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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 4

Verses 1-11

A Door Opened in Heaven

From this point in Revelation the Church is never again seen on earth, but always in heaven or coming as the armies in heaven with her Lord to judge the earth (Revelation 19:11-14). The indication of her being raptured to glory is seen in the first verse, for John himself plainly represents the Church, and a door is opened in heaven for him to enter. A number of times in Scripture we read of heaven being opened, always indicating a public event of great significance, but only here is mentioned a doo r opened in heaven, for this indicates the entrance of vast numbers of the redeemed, both Old Testament believers and those of the present-day Church of God. John is called by a trumpet voice to come up (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52, l Thess. 4: 16), there to be shown "the things which must take place after this"-after the history of the seven assemblies. So too, from the height of heaven, the raptured saints will see all the spectacular events that follow on earth.

John must first witness the greatness of the glory of the living God, the Judge of all. He is immediately in the Spirit, his body having no place in this great revelation (v. 2). God is upon the throne, but God is only revealed in the person of His Son, as each symbol in verse 3 indicates. A jasper stone is clear and thus speaks of the clarity of pure, absolute truth seen in perfection in the Lord Jesus. The sardius stone is fiery red and indicates deep warmth of feeling, whether of love or of hatred of evil. How perfectly we see these in the Son of God and in His great sacrifice at Calvary!

We also see a rainbow about the throne. All of its divided colors speak of distinct beauties and glories of the God of creation. Yet it is said to look like an emerald which is green. This is the central color of the spectrum and speaks of the fruitful, refreshing principle of the grace of God. It is wonderful to be assured of this before God's awesome work of judgment must begin (Isaiah 28:21). It is His great pleasure to do the work of pure grace as He has done in the salvation of countless numbers through the value of the sacrifice of His beloved Son. Judgment is His extraordinary or "unusual" work, that in which He has no pleasure, though it is a necessary work.

Around the throne are 24 thrones on which 24 "elders" are seated, clothed in white and crowned with golden crowns. These elders therefore, though in a lesser position, are reigning with the Lord. They are not angels, for only humans are called "elders" in Scripture. Being men of experience, elders are always in some sense representative (cf. Acts 15:6). The number 24 divides naturally into two twelves, always indicating completeness in governmental administration. Two companies then must be indicated here. The only possible conclusion is that they represent the Old Testament and New Testament saints, each invested with a dignity that was not possible for them on earth. This is consistent with the fact that Revelation is a book that presents truth by pictures (Revelation 1:1) which are often found and defined elsewhere in the Bible. Being crowned with golden crowns intimates that they have been rewarded for lives previously lived for the glory of God.

The lightnings, thunderings and voices proceeding from the throne (v. 5) emphasize the fact of sudden, awesome, inescapable judgment about to fall on the world of the ungodly. Yet this is balanced by the perfect discernment and calm deliberation indicated in the seven lamps of fire before the throne - the seven- fold power of the Spirit of God, as we have seen in Revelation 1:4 and in Isaiah 11:2.

The sea of glass (in contrast to a sea of water) denotes an accomplished, fixed purity as will be the case for all saints in heaven (v. 6). Later we see a similar glass sea for those who triumph over the beast and his image (Revelation 15:2), but there it is mingled with fire because of the fiery trial of their faith during the Tribulation.

In the midst of the throne and surrounding it are four living creatures. These cannot be angels, for no angel is in the midst of the throne of God. The Lamb is said to be there (Revelation 5:6), for the Lamb is Himself God, and God's glory is given to no other. The living creatures denote four distinct principles of God's government-living, vital principles that are operative in all His works. The same four faces of verse 7 are also seen in the living creatures ofEzekiel 1:1-28; Ezekiel 1:1-28. The lion denotes sovereign power as seen in the aspect of Christ's character as King in Matthew. The calf pictures service as seen in Mark's portrayal of Him as God's Servant. The face like that of a man denotes intelligence and understanding, as Luke presents Him. Finally, the eagle pictures a high, inscrutable character (Proverbs 30:18-19) as evidenced in the Lord Jesus in John's Gospel of His great Godhead glory. All of these are connected with the throne of God in His governing and judging. In this is a wonderful fulness and perfect balance.

The six wings (v. 8) of each "creature" speak of speed of execution in marked contrast to men's present-day protracted judicial decisions. Wings also speak of protection (Luke 13:34), for in God's judgments there is a true shelter for those who really trust Him. Being full of eyes reminds us of the eyes in the rims of Ezekiel's wheels (Ezekiel 1:18). This teaches us that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, discerning perfectly every detail of every matter that He deals with. These four living principles of truth declare unceasingly the holiness of God, the Almighty, He who is supreme Ruler, past, present and future (v. 9). In this they are giving glory, honor and thanks to Him who occupies the throne of eternal glory, the eternally living One.

As they do this, the 24 elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, worshiping and casting down their crowns before Him (v. 10). These crowns are God's gift by grace, and give no occasion for self-exaltation, but are seen as a fresh opportunity for exalting their Lord and God who alone is worthy to receive honor and glory and power. They here celebrate God's glory as Creator (v.11), which confirms the fact of God being revealed in His blessed Son. It is His pleasure that delights them as regards all His creation, not their pleasure, though their pleasure is full when His pleasure is predominant. In Revelation 5:1-14 we shall see that redemption, not creation, is the theme of their worship.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.