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.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 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. 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. 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, 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: 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. 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!”
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 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,
“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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
There are seven parts to Revelation. Numerology, which is the symbolism of numbers, plays a big part in Revelation. The number seven plays a big role.
Each of the seven sections starts with the phrase “After this.” (Revelation 1:19; 4:1; 7:1; 7:9: 15:5; 18:1; 19:1). The first section dealt with admonishing and encouraging the churches. This second section is about the glory and majesty of God. Because of God’s glory, only the Lamb is worthy to break seals. This section also contains the breaking of the first six seals of the seven seals.
This chapter sets the scene for the rest of the book. We will look at this chapter in detail but let us not forget the theme of this chapter is the majesty of God.
Futurists, particularly Dispensationalist, argue there is a radical break at this chapter.
The first step in interrupting scripture is asking, what does it say. Trying to interpret scripture before understanding what it says is dangerous. It has led to many bad interruptions. So the first thing to ask is, “What does it say?” Many Dispensationalists claim this chapter is about the church. They claim it talks about the church raptured into heaven before the tribulation. But if we ask the proper questions in the proper order we avoid this mistake. What does it say? It says Christ took John up. He was in the Spirit. The church was not taken up. It was not a physical ascension.
They claim this is about the church because following this chapter is a tribulation. They claim the church will not go through the tribulation. So they interrupt the scripture to fit their theory.
Dispensationalists like to say they take the book of Revelation literally. Obviously, that is not is true.
I sound like I am coming down hard on them. Perhaps I am. But I do not intend to. There are many smart people who love Jesus who make this error. We all have beliefs. We like to think we are correct. But we must let the scripture correct us. Start by asking what does it say. Then do not read into scripture something it does not say.
John looked and there was a door standing open. A voice spoke to him like a trumpet. A trumpet makes a loud clear sound. You cannot mistake it. This speaking like a trumpet refers back to Revelation 1:10. In chapter 1, the voice was identified as Christ our Lord.
Christ told John to come up to God’s throne room. There Christ showed John things that would take place.
John said he was in the spirit. But John said that in chapter one. Why mention it again? Did he come out of the spirit? Did he go deeper into the spirit? The simplest reason is the most probable. He stated it as a reminder. He was not taken up physically. But what does John mean by in the “spirit?” “Spirit” could refer either to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. But in either case, John was in a state of spiritual exaltation. It is best described as a trance.
John was in the throne room of God. He saw God seated on a throne. John tried to describe God’s majesty.
God is not described with any human features. Rather John describes Him only by His transcendent brightness. He appeared like jasper and carnelian. These were stones worn on the breastplate of the high priest. Carnelian was also known as sardius or odem in Hebrew. This was the first stone in the first row of the high priest’s breastplate. (Exodus 28:27). Jasper was the last stone. My thinking is, the is a reference back to Revelation 1:17 (Fear not I am the first and the last…)
Around the throne was a rainbow. The rainbow was the seal and sign of the covenant with Noah. It is a fit emblem of the covenant God has made with Christ as the head of the church. It is an everlasting covenant.
As beautiful and wonderful as a rainbow is, it went beyond that. It appeared like an emerald. The emerald was the first stone in the second row of stones on the High Priest’s breastplate.
God is not alone. God does not need anyone else. But He rejoices in others. He rejoices in His creation. Around the throne were 24 elders.
They wore white clothes. White represented purity. And they had gold crowns on their heads. They all had crowns. The crowns point to conquering. In Chapters 2 and 3 Christ told the churches to overcome and conquer.
Here is another number. Where does 24 come from? Why 24? Twelve apostles would make sense. Twelve tribes of Israel would make sense. But why 24? The answer is in the question. There were 12 tribes of Israel. And there were 12 apostles This represents both the old and new Church. Christ is Lord of both. There are no separate means of salvation for those in the old covenant. They trusted in the work of Christ’s to come. We trust in the work Christ has done. These 24 elders represented the church of all time.
From the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. This was a representation of the power of God. God gave the law on mount Sinai with thunder and lightning. The gospel has no less glory and authority than the law.
In front of the throne were seven torches. What are the seven spirits of God? John is not communicating God has 7 Spirits. Seven (7) is the number of completeness. Taking this in a wooden sense as dispensationalist claim they do would lead to a heretical view of God. But thank God dispensationalists do not go this far. They do not take this in a literal sense. I mention this as a warning against taking what is symbolic in Revelation as literal.
In front of the throne was a sea of glass. In the temple, there was a great brass vessel filled with water. The priest washed with the water in it. They had to wash before they ministered to the Lord. This was called the sea. Those admitted before God must pass through the sea. They must be cleansed.
On each side of the throne, front, back, left, right, were four living. These creatures appear to have the same purpose as the seraphim in Isiah 6:3. The description is a little different but not incompatible. They had six wings. They never stop proclaiming God’s holiness. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8) and “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
They were full of eyes front and back. They could see everything that happened. They gave glory and honor to God without ceasing.
The first creature was like a lion. This symbolized lion-like courage. The second was like an ox. Their great labor and diligence were symbolized by the ox. Their prudence and discretion symbolized by the face of man. The last creature was like an eagle. They mounted up with wings toward heaven.
In addition to the creatures’ praise, the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped God. They laid their crown before the throne. They acknowledged that only the Lord God is worthy to receive glory and honor. Why? Because God is the creator of all things.