SCENES FROM THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD
1 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.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 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. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 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. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. 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, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 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 honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
This chapter begins a new phase in the book of Revelation. The church plays a prominent role in the first three chapters, mentioned over 18 times. After chapter 3, the church is not referred to again until chapter 22 verse16. This chapter can be divided into four sections: I A Scene of God’s throne in Heaven (4:1) II God on his throne (2-3) III Twenty four elders and four Living Creatures (4-7) IV Worship in heaven (8-11)
I. A SCENE OF GOD’S THRONE IN HEAVEN ( 4:1)
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."
We fall short of words to adequately articulate the glorious scenes of heaven. However let’s make a feeble attempt to capture the scenes. In Rev 2-3 we see Christ working on earth in His church. In the fourth chapter however we are transferred to the heavenly or spiritual realm. But how is it that the church is now found in heaven?
Something must have intervened, thus bringing about this transfer of the earthly residence of the church to the heavenly one. This transfer is not mentioned in the book of revelation but it is mentioned elsewhere. The event which describes this transfer is called “The rapture of the Church. This is a huge topic and we will deal with it as we go further. The last mention of John was in 1:10 where he speaks of being, “in the Spirit” and seeing the vision of the Risen Christ. Then follows the message to the seven churches.
Whether John was still in the s “Spirit” This chapter begins introducing a new vision. In this vision John saw three apocalyptic images, the door, the open heaven and voice like a trumpet. The door to heaven is an occasional apocalyptic symbol (3 Macc. 6:18; 1Enoch 14.10-11; 15.14; Gen 28:17; Ps 78:23). The door to heaven occurs on here in NT, but a parallel concept occurs in the “narrow gate” (Luke 13:24-25) to salvation in Jesus’ teaching. At Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16) the heavens were split open. We see heavens open at the persecution of Stephen (Acts 7:56) and in Peter’s vision (Acts 10:11).
In Revelation the open heaven continues as a message of hope for the troubled believers (8:1ff; 11:19; 12:10; 15:5; 19:11). John sees a door already standing open in heaven. This is not a door that was opened as John enters. The throne room of God has been accessible to the believer ever since Jesus cried, “It is finished.” From the cross and the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51, Hebrew 10:19-22) The voice like a trumpet is probably the voice of Christ as it was in the first vision (1:10).
John was given the invitation, “Come up here I will show you what must take place after this: In the seven letters the end time promise was preceded by “I will give you.” Here it is preceded by “I will show you.” Refers to a visual “Revelation or unveiling of divine reality. Note the emphatic “must” refers to divine necessity. God once more is seen as in sovereign control of history, determining the progress of events according to His divine plan.
In Rev 1:19, John is commanded to write “what is now” and what will take place later.” What is now,” is covered by the letters to seven churches; the will take place later,” is now about to be revealed to John and through John to us. Some see this invitation to come up as an indication of the rapture. However John is not transported into heaven. He is simply caught up in the Spirit. He was still on earth in his human form, but through the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit He was also present in the throne room of God.
II God on His throne (2-3)
Vs 2-3, “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 jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”
The first thing that John sees is not St. Peter and the pearly gates instead when the door to heaven was open he saw a The door in heaven opens up and reveals a vast throne room. Throne is a major emphasis in this book, contrasting the “throne of God” with the “throne of Satan (12:5 contra 13:2; cf 2:13; 16:10) and probably in this chapter with the throne of Caesar. The background to the throne of God can be found in (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezek 1:26-28).
God is described often in the book as the one who seated on the throne (4:2, 3, 9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4). The phrase “sitting on the throne speaks of God’s sovereignty. He is the One who is in charge. Thus John tells us that God is reigning during this present time from His throne in heaven and that He is the eternal One, so we will not see a change in authority for He holds the events of the future in His hands.
While Ezekiel describes God as having “a figure like that of a man” (1:26), John avoids human language. The Bible often describes God as light.
Three transparent stones were used here to describe God(Jasper and Ruby) Jasper was an opaque Jewel often reddish in color but at times green, brown, blue, yellow or white. It is especially associated with the glory of God (21:11). Secondly, Ruby a fiery red stone very popular in the ancient world. Some think that it speaks of the redemptive nature of God, others relating to the “fiery” aspect I think that it speaks of judgment and wrath. Perhaps John intends for us to see both aspects of God’s nature as corresponding to each other. Thirdly, (rainbow encircled the throne, like an emerald). The imagery combines the rainbow as typifying the radiant light surrounding God in Ezekiel 1:28
In this vision John encounters indescribable picture of God. As if it is in a motion picture John begins to see all that is happening in and around the throne. Here our focus must be on the one who is seated on the throne more than the throne itself. Gaebelein notes, “The throne symbolizes God’s majesty and power. Yet his majestic transcendence is fully safeguarded.” In a roundabout way John described the presence of God by explaining the things that surrounded the throne. When we encounter God face to face we fall short of words to describe his splendor and majesty because he is beyond all human description. What else did John see? He saw around the throne there were 24 thrones; upon the thrones 24 elders sitting wearing white garments and golden crowns on their heads. Who are these 24 elders?
III Twenty-four elders (Vs 4)
The identity of the elders is not disclosed. There is a great debate as to the identification of the twenty-four elders, are they human or heavenly figures? Several scholars argue that they are humans and they could be (1) the twelve patriarchs (OT) and twelve apostles (NT), thus the whole people of God. (2) The great saints of the OT seen as preceding the NT saints; (3) The whole community built on the twenty-four orders of the priesthood in I Chro. 24:4-5; (4) The church as the true Israel; (5) a heavenly court sitting on thrones of judgment.
However there are others who believe these are angelic figures. Scholars are divided in regards to who these elders really are. The debate regarding who the twenty-four elders are could go on endless perhaps this can only be solved in heaven. As Gaebelein suggests, “It would be helpful if we could ask an interpreting angel,
Who are the elders? There are at least thirteen different views of their identity.” In the midst of conflicting explanations it is hard to ascertain one way or the other. In my opinion out of twenty-four elders at least twelve of them could be the twelve disciples according to Matt 19:28, but then again when Jesus said “You also shall sit upon twelve thrones Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Judas Iscariot was part of that twelve, does that mean Judas will also sit on the throne? Regardless of who these elders are it is fascinating to observe their response to the saying of the four living creatures.
Whatever it may be the case the key here is the function of the elders in the book more than who they are. Their primary role was that of worship (5:14; 11:16; 19:4) and praise (4:11; 5:9-10; 11:17-18; 14:3). As with the living creatures (vs. 8), we do not know what type of the heavenly beings they are. Only one thing we know i.e. they form a part of the heavenly council.