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Revelation 4:1-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:59 mins 7 secs

The Throne Room of God

 

Now from chapter four the church becomes conspicuously absent from the narrative of future things. In fact, in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation the noun EKKLESIA [e)kklhsia], which is the word translated "church," was used some 18 times. The word is not found again until we come to Revelation 22:16 which is the close of the book when  John is again reminded to give this message to the church. So even though most of the events in the book of Revelation don't take place until the future time of the seven-year Tribulation they are to be communicated to church age believers during the church age. There is not even an allusion to the church between chapters 4 and 22, other than the reference to the bride of the Lamb in 19:7 as the Lord Jesus Christ takes the church as His bride and prepares to return  to earth from heaven. So there is this heavy reference to the church in the first three chapters and then silence about the church, indicating that the church is not there, not present during the Tribulation. Furthermore, of these 18 times that the word "church appears in the first three chapters, 7 of them are in the phrase, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." We have that phrase one more time when we come to 13:9, but the phrase appears in an abridged version to "However has an ear, let him hear." What is not said is what the Spirit says to the churches. So once again the church is conspicuously absent.

 

Furthermore, the pictures, the words and the symbols that are used to describe God in chapters four through nineteen are words that are more common to the Old Testament and less so in the New Testament. God is referred to as God, the Lord God, and the Lord God Almighty, titles that are predominant in the Old Testament but not so in the New Testament. The word "Father" is not used of God's relationship to believers in this part of the book of Revelation which is similar to the Old Testament where the relationship of God as a personal Father is not part of the Old Testament imagery. That is something that is emphasized because of the relationship to the church to the Father. Also throughout the church age we have seen that Jesus is seated on the Father's throne. Cf. Revelation 3:21.

 

Chapters four and five are one singular event that is taking place in heaven. It is unfortunate that a chapter break has been put between them. What we see is suddenly the Lamb takes center stage. He comes off His position as being seated with the Father on the Father's throne because now we are going to see the outworking of the judgment from Jesus Christ, from His justice and righteousness, on the earth. In Revelation chapter six we see that the very beginning of these judgments on the earth are described as the wrath of the Lamb. So again, with this title the Lamb which is used 29 times in the book of Revelation, we see a return to a very familiar Old Testament Jewish imagery, the Passover lamb that is brought to the sacrifice, we see a reference in the Gospels when John the Baptist announced the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But this imagery of Jesus as the Lamb disappears from the epistles, with a couple of exceptions. It is not a predominant image in the New Testament until we get to revelation when there is a return emphasis during the Tribulation period to Israel. Remember we have to keep God's plan for Israel and God's plan for the church distinct. There is a return now in Revelation chapter four to Israel and the imagery that we see is more common to Old Testament passages.

 

We see in this section the emphasis on the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of God. The seven-year period is portrayed as the wrath of the Lamb first and the wrath of God second. So we have to ask ourselves what this term "wrath" means. What does it picture? It is a figure of speech for the outworking of God's justice, and we see this all the way through the Bible from Genesis to revelation, this terminology related to the wrath and the anger of God. But wrath and anger as we understand it in the human sphere is the response or reaction to something that has happened or to something that we learn. But we have to remember that God is omniscient, He has always known everything. When we see these expressions they are showing that God's justice is being poured out finally upon all of the sin and evil in human history.

 

Even though we don't see the resolution of evil and suffering and injustice in our life, and even though we see unbelievers who are hostile to God who appear to go through life without any divine discipline, without any judgment from God, what Revelation tells us is that there eventually is judgment coming, and God has forestalled that judgment in order to give more and more people the opportunity to freely respond to His grace and to His provision of salvation. Because once God judges, volition ceases, human history ceases, and there is judgment on all those who have rejected Him. So as long as He gives man freedom, and that includes the freedom to reject Him, there will be sin and suffering and death and injustice in the world.

 

Revelation 4:1 "After these things I looked…" a word common to prophetic literature indicating a vision. An old English word used of a prophet was a "seer," someone who sees into the future. "…and behold, a door {standing} open in heaven…" The word "standing" is not in the original. The English translation, though, is trying to make clear the grammar of the test. The verb for "open" is ANOIGO [a)noigw] which is a perfect participle in the original. A perfect participle is a participle whose action precedes the main verb. The main verb here is "I looked." The image that we see is that when John sees this and he sees that open door, it is already open. It is prepared and ready for him to enter, so we could translate this, "a door was already opened in heaven." 

 

 "…and the first voice which I had heard, like {the sound} of a trumpet speaking with me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.'" This is the Lord Jesus Christ. John doesn't hear a trumpet, he is just comparing the volume and the intensity of this voice, its sound, to the blast of a trumpet. There are four openings in the book of Revelation and this is the first. What follows the open door in 4:1 is the bringing forth of the seven-sealed scroll. The seven seals on the scroll are the seven judgments that take place in the book of Revelation. This scroll, as we will see, is a title deed, that which gives the kingdom to the Lord Jesus Christ. But in order to activate the title deed He has to open the seals. That is the judgment that purifies the earth in preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom on the earth. So the open door of 4:1, first "open" in Revelation, precedes the judgment of the scroll. When we get to 11:19 we are told of a second opening, and that is the that the temple of God is open, and the context once again involves an intensification to the next stage of divine judgment. The in 15:5 we read that the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, and this context leads to the introduction of the next judgment, the seven angels with the seven plagues coming out of the temple when they are given the seven bowls for the seven bowl judgments. So each of these mentions of the word "open" precedes and intensification of the judgments during the Tribulation. Then finally, the last opening in Revelation is in 19:11. Heaven is opened and Jesus Christ descends to the earth in judgment with His heavenly armies. We will be with Him as He comes to the earth to destroy the armies of the Antichrist and the false prophet and Satan.

 

Revelation 4:2 NASB "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne." John is transported mentally (possibly physically, he doesn't make it clear) into the throne room of heaven. We see this initial scene in chapters four and five. It precedes all of the judgments. Revelation isn't written from a human perspective so that we can find out what is going to happen in history, though that is how many people approach it. What is coming up in history can't be understood if we don't start with God, if we don't start with divine justice, and we don't understand that divine justice has been violated by the sins of both the angels and man and there needs to be judgment and a resolution of this evil. So to understand where the future is going we have to understand that this is the outworking of the judgment of God from His throne. The word "throne" in reference to God's throne is used 15 times in chapters four and five. The focal point of these chapters is the throne of God.

As John's eyes are drawn to the one who sits on the throne he describes the throne of God, the presence of God, and the throne room of God, in terms that are built upon images from the Old Testament, and very similar. We can go to Isaiah 6:1-4, when Isaiah is commissioned to be a prophet of God he is brought into the presence of God in heaven. NASB "In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.' And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke."

Ezekiel 1:22-28 NASB "Now over the heads of the living beings {there was} something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads." Notice that there are living creatures there, from the Hebrew noun meaning simply "living ones." They are a classification of angels, and we know later on that these are cherubs. So not only are there seraphs, from Isaiah, but also cherubs around the throne of God. Under the expanse their wings {were stretched out} straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other." These are four-winged angels, cherubs. "I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, {was} a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and {there was} a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so {was} the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such {was} the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw {it,} I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking."

Daniel 7:9, 10 NASB "I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took {His} seat; His vesture {was} like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne {was} ablaze with flames, Its wheels {were} a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened."

Revelation 4:3 NASB "And He who was sitting {was} like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and {there was} a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance." The reference to jasper is not to the modern term jasper. In the ancient world this word referred to a diamond, like clear crystal. The sardius stone is translated a carnelian in most modern translations, and this is a better translation, The carnelian was a stone that was blood red in color, and the red color speaks of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His shed blood that made purification possible. These stones are both used in the breastplate of the high priest of Israel, but in reverse order: the sardius first and then the jasper. The jasper is linked with the tribe of Reuben and the sardius is linked with the tribe of Benjamin. Also, these were part of the breastplate, the appearance of the prince of Tyre who is a picture of Satan in Ezekiel 28:13. These same stones are also a part of the foundation of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19, 20. But the overall appearance and imagery here is that of great beauty.

Revelation 4:4 NASB "Around the throne {were} twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones {I saw} twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads." The word there for "crowns" is STEPHANOS [stefanoj], not DIADEMA [diadhma]. DIADEMA is the crown of a ruler; STEPHANOS is an award crown. So this is a crown that is an award for having victory over something. There is a lot of discussion about who these 24 elders are. There are some who say that these are angels; others say they are men, that twelve represents the twelve tribes of Israel, twelve represents the twelve apostles of the church. So, are they men or angels? We will demonstrate from the text that they are men, and this is based on five lines of reasoning.

1)  The term "elder" [presbuteroi] is never ever used of angels anywhere. In fact, it has the idea of being older, and since the angels don't age that wouldn't quite fit.

2)   The number 24 is a representative number, a group that came before God in the Old Testament. In 1 Chronicles 24:3, 4  we see that the priesthood, all of the numerous priests that Israel had, were represented by 24 priests serving in the temple. NASB "David, with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their offices for their ministry. Since more chief men were found from the descendants of Eleazar than the descendants of Ithamar, they divided them thus: {there were} sixteen heads of fathers' households of the descendants of Eleazar and eight of the descendants of Ithamar, according to their fathers' households." So there were always 24 priests serving in the presence of God, not the whole vast mass of priests. In the same way, you don't have all of the church age priests serving before God. We are saved to be priests and kings, and that is what these 24 elders are doing, and they represent the entire mass of church age believers. Remember at this time only church age believers have been resurrected. According to Daniel 12:1, 2 Old Testament believers are not resurrected until the end of the Tribulation period.

3)  The white garments are the white garments of those church age believers who are rewarded for being overcomers. Revelation 3:5, 10. In context, white garments are never mentioned as clothing of angels but as clothing of men, and they part of the reward package for believers in heaven. They are used later on of Tribulation saints in the book of Revelation.

4)  The golden crown is a translation of STEPHANOS, which indicates an award or reward crown, not a DIADEMA crown.

5)  These 24 elders are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Angels aren't redeemed. This is not only a strong argument for understanding that the 24 elders can't be angels but it is a fabulous argument that the Rapture must have already occurred. Not only that, but that the bema seat of Christ is over with. In Revelation 5:9, 10 we read KJV "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." There are two groups, the first being the 24 elders. They praise the Lamb and they say: "…and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." In the NASB, NIV, or some of the other modern translations there is no "us" there. That is really important because there is actually only one manuscript, and Alexandrian text, that omits the "us." Most of the ancient documents, both in terms of the Critical Text and the Majority Text, have a reference to "us," first person plural, in this verse. Angels aren't redeemed, and the 24 elders are singing "You have redeemed us." So it has to be human beings. Then the second group answers—these are the living beings: NASB "You [Jesus] have made them [the 24 elders] {to be} a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

 The judgment seat of Christ has already taken place and now the 24 elders are worshipping God and calling upon Him to execute judgment on planet earth.

Revelation 4:5 NASB "Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And {there were} seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." There are four different places in Revelation—8:5; 11:19; 16:18 also—that have the same imagery. It precedes the judgment of God upon the earth. So the stage is now set.

Illustrations