Chapter 4

Introduction

This chapter marks the beginning of the Bible’s longest and most detailed vision concerning the future, extending from chapter 4 all the way through the first five verses of chapter 22. This is why Revelation must be viewed as the primary text concerning the prophecy of final things, just as Genesis must be viewed as the primary text concerning the things at the beginning.

The Seal Introduction

As discussed in Revelation Overview, the end times prophecy is laid out in the form of three periods: the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. This chapter begins the description of the seal period, or to be more specific, it begins the seal introduction, which will continue into chapter 5. The seal events will then follow in chapter 6.

Commentary

Come Up Here

1After 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.”

v1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven – This marks a strong transition from the messages to the seven churches to something new.

v1 the first voice…like a trumpet – The voice of Christ, referring back Rev 1:10.

v1 “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” – John’s experience began in chapter 1 while he was positioned on Patmos back in the first century. With this verse, we see a dramatic shift such that John is positioned in heaven (“up here”) to see things pertaining to the future, as indicated by the stated purpose of being shown what must take place after these things.

The phrase “after these things” in Rev 4:1 refers back to Rev 1:19, Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.

As discussed near the end of chapter 1, John was commissioned to write Revelation in the form of two parts, and now we are seeing Rev 4:1 allude to both parts:

  1. these things – Namely, the messages to the churches seen in chapters 2 and 3, which we have just finished. They refer to the church age, which has continued from the first century up to now.
  2. what must take place after these things – Events that will follow after the church age. This refers to the future events of the end times, and they are the subject of the vision that John relates to us starting in chapter 4.

This understanding agrees well with the content of the vision that will be revealed from here until chapter 22, because we will be shown many things that clearly have not yet been fulfilled.

Vision of the Throne of God

2Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

v2 Immediately I was in the Spirit – John indicates that in response to the command to “come up here”, he made a transition to being “in the Spirit”. I take it that he realized that he was experiencing something from the Holy Spirit, and not from his normal senses. He has had this sort of communion with the Holy Spirit before (Rev 1:10), but this time the experience includes visions filled with prophetic information and a command to write it all down.

v2 One sitting on the throne – This is clearly God the Father. We don’t know that God actually sits on a literal throne. It’s possible that things in the heavenly realms are, for our benefit, described using concepts that we are familiar with. In any case, the imagery emphasizes His supreme authority.

v3 He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance – Suffice to say, these descriptions are John’s attempts to describe indescribable beauty and majesty. The Old Testament visions of God are described very similarly (Ex 24:10; Ezek 1:28; Ezek 10:1).

God the Father as King

4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. 5Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” 9And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created

v4 twenty-four thrones … twenty-four elders – Here we are introduced to the 24 elders, who we shall see several times in the vision to come. See Who are the Twenty-Four Elders for more discussion.

While the descriptions of this place and the creatures within it may defy explanation, one thing that is certain is that God the Father is depicted as the great king. We are familiar with the idea of a king sitting on a throne, and we know that the greatness of a king is indicated by (1) his power, (2) his wealth, (3) his authority, (4) his glory and honor. All of these things are indicated by the symbolism here:

  1. power – (verse 5) Thunder and lightning coming forth from this glorious throne, with seven blazing lamps. Apparently, the floor was like a sea of glass or crystal, so all this lightning and fire would be reflected everywhere.
  2. wealth – (verse 3) The king himself has the appearance of precious stones, jasper and sardius (probably ruby), around him a shining rainbow that looks like emerald. The impression is one of endless wealth.
  3. authority – (verse 4-10) We see these 24 elders, who themselves have authority because they are also sitting on thrones and wearing golden crowns, but they lay down their crowns before the glorious throne. God is clearly the king of kings.
  4. glory and honor – (verses 8-11) Everyone in attendance, including the 24 elders and the ineffable “four living creatures”, acknowledge the holiness and worthiness and honor and glory of the one on the throne.

The Throne Room

For the sake of giving this place a name, we can call it the throne room in heaven. As the vision unfolds in Revelation, we shall come back to this place several times. The future events that are about to be shown to us all happen at the command of the one sitting on the throne. After each command, John will be given a vision of how that command will be carried out, and then he will “return” to this throne room, until the command is given for the next event to take place.

As we go forward, we will also notice that this throne room has much in common with earthly temple of Israel. In actuality, it is more precise to say that the things that were in the earthly temple were put there to symbolize the greater realities of this Heavenly Temple.

The Purpose of this Introduction

As the prophetic vision begins, all who are present acknowledge God the Father as king, and they all do His will. While this is true in heaven, it certainly does not (at this time) describe the way things are on earth. For this reason, I think it best to understand that God is being depicted here as the King of Heaven. This is not to say that he lacks authority on earth, but rather that His authority is fully executed and acknowledged in heaven, which is not yet the case on earth.

Why does the vision of the future need to begin by emphasizing God as the King of Heaven?

We shall soon see that God’s ultimate objective is to extend the full execution and acknowledgment of His authority to the earth. That is, this vision of the future will show us how God will finally receive the same glory and honor on earth as we see Him receiving in heaven. This objective will become more evident as this seal introduction continues in chapter 5. Also, only God the Father knows when this objective will be fulfilled, and only He has the authority to initiate it (Matt 24:36, Acts 1:7). Naturally then, it follows that the account of its fulfillment must begin with Him.

At this point, those in attendance include God the Father, the 24 elders, and the four living creatures. We will see in the next chapter that there are multitudes of angels present, as well as one called the Lamb. I believe it is worth noting that we do not see a multitude of people here at this point in John’s vision. However, that is something that we will see later.

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