Print This Page Print This Page

A VISION OF HEAVEN – Revelation 4:1-11

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 17, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; February 17, 2016 from Revelation 4:1-11

Theme: Before being given the details of God’s future plan for this world, God comforts His people by giving John a vision of the state of things in heaven.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

This morning’s passage begins the third major division of the Book of Revelation—the division that our Lord identified to John in 1:19 as “the things which will take place after this”. The events described in this third and final section (4:1-22:5) concern the unfolding of God’s plan for the future.

Bur before the details of God’s plan are revealed, God’s own authority and sovereignty needs to be established. The times to come that are described in these remaining chapters are dreadful for the world and involve the persecution of God’s people. And so—as if to comfort and assure God’s saints of His control and of their assured victory—Chapters 4-5 give us a remarkable picture of the worship that occurs around the throne of God just before these future events are set into motion. In no other passage of Scripture are we given such a clear picture of heavenly glory. And the thing to note that is central in this fourth chapter is the throne—and the almighty God who sits upon it. The words “throne” or “thrones” are found thirteen times in this passage. In all the unfolding of the plan for the ages, our God remains absolutely sovereign.


A. Note first the timing in which the vision occurred (v. 1a). We’re told that this vision is given “after these things”—that is, after the revelation of Jesus in His resurrection glory (1:10-20), and after His dictation of the seven letters to the seven churches (chapters 2-3). That the events being shown to John are in the future is made clear by the invitation John received: “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

B. Note that the invitation to see these things comes from Christ Himself (v. 1b). John says that he saw “a door standing open” (a clear picture of an invitation being offered), and heard the “first voice” which “was like a trumpet speaking”. This has already been established to us as the voice of Jesus Himself (1:10-18). In the original language, the door is said to be “opened” in the perfect tense of the verb. It has been permanently opened; and the saints throughout the ages are given access to see the activities that are described as occurring before God’s throne.

C. Finally, note John’s state of being while beholding the vision (v. 2a). He says that, immediately, he was “in the Spirit”. The word “spirit” is not capitalized in the original language, and it does not have a definite article (“the Spirit”) and so, this most likely does not refer to the Holy Spirit but rather to John’s state of being (see also 1:10). It’s apparently a state of being that was necessary to see the sights he saw; but one in which he still functioned with something like a bodily form; because he was able to “see” or to “weep” (5:4), or even take a scroll in his hand (10:8-10). This state of being may have been something that John could experience but not effectively describe—much like the experience of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3.


A. God rules from heaven. John first saw a throne, and He who sat on it (vv. 2b-3). He describes this One as “like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance”; which would have given the impression of a deep royal reddish, resplendent color that almost appeared to glow as if with a flame within. It’s interesting to note that jasper was the stone that was often used in the making of a royal signet ring. Around the throne was a rainbow “in appearance like an emerald”. The rainbow reminds us of God’s covenant in Genesis 9 not to destroy the earth again with a flood The Person who is here being described is later worshiped as God (v. 11); and it may be that the emerald green rainbow is intended to impress us with God’s sovereign authority over the earth. This throne—and the glorious One who sits on it—is the center of attention in all that follows in this chapter.

B. Heaven is a place of undisturbed order. John also saw the twenty-four elders around the throne (v. 4). They all sat on twenty-four thrones; but note that the thrones are mentioned first—before we’re told about the ones who sat on them. This suggests that the thrones are positions of authority, and that elders who sate upon them are given authority from the One who sits on the central throne. These twenty-four elders were clothed in white robes, which suggests the righteousness works of the saints (see 19:8); and they had crowns of gold on their heads, which suggests not only authority but also victory (2 Timothy 4:8). It may be that these are to be understood as redeemed human beings (see 5:8, 14) with the number twenty-four reflecting, as some suggest, the orders of Levites and priests that were to serve in the worship of the temple (see 2 Chronicles 23-24). Others have suggested that they represent twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and twelve apostles of the New Testament—thus joining the whole church of the redeemed from both covenants together before God’s throne. Still others say that they simply represent the whole of redeemed humanity. While we can’t say with absolute certainty who they are, their presence, their purity, their majesty and their number help us see that there is marvelous order in the worship of God in heaven.

C. Heaven is a place of awesome authority. John describes the emanations from the throne (v. 5a). There is “lightnings, thunderings, and voices”. These remind us of the dreadful scene around Mt. Sinai as God came down to give the law (Exodus 19:16-25; 20:18-20; Hebrews 12:18-21); and it speaks of the greatness of His authority (see Revelation 11:19). Heaven is not just a quiet and serene place. It’s a bold place—filled with awesome sights and loud rumblings and powerful declarations of God’s holy majesty.

D. Heaven exercises constant watch-care over the churches. John sees the seven lamps of fire before the throne (v. 5b). This reminds us of the image John saw in Chapter 1 of the seven churches (see 1:20); but these lamps should not be confused with the seven churches. Rather, they most likely reflect the Spirit of God who is to each of those churches whatever He needs to be (3:1). The same Spirit who works in the churches also is present before the throne of God; and God’s church is ever represented before Him.

E. Heaven is characterized by great purity. John then describes the sea of glass before the throne (v. 6a). This is presented as being as clear as crystal (see 22:1). The “sea” is most likely something similar to the large bronze laver that was in the tabernacle of old (Exodus 30:17-21); and is a picture of the purity of God’s throne. Even though the earthly realm of fallen mankind is a place of uncleanness and rebellion and sin—and even though it will grow to be even more so as the story of the Revelation unfolds—the place of God’s thrown nevertheless remains pure and holy.

F. Heaven involves an unending affirmation of the holy majesty of God. John sees the four living creatures in the midst of and around the throne (vv. 6b-8a). These are probably angelic beings—similar to what is shown to us in the first chapter of Ezekiel. Their four different images have been variously interpreted. Some see them as representing the four Gospels; others see them as representing the four orders of the tribes of Israel (Numbers 10:11-32). Others see the combination of them as representative of all of God’s created order; with each of the four living creatures representing the most majestic of created beings. They have eyes “in front and in back”; and indeed are “full of eyes around and within”. This speaks of their great watchfulness as those protective of the worship around God’s throne. They each also have six wings; which closely identifies them with the angelic beings that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6:6-7—who also sang “Holy, holy, holy . . .” (Note that in some ancient texts, the praise is represented as nine fold, with three patterns of three; Holy, holy, holy—Holy, holy, holy—Holy, holy, holy!”) These beings may be representatives of the multitudes of angels that worship around the throne of God (see 5:11). The world may ignore God and fail to praise Him; but heaven never does.

G. Heaven is filled with worship of God. Finally, John describes the actual worship of Him who sits on the throne (vv. 8b-11). The four living creatures cry out in a manner much like what we read the cherubim cry out in tri-fold praise of God’s holiness in Isaiah 6:3. And whenever they so cry out, the twenty-four elders respond by worshiping the One on the throne and by casting their crowns before Him—giving Him praise and honor as Creator.

* * * * * * * * * * *

All these things reminds us that, just before the outpouring of the most dreadful times of trial that will ever occur in human history, heaven is still in charge. God sits upon His throne; and all the heavenly hosts say, Amen! He wanted us—His people—to know this so that we will remain steadfast and assured, and will come out of the other side of troublesome times victorious!

What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it,
The molded image, a teacher of lies,
That the maker of its mold should trust in it,
To make mute idols?
Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’
To silent stone, ‘Arise! It shall teach!’
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
Yet in it there is no breath at all.

But the Lord is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:18-20).

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.