After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter. Straightway I was in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne; and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon. And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne, as it were a sea of glass like unto crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:1–7
Read More Than Conquerors, pp. 99–107
A. CONNECTION BETWEEN THE VISION OF “THE SEVEN LAMPSTANDS” (chapters 1–3) AND THAT OF “THE SEVEN SEALS” (chapters 4–7)
Lamps shine. Seals certify and protect. When our lives shine for Jesus we shall suffer persecution. But such sufferers are also certified. Their very suffering for him seals them as being, in truth, children of God. Hence, they are protected against all real evil (Rom. 8:28).
That there is this connection between shining and suffering, between lampstands and seals, is the teaching of Scripture everywhere. Hence, it is not at all surprising that the lampstands of witness-bearing are here followed by the seals of experiencing persecution. Note the following:
John 15 (last verse):; “Bear witness”; John 16 (last verse): “In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” When we “confess of all men” for Christ’s name’s sake (Matt. 10:22). “Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). But the Father will then confess (“certify,” “seal”) us (Matt. 10:32).
But if this be so, then why are not the tribulations which the believer must bear—because though he is in the world he is not of the world—described immediately, so that the first of the seven seals would be opened in chapter 4, instead of in chapter 6? The reason is very comforting: first of all, in chapters 4 and 5, we must see the glorious symbol of the Throne and its Occupant, so that when we come to the description of the tribulations and persecutions (chapter 6) we may already know that also these are under the absolute control of the One who loves us, namely, God in Christ.
B. THE THRONE AND ITS OCCUPANT, verses 1–3, 5, 6a
John sees a door opened in heaven and hears a voice that says to him, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Being in the Spirit he sees what we never behold on earth with merely physical eyes. What we generally see is a confused mass of things, a mere jumble. We might call it Chaos. There is good and bad, light and shadow, roses and thorns. There are deeds of kindness and acts of cruelty. There is rest, recreation, and refreshment; but also blood, sweat, and tears. We meet the most noble, self-sacrificing persons, but also the most despicable sadists. Moreover, the wheels of human activity do not seem to mesh. Is the world, then, nothing but a whirligig, a senseless merry-go-round, never getting anywhere at all?
Be of good cheer. It is not thus. Though the universe in which we live may resemble a huge air-field with planes coming and going at such a dizzy rate of succession that we wonder why there are not more crashes and collisions, let us not forget that there is Someone in the Control-Tower, an unerring Guide and Ruler.
“There was a throne set in heaven and One sitting upon the throne.” For the details of this comforting vision may I refer to p. 102 of More Than Conquerors, the Diagram. Study it closely and read the full explanation on pp. 102–108.
C. THE 24 THRONES AND THEIR OCCUPANTS, verse 4
These 24 thrones surround the one, central throne. Of late it has been suggested by a prominent exegete that these 24 throne-occupants are a class of angels. Do you agree? In order to answer that question take into consideration the following facts: a. they are called elders (would angels be thus styled?); b. there are 24 of them (contrast 5:11 ); c. they are arrayed in white garments (cf. Rev. 7:9); and d. on their heads are crowns of gold (cf. Rev. 14:14). Well, who are they?
D. THE 4 LIVING CREATURES, verses 6b, 7
These, in all probability, are the cherubim. Each of the four stands on one side of the central throne, in the middlc of the steps leading up to it, so that there is one living one for each side, and the four collectively encircle the glorious Throne-Occupant. So great is the throne and so exalted is its Occupant (cf. the scene, Is. 6:1–5) that the holy cherubim arrange themselves around it in reverence, humility, and awe, ever ready to carry out the will of him who governs all. Be not afraid, therefore, child of God. Even your tribulations are so governed by him that all things work together for good to them that love God.
1. What is your answer to the question suggested under C above?
2. What is meant by the seven lamps (or “torches”) of fire burning before the throne? Cf. Revelation 1:4.
3. What is meant, here in Revelation 4:6. by the fact that the four living creatures are “full of eyes before and behind”?
4. Why are the living ones compared to lion, calf, man, and eagle? See 4:7.
5. What does it mean that lightnings, voices, and thunders proceed from the central throne? See 4:5a.
6. What is the practical need and significance of this entire vision for the present-day church?
7. What comfort do you derive from “the rainbow round about the throne”?