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Revelation 21:5-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 39 secs

Plurality In The Godhead: Trinity and Perichoresis. Revelation 21:5-6

We are going to get into a review of the doctrine of the Trinity and a doctrine that is known as perichoresis. What we have seen so far in this chapter is that the time shifts to a time in the future beyond the Millennial kingdom and after the great white throne judgment. It is clear that a new earth and a new universe is created, with some different dynamics—the geophysical laws that operated during the time period between the Noahic flood and now are different from that which preceded the Noahic flood and that which will come after the Millennial kingdom. We just don't live in a static universe, though God has created it in such a way that He oversees it and we do have stability. As part of the new earth there will be a new Jerusalem, but in these opening verses it is dealing more with the spiritual life in the new heavens and new earth as well as the role of church age believers—what happens to church age believers in the new heavens and new earth. We rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial kingdom, but what about beyond that?

As an introduction to that we focus on the person of God, the person who is sitting on the throne in verse 5. Revelation 21:5 NASB "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" Starting in Revelation 1:9 we are introduced to the vision that the apostle John had on the island of Patmos, and the Lord Jesus Christ addresses him in light of the churches that represent the church down through the ages of the church age. Then in verse 19 the Lord Jesus Christ commissions him: "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things." That gives us the structure for the book of Revelation. In 21:5 he is given the same command: "write." But now the one who is addressing him is not the Son, it is the one who is sitting on the throne, and we will see that that can only be God the Father. "Write, for these words are faithful and true." That also interesting because the one who appears to John on the island of Patmos is the one who is true and faithful, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so there is almost, as it were, a play on words here because the word for "words" is logos (also a title for the Lord Jesus Christ) [logoj] in the plural, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who is faithful and true. It is showing this close connection between the Father and the Son, and that is what we get into when we get into the doctrine of perichoresis. This is an important doctrine that has been taught as part of the doctrine of the Trinity down through the centuries but one that is not very well understood.

The first thing we should do as we approach the passage is define who it is who is sitting on the throne. This can be confusing. Those who hold to an amillennial or post-millennial view believe that when Jesus Ascended He sat on His throne and He sat on the throne of David which is a spiritual throne in heaven and at that point He became the King and begins to rule at that point. Amillennial = no literal 1000-year earthly kingdom. Post-millennialism grew out of amillennialism, still spiritualizing and allegorizing the various passages related to the kingdom; but for them the church which (to them) has replaced Israel (Replacement theology) and Israel is irrelevant to the plan of God completely in their view, and the church gradually brings in the kingdom. Their view is that the Holy Spirit working in the church expands through evangelism more and more until everybody is saved, the kingdom comes in, and after the kingdom comes in Jesus returns. So for them Jesus' return is at the end of the kingdom. It is not a Jewish kingdom, not a literal 1000-year kingdom, but it is an earthly kingdom and Jesus come sonly after this has been established. In pre-millennialism Jesus comes first and defeats the Antichrist and false prophet and establishes His kingdom.

All of these things are interrelated because we have to understand what the kingdom is, and that is not always easy to do because there are two senses in which we have a kingdom. There is kingdom in terms of the sovereign reign of God over His creation, and in that broad sense God the Father is viewed as a King, as the sovereign ruling over His creation. On the other hand we have the introduction and prophecy of a kingdom—there was a literal theocratic kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament—which is an earthly kingdom that will be the one where the curse is rolled back, i.e. the Messianic kingdom. So the idea of kingdom is very important because in the Old Testament this kingdom was foretold and then when John the Baptist and Jesus' disciples came along and started announcing "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," the kingdom is never defined by them. You have to go to the Old Testament to understand to what that word referred. It refers to that literal earthly kingdom that would be ruled by the heir of David. The whole idea of kingdom and an earthly reign are intimately related. Of course to have a kingdom there has to be a king, and a king rules upon his throne; so the words "throne" and "kingdom" are intimately related.

When we come to verse 5 we read about this one who is sitting on the throne. Is that the Father? Is that the Son? The way to address this is to go back to the beginning of the book of revelation and see how the word "throne" is used. The first time we see this phrase is in Revelation 1:4 NASB "John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne." Here we have a title for one member of the Trinity. He is the one who is and who was and who is to come. Many focus on that last phrase "who is to come" and think that is Jesus because they focus on Revelation 19, that Jesus is coming. So there are those who have made the mistake of interpreting this in terms of Jesus, but that doesn't work because, as we have seen, in Revelation 21:3 "the tabernacle of God will be with men." God the Father will take up His residence upon the earth. All three members of the Trinity will take up residence upon the earth. John says, "Him who is and who was and who is to come," and that phrase is used several times in Revelation and so we have to trace that as we go through the book and we realize that it always refers to the one who is sitting on the throne. He is also going to be described as "God" or "the Lord God." He will also be described as "the Almighty." We will see that all of these phrases relate to the one who sits on the throne and none of these titles in the book of Revelation are ever used to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"…and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne." The "His" there refers to the one who is and who was and who is to come. We have two persons here, the one who is sitting on the throne and the seven Spirits who are before His throne which is an allusion to the fullness of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit—Isaiah 61:1.

The next time we have mention of a throne in terms of heaven is in Revelation 3:21 which comes at the end of the two chapters related to the seven letters to the seven churches. There is a promise of reward, or in some cases discipline, at the end of each one of those report cards for those seven churches. At the end of the seventh one there is the promise "'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne…" We have to ask who is speaking here. It is Jesus. It is a future tense verb in the Greek, "I will grant"—future active indicative of didomi [didomi] meaning to give or to grant. This reference to a throne in relation to Jesus is something that is future, not present. "…as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." He "also overcame" happened right before He went to the cross because Jesus said in John 16, "I have overcome the world," a perfect active indicative of the verb meaning completed action. The world is always the object of that verb to overcome. He didn't overcome sin on the cross, He overcame the world in terms of His spiritual life and not yielding to temptation. At the ascension He "sat down with My Father on His throne." When He ascended to heaven He didn't sit on His throne, He sat on the Father's throne, and He is still seated at the Father's right hand, still seated on the Father's throne, and he will not sit on His own throne until the kingdom is given to Him, and that doesn't occur until He prepares to return to the earth. So in Revelation 3:21 the throne is the Father's throne.

Then Revelation 5:13. In Revelation chapters four and five we have a heavenly introduction to the Tribulation period. There is the throne room scene, and before the throne are the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who represent the risen, rewarded, raptured, church age believers. Then there is this cry going forth seeking someone who can open the seven-sealed scroll that is lying in the hand of the Father who is sitting on the throne. There are two personages here, the Father who is sitting on the throne with the scroll in His open hand and then the Lamb who comes before the throne. They are distinct persons. NASB "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, {be} blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'"

Revelation 6:16 NASB "and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.'" This occurs at the end of the sixth seal judgment when the leaders of the earth dwellers are under assault from this heavenly asteroid barrage. Again, there are two distinct personages here, the one on the throne and the Lamb who is not on the throne yet.

In Revelation chapter seven we have some key verses. Revelation 7:9 NASB "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and {all} tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches {were} in their hands; [10] and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" theos [Qeoj] never refers to Jesus in the book of Revelation, it always refers to the Father…. [15] "For this reason, they [the living creatures and the 24 elders] are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them [dwell among them]." The focus in Revelation isn't Jesus coming to dwell among men, but the Father coming to dwell among men—Revelation 21. [17] "…for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." The one who sits on the throne is going to dwell among them, the Lamb is going to shepherd them. Notice He is not on the throne; He is in the midst of the throne. It is the Lamb who shepherds them and leads them to living fountains of water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Cf. Revelation 21:4. Notice it is God in 7:17 and God in 21:4—not Jesus but the Father.

Revelation 12:5 NASB "And she gave birth to a son, a male {child,} who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne." This is the scene where John sees the woman who represents Israel. This is a depiction of the birth of the Messiah. Again the throne refers to the Father.

Revelation 19:4 NASB "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, 'Amen. Hallelujah!'"

Revelation 22:1, 3 NASB "Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb… There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him." This is the first time that we see the Lamb upon the throne. Up until Revelation chapter 22 which is new heavens and new earth the Lamb doesn't sit on the throne. He sits on the Father's throne, and then we know from Old Testament passages He sits on David's throne and rule over Israel, but this is the first time in Revelation that the Lamb is on the throne. When we run through all these passages we see that the throne refers to God the Father. The second thing we see is that theos [qeoj], used 87 times, always refers to God the Father in Revelation. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is sometimes referred to as the Lamb (27 times in Revelation); He is called the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of God, the Son of Man, each identifying Him as the second person of the Trinity.

In chapter 21 He who sat on the throne is clearly a reference to the Father. So the next thing we have to discern is that God the Father is speaking to John. Revelation 21:5 NASB "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" The word "new" is the Greek word kainos [kainoj] which indicates that it is an integral newness, not simply a revision; it is something completely new. "These words are true and faithful" alludes to and brings out a connection between words, the title logos for the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the fact that true and faithful are adjectives used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:11 NASB "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it {is} called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. [12] His eyes {are} a flame of fire, and on His head {are} many diadems; and He has a name written {on Him} which no one knows except Himself. [13] {He is} clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God." There is clearly an allusion here to the second person of the Trinity.

Revelation 21:6 NASB "Then He said to me, 'It is done. [The plan is complete] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." Earlier we saw that the Lamb is going to lead to that water, but it is the Father here who says he will give the water freely to him who thirsts. There are two titles that relate to deity here: Alpha and Omega. They apply to the Father. The reason it doesn't apply to the Son (except in one passage): In Revelation 1:8 NASB "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." The words "the beginning and the end" is not found in the Critical Text or the Majority text; it is only in the Textus Receptus. This is not the Son speaking here it is the Father. It says "Says the Lord" in the KJV and NKJV but the Majority Text says "the Lord God," as does the Critical Text, and that is substantiated by early versions as well. When it is "Lord God" it is talking about God the Father. Revelation 1:6 NASB "and He has made us {to be} a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him {be} the glory and the dominion forever and ever." The construction there identifies God the Father, and that is the first time we find God related in this way in Revelation. Revelation 22:13 is the other place that mentions the Aplha and the Omega, and there we see that this does apply to the Lord Jesus Christ. So it applies to both because the Father is eternal, the Son is eternal; it also applies to the Holy Spirit, although it is never stated that way, because He is eternal.

The Father is also the one who is described as the Almighty, Revelation 4:8. This is in the scene before the throne of God, the 24 elders and the four living creatures. NASB "And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY {is} THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME." In another scene of heavenly praise: Revelation 11:17 NASB "saying, 'We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.'" Notice the last part of that says, "because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign." And it is not the Son! There is no place in the Scriptures that talks about the kingdom being a present reality; it is a future reality but not a present reality, and Jesus is never referred to as the King and His authority as the King is never the basis for challenges, exhortations, or commands to church age believers. He commands us because He is the head of the body, not because He is the King. Not once do we ever find the apostle Paul saying we need to obey Jesus as our King. He says He is the head of the body, the church, and we need to obey Him for that reason. There is no present kingdom, He is not the King, and the only reference to kings and reigning at this stage, pre-second coming, is the Father. This is emphasized again in Revelation 15:3 NASB "And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,  "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!"

Revelation 16:14 NASB "for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty." This is talking about the Father, not the Son even though He is going to come back and destroy the enemies of God.  Revelation 19:6 NASB "Then I heard {something} like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.'" That is the Father. Then when Jesus returns we read, [15] "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." What that is saying is He is executing the judgments of Almighty God, i.e. God the Father. Revelation 21:22 NASB "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Note the distinction made between those two persons. 

Revelation 21:5 NASB "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.' [6] Then He said to me, 'It is done…" That is the plan of God, the angelic conflict; it is all over with, evil has been defeated. "… I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." That is a great passage related to salvation, the freeness of the offer of salvation. In fact, this same imagery is found in Isaiah 12:3 NASB "Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation." It is also used in Isaiah 55:1 NASB "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost."

Giving the water is free. But what we get into in the next verses has to do with inheritance, and this is something that is earned. It is very important to observe the contrast that is being set up here by John.

The doctrine of the Trinity is often thought to be something unique to Christianity and to the New Testament, but as we will see, it is not unique to the New Testament. It is more clear in the New Testament. It becomes defined by Tertullian and then later those at the Council of Nicea and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. That is when the vocabulary and the concepts related to the Trinity are clarified and articulated.

The Trinity

Definition: God exists in three equal persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit: terms related to their roles, sometimes referred to as the economic Trinity because economy has to do with administration. The unity of the persons within the Trinity is so intimate that what can be said of one can be said of the other. In other words, if you have seen one you have seen the other. Each one is equally and fully God but, on the other hand, they are distinct—the Father is not the Holy Spirit, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, etc.—they are equally distinct persons. So often we emphasize the distinction of their persons that we forget how intimate the unity is, and that is where the doctrine of perichoresis comes in.


The definition of perichoresis is that it is the mutual indwelling—the Father indwells the Son, the Son indwells the Father, the Father indwells the Holy Spirit, etc—of each person of the Godhead in the other. It is said that the three are together a dynamic, interconnecting and intermingling unity. They each have full and total fellowship with the other. This is the only way that one or two unusual references that Jesus uses can be explained. John 14:10 NASB "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. [11] Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." In John 14:7 He says, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." This shows the unity that is there with the Father and the Son and the same is true with the Holy Spirit.

When we get into passages like John 12 when Jesus said that Isaiah saw His glory, and then when we go back to Isaiah 6 where Isaiah saw somebody sitting on the throne, then we say wait a minute: typically what we have been taught is that based on John 12 that had to be Jesus sitting on the throne. Now this is how this connects together. Was Jesus sitting on the throne in Isaiah 6? Who is sitting on the throne in Isaiah 6? It can only be the Father, and yet Jesus says in John 12 that Isaiah saw His glory. He was not saying that Isaiah saw His person, He is saying Isaiah saw His glory—because the glory of the Son is the same as the glory of the Father and the glory of the Holy Spirit. In a number of passages in the Old Testament we read something about God appearing to Moses. Was that the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit? It was God, the Trinity, the fullness of the Trinity—perichoresis. Does that mean that they saw God the Father? Not in the sense that they saw a face to face physical representation of the Father, they are seeing a manifestation of deity and it is the fullness of the Trinity, not just one member or another. That, all of a sudden, means that we don't lose the Father in the Old Testament as just somehow being the puppeteer behind the curtain and we never see Him, we just see the Son. There are places where there is a manifestation of the entire Godhead as the Godhead, and it is just referred to as God. That is what we see in Isaiah chapter six.

In the Old Testament there are passages that indicate the Trinity. For example, Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" The Hebrew word for "one" is echad which doesn't always mean one in terms of a singularity, it can mean one in terms of a uniqueness, of being alone, or it can be one in terms of a unity. A comparative verse is 1 Chronicles 29:1 where David says, "My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen …" It is not emphasizing singularity like in a singular monotheism or Unitarian monotheism, which would not be consistent with the primary usage of echad in the Old Testament. Genesis 2:24 NASB "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one [echad] flesh." It is a unity, a plurality within a unity. That is the idea of "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4.

Isaiah 48:16 NASB "Is 48:16 "Come near to Me, listen to this:…" Who is speaking? It is the suffering servant of God. "…From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD [the Father] has sent Me [the suffering servant], and His Spirit." Here we have the Trinity, right here in the Old Testament.

It is very clear that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not three persons who are so distinct that there are three Gods; it is not one God. But the unity is so tight and so intimate that at times we lose sight of the distinction, so that when we see one we have seen all of them.