In this chapter the primary focus is on God the Father, sitting upon His throne, enjoying the worship of His creatures.
The Second Vision of John
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit….
In the first three chapters in Revelation, John writes about seven churches. He begins chapter four with the words, “after this” which refers to everything he will see from Revelation 4:1 until the end of the Book for all that follows comes after the message to the churches. Interestingly, the word “church” or “churches” is not even mentioned again. John’s focus is now turned to heaven where he sees a door standing open. Having seen a door standing open in heaven, he next hears a voice, which is in fact the voice of Jesus Christ for it is the same voice he had heard in John 1:10. John is then taken out of the natural realm into the realm of the Spirit in order to see future events.
The Wonder of the Throne of God
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with Someone sitting on it. And the One who sat there had the appearance of japser and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven Spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre around the throne were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind.The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings…
John is taken into the throne room of heaven. He first of all notices the One who sits on the throne. He is the Lord God Almighty as recorded for us in Revelation 4:8, the Creator of all things according to Revelation 4:11. His appearance is like a jasper stone, which is clear as crystal and a carnelian or sardius stone which could be like a blood-red ruby. Together with the rainbow, which encircled the throne, they created a dazzling impression of transcendent glory. The rainbow reminds us of the covenant God made with Noah that God was never again to destroy humanity with a flood according to Genesis 9:13.
John then sees twenty-four thrones and on these thrones are seated twenty-four elders. Who are these twenty-four elders who are dressed in white and have crowns of gold on their heads? In both Jewish and Christian history “elders” refer to the key leadership of the congregation. They are the decision makers and the authorities for the people of God; they are to represent the people before God and to carry out the Lord’s will among His people. In the New Testament church, all believers are “priests” and the leadership rests in the hands of the “elders.” It is more likely that a reference to “elders” in Revelation refers to church leadership than to the leadership of the nation of Israel. This seems especially appropriate in that we have just completed a look at the seven letters to the seven churches. Israel was not a part of that vision though she will be a factor later in the book.
We should be aware that the twenty-four elders do not represent the multitude of believers who come out of the great tribulation in Revelation 7:9. Neither do the twenty-four elders represent the angels of God in Revelation 7:11. Furthermore, the twenty-four elders cannot represent the completed nation of Israel since in Revelation 7:4-8 144,000 Jewish people who are on earth are mentioned. The only completed group that is not mentioned as being on earth during the tribulation period is the Church of Jesus Christ. But does the number twenty-four indicate a completed body? Let’s turn to the Scriptures for our answer to that question. In I Chronicles 24, we have a listing of priests who come from the line of Aaron. Verses 7-18 name each of the twenty-four divisions and indicate that they were to serve in the temple according to this order or listing. In I Chronicles 25, musicians are organised in a similar fashion. Verses 9-31 name 24 divisions of singers to match the twenty-four divisions of priests.
The number twenty-four when used of the priests and singers represent the whole nation of Israel. Likewise the twenty-four elders in heaven represent a completed body of people, the Church of Jesus Christ, in heaven while the tribulation period is happening on earth. The fact that they are dressed in white and wear crowns of gold may further help us to identify them as the completed Church, consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture of the Church. Their clothing speaks of purity according to Revelation 19:8 and their crowns of gold speak of rewards according to I Corinthians 3:11-14.
John then becomes aware of lightning, rumblings, and thunder. This seems to suggest a mighty display of God’s presence, power and wrath. See Psalm 18:13-15; Job 37:2-5, Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18.
John sees seven lamps blazing. They are the seven spirits of God, of the seven-fold Spirit of God. See Isaiah 11:2.
Also before the throne of God is a “sea of glass”. John sees this “sea of glass” mingled with fire. In Revelation 15:2 the tribulation saints were standing beside it and praising God for His judgement and power.
In Exodus 24:10 we read:
….under His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.
“The sea of glass” speaks of purity, holiness and the very majesty of God Himself. It could even refer to the purity of God’s Word which is compared to water according to Ephesians 5:26.
John next focuses on the four living creatures. They are mentioned four times in Revelation and always in connection with the worship of God according to Revelation 4:9; Revelation 5:8, 11, 14. They are also the ones who speak to John about the first four seal judgements in which four horsemen and their horses take part in Revelation 6:2-8. These four living creatures are mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel twelve times in the first ten chapters. Ezekiel 10:20 identifies them as cherubim. These creatures are covered with eyes, in front and behind. This reminds us that God is all-seeing and all-knowing. The fact that they had eyes under their wings may bring that out even more strongly for nothing is hidden from God. The appearance of these four creatures is like that of a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle and reminds us of the description of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:10
The Worship of All Those in Heaven
…..Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things and by Your will they were created and have their being.”
The four creatures worship and praise the Lord for His holiness, His power and His eternal nature and plan. Whenever they worship, the twenty-four elders join them in worshipping God Almighty. By their actions they show they recognise the authority and position of God. By their words they show God that He is deserving of glory, honour and power. The reason for this is that He is the One who brought everything into existence and gives meaning to it all.