Revelation Four

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Revelation 4:1 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 thee things which must be hereafter.

After this. “After this” means, after all that was revealed concerning the church age, as represented by the seven church epistles. Thus, John is now carried forward, in the Spirit, to see the events that will take place next. God, who created time as well as space, is Himself transcendent to both time and space, and thus could easily translate John in both space and time—in space to heaven, and in time to the future. John, therefore, was able to see and hear these amazing events of the future as an actual eye-witness, just as we shall eventually see and hear them ourselves when we, like John, are caught up into heaven to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

trumpet. When the Lord finally opens the heavenly doors (compare Revelation 3:8, 20) and raptures all true Christians, saying in effect “Come up hither,” it will indeed be with the voice of a trumpet heard all over the world at once (note 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

things which must be hereafter. In Revelation 4-22, the Lord shows us, through John's eyes, the “things which must be hereafter”—that is, after the church age (see the outline given in Revelation 1:19, where similar wording is used). In the original Greek, this verse both begins and ends with the phrase “after these things.” The church age (“the things which are”) is not discussed after Revelation 3.

Revelation 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

was set in heaven. This reads literally “was being set in heaven.” Evidently, Christ's “judgment seat” (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10) is being translated from the far-off third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2—God's present abode) to the atmospheric heaven, where we shall all be “caught up … to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). There we shall be judged (as born-again believers), not for salvation but for rewards or loss of rewards (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

Revelation 4:3 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.

sardine stone. A red gemstone, from Sardius.

rainbow. The beautiful rainbow is mentioned only four times in Scripture (Genesis 9:13-16; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 4:3; 10:1). Each time it is associated with God in a time of judgment on the earth, but also associated with His mercy and grace during such times of judgment.

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.

four and twenty elders. These elders are redeemed men (Revelation 4:9, 10), representing all the redeemed saints before God's throne. They are actually individual real men, not just symbols, for they speak individually to John (e.g., Revelation 5:5; 7:13). Since the term “elder” always implies relative chronological age, as well as official position, it seems at least possible that these are the true “elders” of the human race—that is, the twenty-four patriarchs whose names are given in the book of Genesis (“Beginnings”) as in the line of promise leading ultimately to the incarnate Creator and Redeemer. These twenty-four elders, in chronological order, in that case, would be Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Pharez.

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.

seven Spirits of God. This phrase refers to the seven-fold Holy Spirit (see note on Revelation 1:4). However, it is also significant that there are seven distinct appellations given to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. He is called: (1) Spirit of Truth (John 16:13); (2) Spirit of Holiness (Romans 1:4); (3) Spirit of Faith (2 Corinthians 4:13); (4) Spirit of Wisdom (Ephesians 1:17); (5) Spirit of Power (2 Timothy 1:7); (6) Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29); and (7) Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14).

Revelation 4:6 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.

four beasts. These four “beasts” (Greek zoon, meaning simply “living creatures”) are apparently identical with the cherubim of Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:5-25; 10:1-22), and probably also with the seraphim of Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:1-7). They are the highest in God's hierarchy of angelic beings, always being associated with God's immediate presence. Satan himself, before his fall, was “the anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezekiel 28:14, 16), perhaps suggesting that he was assigned a position covering God's throne, whereas the others were “round about the throne.” The cherubim are first mentioned as guarding the entrance to Eden (Genesis 3:24), then figures of the cherubim were constructed as overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:17-22). The number of seraphim is not given, but there are sufficient similarities to indicate that they are at least of the same order as the cherubim, if not identical with them (compare Revelation 4:8 and Isaiah 6:2-3).

Revelation 4:7 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.

face as a man. Ezekiel notes that all four cherubim “had the likeness of a man” (Ezekiel 1:5), but also agrees with John's description as also having the faces of a lion, an ox and an eagle. The cherubim had been created before any of these creatures, but their ministries were to be with reference to God's animal and human creations. The lion represents the created “beasts of the earth,” the ox, or calf, the “cattle,” and the eagle “the fowl of the air” (Genesis 1:25; 2:20). It may possibly be significant that there was no representation of the “fish of the sea” or “creeping things” that God would create. In the new earth, there will be “no more sea” (Revelation 21:1), and the most representative of the creeping things have been serpents and scorpions (note Deuteronomy 8:15; Luke 10:19; see also Revelation 9:10, 19), which are always depicted in Scripture as enemies of mankind.

Revelation 4:8 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.

Revelation 4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

Revelation 4:10 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,

Revelation 4:11 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.

created all things. It is significant that this mighty accolade of praise to God from the elders (representing all the redeemed) centers first on Him as Creator, then later on Him as Redeemer (Revelation 5:9). It is proper that our earthly worship and praise should follow this same pattern. The redeemed ones by this time will have received their crown rewards, as well as “praise and honour and glory” (1 Peter 1:7), but then they will “cast their crowns” (Revelation 4:10) down before Him, acknowledging that only He is truly worthy to receive “the glory and the honour and the power” (the article is in the original Greek). They were merely His creations, and all they might have accomplished on earth was by His grace.

pleasure. “Pleasure” here is the Greek thelema, usually rendered “will.” Its first occurrence is in Matthew 6:10, where the Lord Jesus told us to pray: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” looking forward to the ultimate answer to this prayer at Christ's return. Here in this verse, where the final use of thelema occurs, that prayer is about to be answered, and it looks back to the original creation.

created. This verse explains why God created us. It was simply His good will and pleasure to do so! Note also Isaiah 43:7, “created him for my glory,” and Proverbs 16:4, “made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” For more on God's will, study Romans 9:22-23; 11:33-36, as well as Ephesians 2:4-7; 3:20-21.