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Bible Commentaries

Larkin's Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scriptures

Revelation 4

Verse 1

1

1. THE HEAVENLY DOOR .

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 a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (after these).

The scene now changes from earth (Patmos) to Heaven. John tells us that After This, after his Vision of Christ in the midst of the “Seven Candlesticks,” and his foreview of the history of the Christian Church, as reviewed in the Messages to the Seven Churches, which carried him down to the end of the Church Age, he looked, and behold a DOOR WAS OPENED IN HEAVEN, and the same voice that spoke to him from the midst of the “Seven Golden Candlesticks,” which was the voice of Christ (Revelation 1:10-13), said with the clearness and sweetness of a trumpet--

“COME UP HITHER
AND I WILL SHOW THEE THINGS WHICH MUST
BE HEREAFTER”

And John adds

“IMMEDIATELY I WAS IN THE SPIRIT:

and, behold, a Throne was set in Heaven, and ONE sat on the Throne.”

The experience of John was similar to that of Paul, who was caught up into Paradise. Whether in the body or out of the body they are uncertain, at least Paul was. 2. Cor. 12:2-4. The difference between them however was, that, while Paul heard words that he was forbidden to speak, John was told to “WRITE IN A BOOK” the things he saw and heard, and send them to the Seven Churches in Asia.

In this “Rapture” of John we have a type of the

RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH,

and it is at this place in the Book that the “RAPTURE” of the Church takes place.

After the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-28), and Jesus had said that upon the rock of that confession He would build His Church, He said to His Disciples’--“Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man COMING IN HIS KINGDOM.” And then we read in the next chapter (and there should be no chapter division), “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM.” Matthew 17:1-9. Now this “Transfiguration Scene” is a type of the Second Coming of Christ, Moses being a type of the “Resurrected Saints,” and Elijah of the “Translated Saints.”

As the promise of Christ to His Disciples that some of them should not “taste of death” until they saw in vision a rehearsal of the manner of His Second Coming, was fulfilled in the “Transfiguration Scene,” so the statement made to Peter as to John, “If I will that he TARRY TILL I COME” (John 21:20-23), finds its fulfilment in John’s being caught up in vision and beholding before his death, what he would have witnessed and experienced if his life had been prolonged until Jesus came back. Thus John was permitted to live, until, in vision, he saw the Return of the Lord.

The “Rapture” of the Church is described in 1. Thess. 4:16-17. “For the Lord HIMSELF shall descend from Heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, and with the TRUMP OF GOD; and the DEAD IN CHRIST shall rise first: then we WHICH ARE ALIVE and REMAIN shall be CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM in the clouds, to meet the Lord IN THE AIR: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Note how John’s taking up corresponds with this. He was summoned by the “VOICE OF CHRIST,” and it will be the “SHOUT of Christ” that shall summon the saints at the Rapture. It was with a “LOUD VOICE” that Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb. John 11:43. And as it was a Trumpet Like Voice that summoned John, so it will be a TRUMPET CALL that will summon the Saints at the Rapture.

As confirmatory proof that the Church is “caught out” at this time and place, we have in the description of the Throne, the statement that the Holy Spirit in the Seven-fold plentitude of His power, is BACK IN HEAVEN. In none of the Epistles is the Holy Spirit invoked along with the Father and the Son, except in 2. Cor. 13:14, because He is viewed as abiding on the earth with the Church, convicting of sin, comforting believers, and gathering out the elect, but here He is no longer on the earth but back in Heaven, and before the Throne. This is the strongest kind of evidence that the Church at this time has been “caught out” and is no longer on the earth, for when the Holy Spirit goes back to Heaven He will take the Church WITH HIM. And the presence of the Holy Spirit in Heaven is conclusive evidence that the events that follow are to take place after the Church has been caught out, and therefore the Church is not to pass through the Tribulation.

Verses 2-6

6

2. THE HEAVENLY THRONE .

Revelation 4:2-3; Revelation 4:5-6.

“And immediately I was in the SPIRIT: and, behold, a THRONE was set in Heaven, and ONE sat on the THRONE. And HE that sat was to look upon like a Jasper and a Sardius stone: and there was a Rainbow round about the THRONE, in sight like unto an Emerald. . . . 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. And before the THRONE there was a Sea of Glass like unto crystal.”

The first thing John saw in Heaven was a THRONE. The Throne was not vacant, but One sat upon it, upon whom to look was like looking at glistening gems, such as Jasper and Sardius. The occupant of the Throne was no other than God Himself. In Revelation 21:10-11, John in describing the New Jerusalem says, that its light is the “GLORY OF GOD.” A light like unto a stone most precious, even like a JASPER stone, clear as crystal. This corresponds with John’s declaration in 1. John 1:5, that “GOD IS LIGHT.”

Ezekiel in describing his vision of the “Throne of God” says--“Above the Firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a Throne, as the appearance of a Sapphire Stone: and upon the likeness of the Throne was the likeness as the appearance of a MAN above upon it. And I saw as the color of Amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of His loins even upward, and from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the Bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the GLORY OF THE LORD.” Ezekiel 1:26-28.

Now there are two things in Ezekiel’s Vision that correspond with John’s Vision of the “THRONE OF GOD.” First that the form of the one who sat on the Throne could not be clearly distinguished or described, but that it was RESPLENDENT WITH LIGHT, which veiled the form or person; and secondly, that there was a RAINBOW ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE. The person of God then, as He sits upon His Throne, is veiled in a Glory that can only be compared to the shining of some beautiful gem. But one of the remarkable things about the Throne of. God is, that it is surrounded by a “RAINBOW” that is emerald in color. The first mention we have in the Bible of a Rainbow is in Genesis 9:13-17. “I do set My BOW in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a COVENANT between Me and the Earth.” A Covenant that God would not destroy this earth again by a Flood. But that Rainbow was only SEMI-CIRCULAR, such as we see in the heavens in summer after a shower; but the Rainbow Ezekiel and John saw around the Throne of God was CIRCULAR. In this world we only see half a Rainbow, or the half of things, in Heaven we shall see the whole of things. The Rainbow is the sign of a Covenant based on an accepted Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Noah (Genesis 8:20-22), and the Rainbow about the Throne of God is the sign of a Covenant based on the accepted Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The difference between Noah’s Rainbow and the one around the Throne of God is, that Noah’s is composed of the seven primary colors, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet, while the one around the Throne of God is EMERALD. What does this “CIRCULAR GREEN RAINBOW” about the Throne of God signify? It signifies that God is a Covenant keeping God, that His promises as to this earth shall be fulfilled. Even though He is about to bring great judgments upon it, He will not destroy it, but it shall pass through those judgments safely. He will redeem it, and bless it, until its hills, and valleys, and plains, shall teem with the green verdure, fruitful orchards, and bountiful vineyards of the long Millennial Day that is to follow those judgments. If the Rainbow did not encircle the Throne as a “Halo,” it might by its reflection in the “Sea of Glass” appear to John to be round.

The “Throne” was not the “Throne of Grace” for out of it proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices, that remind us of Mt. Sinai, and proclaim it to be the

“THRONE OF JUDGMENT.”

Before the Throne was a “SEA OF GLASS.” This “Sea of Glass” was unoccupied, but later is seen mixed with fire (Revelation 15:2-3), and occupied by martyrs of the Tribulation Period who get the victory over the Beast, and who have harps, and sing the Song of MOSES AND THE LAMB. This “Glassy Sea” reminds us of the “Brazen Sea” that stood before Solomon’s Temple (1. Kings 7:23-45), and thus was in front of the Ark of the Covenant, the “Mercy Seat” of which was the earthly Throne of God in Old Testament days.

Right here it might be well for us to remember that the earthly Tabernacle erected by Moses, with all its vessels and instruments of service and mode of worship, was patterned after the “Heavenly Tabernacle.” Hebrews 9:23.

A knowledge then of the Tabernacle and its various parts and vessels of service, will help us to understand John’s Vision of the “Heavenly Tabernacle.” Like John, Paul was “caught up” into Heaven, and saw the “Heavenly Tabernacle,” and he most beautifully and clearly makes a comparison between it and the “Mosaic Tabernacle” in his Letter to the Hebrews.

The “Throne” that John saw in Heaven corresponds with the “Mercy Seat” of the Ark of the Covenant. The “Four Beasts (Living Ones)” with the “Cherubim” that guarded the “Mercy Seat.” The “Four and Twenty Elders” with the “Priestly Courses” that officiated in the Tabernacle. The “Seven Lamps (Spirits)” before the “Throne,” with the “Seven Branched Candlestick” of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The “Sea of Glass” with the “Brazen Laver” for cleansing, that stood in front of the Tabernacle. The “Altar” under which John saw the “soul of Martyrs” with the “Altar of Burnt Offering.” If the “Throne” section of the “Heavenly Tabernacle” corresponds with the “Most Holy Place” of the “Mosaic Tabernacle,” and the “Four and Twenty Elder” section with the “Altar of Incense” and “Seven Lamps of Fire” corresponds with the “Holy Place,” then the “Sea of Glass” and the “Altar” should correspond with the “Court” of the Tabernacle. This will help us to relatively locate what John saw in the Heavenly Tabernacle.

It is also profitable and instructive to compare the “Heavenly” and “Earthly” Tabernacles with the “Tabernacle of Man.” See the Chart of “The Three Tabernacles.” Here we see that the “Spirit”


The Heavenly Tabernacle


The Three Tabernacles

part of man corresponds to the “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle, the “Soulish” part to the “Holy Place,” and the “Body” part to the “Outer Court.” As the only entrance from the “Holy Place” into the “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle was through the “Veil,” so the only entrance from the “Soulish” part of man into the “Spirit” part is through the “Gate of the Will.” And it is only when the “Will” surrenders to the Holy Spirit that God can take up His abode in the “Spirit” part of man, as He took up His residence in the “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle on the “Mercy Seat,” and man become a regenerated soul.

3. THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS .

Revelation 4:4.

“And round about the Throne were Four and Twenty Seats (Thrones): 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” and what do they represent? They are not a heavenly and unfallen order of beings, like the angels or “Living Creatures” that surround the Throne, they are the representatives of redeemed mankind. The name Elder is never applied to angels, neither do angels have “crowns” and sit on “thrones.” Only redeemed MEN are promised “Thrones” and Crowns.” Matthew 19:28. Revelation 3:21. Revelation 20:4. Rev. 2.10. 1. Pet. 5:2-4. 2. Tim. 4:8. These “Elders” then must be representatives of the Old and New Testament Saints, that have been redeemed by the BLOOD OF CHRIST. This will be made more clear as we consider their position, dress, and song.

They are seated on “thrones,” not ordinary seats, and remind us of Daniel’s Vision of the Judgment.

“I beheld till THRONES were placed and ONE that was ANCIENT OF DAYS did sit; His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His Throne was fiery flames, the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and 10,000 times 10,000 stood before Him; the JUDGMENT was set, and the ’Books’ were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10 R. V.

This is Daniel’s foreview of the

“JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST.”

While the “Thrones” were placed (ready for those who should be found worthy to occupy them) they were as yet unoccupied. Their occupancy awaited the outcome of the Judgment. Now as the “Thrones” that John saw were occupied by crowned Elders. Then those Elders must have passed the “fiery test” of the Judgment of Reward (2. Cor. 5:10, 1. Cor. 3:11-15), and received their crowns. Those Crowns are five in number. The “Incorruptible Crown.” 1. Cor. 9:25-27. The “Crown of Life.” Revelation 2:10. The “Crown of Glory.” 1. Pet. 5:2-4. The “Crown of Righteousness.” 2. Tim. 4:8. The “Crown of Rejoicing.” 1. Thess. 2:19-20. See the Chart--“Judgment of Reward.”

That these “Elders” were REDEEMED MEN is further evidenced by the “Song” they sung.


The Judgment of ’Reward’

“And they sung a NEW SONG, Saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the Seals thereof, for thou wast slain, and hast REDEEMED US TO GOD BY THY BLOOD, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God KINGS and PRIESTS; and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10.

Now this could not be said of angels, or any other created heavenly beings, for they have not been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, nor are they to be “Kings” and “Priests” on the earth.

While the “Elders” sit on Thrones and wear Crowns, they are not dressed in royal robes but in “white raiment,” the garment of a Priest. They are the members of a “ROYAL PRIESTHOOD.” 1. Pet. 2:9. That the time has not yet come for them to reign is clear, for they are engaged in Priestly duties, having “Golden Vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints,” in their hands. Revelation 5:8. These saints are not the saints of the Church, but the Jewish saints on earth during the “Tribulation Period,” whose prayers are so beautifully prewritten in the Psalms.

That the “Elders” will be given the right of Judgment is clear. Writing to the Corinthians Paul says--“Do ye not know that the Saints shall JUDGE THE WORLD. . . . Know ye not that We shall JUDGE ANGELS.” (The Fallen Angels.) 1. Cor. 6:2-3. The time when this right of Judgment is conferred on the “Elders” (Saints) is given by John as after the binding of Satan, and just before the Millennium--“I saw THRONES, and they (the First Resurrection Saints--THE ELDERS) sat upon them, and JUDGMENT was given unto them.” Revelation 20:4.

The word “Elder” in the majority of places where it is used in the Scriptures means the representative head of a city, family, tribe or nation, so the “Four and Twenty Elders” are representative of the redeemed human race. But why 24 Elders? Twenty-four is the number of the Priestly Courses as given in 1. Chron. 24:1-19. When David distributed the Priests into “Courses” he found there were 24 Heads of the Priestly families, and these 24 Heads he made representative of the WHOLE PRIESTHOOD. As the “Elders” are representative of both the Old and New Testament Saints, and the Old Testament Saints are represented by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the New Testament Saints’ by the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, they together make up 24 representative characters. This distinction is clearly brought out in the description of the New Jerusalem, where the 12 Foundation Stones are named after the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, and the 12 Gates after the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Revelation 21:10-14.

While the Four and Twenty Elders are representative of the Old and New Testament Saints, they do not, as a whole, represent the Church, for the Church is composed only of New Testament Saints. The Old Testament saints are merely the Friends of the Bridegroom. But the fact that the New Testament Saints, as represented by the Twelve Apostles, are required to make up the 24 representative characters (Elders), is additional evidence that the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Tribulation.

Verses 6-11

1

4. THE FOUR BEASTS .

Revelation 4:6-11.

“In the midst of the Throne, and round about the Throne, were FOUR BEASTS full of eyes before and behind. 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. And the four Beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within; and they rest not day or night, saying, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WHICH WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME.”

The word translated “Beasts” should be translated “LIVING CREATURES,” as in the Revised Version. The word here translated “beast” (Zoon), is not the same as the one translated “beast” (Therion) in chapters eleven, thirteen, and seventeen. The word here used means a “living being” or “creature,” while the word used in chapters eleven, thirteen, and seventeen, means a wild, untamed animal. They are not angelic beings, for they are distinguished from the angels, who are mentioned as a class by themselves in Revelation 5:11. Neither are they representative of redeemed human beings, for they do not join in the Redemption Song. Revelation 5:8-10. The word “they” in this passage does not refer to the “Four Living Creatures,” but to the “Four and Twenty Elders.”

The “Four Living Creatures” are not in the same class with the “Elders,” for they have no “thrones” or “crowns” or “harps” or “golden vials.” They are the “Guardians” of the Throne of God, and accompany it wherever it goes. Ezekiel 1:24-28. They are four in number, which is the “earth number,” and therefore have something to do with the earth. That is, they are interested in the “re-genesis” of the earth to its former glory before the Fall. They have eyes before and behind and within, which reveals their intelligence and spiritual insight of things past, present, and to come, and they are tireless in their service, for they rest not day nor night, saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

The first time these “Living Creatures” are mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 3:24, where they are called “CHERUBIM,” but are not described. They were placed at the entrance to the “Garden of Eden” to prevent the re-entrance of Adam and Eve, and to keep the way of the “Tree of Life.” It would appear as if at the place where they were stationed there was a Tabernacle, a place of worship to which Cain and Abel resorted to make their offerings, and that it was from there that Cain went out from the “PRESENCE OF THE LORD.” Genesis 4:16.

When Moses was given on the Holy Mount the pattern of the Tabernacle, he was instructed to make the “Ark of the Covenant” with two Cherubim upon it. Exodus 25:10-22. These Cherubim were guardians of the “Mercy Seat,” or the place of God’s PRESENCE when He in His “Shekinah Glory” visited the Tabernacle. But it is not until Ezekiel had his vision of the Cherubim (Ezekiel 1:1-28; Ezekiel 10:1-22), that we have a description of what they are like. See the the next page.


The Cherubim

Ezekiel describes them as having the likeness of a man, with 4 faces, and 4 wings, and feet like a calf’s foot, and hands like a man’s hand under their wings on their 4 sides. Their 4 faces were different. The front face was that of a MAN, the right side face was that of a LION, the left side face was that of an OX, and the rear face was that of an EAGLE, and their whole body, back, hands, and wings, were full of eyes round about. Ezekiel 10:12. In John’s Vision of the “Cherubim” or “Living Creatures” they are described as like animals, the first was like a LION, the second like a CALF, or a young Ox, the third had the face of a MAN, and the fourth was like a FLYING EAGLE. John’s “Living Creatures” had 6 wings, while Ezekiel’s “Cherubim” had only 4. In Ezekiel’s vision, the “Cherubim,” or “Living Creatures,” were accompanied by the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 1:12) and traveled on wheels, which shows that they were on some tour or mission, attended by the Lord, who sat on His Throne over their heads (Ezekiel 1:25-28), but the wheels are absent in John’s vision, for the scene is in Heaven, the permanent home of the Throne of God.

In the camping and marching order of Israel in the Wilderness, there was a fixed relation of the Twelve Tribes to the Tabernacle. In camp the Tabernacle rested in the middle. The Camp of Judah, composed of 3 Tribes, rested on the East, with its Standard bearing the figure of a LION. The Camp of Ephraim, composed of 3 Tribes, rested on the West, with its Standard bearing the figure of an OX. The Camp of Reuben, composed of 3 Tribes, rested on the South, with its Standard bearing the figure of a MAN. The Camp of Dan, composed of 3 Tribes, rested on the North, with its Standard bearing the figure of an EAGLE. Thus the Tabernacle in the centre of the Camp, the place of God’s Presence, was surrounded and protected by Standards that bore the figures of Ezekiel’s and John’s “Living Creatures.”

The dissimilarity between Ezekiel’s “Living Creatures,” and John’s “Living Creatures” can only be explained on the supposition that there are different orders of “Living Creatures” or “Cherubim,” each adapted to the service he is created to perform. In Isaiah’s Vision in the Temple of the Lord seated on His Throne, he saw a heavenly order of beings that he called the “Seraphim.” They had 6 wings, like John’s “Living Creatures,” and cried “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His Glory” (Isaiah 6:1-4), but they stood above the Throne, while Ezekiel’s Cherubim supported the Throne, and John’s “Living Creatures” were in the midst or around the Throne. Whatever significances there may be in the different forms the “Cherubim” or “Living Creatures” took, it is clear that they do not represent the Church, but are attendants or officials attached to the Throne of God, for they summon the four Horsemen to appear (Revelation 6:1-8), and one of them hands to the “Seven Vial Angels,” the “Golden Vials” filled with the “Wrath of God.” Revelation 15:7. And when they give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sits upon the Throne, who liveth forever and ever, the “Four and Twenty Elders” fall down before Him that sits upon the Throne, and worship Him . . . and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:9-11.

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Bibliographical Information
Larkin, Clarence. "Commentary on Revelation 4". A Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clr/revelation-4.html.