Revelation 4

In Chapters 2 and 3, we read the Letters to the Seven Churches, which describe the events and circumstances faced by the churches in the First-Century. As we discussed in those chapters, these same events and circumstances have persisted throughout church history and into our present day. Accordingly, the contents of the Letters of the to the Seven Churches continue to fit the description of the things that are now and that must soon take place. In this chapter, John will be shown the events that will take place after this, meaning after the events described in the Letters to the Seven Churches.

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.” Rev. 4:1

From the above passage, we learn that the circumstances of the Seven Churches will eventually lead to a new set of events that will take place at the end of the Last Days. Accordingly, the words soon or now are not used, in the above passage, to describe these events, instead, they are described as the things that will take place after this. These are the same events that were mentioned in Chapter 1 and that will take place later.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Rev. 1:19

As we discussed in that chapter, what you have seen refers to what John saw when the Lord appeared to him among the Seven Lampstands, what is now refers to the events described in the Letters to the Seven Churches, and what will take place later refers to the Final Events of the Last Days. Within Christian literature, this final period is also referred to as the End-Times, although this term is never used in the Scriptures.

The Start of the Final Events of the Last Days

Before John is shown the Final Events of the Last Days, he will be given a reference point for when these future events will begin. In Particular, the events that John sees take place at the Throne of God in Heaven will be used to show Him when these events will start. This corresponds with how the Revelation is written, which does not give us times or dates but uses the passing of one event to show us when the next event will start.[1]

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Acts 1:7

After hearing the voice of the angel and seeing the door standing open in Heaven, John was caught up in the Spirit to Heaven where he saw the Throne of God.

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

The first person that John describes seeing when he was caught up to the the Throne of God was the Father, who he describes as having the the appearance of jasper and ruby and whose throne was encircled by a rainbow that shone like an emerald.

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Rev. 4:3

In this verse, John makes use of our knowledge of precious stones to describe the appearance of the Lord. Based on how these stones appear to us today, John would have seen browns, reds, yellow and greens shining clear as crystal when he looked towards the Father.

John Sees the Twenty-Four Elders

Next, John saw Twenty-Four Elders dressed in white, with crowns on their heads, sitting on twenty-four thrones that surrounded the Throne of God.

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 head. Rev. 4:4

We are never given the identity of the Twenty-Four Elders in Scripture, although from our reading of the the Old Testament we can guess at their identity by choosing from the many heroes of the faith. The fact that we are not told who the Twenty-Four Elders are forces us to concentrate on their role rather than their person. In this case, the role of the Twenty-Four Elders can be seen in how they are seated on thrones, which tells us that they have been given authority to judge. When we read that the the Twenty-Four Elders were dressed in white, it speaks of their righteousness. This corresponds with how in the Scriptures, a persons clothing represents their form of living, whether sinful or righteous (Is. 64:6,
Rev. 19:8).

In addition to being dressed in white, the Twenty-Four Elders are also described as having crowns of gold on their head. The most common use of a crown in the Scriptures is to denote a king. However, crowns are also used to represent victory as seen in the following verses.

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.2 Tim. 2:5

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Rev. 2:10

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James. 1:2

As in the above passages, the crowns worn by the Twenty-Four Elders‘ represent their victory over sin and death and their exalted position before the Father.

John Sees the Spirit of God

In addition to the Father and the Twenty-Four Elders, John also so the Spirit of God in front of the Throne.

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

When the Spirit of God is described as seven burning lamps, it corresponds with how the Holy Spirit is described in Chapter 1, where we read of the seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit.

In the Scriptures, lightning, rumblings, and thunder bring to mind God’s power and judgment as seen in the following example involving Moses and the children of Israel..

Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.” On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Ex. 19:15-17

John Sees the Four Living Creatures

The final person(s) shown to John at the Throne of God were the Four Living Creatures who had eyes all around.

Also in front of 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. 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. Rev. 4:6-7

In the Book of Isaiah, we are given an additional description of the Four Living Creatures, who the prophet identifies as Seraphim.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Is. 6:1-3

The Seraphim should not be confused with the Cherubim who are also referred to as Four Living Creatures and who are similar in appearance to the Seraphim, but who have four wings instead of six as described by the prophet Ezekiel.

I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. Ezek. 1:4-14

In addition to only having four wings instead of six, the Four Living Creatures of Ezekiel’s vision each had four faces consisting of a human being, a lion, an ox, and an eagle; whereas the Four Living Creatures (Seraphim) seen by John had only one face each. Ezekiel goes on to identify the Four Living Creatures that he saw as Cherubim who had four corresponding wheels, which traveled beneath them, forming a type of chariot over which the glory of God could be seen.

Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like human hands. Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River. Each one went straight ahead. Ezek. 10:18-22

Both the Seraphim and the Cherubim are associated with the presence of God, but in John’s account, only the Seraphim are mentioned in his continuing description of who he saw at the Throne of God.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “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.”
Rev. 4:8-11

The worship of the Father by the Seraphim and the Twenty-Four Elders concludes this chapter’s description of who John saw at the Throne of God. The most important thing to notice about John’s account is that the Son is never mentioned. This makes for a very unique instance in Scripture, where the Father and the Spirit are described but not the Son. This circumstance is made even more unusual by the fact that John does describe seeing the Twenty-Four Elders and the Four Living Creatures at the Throne, who are obviously lesser than the Son, which makes the Son’s absence from his account even more noticeable.

All the above is purposeful and corresponds with how we mentioned earlier that John would be given the starting point for the Final Events of the Last Days through the events that he sees take place at the Throne of God. This will become more evident in the next chapter when John continues his account of who he saw at the Throne of God.

[1] The use of the passing of one event to describe when another event will take place is further explained in the Lesson from the Fig Tree, which Jesus taught the disciples when they asked Him about the timing of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.   

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Matt. 24:32-33

The Lesson from the Fig Tree states that when we see the leaves of the fig tree begin to bud, we know that summer is soon to follow. With this simple lesson, the Lord described how we can predict the arrival of an event, such as the destruction of the Temple, by watching for the things that must come before it.

Revelation Chapter 3
Revelation Chapter 5

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Bryan Coray is the author of Keep Watch: The Order of Events of the Last Days, available on Amazon.