Surrounding the Throne in Heaven
Notes page, Revelation 4, verses 2 to 6

Note 4:2
A throne set in heaven
   The inspired word itself is far better than anything anyone could write about it. The best I or any ordinary writer can do is to direct you to the sacred pages and, by them, to the living Word, Jesus Christ. In that spirit, I invite you to just read the beautiful words of Revelation 4 and 5.
   I'm convinced that every detail in this book is meaningful. Let's consider the rainbow. I don't know about some of the other details in this verse. For example why "jasper" and "sardine"? I know that these jewels tell of the Father's magnificence, but there must be more. For some things, we will have to just wait to learn in heaven.
   "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 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." (Rev. 4:2, 3)

Note 4:3,
About the rainbow:
   If you think of your Bible knowledge you can probably figure this one out. Where do we first hear about a rainbow? You can stop reading and think at points all along. Here's the heart of the passage:
   "It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh." (Gen. 9:14, 15).
Rainbow image © Corel
   Noah and his family and the animals had just come out of the ark and the patriarch offered a sacrifice. These words about the covenant were part of God's response.  So what do you think is the significance of the rainbow around the throne? We see a covenant-keeping God.
   Then we ask, why at the site of the throne? The throne is a place of sovereignty and primarily a place of judgment ps00907, is1605. Here God identifies His jewels — those who have accepted the honor of reflecting His glory. He makes them eternally secure mal0317. Next we may ask, why around the throne? The rainbow is our promise that God will remember His covenant. It is all around the throne like a covering of grace. Why should we believe this idea from the picture of the throne we have in the tabernacle? See ex2521.

Where is Jesus?
   We don't see Him until the next chapter. I'll let you scan ahead in your Bible to see.
   Why did the Holy Spirit choose to draw our minds to Noah in this situation? The story of the flood awakens us to the reality that God is not just playing games with us and that He will someday again cleanse the world and honor the people who are faithful to His covenant. The next cleansing will be with fire.
   Oh, I just thought another thought. Where have you heard of water and fire associated with cleansing? I'll not say since you will have more fun if you think of it yourself. This just illustrates how God blesses the study of His word. Any connection like this has to make sense in the new context and it has to be consistent with the rest of the truth in the Bible.
   We can praise God for His covenant — the relationship that connects us with Him by His saving grace!

Note 4:4
Who are the elders?
    After seeing the magnificent One on the throne, what next came to the apostle's attention?
     Elders are representatives and leaders of the people nu1116f. White represents purity or being forgiven is0118. And white robes? See is6110. The 24 elders had white robes and also golden crowns. The Greek word for crown here is stephanos which is a garland wreath as awarded to winners in the Greek games. I believe the elders are humans — the overcomers. These crowns of victory would be golden olive wreaths.
   I also believe we are looking at the time in Chapters 4 and 5 when Christ was inaugurated as our priest in heaven shortly after He ascended. This was preparation for His role in judgment. Later we will see how this relates especially to the preadvent judgment.
   Those who believe that the righteous dead go immediately to heaven at death would have no problem seeing the elders there as humans (although I'm not sure how they would explain there being only 24). But believing that the dead "sleep" in the grave and are resurrected at the coming of Christ, leads one to ask for further explanation.
   We do know that Elijah went to heaven without seeing death 2ki0211 and that Moses was raised from death jude9. This is confirmed by their appearance at the transfiguration mt1701-3. We may see them as as representatives of the two classes who will be taken to heaven at the sound of the trumpet: {1} the resurrected ones who had been "dead in Christ," and {2} the righteous who will be living (in Christ) at that time. We see the two groups in the following verses:
   "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ {1} shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain {2} shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess. 4:16-18)

   Do we have biblical evidence for people other than Moses and Elijah now being in heaven? Read mt2750-3, ep0408. Jesus, as the victorious king of Psalm 24, brought these as His captives.  They were His prisoners of war, following imagery based on the custom of the times! They had been Satan's captives. Now they were free trophies of the victory of the cross! The verse also says He gave "gifts." These were associated with the Spirit given at Pentecost, which occurred seven weeks after the crucifixion ac0104-9, ac0201-4. Also see is2619.
   In chapter 12, a voice from the elders speaks referring to the saints as brothers 1210c. As with other topics, we have more to learn about the elders. Someday Jesus can tell us.

Note 4:5-1
Lightning, thunder, and voices
   Let's look at verse 5 with some phrases from preceding verses. Then we will compare this with the throne scene in Daniel.
   ". . . behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone. . . . And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders. . . . And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices. . . . And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals." (Rev. 4:2-5; 5:1)
    Also see Daniel's description of judgment, beginning da0709.

   I believe the two describe the same judgment. In both cases we see the One on the throne, other thrones or seats, and the book or books. Later (not quoted above) is seen the Lamb or the Son of Man. (Rev. 5:5; Dan. 7:13). The other thrones for participants in the judgment in Daniel would correspond to the position of the elders in Revelation. The concept of judgment in our current context has yet to be demonstrated.
    Why thunder, lightning, and voices? This draws our attention to Sinai:
   "And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death. . . . And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. . . . . And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (and the other nine commandments follow." Ex. 19:10-12, 16; 20:1-3)

Again we come to a solemn time.
   A throne is set in heaven. It is time for the ministry of our Lord to begin His ministry in the sanctuary in heaven. The Lamb that was slain ministers or appropriates the covenant blessing. The basis of this ministry is the foundation of the Father's throne — the covenant of loyalty, the two tables of stone inside the ark of the covenant (Deut. 10:1, 2) which is in the most holy place. How beautiful to know that we have an advocate with the Father! (1 John 2:1)

Note 4:5-2
Seven lamps of fire
     "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." (Rev. 4:5)

   We saw the Father, Spirit, and Son as the source of grace and peace in chapter 1. They appear in this order both there and here in chapters 4 and 5.
   "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace,  from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and  from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And  from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Rev. 1:4, 5; also compare 1:12, 13 and pr1602sp)
    Depending on how you count them, there are seven in is1102.

Note 4:6a
Four living creatures

   "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." (Rev. 4:6)

    The living ones in our text are generally thought to be angels of a higher order. I have had the opinion that they, like the elders, represent a class of redeemed humans possibly including Enoch and Elijah who were taken to heaven without dying. The "living" aspect also leads us to identify them as those translated at Christ's coming compared to those who are resurrected (1 Thess. 4:16,17). My idea runs into difficulty however when considered in the light of Rev. 14:3. There the 144,000, who would be equivalent to the living ones, in my interpretation, sing the new song “before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders.” The living ones and those singing cannot be the same group. Good-bye idea.
    Instead of “living creatures” as in recent translations, the KJV reads “beasts.” The word in Greek is zoion which literally means "living thing" or "living being." Our words zoo and zoology come from the same root word. The word for "beast" in chapter 13 is from a different word, therion, and correctly means wild animal. Instead of "four beasts" we will identify the group as "four living ones." Recent translations have "four living creatures" although the idea of a "creature" (created thing), is not in the text. Of course, if they are living they would be “creatures.” (Eph. 3:9)
    Midst of the throne Our verse says that the living ones are "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne." Why would they be closest to the throne and even pictured inside it? They are apparently the angelic beings that were created before the creation of this earth and its inhabitants. We may expect to meet them in heaven!

   Each living creature has six wings. For four creatures, we have a total of 24 wings, perhaps in relation to the 24 elders. I'm not sure the significance except that it brings a sort of harmony. See Isa. 6:2 about the six wings. Could the living ones be angels after all? God has not explained everything about angels. Perhaps the four are both angels and representatives of the generation living to see the coming of Christ.

Note 4:6b
Why in the midst of the throne?

   You can see the ideas more clearly as we proceed.

Next (on page below)
Revelation home
Commentary home
Next - Table with text and comments beginning with verse 2