Revelation Chapter 4: the throne room of the Lord Yehovah ("God") in Heaven; the One seated on the throne; the 24 elders; the four living creatures; the seven spirits of Yehovah; heavenly worship
4:1 (a) After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in Heaven. And (b) the first voice I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, (c) “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
a. The Revelation was given to John in more than 40 individual visions and/or sounds that he saw and heard, in a series of six units. Those six units are separated by the phrase, “After these things,” which also occurs at 7:1, 7:9, 15:5, and 18:1. So, the first unit of revelation to John is contained in 1:1-3:22; the second unit is 4:1-7:8; the third unit is 7:1-7:8; the fourth unit is 7:9-15:4; the fifth unit is 15:5-17:18; and the sixth unit is 18:1-22:21. And a key to understanding the Revelation is to know that each shift from one unit of revelation to the next does not necessarily indicate a change from one time period to the next, but indicates a change in point of view or subject matter. "After these things" combined with "I looked," "I saw," or "I heard" indicates a change in visions or perspectives whereas "after these things" or "after this" (as at the end of this verse or in 9:12) without the change of perspective addendum indicates a change in time periods. In other words, the Revelation is presented more from Yehovah’s point of view, which transcends time, than from man’s point of view, which is bound by time. It is more like a giant mural than a time-line chart, and the reader is taken, in John’s description, to various parts of the mural until a clear view of the whole painting is formed. There is a general time sequence portrayed in the Revelation in the overview of the events of the seven seals, the seven trumpets followed by the seven bowls of wrath, and other events the timing of which is indicated by specific time markers, but many parts are not in strict chronological order and are included to fill in details in the time sequences. So, a key to understanding the Revelation is to know which parts are time sequences, which parts are parenthetical details, and how all the parts fit together. Some of this may be discovered by contextual clues, but a major key to putting the pieces of the mural puzzle together is to realize that many of the pieces are not found in the book of the Revelation; they are found in other Scriptures, especially the prophecies of Daniel and Yeshua (Jesus). As we proceed through the Lord’s Revelation, you will see what we mean. It is the prayer of this commentator that the reader will be helped in putting together the scenario painted by the Lord in His Revelation into a clear understanding of the “things shortly to take place” at the End of the Age, because it is indeed a breathtakingly magnificent mural.
b. A better translation of this phrase is that of the original King James Version: “the first voice which I had heard,” which refers the reader back to 1:10 and the voice of the Lord Yeshua.
c. This means, “Come up to Heaven,” as is clarified in the next verse. Some have surmised that the phrase, “after these things” and the clause, “come up here,” in this verse refer to a time sequence of future events, beginning with the present “Church Age,” at the end of which the “Rapture,”occurs, then the “Tribulation.” However, as was explained in (a) above, the reference is to a change in perspectives rather than to prophetic time sequence. John is simply stating that after he was given the Word of the Lord regarding the assemblies, he was told to “come up here” for his next revelatory vision - of things in Heaven. Some teach that the "Church" is not present during the last seven years, and this verse is one of the few straws they can grasp at to support that view. However, this cannot be true, because there are numerous references to Believers in Yeshua being present during those seven years, e.g., the multitude who came “out of the great tribulation” (7:14), “the rest of her offspring” (12:17), and “the saints” (13:7). The “Church Age” will be coming to a close only when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25), at the end of the 42-month Great Tribulation (cf. 13:5) and the Final Seven Years. This sequence of events will be clarified as we continue through the Revelation.
4:2-3 Immediately I was (a) in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in Heaven, and (b) One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was (c) like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
a. “In the spirit,” as in 1:10, is a Hebrew idiom that means in a vision or trance, although, without a doubt, this is a special vision induced by the Holy Spirit.
b. There is only one other record in Scripture (Daniel 7:9-10) of Yehovah the Father seated on the throne, and that is for the Final Judgment at the End of the Age.
c. Besides the breathtaking beauty of the Lord, these precious gemstones probably represent more. When we search the Old Covenant Scriptures, we do find other significance for them. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel was represented by a gemstone. Reuben (which means “behold, a son”), Jacob’s first-born son, was represented by the jasper (diamond?). Benjamin (which means “son of my right hand”), Jacob’s twelfth son, was represented by the sardius, a beautiful red stone. So, the stones may represent Yeshuah the Son in purity (the sparklingly clear jasper) and redemption (the blood-red sardius), the First and the Last, and the eternal King of God’s people seated on the throne. And, “around the throne” is a beautiful emerald rainbow - the symbol of Yehovah’s mercy in not destroying His chosen People.
4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
The identification of the 24 elders has been the subject of endless debate, largely because of some confusion among Bible translations. In making the correct interpretation, it may help to remember that the Revelation is Yehovah’s final Word to both Israel and the Followers of Yeshua. Because the 24 elders are wearing white robes (purity) and golden crowns (royalty), and are sitting on thrones (only Yehovah the Father, Yeshuah the Son, and the Redeemed are seen in other parts of Scripture sitting on thrones in the Kingdom of Heaven) they would appear in some sense to represent the Redeemed of the Lord. Also, there are twelve elders of Israel (the twelve patriarchs) and twelve elders of the Assembly of Believers (the twelve apostles) whom Yeshua promised would sit on twelve thrones with Him judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). If the NKJV of 5:9-10 is correct, then it is clear that the 24 elders are the representative leaders of Yehovah’s people. According to the NKJV, the new song sung by the 24 elders says,
You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to [Yehovah] by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.
But the translation according to some early Greek manuscripts, as it is in the New American Standard Version (NASV), is,
Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for [Yehovah] with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.
In the latter translation, the 24 elders are not necessarily including themselves among those who are redeemed, so, according to the NASV, it may be that the 24 elders are non-human heavenly beings who represent the Redeemed of Israel, rather than actually being the Redeemed. Another indication that the 24 elders may not literally be the Redeemed is the obvious fact that at the time John saw this vision, the Redeemed were not yet in Heaven in their glorified bodies, and, of course, John, one of the apostles, was not in Heaven.
However, another intriguing possibility suggested by Michael Rood (https://aroodawakening.tv/) is that the Saints who were resurrected immediately after the resurrection of Yeshua (Matthew 27:52) ascended into Heaven with the Messiah and are the 24 elders. This would make them the “firstfruits” (cf. James 1:18) of those resurrected who are dead in union with the Messiah (spiritual Israel), just as the 144,000 will be the “firstfruits” of those sealed as the Redeemed of Yehovah out of physical Israel (cf. 14:1, 4).
Whichever is the correct translation and interpretation, however, the 24 elders represent the redeemed People of Yehovah, included grafted-in Believers in the Messiah, in the throne room of the Lord.
4:5-8 And from the throne proceeded (a) lightnings, thunderings, and voices. (b) Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of [Yehovah]. Before the throne there was (c) a sea of glass, like crystal. And (d) in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and back. (e) The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. (f) And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord [Yehovah] Almighty, (g) Who was and is and is to come!”
a. Lightnings, thunderings, voices, and other ominous sounds are signs in Scripture of the awesome presence of Yehovah and something equally awe-inspiring about to happen. For example, there were lightnings, thunderings, and the sound of a trumpet so loud from Mount Sinai when the Law was given and Israel was established as a nation that all the millions of people in the camp at the base of the mountain trembled (Exodus 19:16).
b. Fire is a sign throughout Scripture of the Spirit of Yehovah active in the purification of His People and the destruction of His enemies. (See comments on 1:4.)
c. The floor of Yehovah’s throne room. The only two references in the Bible to a “sea of glass” are here and in 15:2, so the symbolic meaning is not clear. A possible Old Covenant Scriptures parallel may be the bronze “sea” in the Temple (1 Kings 7:23) - a huge wash basin for the cleansing of priests. And in 15:2, the sea of glass is seen combined with fire, Yehovah’s purifying agent. Also, the sea may be a symbol of multitudes of people (cf. 13:1; 17:15). So, when all these Scriptural references are combined, the sea of glass may symbolize the purification of Yehovah’s redeemed People who are seen standing on it in 15:2.
d. Four creatures in the “midst” of the throne (cf. also 5:6 and 7:17) is a scene difficult to visualize.The Greek word (mesos) can also mean “amongst.” Perhaps it means in the center of the throne room, in front of and around the throne. Or perhaps, in some mystical way, the throne occupies the whole scene. Other examples of mystical images in Revelation are in 3:12 and 21:2. Nor can we visualize how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit can be separate but One. Our limited human minds can comprehend only so much of ultimate reality, and human words are just not sufficient to describe it all.
e. There are numerous opinions regarding the significance of the four creatures. One that seems sensible is that they represent different attributes of Yehovah in relation to His natural creation: the lion, majesty and omnipotence; the calf (correctly translated “ox”), patience and power in labor; the eagle, beauty and supremacy; and man, intelligence and dominion on Earth. Each creature is the “king” of its respective domain: the lion over the wild animals of the earth; the ox over the domestic work animals; the eagle over the birds of the air; and man over the entire earth - together representing the Lord’s dominion over His natural creation. The great mobility (each with six wings) and vision (each full of eyes) of the four creatures would seem to represent the omnipresence and omniscience of the Lord. Others have surmised from Biblical and extra-Biblical sources (e.g., the book of Enoch) that the four creatures or living beings are the four archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. Another possible correct interpretation is that whereas the 24 elders represent the Redeemed of the Lord who are seen by John in Heaven, the four creatures represent Yehovah’s physical People the Jews who look forward in faith to the coming of the Messiah but have not yet accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. Jewish historians tell us that, during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the twelve tribes of Israel were separated into four groups which traveled and camped in those four groups behind the banners of Judah (on which was the figure of a lion), Reuben (on which was the figure of a man), Ephraim (on which was the figure of an ox), and Dan (on which was the figure of an eagle). When they camped, the Tabernacle, wherein was the presence of the Lord, was in the midst of the four groups (cf. Numbers 2:3, 10, 18, 25), which would perfectly typify the scene that John saw in Heaven.
f. The two roles of the four living creatures in Revelation are to worship Yehovah 24/7 (4:8; 5:9, 10, 12, 14; 7:12; 19:4) and to direct John’s attention to what happens on Earth when the first four seals are broken (6:1; 3, 5, 7).
g. Again, although the primary focus of Chapter 4 is on Yehovah the Father, there is no clear distinction between Him and Yeshuah the Son, “Who was, and is, and is to come!”
4:9-11 (a) Whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and (b) cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
a. As the Israelites were the first to worship Yehovah on the earth, the living creatures appear to be the worship leaders in Heaven: The 24 elders follow their lead and worship the Lord.
b. As representatives of Yehovah’s redeemed People, the 24 elders fall down casting their crowns before Him - Elohim (God) the Father and Elohim (God) the Son - acknowledging that He is the supreme Ruler, the King of Kings (19:16), because all things were created and are sustained by Him (cf. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17).
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