The Heavenly Worship, Revelation Chapter 4 Verses 1-11 (NASB)


   After these things I looked, and BEHOLD,
The "things" John is referring to are:
  1. the vision of a resurrected and glorified Christ and
  2. the churches.
Now the "churches" are not referred to again in Revelation until the postamble. The view is switched from being on the earth to being in heaven in this chapter. Heaven is not familiar to John, and thus his amazement is expressed in "BEHOLD". All the things, symbols, beasts, phenomena (heavenly and earthly) that he will write about are just plainly outside the common person's experience. John is given a view which is not restricted by the physical dimensions of space and time.
  • A DOOR standing open in HEAVEN, and

  • The doors in the "churches" were 'an open door' promised to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:8) and 'a closed door' in Laodicea (Revelation 3:20).

  • the FIRST VOICE which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said,

  • John had heard this voice before (Revelation 1:10) when he was given the command 'to write' this Revelation. Communications in the spiritual realm is not like that on earth. When we are taken into heaven as recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, there is a shout, a voice, and the trumpet of God to cause the event. These combined will be a tremendous burst of energy powerful enough to raise the dead and those of us who are ALIVE to be gathered together to join Christ. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, the energy causes a transformation from fleshly (perishable) to imperishable. IT IS POWERFUL!

  • COME UP HERE, and I will show you what MUST take place after these things.

  • HERE is where Christ is (Acts 1:1-11), and that is heaven. Jesus told us of heaven, His home, in John 14:1-4. He also told us that we would not be left alone here on earth but that we would have the Spirit (Comforter) between now and when we "GO UP THERE".
That FIRST VOICE, Jesus, will show John the future. We may desire that some of the items being described in the rest of Revelation are optional, but they are not; they MUST take place.
    Immediately I WAS in the spirit;
Humans are bound physically by time and space. So this "spirit dimension" is unique and not common for man. It is, however, the dimension(s) in which God moves. The transformation into this dimension took place instantly.

Paul had a similar experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. When we are caught up to meet Christ, it will be instantaneous too (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

    and BEHOLD
    • a throne was standing in heaven,

    • John still is amazed at where he is and what he is seeing. He uses the word, BEHOLD, again. The most prominent feature to catch John's eye is the throne. This throne lasts forever. It lasts through this current earth and heaven, the future new earth and new heaven, and forever. See Revelation 4:9, Revelation 20:11, Revelation 21:3, and Revelation 22:1.
    • and ONE sitting on the throne.

    • The throne denotes the seat of government. It is the place where the King or ruler sits. In the Old Testament, the prophet Micaiah's vision was of this throne and God sitting on it -- 1Kings 22:19 and 2 Chronicles 18:18. In Psalms 47:8, God reigns over the nations from His holy throne. Isaiah had a vision of the throne (Isaiah 6:1-5) and so did Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:26-28). The ONE Ezekiel saw was so awesome that he had to fall to his face. This is a common experience of all who meet God up close and personal.
    And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance;
Here we have two contrasting colors of gems:

Jasper is clear, dazzling and transparent. It is what the new Jerusalem looks like - Revelation 21:11.

Sardius is deep, fiery, flashing red.

For the believer, the brilliance symbolizes the authority to carry out the judgment (from the throne). The red symbolizes Christ's shed blood; the price has been paid.

For the apostate church and unbeliever the brilliance will bring to light the depth of sin, wrong-doing, and denial. The fiery red is the testing of those sins (things of the flesh - wood, hay, stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12-17).

Note that "the groom" in the Song of Solomon 5:10 is white and ruddy, the same two colors. He is considered beautiful to look at. Thus, John is amazed at what he sees. John probably recalled this Old Testament passage as he stood there and looked.

From a Jewish perspective, the jasper stone is the last stone of the breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21). The breastplate was worn by the high priest "over his heart when he enters the holy place" (Exodus 28:29-30). This symbolizes the closeness that Christ (as our high priest now (Hebrews 9:11-14)) holds the Jewish people. He is carrying them (and us) right up to the throne if we accept Him.

   and there was a RAINBOW AROUND THE THRONE like an emerald in appearance.
This rainbow encircled the throne. A circle is complete and never ending. The rainbow was a symbol of mercy, Genesis 9:13-17, everlasting between God and earth people. He promised never to bring complete physical destruction to mankind (until after the judgment...current heaven and earth pass away).

From physics, a rainbow is formed by the bending of white light into different wavelengths. While all colors appear in an earth rainbow; this rainbow only has an emerald green color. Thus, it is not generated from white light passing through rain but most likely is the excited state of atoms which then in turn give off the green light. Green often symbolizes life and fruitfulness.

Lastly, some final thoughts on THE THRONE. It is the focal point of the spiritual realm. Judgment takes place there as well as rewards are given there. Habakkuk prays out of fear that God in His "wrath will remember mercy", Habakkuk 3:1-7. It is this THRONE before which we all will stand!

   And AROUND THE THRONE were 24 thrones; and upon the thrones I saw 24 elders
               * sitting
               * clothed in WHITE GARMENTS and
               * golden crowns on their heads.
The identity of the 24 elders is much debated. In 1 Chronicles 23:3-5, David assigned 24,000 Levites to do the work in the house of the Lord. In 1 Chronicles 24:3-5, of the priests, there were 24 "chief men" (16 from Eleazar; 8 from Ithamar). Perhaps, heaven is organized the same way.

Now "sitting" may mean witnesses to the judgment to take place NOT as a jury but like when an execution takes place to 'validate' it. These 24 elders do also fall down before the One on the THRONE and cast their crowns before the One (verse 10). Thus these are not statues but live beings.

The "WHITE GARMENTS" denote purity and righteousness. These elders are 'clean' before God. If these garments have been washed, then they are redeemed by Christ's blood (sardius).

The golden crowns are promised rewards to believers, in particular, those at the church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:10). All believers who love his appearing will receive the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Later on in Revelation 5:8, we find the elders also have a harp and golden bowls of incense. The harps make sweet music to worship the Lord. The golden bowls contain the prayers of the saints. The 24 elders have been cleansed such that they can approach the main THRONE of God. Halelujah!

A little sidelight, the 4 living creatures also are associated with the 24 elders. The significance of this is not known.

     And from the THRONE proceed flashes of lightning and sounds 
                 and peals of thunder.

This is a vision of the power, strength, and wrath of God; all this is related to the THRONE being the seat of judgment. The true God causes earthquakes (Jeremiah 10:10) or rules with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:4-9).

Now lightning is unique to the ecosystem of the earth after "the FLOOD". Before the flood, there was no rain on earth. Weather was in equilibrium ('greenhouse effect'); plants grew in this misty humid shroud (Genesis 2:5-6). Something occurred at the time of "the FLOOD" which opened the earth and caused the atmosphere to move and generate clouds and downpours (Genesis 7:11-12).

From physics, lightning is generated from an imbalance of electrical charge. Soft hail pellets are falling downwards while small chunks of the pellets break off with a positive charge and are lifted upward. This difference in charge potential is on the order of 100 to 1000 volts per centimeter. As this breaking off of chunks of ice from the hail pellets continues, tremendous potential is built up. For a spark to occur, the breakdown potential is 10,000 volts per centimeter (wet air) to 30,000 volts per centimeter (dry air). Lightning forms when the 10,000 volts per centimeter difference is found in the cloud. A "pilot leader" of discharge is about 100 meters long before it finds neutralization from the base of the cloud.

However, some clouds become so imbalanced that the lightning must replenish from the ground. About 5-50 meters above the ground, the "pilot leader" is met by a "stream" from the ground. The resultant heating and expansion of the atmosphere becomes the thunder we hear.

The point of all this discussion is that vast amounts of energy is generated during this process. It makes one wonder if God and the THRONE isn't really a huge energy source????? See Psalm 29.

    And there were seven LAMPS of fire burning before the THRONE which are the seven spirits of God.
The Holy Spirit also is present in heaven even though He was sent to earth at Pentecost (Acts 2:3) and at Jesus' baptism as a dove (Matthew 3:16-17). John, the author of this Revelation of Jesus Christ, was impressed by the presence of the Holy Spirit(s) here just as he was in his greeting, Revelation 1:4. That the seven Spirits are mentioned here with the lightning and thunder associates Them (Him) with judgment (spirit of judgment/burning -- Isaiah 4:2-6).

Jesus indicates the Holy Spirit's role in John 16:7-11:

  • Conviction of sin (unbeliever's condition)
  • Conviction of righteousness (believer's condition)
  • Conviction of judgment (ruler of this world condition)
Here in this verse the Spirits are in their judgment role because this vision is in heaven where there are no unbelievers and the believers have been "washed and raptured". Sin has been banished and righteousness prevails.

     and before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like crystal;
In the court of the Old Testament temple, a "sea" was made for the priests to bathe in (1 Kings 7:23-26). The size was about 17 1/2 feet in diameter, 8 3/4 feet deep, and empty weight estimated between 25-30 tons. With water, its weight was around 100 tons and its capacity was between 16,000 to 20,000 gallons.

The "sea" was located between the altar and the tent of meeting. The priests were required to cleanse themselves prior to entering the tent of meeting. The consequence if not bathed was death. See Exodus 30:17-21.

Symbolically, today we, the true believers, are the royal priesthood: 1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 1:6, and Revelation 5:8-10. Like the priests in the Old Testament, we, too, must be clean, 2 Timothy 2:21. Furthermore, since Christ's blood "cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:5-10), He is our sea. This is confirmed by 1 John 5:6-12, Ephesians 5:25-27, and Hebrews 10:19-22; but this is another whole study in itself.

    and in the CENTER and AROUND the THRONE four LIVING CREATURES full of eyes in front and behind.

These four LIVING CREATURES are probably the highest order of angels. They stand by the THRONE and execute the Lord's commands concerning the Tribulation on earth. They are present when the seals are broken, and they can speak, Revelation 6:1-8.

From Revelation 7:1, four is associated with the "four corners of the earth". They have eyes all around (verse 8) meaning full wisdom -- they know the entire history of the earth. They see/have seen the evil, and understand why they "guard" the THRONE (the seat of complete and perfect judgment).

     And (1) the FIRST creature was like a lion and

            (2) the SECOND creature like a calf, and

            (3) the THIRD creature had a face like that of a MAN, and

            (4) the FOURTH creature was like a flying EAGLE.
Each of the living creatures has a characteristic. Compare them to the living creatures in Ezekiel 1:4-14. Probably they are the same with different sides of their "likeness."

Symbolically, these living creatures represent the four attributes of our Lord Jesus. Some scholars have found a parallel to each of the gospels in the way they each portray Christ.

Matthew Mark Luke John
ancestry Messiah, King Servant, Mark 10:45 tender humanity descended from heaven and turned back again
Revelation 5:4-5 Isaiah 42:1-7 Revelation 5:6 John 1:34; John 1:44-51
Jesus = Lion Mark 8:1-3 John 1:51 soars through the heavens
government, law, and judgment many miracles The Christ Child omni-present
the THRONE, the seat of government . Luke2:8-15, Luke 22:39-44 .
. . physical agony in the human form .
The four creatures covered with eyes indicates an exceeding knowledge of God. They are special angels who are afforded an intimacy with God/Christ by being next to the THRONE. They have had imprinted on them some of the qualities of Christ himself. Yet they still are created beings as seen by Ezekiel, John, and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5). That these living creatures are important to the heavenly kingdom is indicated by the many times they appear throughout Revelation: Revelation 5:6,8,14; 6:1ff; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; and 19:4.
    And the four LIVING CREATURES
       *  each one of them having six WINGS,
Compare this description with Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6:1-3.
        * 2 wings covered the face - reverence before God.
        * 2 wings covered the feet - all their goings are in humility
        * 2 wings were for flying - created beings doing the Lord's commands in perfect obedience.

If the "King of Tyre" in Ezekiel 28:11-19 is Satan as many scholars believe, then we get a different picture of a created being who has fallen. Note the contribution that material things (verse 16) and beauty (verse 17) made to the ultimate downfall. The four LIVING CREATURES, while very powerful, are the opposite: reverent, humble, and obedient.

     *  are full of EYES around and within, and
These four creatures see all on behalf of the Lord. Zechariah records this differently in Zechariah chapters 3 and 4 BUT the eyes go throughout the earth anyway.
     *  day and night they do not cease to say, 

          "HOLY, HOLY HOLY is the Lord God, the Almighty,
Technically, there is no night in heaven, so these living creatures give ceaseless honor. Furthermore, in Hebrew the repetition of a word adds emphasis. Double is rare, so three times is major emphasis!!!

                   GOD IS HOLY

His name is HOLY and awesome -- Psalm 111:7-10.

Nothing UNCLEAN can be in heaven -- Revelation 21:22-27. All must be HOLY.

Somehow, we have the perception (deception - Revelation 12:9) that God will overlook some shortcoming (uncleanness) BUT not so. Remember the testing will be done by fire on the temple of God, which we are and is HOLY (1 Corinthians 3:12-17).
     who WAS and
            Perfect = HOLY in creation (John 1:1-2; Psalm 90:1-2)
     who IS  and
            Perfect = His work of redemption (Hebrews 10:11-13; Hebrews 7:23-25)
    who IS TO COME."
            Perfect = His work of consummation (John 14:1-21)

                   HOLY, HOLY, HOLY       
     And when the LIVING CREATURES give GLORY
This is a switch -- we come short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23; certainly present suffering pales compared to future glory, Romans 8:18-22; we are being transformed, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; and Christ will be glorified in us in that day, a glory of His power, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
     and HONOR
Part of the awesomeness of God demands HONOR, 1 Timothy 6:13-16. We must HONOR both the Son and the Father, John 5:22-23.
     and THANKS
Consider that these living creatures have never "fallen from grace", so what are they THANKing Him for. Since it is not for redemption, it must be for the privilege to serve Him.
     * to Him who sits on the THRONE
Christ is able to sit on the THRONE not only as Redeemer but also as God of judgment. Recall he sits as both jasper stone and a sardius (white and red) in verse 2. To Daniel, in Daniel 10:5-9, this vision was overwhelming!
     * to Him who lives FOREVER and EVER,
These words are like at the beginning, Revelation 1:17-18, and He will be exalted forever on high, Hebrews 7:23-27. This verse contains the first of three THANKSGIVINGs in Revelation. They all apply to this THRONE room in heaven. This one focuses on God's work of creation, the four living creatures. The second, the multitude clothed in white robes, Revelation 7:12, are thanking for salvation. The third, Revelation 11:17, anticipates the great work of consummation (final reigns). Interestingly, only the "elders" participate in all three THANKSGIVING sessions; but then if they represent the redeemed ones, they have great Reason for THANKS!
     the twenty-four elders will
         (1)  fall down before Him who sits on the THRONE, and will
         (2)  worship HIM who lives FOREVER AND EVER, and will
         (3)  cast their CROWNS before the THRONE saying,
When the four living creatures give GLORY, HONOR, and THANKS in verse 9, the ripple effect upon the 24 elders is to cause them to the three actions above. "Falling down" means total submission as a servant before the Master. "Worship HIM" means to give all praise to the Forever God. "Cast our (their) crowns" means they recognize that even what they have been rewarded rightly belongs back with the Lord because of his GREAT WORK!

This GREAT WORK is a recognition of Christ's work IN US of regeneration; 1 John 3:2 -- we shall be like Him, He is not like us (physically sinful) today.

This GREAT WORK is a recognition of Christ's work THROUGH US of service; Romans 1:18-19 -- God is made evident in us. "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me!"

This GREAT WORK is a recognition of Christ's work FOR US of keeping, cleansing, protecting, and perfecting; Philippians 3:20-21 -- transforming our body.

The CROWN I receive is because He bears much fruit through me. So I really didn't get and don't deserve the crown anyway (John 15:4-5-8).
     "Worthy art Thou, OUR LORD AND OUR GOD,
If we cannot say "OUR LORD" and "OUR GOD", we won't be there anyway.
     to receive GLORY and the HONOR and (the) POWER;
Twenty-four elders substitute POWER for THANKS that the four living creatures use. Perhaps because Christ in his resurrection had POWER to overcome death (which these 24 elders are thought to represent), these elders acknowledge the Lord "to receive POWER".
    for Thou didst CREATE ALL THINGS and because of thy WILL they existed and were CREATED".
The whole universe exists because OUR LORD willed it to be so. Likewise, we were given souls, so He and we could have common fellowship. This is confirmed in John 1:3, Hebrews 1:10-12, and Colossians 1:15-18.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.