“Above the dome over their heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire stone.” (Ezekiel 1:26)
Can you imagine standing face to face with God?
Would you shout Halleluyah! or not be able to speak at all?
Would you dance for Yeshua or fall to your face before the Lord?
These are the questions the American Christian music band called Mercy Me asks in their hit song, “I Can only Imagine.”
Though we don’t know how we would actually respond when standing before the literal throne of God, we can see what it’s like to approach the throne of God.
The prophets shared with us their vivid visions of His throne. And the apostles told us how we can enter His presence with confidence.
One day all of us will approach His throne (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25 31-40; Revelation 20:4,11).
So let’s discover what His throne is, what it means for each of us today and on the day that we will appear before His throne.
Can God Really Sit on a Throne?
In the Tanakh (Old Testament), and in modern Hebrew the word כִּסֵא (pronounced keesay) is a chair. But most often in the Bible, it refers to a throne.
While God is our King of kings, He is also Spirit, so can He really sit on a literal throne? One of the most influential Jewish scholars and sages of all time, Maimonides also known as the Rambam (12th century) said, no.
He believed that God showed the prophets a literal throne only as a way to help the Israelites (who were accustomed to seeing kings and statues of pagan gods in Egypt and Canaan sitting on thrones) identify with Himself as the King of all kings, whose glory, reign, and authority are above any other throne on earth.
Whether God’s throne is literal or allegorical, the language of the throne in the Bible emphasizes God’s authority. Just as a king has authority over his domain, so God has authority over all creation and beyond.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the word for to sit in Hebrew is shev, which can also mean to dwell or inhabit.
So, perhaps God dwells wherever His throne is.
As we’ll see, His throne could be anywhere and everywhere at the same time.
Let’s start to understand what the throne of God means to us by looking at the robe that our King of kings wears as He sits upon His throne.
The Glory, Exaltation, and Authority of Our King
“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train (hem) of His robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)
No matter how wealthy and splendid an earthly king was, none of his robes could outdo the Lord’s, which “filled the temple” in Isaiah’s vision of God’s throne.
The length of a king’s robe represented the level of glory and splendor he wanted to portray among his subjects.
Keep in mind that in ancient Israel, elaborate robes would have been painstakingly woven together by hand one thread at a time with great precision and craftsmanship.
The Lord’s robe is so expansive that His glory and splendor covers His entire house, summoning worship and praise from everyone.
But, of course, His glory is not limited to a building made by hands.
In chapter 6, God shows Isaiah another dimension of His throne.
This time, Seraph angels are attending to the Lord, calling out, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.’”
And in Chapter 66, God says that “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool.”
Even the clouds of the sky, the rain, the thunder, the air we breathe declare the glory of God, as if His robe extends around our earth and over each of our homes. (Psalm 77:13–19)
As David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
“They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1–4)
A king’s robe was not the only symbol of his glory.
The height of his throne represented the level of authority and power he possessed and commanded.
High above all other kings and kingdoms, God’s throne is in the heavens and the earth is but one of a vast array of creations.
“All these things My hand has made, and so all these things are Mine, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:2)
What can anyone do in the presence of such power?
“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,” writes the psalmist. (Psalm 114:7)
Let’s see how even the holy prophets of God, who warned Jewish people about their severe sins ― and were also human beings who sinned ― entered the presence of such a holy, omnipotent, omnipresent King and left empowered and emboldened to serve Him.
Isaiah and Ezekiel Approach God’s Throne
When Isaiah entered the presence of God’s supreme power and majesty (Isaiah chapter 6), he was suddenly aware of his own sinfulness and did not understand how he could be in the holy presence of YHVH Sabbaoth, the Lord of Hosts.
“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” he cried.
Just then, one of the Seraphs took a hot coal from the altar in the Temple and touched Isaiah’s lips:
“Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out,” said the angel. With a clean slate, so to speak, in the eyes of YHVH, Isaiah could embark on His commission.
“Hineini – Here I am,” he told the Lord, ready to serve You.
When the Prophet Ezekiel approached God’s throne in all its splendor, he fell on his face.
But the Ruach or Spirit entered him and put him back on his feet so he could proceed with his unique commission. (Ezekiel 2:1-3)
What God did for Isaiah and Ezekiel, He makes available to each of us.
Aware of our sin, He has removed our guilt and given us His Spirit so we can embark on our own unique commissions.
How Can We Approach God’s Throne?
Just as God dealt with Isaiah’s sinfulness and Ezekiel was filled with God’s Spirit, so we too must come into God’s presence to be cleansed and filled with His Spirit.
We know that living a holy life is not always easy, but it is what God calls us to. It takes work by spending time with God in prayer and in His presence.
But what can we do when we fail?
The words of the song by Dave Browning help us understand how we can deal with our sin and how God has provided for us.
We still need a High Priest to make atonement for our sins, as Israel did.
This High Priest who would atone for our sins once and for all “had to become like His brothers and sisters in every respect, so that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God; to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
That High Priest is Yeshua (Jesus)!
Through this eternal High Priest, we have access to the throne of God!
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Understanding His mercy and receiving His forgiveness is humbling.
Filled with His Spirit, we can humbly but also boldly approach our King on His throne with praise and worship, asking Him for help and guidance in our lives.
“This is the one to whom I will look,” God said on His throne, “to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
The Jewish apostle Matthew wrote his book to the Jewish followers of Yeshua explaining that the true children of God have responsibilities to follow God’s word, His house rules. That’s the deal.
A day will come when we will stand before the throne of Messiah and be judged according to His word:
“When the Son of Man comes [Messiah Yeshua] in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. …
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Get away from Me, you who are accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matthew 25:31–41)
Let us pray that the Jewish People will come to the knowledge of their Messiah and be counted as one of the sheep who will enter eternity with Him in heaven.