Revelation 4:1-6 – 2024 Apr 11

This is what I consider to be the rest of the book, the things hereafter.  Interestingly, the Greek manuscript begins with those two Greek words, Meta tauta, or “after these things.”    The focus shifts now from the brief report on the things past to the situation that we can now see in the present, to the things which are about to occur.  And how does it start this off?  Where everything begins, at the very throne of God.  There is a hermeneutic that suggests that if the scene is on the earth it should be taken literally, but if the scene is in heaven it is allegory in nature, and that is something we should test as we walk through the book as we walk together.  It is my opinion that like so much in Scripture, there are probably elements of both at the same time in places, so there will always be a deeper meaning, just as the Lord Jesus Himself showed in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

I find the shift in scenes to be logical and even instructive.  How, for example, does one worship?  This text this evening sheds some light on it.  Is God a physical being?  Yes and no.  Where is this place?  Does it really look like this?  Well, again, yes and no.  How much is literal?  How much is metaphor?  What can we learn?  I don’t know, but we will examine it together. 

I have led a study through Revelation before, but not in the kind of detail we are going through right now.  This is as much an opportunity for me to learn as it is for you.  Right at the beginning of this tour, I want to say that I will endeavour to be the most accurate and spiritual in terms of both understanding and meaning that I can be for all of us.  Pray for me as we study through this, as I do so for you.  Hopefully, this will be encouraging to all of us, even though there are some very dark things in the text.  For those of you watching the livestream, please feel free to contact us with questions or comments.  The means are scrolling on a band at the bottom of the video screen.

I find it remarkable that some of the most popular books these days have to do with the topic of the afterlife, heaven, or angels.  There is a spiritual streak in man that is even evident in atheists.  Even Doctor Richard Dawkins thinks of himself as an unbelieving Christian.  I’m not sure how that can be accomplished other than by playing word games, but that is what he claims.  Why is that?  Well, I think it is because all humans have a sense of God and spiritual realities, no matter how much they try to suppress that truth in unrighteousness.  However, they will do anything they can to NOT yield to Christ in repentance and faith.  They make up “visions” for themselves.  Some of you may be familiar with my example, my favourite pink-haired meme-bot, Kat Kerr.  She apparently travels to heaven several times a day, and she tells the most fantastic tales about things like the “body part room” in heaven, or the million or so angels that were supposed to prevent fraud during the US Election in 2020 if you believe that happened (truthfully it doesn’t matter from a heavenly perspective, Christianity can survive under any form of rule and has for about 2000 years now).  She was one of these people who falsely prophesied about President Trump getting two consecutive terms, which clearly did not happen.  That outs her as a false prophet, and yet the reprobate mind ignores that fact and believes her when she says she has photos of angels frog-marching toad-faced demons across heaven to be thrown into the abyss. 

Contrast that with men from the Bible who have actually visited heaven and then wrote about what they saw.  Paul and John are the two men who speak about this in the Scriptures, and Paul said that he wasn’t allowed or able to talk about it!  John alone had a commission from Christ Himself to write it down.  Daniel was told about these things and recorded them, but never was taken to heaven and returned.  It was only John, and it wasn’t John’s idea.  Even John had restrictions placed on him when he was instructed NOT to record what some peals of thunder had said in his hearing.  This is a very precious, very rare window given to readers of the Book of Revelation into the very real heaven and its occupants and happenings through chapters 4 and 5.  This evening, we will look at the first 6 verses.

I broke the text down into thought units like this:

KV1:  The History of the Future

1:  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.”

1:  “After these things…”

2-3:  A view of the Throne and its Occupant

4:  Who are these Elders on Thrones?

5-6:  What else is around the Throne?

This is where the history of the future begins.  It sounds very strange in my own ears when I say that.  It opens some philosophically uncomfortable questions like “Is everything predetermined?”  Well, the word “predestination” does come to mind, does that mean EVERYTHING is written in stone?  To be honest, I don’t know, I’m not that smart.  I do plan to ask some of those questions to the Lord personally when I meet Him, but only so I will understand.  None of these things should ever scare you or make you not believe that He died in your place.  Let’s move forward and see what the Word has to say.

KV1:  The History of the Future

1:  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.”

I admit that it sounds a bit like a clickbait headline.  I don’t intend it to be.  These events have been foretold for about 1900 years at a minimum, and I don’t know what that says or how important that is, but considering the source, those being the Scriptures, I personally am of the opinion it should be treated with the utmost importance.  One thing we need to point out here is that you never read from this point on in the whole book about the Church again.  There are a number of possibilities about why this might be the case, but that isn’t a topic for this evening.

Like John, I find myself being invited to take a look and figurately step through this open door to the third heaven.  I also want to see the things that will happen after these things.  And lest you think it’s cheating, it’s okay, there won’t be any hot stock tips or anything.  There is some important information though.  With that, let’s get into the text.

1:  “After these things…”

The phrase “after these things” occurs eight times in the Book of Revelation.  This is the second one of them, and if we disregard the first one as being a definitional description or an outline point, we see seven occurrences in context.  Say what you want, but I see that as the heptadic structure of the book, that is, everything in sevens.  Starting in about 2012, some of the folks in New Zealand who were with Chuck Missler started to make a list of all the sevens that occurred.  Apparently, 12 years later, that list is still in progress.  What that means outside of the fingerprints of God all over the book I don’t know, but it is interesting to Bible nerds like me.  Each one of these references begins a new sort of vision of John and sometimes (like here) occurs more than once in the same sentence.  [Note:  I am NOT counting verses here because the verses came along about 1500 years after the text did and are not inspired.  Ditto chapters, although that’s more like 1200 years.]  Let’s hear the invitation to and from John.

1:  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.”

  • He hears the first voice he had heard.  Whose voice was that?  It is the Lord Jesus who is speaking here.  That is the voice John heard in Rev. 1:10, where he heard a voice behind him like a trumpet.  That is the voice of Christ,  Beloved!  Contrary to the way-too-popular belief that God whispers in Scripture, I am reminded of a book by Pastor Jim Osman titled God Doesn’t Whisper.  I have to read that book, but it is about how God does not EVER whisper about sin in Scripture.  He speaks very clearly and very plainly about it.  Spoilers:  It is a really bad idea.
  • The voice issues a command, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”  Some have seen this as evidence of the pretribulation rapture of the church, but this doesn’t suggest that.  This is a command to John, not the church.  If it were such an indicator, I would think there would have been more of a description of the glorified church ascending to Heaven at the call of God.  That seems absent, and the only. One being addressed was John.  There is more to say about that, but we will see that in a couple of verses.

What seems to be happening here is that John is being whisked away much like Paul described but was either not able or not allowed to speak about it.  John was the one dictating the written message.  Maybe that’s why.  Whatever the case, it had to start somewhere, and that was here.

2-3:  A view of the Throne and its Occupant

The very next thing we see, John says that he is immediately in the Spirit.  This means that this experience was moderated by the Holy Spirit.  Note the capital S on Spirit.  Yes, I know that didn’t occur in the Greek, but how could this NOT be moderated by the Holy Spirit?  What does John see?  The very same thing Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6, though John starts a little differently.  John’s sins had already been dealt with, and a plain reading of Isaiah 6 suggests that they were dealt with during that event for Isaiah.  John even starts his description differently.  Let’s look and see.

2:  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.

  • The very first thing John sees and describes is a throne.  In one of the number of lectures I heard on this passage, I like how Dr. John MacArthur puts this:  “This was not a piece of furniture, but a symbol of God’s sovereign rule and authority located in the temple of Heaven.”  This is the very throne of the universe!  It is the centre of all power and rule in the universe, the seat of Almighty God. 
  • John also sees One sitting on the throne.  We think we know who this is, incidentally, and it might become obvious if you don’t know already.  Contrary to modern popular belief, random chance and mindless forces do not rule the universe.  It is the ever-present, all-knowing, all-powerful YHVH, and this is as close to a physical description as we ever get.  Daniel makes an attempt in Dan. 7:9-10.  “I kept looking

Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool.  His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.  A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.”

  • The very seat of power and authority of the universe is also alive with praise.  This is the same throne as found in Rev. 20:11.  “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.”  There is more I could say, but I want to save it for when we get to Revelation 20.  Next verse.

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.

  • The One sitting on the throne was like a jasper stone and a sardius & c.  Apparently, this is a translucent or clear stone that some have equated to a diamond.  The sardius, which you will remember is the stone that made Sardis famous for its plentiful supply of the same, was at least a different precious stone.  I will pause here to make a point.  A great deal of the reference and symbolism from this point on is about things seen in type in the Old Testament.  This may be a case of that, as the Jasper and the Sardius are respectively the first and last stones on the breastplate worn by the high priest and represented the firstborn son of Israel Reuben and the lastborn son Benjamin.  That isn’t my complete thought, but it seems better when taken in context with the next phrase.
  • There was a rainbow around the throne.  Relax, I am not going to talk about the so-called “sparkle creed,” which is literal blasphemy.  You can reference the playlists on our Rumble page if you want to know more about it, I did a breakdown of what it means and why it is vile.  We’re going to talk about the reason there is a rainbow in the first place.  The rainbow is God’s covenant with mankind that He will never again destroy the world with water, the Noahic Covenant.  You remember?  Mankind wore God out with their sinning all the time because their hearts were inclined to wickedness all the time.  We’re starting to see that again if you read the headlines.  So He called Noah to build a boat, and He herded two of every animal, male and female, onto the ark (seven if they were clean animals), brought his wife and his sons and their wives on, God sealed up the door, and then He flooded and drowned the world by making it rain for 40 days and nights.  They spent about 6 months on the boat, and then finally came to rest Somewhere around Mount Ararat in present-day Turkey, near the Iranian and Armenian borders.  He began again with Noah.  After all that, the Scriptures say this:  “God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.'” (Gen. 9:12-16)
  • Our Covenant-making and Covenant-keeping God also made a covenant with Israel (originally Jacob) that a nation would spring from Him (yes, this started with Abraham and passed through Isaac).  He makes and keeps covenants.  He NEVER breaks them or reneges.    God is still not finished with Israel, and here He is sitting on His throne, wearing the colours of Israel, ringed by a rainbow for all mankind, and then the crowning glory, ringed about like an emerald.  The emerald, also known as the carbuncle in the Old Testament was also a stone on the breastplate of the high priest.  It was (According to Philo, in Allegorical.1.XXVI) inscribed with a very important and memorable name:  Judah.  Our Lord Jesus was from the tribe of Judah!  And it surrounded everything!!!  Christ surrounds it all.  His sacrifice is the center of the universe, his covenant-making and -keeping self is on the throne, and He will NEVER forget His covenants!  Oh, Beloved!  Christ loves us!  His desire is not for our destruction!  He died in our place!  This surrounds Almighty God on the Throne of the Universe!!!  Amazing love!  How can it be that Thou, my God, didst die for me??

Beloved, it should not surprise us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ surrounds the throne of God, because it is the very love that drives the universe.  All of creation knows it, even though fallen man tries to hide and suppress it.  Think about it.  Songs like “The Age of Aquarius” say that love will steer the stars.  They KNOW another age is coming, even though they won’t admit that it is the One who sits on the Throne who drives it in and with His love for fallen man.

Please understand that you, friend, are a sinner.  You have violated God’s holy standard whether you want to admit it or not, and you are under condemnation because of that, the sentence has already been passed.  If you were to have your life end in that condition, you have only one destination, and that is hell for eternity.  There you will be stripped of everything and you will suffer burning torment forever.  However, you do not have to end up there.  You can turn from your sin – change your mind about it and admit that it’s sin and offends God – and then stop doing it by His grace, all by believing that God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, paid the price for your sins, even though it was YOU who committed them.  He did that because He loves you and doesn’t want you to end there.  All you must do is truly turn to Him.  If you have questions, please get in touch with us or talk to us after the meeting.  We will move on.

4:  Who are these Elders on Thrones?

John’s gaze now widens from the Throne of the universe and its divine Occupant to what is immediately around the throne.  What does he see there?  Let’s look.

4:  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.

  • The first thing John sees is 24 thrones.  Each throne had an elder sitting on it.  Who are these individuals?  It doesn’t say precisely, but their identity isn’t difficult to figure out.  Some have theorized that this is a class of angelic being.  Although that is a possibility, I think this is unlikely.  Whenever we read of angelic interactions in Scripture, they are not wearing crowns, and they are not sitting down on a throne or otherwise.  They may be clothed in white, but everyone in Heaven seems to have that characteristic. 
  • Rather, I think these represent the church, glorified and reigning with Christ.  Are there specific people from among them?  Maybe.  Are they the 12 Apostles and the 12 patriarchs of Israel?  Again, maybe, but I don’t think so.  Hear me out.  The 12 Apostles include John.  One of these individuals speaks with John later, and can you imagine if it was John speaking with John?  Talking to oneself would have a new meaning!  John was still alive, and He was one of the 12.  What about the 12 Patriarchs?  Okay, maybe, but Moses was greater than all of them.  Elijah was greater than all of them.  Enoch was greater than all of them.  The bottom line is that we do not know who these people will be, or even if these are literal beings. 
  • We DO know that the number 24 in Scripture is used to speak about completion and representation, mostly in the context of God’s government (I will make a hat-tip again to F. W. Grant’s The Numerical Structure of Scripture for that).  If we will be reigning with Him, that makes sense.  Something else that makes sense is the white garments because all the redeemed from the Great Tribulation in Rev. 7:11-14 will be clothed in white.  It illustrates the point very clearly:  “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’  Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'”  See?  The angels were standing.  The Elders (Gk., presbuteroi) and the four living creatures fell on their faces and worshipped.  And then one of the elders explained that the ones wearing the white robes were human and had been redeemed during the Great Tribulation.  The phrase in Greek uses the definite article, so this is a specific reference to the 70th week of Daniel or the time of Jacob’s trouble in my opinion.  Those robes had been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we know who that is also.

I recognize this is all circumstantial, but it’s very compelling circumstantial evidence.  The 24 Elders are a figurative or literal group that represents the whole of the Raptured Church.  If you don’t agree, I understand, and I am humble enough to know other points of view may be persuasively argued, but that is what I think the Lord has shown me from the direct study of the Scriptures and from men who have demonstrated godly character and knowledge of the Scriptures.  The crowns mean they rule with Christ.  The Thrones mean they sit, not stand like the angels, and they sit in seats of power.  Positionally, they are next to the throne.  This kind of language occurs in John chapter 17 and in Ephesians chapters 1-3, which are there to fact-check me if you please.  Also, “Elder” is inappropriate for a heavenly angel, because they do not age, at least not the ones that recur in several places in Scripture like Gabriel for example.  These elders represent the raptured church.  Let’s move on to our last thought unit.

5-6:  What else is around the Throne?

John’s focus continues to widen from the thing that arrested his attention, the throne and the One occupying the space.  He begins to register other things.  He begins to register sounds.  He sees flashes of lightning, indicating the raw power that must be in the place.  He hears mighty rolling thunder that must result from the lightning.  These things all seem alive and bending their own will to the will of the One that is on the Throne.  That is only the beginning of what he sees.  Let’s read and inform ourselves.

5:  Out from the throne come 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;

  • We have already seen the pure power of the place and how the lightning and thunder are there to display it.  Something I know from physics regarding lightning, it is the result of a charged atmosphere.  I find that kind of humorous because this is the charged atmosphere of heaven.  I see a little wordplay there, but I won’t accuse John of that.  Thunder is the boom that results when the vacuum created by the lightning collapses and the atmosphere collapses into it and collides with itself.  God later makes that thunder speak, and that to me is an AWESOME display of power.  And then we see the lamps.
  • The lamps represent the Holy Spirit.  The seven Spirits of God can also be translated as the sevenfold Spirit of God, but I don’t know that it makes any difference.  The English Translation we see is perfectly accurate.  The Greek text reads, “ta hepta pneumata tou Theou,”  or in English, the “seven spirits of [the] God.”  It is not seven distinct beings, it represents the seven characteristics of the Holy Spirit found in Isaiah 11:2.  “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”  Wait, I hear someone say, that’s only six characteristics.  Correct, the other is derived from the context and is still written into the verse.  In order of appearance, that is Divinity (“the Spirit of the LORD,” the tetragrammaton, YHVH, the One so holy that they were not worthy to write His name), Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, and Reverence.”  Those are all characteristics that the Holy Spirit (indeed the rest of the Godhead) displays.  There is something that should trouble us, however.  These are not represented in dove form, as the peaceful bird that descended from heaven and rested on the Lord Jesus at His baptism.  These are burning, shining torches.  Why are they lit and burning torches?  Because they are lit to bring judgment to the sinful world we live in.  They are lit for a final confrontation.  They are lit for war.  Behold the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead, prepared for the final conflict with those who will not turn to Christ.  And John sees even more.
  • 6:  and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.
  • Before the throne was a sea of glass, like crystal.  I do not think that this means it was a sea made of glass like transparent crystal, although an extreme literalist may interpret this text in that fashion.  Throughout history, and I’m sorry I cannot cite a reference here, I do not recall where I heard this first, but the sea has always symbolized chaos and the unknown and has inspired fear in men because of both its turbulence and obscuring nature.  You cannot see because of the depths and no sunlight seems to be able to penetrate its depths.  God calms all of that because He is the opposite of Chaos.  His very nature is order.  In the presence of God, that chaos is completely stilled, and because there is nothing that He cannot see, it is as transparent as glass.  The “fire” seen in it is the light playing through the depth, like a sparkling crystal, a diamond, for example.  There is no chaos in His presence, and there is nothing that He does not know, having created it all.  And in the center of this around the throne, there were four living creatures, and we will say more about them next week, because they split the verse here, even though we did not.
  • What can be seen from the mention of these living creatures?  Well, they have appeared before in Scripture, specifically in Ezekiel 1.  I won’t try to parse that difficult and chaotic description here for the sake of time, but there were these four creatures around what was clearly the throne of God.  Ezekiel 10:15 tells us exactly what they are.  That passage reads, “Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar.”  Those living creatures are without a doubt cherubim, plural of cherub, which we have transliterated from Hebrew apparently.  The kerub (or plural kerubim) are the covering angels around the very throne of God.  Beloved, I’ve heard that saying for years, and this is where and how that truth is derived, for what that is worth to you.  The word that describes them in the Greek text is zōa, which means “to live.”  That is what the Scriptures call them.  They are life personified.  What that may mean, we will explore next week as they are described.
  • These beings are full of eyes all around themselves.  They see in all directions, and they never miss a thing.  Only God Himself sees more!  They always see God and are always in His presence.  What a place to be!

Drawing back out to where we started, this is the place where the history of the future begins.  We may draw some inferences from this text and from what we know of the attributes of God.  First, we can see that God knows the future even if we do not.  This isn’t a prediction, it is absolute knowledge, and it follows His attribute of omniscience, or being all-knowing.  There has never been a day when the God of all creation has needed to learn anything.  To say otherwise is to participate in open theism, where a supposedly all-knowing being deliberately limits what He knows, or He isn’t really omniscient.  We know THAT isn’t true…

Also, God is at the center of all things holding it all together with His almighty power.  This follows His attribute of omnipotence, or that of being all-powerful.  If you deny this, then you deny that He is truly God.  It’s like his name is Wilbur and he’s a wimpy guy that doesn’t have any power at all.  Imagine.  “Hi, I’m God…I need you to stop limiting me by [fill in the blank].”  No, Beloved, He doesn’t need any of us.  We are in no way able to obstruct or stop Him in any capacity.

Third, God is very much involved in everything that happens in the universe, whether He initiated it or simply allowed it to happen.  He wouldn’t be on the throne of the universe if this was not the case.

Finally, all of the forces of heaven are aligned here and united in purpose.  God is on His throne, the gathered and glorified church is around Him because of His own effort and desire, all the angelic beings that wish to obey Him are gathered around him, and they are gathered for purpose, reflected by the torches that are energized and fueled by the Holy Spirit.  That purpose is about to begin.  Who wants to see that?  We all do!  So stay tuned for the balance of chapter 4 next time!

That’s what I saw in the text!

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