Grace For The Journey
We continue our study this morning of the Book of Revelation. We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Book, and this morning we are looking at chapter 4. You will recall that chapter 1, verse 19, gives us our outline of study for the Book. Jesus instructs John to write down three things: (1) The things he has seen; (2) The things that are; and (3) The things that must take place in the future. We have examined the things that he had seen (chapter 1), we have looked at the things as they were in John’s day (chapters 2-3, as we looked at the seven churches in Asia Minor), and now we turn our attention to things that are to come – chapters 4 and following, and specifically the events of the time of Great Tribulation that begins in chapter 6.
John is invited to come up into heaven and see the things that will take place in the future. Chapters 4 and 5 give us . . .
A glimpse of heaven
And exalt the grandeur
And glory of God.
In chapter 4 the focus is on the Father. In chapter 5 the focus is on the Son.
Most of us have awaken from a dream that defied our ability to explain it to others. Maybe you woke up and you tried to tell your husband or your wife, or your mother or father, about your dream but you just could not adequately describe it. You grasped for words, but you just could not convey exactly what happened in your dream. What is even funnier about that is that while you were having the dream, everything seemed to make perfectly good sense to you. What you saw and experienced made sense at the time. It was only when you awoke later and tried to explain the events that you found yourself coming way short of your ability to express yourself.
There is a sense in which John must have felt the same way as he tries to explain to us his vision of heaven. Of course, his vision is different from our dreams in that this really happened to him. We may dream in our beds at night, but when John had this vision, his very spirit was called into the presence of God.
He enters a place we have not yet been,
And he sees things we have not yet seen.
We are going to take a journey with John as we see God in His glorious splendor. In doing so, we . . .
I. Enter Into The Holy Place Of God – Verse 1.
Of course, the holy place of God is heaven, mentioned 50 times in Revelation. This morning we enter into the very place where God dwells on His throne.
The first part of verse 1 says, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven …” John enters into the holy place of God. He enters into heaven. We will follow him there this morning and see what he saw.
In verse 1, John goes on to say, “And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me …” This is the Lord Jesus Christ as we learned back in chapter one. The Lord Jesus in His exalted state, speaks to John in an authoritative voice like a trumpet. He says to John, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Jesus will now show John “things which must take place after this.” These things are future events, things that must come to pass. After the visions of the throne room in heaven, chapters 4 and 5, we are going to be looking at things that have not yet happened, things “which must take place after this,” future things, God’s judgments upon the earth, judgments known in the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. We will be studying these future events. They must take place.
John is brought up into the holy place of God, into heaven itself. Heaven is the place God dwells and the place from which God operates. It is interesting to me that John is brought up into heaven to see how God will work out His future plans.
This is a reminder to us that, from
The standpoint of heaven, God’s
Plan for mankind is crystal clear.
Things may not always seem clear to us this side of heaven, but things are very clear from heaven’s side.
We are visiting heaven this morning by following John there in his vision. But heaven is a place we are all invited to enter by faith in Jesus Christ. Our church did FAITH Evangelism Training, and what is known as the “key question” to turn the casual conversation to spiritual things is, “In your personal opinion what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?” The most popular answer is something like, “Well, you’ve got to be a good person,” or, “You’ve got to do good things so that the good outweighs the bad.” The biblical answer, the right answer is, “I can’t be good enough, or do enough good things, to go to heaven.” No matter how good I am, I still have this annoying problem called sin. The only way to get my sin taken care of so that I can enter into the presence of a holy God is by going the way of Jesus Christ. He is the One who paid the penalty for my sin, who took God’s judgment of my sin upon Himself, who died in my place. By faith in Him I enter into heaven. That is just what the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” and in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven whereby we are saved.” Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will we enter into that holy place of God, the place of heaven.
II. Enter Into The Holy Presence Of God: Verses 2-8a.
In verse 2, John states, “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” John enters into the holy presence of God. The “one who sat on the throne” is God the Father. Chapter four could be called “the throne chapter.” The word “throne” occurs 13 times in these verses, 11 of which refer to God’s throne. We are in the very presence of God.
Verse 3 says, “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” John is trying to describe what he saw. He says that God was “like” a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance. The jasper and sardius stones are translucent stones which seem to represent the glorious splendor of God. John says there was also “a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” The emerald is a transparent rock crystal that is working like a prism, reflecting the colors of the rainbow. This rainbow encircles God and His throne and pictures for us the glory and majesty of God. What a mighty and awesome God is this! What it must have been like to be in the holy presence of God! Note the prepositions. We have seen Who is “on” the throne.
Revelation 4:4 declares, “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” The book of Revelation nowhere specifically identifies who the twenty-four elders are. However,
In verse 4 we see, “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.” John mentions twenty-four elders who sit upon twenty-four thrones before the Lord. Who are these twenty-four elders?
The Bible does not specifically provide the identity of these elders. However, some information is provided that allows us to rule out some possibilities and consider a few options . . .
1) These twenty-four elders are described as human, male elders. They are not angels, creatures, or females, but specifically use male terms to describe these beings. They are also distinct from angels in other places in Revelation (7:11).
2) The fact that they sit on thrones indicates that they reign with Christ. Nowhere in Scripture do angels ever rule or sit on thrones. The Church, however, is repeatedly said to rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26-27; 5:10; 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30).
3) The Greek word translated here as “elders” is never used to refer to angels, only to men, particularly to men of a certain age who are mature and able to minister in the Church. The word elder would be inappropriate to refer to angels, who do not age.
4) Their mode of dress would also indicate these are men. While angels do appear in white; white garments are more commonly found on believers, symbolizing Christ’s righteousness imputed to us at salvation (Revelation 3:5,18; 19:8).
5) The golden crowns worn by the elders also indicate these are men, not angels. Crowns are never promised to angels, nor are angels ever seen wearing them. The word translated “crown” here refers to the victor’s crown, worn by those who have successfully competed and won the victory, as Christ promised (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).
6) They are clearly believers in the Lord. They are in heaven and wear white garments, something that symbolizes God’s righteousness. (Revelation 3:5, 18; 19:8). They also wear crowns (Revelation 4:4), something not said of angels in Scripture and which believers are said to receive (1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10;). Further, the elders also worship the Lord (Revelation 4:11).
Based on these descriptions, these twenty-four elders represent those who worship the Lord. More specifically, they may either represent: 1) the church, 2) representatives of Israel, or 3) the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles (Matthew 19:28). One variation of these views is that the use of twenty-four elders may come from 1 Chronicles 24:1-5 in which the priests were organized into twenty-four groups. If so, this represents the church that dwells in heaven with the Lord during the tribulation period.
Some people believe these twenty-four elders represent Israel, but at the time of this vision, Israel as a whole nation had not yet been redeemed. The elders cannot represent tribulation saints for the same reason—not all had yet been converted at the time of John’s vision. The most likely option is that the elders represent the raptured Church which sings songs of redemption (Revelation 5:8-10). They wear the crowns of victory and have gone to the place prepared for them by their Redeemer (John 14:1-4). This would also help alleviate the concern of Israel being represented in heaven during the Great Tribulation period when Israel had not yet believed in the Lord on a large scale. Furthermore, it would remove the problem of these elders representing the apostles since John himself, an apostle, was the one having the vision (Would he have seen himself as one of the twenty-four elders and not mentioned it?).
While not specifically explained, the information in Scripture most likely identifies these twenty-four elders as representatives of the church, those who will dwell with the Lord during the tribulation period while God’s judgments take place on the earth. Further, this fits the historic view of elders representing leadership of local churches (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), offering a picture of God’s people worshiping God after escaping the tribulation as a result of the rapture (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
We have seen Who is “on” the throne and “around” the throne; in verse 5 we see, “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” As we have entered into the holy presence of God we are met with His power. Lightnings, thunderings, and voices all speak to the power of God, particularly as God prepares to execute His judgment upon the earth. This is a foretaste of God’s judgment. They signify that a “storm” is coming. We will see these sounds again in the breaking of the seventh seal, the blowing of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl. They mean that judgment is coming.
The “seven lamps of fire” burning before the throne, John says, “are the seven Spirits of God.” Remember that John’s favorite number is seven, a number which refers to completion or perfection. Taken together with the lightnings, thunderings, and voices, we see that God’s “perfect Holy Spirit” will convict the world in judgment.
We have seen Who is “on” the throne, who are “around” the throne, “what comes “from” the throne, and in verse 6 we see what is “before” the throne, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.” The sea of glass is a symbol of God in His glorious splendor – The glory and transcendence of God which separates Him from all other things. He alone is perfectly holy and pure and righteous.
Verses 7 and 8 continue by saying, “And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 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 …” John is drawing upon Old Testament imagery found in Isaiah, chapter 6, and Ezekiel, chapters 1 and 10. I encourage you to write those references down and read them later.
These four living creatures are angelic beings of worship that apparently, in a general sense, represent the whole of God’s animate creation – the lion, the calf, man, eagle. These living creatures are pictured as the cherubim and seraphim you will read about in Isaiah, and Ezekiel. They have eyes all around them which tell us that they are unceasingly vigilant as they reside there in the presence of God. They are nearest to God on His throne and so they seem to be the leaders of the heavenly court. They represent the highest order of celestial beings and lead in worship. Adrian Rogers calls these four living creatures, “God’s Cheerleaders!”
We must remember
God is center stage.
We have looked at things “around” the throne, “from” the throne, and “before” the throne, but we must remember Who is “ON” the throne!
Far more important than who
The four living creatures are
Is what the four living creatures do.
They lead in worship and praise of the One who is “on” the throne.
We have entered into the holy place of God and the holy presence of God. Thirdly, we . . .
III. Enter Into The Holy Praise Of God: Verses 8b-11.
Verse 8 declares, “The four living creatures … do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” Here is a slight modification of Isaiah 6. What happens when the four living creatures worship God on His throne? Verses 9 through 11 tell us, “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, (the 24 elders want to get-in on this praise, too!) the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and 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.’” The four living creatures praise God, which inspires the 24 elders to praise God, which inspires us to praise God. The four living creatures and the 24 elders teach us to enter into the holy praise of God, too.
There are several reasons why we should praise God . . .
1) For His Purity.
In verse 11, the Bible says those gathered around the throne were saying, “Holy, holy, holy.” God is absolutely pure and holy. There is no sin in God. There is no sin in heaven. He is holy. He is pure. Here again is a reminder of why we cannot enter into heaven. We are not holy. We are sinful. In order to enter into heaven, we must have our sins taken care of. We get our sins taken care of by trusting Jesus Christ to do the job for us. Christ is Holy. Christ is pure. Our getting into heaven is not automatic. We must personally receive Jesus Christ into our lives. Praise God for His purity.
We enter into the holy praise of God by praising God . . .
2) For His Authority.
Verse 8 tells us that the four living creatures are worshiping the, “Lord God, Almighty.” God is the One Who is “almighty.” He is all-powerful. He can meet your needs. He can provide you with that job. He can get you through school. He can save your marriage. Those are small things to a God who spoke the entire universe into existence, a God who is “almighty.”
We can enter into the holy praise of God by praising Him for His purity, for His authority, and . . .
For His Eternality.
In verse 8, the four living creatures declare that God is the One, “Who was and is and is to come.” God is eternal. He has always been, He always is, and He always will be. That means you can count on Him. He will be there for you. He will be faithful to you.
Who controls the
Details of the future
Is the One
Who controls the
Difficulties of the present.
Finally, we praise God . . .
4) For His Sovereignty.
Verse The four and twenty elders proclaim, “You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” The word “will” can also be translated “pleasure.” God not only determined to create all things, but by creating everything, God demonstrated His pleasure in doing it. He created you for that reason, for His pleasure. He willed you into existence and you exist for Him. That means two things:
1) The things happening to you are in perfect harmony with God’s purposes for
God is not just playing around, capriciously creating things with no rhyme or reason. God is a God of order. God is a God of plans. That God created all things according to His perfect will suggests that God has a perfect plan for your life. You continue to exist because God wills it. He preserves you and sustains you, even through difficult times. As God said to His people in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
2) God is sovereign over you.
He created you, so He is the One Who reigns over you. What is the meaning of life? For you to have a relationship with this Supreme God of the universe. How does it happen? Only through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have seen God in His glorious splendor and we have seen, then, how we must praise Him. Worship is a lifestyle, not just a scheduled service relegated to Sunday mornings. We enter into the Holy Praise of God moment by moment. We regularly thank God throughout the day and depend upon Him minute by minute. We continually praise God. Like the four living creatures, “we do not rest day or night.” We continually praise God for His purity, authority, eternality, and sovereignty. The 24 elders held nothing back. They fell down before Him and they cast their golden crowns before Him. They held nothing back. We too must hold nothing back (tithes, time, trust). Because of Who God is we must surrender all.
We have entered into the Holy Place of God, the Holy Presence of God, and the Holy Praise of God. We could add a fourth point: Enter into the Holy Plan of God. Verse 11 ends with these words, “For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” Have you entered into God’s holy plan for your life?
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!