Copyright Ron Graff, 2000-2013
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3A. THE PROGRAM OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE FUTURE 4:1-22:21 BLB (The things which will take place...) 1B. The scene in Heaven 4:1-5:14 BLB 1C. View of the Heavenly Majesty 4:1-11 BLB 1D. The Throne 4:1-3 BLB
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."
Beginning the third major portion of the Revelation, the program, or plans, of Jesus Christ for the future, John saw a door in Heaven and was told to come up there.
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.
Various interpretations have been suggested for the Twenty-Four Elders. They are mentioned but not identified elsewhere in the book (Revelation 5:8; 11:16; 19:4). They could stand for the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and the Twelve Apostles of the New Testament. The Heavenly Jerusalem has twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and twelve foundation stones with the names of the Twelve Apostles (Revelation 21:12-14). Some have thought they are angels, but since they are dressed in white, which is symbolic of the imputed righteousness of the Saints (Revelation 21:8), and they are wearing crowns of gold, it is more likely they represent redeemed human beings from the earth. Many Scriptures refer to believers' crowns We may receive the crown of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), and the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Paul referred to those whom he had introduced to Christ as his joy and crown (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19)
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.
The power and majesty of God are symbolized by lightning and thunder. The Holy Spirit is seen again as the Seven Spirits of God. (See Revelation 1:4). Here He is symbolized by seven blazing lamps. In chapters 1 through 3 there were Seven Lampstands which represented the Seven Churches. The lampstands were holders of the oil lamps, but the fire itself comes from the blessed Holy Spirit! In fact, according to Zechariah chapter 4, where a vision is given of two olive trees constantly supplying oil to the lampstand, even the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 says, Then he answered and said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.
The crystal sea before the throne of God is thought by some to be the "sea of humanity," but it probably fits the context better to see it as a symbol of purity and tranquillity of God's dominion.
6c In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.
The imagery of this portion is almost identical to Ezekiel chapter 1 where there is a vision of the throne of God, being borne by four "living beings". These four beings are identified in Ezekiel 10:14-22 as Cherubim, angelic beings often identified with the worship and praise of God. Satan himself had been one of the Cherubim before his rebellion (Ezekiel 28:12-19). The figure of the two angels above the Ark of the Covenant depicted Cherubim also (Exodus 25:17-22).
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever,
These verses prepare the reader to trust God's goodness and His judgments in the terrible events that will soon be revealed. Angelic and human representatives ( the Twenty-Four Elders) glorify God as the creator of all things. They fall down and worship God. The word for "worship" is the Greek word proskuneo, which means "to prostrate oneself in reverence or adoration." It is wise to focus on the righteousness of God before viewing the dreadful judgments He will permit.
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.
The scroll was the "book" of the first century. Made from papyrus or parchment, sections of which were glued together, manuscripts of whole books of the Bible could be very long. They were rolled up in such a way that the current "page" could be scrolled to the right or to the left, revealing the previous or the next "page" of text. If the contents of a scroll was private, it could be sealed by the placement of wax or other substance at the end of the rolled-up manuscript which would have to be broken, presumably by the intended reader, before it could be read. In this case there are seven seals: one at the beginning, and six more at strategic portions of the manuscript. Thus the reader could scroll through the writing to a certain point, and then encounter another seal, temporarily gluing the manuscript to the remainder of the roll. This seal would then need to be broken by the intended reader before proceeding. Each of the succeeding seals would likewise need to be broken to continue the story.
2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?"
In John's vision, a search was conducted throughout the universe to find one who had the right to open the seven-sealed manuscript.
5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
One was found who was worthy to open the seals. It was The Lord Jesus Christ, called here the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah," a reference to his lineage in the kingly tribe of Judah, and "The Root of David," meaning He was a rightful heir to the throne of David. Above all, He is "a Lamb" which had been slain. This, of course, refers to His work of Salvation for all who will believe by sacrificing His own life in our behalf! This is why John the Baptist pointed Him out by saying, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Here is a striking picture of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is seen standing in the center of God's throne, yet He takes the scroll from the Father who is sitting on the throne. And He "has" the Seven Spirits, previously identified as the Holy Spirit! In this symbolic vision, the Holy Spirit is depicted as seven horns, a picture of His perfect power, and seven eyes, illustrating His perfect knowledge or omniscience.
8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
In response to Christ coming forward as the Lamb who was worthy to open the seals, the Twenty-four Elders fell down and worshipped Him as they had worshipped the Father on the throne previously (Revelation 4:10). Symbols of their worship include harps which are used to help them sing praise to Him, and golden bowls of incense which is immediately interpreted as the prayers of the saints.
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
The conclusion of this glimpse into the glorious scene in heaven is a great symphony of all creation in a doxology (from the Greek word doxa, "glory"). This offering of praise and honor and glory and power is given to Him who sits on the Throne (God the Father) and to the Lamb (God the Son). The impact of this scene is to prepare the reader to trust God's righteousness and love as the awful events of the Tribulation unfold in the following verses.