Saturday, May 9, 2020

Teaching Notes Book of Revelation - Chapter 4

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Teaching Notes Book of Revelation - Chapter 4


Hugh C. Wood, Atlanta, Georgia

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Revelation 4

New International Version

The Throne in Heaven

4 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.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 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. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’[b]

who was, and is, and is to come.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

Revelation 4:5 That is, the sevenfold Spirit
Revelation 4:8 Isaiah 6:3

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Bible Project
Revelation 1-11

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John's Vision of the Throne of God
Verse 1

1After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me, which said, “Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.”

Commentary: Chapter four begins with the phrase, "After this," points to a transition in literary styles as well as a shift in John's vision. In Chapters two and three, John individually addresses seven churches in Asia; however, Chapter four does not seem to have a specific audience like the two previous chapters. The door and "come up hither" symbolize the change in scene for John. John was now able to see some of the mysteries of God and able to report them back to us. John also did not open the door himself, God opened this door for him which reveals how one enters Heaven. It is by God's will not our own. However, it is interesting to note that John is clearly separating these sections of the book, but he is employing the same image of the door that he employed while addressing the churches. John further signal to the reader that he is shifting back into a description of his heavenly vision by referring back to, "The first voice which I heard," which he recognizes as Jesus. Additionally, John once again shifts into description through simile, which he then employs throughout the rest of Chapter four.

Verse 2

2And immediately I was in the spirit and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

Commentary: The immediacy of the transport is to be noted. John's statement is harmonious with Paul's in I Cor. 15:51-52: "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (KJV).

"In the spirit" means totally immersed in a vision. John was not physically there, that is in body, but his spirit experienced that which believers currently await: the rapture. John sees a throne, and the following verses show that the figure sitting on the throne is God the Father.

The throne is a central symbol of this work. This was an image familiar in the minds of the initial readers representing power, justice, and the established authority structure. In this and following chapters, John will offer an alternative authority structure in which God’s majesty and justice will prevail. This would have been immensely comforting to Christians who were being treated unjustly by their government. Today it might serve as a warning to modern Western Christians who often benefit from the current authority structures. Believers still ought to hold the model given in this chapter as the standard against which to measure their own governments[1].

Verse 3

3And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardius stone, and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like an emerald.

Commentary: The gems and rainbow ( a reminder of God's faithfulness and promise to Noah after the great flood in Genesis 9:13) are John's way of describing intense glory, a beautiful sight.

These stones are also mentioned, along with other stones, in Exodus 28:17-20. In Exodus, the stones are found with 7 others on the breastplate of a high priest. Sardius is a blood-red stone that symbolizes the sacrifice of blood (the first-coming of Christ and his death on the cross). Jasper is a white stone that symbolizes total power. In the verses in Exodus, the first stone is Sardius and symbolizes the first-coming of Christ and Jasper is the last stone, symbolizing the second-coming of Christ. Since the order is reversed in this passage from Revelation, we can interpret the meaning in a reflective way: John, receiving a vision of the world after the second-coming sees the Jasper most recently and the Sardius (the crucifixion) further back in time.

Verse 4

4And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

Commentary: The number four-and-twenty could go back to King David's division of the Levitical priesthood into 24 sections (I Chronicles 24:7-19) or it could refer to twelve plus twelve, symbolizing the tribes of Israel plus the disciples. Other suggestions for the meaning of the twenty four elders include that they are angelic figures on a heavenly council, they represent saints in heaven, or that they are representatives of the church in heaven. An elder is a person that is chosen by God to represent Him and minister to the saints. The 24 elders, then, represent a much larger number of saints in heaven. They are a representation of all the righteousness in Heaven. They have "seats" of authority and "crowns" of reward. The white garments signify righteousness which has now been judged and purified. Note that the Old Testament saints are not present. They will be resurrected and rewarded after the Tribulation (Daniel 12:1-3). The white robes symbolize purity. This image is depicting heavenly worship. When the priests later take off their crowns and bow, it is showing their revrence. This verse is also depicting heavenly worship.

Verse 5

5And 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.

Commentary: Throughout the Bible, the divine supremcy and the power of God has been demonstrated by comparisons with lightening, thunder, other powerful natural disasters(Matthew 28:2). This also shows that God is present but not physically visible, parallel to th rest of scripture. The term "before the throne" is John's moving the scene of the vision to before the throne. Before the throne, there are seven lamps or seven spirits. However, it is debated whether or not the seven spirits are the Holy Spirt or angels. An argument that these seven spirits may be angels come from passages such as Luke 9:26 and 1 Timothy 5:21 as angelic beings are placed in the position of glory and honor equal to God the Father and God the Son. In addition, throughout the New Testament the term spirit is used in reference to angels. Revelation also does speak of angels very frequently. But another argument posed could be that the seven lamps or seven spirits symbolize the completeness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is said to be the light, but all three parts of the Divine Trinity are present within the lamp, or spirit. There is only one spirit of God, but there are multiple manifestations of Him. Fire and it's burning characteristics have been a symbol of God throughout the Bible to show God's powerful consumption. The flashes and sounds are John's attempt to convey a sense of majesty, holiness, and supernatural activity beyond his understanding.

The Four Creatures Around the Throne

Verse 6
6And before the throne there was a sea of glass like crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four creatures full of eyes in front and behind.

Commentary:There has been a discrepancy among theologians on what exactly the "sea of glass" symbolizes. Some believe it is not merely a body of water or actual clear class, but rather is a representation of mass amount of humanity (whose numbers are expansive like that of a vast sea). The crystal may be interpreted to symbolize the very purity, flawlessness or righteousness of the people. Other scholars and theologians believe the "sea of glass" is the floor, which is likened to a sea because it continues into the distance. If you take it to be a body of water, it could symbolish how you must be clean and purified to get close to God. The "creatures" are the special angels (Ezekiel 10:15-22) who guard the Throne of God. The eyes symbolize wisdom and all-seeing vigilance. The animals are like a lion and a calf. But, all these different creatures represent humans. Some say that the four creatures zepict the four signs of the zodiac. This is interesting because many people say that Revelation has a lot of reference to cosmology. Thus, this keeps with the theme of cosmology and mysticism in the book.

Verse 7

7And the first creature was like a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.

Commentary: The four living creatures may be heavenly beings representing humankind and all animals. The lion could represent strength (Psalms 103:20), the calf service (Hebrews 1:14), the face of a man intelligence (Luke 2:52), and the eagle swiftness (Daniel 9:21). The whole vision has a strong allusion to Ezekiel 1:4-14 with possible connections to the imagery used in Isa. 6. Some speculate that the animals may be that of the zodiac. The sign for Aquarius, however, would be replaced by an eagle. And yet others argue that the animals represent the creation of God ceaselessly praising. The eagle would represent the animals of the sky, the cow represents the domestic animals, the lion represents the wild animals, and that with a face like man represents humanity.

Verse 8

8And the four creatures each had six wings about them, and they were full of eyes within, and they rested not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

Commentary: The wings show ability to move quickly. These creatures are perfect guardians, seeing everything, missing nothing, and never resting. No one would be able to approach God's throne without being seen by one of these creatures.The eyes of the creatures were also able to see everything that happened in Heaven and on Earth. The praise they give here and the elders' response is for John's benefit, to establish the authority stated in the next verse. Worshiping the Lord is initiated by these four creatures, as evidenced in the next verse, displaying the order in worship.

This verse has strong allusions to Isaiah 6. As stated in verses 2-3, "Seraphs were in attendance above him, each had six wings... And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

Verses 9-11

9And when those creatures gave glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the four and twenty elders fell down before him that sat on the throne, and worshiped him that lives for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and by your will they are and were created.”

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Hugh C. Wood, Atlanta, Georgia

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

(c) Ben Witherington III, Revelation, Cambridge University Press: New York, 2003.

 Witherington, Ben. Revelation. Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2003.

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