After completing the recording of the messages to the seven churches, John turned to future events. This began the prophetic portion of the book of Revelation. John received a new vision; a vision of Heaven, as John was transported before the throne of God, which is located in Heaven. This was where Jesus ascended after His resurrection. (Acts 1:10-11, 7:55-56) The phrase, “Come up here,” indicates that John was taken to the throne room of Heaven as if in bodily form (In Revelation 5:4 where John wept while in Heaven indicates that it was like he was there bodily). The voice that John heard was the Lord Jesus Christ’s telling him that He would show the apostle things which must take place in the future.
After this event, there is no further reference to the Church, which is an indication that the events that follow were after the Rapture of the Church. At the Rapture, all living and dead believers from the Church Age will meet Jesus Christ in the air. They will then be led to Heaven, having received a glorified body like Christ’s - fully conscious and fully recognizable. (I Corinthians 4:5; 15:51-57; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:21)
John tells us he was “in the Spirit.” The Greek word for spirit is “pneuma” and can refer to the Holy Spirit or the spirit of man. Normally, but not always, when an article like “the” appears before spirit it is a reference to the Holy Spirit, but the context must be the final determining factor to whom “spirit” refers. In Revelation 1:10, as here, it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. John was in fellowship with and being guided by (filled with) the Holy Spirit when he saw this vision of end-times events.
What John saw first was a throne and One sitting on it. John saw the Lord Jesus Christ seated upon the throne of God. We know it was the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the visible person of the Godhead and He is seated on the throne. We also have a description of the Person seated on the throne, which is descriptive of Jesus Christ. We must not forget that the central theme of the book of Revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ. The further verses in Revelation 4 are also a good reason to believe that the One on the throne Who John saw was Jesus Christ.
John describes the appearance of the Lord as a jasper and a sardius. The jasper of the Bible was quite different than our modern stone. Revelation 21:11 gives a good description of this stone. It was a clear crystal stone (some have suggested a diamond). This stone was part of the last row of stones on the breastplate of the High Priest and the sardius was part of the first row. This could have been a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest seated at the right hand of the Father. John also saw an emerald rainbow around the throne of God. The rainbow has significance in the Scriptures. The rainbow is symbolic of God’s glory. (Ezekiel 1:28) The rainbow was a promise to mankind never to destroy the world again by water. (Genesis 9:13-17) The rainbow is symbolic of the character of God in keeping His promises. It is difficult to stretch the meaning of these descriptions beyond the light that other passages shed on them.
Revelation 4:4 speaks of twenty-four elders seated on thrones, which surround the throne of God. They were clothed with white garments and had crowns of gold on their heads. There has been much speculation about who these elders are. The Greek word for elder is “presbyterous” and is used primarily in the Scriptures to denote rank or position of responsibility. There are two popular interpretations for these elders: 1) they are men who represent the Church and Israel 2) they are a group of ruling angels.
The strongest support for these elders being men is that the word is most often referring to men, not angels. The supporters of this idea also cite the white clothing as being symbolic of believers possessing God’s righteousness. They also point out that in Revelation 5:9 the elders sang that Christ has redeemed “us.” Though the arguments for this idea are strong, “elders” does not always refer to men. White clothing is also the garment of angels. (Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10) Finally, Revelation 5:9 is mistranslated in the King James Bible and should read, “…and you ransomed men unto God.”
The argument for these elders being angels, other than was cited above, is that angels are often referred to in terms of rank. Some angels are rulers or higher in rank than others. (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16) The gold crowns that they are wearing could be symbolic of their special rank, authority or duty. God is pictured in the Old Testament as being surrounded by a council of angels. (I Kings 22:19; Psalm 89:7; Isaiah 24:23) Finally, Revelation 7:9-11 seems to indicate that these elders are angels, not men.
Revelation 4:5 pictures the throne as a place from which judgment proceeds. A similar occurrence was in the Old Testament when the Law was given to Moses. (Exodus 19:16) The lightning, thunder and loud voices denote the wrath of God Who will bring judgment at the end of the Tribulation. The throne is not only a place of God’s glory. It is also a place of His judgment. The seven lamps before the throne are the seven spirits of God. The seven spirits represent the character of Jesus Christ as divine Judge. His judgment will be fair, just and perfect.
Before the throne was a sea of glass and around the throne were four living beings. The sea of glass was said to be crystal clear (transparent) picturing the magnificence of God upon His throne. The description speaks for itself as being a beautiful place, unlike any other.
The four living beings are surrounding the throne and have eyes all around. They resemble the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2 and the cherubim in Ezekiel 1:4-14, 10:1. These beings seem to be a high-ranking order of angels who are assigned the task of worshipping God and reflecting His glory, day and night. They are also involved in the judicial procedure as seen in Revelation 6:1-7.
The living beings reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first living being was like a lion. The lion is called the “king of beasts” and, as such, is considered the noblest in the animal kingdom. Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, which is a reference to His messianic rulership as the Son of David. (Revelation5:5) The second living being was likened to an ox. The ox is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom and normally used to serve man. (I Corinthians 9:9; I Timothy 5:18) Jesus Christ came as a servant the first time to pay the penalty for sin. The third living being had a face like a man. Man is the most intelligent of God’s creation and as such has the ability to reason. Jesus Christ became a human being, giving Him an affinity with mankind. The fourth living being was likened to a flying eagle. The eagle is swiftest of the animal kingdom. Jesus Christ’s deity and humanity are united in One Person forever. The eagle speaks of His deity. It is also interesting to note that the four Gospels line up perfectly with these descriptions: Matthew presents Christ as the Lion of Judah, Mark presents Him as the servant, Luke emphasizes His humanity and John features His deity.
John gave more detail regarding these beings, such as they each had six wings and they were full of eyes. Similar to the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2, the wings may represent the readiness and ability to carry out God’s commands. The eyes could represent the constant vigilance of these angels and their superior intelligence. The phrase “they rest not day and night” refers to the kind of time, not the duration of it. (Similar phrases are used by Paul to describe his labor to support himself – I Thessalonians 2:9; II Thessalonians 3:8).
God, the Holy One, The Almighty One and the Eternal One is the only Person to whom all praise, worship, thanksgiving and honor are due and these angelic beings resound the message. When they sing this anthem the twenty-four elders (ruling angels) fall down before the throne and announce to all that only Jesus Christ is worthy to receive glory, honor and power. This is further evidenced by the fact that the elders cast their crowns (a sign of submission to God) before Him demonstrating that God alone has the right to be worshipped. The reason is that He created all things and for His pleasure they were created.
The word for praise in Greek is “espainos,” which means approval or commendation. Therefore, when we praise God we are saying that we approve or commend God for all the wonderful things that He has provided for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible says that there are at least three ways by which we can bring praise to God.
The word for worship in Greek is “prokuneo” which means to reverence or honor. The Word of God says that we are to worship God under the filling or control of the Holy Spirit and in truth (the Word of God). It brings honor to God when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives and when we learn and apply His Word. (John 4:24)
So today, we are praising God because we are fulfilling a part of our spiritual life by studying God’s Word and we are worshipping God through the filling of the Holy Spirit and through His Word. (II Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 5:18)