Chapter 4: Inside the throne room of God

Revelation chapters four and five defines the context of Revelation 1: 1 where Jesus takes the book from God. We know this for sure since chapter four flows directly into chapter 5 where Jesus receives the book in the hands of God. Chapter four focuses mainly on the throne and He that is seated on it.

Come up here—John’s vision moves from Earthly subjects to heavenly. Christ takes him into the throne room of God where the majesty and glory of God is presented to him. From chapter one of the vision of the Son of man in His priestly garment amid seven golden lampstands flows directly from the Holy place to the Holiest, separated by a door. Two things need to be noted. First, the chapter begins with the phrase “meta tauta,” i.e., “after these things” (4: 1). This is a direct reference to the previous chapters of the vision of Christ and the messages to the seven churches. Second, we are introduced to the statement “what must take place after this” (4: 1). The text is a direct reference to 1: 19 where the historical span of the vision was determined as “the things which are, and the things which shall be after.” Chapters four and five launches John into the preliminaries of the future.

The throne of God—We should not fumble about what is happening here. The vision is a replica of the throne of God in Ezekiel 1, and other places (1 Kgs 22:19; 2 Chron 18:18; Is 6: 1-3; Dan 7: 9, 10), although there are slight descriptive differences. What is presented to John here is the throne of God. All other things revolve around the throne. The Word Pictures in the New Testament says, “One should not forget that this language is glorious imagery, not actual objects in heaven. God is spirit.” (Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 4:2). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933). The following descriptions are noted:

The one who sits on the throne (4: 2, 3): Contrary to Daniel’s vision where thrones were placed and the Ancient of Days took His seat, John here sees Him already seated on the throne. John avoids calling His Name in all instances in the book of Revelation (6: 16; 7: 10). His appearance is described like a jasper (21: 11, 18, 19) and carnelian or sardius (21: 20; both have brownish or fiery complexion). And roundabout (not an arch) the throne is a bow that shines like an emerald (21: 19). Since emerald is greenish, it’s not that clear whether John was describing the nature of the bow or really saw a rainbow as to our imagery. The imagery adds emphasis to the splendor of the one seated on the throne. An allegorical reading of the rainbow may miss its true splendid significance as told by Ezekiel (1: 28). It’s all about the glory of God. The imagery of the bow appears also in Rev 10: 1.

Twenty-four thrones, twenty-four elders (4:4, 10; 5:8; 11:16; 19:4)—We are here presented with imagery of Semitic socio-political system, the system of gerontocracy often seen in the Old Testament. Elders were the representatives from the various tribes who led in the daily jurisdictions and decision making.

[T]he institution of elders, is closely linked with the tribal system. Tribes were composed of clans, and clans of large, extended family units. By virtue of age and function in a patriarchal society, the father of a family ruled. This fact of age, as well as the wisdom and maturity invested in older persons, is undoubtedly the origin of the authority that these elders exercised… A central function of elders was the administration of justice. They were the “judges,” who sat “in the gate,” the traditional courtroom of ancient villages and towns. Here disputes and trials were settled by the elders, and community affairs were discussed and decisions made (Gn 23:10, 18; Jb 29:7; Prv 24:7; 31:23). The preservation and application of the Law was clearly in the hands of “elders at the gate of the town” (Dt 21:19; 22:15) or “elders of the town” (Dt 19:12; 21:3, 6; 25:7–10). Ruth 4:1–12 provides an excellent description of such a process. During the period of the monarchy, local administration and judicial authority continued to be invested in councils of elders. (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J., “Elder”. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988, 679).

The office of the elders is carried into the New Testament in both the religious life of Judaism (Matt 16: 21; 21: 23; 26: 3, 47, 57; 27: 1, 3, 12, 20, 41; Acts 4:8) and the Christian community (Acts 11: 30; 15: 2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16: 4; 21:1 8; 1 Tim 5: 17, 19; Titus 1:5).

Several interpretations exist concerning the identity of these twenty-four elders. For the sake of space, we will not be able to discuss them here. Few characteristics of the elders reflect that of the saints; white raiment (3: 5), crowns (3: 11; 7: 9, 13), seated on thrones (3: 21). The 24 elders worship God and the Lamb(4: 10; 5: 8), One of them spoke to John (5: 5; 7: 13-17), and They hold the prayers of the saints (5: 8). In the book of Revelation, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders give thanks and bow before the throne in worship (4: 4, 10; 5: 8, 14; 11: 16). For the identity and significance of the twenty-four elders, refer to this article “Please come back later.

Four living creatures (Rev 4: 6, 8, 9; 5: 6, 8, 11, 14; 6: 1, 6; 7: 11; 14: 3; 15: 7; 19: 4)—These creatures are not different from the ones Ezekiel saw in a vision also called cherubim (Ezekiel 1:5–11, 15, 20; 10:12, 14–15). Isaiah identified them as Seraphim (Is 6: 2). Although they have characteristics like angels, their description supersedes that of the normal angel, hence, they are identified as living creatures (beings) (Gen 3: 24). More importantly, they appear just around the throne. Further descriptions include:

Having six wings
Covered in eyes
Proclaiming the holiness of God
The first living creature was like a LION
The second living creature was like an OX
The third living creature was like the face of a MAN
The fourth living creature was like a flying EAGLE
They call out the four horsemen

For an in-depth reading of chapter four, please refer to the following articles, “Meaning of the FOUR FACES of the FOUR living creatures,” “Chapter four: the architectural concept of the New Jerusalem,” and “Why are the FOUR living creatures identified with the FOUR horsemen?

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