The way God showed himself to John in Revelation 4:3 is amazing and full of many layers of rich symbolism if one chooses to explore them. Of course, God had to alter his appearance so as not to show John his full glory given the fact no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20) which means no man has seen God at any time (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). But what he did show John is awesome.
According to Revelation 4:2-3 John said, “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.”
Jasper and sardine stone
It’s interesting to note jasper was the final stone in the high priest’s breastplate of judgment while sardine was the first stone (Exodus 28). In the heavenly Jerusalem, however, jasper is the first while sardine is the sixth (Revelation 21). Both jasper and sardine are equivalent in their symbolism and had high polish glossy finishes, which is probably why the Lord appeared to John this way, inspiring him to mention them together here.
The word jasper is from two Greek words–“ias” and “pis.” “Ias” means curing, healing, and making whole. “Pis” means persuading, trusting, assuring, and believing. Together they mean “healed in believing” or “cured by trusting.” God is the one who heals and cures our sin-sick souls when we believe and trust in him (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
Jasper, like sardine, was also red–another reason why they are mentioned together. The high polished finishes of both stones and the transparency of sardine symbolize God’s high moral standards and character along with his power and right to carry out justice and judgment. The color red is symbolic of blood atonement through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the passover lamb of every believer. Red also represents royalty, prosperity, prestige, and valiance (Lamentations 4:5; Daniel 5:7, 16, 29; Nahum 2:3). Since God showed himself to John like jasper and sardine stone, he sent the clear message that he is the Originator of all of these things for us. They are only acquired by us through him.
The world system has bastardized the symbol of the rainbow for their ungodly ends, whether it’s used for the LGBT movement or for demonic leprechaun fairy tales. The rainbow symbol belongs to the Lord. It is a reminder of his covenant of mercy to never destroy Earth again by a flood (Genesis 9:12-17). But it is also a warning the Earth will be destroyed again by different means. It is therefore a symbol of God’s glory (Ezekiel 1:28) in that he reserves the right to judge with mercy and longsuffering or judge with punishment when he needs to address human behavior.
The rainbow halo surrounding the Lord was like an emerald. The emerald was assigned as the fourth stone of both the breastplate of judgment and the foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem. With its green hue, the emerald as used by God to symbolize himself refers to how he is not only the Creator of life, but the Author of new, everlasting life by Christ’s redeeming power. By extension, it refers to his goodness and power over nature.
Taking into account all of these attributes, they reveal why God is truly worthy of our honor and praise forever and ever. Amen.