Revelation

Chapter Four



With the opening of chapter four in this revelation by God to His family, we now step into the realm of prophecy. Prophecy that concerns and applies to all humanity! Especially those alive today!

There are three separate groups of thought concerning the book of Revelation. Some argue that it was all in the past. Some argue it pertains to our time. The time we live in right now. The third group argues that it represents events off in the future. Events still to come. We have no idea why they argue these viewpoints for the truth is they are all correct. To us it does represent the past. That can be proven. It will also be easy for us to see it pertains to our present; that can be proven also. Which leaves us with the future to think about. Surprisingly enough, one can prove that also. The fact that Revelation is a book about the past, present and future is attested to by none other than Jehovah Himself with verification coming from His son Jesus; the master workman of creation.

Rev 1:19

"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. (NIV)

"…What you have seen…" the past!

"…What is now…" the present!

"…What will take place later." the future!

To those living in John’s day, Revelation represented mostly the future; yet it clearly had its beginning in their lifetime.   Therefore if what was future to ages gone by, and those future events have been proven to have occurred [To us they are history] isn’t it safe to assume the rest of the predicted events of Revelation will occur also?

But one does not have to rely on assumptions.   The past, present, and future is all interlocked by time. The past has become the present and the events of the present are distinctly marking our tomorrow. To those with an open mind, it will become clear that what was foreshadowed for tomorrow has already begun today. To those that say, "I only believe in what I can see" ... then come with us; ... step through this symbolic door... and take a look! For there are things happening today that have never happened in all the history of mankind. Events predicted in Revelation almost two thousand years ago. Worldwide events the creator has said:

"…Must take place…"

As a hint to what is being said here, when was the last time in history all the trees of the earth, were being burned up by acid rain? Or rain forests, being systematically engulfed with flames by the acre. These earth wide disasters are predicted in Revelation chapters 7and 8, both of which, by the way, are events happening right now as you read this.

With this little eye opener to think about, let us begin our study of chapter four of Revelation.

Rev 4:1    After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." (NIV)

In this first verse of chapter four John sees a symbolic open door in heaven and hears the voice of God symbolically represented by the clarity of a trumpet, which instructs him to "…COME UP HERE…"

With these opening words, we are about to journey with John into a symbolic world as he records the most extraordinary prophecies ever characterized for mankind. We are about to see mental pictures painted for us with words; depictions that are not intended to be as photographic illustrations of God, nor His son, nor of heaven. Instead, they are figurative images that represent not only all these things, but also much more as well.

" ... Things which must come to pass." Not things that might take place, should take place, or could take place. Rather, they are things that MUST take place. Events predestined by God to occur. Each within there own prescribed time slot.

With the next verse of chapter four, John takes us through this symbolic doorway into the symbolic realm of heaven itself. John is listening to this very clear distinct voice "as it were a trumpet talking." (KJV) Notice the word "trumpet" is indicating the very sharp, easily recognized and understood quality of a voice, as if it were sounding words instead of music about the future. (Rev 8: 13) The next verse tells us this is a vision for it begins with:

Rev 4:2  At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

If there is any doubt that this was a vision from God to John, stop and check Revelation 9:17 which begins with the words "The horses and riders I saw in my vision…" (NIV)

Visions are just one of the forms of communication God has used with man from early times and are accomplished through the Holy Spirit. We can see the force of God's Holy Spirit in the stars that shine at night; in a child being born, in a blade of grass as it reaches for the sunlight. God's power works and we can physically see the results of this work, but not the power or spirit that makes all this come about. To actually see spiritual things, we would have to be in spiritual form. Which is why John is telling us, that he was transformed or in the spirit. This allowed John to view a vision of the spiritual world of God by being under the spirit or power of God. There is nothing mysterious about all this. What God does is open the eyes and ears of the individual concerned.

The moment this took place, John could mentally see the form from which this trumpet like voice emanates. Now John had not died and gone to heaven, he was very much alive for he still had to write down all that this vision portrayed. Nonetheless, through the spirit or God's power, he is presented with mental pictures of the future, as Revelation is unfolded before him. John therefore finds himself in a symbolic heaven witnessing a symbolic heavenly court.

The next verse gives us John's first impression of the awesome being sitting on the throne presiding over this symbolic heavenly gathering. The Greek word "thronos" is used here which literally means "Seat of Authority".

Rev 4:3   And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. (NIV)

Notice here that John is not giving us a description of a man sitting on this throne. John is not saying such things, as he was six foot three, blue eyes, had a long gray beard etc. Rather he is saying to look upon him was like looking at the beauty and permanence of a jasper and carnelian stone. (The carnelian is also known as a sardius stone.)

Now, John is equating this figure with semi precious stones. One might ask, why not describe him as a diamond and a ruby? Why use lesser stones? However, John saw this imposing figure as the stones described for a very good reason: because the jasper and carnelian gems, were the first and last stones on the breastplate of the High Priest in the Temple. Now we know that Christ is the spiritual High Priest and will hold that position for eternity. Nonetheless, He holds that position through and because of the power and will of His father. The position of High Priest was given to Christ from His God. Why do we refer to Jehovah as the God of Jesus? Because Jesus does precisely that! Jesus refers to the Almighty as "His God" in Rev 1: 6 "…Unto his God and father…" (NIV) He does this again, four times actually in one verse at:

Rev 3:12   Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.  (KJV)

By the words Christ speaks above, He is also affirming that Jehovah is the only one in the universe who could give that authority.

The jasper stone is a translucent variable colored gem. It, depending on the light source, represents or reproduces many colors, particularly the sparkle of fire. The carnelian or sardius stone comes in two colors, one a yellowish brown, the other a beautiful, brilliant, transparent red. Man particularly favored the sardius stone because it accepted a very high degree of polish. It also easily accepted carvings that made it very popular as a seal to stamp into wax. (Seven seals are broken in Revelation.)

This stone also forms the sixth foundation wall of the New Jerusalem. So, the two stones symbolize not only the magnificence of Jehovah Himself but also the multicolored brilliance of His kingdom.

Surrounding this imposing symbolic figure is a rainbow. The rainbow, of course, represents God's visible sign, to mankind, of a covenant He Himself ordained. As if to back this up was the overall hazy appearance of the grassy green of an emerald.

John has no trouble recognizing this form and these symbols as representing the one and only God, Jehovah.

Rev 4:4    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.

That these twenty-four elders are drawn from mankind is clear. There are many references to elders in the Bible. However, they are never mentioned as angels, or for that matter, connected with angels. They are always elderly senior men. As an example, Hebrews 11: 2 tells us they are the forefathers in Israel. Luke sites them as men who handled public affairs in cities and towns. King Solomon, it is stated in the Word, gathered them together for a meeting.

The fact that they are clothed in white raiment with crowns on their heads also tells us they are men drawn from the earth. The white raiment and crowns are promises made to those that overcome stated in the seven letters.

Revelation concerns mankind in general. That there are 24 elders is indicative of the two complete covenants with mankind, because the number twelve represents something complete, like 12 months complete a year. Since there are 24, the symbolism identifies or relates to the two covenants God has had with man.

Also, as we shall see, a good part of Revelation concerns God's wrath against mankind. Since His wrath also concerns the judgment and future of mankind, God considers it proper to have mankind represented and this is done with the 24 elders representing all of mankind.

Nonetheless, as if to make sure no one is in the least doubtful as to whom is seated on the throne before him, John goes on with further identification:

Rev 4:5    From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.

"Out of the throne proceeded lightnings." The Greek word "astrape" is used here. When astrape is used in the plural [as in Rev 4: 5] it means shining brightness.

"And thundering along with voices" is here used to represent the power of his words.

The Bible itself makes this language very clear:

Job 40:9     Hast thou an arm like God? Or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him?   (KJV)

Job 26:14      Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? But the thunder of his power who can understand? (KJV)

1 Samuel 2:10   The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of Heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. (KJV)

Psalms 77:18     The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. (KJV)

There are more scriptures like the ones above, but the Bible has, as it does with all things, cleared up this point. It is using metaphors to describe God and His power.

Along with all this are the seven lamps, which are the seven spirits that as we have discovered in Rev 1: 4 represent God's Holy Spirit or power. All of which leaves absolutely no possibility that the one seated on the throne in front of John, and calling him up, is anyone but Jehovah Himself in symbolic form. It is evident John in the spirit is present at and witnessing the symbolic royal court of God in session. John now tells us of others who are present:

Rev 4:6

Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. (NIV)

"Before the throne there was a sea of glass". This sea of glass represents or symbolizes life flowing out from the throne of the creator. The Biblical explanation for this comes from:

Rev 22:1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. (KJV)

These four living creatures which are also described as beasts are covered with eyes, which are symbolic of nothing escaping the view of God, not even a single sparrow falling to earth. We will see this symbolism used again when we are introduced to the Lamb of God.

(It should be noted here that Ezekiel had the same vision as John, but Ezekiel’s vision concerned judgment against the house of Israel while John's concerned judgment against the entire world. There are slight differences between the details of these two visions. Differences such as the kind of gems seen and the amount of wings the beasts had. But these differences relate to the application and to whom that judgment is being applied. Just the same, judgment is judgment, justice is justice, and both are the same for all.)

This sea of glass is also the platform on which rests the throne, which is why John describes it as a solid "sea of glass like unto crystal". (KJV) This clear crystal glass like platform, representing life appearing to flow outward in all directions from the throne itself, has in its midst and all around the throne four strange beasts with eyes that see in all directions. The word beast is indicative of the earth. However, they are not from the earth. In fact, Ezekiel [chapter ten] clearly identifies them as cherubim angels. But these four particular angels, as we shall see, have duties very much connected to the earth; which is why they are symbolized as beasts- for beasts symbolize anything pertaining to the earth. If you recall, Cherubim angels were used to guard the tree of life when Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:24)

These four beasts are standing in its midst. This means in its center but we already know the creator sitting on His throne occupies this space. However, these four beasts are also described as being round about the throne. Now, the only possible way these beasts or creatures could be in the center and around the center at the same time would be for the four beasts to be directly under this sea of glass. And this, according to Ezekiel, is exactly the case.

Ezekiel 1:22. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the color of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. (KJV)

Ezk 1:26. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. (KJV)

Ezekiel was also in the spirit when he witnessed these beasts that stood below this crystal firmament appearing as though they were pillars to support it. Ezekiel also goes into detail in explaining what these beasts looked like in the first chapter of his book.

Rev 4:7    The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.

John’s description of these creatures equates them to beasts or flesh and blood creatures, a lion, ox, man, and eagle. Other versions of the Bible relate the ox as a calf. This is due to translators, for the actual Greek word used is "Moschos" which literally means a shoot or young bullock. Therefore, either calf or ox is applicable for the purpose, for the truth is these four creatures do not really exist but merely symbolize the cherub angels placed in charge of all earthly matters.

Ezekiel saw these four creatures as each having the four faces depicted above. What is wrong with the picture of the face of a man on a beast’s body? In truth, nothing. Man is part of the earth, just as the lion calf and eagle. However, man was given dominion over all the beasts of the field. (Genesis 2:28) Therefore, man was very much a part of these four symbolic beasts standing before the symbolic throne of God in this symbolic court.

In the next verse, John calls attention to something else about these four creatures: wings and eyes. Both of which have symbolic meaning. Multiple eyes on these four creatures, as has been explained, represent the ability of God to see everything. Wings represent the care God exercises over mankind. Look up the word 'wings' in a concordance and you will see many scriptures verifying what has just been stated above. As an example:

Psalms 36:7. How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (KJV)

The use of the word 'wings' in Ps 36: 7 is a metaphor. This is stated so positively because, aside from Christ, no man has ever seen God. Therefore, no man could rightly claim God has wings. There is no way anyone could describe what God looks like. Along with this is the fact that spirit forms are not visible in the spectrum of human eyesight. These beings are to our physical sight invisible. Therefore, there would be no visible shadow from invisible wings. Yet, there is something else symbolic about the wings of these four creatures.

Rev 4:8    Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (NIV)

Since we know that seven represents something perfect, six wings represent protection that is less than perfect. This is due to the fact that man has made himself imperfect by disobedience. Man lives on an earth under a curse by God. (Genesis 3:17) Until that curse is lifted by the Almighty, His protection will remain less than perfect as part of the punishment given to Adam.

"Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty," To understand the meaning of this symbolism we must understand what the word "Holy" means. Literally, it is defined to be something separate, distinct; one of a kind. The four creatures represent the earth, which is holy. One of a kind! Life itself, whether that force be in a bug or an elephant, is holy. The universe is holy. In other words, the earth and everything in it, along with the whole universe by their very existence declare God, their creator, as gloriously holy.

We are putting together the next three verses because of the punctuation in each verse which clearly marks them as expressing a single thought. They are in fact an extension of the glory given to the Almighty in verse 8. They also verify what was said above concerning verse 8.

Rev 4:9    Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever,

10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (NIV)

To sum all this up: As has been said, chapter four of Revelation is the start of the prophecies concerning the earth and mankind in general, but like the Lord's prayer, that prophecy begins with acknowledgement of, and praise to, the holy creator of it all.

The Greek word Stephonos is used to express the meaning of the crown in verse 10. Stephonos is the crown of victory given to winners in events such as a race. Being given dominion over all beasts set mankind apart from the other animals that roamed the earth. To say nothing of the fact that it was only man who was made to eventually become parts of God's own family; with the freely given gift of eternal life to those who overcome. This makes the face of man appropriate on the symbolic beast representing the cherubim angels assigned the task of overseeing the earth.

The twenty-four elders symbolize the earth’s true Christians in this symbolic royal court of God. The beast with the face of a man symbolizes mankind in general.

Understanding what these four beasts represent is important because we will run into them again. In fact, we run into these symbolic beasts in the very next chapter of Revelation.



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