Introduction to Chapter 4
chapter begins a new phase in the book of Revelation. The church plays
a prominent role in the first three chapters, mentioned over 18 times.
After chapter 3, the church is not referred to again until chapter 22
verse16. In chapter 4, John the Apostle, called up to heaven, reports
to the reader what he sees and hears. John is the eyes and ears of the
Chapter 4 presents the reader with the throne of God and events taking
place in Heaven. This begins a chain of events leading to the return of
the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who Revelation 19 pictures as conquering
King. From chapter 4, we see God’s throne and the events surrounding
it. Chapter 5 continues from 4, and takes the reader to the throne
itself and the opening of a scroll with seven seals. The opening of
this scroll puts events into motion leading to the return of Christ in
Throughout Revelation, John is reporting to the reader what he sees and
hears. John told to write what he sees; lets the reader see events
through his eyes and ears. In Chapter 4, John is caught up to a scene
taking place in heaven. Although not mentioned explicitly, John’s call
up to heaven by a voice sounding like a trumpet, parallels events in I
Thessalonians 4:13-18, John represents a picture of the rapture. In the
rapture, the church is “caught up” to the presence of Christ with a
shout from Christ and the call of God’s trumpet.
There are three main views on the timing of the event known as the
1. The pre-tribulation view understands the rapture to take place before
the seven-year tribulation period.
2. The mid-tribulation view understands the rapture to take place at the
middle part of the tribulation.
3. The post-tribulation view understands the rapture to take place at the
end of the tribulation.
The timing of
the rapture is hinged to the tribulation. Following the tribulation is
the “Glorious return of Christ”. (Matthew 24:29)
The tribulation is a seven-year period of God’s judgment and wrath on the
earth. This period known as Daniel’s 70th week
(Daniel 9:27), the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) and
the day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:6-9, Jeremiah 46:10, Joel 2:1, Amos
5:18-20, Zechariah 14:1) is a period of testing(Rev. 3:10). This
tribulation period coming on the earth is unparalleled, there was never
a time like it nor, will there ever be a time like it again (Daniel
12:1, Jeremiah 30:7, Matthew 24:21). Jesus unveils (Revelation) events
taking place in this tribulation period, in Revelation chapters 6 to
These notes are from a pre-tribulation,
viewpoint. From this view, the events taking place on earth, the
tribulation, exclude the believing Church, which is promised to be
preserved from the “Hour of trial which shall
come upon the whole world” (Rev. 3:10). During the tribulation
period, God deals with
Israel and the world. At the conclusion of this period,
acknowledges Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah, and they call out to
him. Christ then returns with the armies of heaven, including the
raptured saints to establish the millennial kingdom. (Matthew 23:37-39,
The distinction between
Israel and the church
is very important in understanding Bible prophecy, especially in
understanding the book of Revelation. The church after chapter 3 is not
mentioned again until chapter 22. However,
as a nation and a people are in clear view, during this period in
Revelation. In chapter 7 and 14, we see 144,000 from the 12 tribes of
Israel. In Chapter 11, we see the Temple and two witnesses’ prophecy in
Jerusalem. Chapters 16, and 19 the armies of the earth gather north of
in the area known as Megiddo. In the tribulation, God deals with
Israel and not the church. In chapters 4 and 5, we see the church in
Heaven, surrounding the throne praising God. On earth God’s judgment and
wrath is poured out on sin, causing many to find Christ in the midst of
the Earth’s trial. (Revelation 6:9, 7:14-17,13:10, 15:2)
John caught up to Heaven
1 After these things I
looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice
which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up
here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." Revelation
After these things…
begins to describe events following his letter to the seven churches.
John was in the process of writing a letter to the seven churches in
Asia, Jesus standing in the middle of seven candlesticks is
dictating the letter to John. Following the completion of the letters,
chapter 4 takes place. In Revelation 1:19, Jesus establishes the
structure of the book of Revelation.
the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things
which will take place after this. Revelation 1:19
Christ established a
three-fold time structure to the book, past, present and future. The
things which you have seen, is what took place in the beginning of
the first chapter. The things which are, is the present age the
church age covered in the 2nd and 3rd chapters.
The things which take place after this, refer to the time
following the church age, the future.
6 to 19 detail events taking place in heaven and on earth during the
tribulation period. John is in the position of a reporter, writing down
what he hears and sees allowing the reader participate in the same
One Greek word used throughout Revelation is
meaning to perceive with the eyes. John refers time and time again to
what he “Saw”. John is not speaking in metaphor but in reality. He is
reporting to the reader what he actually sees. John actually saw a door
standing open in heaven.
This is not outer space, or just the clouds but the place of God’s
presence. According to Paul, the believer who dies goes right to
Heaven. (Phil 1;23) John is taken into Heaven to witness a future
Come up here.
John now hears the voice like a trumpet calling him, this is
the same voice which identified itself as “Alpha and Omega” (Rev.
1;10-13). This is Jesus, telling John to come up into heaven.
Similarities between the John’s call into Heaven and the rapture are
striking when we compare the two.
I Thes. 4:13-18
At the end of
At the end of
the letters to the churches
Jesus to believers
Trumpet of God
Voice like a
John on earth
John was in the Spirit
into the Lord’s presence
John taken into
the Lord’s presence
Jesus calling John into
Heaven explains to John the things “Must take place. The words here are
nearly identical to the words used in Revelation 1;19, establishing the
three part division in Revelation.
God’s Throne in Heaven
2 Immediately I was in
the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the
3 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. Revelation
In the Spirit..
John on the
island of Patmos is
taken to Heaven, in the Spirit. Paul explains a similar experience in
his 2nd letter to the Corinthians.
2 I know a man in Christ
who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or whether out
of the body I do not know, God knows-such a one was caught up to the
3 And I know such a
man-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows
4 how he was caught up
into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for
a man to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:2-4
Paul is not sure if his body was there or just his spirit. The word
Paul uses for being “Caught Up” is the same word used to describe the
rapture in I Thes. 4:13-18. John like Paul is caught up into the third
heaven. The first heaven is the sky, the second heaven, space beyond
the atmosphere and the third is the presence of the Lord. Ezekiel like
Paul and John also experienced being “in the spirit” and seeing visions
from God and writing about what he saw. (Ezekiel 8:3, 37:1)
Throne set in heaven..
John is immediately ushered to the center of Heaven,
and to the throne of God. John then describes the scene for his
reader. John, literally taken to the throne of God in Heaven
describes what he sees. Daniel saw the “Ancient of days” on his throne
and one like the “Son of man” approach the throne(Daniel 7:9,13),
Ezekiel saw “Glory of the Lord” as a glorified man, seated on His throne
(Ezekiel 1:27) and Isaiah also so the Lord seated on his throne (Isaiah
6:1), in descriptions similar to John’s.
John sees a vision of God sitting on his throne. There is a
debate whether this is Father or the Son sitting on the throne. The
dilemma here is the one seated on the throne is described as Creator of
all things which is the work ascribed to Christ. (John 1:1-3,
Col. 1;16-17, Heb
1;2-3,10-12, 3:3,4, Rev. 4;11).
The one seated on throne is distinguished from the Lamb in chapter 5, who
is Christ, because he is the only one able to open the scroll.
However, in Revelation 22:1,3 both the Lamb and God the Father are
pictured as being on the throne of God.
The one who sits on the
throne is described as having the appearance of Jasper. In the Old
Testament, the High Priest would wear a breastplate with 12 stones.
Each of the 12 stones represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The
priest would bear Israel on his chest as he ministered before God in the
(Exodus 28:15-20) Jasper was the last stone of the 12, and took on
shades of different color. The Jasper stone referenced here is clear
like crystal.( Rev 21;11) Jasper would represent the tribe of
Benjamin. The crystal clear represent the purity and holiness of God.
Sardius was the first stone on the breastplate and
represented the tribe of Reuben. Sardius was a red stone, like a ruby
or carnelian. This would have represented the redemption of humanity by
the blood of Christ. Here we see the last stone and the first stone of
the Jewish Priesthood pictured on the throne of God.
Revelation chapter 1, Christ is also described in terms reminiscent of
Priest. Hebrews (Heb. 9:11,25 10:11,25) describes Christ as our High
Priest, who is at the right hand of God the Father. Here we see Christ
in the very role as High Priest seated on the throne.
The fourth stone on the
breastplate was an Emerald, the emerald represented the fourth son,
Judah. John describes a rainbow around the throne with the appearance
of an Emerald. Through
the Messiah came and took away the sins of humanity. In Noah’s day, God
established the rainbow as a symbol of his agreement to not destroy the
earth with a flood. Here the rainbow with an emerald appearance
represents the peace between man and God, the result of the Jesus the
Messiah’s death, who came from the tribe of
The Twenty Four Elders
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. Revelation 4;4
Around the throne...
John who was caught up into heaven now begins to describe the
surrounding events taking place in Heaven. He describes something
never described in heaven before this chapter, twenty-four thrones with
people seated on them.
Twenty-four thrones John
describes 24 thrones surrounding the throne of God, the Greek word
means, throne seat, a chair of state having a footstool. There has been
debate about these 24 thrones. Some have argued they represent angelic
authority over God’s creation. While others argue they represent New
Testament saints. To understand these twenty-four thrones, we need to
ask who is sitting on them. What is their background? What do they say?
One of the arguments put forward is the 24 elders sitting on
the throne are angels. The problem with this argument is in the
description of the 24 elders. Five arguments against the elders being
1. The Greek word for elder is
Presbuteros means elder, of age. The reason this cannot apply to angels
is all angles are the same age, there is no elder angel.
2. The term “elder” in the Bible is always used to apply to men, not
3. Elders are always representing people, in both
Israel and the church
4. There are no visions of elders in both Ezekiel’s vision of the throne
(Ezk.1-10) and Isaiah vision of the throne (Isaiah 6). Christ had not
yet paid for the sins of humanity.
5. These same elders sing the song of redemption in Revelation 5:9-10,
angels were never redeemed.
In addition to the above arguments, the clothing the elders
wear, “white robes”, is the dress of “Overcomers” (Revelation 3;4,5,18;
19:14). White robes are promised to the victorious saint.
There are two types of crowns mentioned in the New Testament. One crown
is a rulers crown a Diadema the other is a victors crown known in the Greek as
Stephanos meaning victors crown or wreath. This crown was given to
victors in the public games. The type of crown the 24 elders have is
the “Stepanos” crown.
Its clear from the context, the 24 elders are not angels but redeemed
saints. The next question is who are these 24 elder “Saints”? Since
they are sitting on thrones they are in position of authority. Christ
promised his saints positions of authority over his coming kingdom.
Jesus in fact promised the 12 apostles they would be sitting on 12
thrones ruling over the 12 tribes of
28 So Jesus said to
them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of
Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also
sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The number 24 matches the 24 orders of priests in
Israel (I Chronicles
24:7-19). Since the apostles are promised positions of authority ruling
over Israel (Matthew 19:28). And Old Testament saints, such as David,
are also promised positions of authority in the coming kingdom (Ezekiel
34:24). It is reasonable to assume the 24 elders are the12 apostles
representing the church and 12 elders from Israel representing Israel,
people such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, David, Isaiah.. etc.
The timing of this event, follows the rapture and precedes the
Since the elders, the redeemed saints, wear crowns, the event known as
the “Judgment seat of Christ” (I Cor.
3:11-15) might have
taken place. This judgment is not for salvation but for rewards.
Similar to an award ceremony in the Olympics when the winners are given
their “Stepanos” crown of victory.
The Seven Spirits of
5 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. Revelation
on the exodus journey also experienced the lightings and thunder from
top of Mt. Sinai when the presence of the Lord was on the mountain.
(Exodus 19:16) The nation trembled before God and asked Moses to talk
to them rather then God.
The thunder and lightning from the throne also demonstrate the coming
judgment about to fall on the earth in the coming chapters.
John also describes
seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God. These seven lamps
are different from the seven lampstands which Jesus Christ stood in the
midst in chapter one. These seven lamps of fire represented the seven
spirits of God or the seven-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah
11:2 lists the sevenfold characteristic of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Spirit of the Lord
2. The Spirit of wisdom
3. The Spirit of understanding
4. The Spirit of counsel
5. The Spirit of power
6. The Spirit of knowledge
7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord
In the tabernacle and the
Temple the seven lamps
of the golden candlestick before the Holy of Holies was a type of the
reality in Heaven. (Hebrews 9;23) The whole tabernacle and Temple was
a microcosm picture of God’s throne and heaven.
The Sea of Glass
6a Before the throne
there was a sea of glass, like crystal. Revelation 4:6a
Sea of glass
John also reports on a sea of glass like crystal before the throne of
God, those familiar with the Temple would immediately recognize this as
the antitype for the Bronze Laver before the Tabernacle and Temple.
(Exodus 30:17-21, I Kings 7;23-26).
The laver was placed
between the altar and the tabernacle and the priests of the Lord were to
wash their hands and feet before they minister in the tabernacle or at
Christ before His death, washed the feet of disciples, Peter who at first
refused then requested Jesus wash his hands and head, Jesus replied,
those who are bathed only need to wash their feet. (John 13:9) The
water pictured the cleansing of sin, the repentance of the believer.
When we are baptized, the believer is pictured dying and rising with
Christ (Col. 2:12). Paul in Ephesians calls the water the word which
washes us from our sins.
The four living
6bAnd in the midst of
the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of
eyes in front and in back.
7 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.
8 The four living
creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.
And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"
9 Whenever the living
creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne,
who lives forever and ever, Revelation 4:6b-9
Four living creatures.
John now focuses his
attention to four living creatures. The Greek word used here,
means a living being. Ezekiel and Isaiah give similar descriptions of
the living creatures at the throne of God. These four living creatures
are the Cherubs. Two are pictured on the “Arc of the Covenant” covering
the “Mercy seat”. (Exodus 25;17-24) The “Mercy Seat” is a picture of
God’s throne, there the “Glory of the Lord” would appear to the priest
ministering before the
The Arc was a picture of what was taking place in Heaven. (Hebrews
9:23) The living creatures are the reality while the image on the arc
was only a type to represent the reality.
Isaiah who also witnessed the throne of God describes the Serephim
2 Above it stood
seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two
he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
3 And one cried to
another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole
earth is full of His glory!"
Ezekiel, like Isaiah and John also witnessed the throne of God and
reported a description very similar to John of the “Living creatures” at
the throne of God. (Ezekiel 1:4-25)
The living creatures lead heaven in giving praise to the Lord God and his
work. They are proclaiming the reality of God’s being. They are the
choir directors of heaven leading the saints and angels in praise.
The Heavenly worship of
10 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:
11 "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." Revelation 4:10-11
With the “Living
creatures” leading praise, the 24 elders representing all of saved
humanity at that point, cast their “Stephanos” or victors crown before
the throne. The saints in heaven acknowledge the one on the throne is
worthy of all the praise.
The scene in chapter 4 continues in 5 where the saints the saints along
with angels praise the Lamb, Jesus Christ who died for the sins of