Bible Commentary on the
The Throne in Heaven
1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
AFTER THIS I LOOKED, AND, BEHOLD, A DOOR WAS OPENED IN HEAVEN; AND THE FIRST VOICE WHICH I HEARD WAS AS IT WERE OF A TRUMPET TALKING WITH ME; WHICH SAID, COME UP HITHER, AND I WILL SHEW THEE THINGS WHICH MUST BE HEREAFTER.
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven
Another open door. We have just noticed in the message to the Laodiceans that Christ is standing at the door and knocking. There is something different about this door, for it is a door that is opened in heaven. Weymouth says, "A door in heaven standing open."
This is one of the most important visions given to John, for he was able to look into the holiest and most sacred places in all the universe. Every individual's destiny is wrapped up in that door.
And the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking to me
A trumpet gives a very clear and loud sound, so the One who speaks presents His message in a very clear and positive manner.
Which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter
The things John was about to see were events that would be in the future. As the seven seals were opened he would be taken in vision to see the transpiring of great events that would shape and change the destiny of God's church.
Throughout chapter 4 the throne holds the centre of attention. John uses the word 12 times. Great Controversy by EG White p.415 says "In the temple in Heaven, the dwelling-place of God, His throne is established in righteousness and judgement. In the most holy place is His law, the great rule of right by which all mankind are tested. The ark that enshrines the tables of the law is covered with the mercy-seat, before which Christ pleads His blood in the sinners behalf. Thus is represented the union of justice and mercy in the plan of human redemption...".
AND IMMEDIATELY I WAS IN THE SPIRIT: AND, BEHOLD, A THRONE WAS SET IN HEAVEN, AND ONE SAT ON THE THRONE.
And immediately I was in the spirit
This means an "ecstatic state". In other words, John was in vision. He became oblivious to the things of earth and was aware only of heavenly things.
And, behold, a throne was set in heaven
And One set on the throne
Because of the majesty and splendour of the scene John finds difficulty in describing what he sees. John does not try to describe the One who sat upon the throne. Daniel also avoids giving a description of God Himself, but refers to Him as the "Ancient of Days".
It may seem a little strange in that both John and Daniel give quite a detailed description of the Son - but avoid describing the Father. However in that the Son is human as well as divine therefore He can be described more easily in human language.
Rainbows on earth have many colours, they are formed by the combination of sun and rain. But this is a rainbow around God's throne. And in appearance it is like an emerald which is green. This is a rainbow that has a green emerald like appearance. 'Education' by EG White, page 115 says, "As the bow in the cloud results from the union of sunshine and shower, so the bow above God's throne represents the union of His mercy and His justice."
AND HE THAT SAT WAS TO LOOK UPON LIKE A JASPER AND A SARDINE STONE: AND THERE WAS A RAINBOW ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE, IN SIGHT LIKE UNTO AN EMERALD.
And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone
Jasper (KJV) was the ancient name for diamond.
The Sardine stone (KJV) or topaz, gave forth a brilliant red light.
It is not difficult to visualize the scene. The Jasper would be almost dazzling in appearance. The Sardine, brilliant red in colour would give the appearance of fire. Although unable to picture the Ancient of Days, John is able to give us some idea of the majesty and glory, that surrounds the mighty JEHOVAH.
And there was a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald
When the rainbow first appeared, it was a sign of God's everlasting covenant of peace (Genesis 9). When God looks upon the bow He remembers the everlasting covenant. To God it is a reminder of mercy.
AND ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE WERE FOUR AND TWENTY SEATS: AND UPON THE SEATS I SAW FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS SITTING, CLOTHED IN WHITE RAIMENT; AND THEY HAD 0N THEIR HEADS CROWNS OF GOLD.
And round about the throne, were four and twenty seats
Without question John is describing the same scene as
Daniel in chapter 7, for both John and Daniel mention thrones or seats being set in order around the central throne.
In Daniel 7:9 we are given a glimpse of the most sacred place in all the universe, God's throne room. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down", R.S.V. reads "thrones were placed", "...and the Ancient of Days did sit".
Daniel 7:9 says, "His throne was like the fiery flame...". Revelation 4:3 says, "... and He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone...", fiery red in colour appearing like fire.
Other comparisons can also be made, adding to the general picture of this view into the throne room of God.
And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting
Who are these elders? Twelve times they are mentioned in Revelation. Where do they come from?
Revelation 5:9 tells us, "And they sung a new song, saying thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation." They are human beings just like you and me for they have been redeemed by Christ's blood. Special representatives from every race and nation, who are up in heaven when John had this vision.
Naturally one might wonder how they are in heaven, how did they get there. Fortunately there is some information in the Holy Scriptures regarding this matter.
Matthew 27:52, 53 says, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many".
There was a special resurrection at the time of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
Ephesians 4:8 says, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive (margin, A multitude of captives) and gave gifts unto men." This verse says that when Christ ascended to heaven after His resurrection "he led a multitude of captives" (margin). These elders as they are called have an important part in the redemption story.
In Israel, the word "elder" designated a person holding an official rank and position among their brethren. God directed Moses to choose 70 elders to aid him in his great responsibility of governing Israel. In the Christian church, the word "elder" referred to a church leader.
These twenty-four elders serve at the throne of God. Seated on thrones they apparently participate in the administration of the universe. In the temple service of ancient Israel there were twenty-four courses or orders of the Levitical priesthood (see
1 Chronicles 24,
25). There were 500 priests serving in courses or orders.
Clothed in white raiment
To be clothed in white raiment suggests that previously they were clothed in other garments. Seeing they have been redeemed, their white garments symbolize purity of character.
Revelation 19:8 says, "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
And they had on their heads crowns of gold
They are clothed in white raiment and have crowns of gold on their head. There are two Greek words translated 'crown' in English: 'diadema' is the crown of a potentate, a king or queen; 'stephanos' is the crown of a victor. It is the word 'stephanos' that is used here. These elders are victors in the fight with evil.
"I find, then, in these enthroned Elders, the highest manifested glory of the risen and glorified saints. They are in heaven. They are around the throne of Deity. They are pure and holy, wearing white, 'which is the righteousness of the saints.' They are partakers of celestial dominion. They are kings of glory, with golden crowns. They are settled and at home in their exalted dignities; not standing and waiting as servants, but seated as royal counsellors of the Almighty. They are assessors of the great Judge of quick and dead, the spectators of all that transpires in heaven and earth, and participants in the judgment of the world for its sins." J.A. Seiss, The Apocalypse, Vol. 1. p. 253.
AND OUT OF THE THRONE PROCEEDED LIGHTNINGS AND THUNDERINGS AND VOICES: AND THERE WERE SEVEN LAMPS OF FIRE BURNING BEFORE THE THRONE, WHICH ARE THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD.
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices
This is a favourite expression with John and is intended to convey supernatural power and majesty.
And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne
'Patriarchs and Prophets' by EG White, page 356 says, "As in vision the apostle was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld 'seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.' ...Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary heaven; and he saw the 'seven lamps of fire.'"
Which are the seven Spirits of God
We have already noticed that seven is a figure of completeness or perfection. This is a symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit.
AND BEFORE THE THRONE THERE WAS A SEA Of GLASS LIKE UNTO CRYSTAL: AND IN THE MIDST OF THE THRONE, AND ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE, WERE FOUR BEASTS FULL OF EYES BEFORE AND BEHIND.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal
This is not a sea as we understand sea. Some have believed that no one is able to come close to the throne because of this sea. Actually it is the floor of the throne room and is a vast shimmering expanse reflecting the red and green radiance about the throne.
And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne
While on the subject of God's throne it is clear that there are at least two thrones. Ezekiel saw a blue throne.
Ezekiel 1:26 says, "And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone...". This is the throne described by John which he saw in the first apartment where were the symbols of grace - bread, light, altar of incense. This throne is mentioned by the apostle Paul in
Hebrews 4:16. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Later on John saw a great white throne (Rev. 20:11) which is clearly the throne of judgment.
Were four beasts full of eyes before and behind
Four Beasts is not correct. The Revised Standard Version has "And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind."
In the description of these four Living Creatures, a great deal or symbolism is used. Fortunately we are not left to speculate as to who these Living Creatures might be.
Ezekiel 1:5 says, "Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man."
Chapter 10:15 says, "And the cherubims were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar."
Chapter 10:20 says, "This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar: and I knew that they were the cherubims." You will notice that the Cherubims are identical with the Living Creatures.
There is no doubt that these beings are those who hold a high place in the counsels of God. They are His special messengers and they are also connected with the work of redemption. In chapter 4 and
5 of Revelation they are pictured as playing a very intimate part in the heavenly Sanctuary. Another thing that comes through very clearly in these chapters is their readiness to adore Christ in praise and song.
Full of eves before and behind
We have already noticed that this is a highly symbolic representation, these Living Creatures with their several faces and numerous wings and many eyes are Cherubims according to
Philip Mauro says, "Let us remind ourselves ... that we are not looking at objects which bear any physical resemblance whatever to those heavenly things. No one would for a moment suppose that there is any physical likeness between our glorified Redeemer and 'a Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes,' or between the Holy Spirit of God and 'seven lamps of fire.' What we are attempting to do (in our study) is to decipher a description written in hieroglyphics, a description in which the pictures of familiar objects are used as representation of spiritual realities which may be persons, or which may be moral ideas or truth, the symbols being such as merely to suggest the realities for which they stand, by reason of some moral likeness which they bear thereto." The Patmos Visions, pp. 151, 152.
Being full of eyes would be symbolic of "all seeing".
AND THE FIRST BEAST WAS LIKE A LION, AND THE SECOND BEAST LIKE A CALF, AND THE THIRD BEAST HAD A FACE AS A MAN, AND THE FOURTH BEAST WAS LIKE A FLYING EAGLE.
Commentators for centuries have linked these symbols with the four aspects of our Saviour's ministry.
And the first beast was like a lion
In the Gospels, Matthew begins with the genealogy, showing the right of Christ to the throne of David. There is an emphasis on the King and His Kingdom. Christ is the 'Lion' of the tribe of Judah of whom it is prophesied in
Genesis 49:10, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come...". And so we have the kingly side of Christ portrayed in the first of the Gospels.
And the second beast like a calf
The second face was that of the calf, or the ox, the servant of men. The calf suggests sacrifice, Christ is the slain Lamb, the sacrificial victim. It also suggests the Christ who constantly ministers on behalf of men.
And the third beast had a face as a man
The Gospel of Luke describes the 'Man' side of Christ.
Luke 19:10 says, "for the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
'The Son of man' is used frequently in this Gospel by Jesus Himself. As God, it was impossible for Christ to die. By taking humanity upon Himself, He became one with the human race and shared the trials and tribulations that come to each one of us.
"As a member of the human family He was mortal, but as a God He was the fountain of life to the world. He could, in His divine person, ever have withstood the advances of death, and refused to come under its dominion; but He voluntarily laid down His life, that in so doing He might give life arid bring immortality to light... What humility was this! It amazed angels. The tongue can never describe it; the imagination cannot take it in. The eternal Word consented to be made flesh! God became man! It was a wonderful 'humility." E.G. White, Review and Herald, July 5, 1887.
And the fourth beast was like a flying eagle
John in his Gospel emphasizes the Deity of Christ. Right in the very first few verses of the first chapter, Christ is portrayed as the glorious Word, the One who was equal with the Father in might, power and glory.
John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 3 says, "All things were made by Him: and without Him was not any thing made that was made."
John goes on to say that "in Him was life". He is "the true Light". John portrayed the divine character more fully than any of the other Gospel writers. This is represented by the eagle flying heavenward.
AND THE FOUR BEASTS HAD EACH OF THEM SIX WINGS ABOUT HIM; AND THEY WERE FULL OF EYES WITHIN: AND THEY REST NOT DAY AND NIGHT, SAYING, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WHICH WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him
Wings are used in a symbolic sense in the prophecies of Daniel. There were two wings on the Lion of
Daniel chapter 7, and four on the Leopard. Wings suggest swiftness, rapidity. In the case of the Living creatures it would indicate the speed with which God's heavenly messengers deliver their errands.
And they were full of eyes within
Eyes are for the purpose of seeing, having a number of eyes would mean that they do not miss anything, nothing escapes their observation.
And they rest not day and night
As there is no night in heaven so there is no need to rest. Neither is there a need to rest, as the angels never become tired. In heaven there is ceaseless activity.
Saying, holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come
Up to this point we have noted the things the prophet saw. Sights such as no man has ever seen before. Now we notice that John tells us what he hears and what he hears equals the majesty of what he saw.
We quickly tire of repeating the same thing, it soon becomes monotonous. However the Living Creatures never tire of ascribing glory and honour to God, it never becomes monotonous to them. It would seem hardly likely that they would repeat the same words over and over again. If this were the case, the words would quickly lose their meaning and significance.
Like the Gospel story, it has been told so many times that it could also become stale and uninteresting. But it doesn't for with every telling it becomes new and fresh. The Bible never becomes old and stale either, for it is constantly revealing new and wonderful things. So it is with the Living Creatures. Every time they praise God they do it with words which bring to view some new attribute of the Almighty.
AND WHEN THOSE BEASTS GIVE GLORY AND HONOUR AND THANKS TO HIM THAT SAT ON THE THRONE, WHO LIVETH FOR EVER AND EVER.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne
Heavenly beings as well as men, owe God thanks for God has given them life also. Heavenly beings appreciate life more than we here on earth. Life to us is spoiled by sickness, suffering, sorrow and many other things that plague mankind.
In heaven, there is none of the things which we are so familiar with, there is nothing to dampen the spirits of the heavenly beings. They are surrounded by glory and majesty beyond description. I am sure as they compare heaven with earth, it would call forth from their lips special praise to God.
Who liveth for ever and ever
The Four Living Creatures give praise to God because He is the Creator. God did not just make us, wind us up like a toy, and push us out to wind down and then die. He has the power and He uses it to keep us alive. Because He lives for ever and ever, we too one day will do the same.
THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS FALL DOWN BEFORE HIM THAT SAT ON THE THRONE, AND WORSHIP HIM THAT LIVETH FOR EVER AND EVER, AND CAST THEIR CROWNS BEFORE THE THRONE, SAYING,
In an act of worship, the elders fell down before God. In public and in private worship it is usual to kneel as we pray. Jesus set the example in this.
Luke 22:41 says, "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed". Paul mentions it in
Ephesians 3:14, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." By kneeling in prayer recognition is given to the fact that God is our Maker and our Redeemer.
In this act of worship the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before the Almighty. This is complete submission, inspired by the sense of His infinite greatness. This is true reverence.
"The hour and place of prayer are sacred, because God is there. And as reverence is manifested in attitude and demeanor, the feeling that inspires it will be deepened. "Holy and reverend is His name;" the psalmist declares (Psalm 119:9). Angels, when they speak that name, veil their faces. With what reverence, then, should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon our lips!" ('Prophets and Kings' by EG White. p.48,49).
THOU ART WORTHY, 0 LORD, TO RECEIVE GLORY AND HONOUR AND POWER: FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS AND FOR THY PLEASURE THEY ARE AND WERE CREATED.
Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honour and power
More than any other in that great throne room of God, the twenty four elders are conscious of the reason that they should worship God. Honoured in having a very important part to play as the representatives of the human race, they are there, because of the plan of Redemption and Calvary. They ascribe to God, greatness, glory and power.
For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created
The twenty four elders worship God as the Creator, more than that they worship Him because He has ransomed them and made them His sons, members of the royal family. This is true worship for it is inspired by love. The question we should ask ourselves is, do we worship God because He is wiser than we are? or because He is older, or more intelligent, or more powerful?
This chapter as it takes us into the throne room of God reveals that Heaven, from whatever standpoint it may be viewed, presents the plan of Redemption. It also makes it very clear that this plan is the one all-absorbing theme of the universe of God. These things presented to John show that the activity of the heavenly beings is spent in the service of man.
Another purpose of this revelation of Jesus Christ to the apostle John is to show men how near God is to the creatures of His hand. It also shows that the angels are vitally interested in the Plan of Salvation. All heaven is waiting for the redemption of man.
As we are taken into the very presence of God Himself, we find that the throne of God is a throne of life, not an inanimate throne of precious stones but a living and moving throne. For as John looked, he saw lightnings and heard thunderings and voices. He is viewing the centre of creation- the throne of God.