INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
The Heavenly Scene
God is on His Throne--and He's Not Happy!
THE SCRIPTURES (4:1-11)
After 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." 2 And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And 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. 4 And around 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. 5 And from the throne proceed 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; 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 And the 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.
8 And 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." 9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the 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 Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created."
John in chapters 1-3 has set for us the historical setting of the events in Revelation. It is toward the end of the first century AD. The Roman Emperor Domitian has launched an extensive campaign against Christians, especially those living in Asia Minor, because of their refusal to acknowledge the state as supreme. John himself has been exiled to the isle of Patmos which lies to the west of the city of Ephesus. He has just warned the 7 major churches who are facing this persecution of the character flaws within their congregations. They need to correct their errors so that they will be prepared for the tribulation about to fall upon them.
In the meantime what is God Himself doing? When Christians go through times of tribulation and sorrow, it sure seems that heaven is quiet, quietly going about its own business while we poor souls are suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth. In one of the classic passages in the NT about heaven's attitude towards suffering, we see Jesus STANDING, not sitting, but STANDING at God's right hand as His servant Stephen is about to be stoned to death. He stands to let Stephen know that He is paying attention to his situation, that He is not going to take the martyrdom of His people sitting down, that Jesus is waiting to receive him into glory, and that He will stand in judgment upon those who are about to kill Stephen. That all is coming out of one short verse (Acts 7:56). What we see in Revelation 4-5 are TWO chapters explaining to us God's attitude towards what is happening to the followers of His Son.
Just a side note here before analyzing this chapter. If God is soooooooo concerned about His people, then why doesn't God just wipe out the enemies of His people and rapture His people up to heaven? The answer is simple. That would not fit into God's purpose. God is going to take some dramatic steps to wake up His enemies, to warn them of the impending doom which will fall upon them if they do not repent. When the Great Tribulation is over, no one will ever have any excuse for not believing in Jesus. If 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls of wrath won't wake up a person, then nothing will. Although many will perish in the lake of fire, God does not desire that. He will do all He can to bring them to Him, including great wrath during the Great Tribulation.
As for Christians who go through the GT, Paul assures us that God's main goal for us in THIS lifetime is NOT our comfort. In fact, Paul claims that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18). God does not view the sufferings of His people as being too great a price for them to pay if it means the salvation of others. Moreover, God does not think our suffering is too great a price for US to pay if that suffering develops us into the image of Christ. In the end, God is going to more than make up for these sufferings.
DESCRIPTION OF GOD ON HIS THRONE (4:2-3; 5-6)
To get a good idea of the throne and of the God who sits on it, fill in the following blanks:
2 And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting was like a _____________ stone [similar in appearance to our diamond] and a sardius [red in color] in appearance; and there was a _______________ [a symbol of God's faithfulness] around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. . . . 5 And from the throne proceed flashes of ____________ and sounds and peals of ______________. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven _____________ of God; 6 and before the throne there was as it were a ____________ of glass, like crystal."
Whatever else this scene conveys to us, it conveys the idea that God is NOT the cool, passive God of Greek thought we have been taught to believe in. There is something exciting, dynamic about God as this picture shows. Whatever "form" God takes "sitting on the throne," He is "red," that is, full of fire as His people are going through great tribulation. Lighting and fire shoot out from the throne. This is a picture of God in wrath, not the cool, thoughtful, rational, IMPARTIAL judge of our modern courtrooms. Rather He is the kind of judge we see pictured in the Book of Judges, a judge full of fury who is about to visit wrath upon the enemies of His people. Whatever else this judge is, He is NOT impartial; in fact, He is partial in the extreme FOR His people.
The rainbow reminds us of God's covenant (agreement) with God which points to God's faithfulness. God is going to deliver His people because He is faithful to them.
The seven lamps of fire most likely refer to the Holy Spirit. Why do you think John pictures the Holy Spirit as SEVEN lamps of fire, the emphasis being on the word "7"?
THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS (4:4)
Regarding the 24 elders, please fill in the following blanks:
4 "And around the throne were twenty-four _____________; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four _____________ sitting, clothed in ___________ garments, and golden _____________ on their heads."
At this point some of our well-meaning friends point to this verse to "prove" that the church has already been raptured before the tribulation begins. The only problem is that this verse does not prove that claim. Moreover, it would be highly improbable that John would place the rapture right before the tribulation and not even mention it. Why would that be improbable? Because the rapture of the church is probably one of the 4 or 5 greatest events in the history of Christianity. We are talking the rapture of probably anywhere between 2-3 billion people, and John doesn't even mention it? Maybe so, but I find it highly, almost totally, improbable.
So who are these 24 elders? Twenty-four is 12 x 2, or 2 groups of 12. When we looked at numerology, we saw that 12 represents religion, OT and/or NT, the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. (This will be clearly specified in Rev. 21 where the 12 tribes of Israel are represented by the 12 gates into the New Jerusalem and the 12 apostles are represented by the 12 foundation stones of the city.)
Does it seem strange that these 12, especially the 12 apostles, would be pictured as sitting on thrones, clothed in which, with crowns on their heads? Probably so; however, what does Jesus promise the 12 apostles (Matt. 19:28)?
We so quickly forget the significance of those who have gone before us. Paul, in writing about the church, claims that whereas Jesus is the capstone of the church (or the large cornerstone), the apostles and the prophets actually were the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). Remember that we have NOTHING from the hand of Jesus; all knowledge we have of Jesus comes from the apostles. Here in Rev. 4, they sit in glory before God, a token and reminder that we too will one day will sit on thrones with Jesus (Rev. 3:21).
THE FOUR BEASTS (4:6-8)
According to v. 6 what is before God which was like crystal?
This crystal-like substance serves to separate man from God. As long as it exists, man can never get to God. The wonderful thing is that after Christ returns and brings down the New Jerusalem, this thing will not exist. There will then be NO separation between God and man (Rev. 21:1).
Around the throne of God stand 4 creatures. These creatures are full of what?
This probably points to their ever-watchfulness.
How does John describe each of the 4 creatures?
|CREATURE||DESCRIPTION OF CREATURE|
|First Creature||like a lion|
These four creatures probably represent all creaturely, animal lifeóman, beast, and bird (fish?). With their bodies full of eyes, they are ever wakeful and watchful to give praise to God day and night.
The 6 wings probably allude to Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:2) of the angels who encircle God. With 2 wings they cover their bodies in humility; with 2 they cover their faces because they feel unworthy to look upon God; with 2 they fly in order to serve as God's messengers.
What do the 4 living creatures utter day and night (4:8)? This is one of the verses that serves as the basis for our song "Holy, Holy, Holy."
THE HEAVENLY WORSHIP SERVICE (4:9-11)
At this point the heavenly hosts break out into praise. Do the heavenly hosts praise God because (1) He is Savior, (2) He is Lord, or (3) He is the Creator?
Because this is true of Him, God owns ALL things. All things are accountable to Him for the way they treat Him, His Son, and His Son's people. As a result, God is more than right in judging ALL people, especially in this case, His enemies and the enemies of the people of Jesus.