Revelation Chapter 4Revelation chapter 4, along with chapter 5, forms a unit which is very much concerned with a book or scroll that seems to be of the utmost significance. While chapter 3 was centered about the candlestick, the scene of chapter 4 is around the throne of God.
"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 shew thee things which must be hereafter." (Rev 4:1)
"After this I looked" - John uses this or similar phrases to introduce many scenes in Revelation. It may not always imply a chronological order of the events he is writing about but rather just introduces a new scene. The chapters of the book of Daniel also do not appear in chronological order.
"A door was opened in heaven" not into heaven but within heaven. This could be the door into the holy place or into the most holy place. We will see evidence of which one it is soon.
The phrase "the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me" would be better rendered: "the first voice which I had heard as a trumpet speaking with me was saying ..." This is referring back to the first voice John heard in chapter 1:
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet," (Rev 1:10)
Remember, we identified this voice as being that of the Son of God. It is He who, through His Spirit, spoke the messages to each of the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3. Now, in a new scene, Jesus again addresses the beloved disciple John.
"Come up hither" may be a way of welcoming John to the vision. John would have no control over being able to come up to heaven either physically or in vision.
The "things which must be hereafter" are logically things that would occur after John's time, not after the events of chapters 1-3.
"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne." (Rev 4:2)
John was "in the spirit" or in vision as he was in Rev. 1:10.
"One" (supplied word) sat. There was no detailed description of the One on the throne as was given of the Son (Rev 1:13-16) who was seen in human form. We will see later that the Son comes to the One sitting on the throne; the throne was not shared at that moment as is described in chapter 3:
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Rev 3:21)
"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." (Rev 4:3)
This "jasper" was probably not exactly what we call jasper but rather a stone described by the naturalist Pliny as translucent and brilliant. It could have been almost any color. The "sardine stone" is a stone of a brilliant reddish color that was found at Sardis, one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3.
The "rainbow" is often seen as a symbol of God's covenant promise
"And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth." (Gen 9:12-13)
A rainbow is also described in Ezekiel's vision of the throne of God. (Eze 1:26-28)
"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." (Rev 4:4)
Who are the "four and twenty elders" sitting around the throne? We are not told directly but a number of clues are given. My investigation of the 24 elders points to them being the (created) sons of God who represent other unfallen worlds as Adam was a son of God, the representative (until his fall) of this world. Please visit that link for pages with the full story on the identity of the 24 elders and return here. You will also find there some insights into the timing of the events of Revelation chapters 4 and 5.
The 24 elders are reminiscent of the 24 divisions of the priests who were assigned that role from among the descendants of Aaron (1 Chron 24:1-5).
"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." (Rev 4:5)
"Lightnings and thunderings and voices" are often associated with the presence and/or voice of God.
The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne indicate that this is occurring in the holy place of the sanctuary. They are identified with the seven spirits of God and are connected to Jesus Who is described as "he that hath the seven spirits of God ..." (Rev 3:1). These seven spirits may be what is referred to by Isaiah:
"And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;" (Isa 11:2)
"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." (Rev 4:6)
The sea of glass evidently is a large area in front of the throne; large enough for at least the group called the 144,000 to stand on:
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." (Rev 15:2)
The heavenly sanctuary described in Revelation chapter 4 must be on a much larger scale than the earthly sanctuary was.
"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. (Rev 4:7)
These four beasts are associated with the tribes of Israel which were divided into four groups with one of the tribes leading each group:
"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. (Rev 4:8)
Isaiah saw a similar scene:
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isa 6:1-3)
Some would like to associate the "holy, holy, holy" of Isaiah and Revelation with the concept of the trinity, however there is no such connection made in the verse. There is a logical connection to "which was, and is and is to come." This is a reference to the never-changing holiness of God which is also reflected in this verse:
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." (Heb 13:8)
Ezekiel, in chapters 1 and 10, gives similar descriptions only he calls them cherubim.
"And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 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," (Rev 4:9-10)
It is common knowledge that Handel's inspiration for composing Messiah came, in part, from the worship scenes in Revelation.
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:11)
Why is the Lord worthy to receive glory and honour and power? - because He is the creator:
- thou hast created all things - for [by] thy pleasure [will] they are and were created
"For" in the phrase "for thy pleasure" is translated from the Greek word "dia" which is much more commonly rendered as "by" or even "through." The Greek word "dia" (Strong's #1223) is translated as "by" 241 times, as "through" 88 times, as "with" 16 times and as "for" 58 times.
Similarly, the word translated as "pleasure" (Strong's #2307) is almost always translated as "will" (62 times in 64 uses) and only in this case is it rendered as "pleasure." Its primary meaning is "what one wishes or has determined shall be done."
So a more accurate translation would be not "for thy pleasure" but "by thy will."
We could think of God's goal in doing this and I have often expressed it this way: God's ultimate goal is to make as many people as possible as happy as possible for as long as possible.Revelation chapter 4 has described quite a scene in heaven and has told us who is there for an important event about to be described. Chapter 5 will continue the same scene, centered around the throne of God.
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