What Happens Next? Ch. 4, A Heavenly Throne

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

  • A simpler translation: After I had seen all these things, I dreamed again and saw that there was an opening (door) into heaven. And the person who had a voice like a trumpet spoke to me again and said, “Come up here and I will let you see the things that will happen after this.
  • “After this I looked” – “Vision one of Revelation is complete; vision two (4:1–16:21)—the longest of the four—is about to begin. In vision one John saw and heard Christ on the earth. Vision two begins with John taken to heaven. As he wrote the vision down, John included what he saw and heard in heaven as well as what he saw on earth. As we will observe when we reach chapter 12, this great second vision ends with John seeing two fantastic dramas that explain the why and the how of the consummation (12:1–14:20; 15:1–16:21).” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 73–74). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  • “a door standing open in heaven” – Scripture allows several glimpses into heaven…when Jesus was baptized (Matt. 3.16), when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7.55-56), when Peter had a vision of unclean animals (Acts 10.11), See also: Rev. 11.19; 15.5; 19.11. – Each time, it is God-centered, focusing on his glory and holiness. Perhaps that is why we don’t have many details about the exact nature of heaven, because each time a person is allowed a glimpse, they are only consumed with God.
  • “the first voice” – the voice he heard before, the voice he heard in chapters 1-3, the voice of Jesus.
  • “Come up here” – The verb tense is singular and refers to John alone. This verse is not an invitation for all, or a mention of the rapture of the church. Yet, pre-trib rapturists would place the event in 4.1.
  • “I will show” – Jesus is the revealer of what is to come. It is not for us to speculate beyond what scripture has clearly spoken.
  • “what must take place” – God holds the future in His sovereign hands. Nothing or no one can thwart what He has deemed necessary to occur. The future does not catch him off guard. He is never unprepared for what the future holds, on a global or personal level.
  • “after this” – meaning in the future.

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

  • “At once I was in the Spirit” – “What actually happened to John’s body? We don’t know for sure, but the experience described in 2 Corinthians 12:3–4 by Paul was similar: “And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” John, however, was not only permitted, he was commanded to write it down.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 75). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • “a throne” – Thrones always communicate the authority and power of the sovereign who occupies it.
  • “one” – God solely and uniquely occupies the throne. It is to be shared with no one.
  • APP: Trust your future to the one sitting on heaven’s throne.
  • “seated on the throne” – Psalm 47.8 ties in the picture of God seated on His throne with his sovereignty.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne. – Psalm 47.8

And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.

  • John then begins to describe the appearance of God upon the throne, and it seems as if words fail him in many ways. Evidently, he sees bright colors, which he compares to prized jewels of his day. There are references to these particular stones (jasper and carnelian) in relation to the high priest’s breast plate (Exodus 28.17-21), but we should probably best understand John’s description as trying to captivate the beauty and worth of God on His throne.
  • “jasper” – is a clear stone and may emphasize God’s sinlessness.
  • “carnelian” – is red and may emphasize the redemptive work of God.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.

  • “twenty-four thrones” – “John’s attention is diverted from the central throne to twenty-four other thrones. These are not described, nor is the meaning of the number twenty-four explained. Many scholars have guessed about this. The most frequent suggestion is that the twelve sons of Jacob (the old covenant people of God) and the twelve apostles of Jesus (the new covenant people of God) are together praising God. Others have thought that the twenty-four orders among the Israelite priests are in view (1 Chr. 24:4). These heavenly thrones are for powerful angelic beings, not humans, so there may not be any special significance to the number that we can understand. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 75–76). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • This detail should not distract us from the most important throne in this pericope.
  • “elders” -a person of responsibility and authority in matters of socio-religious concerns, both in Jewish and Christian societies.
  • “Only in Revelation are elders identified as a select group of angelic beings (4:4, 10; 5:5, 6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). First-century people automatically connected leadership and elders, so it is not surprising that these mighty heavenly leaders of worship should be called elders. The term elder does not require that they be (glorified) humans any more than the term living creature requires that those beings be breathing animals such as are found on the surface of the earth. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 83). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • “white garments” – representing their purity.
  • “golden crowns” – evidently some power and authority have been designated to these beings.

From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,

  • “burning seven torches of fire” – not a lamp stand as mentioned in chapter one, but a first century tiki torch of sorts.
  • “which are the seven spirits of God” – a unique designation for the Holy Spirit within the book of Revelation.

and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:

  • “full of eyes in front and behind” – “These eyes mean that the creatures see unceasingly and are ever-watchful protectors of the divine throne. Ancient potentates had their guardians, but never like these.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 77). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

  • “Many have guessed, and the following seems as likely as any. The lion is the king of the untamed animals, while the ox (usually translated calf in the New Testament) was the domesticated animal used for sacrifice. The flying eagle was the king of the birds, while man is a separate kind of being. (The third living creature is said to have a face like a man rather than the form of a human.) All nature is called on to declare the praises of God (Ps. 150), so God has designed the creatures nearest his throne to serve as constant reminders of this.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 77). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • Their are others guesses about their significance as well. “As the Holy Spirit was seen symbolically in the seven lamps, probably the four living creatures symbolically represent the attributes of God including His omniscience and omnipresence (indicated by the creatures being full of eyes)—with the four animals bringing out other attributes of God: the lion indicating majesty and omnipotence; the ox, typical of faithful labor and patience; man, indicating intelligence; and the eagle, the greatest bird, representing supreme sovereignty. Another possible view is that they represent Christ as revealed in the four Gospels: in Matthew, the lion of the tribe of Judah; in Mark, the ox as the servant of Yahweh; in Luke, the incarnate human Jesus; and in John, the eagle as the divine Son of God. Another alternative is that the four living creatures are angels (cf. Isa. 6:2–3), who extol the attributes of God.” – John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 944–945.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 

  • “Holy, holy, holy” – a strong emphasis on the fact that God is uniquely set apart from sin and is perfect in character.
  • “Lord” – YHWH; the covenant-making God.
  • “God” – Emphasizes diety.
  • “Almighty” – emphasizes sovereignty and omnipotence.
  • “who was and is and is to come” – God is the eternal God, who keeps His promises, and never wavers in character.
  • This verse provides three aspects of appropriate worship. The first two because of who God is, the third because of what he has done.

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

  • “glory” – also can be translated as “praise”.
  • “honor” –  meaning high respect

10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 

  • “cast their crowns before the throne” – Their crowns were not given as symbols of their own personal authority, but as tools for worship.

11  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” 

  • “power” – not that God receives his power from some other source, but that He exhibits absolute power as evidenced in creation and the sustaining of it.

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