“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Revelation Chapter 4
Introduction to the Seven Seals
The Throne Room of God
Revelation 4:1-3 “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 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.”
Parallels between Chapter 4 and Chapter 1
|4:1 - The first voice as of a trumpet.||1:10 - Heard a great voice as of a trumpet.|
|4:2 - John was in the Spirit.||1:10 John was in the Spirit.|
|4:2-3 - Description of Christ.||1:12-17 - Description of Christ.|
|4:5 - Seven lamps of fire.||1:12 - Seven golden candlesticks.|
|4:5 - Before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.||1:4 - From the seven Spirits which are before His throne.|
|4:4; 5:9-10 - Hast made us to our God, kings and priests.||1:6 - Hath made us kings and priests unto God.|
|4:1 - I will show thee things which must be hereafter.||1:19 - Write the things which...shall be hereafter.|
|5:1-5 - An introduction to the seven seals.||1:20 - An introduction to the seven churches.|
When looking at these parallels, it is easily seen that chapter four like chapter one is an introduction. With chapter one we have the introduction to the vision and prophecy of the seven churches, also a description of Christ. Chapter four we have the introduction to the vision and prophecy of the seven seals, also with a description of Christ. So on this basis we must conclude that chapter four is an introduction to and a new vision dealing with the seven seals.
After this - This is not a continuation of the vision from previous chapters, as we will see when coming down through verse 2. After seeing the events of the previous chapters, John now has a new vision which he introduces.
Behold, a door was opened in heaven - The first thing that must be noticed, is that the door that is being opened is not the door to heaven, but a door was opened in heaven. In verse 2, after the door has been opened, John sees a throne in heaven. Thus we can conclude that the door was the door to the throne room of God in heaven. But where is this door and where is the throne? We shall come to this in a minute.
Voice...of a trumpet talking with me - This first voice must be a reference to the voice that John heard in Revelation 1:10. The same voice now introduces the second vision. As the voice was like a trumpet in chapter 1 so it is here also, obviously indicating the intensity of the voice.
Which said, come up hither - The voice was inviting John to enter into vision. For we see, when the voice had spoken, John immediately enters into vision.
Things which must be hereafter - John was going to be shown what was going to transpire from here to after or, from now onwards. The time frame is from when the door opens onwards.
2. Immediately I was in the Spirit - That is, in vision. See comments on Revelation 1:10.
A throne was set in heaven - This shows that the throne was already in place when John beheld it. We shall see the position of the throne in verse 5.
One sat on the throne - The word sat, in the Greek kathemai, means “to sit down”. So when John saw the door open and the throne in place, he saw one come and sit down upon the throne. This person we find to be Christ, as it was He who came and sat upon His Father's throne, at His right hand after His death, burial, and resurrection in 31 A.D. (Revelation 12:5, Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 1:20, Mark 16:19)
Thus the time frame of the seven seals is 31 A.D. onwards.
3. Jasper and sardine stone - “The description of the appearance of this personage, clothed in the mingled colours of the jasper, frequently a purple, and the blood-red sardine stone, is such as at once to suggest to the mind a monarch vested with his royal robes.” Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith, pg 385. Jesus will rule upon His throne and will be a priest upon His throne Zechariah 6:12-13. He is both our prince and saviour, our priest and king. (Revelation 5:5-6) The Lion of the tribe of Judah (the king), the Lamb that was slain (the priest).
Rainbow round about the throne...unto an emerald - Around the throne John saw a rainbow like unto an emerald, or green in colour. The rainbow is a symbol to remind us that God is a covenant keeping God, (Genesis 9:11-17) He is the one that we can trust. But it also shows us of the everlasting covenant, the plan of salvation. Justice in the fact that the sinner that has broken the law deserves death, but mercy in the fact that God sent His own Son to die for the sins of the world, and those that confess and forsake their sins shall obtain mercy. So the rainbow is also a symbol to remind us of God's justice but also His mercy.
Revelation 4:4 “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”
I saw four and twenty elders sitting - These 24 elders were seated upon 24 seats, or as in the original 'thrones', around the throne. But who are they?
The identifying marks are as follows;
They are elders. An elder is one that is a leader among God's people. (Acts 15:2-6, 1 Timothy 5:17)
Clothed in white raiment. This we know to be the righteousness of Christ. (See comments on Revelation 3:18 and 3:4)
Crowns of gold on their heads. This is none other than the crown of life or righteousness that the Lord gives to those that have endured temptation and have fought the good fight of faith, finishing their course and have overcome. (James 1:12, 2 Timothy 4:7-8) A crown of victory.
Revelation 5:9 shows to us that these have been redeemed out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation by the blood of the Lamb. Making them kings and priests.
So they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and a crown of victory. They have been in warfare with sin and overcome. (sin is only upon this earth) They are seen in heaven before the sequence of the seals begins and have been redeemed from among men.
Matthew 27:51-53 tells us that when Christ died many graves were opened; and many of the bodies of the saints that were dead came out of their graves after the resurrection of Christ. And Ephesians 4:8 tells us that when Christ ascended to heaven He lead a multitude of captives with Him. (margin) So the 24 elders are some of those saints that were raised at Christ's resurrection and taken to heaven with Him in 31 A.D.
What the role of the 24 elders is we will explain in the following verse.
Revelation 4:5 “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings - In Ezekiel's vision of the throne of God, Ezekiel 1:14; 10:5, he describes the movements of the angelic beings, who are the messengers of God. These lightnings and thunderings are the movements of the angels around the throne.
Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne - This clearly shows that the throne is in the holy place before/opposite the candlesticks. For we find this type of furniture in the holy place of the sanctuary southward. (Exodus 40:24) We should then be able to find that God's throne is on the north side. Lucifer wished to exalt his throne above God's which was in the sides of the north. (Isaiah 14:13)
This should not be unusual to us as God dwells in the heavenly sanctuary (Psalms 102:19, 2 Chronicles 30:27, Jeremiah 17:12) and this is not to say that it is a small room, for it is not. In Daniel 7:10 we gain a small glimpse of the magnitude of just the most holy place of the sanctuary in heaven, so the human mind could not comprehend the size of the holy place.
So quite clearly the door that was opened in heaven was the door to the holy place of the sanctuary. (Leviticus 1:3 the sanctuary is regarded as having doors) And remembering back to Zechariah 6:12-13 Christ is ruling their as our king and priest. Christ entered into the holy place in 31 A.D. to start His ministration as our High Priest until He moved to the most holy place in 1844 (See comments on Revelation 3:8)
So why do we have the 24 elders in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary?
You will find in 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, an organization of a 24 course of priests. These were to minister in the sanctuary under Aaron the high priest. This was still the case when Christ was upon the earth. (Luke 1:5, 8-9) Thus these elders are ministering in the sanctuary in heaven under Jesus Christ our high priest. What their administration is exactly, we are not told. But it cannot be the office of mediating, for there is only one mediator between God and man which is Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Seven Spirits of God - We have just seen that the seven lamps are the candlestick in the heavenly sanctuary. Here we find that they are referred to as the seven Spirits of God or the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that the candlestick is not there?
Revelation 4:6-9 “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,”
Sea of glass - The word glass in the Greek means “transparent.” Coupled together with the word crystal, we gain the understanding that this substance that is before the throne is like transparent ice, glass, or rock. Remember to that this is in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. It is brought to view again in Revelation 15:2, as the place where the overcomers, in the ecstatic joy of final victory, will soon stand. Also Revelation 7:9 shows us that it is all the redeemed that will stand before the throne and give honour and glory to God whilst standing on this vast sea of glass. This description has much in common with Ezekiel's vision of the throne of God, which rested upon a “firmament.” (Ezekiel 1:26) In ancient times glass was much more valuable than it is today. Here, it represents the clear, crystalline appearance of the surface on which the throne stood.
Crystal - Greek krustallos, a word meaning either “crystal,” a colorless, transparent mineral, or “ice.” What John sees is a vast shimmering expanse, gloriously reflecting the red and green radiance about the throne. Compare the vision of Ezekiel. (chapter 1:22)
Midst of the throne - Perhaps, like Ezekiel's cherubim, (Ezekiel 1:22, 26) these beasts were seen under the throne as well as around it. The symbolism here is in harmony with ancient Semitic thought. Thus a sarcophagus from Byblus, from the end of the 2d millennium B.C., portrays a Phoenician king seated on a throne supported by an animal cherub (see W. F. Albright, “What Were the Cherubim?” The Biblical Archaeologist 1:1 [Feb., 1938], pp. 1-3). See Psalms 80:1; 99:1 and Isaiah 37:16.
Beasts - Greek zōa, “living beings.” The word zōa does not indicate to what order of creatures these four belong. However, they closely resemble those of Ezekiel's vision (see Ezekiel 1:5-26), which Ezekiel calls cherubim. (chapter 10:20-22) The question must be asked, what are these living creatures that are around the throne?
In Ezekiel 1:1, Ezekiel was taken off in vision by the river Chebar, and from the following verses of that chapter, more so verses 5-10, we see that it was strikingly similar to what John saw. From Ezekiel 10:20 we see that these living creature are none other than Cherubim that are about the throne. This is not unusual for God dwells between the Cherubim. (Psalms 99:1)
The work of these Cherubim: - In Ezekiel 10:1 he sees that the throne is above the Cherubim (also 1:22, 26), and in verse 9 there are wheels beside the Cherubim. This shows that the throne of God has wheels and is movable, Daniel 7:9 confirms to us that the throne has wheels. So one of the duties of these Cherubim is to move the throne of God, for we are told that the form of transport that God uses is the angels. (Psalms 18:10; 68:17)
The four different faces upon these living creatures also represent to us something about Christ. With Israel in the wilderness, the twelve tribes were divided into four groups around the tabernacle of God. Each of these groups went by a standard or symbol. Judah was the lion, Rueben was the man, Ephraim the ox or calf and Dan the eagle. Just as the living creatures, with these characteristics, are about the throne where God dwells; so to are the tribes of Israel, with these symbols, encamped around the sanctuary where God was dwelling. (Exodus 25:8) The lion stands for the kingship or rulership of Christ, the man the humanity of Christ and priestly role, the ox the service and sacrifice of Christ, and the eagle the divinity of Christ. Notice to that the lion is the king of the beasts, the ox is the head of the cattle, man is head of humanity, and the eagle is head of the birds. This was quite clearly pointing to the coming Messiah.
In making the spiritual application to today, we find that the four Gospels fulfil this well. Matthew portrays Christ as the lion, king; in Mark's Jesus is presented as the ox, servant and sacrifice; Luke presents Christ as the Son of Man, that is, His humanity; And in John He is presented as the eagle, showing the divinity of Christ.
It is these Cherubim that cry out ceaselessly holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And it is in this way that we see that they give God glory, honour and thanks.
Full of eyes - See Ezekiel 1:18; 10:12. This may be understood as a symbol of the intelligence and ceaseless vigilance of heavenly beings. Inasmuch as the symbol of eyes is plainly drawn from Ezekiel, it is possible to understand it here also in terms of Hebrew thought. Nine times in the Old Testament the Hebrew word 'ayin, “eye,” is used in the sense of “color,” or “brilliance.” (Proverbs 23:31; Ezekiel 1:4, 7, 16, 22, 27; 8:2; 10:9; Daniel 10:6) This suggests that in describing the four beasts as “full of eyes,” John may mean that their appearance was one of shining brilliance.
7. Lion - Here each of the four beings appears with one of the four faces that were characteristic of each of the cherubim in Ezekiel's vision. (see Ezekiel 1:10; 10:14)
8. Six wings - The cherubim of Ezekiel's vision each had four wings (Ezekiel 1:6; 10:21), whereas the seraphim of Isaiah had six. (Isaiah 6:2) Wings may be understood as indicating the speed with which God's heavenly creatures execute their errands. (cf. Hebrews 1:14)
Full of eyes - See notes on verse 6.
Rest not - Men customarily work by day and rest by night, but “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalms 121:4) The divine power upholding the universe never relaxes.
Day and night - Night brings an intermission to most human activities, but it has no effect on the ceaseless stream of praise to God that issues forth from the beings of heaven.
Holy, holy, holy - This is also the cry of the seraphim in Isaiah's vision. (see Isaiah 6:3) There is no valid reason for taking this triple ascription of praise as implying the Godhead, for it is directed to the presence on the throne, the Father. Christ and the Holy Spirit are here represented by other symbols. (see notes on Revelation 4:5; 5:6)
Lord God Almighty - See notes on Revelation 1:8.
Was, and is, and is to come - See notes on Revelation 1:4.
9. Those beasts - See notes on verse 6. The praise uttered here is antiphonal. It is initiated by heavenly creatures, those nearest to God.
Thanks - Heavenly beings as well as men owe God thanks, for He has given them life. They exist by His pleasure. In the ultimate sense God owes His creatures nothing; they owe everything to Him.
Him that sat - See notes on verse 2.
Who liveth for ever - Compare the Old Testament expression “the living God.” (Joshua 3:10; Psalms 42:2; 84:2) God is the source of all life, and the fact that He “liveth for ever” is the basis of His unceasing sustenance of nature. (see John 1:4; Revelation 4:8)
Revelation 4:10-11 “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.”
Four and twenty elders - See notes on verse 4.
Him that sat - See notes on verse 2.
Liveth for ever - See notes on verse 9.
Cast their crowns - See notes on verse 4.
11. Worthy - God is “worthy” to receive praise from His creatures, because He has given them life and all else they possess. He has made them what they are.
O Lord - Textual evidence attests the reading “our Lord and God.” Those who hold the view that the 24 elders are human beings point out that the use of the title kurios, “Lord,” by the elders and not by the four beasts may be significant, for kurios is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew Yahweh, the divine name by which God revealed Himself to His people. (see Exodus 6:2-3) Such a title, they assert, is particularly fitting for the praises of men.
For thy pleasure - Or, “by thy will.” It pleased God to bring the universe into existence and to give life to its creatures. He saw that it was good to do so. There was nothing desirable from His point of view in being alone in an empty universe. It pleased Him that the universe should be peopled with intelligent beings, capable of appreciating and reflecting His infinite love and perfect character. This was His purpose in creating them.
Are and were created - Textual evidence favors the reading, “they were, and they were created.” By the expression “they were” John doubtless refers to the existence of the universe after God had brought it into being. God created and now sustains all things. (see Colossians 1:17)
When this cry of worship goes out from the Cherubim, the 24 elders fall down and worship God, casting their crowns upon the ground before the throne acknowledging that their victories have been derived though the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
They proclaim to the Lord that He is worthy to receive this glory and honour and power, why? For He has created all things. This shows to us the full reason of why we should worship God and give our all to Him, for He has created all things.
The question may arise of why we were created in the first place? This, here, is answered too. We were created for God's pleasure. This should bring unbounding joy into the heart to think that you and I were created for the pleasure of God. Never think of yourself as having no reason to live, for there is a God, Who is our Creator, that has created you for His pleasure.
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- Revelation 4 Insert
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