Revelation 4 - Outline of Revelation (MENU page)
4:1 After this
lit., 'after these things'- can refer to the sequence of events, or the sequence of John's vision.
I looked, and, behold,
This marks a new section of the vision (all of ch. 4).
behold- 'See, for your own benefit...'
a door [was] opened in heaven:
opened- lit., set open, or standing open, or that had been and continued to be open.
This refers to the ''new and living way'' of access to God. Heb 10:19-20
a door... opened in heaven- A similar phrase occurs in only one other place, regarding:
Christ's return from heaven followed by those clothed in white (the Lamb's Bride). Rev 19:7,8,11-14
and the first voice which I heard
in the course of the Revelation, John hears voices of angels, elders...
[was] as it were of a trumpet talking with me;
Whose voice in this? ...the voice of Jesus Christ. Rev 1:10
When? the Rapture: 1Thes 4:16,17
It is the Lord HIMSELF [and no other] {very emphatic in GK of 1Thes 4} -
-- Who descends
  • with [GK='en', with, in] a shout [ie., a command: "Come up here!"]
  • with [in] voice of archangel [or, arch-angelic voice] {no definite article}
  • with [in] trump of God [ie., trumpet sound pertaining to God] {no def. art. }
These terms describe His voice, not voices of others. -
It is Christ Himself, who calls to His own at the Rapture.
. . . Contrast Mat 24:29-31 which does not speak of the Rapture, but rather,of the gathering of the remnant of Israel at the end of the Tribulation. Note that 'immediately after the Tribulation... He shall SEND His gather...' On that occasion, at the end of the Tribulation, Christ will delegate His angels with the task of gathering the remnant. But at this event (in Rev ch. 4), just prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (which opens in Rev ch. 6), the Lord Himself calls for His own.
which said, Come up hither,
and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter {lit., after these things}.
The Gk. indicates a change to an entirely different scene & subject.
The change in John's viewpoint (in his vision), is also representative of the new perspective of the Church, following the Rapture.
We are moving now into the third division of the book (as outlined in Rev 1:19)-
  1. The things which you have seen,
  2. The things which are,
  3. The things which shall be after these things [ie., after the church age of ch. 2,3]
4:2 And immediately
cp. "in the twinkling of an eye" 1Cor 15:51-53 (also 1Thes 4:17, 'snatched up')
I was in the spirit:
The Spirit who guides into all truth is John's guide. Joh 16:13
This also signifies his transport into heaven (in vision, cp. 1:10), as indicated by his observations.
and, behold, a throne
The focus of ch. 4 is the throne, the One upon it, those persons & activities around, before, proceeding out of, and in the midst of it.
was set in heaven,
set- solid/unshakeable in contrast to earthly thrones ['set' is trans. 'laid' in 1Cor 3:11]
Hag 2:22; Psa 11
. . . a reminder of Who is in control, before He causes earth's kingdoms to crumble.
and [one] sat on the throne. {lit., One sitting}
cp. 3:21, 'I am set down with my Father...'
4:3 And he that sat was to look upon
he that sat- lit., 'the One sitting' [applies to each occurrence that follows].
like a jasper and a sardine stone:
jasper [perhaps diamond] as seen in the City's foundation:
radiant, luminent with the Glory of God. cp. Rev 21:11
-- Speaks of God's unblemished holiness.
sardius / cernilius / ruby- a bright red stone.
-- Speaks of the blood of redemption (or) the rage of God's wrath (cp. "fire" in Ezek 1:26-28).
and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
rainbow - GK= 'iris', halo -
-- Speaks of God's faithfulness to keep His promises (as to Noah), including His promise to judge sin, and "in wrath remember mercy." Gen 9:9-17; Rom 2:8,9; Hab 3:2
Since Christ is also on this throne (3:21),
we should expect to see Him in the midst of this glory.
Since Christ is our High Priest (eg., Heb 4:14-16; 7:24-28; 8:1),
it is significant that these stones are incorporated in the breastplate of the OT high priest.
There were four rows (12 stones total) representing each of the 12 tribes in order. Ex 28:17-20
Note that the first two stones mentioned here are "the first and the last" on the breastplate. This fact also speaks of Him (1:11).
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.
Who are these elders?
They are NOT...
-- angels [to whom thrones & crowns are never promised].
-- Israel [to whom thrones & crowns are not promised.
     Note that Ex 19:5,6 was conditional, "if... then..."; But they failed.]
-- the millennial throne [which is on earth, these are in heaven]. Jer 3:17
The word 'elder' {GK=presbuteros} is used in the NT almost exclusively of leaders in the church.
'Elders' were to be appointed as 'bishops' {GK=episkopos, overseers} over God's flock (eg., Acts 20:17,28; 1Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5).
(The exception, in Heb 11:2, refers to OT members of 'the household of faith' who were justified by faith through looking forward to the coming of Christ, and who without us 'received not the promise.' Heb 11:2,4,7,26,39-40)
Crowns, in the NT, are rewards reserved for the faithful in the church (eg., 2:10).
seats= thrones [GK= thronos; The same word is used for the Throne.]
These thrones, associated with the judgment Throne of God (vs. 2-4), must be occupied by the saints of God (ie., the church), since they will judge the world. 1Cor 6:2-3; 2Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4
That the elders represent the Church of the born again is further shown by:
-- White raiment = the righteousness of the saints. 2Cor 5:21; Rev 3:5,18; 19:7,8
-- Their role: a royal priesthood, waiting to reign with Christ. 1Pet 2:9; Rev 20:6
Their number: 24 -
  • Corresponds to the 24 courses of the OT priesthood.
    All were represented by the one who served at any time (eg., Zacharias, Luk 1:5,8).
    (The 24 priestly courses, as divided by David, are listed in 1Chr 24:1-17).
  • Perhaps 12 elders represent the saved of Israel (cp. Mat 19:27,28),
    while the other 12 represent the saved of the gentiles.
The timing: They are present in heaven before [4:4], during and after the Tribulation.
The Church is already glorified, crowned, and enthroned before the Tribulation begins.
4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings
A storm of judgment is about to break forth.
As Rev. progresses, similar statements recur, each followed by ever increasing judgment:
Rev 8:5; 11:19; 16:18
and voices:
The coming storm is not haphazard, but directed by the One on the throne.
The throne of grace becomes the throne of judgment. [McGee]
and [there were] seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,
which are the seven spirits of God.
See 1:4; 5:6
4:6 And before the throne [there was] a sea of glass like unto crystal:
The brass laver of the OT tabernacle and the 'brasen sea' of the temple contained water for cleansing.
The NT parallel is the washing of water by the Word. Ex 30:18-21; 1Kin 7:23-26; Eph 5:26
Here, the sea is solid. There is no more need of cleansing.
The sea is calm, without a ripple of trouble. The church is at rest, no longer tossed by "winds of doctrine." Eph 4:14
glass like... crystal- Crystal, like jasper (in 4:3) speaks of God's glory & holiness.
Jasper & crystal are mentioned together in the description of the Holy City's foundation (21:11).
All who stand here, and all that occurs here, is in transparent harmony with God's holiness (cp. 15:2).
and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne:
[were] four beasts full of eyes before and behind
beasts- lit., Living creatures - GK= Dzoon, from which: zoology. The emphasis of the word is "living."
Two other words are translated 'beast' in Rev.:
-- therion = wild beast (referring to the antichrist; 13:1),
-- ktenos = domestic animal (18:13) (more at v.8)
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 fouth beast was like a flying eagle.
[Further discussion of this verse follows v.8.]
These faces are identified in Ezekiel 1:10,11, but in a different order. There the order appears to be according to ability to subdue, or take dominion. Here, the order speaks of Christ as He is revealed in the 4 gospels:
Matthew - the King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, proclaims the Kingdom.
Mark - the servant- an Ox is a beast of burden and of sacrifice.
Luke - the son of man, who came to seek & to save the lost.
John - the son of God, who came from above, to reveal Grace and Truth to fallen man, and to lift us up to His Father's house.
4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about [him];
[they were] full of eyes within:
These creatures were seen, in vision, by Ezekiel & Isaiah, with some differences (eg., the number of wings).
Ezekiel calls them 'Cherubim,' Isaiah calls them 'Seraphim' (cp. Eze 1:4-12; Eze 10:12-20; Isa 6:1-7)
In either case, they are concerned with, and focused upon, the Holiness of God.
Cherubim = 'grasped ones' or 'those held captive'
They are captivated by the glory & holiness of God. They are unable to turn their gaze from studying Him. Their all seeing eyes examine everything 'in the midst... and round about the throne' including themselves (eyes 'within'). There is no taint of the unholy. They are undeviating from the purposes of God's Holy Spirit (Eze 1:12).
Seraphim = 'burning ones'
They not only proclaim God's holiness, but also purge away unholiness (Isa 6:6,7).
and they rest not day and night,
lit., rest they have not...
saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
The 'Thrice Holy' occurs only here and in Isa 6:3.
The passage in Isaiah emphasizes God's omnipresence: 'the whole earth is full of His glory.'
Here, the heavenly emphasis is on His omnipotence and eternality.
which was, and is, and is to come.
This formula refers equally to God the Father and God the Son (cp. 1:4,8).
4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks
when- ie., whensoever, so often as... (cp. v.8: 'they rest not...')
to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
the One sitting... is the ever Living One.
Frequently, in Scripture, He identifies Himself by the name, Jehovah (usually rendered LORD in the KJV bible). Based on a root word meaning "to be," the name Jehovah describes Him as the One "who was, and is, and is to come" and thus, the One "who lives for ever and ever." More than one hundred times, the Scriptures specifically state that the LORD lives for ever (eg., Deu 32:39,40).
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,
worship= to ascribe worth. It requires no words, it is the attitude of heart.
The word "worship" occurs 24x in Revelation. More than half of the occurrences refer to worship misdirected toward the Beast or demons. This points out the conflict between good & evil, and also the human lack of discernment. John himself twice misdirects worship toward the angel, and is rebuked: "See thou do it not, Worship God." Rev 19:10; 22:9
4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord,
Essentials of worship:
-- a sense of the worth of the Lord.
-- a sense of my own unworthiness.
They had nothing in themselves to offer.
They offer only what they have received of Him: thrones & crowns are all submitted to Him.
to receive glory and honour and power:
lit., "the glory, the honor, the power" - There is none apart from Him.
There is none worthy other than Him.
for thou hast created all things,
and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
{cp. Col 1:16,17}
Since the Living Creatures speak of God's attributes (Holy, Almighty, Eternal...; v.8), we might expect them to add "Power" to their list. But rather, they "give thanks" v.9.
     Yet, while the elders speak of His works (thou hast created v.10,11, thou hast redeemed 5:9), they lift up His "Power" (v.11).We might expect them to be overwhelmed with thanksgiving for their own redemption.
     It seems that each of these groups is not primarily focused on its own state, but on that of the other. In the other, they see anew, and marvel in, the good pleasure of God, demonstrated in the faithful execution of His matchless wisdom and power.
"The living creatures rejoice in the presence of a redeemed group, in whom they see the earnest of a restored race... they give thanks for the fulfilling of God's faithful purposes. The elders rejoice in the presence of the Power which will bring to reality the hope of the groaning creation." Rom 8:21 (JBSmith)

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