its coherency with His other attributes, and we shall be saved from what has been the bane of all theology — namely, founding on some individual attribute which has been rudely dislocated from its companion attributes, taking the amputated member and electing it to be the vitals of a living system. Now, that makes theology easy, but it makes it a lie. The throne is a lie without the rainbow, and the rainbow is a lie without the throne. Now, that conducts directly to two schools of theologic thought. One starts with the solemnities of God, and the other starts with the amenities; they both make bad start, and consequently they both make a bad finish. One begins with the majesty of God, and gets along as best it can with His love; the other starts with the love of God, and gets along as well as it can with His majesty. One gives us a solemn despot, and the other gives us a doting old grandfather. One is just as good as the other, and neither is good for anything so far as being a just statement of the truth is concerned. We often conceive of God as acting at one instant out of His pure mercy, as if His justice had for a time been put in a dark closet or gone off on a vacation, and that His mercy was the only attribute that had remained at home and that was doing all the work. Then, after mercy has worked until it is tired, we think of Him as putting that to sleep and letting everything for a time be managed at the arbitrament of unassisted justice. I venture to say that there is not among us the conception that, when God acts, He acts in the entireness of His being always, as He always does, and always will; that His justice and His mercy, for example, have no existence apart from each other; that He never surrenders Himself to a single impulse, has no pet attribute, but that all of Him is in everything that He does.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.