The Transcendent and Redeeming God

2012 The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference


In this 60-minute session from the 2012 TGC Women’s Conference, Kathleen Nielson  unpacks the heavenly realities described in Revelation 4 and 5 to encourage believers in their worship of God.

Kathleen Nielson is the Director of Women's Initiatives for The Gospel Coalition and the author of Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word as well as numerous Bible studies, articles, poems. 


How do you approach the book of Revelation—eager, intimidated, curious? What excites you about the book? What intimidates you?
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Revelation 4:1-11 (ESV)

The Throne in Heaven

1After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”2At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.3And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.5From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was and is and is to come!”

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Kathleen described seven things we see in this picture of heaven in Revelation 4:

  1. A throne
  2. Colorful reflections of God, and a rainbow
  3. A circle of elders, or angelic beings
  4. Lightning and thunder
  5. Torches of fire
  6. A sea of glass
  7. Four creatures praising God 

She said, “There is no logical outline that can get us to the reality of who God is, but pictures expand our comprehension. How merciful of God to let us see in pictures!” 

In what ways do these reflections of God help you to see Him in a new way? Which image is the hardest for you to understand, and why? Which is the most encouraging, and why?
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Revelation 5:1-14 (ESV)

The Scroll and the Lamb

1Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,4and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.5And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.9And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,12saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Kathleen explained that John wept because an unopened scroll meant that history would not unfold as written, and that there would be no meaning to life. Describe a time when you may have questioned the meaning of life or reality of God. What prompted your questioning? How does the gospel of Jesus and story of the Bible give you hope in doubt?
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Kathleen explained that at the heart of both Revelation 4 and 5 is worship. She said, “Worship is what our lives are meant to be about, from the nitty-gritty of tomorrow to eternity.” Have you ever considered that you were created to worship God? What truth about His nature and character compels you to worship? What does worship look like for you on this side of heaven?
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Kathleen concluded, “Carry these pictures so their reality is with you, because they will begin to form the template for you life day-to-day. They will shape your life more and more into a life of worship.” 


To learn more about The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference and how you can attend the next event, click here