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Revelation 4:1. It is important to see that with this chapter a new part of the book starts (see Revelation 1:19). This new part (which is also the last and longest one of the book) starts with “after these things”, which is after the events that are dealt with in the previous two chapters. Therein you have seen the development of Christianity on earth, wherein the true believers were addressed. From chapter 4 all true believers have been taken up in heaven. That has happened at the coming of the Lord Jesus for the church and all Old Testament believers (1 Thessalonians 4:15-Job :).
Now the way is free for God to do His work with the earth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:6). He will judge the world and cleanse it from everything that is in contrast with Him. After these judgments the Lord Jesus will come to the earth to reign a thousand years. He will fulfill all promises that have been prophesied by all prophets. No word that God has spoken will remain unfulfilled.
Christ will show the whole work to John that God will do after the rapture of the church. John sees “a door [standing] open in heaven”. From there the first voice that he “heard, like [the sound] of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10) – which is the Lord Jesus – speaks with him. The voice is saying to him to come up to heaven in order to see everything that will happen on earth. And you are allowed to look over the shoulder of John!
Revelation 4:2. Directly after the command to come up, John was in the Spirit. He doesn’t have to do that by his own power, which would not even be possible. Therefore he receives the power of the Holy Spirit. You also cannot get insight in the future of the Lord Jesus by your own efforts. You need the Holy Spirit to show you that (John 16:13). You are to give Him the room for that and there should be no hindrances because of unconfessed sins or because of a walk after the flesh.
The first thing that John sees in heaven is “a throne” and One Who sits on it. You stand in the throne hall where things are governed and judgment is given. This is the place of action for the rest of the book. The word ‘throne’ appears no less than forty-two times as the throne of God and still five more times with another meaning, while it appears only fifteen times in the rest of the New Testament.
The throne “was standing”, which indicates the stability and firmness of the Divine authority, in contrast to all earthly unsteady and changeable thrones. It is also set “in heaven” and therefore beyond all earthly thrones. Also all earthly thrones will at once be made visibly subjected. That the real government finds itself in heaven should be an encouragement for each who as a believer suffers under ungodly authority.
Also there is Someone on the throne. It seems that John is not able to get a right vision of Him. From the description he gives, is shining a great brilliance. The Person Who sits on it is resplendent, full of glory and radiance. It is no one else than the glorified Son of Man Who has received the whole judgment of the Father in His hands (John 5:22; John 5:27).
Revelation 4:3. John uses images from nature to describe the splendor of Him Whom he perceives on the throne. He first mentions two gemstones. Gemstones reflect the light of the sun in numerous colorful beams. They are used to describe the glory of God in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). Twelve gemstones are on the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:17-Proverbs :). Of these precious stones that are on the breastplate, the ‘sardius stone’ is mentioned first and the ‘jasper stone’ last.
The “rainbow” is the symbol of the faithful covenant of God with the earth. He reminds us that the flood destroyed the earth and also the blessing afterwards (Genesis 9:8-Esther :). This symbol also indicates that God’s judgments have a limit and that He in the midst of the wrath also remembers mercy (Genesis 8:1; Habakkuk 3:2). The rainbow “around the throne”, which is not a half but a whole closed circle, announces that His kindness never ceases, but is everlasting.
An ‘emerald’ has a beautiful green color, the typical color of creation. This is the color of the rainbow as the glorified saints will always see him. While the judgment over the rebellious man and the evil is announced, the remembrance of God’s grace and promises towards His creation are vividly before their eyes.
Revelation 4:4. The Lord Jesus does not reign alone. Beside Him there are “twenty-four thrones”, and on them “twenty-four elders”. The number of ‘twenty-four’ indicates two times twelve. In these twenty-four elders the believers from the Old Testament and the New Testament are symbolically represented. You can understand that when you remember that God’s people in the Old Testament is originated from the twelve sons of Jacob and that God’s people in the New Testament is built on the foundation of the twelve apostles of the Lord Jesus.
The “white garments” indicate the purity and priestly character of the elders. They sit on thrones like kings, as fellow kings with the Lord Jesus. They carry “golden crowns on their heads”. These crowns are no tiaras, but garlands which are received by the overcomers. The value of it is not the material value, but the public homage. You may consider that an encouragement for yourself. When on earth you are faithful to following the rejected Lord, you will soon be allowed to reign with Him.
Revelation 4:5. Everything that goes out from the throne proclaims the judgments to come. It reminds us of the appearance of God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18). The throne here is not the throne of mercy, what he is to you today (Hebrews 4:16). Also in the millennial kingdom of peace the throne is a throne from which blessing comes in the form of a stream of water (Ezekiel 47:1-2 Kings :). But before that happens, many judgments are to come from the throne first, so that the blessing may flow freely.
With the throne of God the Spirit of God is related. The Spirit is represented here in sevenfold in “seven lamps of fire”. The number ‘seven’ indicates perfection and ‘fire’ symbolizes judgment. The judgments of God are different to each situation, but always perfect. They are executed without a chance of mistake under the perfect working of the Spirit of God. It is a good thing to consider that the God Who you may call Father is at the same time a consuming fire regarding everything in your life which is not in accordance with Him (Hebrews 12:29; cf. 1 Peter 1:17).
Revelation 4:6. It is remarkable how everything in this chapter is related to the throne. You have read about (Someone) on the throne, (the elders) around the throne, (lightning, etc.) which was proceeded from the throne and (the seven Spirits of God) that were before the throne. Now you see something else before the throne and even something else in the midst of the throne.
We first look at what was before the throne: something “like a sea of glass, like crystal”. That reminds us of the big laver in the temple of Solomon, that is called the ‘sea’ (1 Kings 7:23). That laver was filled with water with which the priest was to wash his hands and feet before he entered the sanctuary. The water here is ‘crystal’. In heaven there is no more need for washing. That the sea stands before the throne means that the purity in heaven is perfectly in harmony with the holy character of the throne.
In order to have a little understanding of what the four living creatures in the midst of the throne represent, you need to read some verses from the book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:5; Ezekiel 1:10Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 10:12Ezekiel 10:14). When you compare what John sees of it to what Ezekiel sees of it, you see that the living creatures are related to the judgments of God on earth that are characterized by four things. That they are related to judgments appears already from their position in relation to the throne. They found themselves in the midst of it, which causes them as it were, to be identified with the throne.
That there are four of them emphasizes the generality of the judgment. The number ‘four’ is typical for the earth. You hear it in expressions like: four wind directions, four corners of the earth, four seasons. The four living creatures are with regard to the earth not only omniscient in their judgment, but they exercise it also with a full insight in the future (“full of eyes in front”) and in the past (“and behind”). This insight belongs to God’s nature, which makes Him act with full knowledge of all circumstances, of all causes and of all consequences.
Revelation 4:7. The characteristics of His judgments are compared with four of His creatures:
1. In the first place there is “a lion”. The lion is the king among the animals that does not turn away from any (Proverbs 30:30) and against whom nobody can resist. In the lion you see the power and majesty of God’s kingdom and judgments.
2. His judgments continue steadily, like “a calf” that is plowing continues steadily.
3. His judgments are executed with wisdom and insight, with which He has gifted “man” as a creature above animals.
4. Finally you see in the “flying eagle” the fastness in which the judgments out of heaven will strike the earth (cf. Deuteronomy 28:49).
Now read Revelation 4:1-7 again.
Reflection: Mention the things that in this portion are in relation with the throne.
The Four Living Creatures
Revelation 4:8. Besides the differences between the living creatures you also see what they have in common. Each of the living creatures has “six wings”. The seraphim that Isaiah saw in his vision also have them (Isaiah 6:2). In Isaiah you read what they did with the six wings. With two of their wings they covered their face, for they could not stand to see the glory of God. With two other wings they covered their feet, which indicates that in the light of that glory they do not find themselves worthy of serving Him, while they show their readiness to serve by continually moving two other wings.
It seems that with the living creatures all six wings are moving. They have no rest as long as the earth is still in chaos and rebellion against God, as long as there is no harmony between heaven and earth and heaven is not yet reigning on the earth. The holiness of God, for such a long time already being violated, stands before them. With a view to that they will as executors of God’s judgments do their work on behalf of Him.
They are perfectly equipped for this work. There is a perfect insight in all things around them (“full of eyes around”) and inwardly they are perfectly aware of God’s holiness (“full of eyes … within”). Besides that it causes them to carry out their judging work, for which they as it were, are impatiently waiting to do, they worship God because of His holiness. They are full of that holiness, which you can derive from them speaking out three times the word “holy”. They know Him as the God of the history (“Who was”) and the present (“and Who is”). He is also “Who is to come” to fill the world with His holiness. He is the Almighty, He is able and He will do it.
Revelation 4:9. The four living creatures have characteristics which distinguish them from one another and they have characteristics in which they are the same. They also give “glory and honor and thanks” to God. He sits on the throne and has all power to reign. His kingdom will never come to an end, for He “lives forever and ever”. With Him and His throne they are closely related. They cannot do otherwise than to honor Him and to carry out His will. All of their actions in the execution of the judgments have God’s glory as a starting point and purpose.
You can also apply that to the church when sin has been publicly revealed in her midst (1 Corinthians 5:13). The judgment over sin also has to happen out of this awareness. Personal motives are not to have part in this. Only the honor of God is important. In that honor lies also the blessing of man. That honor is what the Lord Jesus has always been looking for and how great is the blessing that came out of it to men!
Revelation 4:10. After the worship of the living creatures comes that of the elders. The cause of their worship is certainly also God’s holiness and omnipotence. They also give thanks for the crowns that they have received from Him as a reward for their faithfulness on earth. They have the deep consciousness that their faithfulness was finally a result of what His grace has worked in them. Therefore they will also cast their crowns with much gratitude before the throne and express their admiration for Him.
Revelation 4:11. In their tribute the elders address Him directly, while the angels speak about Him, not to Him. They start with “worthy are You”. That involves His Person. He personally is worthy. His personal glory appears here to be because of His works. In the next chapter it is said again that He is worthy (Revelation 5:9). There it happens because of the magnificence of His redemption work. Here you see that the Object of worship is both the triune God Who sits on the throne and the Son Who because of His work on the cross has received all power in His hands.
When the elders speak about what God is worthy of to receive, it does not mean that something is given to God which He does not have yet. Their desire is that what He has will be seen and admired by the whole creation and that this will be spoken out to Him. Everything that is, has been created by Him. All things exist, because He wanted that and because He has carried out His will and indeed has created them.
You may now already tell Him that you see His glory, honor and power in His works and that you admire Him for it. Then you will now already be doing what you see the elders doing here and what you will also soon do in heaven. Isn’t it great to say this to God and the Lord Jesus?
Now read Revelation 4:8-11 again.
Reflection: What will you in due time be able to offer before the throne of the Lord Jesus?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter