Our view of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as seen in this powerful vision given to John should lead us to worship Him and serve Him only, as Jesus said to Satan in the desert temptation. (Matt. 4:10) Paul's vision of heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-5) affected him so that he could say: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18) His life was filled with beatings, privation and dangers on every side, yet he called all his sufferings "light and momentary" in view of the joy of pleasing His Lord and the eternal glory awaiting him. (See 2 Cor. 4:16-18) Unlike Paul or John, most of us will probably never have a personal vision of heaven like they did, but meditation on these two chapters can help a lot as we are continually reminded of Who God is, What He has done for us and how we are to worship Him.
"Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this (this implies the following events are future and yet to happen). At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 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. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal."
Here in chapter four the One on the throne is the Father (the Ancient of days – Dan. 7:13) and we see Him and the Son in chapter five (5:6). Some say the jasper stone is clear white and reveals God's bright and brilliant holiness and the red carnelian stone (or sardius) represents the blood of the lamb that was slain (5:6) speaking of the atonement – God's wrath and judgment of sin poured out on His Son, and His love and mercy offered freely to us by grace through faith for eternal life. The throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16) is about to become a throne of awful judgment. As in nature, the lightning and thunder warn us that a storm (judgment) is coming as seen in the Tribulation about to come (Rev. 6-19). The rainbow (or halo), a circle of green light, is God's promise that He will keep His covenants, in spite of the coming judgments. The seven blazing lamps represent the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 11:2-3) The fact that the elders are dressed in white, crowned and enthroned (Rev. 5:10) suggests that they are saints (not angels) who have been clothed in Christ's righteousness (redeemed, judged and rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11) and are probably representatives of the church (5:10 – "a kingdom of priests") which has been raptured and is in heaven. Note the word for church (ekklesia) is not seen in the chapters describing the Tribulation because it has been raptured prior to the Tribulation.
"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 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: "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."
The four living creatures are angels and appear here as a combination of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1 & 10 and the seraphim in Isaiah 6. They are like guardians of the throne of God and accentuate God's holiness and separateness from all His creation. Their description (v.7) parallels the way Christ is presented in the Gospels: As a lion and king in Matthew; as an ox (or calf) and servant in Mark; as a man in Luke showing Jesus' humanity; and as an eagle in John showing Christ's deity. As in Isaiah 6 the living creatures sing ceaselessly of the holiness of God and here in Revelation they sing of the eternity of God. When these living creatures give special glory and thanks to God (v.9) the twenty-four elders fall down before Him in worship and cast their crowns before the throne. All the rewards (crowns) we receive as faithful believers (1 Cor. 3:10-15) will be a way of bringing more glory to God which will be our greatest desire in heaven. It seems the four living creatures worship God for His attributes (Who He is) and the elders (mankind) worship Him for His works (what He has done); He created all things, and as we see later, recreated all things through Christ's work of redemption.
"Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals." God the Father is seen holding a scroll which has seven seals binding it. The scroll contains the judgments that the Lord Jesus must execute on the earth before He can set up His kingdom. He is the only one worthy to judge the world. (John 5:22-23) We have seen throughout history many evil men who have tried to conquer and rule the world.
In Revelation Jesus Christ is presented both as Lamb (His sacrificial death with the scars of the cross visible for all eternity, v.6) and Lion (as Judge and King, v.5). The Lamb had seven horns (omnipotence) and seven eyes (omniscience). Jesus was endued with the full measure of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34). The seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth suggest omnipresence.
Note the three crescendos of praise: 1) As soon as the Lamb took the scroll the living creatures and elders prostrated themselves before Him. They each had a harp (a symbol of songs of praise) and golden bowls full of incense, a symbol of the prayers of the saints which Jesus will now answer as He consummates human history. All those who have rejected Him as Savior will now face Him as Judge. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36) "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." 2) The second crescendo of praise – "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" ("power-over my life, the church, the world, the universe; wealth-all my silver and my gold; wisdom-the finest of my intellectual powers; strength-my physical strength for His service; honor-a single, pure desire to magnify Him in all my ways; glory-my entire life devoted to glorifying Him; blessing-all my powers of praise for Him." Believers Bible Commentary) This is a great summary to describe how we are to worship our Lord. 3) The third crescendo of praise – "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne (the Father) and to the Lamb (the Son) be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped."
We see the Lord Jesus as the Lamb slain for our sin, the Judge coming to make all things right and finally in His rightful place: the center of worship of all creation. (Psalm 148)
Meditations for Reflection and Application
Compare the prominence that the Triune God has in heaven and in His universe to the prominence He has in your heart and life. "That in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18)
Read how the Holy Spirit exhorts us in Colossians 3:1-17 to set our hearts and minds on things above, not on things of this earth.
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen