Restoration & Praise
Christian Fellowship Center
THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY
Devotional Reading: Revelation 19: 1-8
Background Scripture: Revelation 4
LESSON SCRIPTURES: Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).
Revelation 4: 1-6
1 After 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 shew thee things which must be hereafter.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
5 And 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.
6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
Revelation 4: 8-11
8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Describe the content of John’s vision in Revelation 4.
2. Explain the worship reality behind the text’s symbols.
3. Specify one way to enhance his or her own approach to worship.
The Royal Throne of Nepal is behind glass in the palace in Katmandu, for the palace is now a museum. The royal family of Nepal was massacred in 2001 and replaced by a constitutional government. The throne remains a symbol of the monarchy’s once-revered status. Some see a risk in its preservation, for any restoration-of-monarchy movement in Nepal would likely want to use this throne for seating a new king. Thus it may be considered both a national treasure and a threat to democracy at the same time.
Today’s lesson pictures Heaven in terms of a royal throne room. The one seated on the throne is the king of Heaven and earth. The ones allowed access into the throne room have a certain derivative honor based on their proximity. John’s vision of this scene is overwhelming for him—almost indescribable. Yet he does his best to explain what he sees, and we are thereby rewarded when we consider his words.
Many theories exist as to how Revelation should be interpreted. Some believe it is prophetic of future events, primarily those of the end times. Others think it presents a panorama of church history. Some believe Revelation is symbolically speaking of people and events from the first century, mainly those linked with the Roman Empire. Still others think that Revelation is entirely symbolic, a story that portrays the timeless struggle of good versus evil.
Whatever one’s view, there are some important details about Revelation that should be kept in mind while studying the book. One concerns the historical setting of the book. The apostle John was exiled on the barren island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea because of his unwavering loyalty to Jesus (Revelation 1:9). Patmos was situated about 50 miles southwest of Ephesus, off the coast of modern Turkey. Ephesus was likely the city from which John was exiled. The church at Ephesus is the first of the seven churches addressed by Jesus in Revelation 1:11; 2:1-3:22.
The most probable time of writing is AD 90-96. It is remarkable that this elderly man was seen as such a threat to the Roman Empire that he would be banished in his 80s or 90s! He must have been a tireless and effective preacher.
In addition, we should remember that the book of Revelation is narrative, a story told by a narrator. This does not mean it is a fictional story. Much factual history is written in narrative style. John tells what he experiences: marvelous divine visions given to him in exile by Christ. The best way to read Revelation, then, is as a story with various scenes in which the content is connected. The primary overall message of the book is that despite how intense the opposition to God’s people may be, in the end they triumph and evil is vanquished for eternity.
As today’s lesson begins, John has already described himself “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). He then experienced a marvelous vision of “one like unto the Son of man” (1:12-16) just before receiving Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 4 opens up a new dimension of John’s experiences.
1. After 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 shew thee things which must be hereafter.
The Scriptures describe heaven as a place located above the earth, behind a covering described as the “firmament” (Genesis 1:7, 17; Ezekiel 1:26). This covering blocks any direct view of Heaven, so access requires Heaven to be opened (as in Luke 3:21). In John’s vision, he is looking up into the sky; and he sees what appears to be an open door, an entry into Heaven itself.
This glimpse is marvelous all by itself, but John’s account does not end there. John hears a trumpet-like voice inviting him to come up. This is identified as the first voice, therefore that of the risen Christ who previously spoke in a trumpet-like voice and then gave John the messages for the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:10, 11). The voice beckons John to join the speaker in Heaven. The speaker promises to reveal more things to the apostle, events that have yet to happen.
2. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
In the Spirit as in Revelation 1:10, John’s vision places him in heaven itself, and the first thing he sees is a throne. This probably means he is in a large room, for this would be the normal location for a throne.
Most people today don’t think of thrones as possessing much significance. They are in museums, appearing to be little more than ornate and impractical chairs, inferior to our comfortable recliners. But in Bible times, thrones were more than expensive chairs for kings. Palaces had elaborate throne rooms that served as audience halls. The king would enter with pomp and ceremony (compare Acts 25:23). The throne was the king’s seat of authority, recognized as such by all.
The phrase “the throne” could serve as a metaphor for the one who was authorized to sit on it (Genesis 41:40). Judgments issued from the throne were absolute. The throne was synonymous with royal power, and such is the case here.
The throne John sees is occupied. This indicates that the royal court of Heaven is in session; and the King has taken His seat. Something dramatic is about to happen, and we can imagine the anticipation John feels at his opportunity to witness it.
What Do You Think?
What further steps can we take to conduct ourselves in light of the fact that God is King?
3a. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.
We are to understand that the one on the throne is God, the King of Heaven. John can offer only comparisons to describe the scene before him. Jasper is a red stone that can be polished highly and is prized for its beauty. A sardine stone is also red in appearance. The imagery John uses to capture the radiance of God is that of precious jewels in all their brilliance.
3b. And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
As is characteristic of the visions of John, he sees something familiar and different at the same time, something both known and gloriously unknown. The rainbow round about the throne is not the familiar multicolored kind. Rather, it reminds John of an emerald in having a brilliant shade of green. This is like no throne John has ever seen!
4. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
Twenty-four occupied seats now catch John’s attention. In the Greek text, the word used for these chairs is the same word used for the throne of God. Since other Greek words for “places to sit” are available for John to use (see Matthew 21:12; 23:2), this can indicate that the occupants have a degree of royalty of their own. They surround the main throne, but are clearly lower in status and less glorious.
Although those who occupy the 24 thrones are wearing golden crowns, they are not called kings or princes. Instead, they are elders, a term used for leaders in the church or synagogue. The fact that they are religious rulers rather than political authorities is indicated by their white raiment, a sign of faith more than royalty. White robes identify the saved of the church in Heaven (Revelation 6:11; 7:13, 14).
The unexplained number 24 has been the subject of much debate. The book of Revelation often uses numbers in a symbolic way, letting them stand for certain people or objects. Generally speaking, the number 12 represents the people of God. This includes the 12 tribes of 12,000 each (Revelation 7:5-8) and the various references to 12 found in the description of the New Jerusalem (21:12, 14, 16, 21; 22:2).
The number 24, being double the number 12, may represent the people of God from both the Old and New Testaments. Israel, the covenant people of the Old Testament, was comprised of 12 tribes (Exodus 24:4; compare Revelation 21:12). The covenant people of the New Testament, Christians, are linked with the 12 apostles (Luke 6:13; compare Revelation 21:14), who comprise the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus himself combines the idea of 12 tribes with 12 apostles in His description of the future (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30).
The 24 elders are not named nor is their function explained. But they do have an unforgettable role a few verses later.
What Do You Think?
When a church comes to view itself as people of the King, how should its members conduct themselves, individually and collectively?
5a. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices.
The lightnings and thunderings John experiences find something of a parallel in the occasion when God descended upon Mount Sinai before the Israelites (Exodus 19:16-19). These details add to the splendor of the throne and the one seated upon it.
5b. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
A more orderly type of lighting is positioned in the area before the throne. Seven is another important number in Revelation, signifying completeness or perfection. For example, the seven churches of Revelation indicate congregations known to John, but also symbolize the entirety of the church on earth.
John helps us with the symbolism here. The reference to seven Spirits does not require us to understand divisions or multiplicity in the Holy Spirit, but gives the sense of perfection and wholeness (as in Revelation 1:4). We see evidence and activity of the Holy Spirit on the earth among the people of the church, but in Heaven is the fullness of the Holy Spirit found.
What Do You Think?
What steps can we take to identify and eliminate things that work against the activity of the Holy Spirit in the here and now?
6a. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.
John’s eyes move beyond the seven lamps to what looks like a large body of water. To most readers, this suggests an outdoor venue, but more likely it simply reflects the immensity and grandeur of the heavenly throne room.
The sea’s characteristic glass like unto crystal can be subdivided into two parts: the glass aspect and the crystal aspect. Glass is a common material today, but is a luxury item in John’s world. Yet the description sea of glass is not intended to emphasize the abundance of a costly thing. The emphasis, rather, is on the smooth calmness of the sea. The sea’s being like unto crystal, for its part, emphasizes purity and transparency (Ezekiel 1:22; compare Revelation 15:2; 21:18).
6b. And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
John’s attention returns to the throne, and he describes four creatures nearby. Beasts is a generic description that implies that while they may have human or angelic characteristics, they are not quite humans or angels. This sight is reminiscent of the four creatures seen by Ezekiel in his vision by the River Chebar (Ezekiel 1:3, 5; 10:15).
The number 4 is significant. In Revelation, it is the symbolic number of the entirety of the earth and its inhabitants (compare Revelation 7:1). Combining the creatures’ multitudes of eyes with the number 4 indicates that these beasts are watching the entire earth; nothing is hidden from them. They symbolize the all-knowing nature of the Lord, or His omniscience.
What Do You Think?
How would we live differently were we to accept fully the fact of God’s omniscience? How do we get there?
8a. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.
Like the six-winged creatures of Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:2), the beasts here declare God’s holiness. But it is not enough to say God is holy; He is holy, holy, holy (6:3)—absolutely pure. We cannot emphasize God’s holiness too much; there is always more to this than we can imagine.
The title Almighty emphasizes God’s omnipotence; He is all-powerful. The Greek behind this title occurs 10 times in the New Testament, nine of which are in Revelation. References to God’s all-powerful nature are even more frequent in the Old Testament, with different words in the original language translated “Lord God of hosts” (2 Samuel 5:10), “God Almighty” (Exodus 6:3), or variations thereof. The Hebrew inscription around the picture of the cross on page 289 is from Isaiah 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.”
8b. Which was, and is, and is to come.
God is eternal—there is no beginning or end either to His omniscience, His holiness, His omnipotence, or He himself (compare Revelation 1:4, 8).
9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.
The fact that the beasts lead in worship indicates they are intelligent, speaking beings. Worship for them consists of the praise words of glory and honour and thanks, all directed to the one seated on the throne. Accompanying these words of worship is another expression of the Lord’s eternal nature: He lives for ever and ever.
10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying.
The action returns to the 24 elders, who now rise from their thrones and fall down in the classic posture of worship. This is the first of several times these elders will do so (Revelation 5:8, 14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4).
The elders engage in an additional act of reverence as they cast their crowns at the foot of the throne. This is one of the most unforgettable scenes in the Bible and should challenge us to cast ourselves in service before the Lord. It also emphasizes a central teaching of Revelation, that worship is for God alone and not for any other being or entity (Revelation 22:8, 9).
What Do You Think?
On a scale from 1 (most important) to 4, how would you rank-order the talking points below for enabling you to cast yourself in service before God? Why?
11a. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.
The words of the elders offer a concise lesson on the nature of worship. Worship means “to ascribe worthiness.” The elders acknowledge God’s worthiness by saying that He alone should receive humanity’s expressions of glory and honour and power. The reason for this comes next.
11b. For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
The elders offer a rationale for this expression of worship: the identity of God as the Creator of all things. We rightly praise God as our Redeemer, but we should not forget that before He was Redeemer, He was the Creator. The contenders for power, whether the Roman emperors of John’s day or the dreadful beasts who come later in Revelation, have no power to create ex nihilo (“from nothing”) as God does. When we begin to grasp the omniscience, the holiness, the eternality, and the omnipotence of the Lord, worship is the only reasonable response.
Qualities of God
The Bible consistently teaches qualities of God that highlight the immeasurable distance between Him and human beings. God is all-knowing (omniscient), for nothing is hidden from Him (Jeremiah 23:24). God is eternal, living and reigning forever (Psalm 146:10). God is holy, unstained by any unrighteousness or blemish of sin (Habakkuk 1:13). God is the Almighty (omnipotent), the all-powerful one, far above any human authority or spiritual power (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).
Revelation has much to teach us about worship and about the nature of God. In our desire to understand the prophetic message of the book, we sometimes miss these additional insights. The more we know about God, the more we are compelled to worship Him and the more genuine our worship becomes. Let us worship God in His holiness, His power, His eternality, and His knowledge. Let us worship the Lord God Almighty.
Lord God Almighty, Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. May You reign forever in all creation and in our hearts. In the name of Jesus, by whom all things are created, we pray. Amen.
Thought to Remember
Almighty God alone is worthy of our worship.
Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).