Why is the Doctrine of the Trinity a Hill Worth Dying On?
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Why is the Doctrine of the Trinity a Hill Worth Dying On?

What’s the First Thing You See in Heaven?

Posted February 27, 2023
DoctrineHeaven and Hell

There are seven principles for interior design, and one of the most important is emphasis. A room’s emphasis is its focal point—that which draws the eye as soon as anyone enters the space. From imposing fireplaces to striking pieces of art and ornate furniture, a room’s emphasis could be many things; whatever it is, though, says much about the owners of the room itself.

What is heaven’s emphasis? This is what the book of Revelation offers, as the apostle John is given a glimpse of heaven while living in exile on the remote isle of Patmos. To what is John’s gaze drawn first, as the angel of the Lord welcomes him through the door of heaven (Rev. 4:1)? Notably, it’s not a map outlining how all things will come to pass at the end of days. Nor is it some massive bulletin board revealing how all the events of history intersect with God’s divine plan. Instead, one thing absorbs all of John’s attention.

He is immediately enthralled by a magnificent throne, the seat of heavenly authority. He’s transfixed, in fact—he mentions it some fourteen times in a mere eleven verses (Rev. 4:1–11). What captivates John’s eyes is none other than the very site from which all of heaven and earth is governed. Men and women may sit themselves down on thrones of their own making, but in reality, there’s only one throne from which all things are ordered, and it’s this throne: heaven’s throne. “The throne stands supreme,” R. C. H. Lenski comments, “stands exalted and serene forever.”[i] The sight of that seat would be enthralling enough, but John’s gaze settles on the “one seated on the throne” (Rev. 4:2–3). This, of course, is the Lord God Almighty, El Shaddai himself.

The one who spoke all things into existence occupies creation’s throne, ruling in perfect providence and holiness. He “who was and is and is to come”—unbound by space and time—perfectly orchestrates all things according to his divine wisdom and grace. His dominion is ageless, his decrees binding (Rev. 4:9–10). There’s no questioning or disputing the ordinances that come from he who is “seated on the throne,” which sound like “rumblings and peals of thunder” (Rev. 4:5). He is worthy of all because he is Lord of all: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,” the anthem resounds, “to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Every aspect of this throne room scene is aimed at focusing all the attention on “him who is seated on the throne” (Rev. 4:9). Scholars have spent a lot of time and energy attempting to identify the twenty-four elders and four “living creatures” encircling the throne. Their strange and extraordinary descriptions can very quickly steal our attention. But what is clear is that they are heavenly beings whose position and function are completely consumed by honoring “him who is seated on the throne.” They raise a never-ceasing chorus of praise to this thrice-holy God, falling prostrate in reverence before him. And this is what serves as the pulsating comfort of Revelation.

Is the Sky Falling?

Take a quick glance at your newsfeed or any handful of online publications and you might be led to believe that this world of ours is on the fast track to ruin. I’ve read a number of blogs and listened to several podcasts—even from fellow Christians—that seem to suggest that the sky is falling. If I didn’t know better, I might think the future is grim for God’s people; that everything is falling apart. Like David, perhaps we’re tempted to “flee like a bird to the mountains” (Ps. 11:1). We are, no doubt, full of questions, chief among which is, where is God in all of this?

What John saw serves as our constant supply of hope and peace. Heaven’s throne is decidedly not vacant, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be. Furthermore, neither is it filled by some nonchalant or indifferent sovereign. Rather, it’s occupied by the Lord Almighty—the one who is actively and authoritatively involved in every last bit of our lives. “That throne,” Dale Ralph Davis says, “is not the place of inactivity but of supremacy; it does not suggest distance but dominion.”[ii] God on high, the King of kings, is mindful of you and me (Ps. 8:4–6). The same hands that formed every distant planet and set every star in its place are holding onto you. That’s who inhabits heaven’s throne. And he has not—nor will he ever—abdicate his seat.

[i] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1963), 190.

[ii] Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life: Psalms 1–12 (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2020), 129.

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Bradley Gray

Bradley Gray serves as the senior pastor of Stonington Baptist Church in Paxinos, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife Natalie and their three children, Lydia, Braxton, and Bailey. He is the author of Finding God in the Darkness: Hopeful Reflections from the Pits of Depression, Despair, and Disappointment and is a regular contributor for  and is a regular contributor for 1517 and  and Mockingbird. He also blogs regularly at www.graceupongrace.net.