Chapter 4: Angels and Saints Around the Throne
Again, the divisions of the Book of Revelation follow the Divine Pattern of chapter 1, verse 19, where the Apostle John is commanded to record:
(1) the "things which thou hast seen", i.e., the revelation of the LORD of the Candlesticks in chapter 1,
(2) the "things which are", i.e., the complete, future "history" of the Church-- from Pentecost to the Pre-Tribulational Rapture-- as seen in chapters 2 and 3, and
(3) the "things which shall be hereafter", i.e., essentially the events of the Tribulation Week as seen in chapters 4 through 22. [See our article, "Must There Be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture?" ---New Window , for an exposition of 2Thessalonians 2:1-12 concerning the removal of the Restraining Influence.]
Just as John earlier saw a vision of the LORD Jesus Christ, i.e.,
he "was in the Spirit on the LORD's day [Sunday], and heard behind [him] a Great Voice, as of a Trumpet" (Revelation 1:10), this chapter of the Revelation begins with a new, Heavenly
vision, when he saw that a "door was opened
in Heaven" (4:1). This is the Open Door of the Pre-Tribulational
Rapture that was shown to the faithful Philadelphians. "I
have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou
hast a little strength, and hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name" (3:8). Interestingly, the LORD Jesus described more than one door in His
Olivet Discourse. "So likewise ye, when
ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors"
(Matthew 24:33). I believe that this indicates more than one
Rapture event will occur. [See our article, "The
Seventh Trumpet and the Second Rapture, Or, The Last Trump
and the Pre-Wrath Rapture" ---New Window , to see how we perceive the
possibility of more than one Rapture.]
The "Voice which [the Apostle John] heard was as it were of a Trumpet talking with [him]; which said, Come up hither" (4:1) reminds us of the Apostle Paul's description of a Rapture event. "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" (1Corinthians 15:52). Twice, the expression, "Come up hither" is used-- Revelation 4:1 and 11:12, describing the Pre-Tribulational Rapture and the Pre-Wrath Rapture, respectively. Finally, "I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (4:1) refers to the events of the Seal Judgments, the Trumpet Judgments, the Seven Thunders, and the Vial Judgments that complete Daniel's 70th Week (Daniel 9:24-27).
Once the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Command-- "Come up hither"-- is given, the obedient Saints' response will cause them to be immediately translated into the Heavenly presence of the Throne of God. "Thou wilt shew me the Path of Life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). Only those who are ready, will respond. "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not" (Luke 12:40). It appears that the cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him" (Matthew 25:6), will precede-- ever so quickly-- the actual "Come Up Hither" Command. The Watching and Waiting Wise Virgins (Matthew 25) will be ready, while the Foolish Virgins will hear, but not be ready, i.e., be backslidden. "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways" (Proverbs 14:14). [See our article, "A Tale of Ten Virgins" ---New Window , for an exposition of the Matthew 25 parable describing the difference between the prepared and the unprepared.]
This exalted picture of the presence of God was seen also by Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1) when the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) were given. "And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of Heaven in his [or, "its", i.e., the body of Heaven's] clearness" (24:10). Also, the "breastplate of judgment" (28:15), the high priestly garment worn by Aaron, had twelve stones-- beginning with the sardius or sardine stone (probably signifying Reuben, the firstborn) and ending with the jasper stone (probably denoting Benjamin, the youngest)-- which corresponded to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. "And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes" (28:21). The "rainbow round about the Throne" (Revelation 4:3) may also be the LORD's way to remind us of Noah-- a Gentile-- and that the Gentiles are also a part of His covenant. Thus, both God's covenanted people of Israel and the Gentiles are remembered around God's Throne.
Again, these 24 Elders seem to represent the entirety of the Saints
of God, both Israel and the Church. "And
Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the
regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the Throne of His glory, ye also shall
sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"
(Matthew 19:28). There seems to have been an understanding of even the ancient Jews
that they would have a part in rulership during the reign of the Messiah. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down [or, set up], and the Ancient of
Days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the
pure wool: His Throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire" (Daniel 7:9). And so, the Church will also be honored to judge alongside
the LORD Jesus during the Millennium. "And
I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw
the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of
God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received
his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with
Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).
That they are "clothed in white raiment" (Revelation 4:4), indicates that they are Overcomers, i.e., a Promise given to the faithful of the Church at Sardis (3:5). "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment" (3:5). The "crowns of gold" (4:4) are the stephanos (Greek), which are the wreaths or garlands which were given as a prize to victors in public games, e.g., the ancient Olympics. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1John 5:4).
The magnificence and awesomeness of God's Throne is illustrated by the "lightnings and thunderings and voices" (4:5). "With God is terrible majesty" (Job 37:22). The "seven lamps of fire burning before the Throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Revelation 4:5) are symbolic of the perfection of the Holy Spirit-- the third member of the Trinity. "3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:3-4).
The "sea of glass" (4:6) indicates the tranquility of the presence of God, i.e., as calm water reflects like glass. "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the Throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" (Isaiah 9:7). The "four beasts" (Revelation 4:6) are properly, four living creatures; and, not to be confused with the Antichrist-- the beast "out of the sea" (13:1)-- or the False Prophet-- the beast "out of the Earth" (13:11). Instead, these "four beasts" (Revelation 4:6) correspond to the seraphim-- a six-winged angelic being (Isaiah 6:2)-- seen by the prophet Ezekiel in Babylon by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:1). Though Ezekiel described his vision of "four living creatures" (1:5) as having each "four wings" (1:6), it does not disqualify Ezekiel's living creatures from being the six-winged seraphim of Isaiah 6, i.e., by saying that they had only four wings.
That these "four beasts" (Revelation 4:6) are the same as Ezekiel's "four living creatures" (Ezekiel 1:5), is apparent by the similarity of both of their descriptions. "As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox [which corresponds to the calf] on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle" (Ezekiel 1:10). These are the seraphim, who are the angels that stand in the presence of God. "God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the Throne of His holiness" (Psalm 47:8).
The seraphim take great delight in the holiness of God. "And one [seraphim] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD
of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah
6:3). To which we may add, "Be ye holy;
for I [the LORD] am holy" (1Peter 1:16). And, we are reminded, "Follow
peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the LORD" (Hebrews 12:14).
We must understand that magnifying the Living God is a fit and fulfilling vocation for both seraphim and man for all eternity. "1 I will extol thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy Name for ever and ever. 2 Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy Name for ever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:1-3).
"Glory and honour and thanks" (4:9) are given to the Eternal God by the angels. How much more should we, who were rescued from the "blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13), praise Him? "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy" (Psalm 107:2).
Notice that the Saints, who "know their God [and who] shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32), will fall down before the Throne of God and worship Him; and, not attempt to recall their past deeds and exploits for their own glorification. "Let them praise the Name of the LORD: for His Name alone is excellent; His glory is above the Earth and Heaven" (Psalm 148:13). [See our article, "The Judgment Seat of Christ, Or, Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?" ---New Window , for thoughts on the rewards promised to us by God.]
God alone is worthy to receive praise, i.e., "to receive glory and honour and power",
because God alone is good. "Worthy is
the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and
honour, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5:12). And,
"There is none good but One, that is,
God" (Mark 10:18).
Our LORD Jesus Christ is the pre-eminent Creator. "16 For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in Earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: 17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:16-17).
And, what was the LORD Jesus' purpose for our creation? God created us for His pleasure, i.e., "and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). For this reason, our trusting in God is the fulfillment of the reason for our existence. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). [See our article, "How to Trust God, Or, Our Necessities Are Merely Opportunities to Trust God" ---New Window , to see how we can please God.]
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