Revelation 4 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door [was] opened in heaven:
and the first voice which I heard [was] as it were of a trumpet talking with me;
which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
After this... I will show thee things which must be hereafter {ie., after these things}-
This verse begins and ends with the same GK phrase ('after these things'). The phrase refers both to the next phase of John's vision, and also to progression in the sequence of events being described. It marks the transition into the third division of the book (as outlined in Rev 1:19):
  1. The things which you have seen (Christ in His Glory, ch.1),
  2. The things which are (The Church on earth, in the Church Age, ch.2,3),
  3. The things which shall be after these things (ie., following the seven churches of the Church Age).
However, the change in John's viewpoint (transported, in his vision, from earth to heaven), is also representative of the new heavenly perspective of the Church, following the Rapture.
I looked, and, behold...-
The word 'behold' {GK tense: second person imperative} is a command:
'See, for yourself...' or 'Look for your own benefit...'
a door [was] opened in heaven...-
opened- lit., set open, (or) standing open, (or) that had been and continued to be open.
This reminds us of the "new and living way" of access to God, through our Savior, who is the 'door of the sheep' and the only 'way' to the Father. Joh 10:7-11; 14:6; Heb 10:19-22
     Here, John enters heaven through this door opened in heaven. Later, John will see 'heaven opened' for Christ to return from heaven, followed by the armies of heaven, including the Bride of the Lamb clothed in His righteousness (Rev 19:7-8,11-14). Between these two events, the wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth, during the Tribulation period (ch.6-18). But the Lamb's Bride (the true Church) will be with Him in heaven, and with Him when He returns from there (3:10; 1The 1:9,10).
and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me...-
In the course of the Revelation, John hears several different voices {eg., of angels, elders, etc.).
  • Whose voice in this? ...the voice of Jesus Christ. Rev 1:10
  • What does He say? ...'Come up hither.'
  • When will He say that? the Rapture of the true Church.
    Rev 4:1 and 1The 4:15-17) describe this event.
    It is the Lord Himself {and no other} [very emphatic in GK of 1The 4] -
    -- Who descends...
    • with {GK='en', with, in} a shout {ie., a command: "Come up here!"},
    • with {in} voice of archangel {ie., archangel-like voice} [no definite articles],
    • with {in} trump of God {ie., trumpet-like sound pertaining to God} [no def. art.]
      These terms describe His voice, not the voices of others.
It is Christ Himself, who calls to His own at the Rapture.
     Contrast Mat 24:29-31 which does not speak of the Rapture, but rather, of the gathering of the remnant of Israel at the end of the Tribulation. Note that "immediately after the Tribulation... He shall send His gather..." On that occasion, at the end of the Tribulation, Christ will delegate His angels with the task of gathering the remnant. But at this event (in Rev ch. 4), just prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (which opens in Rev ch. 6), the Lord Himself calls for His own.
which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.-
In response to the Lord's command, the perspective of John (and of the Church) changes from an earthly to a heavenly scene.
4:2 And immediately
cp. "in the twinkling of an eye" 1Cor 15:51-53 (also 1The 4:17, 'caught up' or 'snatched away')
I was in the spirit:
The Spirit who guides into all truth is John's guide. Joh 16:13
This also signifies his transport into heaven (in vision, cp. 1:10), as indicated by his observations.
and, behold, a throne
The focus of ch. 4 is the throne, the One upon it, those persons & activities around, before, proceeding out of, and in the midst of it.
was set in heaven,
set- ie., like 'set' concrete: solid & unshakeable, in contrast to earthly thrones.
     [cp. 1Cor 3:11, where 'set' is translated 'laid']
This is the Seat of the ultimate Authority, Who governs and judges earth's kingdoms. Hag 2:22; Psa 11
and [one] sat on the throne. {lit., One sitting}
cp. 3:21, 'I am set down with my Father...'
4:3 And he that sat was to look upon
he that sat- lit., 'the One sitting' [applies to each occurrence that follows].
like a jasper and a sardine stone:
jasper [probably a diamond] as seen in the glory of the Holy City:
crystal clear and radiant with the Glory of God. Rev 21:11
-- Speaks of God's unblemished holiness.
sardius / cernilius / ruby- a bright red stone.
-- Speaks of the blood of redemption (or) the rage of God's wrath (cp. "fire" in Ezek 1:26-28).
and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
rainbow - GK= 'iris', halo -
-- Speaks of God's faithfulness to keep His promises (as to Noah, Gen 9:9-17), including His promises to judge sin, and yet, to save the sinner who turns to Him (Heb 11:7; Psa 11:5-7; Eze 18:20; Rom 6:23; 2Pet 2:9).
Since Christ is also on this throne (3:21), we should expect to see Him in the midst of this glory.
In fact, the three named stones pertain to Christ, our High Priest (eg., Heb 4:14-16; 7:24-28; 8:1).
Their significance is found in the way these stones were incorporated in the breastplate of the OT high priest. There were four rows (12 stones total) representing each of the 12 tribes in order (Ex 28:17-20).
Note that the first two stones mentioned here are "the first and the last" on the breastplate. This fact also speaks of Him (1:11).
4:4 And round about the throne [were] four and twenty seats:
and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting,
clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
Who are these elders?
These elders are not...
  • Angels [to whom thrones & crowns are never promised].
  • Israel [to whom thrones & crowns are not promised.]
    Note that Ex 19:5,6 was conditional, "if... then..."; But they failed.]
    Although the word 'elders,' as used in the four Gospels and also in Acts ch.1-11 and 23-25, does refer to rulers of the Jewish people, those elders were seen in almost uniform unbelief and opposition toward their Messiah. eg., Mat 16:21
These elders are Representatives of the Church - as shown by...
  • The word 'elder' {GK=presbuteros}, as used in the NT epistles and the book of Revelation, refers almost exclusively to leaders in the church.
    'Elders' were to be appointed as 'bishops' {GK=episkopos, overseers} over God's flock (eg., Acts 20:17,28; 1Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5).
    [The one exception, in the epistles (Heb 11:2), refers to OT members of 'the household of faith' who were justified by faith through looking forward to the coming of Christ, and who without us 'received not the promise.' eg., Heb 11:2,4,7,26,39-40]
  • Their Crowns - Crowns, in the NT, are rewards reserved for the faithful in the church (eg., 2:10).
  • Their seats {GK= thronos} - This word is also used for 'the Throne' at the center of all.
    These thrones, associated with the judgment Throne of God (v.2-4), must be occupied by the saints of God (ie., the church), since they will judge the world (after the Millennial Kingdom is established). 1Cor 6:2-3; 2Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4
  • Their White Raiment, which is the righteousness of the saints. 2Cor 5:21; Rev 3:5,18; 19:7,8
  • Their role: a royal priesthood, prepared and waiting to reign with Christ. 1Pet 2:9; Rev 20:6
  • Their number: 24 -
    • Corresponds to the 24 courses of the OT priesthood.
      All were represented by the one who served at any time (eg., Zacharias, Luk 1:5,8).
      (The 24 priestly courses, as divided by David, are listed in 1Chr 24:1-17.)
      The OT temple and priesthood were a 'pattern' of the heavenly reality, which John sees here.
    • Perhaps 12 elders represent the saved of Israel (cp. Mat 19:27,28),
      while the other 12 represent the saved of the gentiles.
  • The timing: They are present in heaven before and during the Tribulation (4:4).
    The Church is glorified, crowned, and enthroned before the Tribulation begins. Following the Tribulation, the Church will return with Christ to reign in His Millennial Kingdom (20:6). When His Millennial Throne is established on earth (Jer 3:17), the saints will have a role in judging the nations. However, as depicted, here (in Revelation ch.4), these are in heaven, prior to the Millennial Kingdom.
4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings
A storm of judgment is about to break forth.
As Revelation progresses, similar statements recur, each followed by ever increasing judgment:
Rev 8:5; 11:19; 16:18
and voices:
The coming storm is not haphazard, but directed by the One on the throne.
The throne of grace becomes the throne of judgment. [McGee]
and [there were] seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,
which are the seven spirits of God.
(These seven 'spirits' were previously identified as the seven angels who will facilitate God's judgment of the earth. See 1:4; 5:6 and notes there.)
4:6 And before the throne [there was] a sea of glass like unto crystal:
The brass laver of the OT tabernacle and the brass 'sea' of the temple contained water for cleansing. Ex 30:18-21; 1Kin 7:23-26
The NT parallel is 'the washing of water by the Word' (Eph 5:26). [In the OT, brass is symbolic of judgment, and thus, reflects the believer's need for self-judgment, confession and cleansing (1Cor 11:31; 1Joh 1:9).]
Here, the sea is solid, for there is no sin and no need of cleansing.
The sea is calm, without a ripple of trouble. The church is at rest, no longer tossed by "winds of doctrine." Eph 4:14
glass like... crystal- Crystal, like jasper (in 4:3), speaks of God's glory & holiness.
Jasper & crystal are mentioned together in describing the glory of the New Jerusalem (21:11).
Everyone who stands on this sea of glass, and everything that occurs here, is in transparent harmony with God's holiness (cp. 15:2).
and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne:
[were] four beasts full of eyes before and behind
beasts- lit., Living creatures - GK= dzoon (from which: zoology). The emphasis of the word is "living."
Two other words are translated 'beast' in Revelation:
-- therion = wild beast (referring to the Antichrist; 13:1),
-- ktenos = domestic animal, cattle (18:13)
4:7 And the first beast was like a lion,
and the second beast like a calf,
and the third beast had a face as a man,
and the fouth beast was like a flying eagle.
[Further discussion of this verse follows v.8.]
Ezekiel observed these faces on each of the cherubim (Eze 1:10,11), but in a different order. There the order appears to be according to ability to subdue, or take dominion. Here, the order speaks of Christ as He is revealed in the 4 gospels:
  • Matthew - Christ: the King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, proclaims the Kingdom.
  • Mark - Christ: the servant- an Ox is a beast of burden and of sacrifice.
  • Luke - Christ: the son of man, who came to seek & to save the lost.
  • John - Christ: the son of God, who (like an eagle) came from above, to reveal Grace and Truth to fallen man, and to lift us up to His Father's house.
4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about [him];
[they were] full of eyes within:
These creatures were seen, in vision, by Ezekiel & Isaiah, with some differences (eg., the number of wings).
Ezekiel calls them 'Cherubim,' Isaiah calls them 'Seraphim' (cp. Eze 1:4-12; Eze 10:12-20; Isa 6:1-7). In either case, they are concerned with, and focused upon, the Holiness of God.
Cherubim = 'grasped ones' or 'those held captive'
They are captivated by the glory & holiness of God. They are unable to turn their gaze from studying Him. Their all seeing eyes examine everything 'in the midst... and round about the throne' including themselves (eyes 'within'). There is no taint of the unholy. They are undeviating from the purposes of God's Holy Spirit (Eze 1:12).
Seraphim = 'burning ones'
They not only proclaim God's holiness, but also purge away unholiness (Isa 6:6,7).
and they rest not day and night,
lit., rest they have not...
saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
The 'Thrice Holy' occurs only here and in Isa 6:3.
The passage in Isaiah emphasizes God's omnipresence:
     "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory."
Here, the heavenly emphasis is on His omnipotence (Almighty) and eternality:
which was, and is, and is to come.
This formula refers equally to God the Father and God the Son (cp. 1:4,8).
4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks
when- ie., whensoever, so often as... (cp. v.8: 'they rest not...')
to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
the One sitting... is the ever Living One.
Frequently, in Scripture, He identifies Himself by the name, Jehovah (usually rendered LORD in the KJV bible). Based on a root word meaning "to be," the name Jehovah describes Him as the One "who was, and is, and is to come" and thus, the One "who lives for ever and ever." More than one hundred times, the Scriptures specifically state that the LORD lives for ever (eg., Deu 32:39,40).
4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne,
and worship him that liveth for ever and ever,
and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
worship= to ascribe worth. It requires no words, it is the attitude of heart.
The word "worship" occurs 24x in Revelation. More than half of the occurrences refer to worship misdirected toward the Beast or demons. This points out the conflict between good & evil, and also the human lack of discernment. John himself twice misdirects worship toward an angel, and is rebuked: "See thou do it not, Worship God." Rev 19:10; 22:9
4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord,
Essentials of worship:
-- a sense of the Lord's worth. (He deserves all that I am and have.)
-- a sense of my own unworthiness of His goodness and mercy.
The elders have nothing in themselves to offer.
They offer only what they have received of Him: their thrones & crowns are all willingly surrendered to Him, for they are rightfully His.
to receive glory and honour and power:
lit., "the glory, the honor, the power" -
There is no glory, honor or power apart from Him.
There is none worthy other than Him.
for thou hast created all things,
and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
{cp. Col 1:16,17}
While joined in worship of the ever-living One, these two groups rejoice differently.
  • The Living Creatures speak of God's attributes (Holy, Almighty, Eternal...; v.8). We might expect them to add "Power" to their list. But instead, they "give thanks" (v.9).
  • The elders speak of His works and purposes (thou hast created... for thy pleasure... v.10,11). We might expect them to overflow with thanksgiving for their own redemption (as they will in 5:9). Instead, they lift up His "Power" (v.11).
It seems that each of these groups is not primarily focused on its own state, but on that of the other. In the other, they see anew, and marvel in, the good pleasure of God, demonstrated in the faithful execution of His matchless wisdom and power.
"The living creatures rejoice in the presence of a redeemed group, in whom they see the earnest of a restored race... they give thanks for the fulfilling of God's faithful purposes. The elders rejoice in the presence of the Power which will bring to reality the hope of the groaning creation." Rom 8:21 (JBSmith)

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